NOVA NOTES

Interview with Brant and Anne Francis Bayless

Click the link below to listen to a preview of this Sunday's concert with violist Brant Bayless and cellist Anne Francis Bayless.

The World Premiere of Morris Rosenzweig’s String Trio

This Sunday NOVA presents the world premiere of a new work by Utah composer Morris Rosenzweig, his String Trio. What follows are notes by the composer on this new work as well as a short bio that includes upcoming and recent performances of Rosenzweig’s works.

My approach to writing music might best be summed up as direct impulse meshed with reason.

This piece contains a basic underlying narrative which--instead of being diverted by its many changes of texture, mood, tempo, etc.--relies on those apparent shifts in order to ultimately tell its particular type of "story."

In composing this work I intended to write a quickly moving network of interconnected episodes, each of various lengths and types that all contribute to the whole structure. Although not a conscious inspiration, this is a similar approach noticeable in certain paintings by Klee and many other artists, as well as in the work of countless filmmakers, for example.

The piece begins and ends quietly. It contains two fairly extended, uptempo, loud, contrapuntal passages. The first, relatively close to the beginning, the second, relatively close to the end which finishes off the business left open by the first. The other equally important characteristic episodes act as both individual agents whose specific properties connect with others by similar or contrasting association. While there are many temperaments contained in this trio, I intend that an overall sense of balance is achieved: soft/loud, sweet/bitter, high/low, polyphonic/monophonic, and so on.

My deep thanks to NOVA for their interest in my music and for including this trio on today's concert, AND to the remarkable musicians who have worked so hard and patiently to bring this trio to life.

 

Morris Rosenzweig was born October 1, 1952 in New Orleans, where he grew up among the tailors, merchants, and strong-willed women of an extended family which has lived in southern Louisiana since the mid 1890s.

His works have been widely presented throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in Japan, Argentina, Mexico and Israel. Among the noted groups who have brought these works to life are the New York New Music Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, “Piano and Percussion-Stuttgart,” the Leonardo Trio, the Abramyan Quartet, EARPLAY, the New Orleans Symphony, and the Utah Symphony. He has had the pleasure of collaborating with an array of distinguished soloists including Laurence Dutton, William Purvis, Curtis Macomber, Chris Finckel, Steven Gosling, and Daniel Druckman.

Six CDs of his recorded compositions are available on the Albany and New World labels.

Mr. Rosenzweig has received honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Bogliasco Study Center, the Argosy Foundation, two commissions and the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, and support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund.

Recent and upcoming activities include:
- a retrospective concert of his music presented by the Trinity Artists Series, November 2012
- movements from Points and Tales, Florence, Cherubini Conservatorio, December 2013
- premiere of so as to, NOVA Series, November 2013
- performance of Angels, Emeralds and the Towers, Contemporary Music Ensemble, Oberlin, March 2014
- a multi-media collaboration with photographer Savina Tarsitano, (heard through mixtful eyes) premiered in Brussels, July 2014 to be followed by a series of upcoming exhibitions in Japan and Italy
- performance of Da Lives ah da Saints, Sonus Tone Festival, Magdeburg, Germany, October 2014
- performance of Piano Preludes and movements from Points and Tales, Jason Hardink, Libby Gardner Hall, January 26, 2015
- premiere of commissioned piece, A League of Notions by the Orchestra of the League, Miller Theatre, New York, June 11, 2015.

Presently Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Utah, he has formerly held positions at Queens College and New York University. Mr. Rosenzweig is director of The Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance, New Orleans; director of The Maurice Abravanel Visiting Composers Series, and artistic director of Canyonlands Ensemble. He was educated at the Eastman School of Music, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University.

Was the World Ready for Mozart?

Mozart’s career straddles an immense sociological shift occurring in the lives of composers at the end of the 18th century. We tend to think of Beethoven as the first composer to be free of the creative constraints placed on court composers, but Mozart was the earliest major figure to defy this tradition. While his break with the Salzburg court and subsequent move to Vienna were events closely tied to a desire for a courtly appointment in the musical capital of the western world, his Viennese career was that of a freelancer. In some respects this experiment was a failure; Mozart died struggling to make ends meet for his family. The successes of this creative and financial venture cannot be overstated; today we still witness the repercussions of Mozart’s public struggle to reconcile the difference between writing music that his public and his patrons wanted vs. that which he felt worthy of his creative abilities. Mozart’s story had an unimaginable impact on the lives of Beethoven and the 19th-century cult honoring starving artists and misunderstood geniuses. Beethoven himself said that Mozart’s K. 464 string quartet was “Mozart telling the world: ‘Look what I could do if you were ready for it!’”

Mozart’s Divertimento in E-flat, K. 563, is one of the works that most cleverly fulfills an obligation to write pleasing music for his audience while serving as a vehicle for the true invention and daring of the composer’s musical imagination. Composed in September of 1788, this is one of Mozart’s few works in the divertimento/serenade vein not commissioned for a specific occasion. The E-flat Divertimento was composed as a gesture of thanks for a friend, and it was premiered with Mozart playing the viola part while on a multi-city tour in Dresden the following April. While the overall tone of this piece is sunny and serenade-like, Mozart imbues this light genre with intensity of intellect and emotion that was surely viewed as inappropriate and rebellious. Right from the opening of the first movement, there is a heightened sense of counterpoint; the voices are equal, with the viola and cello matching the flashy writing of the violin stride for stride. This is not music a gigging musician could show up and sight-read as background music at a party!

In addition to pushing the limits of virtuosity appropriate to an 18th-century divertimento, Mozart lets the affect of his music wander far beyond the trivial and congenial. A notable example of this occurs in the development of the 1st movement, a searching and unstable journey that travels through minor keys before returning to the jubilant music of the opening. The slow movement is also very enigmatic and heartfelt, plumbing depths of expression suitable only for the greatest music of the concert hall or chamber salon.

JH, 2.25.15