Osvaldo Golijov has become major figure in contemporary music by developing a polystylistic method, variously based on Western music of many centuries, on traditional Judeo-Christian liturgies, on folk traditions of several countries, and on Latin-American influences, paying particular attention to the tango as developed by Astor Piazzolla. Golijov transforms these diverse materials into entirely new forms and sounds without obvious references to their sources.
Born into an Eastern European Jewish family in La Plata, Argentina, Golijov first studied music with Gerardo Gandini, a pupil of Alberto Ginastera, whose music combined a nationalistic idiom with advanced European procedures, such as the twelve-tone system. In 1983, Golijov moved to Israel, where he took up studies with Ukraine-born musicologist and composer Mark Kopytman, whose pieces include graphic notation and chance elements. Golijov came to the United States in 1986, and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb, then later continued his studies at Tanglewood.
In 1990 Golijov was named a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center. That year, he became acquainted with the Kronos Quartet, for whom he wrote K'vakarat for string quartet and cantor, and in 1997 composed Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for string quartet and clarinet. Other artists for whom Golijov has written include the Rumanian Gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks, the Mexican rock band Cafe Tacuba, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, and fiddler Alicia Svigals. His breakthrough score, La Pasión Según San Marcos (2000), commemorated the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach's death. It was commissioned by Helmuth Rilling for the European Music Festival, which also included works by Wolfgang Rihm and Sofia Gubaydulina. In 2002, the Haenssler recording of La Pasión Según San Marcos received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations.
In 2006, Golijov's opera Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears), was produced at Tanglewood and won two Grammy awards, for Best Opera Recording and Best Contemporary Composition. Golijov has received numerous commissions from major ensembles and institutions in the United States and Europe. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and several other awards. He has taken up duties as composer-in-residence for many major festivals and workshops, and has worked extensively with the Silk Road Project. He has been a member of the music faculties at Holy Cross College, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Boston Conservatory. His works have been published by Ytalianna Music Publishing.
Elena Kats-Chernin is one of the most cosmopolitan composers working today, having reached millions of listeners worldwide through her prolific catalogue of works for theater, ballet, orchestra, and chamber ensemble. Her dramatically vivid music communicates a mixture of lightheartedness and heavy melancholy, combining strong rhythmic figures with elements of cabaret, tango, ragtime, and klezmer.
Born in 1957 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Kats-Chernin received training at the Gnesin Musical College before immigrating to Australia in 1975. She graduated from the New South Wales Conservatory in 1980 and was awarded a DAAD (German academic exchange) grant to study with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover. She remained in Germany for 13 years, returning in 1994 to Australia where she now lives in Sydney.
One of Australia’s leading composers, Elena Kats-Chernin has created works in nearly every genre. Among her many commissions are pieces for Ensemble Modern, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Adelaide, Tasmanian and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, Present Music, City of London Sinfonia, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the North Carolina Symphony. Her brilliantly scored, energetic, and often propulsive music has been choreographed by dance-makers around the world. In 2000 she collaborated with leading Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard in a series of large-scale dance works. The first of these, "Deep Sea Dreaming", was broadcast to an audience of millions worldwide as part of the opening ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Recent works include the concerto for basset clarinet and chamber orchestra Ornamental Air which has been toured internationally and also released on CD for Chandos by Michael Collins, and her fourth opera The Rage of Life, staged in Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Germany and Switzerland. For the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and choir, she composed Prelude and Cube. One of Elena Kats-Chernin’s most recent major premieres was her adaptation of Monteverdi’s three operas (Orpheus, Odysseus, Poppea) at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Barrie Kosky, in September 2012 – a 12 hour Marathon performance with live telecast on 3sat TV. In January 2014, her music for the drama Frankenstein at the Sydney Ensemble Theatre won jointly the "Sydney Theatre Award 2013 for best score". In March 2014 she was a joint winner of Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award.
Throughout his career, Sir John Tavener was a unique and influential figure in the contemporary music scene. From his days as an audacious young composer at the forefront of the avant-garde movement in the late sixties and seventies, through to his latter-day rejection of many of the standard aesthetic principles on which the Western classical music tradition is based, he seemed to have caused controversy in whichever direction he moved.
John Kenneth Tavener was born in London in 1944 and educated at the Royal Academy of Music with Lennox Berkeley as his tutor in composition. Tavener's dramatic cantata Cain and Abel (1966) won him the Prince Rainier award while he was still a student. But the first work to bring him significant public attention was The Whale (1968), based on the biblical story of Jonah, which premiered in the London Sinfonietta's inaugural concert and was released on the Beatle's Apple record label in 1970. Later in his career he moved towards sacred orchestral works, of which his score for cello and orchestra, The Protecting Veil, entered the world of 20th century ‘pop’ classics.
He was influenced by Stravinsky but developed a very personal style that embraced his own concept of melodic minimalism. Within the field of sacred music Tavener developed a style whereby he used what appeared to be a traditional theme, which on closer examination was seen to have been his own. He was criticised for his lack of a distinct purpose in the progress of his career, while envied by those who see him as one of the most commercially successful composers of his time. That success was greatly furthered when his sacred work Song for Athene was sung at the funeral ceremony of Princess Diana.
From his early, complex works, he gradually pared down his music, removing the intellectual systems and techniques to get as near as he could to a state where only the ‘essence’ remains. This made him unpopular with the critics, but it was his firm and absolute conviction that this was the right direction for him. Once, when accused of his music having no substance, he retorted ‘But I’m not interested in substance; it’s the essence of the music that counts!’ Given the popularity of his music, and his long-standing success, it is difficult to deny that he had a point. Sir John Tavener died on 12 November 2013.
