After many years as a successful playwright, in 1992 SUSAN KANDER returned to her original training in music from Harvard University, combining it with her theatrical experience to write both libretto and music for an opera for schoolchildren and professional adult singers to perform together. Thrilled to ‘come home’ to music, she rapidly moved into full time composition, and has since been commissioned by a wide range of performers and ensembles resulting in a growing catalog of vocal, chamber and choral works that share a vivid tonal presence and rhythmic immediacy. A particular highlight was attending the 2004 Russian premiere of her SoloSonata, commissioned and performed by violinist/violist Yuval Waldman, at the renowned Composer’s Union in St. Petersburg. Other commissioned works include Partite Americaine, for soprano, mezzo-soprano, violin, cello and harpsichord; The News From Poems, settings of William Carlos Williams’ poetry for chamber choir; And You and I, a setting of unpublished poem by a young girl in the Terezin concentration camp, scored for soprano, children’s chorus, SATB, violin, double bass, and piano; A City Suite for cello and piano; The Lunch Counter for solo bassoon; and Two Tricky Tales, for narrator and chamber ensemble. Continuing to find new ways to combine classical music and theater, she describes The Donkey, the Goat and the Little Dog, commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, as “the first all-talking, all-acting, in-motion string quartet.”
Susan Kander continues to write occasionally for young audiences, and is widely recognized as a leading composer in the field of music education, having received numerous commissions from major organizations including the National Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Opera Columbus, and the Copland Fund. These works have been performed in dozens of cities across the country to enthusiastic audiences. Among the most popular of her operas for young people are: She Never Lost a Passenger: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; and One False Move, which deals with the social phenomenon of “mean girls” and has been produced in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and opera companies throughout the United States.
“Silver voiced” (NY Times) ROBERTA GUMBEL has sung with Houston Grand Opera, Opera Memphis, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Opera Philadelphia, Indianapolis Opera, Michigan Opera Theater. Broadway credits include Showboat, Ragtime, La Boheme, and In My Life. Concert appearances include return engagements with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Red Hot Holiday Stomp with Wynton Marsalis, the Queen’s Chamber Band in New York and the Scarborough Chamber Players of Boston. Committed to performing new music, Roberta has sung the works of Diedre Murray, Allan Blank, Eric Reed, George Quincy, Robert Starer, Leon Kirchner, Jean Belmont, Laura Clayton, T.J. Anderson, John Heiss and Roosevelt Credit and in 1994 premiered the role of Harriet Tubman in Susan Kander’s opera Never Lost a Passenger.
KEITH PHARES is acclaimed on both opera and concert stages as one of today’s most versatile artists. He has bowed at the Metropolitan Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Spoleto Festival USA; in concert, with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; and in numerous recitals under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation and the Austrian Cultural Forum in NYC. Deeply committed to the music of living composers, Keith has performed works by Jake Heggie, Dominick Argento, Robert Aldridge, Thomas Adès Carlisle Floyd, John Adams, Philip Glass, Cary John Franklin, and Rachel Portman among others.
Before joining the New York Philharmonic in 1997, cellist ERIC BARTLETT served as principal cellist of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and co-principal of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for 14 years. Dedicated to contemporary music, Mr. Bartlett has participated in over 90 premieres. He has recorded the cello music of Larry Bell on a CD entitled River of Ponds for North-South Records, and he has been a member of Speculum Musicae since 1982. Mr. Bartlett teaches Orchestral Performance classes at both Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.
On both clarinets and saxophones LINO GOMEZ has solo’d with the New York Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the New York Pops, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, National Symphony, New York City Ballet, and American Ballet Theater orchestras. He is a frequent guest of the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, American Symphony, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, New York Pops, American Composers, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and New Jersey Symphony orchestras. He has played chamber music with the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Ensemble, Boston Symphony Chamber Players at Tanglewood, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
Violinist SUZANNE ORNSTEIN is a founding member of the Arden Trio, a piano trio that made its New York debut in 1981 as a Concert Artists Guild winner. She has toured with a variety of artists and ensembles, including as concertmaster of the Coffee Club Orchestra for Garrison Keillor’s American Radio Company. She has an extensive discography in her capacity as ensemble leader, which includes records for Delos, Channel Classics and Naxos with the Arden Trio, as well as many recordings for such leading labels as Nonesuch, Angel, EMI, CBS/Sony and RCA/BMG.
THOMAS SCHMIDT has been pianist of the Arden Trio since its founding, collaborating in many other chamber music performances and recording projects for new music. He is Director of Music at Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan and is associate conductor of the Long Island Symphony Choral Association. Also an organist, he has often been a featured performer and lecturer at national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists and Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.
Maestro STEVEN MERCURIO has been Music Director of the Spoleto Festival and Principal Conductor of the Opera Company of Philadelphia. He has conducted in many of the world’s leading opera houses. In addition to operatic repertoire, his symphonic appearances include the London Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and the Rome, Sydney and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras among others. Mercurio’s compositions include songs, chamber works, and pieces for large orchestra. For Lost Loved Ones, was premiered by Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic. Mercurial Overture debuted in a concert telecast honoring Nobel Peace Prize winners with the composer conducting. Sony Classical released his recording of original music for voice and orchestra with the Prague Philharmonia, Manny Voices. Other recordings with Sony, among many, include Christmas in Vienna with The Three Tenors for CD and home video and a Grammy Award-winning CD with Chick Corea. An acclaimed and sought after orchestrator/arranger, he has created arrangements for a wide array of artists including Andrea Bocelli, Ben Heppner, Marcello Giordani, and Placido Domingo.
For better or worse, I don’t come from the academy, I come from the theater. My roots run deep in musical theater especially. Though these two song cycles—Five Movements for my Father and A Cycle of Songs—are quite different musically one from the other, they are both essentially mini-operas, monodramas: in each one, the singer portrays one character at critical moments over his or her lifetime. Music allows us to live more viscerally through these moments with them.
Five Movements for my Father tells the story of a man’s life: we meet him way back in the last century as an exuberant college student, follow him to 1930’s Paris as a young poet, return home with the excited GI after WWII. Decades later he looks back over his lengthening marriage and finally, now an old man after the turn of the 21st century, he vents his anger and sadness at the current state of his beloved America. The music loosely follows the times and locales, starting in the ultra-romantic 20th century, on to pointillist France, back to swing era USA, before drifting loose into the latter 20th century. I wrote this piece in 2005 for my father for his 82nd birthday.
I think A Cycle of Songs, written in 1999, as a more real frau’s Liebe und Leben. In the seven movements of the cycle—from honeymoon, through pregnancy, children, exhaustion, sexual re-awakening, the balancing act between gaining grandchildren and losing parents—we learn the very real, un-idealized story of a woman from the dreams she tells the person next to her in bed, until, finally, she has no dreams, for there is no one there to tell them to.
I chose my marvelous singers Keith and Roberta not only for their delicious voices but because they each have a magical way of bringing characters to life with those voices. They make me feel warm through and through when they sing; they make me cry in all the right places. And laugh. And I believe their every word. Their sheer musicianship is thrilling. I am so very fortunate to hear my music performed—to hear my characters brought to life—by these two superb American singers.
Clarinetist Lino Gomez plays throughout this album with exquisite style, élan and theatricality. Sublime cellist Eric Bartlett joins him dancing, flying and jazzing through Pas de Deux for Clarinet, Cello and Chimes, the sorbet between the two entrees. Maestro Mercurio brings the Five Movements into living, breathing focus while pianist Tom Schmidt and violinist Suzanne Ornstein, contribute, respectively, endless artistry and an elegant Grappelli swing.
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