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Premiere Title of Commission Composer Listen
02/12/2006 The Weaving Maiden Chan Ka Nin Listen Close

The story of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, a tale of two forbidden lovers who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month over the wings of magpies, is well known in Chinese folklore. Since the Weaving Maiden is from heaven and the Cowherd is of the world below, the music embodies the division between the celestial and the earthly.

01/17/2006 Lila Paul Frehner Listen Close

Lila is a Hindu creation myth in which Brahman, the supreme universal spirit, transforms himself into the world. Frehner draws a parallel between this concept and his own compositional process: a single musical idea may seem to come out of nowhere to become part of the composition, travelling and developing in many possible directions.

06/04/2005 Invocations and Last Word John Tavener Listen Close

Four invocations, each invoking a deity from one of the world’s great religions, are punctuated by cries of the mystical syllable “Om.” Each invocation is followed by a poem by the Sufi philosopher Frithjof Schuon; each poem’s setting is based on the musical material of the invocation that precedes it.

04/14/2005 Quintette: Variations psychogéographiques sur Tannhaüser André Ristic Listen Close

Ristic’s piece maps Wagner’s opera to memory and to emotion. As a selective recollection, it has a certain randomness; the notation is almost entirely devoid of specific pitches. Instead, the players read from a page with very specific rhythms and use a reference line to create their own pitch choices.

03/05/2005 The Passion of Lavinia Andronicus Omar Daniel Listen Close

Daniel’s oratorio is an exploration of that unknown Lavinia from William Shakespeare’s blood-soaked revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus. The solo vocal groups, consisting of soprano and four male singers (countertenor, two tenors, and baritone), collectively speak with Lavinia’s internal “voice” while the chorus provides external commentary and acts as the voices of those around her.

11/14/2004 Lonely Hearts Giles Swayne Listen Close

Although often very funny and rather saucy (the fourth song, Verse for a Birthday Card, is a mini-fugue on the words “Some people like sex more than others”), they also have distinctly serious and quite poignant undertones.

11/11/2004 The Spell of the Rose Craig Galbraith Listen Close

Thomas Hardy’s poem The Spell of the Rose tells a story of alternating hope and turmoil in a troubled love relationship. Galbraith assigns passages of direct speech to solo voice and narrative passages to the full choir; he also adapts the poem slightly, dovetailing together Hardy’s first and second stanzas.

09/27/2004 Graphic 10 Harry Freedman Listen Close

Graphic 10 is part of a series of Freedman’s compositions that pay homage to the visual arts. Like its predecessor Graphic 8, this piece was inspired by Henri Matisse’s 1947 limited-edition art book Jazz, which contained prints of many of the artist’s brightly coloured cut-paper collages of figures in silhouette.

06/04/2004 Death of Shalana R. Murray Schafer Listen Close

Shafer composed The Death of Shalana with the intention that it should eventually be sung across a lake, with the four choirs on different shores.

04/22/2004 A Musical Offering Omar Daniel Listen Close

Prompted both by the polyphonic nature of Bach’s 'Musical Offering' and the spirit of adventure it evinces, Daniel chose to freely rewrite Frederick’s theme, using fragments and motifs from it.

04/22/2004 A Gift for King Freddie Harry Freedman Listen Close

Despite its irreverent title, Freedman’s contribution to Freddy’s Tune is not, this time, a jazz piece. Nor does it contain the original theme given to Bach by King Frederick.

04/22/2004 Freddy's Blend Craig Galbraith Listen Close

For the most part, Galbraith uses the notes of King Frederick’s original theme but rearranges them in various ways. Sometimes the notes are played simultaneously; sometimes the tune is transformed by means of such simple techniques as inverting it or playing it backwards.

04/22/2004 Fred and John Were Having Tea (When I Dropped By) Melissa Hui Listen Close

Hui uses traditional gestures idiomatic to the piano trio to translate and transform the original theme. Her piece contains virtuosic lines for all instruments, each of which exists alone, and within, a densely contrapuntal texture.

