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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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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YSM faculty composer Aaron Jay Kernis wins Grammy Award

Aaron Jay Kernis

Several Yale School of Music alumni took home Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10. Please join us in congratulating the following musicians on this exciting accomplishment.

Faculty composer Aaron Jay Kernis ‘83MM won a Grammy Award in the “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” category for his Violin Concerto, which was performed by violinist James Ehnes, conductor Ludovic Morlot, and the Seattle Symphony. Ehnes won a Grammy in the “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” for his performance.

Violinist Sheila Fiekowsky ’75MM and cellist Owen Young ’87MM earned Grammy Awards as members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the “Best Orchestral Performance” category for the ensemble’s recording of Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 4 and 11. For that recording, which was engineered by Shawn Murphy, Nick Squire, and Tim Martyn, the Boston Symphony Orchestra also won in the “Best Engineered Album, Classical” category.

Erica Brenner ’89MM earned a Grammy Award for producing Songs of Orpheus, a recording that features tenor Karim Sulayman and Apollo’s Fire, conducted by Jeannette Sorrell, in a performance of music by Monteverdi, Caccini, d’India, and Landi. The recording won in the “Best Classical Solo Vocal Album” category. Brenner, who studied flute at YSM, is a member of the Recording Academy.

Published February 11, 2019
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[ Jon Laukvik appointed Visiting Professor of Organ ]

Jon Laukvik appointed Visiting Professor of Organ

By Martin Jean, Director, Yale Institute of Sacred Music

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jon Laukvik as Visiting Professor of Organ at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale School of Music in the 2019–2020 academic year. Prof. Laukvik will take up the teaching duties for one year of Prof. Thomas Murray, who is due to retire at the end of June 2019 after 38 years of distinguished and unrivaled service to Yale.

Jon Laukvik is one of the premier organists and pedagogues in the world today. In the words of one reviewer, “It is rare to find extraordinary qualities of performer, teacher, and scholar all in one person, but Jon Laukvik has distinguished himself admirably over the years as being all three of these, and that at the highest level.”

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Media Contact: Melissa Maier: 203 432-3222, melissa.maier@yale.edu

Published November 14, 2018
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Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross to retire at year’s end

Richard Cross and Doris Yarick-Cross

For decades, the Yale School of Music’s voice and opera programs have developed remarkable artists who have graced the stages of the world’s most prestigious venues and performed with celebrated opera companies and instrumental ensembles. Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross, who have served on the School’s faculty since 1983 and 1995, respectively, have been an important part of those achievements. Today, we offer our gratitude to Doris and Richard, who, together, plan to retire at the end of the current academic year. Doris and Richard will teach currently enrolled students through the completion of their degree programs.

“In her initial contract, Doris was given the responsibility of establishing a professional opera program in the School of Music,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “With her vision and leadership, Yale Opera has become an internationally renowned program where singers come to launch their careers as vocal artists.” Richard’s “inimitable teaching style and gift for languages has given generations of Yale Opera students unparalleled lyrical training,” Blocker said. “In partnership with Doris and our other stellar voice faculty and staff, Richard has played an essential role in shaping the lives of hundreds of ascendant singers.” MORE

Published October 16, 2018
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YSM faculty trumpeter Allan Dean to retire

Allan Dean

Over the course of 30 years at the Yale School of Music, faculty trumpeter Allan Dean has shared with students, colleagues, and audiences alike the yield of his vast musical experience. His career has been marked as much by excellence as it has by curiosity. Today, as Dean makes plans to retire at the end of the academic year, we celebrate what he has meant to our community and to the wider musical world.

“My gratitude for his collegiality and personal friendship is boundless,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker told the School of Music community. “Allan has contributed significantly to the artistic and academic maturation of the School of Music and to the discipline of music.”

Dean has played with the most venerated brass ensembles, including the New York Brass Quintet, of which he was a member for nearly two decades, as well as the American Brass Quintet, Summit Brass, St. Louis Brass Quintet, and Yale Brass Trio, alongside faculty hornist William Purvis and faculty trombonist Scott Hartman. For more than 20 years in New York City, Dean performed and recorded extensively, appearing on dozens of major-label releases of repertoire from early music to contemporary works.

