Ice, Wind, War & Spring • for mixed chorus and orchestra update

Some works need more time than others and this new work is no exception . The most difficult part of writing vocal music, at least for me, is putting someone else’s words into my mouth. Choosing text for a work such as this was time consuming and difficult, but very rewarding. To begin with there is the occasion of the commission. 2020 Will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen; the commissioner of this work and where I am currently composer-in-residence.  2020 is also a big Beethoven anniversary and it is, more importantly, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.  The Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen was founded out of the rubble of WWII. At that time the city’s mayor was Oskar Kalbfell, who was appointed by the French occupying forces. I am told by WPR’s intendant that Kalbfell was instrumental in founding the WPR 75 years ago. Kalbfell felt that the city not only had to rebuild its homes, hospitals, schools but it also had to rebuild its cultural institutions, the orchestra being one of them.  I had a very interesting visit to the Reutlingen City Museum where I learned about its booms and busts over the years, the great fire, its notable figures. Tucked in the basement was the darkest chapter of its history; the period of the National Socialists.

With such a loaded history and with a world that is swinging (foolishly) to the right what text does one choose for such a commission? To begin with I always do my best to avoid using text that is under copyright so that is a starting point.  In search for text for a previous commission (Turn To The World: A Whitman Cantata) I came across a beautiful poem by Walt Whitman titled Reconciliation. This became the emotional cornerstone of the work. The openning texts were by two Huguenot poets/pastors; Antoine De La Roche Chandieu (1534 – 1591) and Simon Goulart (1543 – 1628). Both wrote a type of poem called Octonaire that were written after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and were meditations on evil and the fleeting nature of earthly joys.  I placed these poems at the openning of my work to give voice to the victims of violence.

The last poem is by Rainier Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) and is titled Vorfrühling (Early Spring).  For me, this poem speaks of the promise of re-birth and renewal but does so with great subtlety and beauty. I couldn’t see ending this work with a big ‘Ta-daaaa!!!’ and this text felt right.

World-premiere of “Clarinet Concerto: Adrift on the Wine-dark Sea”

After years of planning and patiently waiting, clarinetist Kinan Azmeh premiered my Clarinet Concerto in Southern Germany with the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen under the direction of Fawzi Haimor. Kinan’s performance was stunning (as was his encore solo performance) and maestro Haimor gave a superb and focused performance with his excellent colleagues at the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen.

Post premiere photo with conductor Fawzi Haimor (left) & Kinan Azmeh.

There was an audience of about 950 at the Stadthalle Reutlingen and the reception was enthusiastic.  That three Arab-American musicians were involved in a world-premiere of a sizable work about the desperate situation of refugees fleeing persecution, war and strife is, in my mind, no small thing.

 

My clarinet concerto was recorded by Kinan Azmeh and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and is available here. This double CD album was beautifully recorded in Berlin and features wonderful compositions by Kinan, and Syrian composers Zaid Jabri and the late Dia Succari. Kinan also won the Opus Klassik (the German equivalent of the Grammys) for this recording.

As I am currently the composer-in-residence with the WPR, there are still a few more events coming up. To begin with there is a second performance of my clarinet concerto on September 27. Details are here.  I am also proofing a new work for choir and orchestra titled Ice, Wind, War & Spring. Commissioned by WPR this work celebrates that orchestra’s 75th anniversary as well as commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The concert premiere will take place on January 12 & 13 of 2020 in Reutlingen.

Kinan Azmeh and I find a poster in town advertising the concert.

The American premiere will take place in Chicago this coming October with the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra.

October 25 & 27, 2019 North American premiere of Clarinet Concerto: Adrift on the Wine-dark Sea with soloist Kinan Azmeh with the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra in Chicago. Details below:

10/25 for Discover Symphony is https://www.discoversymphony.org/

10/27 for PRCO is https://www.parkridgecivicorchestra.org/