“Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.
One of the most thrilling parts of working with music is discovering new works and budding composers who are changing not only the way we listen to music and perceive sound, but also how we conceive of the broader world around us and our place in it both today and into the future.
Edition Peters has consistently championed contemporary music throughout its storied history, and with its ever-expanding catalog, Peters continues to be one of the staunchest supporters of the artists who shape the future of our musical landscape. Here Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters New York, illuminates the Peters commitment to new music:
Peters has been working with contemporary composers since its inception in Leipzig over two centuries ago, publishing new music by young and emerging composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Grieg… Our commitment to bold new sounds has remained steadfast since that time, signing 20th-century iconoclasts such as John Cage and George Crumb. We know that some of today’s mavericks will be the composers of tomorrow’s classics.
– Kathryn Knight, President, C.F. Peters NY
A Short History of Edition Peters
Edition Peters was founded in 1800 in Leipzig, Germany, and quickly established itself as one of the 19th century’s leading German music publishing houses, building relationships with the most outstanding composers of the era. In the 20th century, Max and Walter Hinrichsen — surviving members of the German Jewish family that owned Edition Peters — fled the Nazi takeover of both their homeland and their family business and established new publishing houses in London and New York, respectively, that would carry on the Peters tradition.
Over the summer we found some time to connect over Skype with composer, oboist, installation artist and professor Sky Macklay, who was in the middle of what sounded like a truly magnificent residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. Macklay’s work, especially her chamber music and intermedia pieces, has been receiving more and more attention recently, especially in light of her 2017 Grammy nomination for “Many Many Cadences,” a chamber piece written for Spektral Quartet and appearing on their 2016 album, Serious Business.
The measured but sincerely eager thoughtfulness that Macklay employs in conversation about her art is also a key component of her work, which simultaneously revels in playfulness and freedom. The themes and concepts covered by her oeuvre, whether sociopolitical or linguistic or purely sonic, are almost as expansive as the tools she employs to explore them and convey her perspective on them. Her curiosity seems to be matched only by her omnivorous gravitational pull on the world around her: everything is on the table to explore via every means she can get her hands on. And the results are surprising, head-turning, eye-opening — and continuously exciting.
If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.
Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.
The final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.
Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.
Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.
This honesty should not be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and also sounds strikingly Medieval. Though perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass. more “Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition”…
Composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently resides.
Ola’s recordings include the Decca Classics albums Ola Gjeilo (2016) and Winter Songs (2017), featuring Tenebrae, Voces8, and the Choir of Royal Holloway. His choral and piano works are published by Walton Music and include titles such as the Sunrise Mass, Northern Lights, Ubi Caritas, Tundra, and Ave Generosa. His wind band works are published by Boosey & Hawkes.
For more information, please visit olagjeilo.com or find Ola on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
When did you start composing?
I started playing piano and improvising when I was about five years old. As a child, I had a pretty good ear and was fairly quickly able to hear which notes worked together and which ones didn’t. I didn’t read music until later on because I just wanted to do keep improvising and creating things. I never had a moment in which I decided to become a composer though; it was something I had been so passionate about from a young age, and I never thought of doing anything else. more “Composer Spotlight: Interview with Ola Gjeilo”…