Guest Composer, Shulamit Ran
Sunday, April 2, 2000, 8:00 p.m.
Clapp Recital Hall
|Soliloquy for violin, cello and piano|
Stephen Shepherd, violin
|For an Actor: Monologue for Clarinet for clarinet solo|
Christine Bellomy, clarinet
|Private Game for clarinet and violoncello|
Christine Bellomy, clarinet
|East Wind for flute solo|
Naomi Seidman, flute
|Concerto da Camera II for clarinet, string quartet and piano|
Christine Bellomy, clarinet
Notes & Bios
for violin, cello and piano
A single-movement work of approximately seven minutes, owes its inspiration in no small part to the experience of being preoccupied over a period of some three years between 1995 and 1997 with the creation of my first opera, Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), based on S. Anski's famous Yiddish play by the same name. My compositional point of departure was a musical line that begins the opening soliloquy of Khonnon, the play's (and opera's) protagonist, where his yearning and desire for his beloved Leya is first revealed. In The Dybbuk, Khonnon dies when it becomes clear that his love is to remain unrequited. Whereas most similar tales would end right there, Khonnon's death is only the first step in the journey to fulfill the great longing of the doomed would-be lovers.
While the aforementioned phrase (originally a tenor line, played here on the cello) served as the compositional "trigger" for me in Soliloquy, its placement in this work differs from its operatic analogue, in that it appears as the answer (consequent phrase) to Soliloquy's principal theme, a newly composed violin line. This legato line is loosely based on a whole-tone configuration, a different melodic permutation of which is associated throughout the opera with Khonnon's desire, and which I have come to think of as the opera's "lust motif".
The title refers not only to Khonnon's soliloquy, but also to the fact that, although written for a standard piano trio combination, it is, in fact, the violin that serves as the carrier, the "voice" of the piece, and its emotional center.
For an Actor:
Monologue for Clarinet for clarinet solo (1978)
owes its inspiration in large part to the intensely personal ethos with which the clarinet is associated in my mind. To me, the instrument in its contemporary usage suggests an incredible gamut of gestures, dynamics and emotions. Accordingly, in Monologue, the player assumes the role of a virtuoso actor who, by purely musical means, goes through a kind of wordless "monodrama."
Though not literally in sonata form, the parts of monologue nevertheless roughly parallel that form, consisting of exposition or unfolding in two stages: development-disintegration including a cadenza; coda echoing the opening materials.
Laura Flax, who first performed it on May 10, 1978 in Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City, commissioned the work for the Da Capo Chamber Players.
for clarinet and violoncello (1979)
was composed at the invitation of the Da Capo Chamber Players in connection with their tenth anniversary in 1980. I was asked to write a short piece incorporating, in any way desired, the group's name into its format, which turned out to be an interesting challenge. Repetition is the essence of comprehensibility. But -- da capo, today? While the initial temptation was to use the term loosely, I found myself intrigued by the idea of having strict repetition, without giving the appearance of arbitrary formalism. My solution: there are three brief da capo sections interlaced into the piece in a 1-2-1-3-2-3 sequence. 1 and 2 appear at key points structurally, 3 is more transitory and ornamental. They are essential for they give the piece coherence, but they may or may not be consciously perceived as repetitions on first hearing. They are my private game.
East Wind for flute solo (1987)
was commissioned by the National Flute Association for its annual Young Artists Competition, and was first performed by the six semi-finalists at the 1988 San Diego NFA Convention. I have dedicated the work to the memory of Karen Monson, a writer, critic and friend, who died in February 1988 at the age of 42.
East Wind's central image -- from within its ornamented, inflected, winding, twisting, at times convoluted lines, a gentle melody gradually emerges...
Concerto da Camera II
for clarinet, string quartet and piano
As a composer, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is "How do you begin a piece?" My answer invariably is, "By examining the instrumental combination I am to write for. For me, each instrument or group of instruments implies not only a set range and a particular tone-color, but also certain dramatic and gestural possibilities. To think of an instrumental combination is like studying the cast of characters in a play or contemplating oils versus pastels.
