Notes on the Program

Notes on the Program

04-17 Americans:Layout 1 4/10/13 11:53 AM Page 25 Notes on the Program By James M. Keller, Program Annotator The Leni and Peter May Chair Prosper...

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Notes on the Program

By James M. Keller, Program Annotator The Leni and Peter May Chair Prospero’s Rooms Christopher Rouse

by the Orchestra and Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi. In that same year Rouse was honored with an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Music, and in 2002 the Academy elected him to its membership. Also in 2002, Rouse’s Concert de Gaudí, a guitar concerto, won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. He was named Musician of the Year (2009) by Musical America, which particularly noted his skill as a composer of symphonic scores. He has served as composer-in-residence for the Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras, as well as at the Santa Cecilia and Schleswig-Holstein Festivals (both of these at the invitation of Leonard Bernstein), the Tanglewood festival, Pacific Music Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. Although he has written in many genres, Rouse is most widely recognized as an orchestral composer. His music has been programmed by every major American orchestra in addition to many of the principal orchestras of Europe, Australia, and Asia. Among his recent works are Odna Zhizn, a New York

Christopher Rouse, who this season is fulfilling the first of two years as The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, is among the most respected composers of his generation, noted for works of compulsive rhythm, vivid color, and catholicity in bringing together the traditions of classical and popular music. He graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in 1971, and 25 years later his alma mater also awarded him an honorary doctorate. He studied privately with George Crumb for two years and then pursued composition studies with Karel Husa and Robert Palmer at Cornell University, which granted him a doctoral degree in 1977. Also influential was the composer William Schuman, past president of The Juilliard School and a founder of Lincoln Center. Rouse went on to teach at the University of Michigan, the Eastman School of Music, and The Juilliard School (where he has taught since 1997, full-time since 2002). In 1988 he received In Short the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for his Sym- Born: February 15, 1949, in Baltimore, Maryland phony No. 1, and in 1993 Resides: in Baltimore he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Trom- Work composed: 2012, on commission from the New York Philharmonic; bone Concerto, one of the completed on August 13 of that year in Baltimore, Maryland New York Philharmonic’s World premiere: these performances 150th Anniversary Commissions, which was premiered Estimated duration: ca. 10 minutes April 2013

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Philharmonic commission that Alan Gilbert conducted in its world premiere in 2010; Symphony No. 3, which the St. Louis Symphony premiered in 2011; and Heimdall’s Trumpet, a concerto for trumpet and orchestra premiered this past December by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In connection with his New York Philharmonic appointment the Orchestra has also performed Rouse’s Phantasmata, an orchestral triptych, and in June it will give the New York premiere of his Symphony No. 3. His new work, Prospero’s Rooms, is inspired not by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but by a different literary source: Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death,” first published in 1842. Rouse offers this summarization: The story concerns a vain prince, Prospero, who summons his friends to his palace and locks them in so that they will remain safe from the Red Death, a plague that is ravaging

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the countryside. He commands that there be a ball — the “masque” — but that no one is to wear red. But of course a figure clad all in red does appear; it is the Red Death, and it claims the lives of all in the castle. Before the guests die, however, it is revealed that the stranger is in fact incorporeal, that nothing exists beneath his cloak. The meaning of this story and its central figures has been argued, but all that is certain is the finality of the Red Death. Poe’s tale concludes: “And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.” Instrumentation: two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bell plate, gong, snare drum, triangles, tam-tams, bass drum, orchestra bells, football ratchet, crash, Chinese and suspended cymbals, harp, and strings.

In the Composer’s Words In the days when I would have still contemplated composing an opera, my preferred source was Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” A marvelous story full of both symbolism and terror. … However, I shall not be composing an opera, and so I decided to redirect my ideas into what might be considered an overture to an unwritten opera. In the castle are a series of rooms, each of which is entirely in one color: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet. The last is the black room, but the window is blood red rather than black. In the corner is an enormous ebony clock, and whenever it tolls the hour, everyone in the castle hears it and is frozen with terror. Of course, there are 12 strokes of the clock. My piece is a journey through those seven rooms. I don’t have synesthesia, which is an actual sensation of the connection between color and musical notes, but I’ve tried to imagine what these colors would sound like. The most important thing for me was getting the sound of the clock chiming. I spent a few hours one afternoon with Chris Lamb, the Philharmonic’s Principal Percussionist, down in the bowels of Avery Fisher Hall, going through some of the percussion instruments that they have. We came up with a composite sound, not just one instrument but actually a very large, tuned gong, an equally large tuned bell plate, and an enormous tam-tam that are all Harry Clarke’s illustration for struck together to create the sound of the clock striking. You hear it 12 times, “The Masque of the Red spread out through the piece. Death,” from 1919 26

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