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Charles Wuorinen 75th Birthday Concert Set for the Morgan Library, 11/20

Two months before the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen's much-anticipated opera Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real in Madrid (January 28-February 11), the Morgan Library & Museum celebrates one of America's greatest contemporary composers with a 75th birthday tribute concert: CHARLES WUORINEN: Virtuoso Works for Solo Piano & String Quartet, on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:30pm.

The program will feature some of Wuorinen's most dazzling virtuoso chamber works, performed by the very artists for whom they were originally written: pianists Ursula Oppens, Alan Feinberg, and Anne-Marie McDermott, as well as the Brentano String Quartet.

With a tremendously prolific and varied output, and many awards including the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship, Wuorinen's bold, provocative and often witty contributions to contemporary music have been heralded far and wide.

About The Program:

The Blue Bamboula (1980)
Pianist Ursula Oppens commissioned The Blue Bamboula in 1980, a single-movement piece, in which she requested that the work embody the spirit of Wuorinen's Grand Bamboula (1971), a 6-minute work for string orchestra, which had originally been commissioned as a kind of over­ture. "It is a rare performer indeed who will use her own resources for such a purpose, and my respect and gratitude for this self-sacrifice is exceeded only by my regard for her wonderful musicianship," says Wuorinen. "The Blue Bamboula-along with the earlier Bamboula's extroverted spirit-also possesses something of the char­acter of an overture. But because it is nearly twice as long as the string piece, it really fits anywhere in a concert program."

Josquiniana (2002) and Marian Tropes (2010)
Josquiniana, commissioned by and dedicated to the Brentano Quartet, is a setting of six secular works (some presumably instrumental and others vocal) by the great early music composer Josquin, who lived from the middle of the fifteenth into the third decade of the sixteenth centuries. "The originals are from three to five voices, but I have recomposed them into music for string quartet," explains Wuorinen. "Some of the pieces are of doubtful authenticity, but are worth including on purely musical grounds, whether Josquin wrote them or not. In particular the last (El Grillo) is probably not by Josquin, but was too much fun to leave out."

Third Piano Sonata (1986)
This is a commission from the pianist Alan Feinberg, who first performed the work in 1989. "There is little that I can say of the music itself," offers Wuorinen. "Of course it continues my long-standing concern with integrating certain largescale architectonic features associated with traditional western developmental form with the enlarged pitch-relational vocabulary of the present day. But there is no message conveyed, nor 'point' being made other than in the expressive relationships of the notes themselves. The virtuosity required to play the piece is perhaps the clearest manifestation of my extremely high regard for Alan Feinberg's playing."

Fourth Piano Sonata (2007)
"From the moment when I first head Anne-Marie McDermott play (many years ago in Santa Fe) I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary musician, one not merely gifted with imposing technique, but also with a deep understanding of musical structure and phrase-and possessed of demonic energy or, when needed, the most exquisite taste and refinement. This latter can be heard in her marvelous performances of Haydn and Bach, and the former in her performances of my Fourth Sonata," says Wuorinen.

"I was overjoyed when the opportunity arose to compose this work for her, and in it I have tried to respond to the stimulus her artistry gave my imagination. For this reason-unlike other piano sonatas of mine-I have cast the work in a rather old-fashioned four-movement form, with an introductory movement, a scherzo, a slow movement, and an active finale."

Charles Wuorinen, composer ( In 1970 Wuorinen became the youngest composer at that time to win the Pulitzer Prize (for the electronic work Time's Encomium). The Pulitzer and the MacArthur Fellowship are just two among many awards, fellowships and other honors to have come his way.

Wuorinen has written more than 260 compositions to date. His newest works include Time Regained, a fantasy for piano and orchestra based on early music (Matteo da Perugia to Orlando Gibbons) for Peter Serkin, James Levine and the MET Opera Orchestra;Theologoumenon, an orchestral tone poem commissioned for James Levine's 60thbirthday; Eighth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto for the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and It Happens Like This, a staged setting of poems by James Tate.

In 1984 Wuorinen was the first composer commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra under its new Music Director, Christoph von Dohnanyi (Movers and Shakers); and likewise in 1996 the first to compose for Michael Tilson Thomas' New World Symphony (Bamboula Beach) which the Miami herald described as "An exhilarating, festive, six minute tour-de-force for large orchestra." In 1975 Stravinsky's widow gave Wuorinen the composer's last sketches for use in his homage A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky, premiered by Tilson Thomas in Buffalo and Ojai. The Reliquary received its first recording under the baton of Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta on a Deutsche Grammophon CD, and was choreographed by Peter Martins for the NYCB in 1995 (with the composer conducting).

His works have been recorded on nearly a dozen labels including several releases on Naxos, Albany Records (Charles Wuorinen Series), John Zorn's Tzadik label, and a CD of piano works performed by Alan Feinberg on the German label Col Legno.

Wuorinen's works are published exclusively by C.F. Peters Corporation. He is the author ofSimple Composition, used by composition students throughout the world.

An eloquent writer and speaker, Wuorinen has lectured at universities throughout the United States and abroad, and has served on the faculties of Columbia, Princeton, and Yale Universities, the University of Iowa, University of California (San Diego), Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, State University of New York at Buffalo, and Rutgers University.

Wuorinen has also been active as performer, an excellent pianist and a distinguished conductor of his own works as well as other twentieth century repertoire. In 1962 he co-founded the Group for Contemporary Music, one of America's most prestigious ensembles dedicated to performance of new chamber music. In addition to cultivating a new generation of performers, commissioning and premiering hundreds of new works, the Group has been a model for many similar organizations which have appeared in the United States since its founding.

Wuorinen is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Pictured: Charles Wuorinen, photo by Nina Roberts.

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