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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Puts Pittsburgh in the Spotlight with Composers of the Year

PITTSBURGH—The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Composer of the Year for the 2013-2014 season is eight composers—all of them based in Pittsburgh and connected to higher education.

During the 2013-2014 season, the Year of Pittsburgh Composers will feature the works of David Stock, Leonardo Balada, Nancy Galbraith, Patrick Burke, Bomi Jang, Mathew Rosenblum, Reza Vali and Amy Williams. Stock is an emeritus professor and Burke an assistant professor at Duquesne University; Balada, Galbraith and Vali are on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University; and Rosenblum and Williams are faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh where Jang also is a doctoral candidate.

“There is an undeniable wealth of musical talent here in Pittsburgh,” said Music Director Manfred Honeck. “I am thrilled that the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is able to celebrate, support and share the work of these local composers with the region and the world. Showcasing new music is an important part of our mission at the Pittsburgh Symphony, and bringing attention to those in our community who are creating these works of beauty is an honor.”

The Year of Pittsburgh Composers kicked off with a world premier of Stock’s Sixth Symphony during the BNY Mellon Grand Classics opening weekend on Oct. 4-6. This Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra commission in honor of the composer’s 75th birthday is influenced by his Jewish heritage, and includes elements of klezmer. The third movement incorporates hymns directly from the synagogue service in a very recognizable form.

Other highlights from the season include a collaborative piece by Burke, Jang, Rosenblum, Vali and Williams (The Elements); the U.S. premiere of Balada’s Symphony No. 6; and the Pittsburgh Symphony premiere of Galbraith’s Euphonic Blues.

Conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos leads the Pittsburgh Symphony in a performance of Balada’s Symphony No. 6 (“Symphony of Sorrows”) on Nov. 8-10. This piece, which was inspired by the Spanish Civil War, examines the toll of war on a divided country and its subsequent individual human tragedies, bringing both desperate tensions and desolated intimate moments to the listener.

On Feb. 7-9, 2014, Maestro Honeck conducts The Elements, a collaboration that celebrates the Pittsburgh region. Each composer has composed a section of the piece and focus on an element or set of elements. Burke will address “earth and water,” and his section will explore the topography of Pittsburgh and how it has positively and negatively shaped the city. “Wood and water” star in Jang’s composition, specifically the trees in the city and the rivers that nurture them. Rosenblum will shine a light on “metal, air and earth,” and reflect on the industrial roots of the city’s history while celebrating its future as a model for sustainability, environmental responsibility and the arts. Vali’s contribution will also focus on “water” and Pittsburgh’s rivers, especially the wild and turbulent Youghiogheny. Williams turns her attention to “fire” and Pittsburgh’s past.

The celebration of Pittsburgh composers wraps up on March 21-23, 2014, when Donald Runnicles conducts Galbraith’s Euphonic Blues, which premiered in September 2012 at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music’s Centennial Celebration. A predominantly melodic work, Euphonic Blues reflects a bluesy and nostalgic sound.

Launched in 2001-2002, the Pittsburgh Symphony created the Composer of the Year program to provide audiences with an unprecedented opportunity to encounter music of living composers, and establish a relationship with the composers through the experience of hearing multiple works and learning about the works through pre-concert talks and chats with the composer. Past participants include Mason Bates, Steven Stucky, Joan Tower, Richard Danielpour, John Adams, John Corigliano, Christopher Theofanidis, Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, Michael Hersch, Krzysztof Penderecki and Rodion Shchedrin.

A native of Barcelona, Spain, Leonardo Balada graduated from the “Conservatorio del Liceu” of that city and the Juilliard School in 1960. He studied composition with Vincent Persichetti, Aaron Copland and conducting with Igor Markevitch. Since 1970, he has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is professor of composition. He is credited with pioneering a blending of ethnic music with avant-garde techniques, creating a very personal style starting with “Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King” (1968), and “Homage to Casals and Sarasate” (1975). Balada has received several international awards, including an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters that “honors outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice.” Balada’s works are being performed by the world’s leading orchestras, including the Philharmonics of New York, Los Angeles and Israel; the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Philharmonia Orchestra of London; the symphonies of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Oregon, Prague, Düsseldorf, Barcelona, Sao Paulo and Mexico; the radio orchestras of Leipzig, Berlin, Berne, Madrid, Hanover, Moscow, Helsinki, Luxembourg, BBC (Manchester) and Jerusalem; the national orchestras of Spain, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille, Ireland, Colombia and Peru.

Patrick Burke works as a composer and educator, drawing inspiration from his background as a classical pianist, an amateur rock and folk guitarist, and a performer in a gamelan ensemble. Formally tight, narrative structures are balanced with lyricism and expounded with a dream-like logic that is often inspired by film. Burke has been commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, IonSound Project and others. As a founding member of NOW Ensemble, Burke contributed the title track to their second album, Awake, which was released last year, reaching the #2 position on Amazon’s classical album charts and #1 on iTunes. Burke’s music continues to be performed increasingly throughout North America by ensembles such as eighth blackbird, the Minnesota Orchestra, Present Music, Citywater Ensemble and others. He currently serves as assistant professor of musicianship and music technology at Duquesne University.

