December 12, 2016

Composer Philip Lasser Arranges Songs by Debussy and Fauré for Singer Natalie Dessay and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect

New York-based composer Philip Lasser, known for a wide variety of solo and ensemble works, received a commission from Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect (formerly known as Ensemble ACJW) to arrange eight songs of Debussy and Fauré for a private concert under the auspices of the Rothschild Foundation with French opera singer Natalie Dessay in Paris on December 12, 2016.

The project involved setting four songs by Debussy (La Romance d’Ariel, Coquetterie Posthume, Regret, and Apparition) and four songs by Fauré (Mandoline, Clair de Lune, En Sourdine, and Après un Rêve) for a chamber ensemble of seven players and voice: flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello. Musicians to perform these arrangements are from Ensemble Connect, a two-year fellowship program for the finest young professional classical musicians. The vocalist, French opera singer Natalie Dessay, is a renowned coloratura soprano and an actress.

“The project was a wonderful challenge for me,” said Lasser. “I tried to value the new formation without changing the essence of the songs themselves. I had to devise clever ways to distribute the music, often very pianistic, into the instrumental parts in such a way that made musical sense for each performer’s part and that worked in tandem with the others in the chamber group.”

Recognizing that he had a wonderful sound palette to work with, Lasser chose to create a specific color for each song. Some songs use low marimba tremolos and bass clarinet runs, others high violin harmonics whistling softly alongside a gentle glockenspiel. In the end, he believes that he has created eight new arrangements of eight established and beloved songs from the French vocal repertoire.

“The songs are the same people, only they are dressed in new clothes,” said Lasser.

Simone Dinnerstein to Perform the New York Premiere of Philip Lasser’s “Bruegel Suite” for Solo Piano; National Sawdust, Williamsburg Brooklyn

SimoneDinnerstein“Lasser’s Circle,” a concert conceived and curated by Dinnerstein, explores composer Philip Lasser’s connections with Schumann and Bach

Simone Dinnerstein’s December 13, 2015, concert, “Lasser’s Circle,” at the National Sawdust, an intimate venue in Williamsburg Brooklyn, is a unique presentation of a composer, a pianist, and their mutual love for the music of Schumann and Bach. Created and curated by Ms. Dinnerstein, the program includes two sets of pairings: Schumann’s “Kinderzsenen” with the New York City premiere of Philip Lasser’s “Bruegel Suite” for solo piano, and Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin with Lasser’s “Chaconne Variations,” for violin and piano. Tim Fain, violin, will perform the second pairing with Ms. Dinnerstein.

“The Bruegel Suite” for solo piano, was commissioned by Ms. Dinnerstein and is inspired by the paintings by Pieter Bruegel. “I selected five of my favorite Bruegels and set out to write a set of short but inter-related pieces on them,” said Lasser. “My work is not meant to be musical descriptions for the painters; rather, I felt the desire to capture, in music, the light Bruegel captures in his paintings. Through the light, so different in each painting, I feel that one can sense Bruegel’s inner philosophy and beliefs on religion, society, and life itself. His portrayal of a fragile humanity facing the forces of the earth and the universe is both unassumingly objective as well as enormously compassionate.” Ms. Dinnerstein performed the world premiere of “The Bruegel Suite” on October 25, 2015, in Toronto.

“Lasser’s “Chaconne Variations”, also commissioned by Ms. Dinnerstein, distills elements already present in Bach’s music and recomposes them into an original work. “My process in writing this work involved an intensification and magnification of aspects already present in Bach’s musical world; though I transformed them into a new and unexpected musical soundscape, which is at once reminiscent of Bach’s world and speaks a language that’s very much of today,” said Lasser. Ms. Dinnerstein and Fenella Barton premiered the “Chaconne Variations” at London’s Wigmore Hall in June of 2008.

“Lasser’s Circle,” showcases the collaboration of two prominent New York-based musicians with a passion for the city and the arts in it. And, it’s a concert, in which one can witness the music of today, dialoguing with the music of the past in a seamless and non-segmented way.

