Upon This Rock for chamber ensemble (2009)
As a recipient of the 2009 Indiana University Dean’s Prize in Composition, I was commissioned by conductor David Dzubay and the IU New Music Ensemble to write a new work for 17-piece chamber ensemble. The result was Upon This Rock, a single-movement work lasting roughly 15 minutes. The overall form of the work is quite simple: three large sections in a loose ABA format, with each section nearly 5 minutes in length. I derived all of the important melodic material in the entire work from the opening gesture: an emphatic upward leap followed by a scurrying downward chromatic line.
In this excerpt, you will hear a brief transition with short melodies tossed among the members of the ensemble. This process is rudely interrupted by several piercing As and a three-note motive in canon (led by the brass), which eventually balloons into the climax of the first section of the work. At the highpoint, I maximized the rhythmic activity with frantic triplet runs in the woodwinds and surging tremolando lines in the strings, supported by horn and percussion.
This excerpt contains the dramatic crux of the entire work: a solemn brass chorale that recasts the opening gesture of the entire piece in augmentation. Leading up to the chorale, I borrowed the three-note motive from the previous section and added swelling counterpoint lines in the winds and strings. Following the climax, the swelling lines gradually sink into the background and solos for the oboe and clarinet bring the Adagio to a reflective close.
Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) for piano quartet (2007-08)
Spe Salvi was commissioned by violist and friend Christina Wong for her graduation recital at The Juilliard School’s Paul Hall on March 23, 2008. She requested a piano quartet so that she could include three mutual friends in the premiere performance: Sharon Chang (violin), Joseph Lee (cello), and Stephanie Wu (piano). Since its premiere, Spe Salvi has been performed by the Kolot Ensemble, members of the IU New Music Ensemble, and has been scheduled by Boston’s Juventas New Music Ensemble for its 2010-2011 season. The piece lasts 14 minutes in one movement.
I borrowed the title from Pope Benedict XVI, whose 2007 encyclical letter on Christian hope was named Spe Salvi after Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” I wanted to create a musical atmosphere that mixed several emotions: confidence and uncertainty, patience and impatience, longing and anticipation. This recording is taken from my doctoral graduation recital at Indiana University in April 2009. The performers are Sarah Saviet (violin), Nathan Schram (viola), Yotam Baruch (cello), and myself at the piano.
- Excerpt #1: Opening duet
I featured the viola prominently in this work, writing a lengthy opening duet with cello and later a dramatic solo cadenza. I wanted the opening to portray uncertainty and longing, and I used harmonic intervals that I found beautiful but slightly unstable (Major 7ths, Perfect 4ths). Gradually the violin enters in an accompanying role to fill the texture and bring the opening statement to a cadence.
- Excerpt #2: Allegro
This excerpt, from the early part of the piece, builds momentum in a series of developing variations on the opening viola motive Eb-C-G-A. I tried to vary the rhythmic structure by frequently changing tempi, meters, textures, and bow strokes. The excerpt concludes with an aggressive statement of the motive in the piano in octaves—the first moment in the piece (finally!) that the piano has stated the melody and come to the forefront.
- Excerpt #3: Conclusion of the work
I designed the ending of Spe Salvi to encapsulate all of the main emotions in the piece. Here the viola initiates a quietly intense progression that arrives with the strings on an A-E open fifth (this being the “tonic” sonority of the piece). Against this backdrop, the opening motive trickles down one last time in the piano, coming to rest on a hopeful note. It is clear that the piece ends here, with the musical materials more or less resolved, but I still wanted an uncertain, anticipatory feeling to remain even after the piece was finished.
Voyageurs was commissioned by the Minnesota Youth Symphonies on the occasion of its 35th Anniversary Season (2007-2008). An energetic concert piece lasting 14 minutes, Voyageurs received its premiere by the MYS Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Jim Bartsch at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on February 24, 2008. The name “Voyageurs” refers to the 17th- and 18th-century French Canadian fur traders who braved Minnesota’s lakes and rivers through harsh winters. I tried to convey a sense of dynamic adventure in the opening and final sections, while the introspective middle section relates a sense of struggle or loss.
The excerpt is taken from the live recording of the premiere. You will hear the opening 90 seconds of the work.