Composer and Pittsburgh native Nancy Galbraith is professor of composition at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music. She began piano studies at age four, and later earned degrees in composition from Ohio University (BA) and West Virginia University (MA). Her studies in composition, piano and organ continued at Carnegie Mellon University. In a career that spans over three decades, her music has earned praise for its rich harmonic texture, rhythmic vitality, emotional and spiritual depth, and wide range of expression. Galbraithʼs symphonic works have enjoyed regular performances by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, including premieres led by Gennady Rozhdetsvensky and Mariss Jansons. Her De profundis ad lucem received its European premiere by the Limburg Symphony Orchestra in the Netherlands. Her Piano Concerto No. 1 was recorded by Keith Lockhart and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Galbraith composes in a variety of styles, including pieces for wind ensembles, major choral works, chamber works (including electroacoustic pieces for Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz), ballet (Whispers of Light premiered this year at Bodiography Contemporary Ballet in Pittsburgh) and scared music. Galbraith is an accomplished pianist and organist and has written a number of works for those instruments.

Born in Seoul, Korea, Bomi Jang is a summa cum laude graduate of Yonsei University. After winning first prize at the Chosun Newspaper Artist Concert, she came to the United States and received her master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University studying with Leonardo Balada. Her work has been performed in Europe, the United States and Asia, and in various venues such as the Schumann Piano Quintet, the Pittsburgh 250th year Residency Project for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the National Center for Traditional Performing Arts in Korea, the XVIII Cycle of Contemporary Music in Malaga, Spain, the Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Student Reading Session. She was the first prize winner at the Mont‐Serrat International Competition, the Margaret Blackburn Competition and the Creative Music Festival for the National Center for Traditional Performing Arts. She was a finalist at ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award and the Sungnam City Choir Competition. Jang has participated in various workshops and master classes with Derek Bermel, Christopher Theofanidis, Richard Danielpour, Lee Hyla, Unsuk Chin and Nils Vigeland. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh and teaches composition to undergraduate students as a lecturer at Yonsei University in Korea.

Mathew Rosenblum’s music is filled with diverse musical elements derived from classical, jazz, rock and world music traditions. A wide array of groups have commissioned, performed and recorded his music, such as the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Harry Partch Institute, the American Composers Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, the Calmus Ensemble of Leipzig, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and Sequitur. In 2001, Rosenblum was a core participant in the American Composers Orchestra’s Orchestra Tech Festival and Conference where his piece Nü kuan tzu, for singers, samplers and chamber orchestra, was one of 20 featured works. In 2009, he was a senior faculty composer at the June in Buffalo Festival. Other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, four Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Music Fellowship Grants, a Heinz Endowments Creative Heights Award, two Fromm Foundation Commissions, a National Endowment for the Arts Music Fellowship Grant, a Barlow Endowment Commission and a New York Foundation for the Arts Artists Fellowship Grant. Rosenblum received degrees in composition from the New England Conservatory of Music and Princeton University and is currently professor of composition and chair of the Department of Music at the University of Pittsburgh where he also co-directs the Music on the Edge new music series.

Pittsburgh native David Stock is professor emeritus, Duquesne University, where he conducted the Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble. He has been composer-in-residence of the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Seattle Symphony and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, and is conductor laureate of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, which he founded in 1976. He retired as music director of PNME at the’ end of the 1998/99 season, after 23 years of dedication to new music and the living composer. His large catalog of works include symphonies, string quartets and concerti for various instruments; chamber, solo and orchestral music; and work for dance, theater, TV and film. Stock has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, five Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, five Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and grants and commissions from Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, the Paderewski Fund for Composers, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, Boston Musica Viva, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Richard Stoltzman, Duquesne University, the Erie Philharmonic and many others.

Reza Vali was born in Ghazvin, Persia (Iran) and began music studies at the Conservatory of Music in Tehran. In 1972, he went to Austria and studied music education and composition at the Academy of Music in Vienna. He later moved to the United States and continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving his Ph.D. in music theory and composition in 1985. Vali has been a faculty member of the School of Music at Carnegie Mellon University since 1988. He has received numerous honors and commissions, including the honor prize of the Austrian Ministry of Arts and Sciences, two Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships and commissions from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players and the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, as well as grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as the Outstanding Emerging Artist for which he received the Creative Achievement Award. Vali’s orchestral compositions have been performed in the United States by the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Baltimore Symphony, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra 2001. His chamber works have received performances by Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the Seattle Chamber Players and the Da Capo Chamber Players.

The compositions of Amy Williams have been presented at renowned contemporary music venues in the United States, Australia and Europe, including Ars Musica (Belgium), Gaudeamus Music Week (Netherlands), Dresden New Music Days (Germany), Musikhøst Festival (Denmark), Festival Aspekte (Austria), Tampere Biennale (Finland), Festival Musica Nova (Brazil), Music Gallery (Canada), LA County Museum of Art, Piano Spheres (Los Angeles) and Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. Her works have been performed by leading contemporary music soloists and ensembles, including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Aleph, Duo Diorama, Ensemble Dal Niente, Wet Ink Ensemble, Talujon, Empyrean Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, California E.A.R. Unit, Dinosaur Annex, International Contemporary Ensemble, Due East, H2 Quartet, Bent Frequency and pianists Ursula Oppens and Amy Briggs. Williams was the recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship for 2008-2009, a Fromm Music Foundation Commission in 2010 and a Creative Development Grant from the Heinz and Pittsburgh Foundations in 2012. She holds a Ph.D. in composition from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she also received her master’s degree in piano performance. She has previously taught composition at Bennington College and Northwestern University and currently teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.

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