Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eric Whitacre is quickly becoming one of the most popular composers and conductors of his generation, inspiring and motivating a new generation of singers and musicians. The "unearthly beauty and imagination" (Los Angeles Times) and "emotional directness and intensity" (American Record Guide) of Whitacre’s music create a visceral, impassioned response in audiences and performers. In 2008, the all-Whitacre choral CD Cloudburst (released by the British ensemble Polyphony on Hyperion Records) became an unexpected international best-seller, topping the classical charts and earning a Grammy nomination. The BBC raves that "what hits you straight between the eyes is the honesty, optimism and sheer belief that passes any pretension. This is music that can actually make you smile." Watch a performance of Eric Whitacre conducting his Sleep (2000), performed by the VocalEssence Chorus, the Ensemble Singers, The St. Olaf Choir, and the Minnesota High School Honors Choir . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, characterized by a keen sensitivity to color, a mastery of form, and what the Louisville Courier-Journal has called a "compelling, innate soulfulness." Increasingly in demand, Dillon has received commissions in the past year from the Emerson String Quartet, the Ravinia Festival, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Daedalus String Quartet, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. This week we are privileged to present an exclusive interview with Lawrence Dillon by the Pytheas Center's director, Vinny Fuerst. He talks about his life as a composer, his current compositions and activities, and his thoughts on contemporary music . . . it's this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Frederic Rzewski is among the major figures of the American musical avant-garde to emerge in the 1960s, and he has been highly influential as a composer and performer. He first came to public attention as a performer of new piano music, having participated in the premieres of such monumental works as Stockhausen's Klavierstück X (1962). In 1966, he co-founded the famous ensemble Musica Electronica Viva (MEV). MEV combined free improvisation with written music and electronics. These experimentations led directly to the use of a so-called "process piece," which also combines elements of spontaneous improvisation with notated material and instructions. Rzewski's improv-classical hybrids are some of the most successful of the kind ever produced thanks to the fervent energy at the core of his music. During the 1970s, his music continued to develop along these lines, but as his socialist proclivities began to direct his artistic course, he developed new structures for instrumental music that used text elements and musical style as structuring features. Rzewski's music is among that which defines postwar American new music. He has consistently given the exuberant boyish pleasures of a composer like Copland within the rigorously experimental framework of a composer like Cage. Often unapologetically tonal and fun, Rzewski's music cuts right through the frequent churlishness of avant garde music. The Pytheas Center this week highlights Frederic Rzewski with a FEATURED RECORDING - Fred (on Cedille Records) - and a PYTHEAS EARFUL - Squares (1978). Explore, Listen and Enjoy!

Dan Locklair is one of America's most widely performed composers. His compositions include symphonic works, ballet, opera, and numerous solo, chamber, vocal and choral compositions. His awards have included annual ASCAP awards, a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and the top Barlow International Competition Award, and he was named Composer of the Year in 1996 by the American Guild of Organists. His many commissions have come from such organizations as the Knoxville Symphony, the Binghamton Symphony, the American Guild of Organists, the Mallorme Chamber Players and the Bel Canto Company. Listen to a performance of Locklair's Toccata, from In Mystery and Wonder (2004) performed by organist Alan Morrison . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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