Gunther Schuller Legacy Concert
Tonight’s concert honors the birthday of Gunther Schuller, born Nov. 22, 1925.
Welcome to this Gunther Schuller Legacy Concert, a collaborative production of the New England Conservatory and the Gunther Schuller Society (GSS). Gunther Schuller was a champion of the underrepresented. In music he held a special place for the unheralded, the less known, whether it be composers or musical genres—or instruments. It is this last of Gunther’s advocacies which we feature tonight.
While the music world embraces the saxophone and string bass, these instruments are certainly less frequently heard in prominent solo or chamber music venues. While the organ dominated music in the Baroque period, it fell into a much less conspicuous role in the 20th century. However, the favor of the audience was never a priority of Gunther’s; rather he asked: “what could an instrument contribute? what could it “say”, in its unique voice?” In answering his own question, his pen brought forth a quartet for the string bass, a concerto for saxophone and a symphony for organ.
Gunther’s advocacy for the underrepresented extended to the wider world. An advocacy that came from a similar outlook but one much, much more important—Gunther’s lifelong advocacy for civil rights and the music, and musicians, of color. He was a civil rights warrior from his earliest years, celebrating and fighting for jazz as a unique product of African American artists. He extended his advocacy and unflagging support to the Black musicians who ventured onto the stages of the classical music world.
NEC and the GSS are proud to honor this extraordinary artist whose voice was raised in support of those less heard.
This performance is open to in-person audiences, and can also be viewed below via livestream.
VIEW LIVESTREAM FROM JORDAN HALL:
Gunther Schuller Society
The Gunther Schuller Society was created by colleagues of Gunther Schuller as a vehicle for perpetuating and enhancing the legacy of this compleat musician: composer, author, conductor, horn player, educator and musical visionary. It was incorporated in 2017 in New York State and is registered with the IRS as a 501(C) 3 tax exempt, non-profit corporation.
These projects, listed below, represent some of the varied and vital work that the Society will engage in:
– An oral and video history
– Creating urtext editions for use by scholars and performers
– Editing and distributing archival recordings
– Promoting and supporting books and articles focusing on Schuller and his music
– A platform for publicizing concerts and Schuller events
Our most valuable work will be creating a community of Schuller advocates coming from many places in society—musicians, writers, artists—who wish to contribute to a living legacy of this essential artist.
To learn more about the Society go to our website: Guntherschullersociety.org
Or contact Charles Peltz, GSS president, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Members of NEC Wind Ensemble
- Kenneth Radnofsky, saxophone
- Yoshiko Kline, piano
Gunther Schuller | Quartet for Double Basses (1947)
“The Quartet for Double Basses was composed in 1947, with some revisions in the last movement in 1959. When presented to a well-known bass teacher and ‘virtuoso’ in 1948, it was declared unplayable and the aberrant meanderings of a French-horn playing composer who didn’t know how to write for the bass. I look upon this somewhat bemusedly today, but at the time this rejection of my labor of love on behalf of the bass fraternity and the dearth of serious bass literature depressed me considerably. But then, these things were not unusual in the 1940s – when composers more or less expected not to get performed, unlike today when one has a reasonable expectation of performance of almost any new chamber work with our hundreds of university symposia, arts festivals, and contemporary performing groups.
In any event, my bass quartet was taken up many years later – in 1959 – by Fred Zimmerman and a group of dedicated young bass players who subsequently gave the first performance of the work under my direction in Carnegie Recital Hall in the spring of 1960. It has since been widely performed all over the world.
The quartet is nothing more than an attempt to write a non-compromising serious piece for four basses, just as one might normally write a string quartet. It is far removed from the genre and character pieces that have weighted down the bass repertory for decades and centuries.
The work is in three movements. The first, largely homophonic in concept, groups the four basses into various combinations (two parts, one player accompanied by the other three, etc.). It may be of interest that the initial high-register opening chord, played tremolo, is identical to the last sounds in the fourth movement of Schoenberg’s Opus 16,Five Pieces for Orchestra; and in a sense, the entire bass quartet was inspired by and evolved from that single chord, which seemed to me in 1947 (and still does) such an extraordinarily daring instrumental conception for 1909, when Schoenberg’s work was written.