“My music speaks the language and the timing of today,” said Lasser. “It dialogues with the music of the past, learning from it and moving it to modern perspectives on life and art. The connections are there, but the music is not derived from the past, but an evolution from it.”

Performance Details Lasser’s Circle, December 13, 2015, 7 p.m.

National Sawdust 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Images of the five Bruegel paintings will be shown prior to the performance:

  1. Hunters in the Snow
  2. Peasant Dance
  3. Winter Landscape
  4. Children’s Games
  5. The Tower of Babel

Festival Miami opens with a rich American tapestry, past and present

By Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, October 17, 2015
“The concert’s second half featured Simone Dinnerstein as soloist in “The Circle and the Child,” a piano concerto by Philip Lasser. With a five-note C Major scale and the Bach chorale as the work’s principal melodic threads, the three movement piece is often quietly evocative, combining the colors of the instrumental choirs with the solo line and creating a mood of rapt introspection.” Read More

Superb program shows off virtuosic technique

October 12, 2015
Robert Schumann intended to craft an alternative version of his Cello Concerto, re-scoring it for cello and string quartet, but never got around to doing so. Composer Philip Lasser, with input from cellist Zuill Bailey and the Ying Quartet, has fulfilled Schumann’s wish, producing a freshly minted chamber reduction that Bailey and the Yings brought to the Jewish Community of Greater Washington in Rockville on Sunday.  Read More

Juilliard415 Performs Premiere of Composer Philip Lasser’s  “A Mask in the Mirror, A Suite for Voices and Baroque Ensemble”

Piece commissioned by the Juilliard School in honor of Bruce Kovner, patron of Juilliard415

Composer Philip Lasser’s latest piece, “A Mask in the Mirror, A Suite for Voices and Baroque Ensemble,” received its premiere by Juilliard415, The Juilliard School’s premiere period-instrument ensemble, on February 23, 2015, at Juilliard’s Kaufman Studio. This was the first time the ensemble has received a commission and performed a contemporary piece by a living composer.

“A Mask in the Mirror,” is a hybrid Baroque four-movement dance suite and mini oratorio, with a lively orchestral overture, an aria for soprano “en sarabande” featuring a chaconne-style ground bass for solo gamba, a recitative-arioso for counter-tenor, and a finale for the two singers and the ensemble. The texts were chosen from several poets on the theme of faces and mirrors, exploring the issue of the masks worn before others and before ourselves.

The Juilliard School commissioned Philip Lasser to write the piece in celebration of Chairman of the Board, Bruce Kovner’s 70th birthday. “It has been a privilege and a pleasure to write this piece in honor of Bruce Kovner whose vision and love of music were essential to the creation of the Juilliard School’s Historical Performance Department and to the birth of the wonderful ensemble that is Juilliard415,” Lasser said.

“I have long been inspired by the music of François Couperin and chose to compose with aspects of the French Baroque. Modernity in this music, if one needs to find justification for writing music today, lies deeper in the material and structure,” Lasser said. “Uneven metrics, odd turns of harmony, and unusual use of continuo all serve to offer a Baroque-ish piece with flavors and overtones distinctly of our age.”

“A Mask in the Mirror, A Suite for Voices and Baroque Ensemble”

I. Ouverture en Barricades

II. Aria for Soprano en Sarabande (on the poem “Katharine” by Robert Louis Stevenson)

III. Arioso for Counter-Tenor en Récitatif (on the poem “In an Artist’s Studio by Christina Rossetti)

IV. Finale (on the poem “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar)

For information about ordering scores and parts, contact Janet Braccio, Bella Voce Communications, janetbraccio@comcast.net.

