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Naxos releases new Pacific Symphony recording of Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom's "Canciones de Lorca" and “Prometheus”
Orange County, Calif. — November 13, 2015
Dedicated to championing the music of living composers and adding to the orchestral repertoire, Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair announce the release of a new CD featuring two literary-inspired works by American composer William Bolcom on the Naxos label. The first piece, “Canciones de Lorca,” is a song-cycle based on the language of Spain’s revered poet, Frederico García Lorca, and the Flamenco influence that is latent in each poem. Described by Variety as “fascinating” and “free spirited,” the work was composed in collaboration with tenor Plácido Domingo for the 2006 inauguration of the Symphony’s primary residence, the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Pacific Symphony premiered the piece and performed it again in 2013 with award-winning tenor René Barbera for this recording.
The second work, “Prometheus,” received its premiere in 2010, and features acclaimed pianist Jeffrey Biegel and Pacific Chorale. Setting the score to Lord Byron’s poem of the same name, Bolcom uses the legend of Prometheus as a metaphor for today’s turbulent times and society’s reliance on technology. The composer dedicates the work to hope and a peace derived from greater universal understanding. The recording is available for purchase as an Audio CD and MP3 album on Amazon and for MP3 download on iTunes. For more information on Pacific Symphony, please call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Considered a master of versatility, Bolcom is known for his effortless range and his ability to reflect the totality of American music. A friend of Maestro St.Clair since their days teaching at the University of Michigan, Bolcom was honored by Pacific Symphony when St.Clair dedicated the 2003 American Composers Festival to his “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” based on the poems of William Blake.
Bolcom’s 2006 composition, “Canciones de Lorca,” evokes the song-lyric atmosphere he felt was concealed in each of Lorca’s poems. “What Bill created is a set of songs vividly reflecting the deep meaning of Lorca’s texts,” says St.Clair. “Bill, remaining true to his compositional voice, yet setting the poems with just the right touch of ‘Spanish’ flair and color, has wedded words and music, each enhancing the other.”
Bolcom writes in his notes, “‘Canciones de Lorca’ explores a different Lorca from ‘Blood Wedding’ or ‘Yerma,’ the bleak and tragic side of Federico García Lorca, which is all most playgoers know of him in our country. The Lorca that Spanish scholars—and people in the street and throughout the Spanish-speaking world—know and love is far more varied: full of surrealistic humor, passion, wisdom, mystery and mostly the Andalusian flamenco tradition, which lurks behind almost every lyric he wrote.
“When I discussed with Plácido Domingo which Lorca poems to set for his cycle with the Pacific Symphony, I mentioned ‘La casada infiel,’ or “The unfaithful housewife.” (I understand that Lorca was so often besieged to recite that poem that it became a counterpart to Rachmaninoff’s C-sharp minor Prelude for him: a chore.) Immediately Maestro Domingo began to recite ‘La casada’ by heart… [It is] a ruefully humorous telling of a short affair between (possibly) a policeman and a woman who pretends to be unmarried; this is possibly the poet’s most famous lyric.” Other poems included are “Balanza,” “Alba,” “Danza da lúa en Santiago,” “Árboles,” “Soneto de la dulce queja,” and “El poeta ilega a La Habana,” along with two interludes.
Pianist Biegel was the impetus for the 2009 consortium that commissioned Bolcom to write a 20-minute work with the same forces as Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy”: piano, chorus and orchestra. In Bolcom’s “Prometheus,” the piano represents the Greek god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans, and the eternal suffering he endured as punishment. The chorus, sung by Pacific Chorale, is set to Lord Byron’s poem of the same name, which was written on the verge of the Industrial Age. In Bolcom’s opinion, this ancient legend relates to today, as the Western world discovers new technologies, which are powerful, but also lead to destruction.
Bolcom explains in his notes, “The ancient legend of Prometheus is a perfect metaphor for our time. In it the god is chained to a rock with a huge bird gnawing at his vitals, which are eternally renewed and eternally destroyed each day. To much of the rest of the world, the West is Prometheus, whose fire has fueled the technological expansion of the last 500 years—electricity, steam, oil, the atom and the computer… We’ve wedged our way into almost-divine capability, unlike Prometheus who as a god was born with it—but at a price. We are now all Prometheus, chained to our rock of technological dependency; there is no question that our unprecedented advance has given the world enormous benefits we have no desire of relinquishing—nor should we—but we are enjoined to see the dark side of this bounty.”
He continues, “My ‘Prometheus’ is perhaps the antithesis of the joyous mood of the Beethoven work on the program, but it is not devoid of hope, particularly if it points us to begin to understand our situation. This piece is dedicated to that hope.”
“Bolcom’s score, which is a setting of Lord Byron’s “Prometheus,” has something to say, and the performance said it brilliantly,” wrote Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times.
Named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America, Bolcom is a composer of cabaret songs, concertos, sonatas, operas, symphonies and much more. He was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his “Twelve New Etudes” for piano. Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973 to 2008 and was named a full professor in 1983. He was chairman of the composition department from 1998 to 2003 and was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in the fall of 1994. His list of awards, fellowships and grants is extensive and includes admittance to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Medal of Arts.
Tenor Barbera is a graduate of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center program at Lyric Opera of Chicago and has swiftly established himself as one of the leading singers of his generation. At Plácido Domingo’s Operalia 2011 in Moscow, he was awarded first prize in both the Opera and Zarzuela categories as well as the Audience Prize, the first artist to be the sole recipient of all three awards since the competition began in 1993. He performed Don Ramiro (“La Cenerentola”) for his débuts with Seattle Opera and Los Angeles Opera, Ernesto (“Don Pasquale”) with Lyric Opera Chicago, Almaviva (“Il barbiere di Siviglia”) with Opéra National de Paris, Los Angeles Opera, Michigan Opera and the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre, Moscow, Ramiro and Iopas (“Les Troyens”) for San Francisco Opera, Rodrigo (“La donna del lago”) for Santa Fe Opera and Tonio (“La fille du Régiment”) with Greensboro Opera.
In 2015, Biegel was bestowed the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters at the Moravian College in Bethlehem, Penn. for his achievements as a pianist, recording artist, chamber music collaboration, champion of new piano music, composer, arranger and educator. His recordings include “The Complete Piano Sonatas” of Mozart, and works by Lucas Richman, Steve Barta, William Bolcom, Dick Tunney, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and Kenneth Fuchs, as well as his own version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” for solo piano, César Cui’s 25 Preludes and compositions of Carolyne Taylor. After his Pacific Symphony performance of “Prometheus,” he performed the work with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin and the Calgary Philharmonic and Chorus representing Canada. In addition, he gave the world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s “Mirror” with Pacific Symphony and St.Clair.
This CD adds to the Symphony’s recent slate of commissions and recordings that were reinvigorated in 2012-13 with the American Music Recordings Project. Scheduled next for release is James Newton Howard’s “I Would Plant a Tree” and Violin Concerto featuring James Ehnes. Previous releases include Elliot Goldenthal’s Symphony in G-sharp Minor, released in 2014-15; Richard Danielpour’s “Toward a Season of Peace,” released in 2013-14; Philip Glass’ “The Passion of Ramakrishna,” and Michael Daugherty’s “Mount Rushmore” and “The Gospel According to Sister Aimee,” both released in 2012-13. The Symphony has also commissioned and recorded “An American Requiem” by Danielpour and “Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio” by Goldenthal featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Other recordings have included collaborations with such composers as Lukas Foss and Toru Takemitsu.
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