Yale in New York concert celebrates YSM’s guitar and composition programs

Ben Verdery

Benjamin Verdery

In programming Music for Guitars, an upcoming Yale in New York series concert at Carnegie Hall, faculty guitarist Benjamin Verdery reflected on a November 2010 program that featured music by a host of Yale-affiliated composers. That program, by design, celebrated the legacies of the School of Music’s composition and guitar programs.

Verdery also reflected, in curating the upcoming Yale in New York program, on inspiration he found, a little more than 10 years ago, at the Rhode Island School of Design. Verdery’s son was applying to the school, whose application requirements included drawing a bicycle or some element thereof. Accepted students’ illustrations were on view when Verdery brought his son to Providence to visit the school. “It was mind-bending,” Verdery said.

“I’m going to have my friends write a piece of music—just the notes, the pitches and the rhythms,” without tempo or dynamic indications, he decided. Since then, each year, prospective School of Music students applying to study with Verdery have been required to learn and perform, as part of their audition, a piece written by one of Verdery’s colleagues, along with other repertoire. Like RISD’s bicycle-drawing admissions requirement, the commissioned audition pieces leave room for interpretation, giving Verdery some insight into the ability and creativity of prospective students.

Those who have been commissioned by Verdery to compose audition pieces, over the course of the past decade, include former YSM Dean and Prof. of Music Ezra Laderman, faculty composers Martin Bresnick and Christopher Theofanidis; Lecturer in Electronic Music Jack Vees; YSM alumni Bryce Dessner, James Moore, and Brendon Randall-Myers; Yale University Department of Music Prof. Kathryn Alexander; and current composition student Tanner Porter, among others. Audition pieces by the above-mentioned musicians will be showcased as part of Music for Guitars, the third and final concert in the 2018-2019 Yale in New York series. The concert will feature Verdery and current School of Music students and alumni, including René Izquierdo.

The program also includes works by Hindemith (who taught at the School of Music), Mudarra, and Terry Riley; arrangements of music by Bach, Scarlatti, and Schubert; and world premieres of James Moore’s Turning and Verdery’s arrangement, for guitar and string quartet, of Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. Izquierdo will perform Turning, which was this year’s YSM guitar audition piece. Verdery will perform the Bernstein with violinists Kate Arndt and Gregory Lewis, violist Marta Lambert, and cellist Guilherme Monegatto-all current YSM students.

The repertoire for the program reaches back to 16th century composer Alonso Mudarra’s fantasias for vihuela—which will be played on an instrument from the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments—and visits music composed since then and up to the present. The program also taps into the arranging chops of the guitarists who’ll be performing. It’s something “all of us in the world of guitar do,” Verdery said.

“There’s a lot of color and expression of what the guitar is,” Verdery said of the program. There will also be a lot of virtuosity on display—and, like the 2010 program, of which it’s a musical extension, many connections to the School of Music.

The School of Music’s Yale in New York series presents Music for Guitars on Friday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m., at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. A preview concert is scheduled for Thursday, March 28, at 4:30 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall. Admission to the preview concert is free.

PREVIEW CONCERT
YALE IN NEW YORK

Published March 20, 2019
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Pianist Henry Kramer ’13AD ’19DMA receives Avery Fisher Career Grant

Henry Kramer

Pianist and Yale School of Music alumnus Henry Kramer ’13AD ’19DMA, the L. Rexford Whiddon Distinguished Chair in Piano at the Joyce and Henry Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, has been awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. The $25,000 award is designed “to give outstanding instrumentalists significant recognition on which to continue to build their careers,” according to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which administers the Avery Fisher Artist Program. Other 2019 grant recipients include the JACK Quartet, pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton, and violinist Angelo Xiang Yu.

Past Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients include pianist Hung-Kuan Chen, violinist Ani Kavafian, and clarinetist David Shifrin—all members of the Yale School of Music faculty. Several School of Music alumni have also received an Avery Fisher Career Grant, including cellist Carter Brey ’79, pianist Helen Huang ’09MM, bassoonist Peter Kolkay ’02MMA ’05DMA, and clarinetist Richard Stoltzman ’67MM.

Kramer, who studies at YSM with Boris Berman, won second prize at the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Competition and has earned prizes at the Honens International Piano Competition, Montreal International Music Competition, Shanghai International Piano Competition, and National Chopin Piano Competition. He was the recipient of the Harvard Musical Association’s 2018 Arthur W. Foote Award.

Kramer has appeared with the National Orchestra of Belgium, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among others, and has worked with such conductors as Marin Alsop, Stéphane Denève, and Hans Graf. Prior to attending the Yale School of Music, Kramer earned bachelor and master of music degrees from The Juilliard School.

