Composers' Series: Richardson, Gandolfi, & Agócs

In this concert, presented by the Composition department, hear works by NEC faculty members Sid RichardsonMichael Gandolfi, and Kati Agócs.


  1. Sid Richardson | LUNE, for violin and fixed media playback (2015)

    In writing LUNE, I was inspired by the nocturnal sound world of Lake Dunmore in Leicester, VT, where, on a summer evening, the air is filled with long, wailing loon calls that echo across the lake. The pitch content of these loon calls provides the harmonic fabric of the piece, in which the haunting calls in the electronics provide a dialogue partner for mournful lines in the violin. As the work reaches its climax, the pad of sound that provided the environment for the interplay between violin and loon intensifies and briefly threatens to overtake the texture, before receding back into the hazy night. The type of loon call heard here is specified amongst other loon vocalizations as a “wail,” which is used by individuals to locate other loons. I wrote LUNE for violinist and longtime friend Lilit Hartunian. It is dedicated to her and to the memory of our childhood friend Simon Chernack, who passed away while I was writing the piece. This tombeau for him, like the loon calls, consistently wonders: “Where are you?”
    – Sid Richardson

    • Lilit Hartunian, violin
  2. Michael Gandolfi | from The Nature of Light (2012)

    II. Particles (Shape Shifter)

    Performed by the 2016 Chelsea Music Festival String Ensemble with Vera Karner, clarinet solo, and conductor Ken-David Masur (it was performed and recorded pre-Covid).

    The Nature of Light is a two-movement work for clarinet and string orchestra.  It was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them in January 2013, with Robert Spano, conductor, and Laura Ardan, clarinet soloist.  The impetus for the piece arose while I was composing Q.E.D.: Engaging Richard Feynman for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and chorus in 2010.  I was immediately impressed by two potential paths implied by the opening material that I composed for the first movement of that work.  One path was a good match for the overall context of Q.E.D.: Engaging Richard Feynman and its specific, opening text. The other path was far more complex and better suited for a purely instrumental work.  I felt that a work for clarinet and string orchestra would best realize this alternate route.  Upon reading this clarinet and string orchestra movement, Robert Spano supported my interest in developing the movement into a large-scale concerto and pledged to commission and premiere the completed piece.  The present work is the result of this effort. 
            The title of the work refers to the dual nature of light (particle and wave), and its metaphorical connection to the two-movement structure of my piece: the first movement being a musical expression of wave shapes and the second movement being suggestive of particles, both in its segmented formal design and the short, staccato figures that comprise its main theme.   

            The second movement, Particles (Shape Shifter) is an overall, fast-paced movement that serves to highlight the clarinet’s virtuosity.  The form is a hybrid rondo: AABA’C B’ cadenza A’’ Coda, featuring a middle section (C) that is characterized by extremely fast and facile figures for all parties.  This section is followed by the B-section material reinterpreted to fit the hyper-speed tempo and metrical schemes of the C-section and serves as the most overt reference to the title ‘Shape Shifter,’ (i.e., the ‘shapes’ of the B-section material are adjusted or ‘shifted’ to fit into the temporal and metrical design of the fast-paced C-section).   This virtuosic portion of the piece leads to an extended cadenza for the clarinet, followed by a return of the opening material. 
            Light speed, and its resultant, time-dilation effects, well defined in the field of physics finds its musical allegory in each movement of The Nature of Light: the first movement with its mensural canons, the second movement with its reinterpretation of material in a new, fast-paced ‘time frame.’ 

    Michael Gandolfi 

  3. Kati Agócs | Imprimatur (String Quartet No. 2) (2018)

    I. Ostinato
    II. Enraptured Troping
    III. Meditation - Crystal Chains
    IV. Wild Dance
    V. Quodlibet

    This performance was graciously provided by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Jupiter String Quartet. (It was performed and recorded pre-Covid.)

    Imprimatur, my second string quartet, is a rhapsodic suite in five movements framed by an introduction and coda. The piece explores how a single idea imprints itself upon the memory through rapturous re-imagination. The movements flow into one another without pause to create a fifteen-minute trajectory. The opening chords and their answer, a rhapsodic melody, develop into tropes which re-appear transmuted, even sublimated throughout, embracing a dialectic of darkness and light. The work culminates in a serene quodlibet, merging the tropes. The word imprimatur, from Roman Catholic tradition, signifies approval to print a text – an affirmation or sanctioning. Most saliently, it can also mean a mark of distinction or an imprint. My piece is a meditation on spiritual lightness, expressing joy and affirmation that is celebratory in tone, via a collective (shared) energy.  Imprimatur (String Quartet No. 2) was commissioned jointly by the Aspen Music Festival and School (Robert Spano, Music Director); the Harvard Musical Association; and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in honour of the 15thAnniversary of the Jupiter String Quartet.
    Kati Agócs