One of the main challenges of my Concerto da Camera II (Concerto da Camera I is a work for woodwind quintet) is that the ensemble chosen by the work's generous commissioning organizations combines within it three separate entities which are not often brought together at the same time. The clarinet is a wonderfully versatile instrument, able to play soloistically, lead, penetrate, while at the same time capable of submerging itself into a texture and emerging at will. The string quartet as an independent musical body hardly needs introduction, except perhaps as a reminder that while the sum may indeed be greater than the parts, a quartet, too, is made up of four individuals of diverse personalities. Finally, the piano is capable of functioning as a solo instrument as well as accompanist: it can prevail, support, comment, and object. Strictly speaking, it can never blend. Its "otherness" is built into its sound and manner of performance. The three movements of my piece deal with these three sound-types, or six instruments, in various ways, with the balance of power between the potential for unity and contrast, solo and ensemble playing, continually shifting and changing.
As I listen with my mind's inner ear to the finished, as yet unperformed work, I am struck by the fact that another delicate balance of power exists here. I am thinking of the relationship between the external, foreground level of the piece and another, subtler background level. What at first appear like small, gentle melodic strands, mere echoes or residues of the main events, gradually assume an inner life of their own. Never taking over yet always there, they are a salient if often quiet, factor within the work's compositional fabric and evolving organicism.
Though each movement includes numerous tempo fluctuations, the overall thrust of the work suggests a fast-slow-fast framework, with the last movement being a loosely structured occasionally tempestuous rondo.
BIOGRAPHY -- Shulamit Ran
"Shulamit Ran has never forgotten that a vital essence of composition is communication." So ran the review in the Chicago Tribune following the premiere of Legends by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This sort of reaction is by no means unusual. Around the country, from Seattle to Baltimore to Houston, commentary on her music typically runs thus: "gloriously human," and "compelling not only for its white-hot emotional content but for its intelligence and compositional clarity," "Ran is a magnificent composer." It is hardly surprising, then, that Symphony, which has drawn references to "the superior quality of her musical imagination and artistic invention" and "a work that will reward each new listening" should have won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Shulamit Ran, born in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she received her early training, came to the U.S. at the age of fourteen to study, having received scholarships from The Mannes College of Music in New York and the America Israel Cultural Foundation. Her composition teachers in Israel and in the U.S. have included A.U. Boskovich, Paul Ben-Haim, Norman Dello Joio and Ralph Shapey. Her principal piano teachers were Nadia Reisenberg and Dorothy Taubman.
Among her numerous awards, fellowships and commissions are those from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation, WFMT, Chamber Music America, Eastman School of Music, the American Composers Orchestra (Concerto for Orchestra), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (Concerto da Camera II), the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Philadelphia Orchestra (Symphony, first performed in 1990, Pulitzer Prize 1991, first place Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, 1992), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Legends), the Baltimore Symphony (Vessels of Courage and Hope), the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and many more. Her first opera, Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), which received its much-acclaimed premiere in June, 1997, was commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and was described in Opera News as "the most powerful new music-theater piece to emerge from Lyric's composer-in-residence program." The European premiere of Between Two Worlds took place in May, 1999, at the Bielefeld Opera, in a German translation.
Ms. Ran's Hyperbolae for piano won the competition for a set piece for all participants in the Second Artur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Israel in 1977. Her East Wind for solo flute was commissioned by the National Flute Association for its 1988 Young Artists Competition. She is presently working on a new work for flute and orchestra, commissioned by the National Flute Association for the organization's year 2000 convention, and on a concerto for viola for the German violist Tabea Zimmermann. We can look forward to future compositions from this highly respected composer to have the same emotional quality and technical superiority that has led critics to acclaim her work as "written with the same sense of humanity found in Mozart's most profound opera arias or Mahler's searching symphonies."
In 1990, Ms. Ran was appointed by Maestro Daniel Barenboim to be Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of the Meet the Composer Orchestra Residencies Program, a position she held for seven seasons. From 1994 to 1997, Ran also served as the fifth Brena and Lee Freeman Sr. Composer-in-Residence with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Shulamit Ran, who had performed extensively as a pianist in the U.S., Europe, Israel and elsewhere, is presently the William H. Colvin Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Chicago, where she has taught since 1973. In 1987 she was Visiting Professor at Princeton University. She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Mount Holyoke College (1988), Spertus Institute (1994), Beloit College (1996), and the New School of Social Research in New York (1997), and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992. Her works are published by the Theodore Presser Company and by the Israeli Music Institute. Recordings are available on Bridge, CRI, Erato, JMC (Jerusalem Music Center), Koch International Classics and Vox labels, including several all-Ran discs, with recording projects with Teldec (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), New World Records (Peabody Trio), and Gasparo (clarinetist Arthur Campbell) still ahead.