The 2019 Avery Fisher Career Grants will be presented on Friday, March 15, at 6 p.m., at WQXR’s Greene Space. The event, featuring performances by grant recipients, will be streamed live on the WQXR website.

Published March 15, 2019
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Trumpeter Kevin Cobb appointed to YSM faculty

Kevin Cobb

School of Music Dean Robert Blocker announced today that trumpeter Kevin Cobb has been appointed to the YSM faculty. Cobb will begin teaching at the School in the fall. “Kevin is a member of the American Brass Quintet and performs frequently with the New York Philharmonic,” Blocker said. “He teaches at The Juilliard School and also gives master classes throughout the country. His concert activities and discography reflect those of a renowned artist.” Cobb also holds teaching positions at New York University and SUNY Stony Brook, and at the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Colorado Summer Music Festival.

Cobb has performed with such renowned ensembles as the American Composer’s Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, New York New Music Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Speculum Musicae, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others.

In additions to his solo recording One: American Music for Unaccompanied Trumpet (Summit Records) and those made with the American Brass Quintet, Cobb appears on recordings by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera Brass.

Cobb studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy and earned his bachelor and master of music degrees from the Curtis Institute and The Juilliard School, respectively.

He succeeds Allan Dean, who will retire at semester’s end after 30 years on the YSM faculty. “My gratitude to Allan Dean is boundless,” Blocker said.

Published March 13, 2019
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YSM Student News | March 2019

Sophiko Simsive. Photo by Marco Broggreve

Composers Ryan Lindveit ’19MM, Paul Mortilla ’20MM, Tanner Porter ’19MM, and Miles Walter ’20MM were awarded Charles Ives Scholarships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

As the winner of the Music Academy of the West’s 2018 Solo Piano Competition, Sophiko Simsive ’18MM ’19MMA will embark on a recital tour that includes appearances in London, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Pianist Gabriele Strata ’19MM was the winner of the 35th Concorso Pianistico Nazionale Premio Venezia (Venice Prize) and was awarded the Plaque of the President of the Italian Republic and the Medal of the Italian Senate.

Published March 12, 2019
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Christopher Theofanidis’ “Drum Circles” to be premiered by YSM percussionists

Christopher Theofanidis

On March 9, the Oregon Symphony, led my Music Director Carlos Kalmar, will premiere Drum Circles, a concerto for percussion quartet and orchestra by YSM faculty composer Christopher Theofanidis. Drum Circles was commissioned by a consortium of six organizations, including the Aspen Music Festival, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Curtis (Institute) Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and Oregon Symphony.

“Much of Drum Circles centers around the joy of sound and collaboration,” Theofanidis said. The title of the five-movement work stems from its stage setup, which will feature the quartet—YSM alumni Ji Hye Jung ’09MM, Matthew Keown ’16MM ’22DMA, Svet Stoyanov ’07MM, and Sam Um ’17MM ’18MMA—and three of the orchestra’s percussionists surrounding the full ensemble in a large circle. One of the challenges Theofanidis faced in composing Drum Circles was keeping audiences’ attention on the percussion quartet throughout the piece. While composers of any concerto must work to maintain such a balance, “having many players potentially decentralizes that focus,” Theofanidis said.

The sound qualities of the percussion instruments the piece utilizes also came into play. Theofanidis observed that a potential imbalance between soloists and orchestra might be “even more pronounced with a percussion-quartet concerto with orchestra, where many of the sounds of the soloists are not pitch oriented, but the sounds of the orchestra all around them are.” In navigating these challenges while writing the piece, Theofanidis “kept coming back to the idea of dialogue and delight.”

Theofanidis decided from the beginning that the piece should be accessible to orchestras — “portable” in the sense that it would require instruments that most orchestras already have. “To have four players on the road with an enormous amount of gear didn’t make sense either artistically or economically and would have probably limited the opportunities for the work to get done,” he said. Still, the piece calls for some nonconventional instruments including an amplified typewriter, wooden slats, and spring coils — “plenty of bells and whistles, so to speak,” Theofanidis said.

While composing Drum Circles, Theofanidis checked in periodically with percussionists at YSM, incorporating their feedback into the writing and part-distribution process. “More than any other musicians, percussionists are collaborators,” Theofanidis said. “They were careful to let me know that they wanted their orchestral-percussion colleagues to very much be a part of the piece, not just a background group of players.”

Once the piece is performed with an orchestra for the first time, Theofanidis will be able to add any finishing touches the work might call for. “The great thing about having a consortium of six orchestras as part of the premiere is that we can continue to tailor the piece and get it ‘just so,’” he said.

CHRISTOPHER THEOFANIDIS

Published March 7, 2019
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