John Harbison – Twilight Music (1984)

If the rise of the postwar avant-garde doused a nascent school of American symphonic and chamber music, probably no composer has labored more than John Harbison to revive the flame. It is perhaps telling that his most important accolades started to pile up in the mid-1980’s, when Harbison was nearly fifty. This was the decade […]

David Froom – Amichai Songs (2006)

Composer David Froom avows a tension between his Jewish heritage and his desire to lead a secular, post-theological life. It is a struggle he examined with his teachers Mario Davidovsky and Alexander Goehr. He also feels connected to Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg through their conflicted experiences as Austrian Jews. Judaism presents a tangle of […]

Krzysztof Penderecki – Sextet (2000)

Keening fiddles and shuddering thumping basses vaulted Krzysztof Penderecki to international acclaim with his shocking “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” from 1960. It is a fitting response to the slaughter of World War Two and the indignities of the Iron Curtain that colored his childhood and adolescence in Poland. (This animated score video is […]

Marshall Fine – Music in Homage (1991)

To those who knew him, Marshall Fine (1956-2014) seemed to spend much of his life tormented by inner demons. A self-diagnosed autistic, he lived his adult life primarily in Memphis, Tennessee where he played viola and apparently worked through the challenges in his life by composing music. After his untimely death in a car accident, […]

Kamran Ince – it’s a nasreddin (2013)

Kamran Ince is a Turkish-American composer who has kept one foot planted firmly on each side of the hyphen. He divides his time between the Center for Advanced Research in Music in Istanbul and the University of Memphis in Tennessee. Both the man and his music are friendly and expansive and brimming with ideas. He […]

Ellsworth Milburn – Menil Antiphons (1989)

  Ellsworth Milburn (1938–2007) began his career as music director for the improvisational theater company Committee. He continued in show business as a composer and performer for several years, eventually serving as pianist for Second City. He even has an actor credit on his page at IMDB. However, concurrently with his show business career he […]

Wojciech Kilar – Horn Sonata (1954)

Wojciech Kilar (1933–2013) was like many composers of his generation who came of age under the Soviet control of Eastern Europe. His early compositions were neoclassical works often infused with folk elements. He has stated these pieces were a means of learning his craft. Then in the sixties he branched out into the avant-garde world […]

Don Freund – Passages (1991)

Don Freund is a senior member of the composition faculty at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has composed pieces in all genres, including chamber music, orchestral music, and works for the stage. But besides this he has also had a profound impact on the profession through his teaching and advocacy. Indeed, two of his students have […]

Paul Hindemith – Octet (1958)

Paul Hindemith was in the final stages of his creative output when he composed the Octet in 1957–58. By then, perhaps, he may have become embittered that the vanguard of contemporary music seemed to have spurned him after embracing him as “The Future” immediately following World War Two. He had done his stint at Yale […]

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