A founding member of Calliope: A Renaissance Band and the New York Cornet and Sacbut Ensemble, Dean’s exploration of early music and period instruments has included performances with the Waverly Consort and the Smithsonian Chamber Players.

“This is a profoundly sad moment for me, but also an extraordinarily inspiring moment,” Purvis wrote on Facebook. “Allan has pursued a remarkably independent life in music that has epitomized curiosity and excellence in every aspect, every corner of music, to an extent that continues to inspire and instruct me on a daily basis.”

As a teacher, Dean has mentored musicians at such respected institutions as Indiana University, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Eastman School of Music. He has also taught and performed at festivals in the United States and abroad including the Spoleto and Casals festivals, and the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Trumpeter and Yale School of Music alumna Jean Laurenz ’13MM ’14AD said that Dean, “more than anything, created an environment of camaraderie that allowed each of our individual artistic voices to flourish.”

Dean arrived at YSM in 1988, succeeding longtime faculty trumpeter Robert Nagel Jr., with whom Dean worked in the New York Brass Quintet. In that respect, Dean continued a legacy at Yale while bringing his unique personality to his work. Dean has “transformed the lives of his students, his colleagues, and indeed those fortunate enough to have heard his performances on stage and through recordings,” Blocker said.

Allan Dean’s next concert at Yale will be with his colleagues in the Yale Brass Trio. A date for that performance will be announced soon.

Published October 12, 2018
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Masaaki Suzuki honored by American Bach Society

Masaaki Suzuki. Photo by Marco Borggreve

During its biennial meeting and conference, which was held at Yale University in late April, the American Bach Society awarded Masaaki Suzuki, an artist-in-residence at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and principal guest conductor of the Yale Schola Cantorum, an honorary membership “for his accomplishments as a performer and champion of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach,” society President Markus Rathey said.

“Masaaki Suzuki has had an impact on the performance of Baroque music not only in this country but all over the world,” Rathey, the Robert S. Tangeman Professor in the Practice of Music History at the Yale School of Music, said. “As a conductor, harpsichordist, and organist, Suzuki has been one of the most prolific performers of Bach’s music for more than two decades.”

During the conference, Suzuki led Yale alumni in a performance of Bach’s B-minor Mass.

 

Published May 7, 2018
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Schumann course culminates in performance

Prof. Michael Friedmann

School of Music Prof. Michael Friedmann’s course Schumann’s Chamber Music: Performance and Analysis, which is open by audition to instrumentalists studying at the School of Music and at Yale College, focuses on combining analytical research with practical performance issues. The class culminates in a performance of what Friedmann describes as “a precious and surprisingly undervalued body of repertoire.”

Friedmann, Professor of Musicology and Theory at the Yale School of Music, specializes in the music of Schoenberg, Schumann, and Beethoven, analysis of post-tonal music, ear training, and chamber music coaching. He received a special citation from the Society of Music Theory for his 1990 book Ear Training for 20th-century Music (Yale University Press).

“My approach links analysis to performance,” Friedmann said, “because performers usually rush to get performances ready without the opportunity to make genuine contact with all dimensions of the phrase structure, relation of tonal design and thematic form, and motivic interaction. They also learn how to distinguish the principal elements from countersubjects or other secondary elements. Moreover, a refined awareness of emotional content, and mercurial shifts of emotional ‘topic,’ which directly affect sound and pacing, is often bypassed in favor of a monolithic rendering of the notes.”

Friedmann concentrates on Schumann’s chamber music because “students may not immediately get the opportunity to play this repertoire as they would comparable music of Brahms, Beethoven, and others.”

This year’s concert, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12, at 7:30 pm at the Whitney Humanities Center, will feature performances of Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen, Op.132; Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110; Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105; and Piano Trio No. 2 in F major, Op. 80.

