Composed March – April 2020, written for Joseph Vaz.
Joseph was my student (on string bass!) in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra for three years, and since my departure from that position, he and I have remained in touch and become good friends. His senior year of high school, we collaborated on two concerto performances, the Mozart d minor and the Gottschalk “Grand Tarantella”.
Sometime during the first year of Joseph’s master’s degree program at CCM, we started discussing the idea of my writing a piece for him and eventually settled on the idea of a sonata. He gave me lots of listening homework to fill the gaps in my knowledge about the existing repertoire, which I diligently completed, sending him regular commentary and analysis as I listened through his list.
I had not intended to compose the sonata until much later in 2020, but my work was able to begin ahead of schedule due to Covid. For very unfortunate reasons, Seattle had one of the earliest lockdowns and it quickly became apparent that we were in it for the long haul. I quickly pivoted to “composer mode” and the sonata was the first major work of what turned out to be an abnormally prolific compositional period for me.
Being thoroughly acquainted with Joseph’s virtuosity, I held nothing back, neither musically nor technically. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling collaboration, and I rank this piece among my most important instrumental works, along with my symphony and horn/viola/piano trio.
Written for, and dedicated to, William Alexander Gibbs.
Composed September 2020 Durata ~8’ 30”
In late 2019, two major events occurred in the life of my friend Will: his father died of cancer, and shortly thereafter his first child was born. This piece reflects the overlap of sorrow and joy. The opening motive is a quotation of “La Rêveuse” by Marin Marais.
I composed this piece in two spells, first in January-February 2017, then in November-December. The first version was called Turn, named for the wiggling figure that appears in the tuba part in the 4th measure and suffuses the entire work. In the end, I was unsatisfied with that version, and revisited the piece at the end of 2017 in order to compose a new second half.
In its final form, Incantation plays with the idea of magic – or what appears to be magic – and how a ‘sorcerer’ can capitalize on a chance occurrence to cast a spell over the members of a tribe. The piece is in dialogue with Revueltas’s Sensemaya, a natural starting point given that work’s opening solo for the tuba.
Incantation was commissioned and premiered by the BrassTaps Duo, comprised of Evan Zegiel, tuba, and Anthony DeMartinis, percussion, and sponsored by a consortium of tubists in the University of Michigan tuba studio.
This piece was composed for two very good friends, Andy and Mary Moran, whom I first met in the summer of 2005 at the Pierre Monteux School. Andy was attending as a conductor and horn player, Mary as a member of the viola section, which meant I got to sit next to her in orchestra all summer, which I count among the singular delights I’ve been afforded.
Andy is now Professor of Horn and Orchestral Director at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Mary is a musician and staff member with the Central Wisconsin Symphony. The premiere was given at the UWSP School of Music, by Mary and Andy and Janna Ernst on the piano. Shortly thereafter, I travelled to Wisconsin to give further performances (as pianist) both there and in Chicago, and we have since performed it at additional concerts as part of the ARTi Gras Festival in Central Wisconsin.
Nightfall explores the moods of the string body from dusky noir to incandescent ecstasy. The work relies heavily on harmonics, ricochet, barriolage (rapid back-and-forth between strings) as well as more extended string techniques. There are significant solos for the first violin and cello, but each of the parts contains moments of virtuosity.
The piece opens with the violas pizzicato, playing an increasingly complex rhythmic cell. One by one, the other instruments join in and achieve a diabolical climax that introduces the first theme, a rising figure that slithers among the four violin parts. The central section begins timidly but opens into a full-blown romantic melody. The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the opening music and a bracing coda.
Nightfall may be performed an ensemble of as few as 10 players or by a well-balanced string orchestra.