The second movement is a scherzo, complete with a trio (in sustained chords in double-stop harmonics). The third movement is an adagio, including a cadenza-like section featuring the first bass in the highest register, a jazz-pizzicato section, and fade-away coda.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the quartet and its only truly innovational contribution is the special tuning of the basses in the second and third movements. Each bass has a different tuning, thus enabling me to avoid the endless quartel harmonies and double-stops limited to fourths and fifths that afflict so much bass literature. Perhaps the most striking example of the possibilities permitted by such retuning of the strings is the eight-part chord in harmonics in the third movement, a chord literally not possible in harmonics with the conventional tuning.”
– Gunther SchullerArtists
- Misha Bjerken, Diego Martinez, Catherine Deskur, Gregory Miguel Padilla, double bass
Gunther Schuller (piano reduction by Joseph Bozich) | Concerto for Alto Saxophone
Kenneth Radnofsky and the Pittsburgh Symphony gave the first performance of the Concerto on January 18, 1984, under the direction of Gunther Schuller.
This is the premiere of the arrangement for piano and saxophone.
Arioso: Molto adagio – Quasi recitativo – Sempre flessibile
Program note and Bios
Tonight we give the first performance of Gunther Schuller’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone as set for saxophone and piano by Joseph Bozich. Many thanks to Joseph Bozich for the piano reduction and to my longtime recital partner, Yoshiko Kline, for learning this wonderful work.
Gunther was indefatigable, a 24/7 ally to all who approached music with hard work, musical honesty, and integrity. Charles Peltz was Gunther’s greatest advocate in the last 10-15 years of Gunther’s life, and we formed the Gunther Schuller Society with John Heiss and son George Schuller to carry on and support that tradition in the future, as well as to preserve Gunther’s legacy. Please visit the website: Guntherschullersociety.org Happy Birthday Gunther! We miss you.
– Ken Radnofsky
"I wrote my Saxophone Concerto in 1983 at the instigation of Kenneth Radnofsky, in honor of his teacher, Joseph Allard, who was active in New York (at The Juilliard School), in Boston (at the New England Conservatory), and at many other music schools. He was the superb, inspiring mentor of hundreds of clarinetists and saxophonists. I first heard of Joe Allard when he played with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and I have known him personally since the mid-1940s. The deep respect and love that all his students have for him is evidenced by their collective commission of the Concerto.
It is in three contrasting movements, of which the second, Arioso, is for saxophone and strings only. This movement carries the further markings Molto adagio—Quasi recitativo—Sempre flessibile, and it exploits the lyric character of the saxophone. The outer movements, on the other hand—the first, con moto, and the last, Lively—explore some of the more virtuosic and technical aspects of the instrument, including a number of excursions to the instrument’s altissimo range, which has been explored only in recent decades. The third movement, a kind of rondo, interposes two lyrical episodes between the main thematic statements. These episodes feature a chamber music-like texture for a few solo instruments, including celesta in the first and harp in the second. The third ‘episode’ is turned into a solo cadenza for the saxophone."
— Gunther Schuller
Yoshiko Kline performs as recitalist, soloist, and chamber musician throughout Asia and North America. Recent travels include a tour of Vancouver, Calgary, Guangzhou and Shenzhen China, with saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky, featuring the music of David Amram. Yoshiko’s performances are reported as “carefully colored and musically refined … with a sensitive ear, relating sound to musical expression… Her remarkably unique interpretations were the charm of her performance…”
Since debuting in Tokyo, she’s appeared in the Steinway Concert Hall in China, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Museum of Fine Arts, and Gardner Museum; Tanglewood and numerous festivals across the country. Live performances have been broadcast from radio stations WGBH & WMNB and Aspen, CO Radio KAJX. In addition to classical interests, she excels as a contemporary artist performing and premiering new works for numerous emerging composers, artists, and ensembles. Recent CD releases include Jon Meets Yoshiko by Jon Appleton; Œuvres Pour piano à 4 mains by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, and Divergent Reflections, contemporary music for saxophone & piano.
