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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Upcoming Performance

I'm honored to have an upcoming performance
at ETSU (East Tennessee State University)
on October 2nd, 2010
of my piece for Saxophone and Piano titled
Harold in Italy.

The performers will be...

Rachel G. Cox received a Master’s Degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor’s Degree from East Tennessee State University, where she was a student of Thomas Crawford. She plays bass clarinet and saxophone in the Symphony of the Mountains and the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra. In the past, she was a member of the nationally recognized Watauga Saxophone Quartet. Ms. Cox was also a semi-finalist in the Kingsville International Young Performer’s Competition. The Floyd Cramer Scholarship and the Frank E. Little Outstanding Student Award were among her academic awards. In addition to working as a postal clerk in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Ms. Cox directs the orchestra and Selah Brass quintet at Central Baptist Church in Johnson City. She also performs in the Johnson City Community Concert Band.

Robert Jeter received his Master of Music degree in piano performance in 2006 from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, studying with Phillip Kawin. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from East Tennessee State University in 2004 studying piano with Dr. Lynn Rice-See. Mr. Jeter has served as adjunct faculty at ETSU since 2006 teaching in the Music Theory department.

Program Notes:

My sonata for alto saxophone and piano “Harold in Italy” has nothing to do with Berlioz’ work of the same name. The title refers to the American neoclassic composer Harold Shapero with whom I studied with at Brandeis in the early 1980’s. Harold Shapero is a musical institution that made an indelible mark on the modern music of his generation. He kept students engaged with his seemingly endless stories about the important musical figures that he was so closely associated with: Igor Stravinsky, “Lenny” Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Nadia Boulanger – just to name a few.

Harold strived to pass down to his students the fundamentals of music making, including the elements of traditional fugue, tonal harmony, and sonata form. His admiration of select popular music and the great classical composers – Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven – was inspiring.

So, when I had the opportunity of writing a piece celebrating Harold Shapero’s birthday, I felt it would be interesting to abandon my usual “modernist” style and attempt to compose a piece in a language that would more appropriately reflect an aspect of my student experiences. For example, towards the end of the Divertimento, my sonata combines a jazzy sax “improv” accompanied by an extended verbatim excerpt from the Andante movement of the Mozart A Major Piano Concerto Nr. 23 K.488. The slow second movement is an attempt at a musical theme for an imaginary Italian art film. In the final movement, I “deranged” the Presto of Haydn’s Sonata No. 43 in E Flat Major (Hob.XVI:28) and turned it into a Latin American Tango. These disparate influences conspire to form the intentionally jovial nature of the work.

Finally, the title also refers to the historical fact that in 1941 Harold Shapero won the prestigious Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome, but had his residency cancelled because of World War II. Fortunately, in 1970 he was able to belately claim his trip to Italy in the capacity of Composer-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome.

The piece was first perfomed by Kenneth Radnofsky (sax) and John McDonald (piano) on April 29th, 2007 at a LUMEN Contemporary Music concert held on Shapero’s 87th birthday.


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