The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Announces Composers of the Year

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Announces Composers of the Year

PITTSBURGH-The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Composer of the Year for the 2013-2014 season is eight composers-all of them based in Pittsburgh and connected to higher education.

During the 2013-2014 season, the Year of Pittsburgh Composers will feature the works of David Stock, Leonardo Balada, Nancy Galbraith, Patrick Burke, Bomi Jang, Mathew Rosenblum, Reza Vali and Amy Williams. Stock is an emeritus professor and Burke an assistant professor at Duquesne University; Balada, Galbraith and Vali are on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University; and Rosenblum and Williams are faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh where Jang also is a doctoral candidate.

"There is an undeniable wealth of musical talent here in Pittsburgh," said Music Director Manfred Honeck. "I am thrilled that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is able to celebrate, support and share the work of these local composers with the region and the world. Showcasing new music is an important part of our mission at the Pittsburgh Symphony, and bringing attention to those in our community who are creating these works of beauty is an honor."

The Year of Pittsburgh Composers kicked off with a world premier of Stock's Sixth Symphony during the BNY Mellon Grand Classics opening weekend on Oct. 4-6. This Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra commission in honor of the composer's 75th birthday is influenced by his Jewish heritage, and includes elements of klezmer. The third movement incorporates hymns directly from the synagogue service in a very recognizable form.

Other highlights from the season include a collaborative piece by Burke, Jang, Rosenblum, Vali and Williams (The Elements); the U.S. premiere of Balada's Symphony No. 6; and the Pittsburgh Symphony premiere of Galbraith's Euphonic Blues.

Conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos leads the Pittsburgh Symphony in a performance of Balada's Symphony No. 6 ("Symphony of Sorrows") on Nov. 8-10. This piece, which was inspired by the Spanish Civil War, examines the toll of war on a divided country and its subsequent individual human tragedies, bringing both desperate tensions and desolated intimate moments to the listener.

On Feb. 7-9, 2014, Maestro Honeck conducts The Elements, a collaboration that celebrates the Pittsburgh region. Each composer has composed a section of the piece and focus on an element or set of elements. Burke will address "earth and water," and his section will explore the topography of Pittsburgh and how it has positively and negatively shaped the city. "Wood and water" star in Jang's composition, specifically the trees in the city and the rivers that nurture them. Rosenblum will shine a light on "metal, air and earth," and reflect on the industrial roots of the city's history while celebrating its future as a model for sustainability, environmental responsibility and the arts. Vali's contribution will also focus on "water" and Pittsburgh's rivers, especially the wild and turbulent Youghiogheny. Williams turns her attention to "fire" and Pittsburgh's past.

The celebration of Pittsburgh composers wraps up on March 21-23, 2014, when Donald Runnicles conducts Galbraith's Euphonic Blues, which premiered in September 2012 at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music's Centennial Celebration. A predominantly melodic work, Euphonic Blues reflects a bluesy and nostalgic sound.

Launched in 2001-2002, the Pittsburgh Symphony created the Composer of the Year program to provide audiences with an unprecedented opportunity to encounter music of living composers, and establish a relationship with the composers through the experience of hearing multiple works and learning about the works through pre-concert talks and chats with the composer. Past participants include Mason Bates, Steven Stucky, Joan Tower, Richard Danielpour, John Adams, John Corigliano, Christopher Theofanidis, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, Michael Hersch, Krzysztof Penderecki and Rodion Shchedrin.

A native of Barcelona, Spain, Leonardo Balada graduated from the "Conservatorio del Liceu" of that city and the Juilliard School in 1960. He studied composition with Vincent Persichetti, Aaron Copland and conducting with Igor Markevitch. Since 1970, he has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is professor of composition. He is credited with pioneering a blending of ethnic music with avant-garde techniques, creating a very personal style starting with "Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King" (1968), and "Homage to Casals and Sarasate" (1975). Balada has received several international awards, including an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters that "honors outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice." Balada's works are being performed by the world's leading orchestras, including the Philharmonics of New York, Los Angeles and Israel; the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Philharmonia Orchestra of London; the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Oregon, Prague, Düsseldorf, Barcelona, Sao Paulo and Mexico; the radio orchestras of Leipzig, Berlin, Berne, Madrid, Hanover, Moscow, Helsinki, Luxembourg, BBC (Manchester) and Jerusalem; the national orchestras of Spain, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille, Ireland, Colombia and Peru.

Patrick Burke works as a composer and educator, drawing inspiration from his background as a classical pianist, an amateur rock and folk guitarist, and a performer in a gamelan ensemble. Formally tight, narrative structures are balanced with lyricism and expounded with a dream-like logic that is often inspired by film. Burke has been commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, IonSound Project and others. As a founding member of NOW Ensemble, Burke contributed the title track to their second album, Awake, which was released last year, reaching the #2 position on Amazon's classical album charts and #1 on iTunes. Burke's music continues to be performed increasingly throughout North America by ensembles such as eighth blackbird, the Minnesota Orchestra, Present Music, Citywater Ensemble and others. He currently serves as assistant professor of musicianship and music technology at Duquesne University.

Composer and Pittsburgh native Nancy Galbraith is professor of composition at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music. She began piano studies at age four, and later earned degrees in composition from Ohio University (BA) and West Virginia University (MA). Her studies in composition, piano and organ continued at Carnegie Mellon University. In a career that spans over three decades, her music has earned praise for its rich harmonic texture, rhythmic vitality, emotional and spiritual depth, and wide range of expression. Galbraith?s symphonic works have enjoyed regular performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, including premieres led by Gennady Rozhdetsvensky and Mariss Jansons. Her De profundis ad lucem received its European premiere by the Limburg Symphony Orchestra in the Netherlands. Her Piano Concerto No. 1 was recorded by Keith Lockhart and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Galbraith composes in a variety of styles, including pieces for wind ensembles, major choral works, chamber works (including electroacoustic pieces for Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz), ballet (Whispers of Light premiered this year at Bodiography Contemporary Ballet in Pittsburgh) and scared music. Galbraith is an accomplished pianist and organist and has written a number of works for those instruments.