Yoshiko teaches at The Winsor School, Rivers School Conservatory, and Winchester Community Music School. Yoshiko received her BM at Toho-Gakuen Conservatory of Music and MM, with honors, at New England Conservatory. Her principal teachers have included Gabriel Chodos, Yoriko Takahashi, and Tamiko Ishimoto.
Kenneth Radnofsky has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, Jerusalem Symphony with Gisele Ben-Dor and Boston Pops with John Williams. Radnofsky premiered Gunther Schuller’s Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony (composer conducting), and David Amram's Concerto with the Portland Symphony, under Bruce Hangen. The 100 plus solo works he has commissioned also include those by Netzer, Trester, Colgrass, Harbison, Martino, Gandolfi, Olivero, Horvit, Fatas, Yannatos, Perker, Jakoulov, Schwartz, Yang and Bell, to name a few. He teaches world-wide and helped establish saxophone programs in Taiwan with Shyen Lee, and in Venezuela with Claudio Dioguardi. He is Professor of Saxophone and Chamber Music at New England Conservatory, President of the Boston Woodwind Society, Founder of World-Wide Concurrent Premieres and Commissioning Fund, a founding board member of Gunther Schuller Society with John Heiss and Charles Peltz, co-founder of the Amram Ensemble, is a Selmer Artist, and also teaches at Boston University. He studied with Joseph Allard, Jeffrey Lerner and Duncan Hale. www.KenRadnofsky.comArtists
- Kenneth Radnofsky, saxophone
- Yoshiko Kline, piano
[recording: Aaron Sunstein performing Gunther Schuller's Symphony for Organ]
Gunther Schuller (arr. Joseph Bozich) | Symphony for Organ (for Wind Ensemble)
In 1979, the House of Hope Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, became home to a newly designed and built organ by Charles Fisk. Declared his “magnum opus,” Fisk’s Op. 78 Organ reflected the height of organ manufacturing at the time of its construction and was built to substantial specifications: a look at the technical details for the instrument lists 4 manuals, 97 ranks, 63 stops and 4,568 pipes (for reference, the Foley-Baker at Boston’s Symphony Hall is 3 manuals, 75 ranks, 58 stops, and 4,314 pipes).
In celebration of this new instrument, Gunther Schuller completed his Symphony for Organ in 1981. Labelled following the convention of Vierne, Widor, and Dupré, in which an organ “symphony” is an entirely solo work, the composition is a tour-de-force demanding not only virtuosic finger and foot technique, but almost inhuman dexterity of stop- and manual switching. To use a low-hanging metaphor: Schuller “pulled out all the stops!” Indeed, the work is so complicated and difficult that it was quickly declared unplayable by more than one organist. Only four of the five movements were premiered in 1981, then by organist Clyde Holloway; not until 2015 did the work receive its “complete” premiere, this time by Aaron Sunstein at the keyboards of the 3-manual Aeolian-Skinner Op. 940 organ at Boston’s Church of the Advent.
Given that the symphony stretches the reasonable limits of what a single human can do (or pair of humans, assuming the inclusion of an assistant to help with the stops), it was at the suggestion of Charles Peltz, Kenneth Radnofsky, and the Gunther Schuller Society that this transcription for wind ensemble be made so that this otherwise excellent piece can be performed and heard more readily. While trying to observe and honor Schuller’s fastidious notes on which stops to pull when, I have erred on the side of imagination rather than imitation when it comes to the various colors, following my own instinct rather than the imagined organ or a Schuller-mimetic orchestration. What emerges is almost less a “symphony” for winds and more a large ensemble “concerto”, as the virtuosity of the original, even dissipated to the nth degree, is still so entrenched that it cannot help but demand a great technical display from its players.