John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world.
Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic work Become Ocean. Inuksuit, his outdoor work for up to 99 percussionists, is regularly performed all over the world.
A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University "for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries."
Born in 1953, JLA grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). In the mid-1970s he became active in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and subsequently served as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has also served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network.
The music of John Luther Adams is recorded on Cantaloupe, Cold Blue, New World, Mode, and New Albion, and his books are published by Wesleyan University Press.
Ken Thomson is a Brooklyn-based composer, clarinetist, and saxophonist. In demand as a composer and freelancer in many settings, he moves quickly between genres and scenes, bringing a fiery intensity and emotional commitment to every musical situation.
He has recently released a CD of his compositions for the heralded JACK Quartet, entitled “Thaw,” on Cantaloupe Music, which was called #1 Classical CD of 2013 by Rhapsody.com, and featured in NPR’s “10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing.” His latest project as a composer-performer, called Slow/Fast, was created to meld jazz and contemporary music with a personal bent. The group released its second CD, "Settle," internationally on NCM East Records in 2014, praised by The New York Times for its “intricate long-form compositions,” and garnering a five-star review in All About Jazz. The Chicago Reader wrote of it, “Thomson's pieces breathe and emanate an infectious energy, with every wend and wind hurtling the music forward rather than showing off the band's chops.”
He has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the True/False Film Festival, and others, and has received awards from New Music USA, ASCAP and Meet the Composer. The New York Times wrote of his work "Wait Your Turn" for the American Composers Orchestra upon its debut at Carnegie Hall: “The concert ended on a high note.... the music offered a density worthy of the closing bars of a Led Zeppelin epic;” and of his work "seasonal.disorder" for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, “a virtuoso piece... a texture laced with power chords, screaming clarinet lines and cluster-laden piano writing. In the end it is sheer madness, in a good, thrillingly visceral way.” The San Francisco Weekly writes about his music, “Thomson’s original compositions are as complex as a beehive, filled with amber-hued nooks and crannies that bear traces of jazz, world music, and classical, without succumbing to any of them.”
He also plays clarinet for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of the world’s preeminent new music ensembles. He is the musical director for the Asphalt Orchestra - a 12-piece next-generation avant-garde marching band, called “cooly brilliant, infectious... top notch players” by The New York Times. He plays saxophone and is one of the 3 composers in the punk/jazz band Gutbucket, with whom he has toured internationally to nineteen countries and 32 states over fourteen years, and released CDs for Knitting Factory, Enja, NRW, Cantaloupe and Cuneiform Records. He is on faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival.
He has been recently featured in profiles in Downbeat magazine and NewMusicBox. He is a Conn-Selmer Artist, and endorses D’Addario Reeds and Sibelius software.
David Lang is one of the most highly-esteemed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world and in many of the great concert halls. The recipient of a wide array of awards, Lang won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music for the little match girl passion, based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen and Lang's own rewriting of the libretto to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. The recording of the piece on Harmonia Mundi was awarded a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.
Lang’s tenure as 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence at Carnegie Hall saw his mystery sonatas with Augustin Hadelich premiered. His festival, collected stories, showcased different modes of storytelling in music. This season Lang premieres a string quartet for the 10th anniversary of Sage Gateshead, a choral piece for the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood Music Center, a new piece for musikFabrik, a new composition for the Bamberg Symphony, and just (after song of songs) for Trio Mediaeval and Saltarello. Lang’s compositional range will be on display when he serves as the 2014-15 Composer-in-Residence at de Doelen in Rotterdam, and many of the pieces will be receiving their European premieres.
Lang’s music is used regularly in ballet and dance productions around the world by such choreographers as Twyla Tharp, Susan Marshall, Edouard Lock, and Benjamin Millepied, who is choreographing a new piece by Lang to be performed by the LA Dance Project at BAM in 2014. Lang's film work includes the score for Jonathan Parker's (Untitled), the music for the award-winning documentary The Woodmans, and the string arrangements for Requiem for a Dream, performed by the Kronos Quartet. His music is also on the soundtrack for Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar-winning La Grande Bellezza and the director’s upcoming film, La Giovinezza. In addition to his work as a composer, Lang co-founded Bang on a Can, a prominent new music festival in New York. He is Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music.
Aulis Sallinen can be justly regarded as the natural successor to the greatest Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. After early experimentation with serialism, he adopted a clear, diatonic style that often evokes the cold expanse of Finnish landscapes. With a strong sense of national identity, Finnish traditional melodies often appear in Sallinen’s works, and the subject matter of several of his six operas draws on the history and folklore of that country, such as The Red Line, set against the backdrop of the first Finnish national election, or Kullervo, based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.
Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina in 1921 and became one of the major classical composers of that country. He became so besotted by the music of the South American dance, The Tango, that he destroyed his early works and devoted his life to writing music with that rhythm as its basis. He has developed this art to the point where it is difficult to detect the dance in his complex and strictly classical music. Outside of the South American continent his music was little known until the past decade, when a renewed interest in the dance, mainly through major exposure in the cinema, has taken his works back into the concert hall. Though there are examples of the dance used in its most basic and popular form, Piazzolla has composed most of his music for small chamber groups or solo instruments. Most is written in a very contemporary 20th century style, usually calling for virtuosity of performance.
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