Composer Scott Wheeler Releases Album, Premieres Opera

By: Mar. 09, 2016

NEW YORK, NY (For Release 3.7.16) - Hailed for his vocal and operatic music, award-winning composer/conductor/teacher Scott Wheeler showcases his omnivorous compositional style during the 2016-17 season. From the album release of Portrait (Bridge Records) and the world premiere of his latest opera Naga by the Boston Lyric Opera to nationwide performances of his Ben Gunn song cycle and debut as a composer for dance, Wheeler continues to lead the new-music vanguard. A continual point of reference for contemporary music, Wheeler serves in numerous leadership roles including: 2016-17 Affiliate of NYU's Center for the Ballet and Arts, 2016-17 Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Art Song Society, and Professor at Boston's Emerson College.

A distinctive voice of true integrity, Wheeler, like his music, is mercurial, economic, understated, elegant, and no slavish follower to the contemporary fashion. According to Gramophone, "the music of Scott Wheeler is rich in just those qualities which we admire in ourselves and adore in others. It is warm, earnestly and ardently tonal, with an elusive lyrical quality that makes it classical music for sure." Wheeler draws from the dramatic works of Stephen Sondheim and Cy Coleman, chamber works of Lee Hyla and Ezra Sims, and formal expressivity of his enviable set of teachers: Lewis Spratlan, Arthur Berger, Olivier Messiaen, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Virgil Thomson. Elements of shifting tonality, sound and texture, dramatic timing, and narrative combine to create a musical language all his own. Wheeler thinks of his musical temperament as neo- classical and says, "I am drawn to subtleties, to creating music that balances one statement with another in such a way that the two create an unexpected imbalance. I am almost never satisfied with a musical idea unless I can somehow include at least an implication of its opposite."

As one of the great composers of song working today, Wheeler transforms poetry into music that is universal, uplifting, and profoundly beautiful. In spring 2016, Ben Gunn, a song cycle set to poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, premieres by the Buffalo Chamber Players and the Florestan Recital Project in Buffalo, New York, followed by a performance at the Brooklyn Art Song Society. Heavily influenced by his mentor Virgil Thomson, Wheeler's natural and lucid text-setting has been described as "gorgeously elegiac...lilting and tender" (Boston Phoenix).

In fall 2016, Wheeler's latest opera Naga premieres in Boston. Set to a libretto by Cerise Jacobs, Naga is a co-commission from Friends of Madame White Snake and Boston Lyric Opera. It marks Wheeler's fourth opera, succeeding others commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theatre, Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, Forth Worth Opera, and Boston Conservatory Opera. According to Wheeler, it was Verdi and Puccini's ability to rise above the vocal thrills that attracted him to opera. "The avoidance of the vulgar, the ability to mingle comedy and tragedy, the pervasive sense of musical and dramatic irony, achieves as much rich humanity as the most elegant string quartet."

Taking another page from Thomson, Wheeler presents an aphoristic gallery of piano portrait pieces in his new album Portrait (Bridge Records, TBR June 2016) featuring pianist Donald Berman. Complemented by a CD release concert at Brooklyn's National Sawdust, Portrait comprises Wheeler's vignettes and gifts to friends ranging from Birthday Card for Tony for The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini to a ragtime, cakewalk Cliff Walk and a gorgeous, still song Cowley Meditation. Bookending the 2016- 17 season is the June 2017 premiere of The Emperor and the Nightingale with choreography by Melissa Barak. Celebrating his debut as a dance composer, Wheeler sets an original score with modern balletic choreography and whimsical design. This marks the culmination of a two-year long collaboration as Fellow and Affiliate at NYU's Center for the Ballet and the Arts.

About Scott Wheeler
Scott Wheeler (b. 1952) is a Boston-based award-winning composer, conductor, and teacher with a multi-faceted career. Having proven his omnivorous range in instrumental solo, chamber, and orchestral music, it is his prominent profile as a composer of vocal and operatic music that defines his career and artistic personality. His operas have been commissioned and performed by the Metropolitan Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Washington National Opera and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has received awards and commissions from the Koussevitsky Foundation, the Fromm Foundation, American Academy in Berlin, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Bogliasco Fellowship, Tanglewood, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, as well as the Stoeger Prize for excellence in chamber music from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Wheeler's latest recording Portrait (Bridge Records, 2016) features his piano portraits and tributes performed by Donald Berman. His current projects include a set of songs on texts of Paul Muldoon, a new opera with libretto by Cerise Jacobs for the Boston Lyric Opera, and a new ballet with choreographer Melissa Barak. Wheeler currently serves as composer-in-residence at Brooklyn Art Song Society's "IN Context Series," Affiliate of NYU's Center for the Ballet and the Arts, and Professor at Boston's Emerson College.

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