The Symphony is cast as five movements. The aptly named “Meditation” that begins establishes many of the sonorities to be used in the piece, including the core serial material (from Gunther Schuller’s “magic row,” used since 1976). The second movement, the “Scherzo,” is perhaps the most outrageously demanding of the five in its original form, featuring a fast-moving perpetuum mobile texture built on a scaffolding that clearly follows and alludes to Chopin’s first piano scherzo in B minor. While the title may suggest lightness, the affect is acid intensity right up to the last few bars, where it humorously collapses on itself to end unexpectedly soft and disjointed. On the flipside, the third movement features a similarly metered but much more amiable “Valse,” which while possessing clear nods to Ravel’s La valse also displays some of the clearest moments in the symphony of Schuller’s patented “Third Stream” style (here the inclusion of percussion in orchestration allowed me to suggest the jazz influence more explicitly). Any light-footedness in this movement is completely obliterated in the last bars as we are met with a slow-moving apotheosis of dissonance, forecasting the violent chromaticism of the final bars of the symphony. The fourth movement, “Fantasie Mystique,” is certainly the simplest in technical difficulty but the vaguest in terms of material and form. Despite this, it forms the emotional core to the Symphony, belonging to a tradition of Nachtmusik that includes both Bartók and Mahler (nods underlined by my inclusion of xylophone, celesta, and harp). The “Finale-Toccata” that closes the piece bears some similarities in texture with Dupré’s “Preludio” from his Symphony No. 2; in material, however, its close-knit, thorny harmonies and endlessly percussive texture belongs purely to Schuller’s late 20th-Century idiom. When transferred from the keyboard to the wind ensemble, this is the movement that becomes perhaps most challenging, the toccata character insisting on pristine and virtuosic rhythm from every individual member of the ensemble. The symphony ends with a towering aggregate of both timbre and pitch (in the original, in fact, one note is suggested to be taken by an organ assistant, since the organists’ hands are quite literally full!), making the form a culmination, rather than an arcing climax.
In orchestrating the Symphony, I sought a large but somehow clear ensemble, emphasizing individual tones and creating composite timbres mostly as effects or in observance of Schuller’s organ stop instructions.
– Joseph Bozich
SYMPHONY FOR ORGAN (FOR WIND ENSEMBLE)
By Gunther Schuller
Copyright © 1981 by Associated Music Publishers, Inc. (BMI)
This arrangement © 2020 by Associated Music Publishers, Inc. (BMI)
International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
Used by Permission.
Warning: Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited by Federal Law and is subject to criminal prosecution.
Newly appointed to the NEC faculty, composer, conductor, and multi-instrumen-talist Joseph Bozich also serves as Artistic Advisor and Assistant Conductor to the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO), as well as a teaching assistant to the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.
Bozich’s compositions, heard across the United States, seek a balance between kinetic musical geometries, operatic intensity, and introspective spirituality. Upcoming premieres include a work for two saxophones commissioned by Kenneth Radnofsky and a new work for clarinetist Andrew Friedman. Recent highlights include the premiere of the Two Wilde Poems, a commission for the Boston-based soprano and string bass Departure Duo. His work Babel, for saxophone quartet, was the winner of the Donald Sinta Quartet’s 2014 commissioning competition; it received its premiere in Carnegie Hall as part of the group’s Concert Artist Guild competition winner’s recital
Trained as both a classical saxophonist and pianist, Bozich currently splits his time between the instruments. As a saxophonist, Bozich was the winner of the Beatrice Herrmann Young Artist Competition (2012), and the University of Puget Sound Concerto Competition. As a collaborative pianist, he has music directed opera scenes and accompanied singers at Opera Neo and Pittsburgh Festival Opera. Bozich holds a Master of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the University of Puget Sound. His composition teachers include Bright Sheng, Efstratios Minakakis, and Robert Hutchinson. He studied saxophone with Fred Winkler and Donald Sinta.
Members of NEC Wind Ensemble
Hui Lam Mak
Ryoei Leo Kawai
Tyler J. Bourque
Alicia Camiña Ginés
Pei Hsien Lu
Hannah Cope Johnson