Composer Philip Lasser’s “The Circle and the Child: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” Featured on Simone Dinnerstein’s Sony Classical Album “Broadway-Lafayette”

Album released February 24, 2015

“The Circle and the Child: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra,” written by American composer Philip Lasser, is featured on Simone Dinnerstein’s album, Broadway-Lafayette (Sony Classical), which also includes George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major.” The concerto, written for Dinnerstein, was recorded with conductor Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, and produced by Grammy-winner Adam Abeshouse. Dinnerstein recorded Lasser’s “Twelve Variations on a Bach Chorale” for solo piano on The Berlin Concert album (Telarc).

Composed in three movements, “The Circle and the Child” speaks of memory, inner voyage, and closeness. It travels along such paths, revisiting memories colored by the experience of living. Hence, the image of the child who represents the repeating cycles of life, that ceaseless circle, from life to life.

“The concerto begins with a simple 5-note C-major scale and takes this motive into domains strange and far,” says Lasser. “This scale, found deep in the Bach chorale, Gestirn’, Ihr hohlen Lüfte, (You stars in heaven, you vaulted sky), morphs and bends throughout the entire concerto, acting like a ruler, measuring how far we have travelled from our point of origin.”

Dinnerstein gave the world premiere of Lasser’s piano concerto with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in October 2013, led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya; she performed it again in 2014 with the Boulder Philharmonic and the Shreveport Symphony, led, both times, by Michael Butterman.

Additional information: Click here, to listen to samples of “The Circle and the Child.”

Click here, to listen to an interview with Lasser and Dinnerstein.

Colorado Public Radio Interviews Philip Lasser and Simone Dinnerstein

MAR 19, 2014: Composer Philip Lasser’s collaborations with pianist Simone Dinnerstein BY JON PINNOW on CPR

Gramophone review for Lasser’s new CD “Colors of Feelings” on the Delos label:

December 2012 “Having been trained in the counterpoint-rich tradition of Nadia Boulanger, Lasser plumbs Germanic depths while managing to distil them on a Gallic surface without seeming superficial.”
Ken Smith – Gramophone

 

ConcertoNet review for Lasser’s new CD “Colors of Feelings” on the Delos label:

“In this new and lyrically attractive recording, composer Philip Lasser explores the distant path and the unknown present in songs.

The CD features three new vocal works with assured, soulful and deeply musical performances from sopranos Elizabeth Futral and Susanna Phillips, and pianist Margo Garrett.

The music combines the virtues of French musical culture: clarity, grace, and lyricism with idiomatic, American blues that gives an earthy tone to these compositions.”
Christian Dalzon – ConcertoNet.com

 

Recent reviews for Lasser’s “12 Variations on a Chorale” by J.S. Bach:

“Throughout the afternoon, it was the slow movements, the hymns and little arias, the delicate dances in a suite by Bach, the hypnotically iridescent colors in a new piece by composer Philip Lasser, that cast the strongest spell.”

Philip Kennicott – The Washington Post

 

“Mr. Lasser’s work, based on Bach’s “Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott,” is an inventive set of 12 variations in a deceptively traditional style. Mr. Lasser keeps Bach’s harmonic framework fully in view, and his own language remains resolutely tonal. Yet a graceful chromaticism gives his melodic expansions on the chorale an inviting freshness and, at times, the hint of a jazz influence. Ms. Dinnerstein played the work from a score, but her performance was as thoughtful and as sharply etched as her Bach.”

Allan Kozinn – The New York Times

 

“The great discovery of the recital was the new ( …) work by composer (…) Philip Lasser that Dinnerstein has been championing. Proceeding seamlessly from the Bach theme, the idiom remains mostly tonal, allowing Lasser to explore most of the traditional twists of the variation genre, placing the tune in the bass, paraphrasing it in imitative snippets, dressing it up in different stylistic costumes. At the same time, as a more or less “post-atonal” composer, he drew out other sympathetic vibrations from the original: chromatically altered chords in the jazzy fifth variation of harmonic substitutions, a Ravel-esque jets d’eau sixth variation (Lasser studied in France), an obsessive iteration of the half-step motifs in the tune in the eighth variation (…) Lasser (…) is a composer to watch.”
Charles Downey – Ionarts, Washington DC
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