Published December 12, 2017
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Faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang discusses his Nov. 29 Horowitz Piano Series recital program

Wei-Yi Yang

On Nov. 29, faculty pianist Wei-Yi Yang will perform a Horowitz Piano Series recital featuring Schubert’s demanding and lively “Gasteiner” Sonata. The program will also showcase music by Bach and two composers whose work he inspired, Schumann and Liszt.

Talking about the pieces that will begin the concert — Liszt’s Prelude after J.S. Bach, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, and selections from Schumann’s Four Fugues, Op. 72 — Yang said, “These two important composers of the Romantic period followed in Bach’s footsteps in the works selected here. Although some might associate Bach’s works and methods with precise craftsmanship and mathematical intrigue, here the two Romantics inherited the Baroque master’s obsession and passion in developing motifs and subjects, and grew the smallest musical seedlings into magnificent forests.

“It is striking to hear how two of the greatest Romantic composers used chromaticism and harmonic turns in the mid-1800s, lush and wayward they may be, which at times seem perfectly aligned with Baroque sensibilities,” Yang said. Their work in these pieces, he said, “encapsulates the timelessness of Bach’s vision and influence.”

Yang further explained that “Bach at his core is about the elements of song, dance, and, most of the time, a combination of both. The partitas are cosmopolitan collections of different dance movements that go straight to the heart of Baroque style in elegance and eloquence. Schubert is also always about the song (Lieder) and the dance, although in dance he is singularly obsessed with the Ländler style, which can be felt in the center movements of the D-major Sonata.”

The “Gasteiner,” Yang said, “is unusually sunny and optimistic for Schubert, although it is not without nostalgia and tenderness, while the composer spins out an unusual, virtuosic keyboard style combined with orchestral and quartet sonority and the omnipresent singing lyricism that is deeply embedded in his DNA.”

Asked about the significance of the program being centered on the key of D, Yang said, “I must confess that hearing a tonal thread is very important to me when I listen to and conceive the details of a program.”

 What’s important to him in the end is that “the audience will see and hear the prismatic aspects in music that I strive to unlock, whether it’s about tonal relationships, stylistic influences, or genre crossing.”

DETAILS & TICKETS

Published November 21, 2017
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Boris Berman’s “Notes from the Pianist’s Bench” enhanced with multimedia elements

Fifteen years after its initial publication, faculty pianist Boris Berman’s Notes from the Pianist’s Bench (Yale University Press, 2002) has been enhanced to include audio and video clips that support the written content, which has also been updated.

“I expanded it in terms of the content,” Berman said, “but also, I added the visual and audio components.” A decade and a half after writing the book, Berman considered various pieces of feedback, and, “in some cases,” he said, “I changed my view on certain subjects.”

The “YUP approached Boris with the idea of adding audio and video components to the book,” Yale University Press publicist Alden Ferro said in an email. “Accompanying both the print and ebook versions is access to multimedia components: 20 video examples and 25 audio examples. In the multimedia edition, clicking the links takes you directly to the audio and video examples. In the print book, audio and video symbols throughout cue the reader when and which example to watch or listen to online. If a reader buys the print edition, they can gain access to the audio and video components by going to www.yalebooks.com/berman and registering for an account on the companion website.”

Ferro noted that “as in the original edition, Berman gives tips on everything from the practical matters in piano playing— sound and touch, technique, pedaling, and articulation — to how to emotionally prepare for a performance.”

Of Berman’s Notes from the Pianist’s Bench, the late Claude Frank, who taught piano alongside Berman at the Yale School of Music, said, “Whether the subject is rubato in Mozart and Chopin, pedaling in Bach, or merely the position of the thumb on the keyboard, Boris Berman deals with it comprehensively but concisely, imaginatively and realistically. The book is neither too elementary nor too advanced for any pianist, piano teacher or piano lover. It is informative, inspiring and entertaining.”

Acclaimed pianist Emanuel Ax offered, “What makes Mr. Berman’s book so persuasive and enlightening is his understanding that there is no one ‘method’ of teaching music — each relationship with a student is a process of discovery for teacher and student both.”

Learn more about the new edition of Boris Berman’s Notes from the Pianist’s Bench on the Yale University Press website.

Published November 15, 2017
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