The Minnesota Youth Symphonies is a great organization. To read more, please visit: http://mnyouthsymphonies.org
Liturgies: five movements for chamber orchestra
I composed Liturgies under the guidance of David Dzubay at Indiana University. The premiere was conducted by Dongmin Kim at Indiana University in April 2009. The title Liturgies does not refer to a specific religion or ritual, but rather to general human activities such as coming together, cooperating, interacting, and separating. Even the act of meeting to hear a concert of new music can be viewed, quite generally, as some sort of liturgy, or communal action.
You will hear the complete third movement, Meditation, which was composed in a single span of about three hours. The A-Bb pedal point in the harp and vibraphone sweetly clashes with E Major chorale fragments in the winds.
I have also included the fiery opening of the final movement, Exhortation. This opening takes up melodic materials from the fourth movement, Devotion, but in a more aggressive manner. Viola and trombone share the opening melody line with alternating accents. Following this opening, a gradual ritardando occurs, leading to a restatement of the theme from the first movement, Procession.
Performer: Conductor, violist, and Indiana University alum Dongmin Kim now resides in New York City. He is an accomplished conductor of contemporary music and a former Assistant Conductor of the Indiana University New Music Ensemble.
Sonata for English Horn and Piano was commissioned by Hidden Valley Music Seminars (Carmel Valley, CA) for Thomas Stacy, my close friend and English hornist of the New York Philharmonic. Tom holds an annual English horn seminar at Hidden Valley, and I have served as the staff accompanist for his seminar each year since 2003. Tom and I premiered the Sonata at our annual Hidden Valley recital on August 3, 2008. Please visit Tom’s website at: www.thomasstacy.com
For more information on Hidden Valley Music Seminars, please visit their site here: http://www.hiddenvalleymusic.org
The Sonata lasts 20 minutes in four movements:
I. Pastorale (6 minutes)
II. Scherzo (3 minutes)
III. With devotion (5 minutes)
IV. Finale (6 minutes)
The recorded excerpts are taken from my doctoral graduation recital at Indiana University in April 2009. You will hear the opening of the Scherzo (an athletic, elusive, sarcastic movement in the spirit of Prokofiev’s D Major violin sonata scherzo), and the opening of the lyrical, nostalgic third movement.
Performer: The English hornist in this recording is Jennifer Berg, a recent graduate of Indiana University where she studied with Linda Strommen. She is currently an oboe student of John Ferrillo at New England Conservatory.
I composed The Lion and the Lamb in December 2004 after hearing solo violin performances by Susan Paik, Jaewon Choi, and Jinwoo Lee in New York. I was struck by the variety of expression and the personal vocal quality of the unaccompanied violin. In this work, I wanted to combine and contrast two different personalities within the solo instrument: an aggressive, dominating side and a humble, self-effacing side. The work is roughly 8 minutes long and is dedicated to The Juilliard School’s Class of 2005.
Performer: violinist Susan Paik performed the premiere of this work in April 2005. A doctoral candidate at Indiana University, Ms. Paik has studied with Mauricio Fuks, Sylvia Rosenberg, and Hyo Kang. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School, Seoul National University, and Manhattan School of Music, as well as an accomplished chamber musician and experienced educator. She was an original member of the Asiana String Quartet. This recording was taken from Ms. Paik’s 2005 recital at The Juilliard School.
Violinist Annedore Oberborbeck commissioned a concerto from me in 2003, and I elected to compose for a smaller ensemble: solo violin and woodwind quintet. Annedore premiered the work at New York’s Alice Tully Hall in April 2003.
The first movement, Risoluto, is a four-minute-long flurry of activity that begins with monolithic chords in the winds and quasi-Baroque figuration in the violin. In the recording, you will hear the transition from the middle section back to the recapitulation, which is set in motion by rapid scales in dialogue between violin and winds.
The second movement alternates slower, lyrical sections with humorous Scherzando writing. The recorded excerpt presents the opening of this movement, in which the violin melody gradually surfaces as if emerging from fog.
Performer: German violinist Annedore Oberborbeck studied with Masao Kawasaki at The Juilliard School and currently resides in Berlin.
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