photo by Paul Foley

The NEC Composers' Series, directed by Malcolm Peyton, brings together many generations of NEC's contribution to new American music. Tonight's concert is NEC's annual Arthur Berger Memorial Concert, and includes works by Arthur Berger, who taught at NEC through the end of the 20th century, along with current NEC composers Robert Cogan, Lyle Davidson, Rodney Lister, Malcolm Peyton.

The Arthur Berger Memorial Concert Fund was established in July 2007 through the generosity of Mr. Berger’s widow, the late Ellen Berger.

Composers Lyle Davidson and Rodney Lister and performer Eden MacAdam-Somer have provided notes for several of the works on this concert.

Davidson Chester
Chester Brezniak, clarinet

My teacher Luise Vosgerchian advised me to study with Arthur Berger, who was then teaching at Brandeis University. She said he “had good ears.” Indeed every piece I brought to him was subjected to the closest scrutiny—note by note. Chester is one of the first instrumental pieces I wrote after that experience. One of the many benefits of teaching at a Conservatory is being with players who have exquisite command of their instrument. I wrote this piece for one of the best clarinetists around, Chester Brezniak. From bottom to top his sound is special, and the piece is my attempt to take advantage of that quality. Under Chester’s sensitive interpretation, the piece features fast flurries of sound, runs that plummet down from high cliffs of single tones, and slow lyrical lines that only the clarinet can draw out. The title also makes reference to one of New England’s original composers, Boston’s own William Billings, who also wrote a popular piece for four voices also named Chester.

Lister As a Box Kite Is to a Kite
Charles Blandy, tenor
Rodney Lister, piano

For a while now I’ve been interested in working with groups of four discreet triads containing all twelve notes. I first got interested in this idea through some of the post–World War II works of Virgil Thomson, primarily Wheat Fields at Noon, where the triads used are f minor, g minor, A major, and B major. I think that what Thomson found appealing was that they gave a sort of floaty, whole-toney sense, but without all those nasty augmented triads. Over time I also found examples of that kind of concern with triads in the beginning of Gesualdo’s madrigal Moro Lasso, and a section of the Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns of Nicolas Slonimsky. I more recently stumbled on the fact that pairing the major and minor triads of the above triads (f minor with A major and g minor with B major) produces two type-E, all-combinatorial hexachords, and two hextonic cycles (for example F minor, F major, a minor, A major, c-sharp minor, and C-sharp major). I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed not to have initially known these matters of twelve-tone and post-Riemannian theory before this or to be pleased to have discovered it on my own. In any case, these songs, written during last summer, reflect various aspects of those concerns.

Berger Perspectives III
David Kopp, Rodney Lister, piano

Cogan Aflame in Flight
Eden MacAdam-Somer, violin

Aflame in Flight is the last of a large sequence of folios composed in homage to, and based on the texts of, William Carlos Williams. Each folio explores montage techniques in which a large, ever-growing group of segments are to be combined in many different ways. In Aflame in Flight the violinist uses four specific fragments to create a framework for the piece, but chooses from 37 other fragments to develop the body of the work, resulting in a new composition with every performance.

Begun in Paris during the Balkan violence at the end of the twentieth century, it is dedicated "to the memory of all those past and present everywhere who have been driven from their homes—aflame in flight in the worst sense." Stillness, silence, flurries of motion, ecstatic passages, and lyrical laments give voice to this dedication.

Peyton O Me! O Life! songs from Walt Whitman
Krista River, soprano
Nicholas Kitchen, violin
Yelena Beriyeva, piano

Date: February 4, 2014 - 8:00:PM
Price: Free
Location: NEC’s Jordan Hall


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I REMAIN TRUE TO MY STARTING PRINCIPLE. TO WRITE SOLELY AS I MYSELF THINK BEST. FELIX MENDELSSOHN