04/22/2004 Freddy's Dead James Rolfe Listen Close

Rolfe emploie certaines des méthodes que Bach a lui-même utilisées pour l’Offrande musicale, notamment le renversement, le rétrograde et le renversement du rétrograde. La majeure partie de Freddy’s Dead est dérivée du troisième mouvement de la sonate en trio de l’Offrande musicale, dont Rolfe a accéléré le matériau pour ensuite le contraindre en l’ajustant aux temps forts (clé de fa) et aux temps faibles (clé de sol).

04/22/2004 Vorwissen Paul Steenhuisen Listen Close

Steenhuisen grapples in his piece with what he calls the “retrograde/palindrome problem”—the fact that, while music moves forward through time, the concept of a retrograde melody or musical palindrome requires the listener to experience the music moving both forwards and in reverse.

02/29/2004 The Fall into Light R. Murray Schafer Listen Close

The Fall into Light is a syncretic work based on texts from a wide variety of sources, mostly gnostic, hermetic, and mystical, but also including writings by Rilke and Nietzsche, along with some reflections of Schafer’s own.

11/09/2003 A Cradle Song Craig Galbraith Listen Close

William Blake’s poem 'A Cradle Song' incorporates into the soft and soothing language of a mother’s lullaby increasingly explicit allusions to the birth—and the death—of Christ. In setting the poem to music, Craig Galbraith chose to emphasize those allusions by punctuating certain passages with lines from common Latin motets.

11/03/2002 Valleys Harry Freedman Listen Close

It is the position of the six choirs relative to the audience that gives Valleys its name. They are to be placed around and above the audience: the largest of them on stage and the five others arranged in a semicircle in the first balcony.

11/03/2002 Under the Sun James Rolfe Listen Close

The assertion that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ is also comfortingly ironic for a twenty-first-century composer who was schooled as a proper twentieth-century avant-gardist.” Rolfe’s text, condensed and compiled from several different translations, comes from the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. His setting, with its multiplicity of voices, provides a large acoustic space in which to explore the text’s dimensions.

05/07/2002 The Growth of Music and the Invention of Storytelling Omar Daniel Listen Close

“This is a fable.” So begins Giller Prize-nominated author Michael Redhill’s story of an inveterate liar who is betrayed by a growth under his arm that sings whenever he utters a falsehood. It was with the elemental quality of fable in mind that Daniel approached his setting of Redhill’s text.

02/27/2002 O, that you would kiss me James Rolfe Listen Close

The text of O that you would kiss me comes from the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon. In this setting, the voices caress each other with shared motifs, at close intervals, weaving in and out at close quarters, touching or overlapping in an embodiment of the intense physicality of the text.

05/08/2001 Projection Chris Paul Harman Listen Close

Harman composed Projection at a time when he was pursuing his growing interest in condensed forms of expression. Consisting of many small sections and many even smaller fragments, the piece has a decidedly anti-narrative large-scale structure. Yet despite its lack of an overarching narrative, it still creates dramatic expectations—even though these are systematically undermined.

05/08/2001 Nonet Ana Sokolovic Listen Close

The characteristic playfulness of Sokolović’s music is prominently represented in this short piece, which the composer has dedicated to her son Gustave. Her aim in Nonet was to create a progression from static, non-evolving material to material that is faster and more directional, and then to repeat this process several times to achieve a humorous effect.

04/17/2001 Six Songs James Rolfe Listen Close

In his earlier compositions inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Rolfe was interested more in the sound of Whitman’s verse than in its meaning. In these settings of poems from Leaves of Grass, however, he takes a more traditional art-song approach, his music reflecting the thoughts and sentiments conveyed by the words.

11/05/2000 Paint the Light Jeffery Ryan Listen Close

“When talking about music,” says Ryan, “we often borrow words from visual art to describe sounds. We speak of orchestral ‘colours,’ of ‘brightness’ or ‘darkness,’ and so on.” Paint the Light had its genesis in Ryan’s fascination with actual colours and his interest in the transformation of “colours” within a piece of music.