From Chou to Wolpe -- Music by Emigre Composers in New York

Pianist Max Lifchitz performs music by composers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US on April 3 at 3 PM.
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March 22, 2011 - PRLog -- North/South Consonance, Inc. continues its 31st consecutive season of free-admission concerts on Sunday afternoon April 3 when the internationally acclaimed pianist  Max Lifchitz presents a recital of recent piano works by  composers whose art blossomed when they settled in countries others than the ones in which the were born.

   The recital will start at  3 PM and will take place at the auditorium of Christ & St. Stephen’s Church (120 West 69th St) in Manhattan.  Admission is free.

  The composers featured represent four generations and hail from Austria, China, Germany, Holland, Nigeria, Mexico, Taiwan and the US.

   Mr. Lifchitz – described by the American Record Guide as ” a consummate musician .... one of America’s finest exponents of contemporary piano music”  -- will perform works by  Chou Wen-chung & Mei-fang Lin (from China); Elizabeth Gaskill (an American residing in Holland);  Paul Konye (originally from Nigeria but now living in Upstate New York);  Max Lifchitz (from Mexico but a long-time New York resident); Raoul Pleskow  (Austrian by birth, but in the US since 1939); and  Alexander Semmler and  Stefan Wolpe (both born in Germany but Americans by choice).

     North/South Consonance’s 2010-11 season is made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; grants from Columbia University’s Alice M. Ditson Fund as well as contributions by many generous individuals.


  The program will open with a performance of the rarely heard  The Willows Are New  by  Chou, Wen-chung, the eminent Chinese-American composer . Written in 1957, the work was inspired by a poem about longing and departure by Wang Wei (698-750). The single movement work is built around mutations of a simple melody that is embroidered with “brush-like” sonorities. Chou (b. 1923; Yantai, China) came to the US in 1946 to study architecture at Yale. However, he abandoned his architecture training in order to move to New York and apprentice with Edgar Varese. His musical integration of East and West -- theories of calligraphy, qin, single tones, and I Ching with traditional European formal designs and avant-garde techniques -- set the standard and example followed by  future generations of Chinese composers. Chou taught at Columbia University for more than 40 years while also directing the US-China Arts Exchange.

   The program will feature the first US performance of Lazy Night Blues by Elizabeth Gaskill an American composer who resides in Holland.  Gaskill gives us her own take on the traditional 12-bar blues pattern by extending and interrupting the usual 4/4 meter and by combining a rock-steady left-hand rolling bass line with a sometimes explosive upper melody. A Midwesterner by birth,  Gaskill attended the University of Washington in Seattle before settling in Holland where she has been honored with commissions and performances by many soloists, choirs and instrumental ensembles.

   Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Paul Konye is active as composer, musicologist and conductor. Educated at the University of Kentucky, City College and the New England Conservatory, Konye’s musical style navigates seamlessly between Western and African idioms. His piano works are a good example of “African Pianism” -- the term coined by the University of Pittsburgh’s ethnomusicologist Akin Euba. Written in 2003 and recently published in China, Konye’s African Songs Without Words are built around vocal and rhythmic patterns derived from African musical traditions.  Konye is now a professor at Siena College in Upstate New York where in addition to teaching a variety of music courses he also conducts the Siena Chamber Orchestra.

   Max Lifchitz’s Yellow Ribbons No. 10 belongs to a series of compositions written as homage to the former American hostages in iran. Written in 1982 and first performed at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC; the work  is a set of variations on the melodic and rhythmic gestures heard at the opening. The writing provides the performer with ample opportunity for technical display.

   Commissioned by the Chiang Kai-Shelk Cultural Center in Taiwan, Mei-Fang Lin’s Mistress of the Labyrinth represents a landscape built around patterns that are highly structured but difficult to be perceived as such. Indeed, the pianist symbolizes the Mistress of the Labyrinth and is supposed to lead the audience through the secret paths of this  journey through the labyrinth. Mei-Fang Lin received her doctorate in composition from the University of California at Berkeley and also studied at IRCAM in Paris. She has won many prizes and fellowships. She is now on the faculty of the School of Music at Texas Tech University.

   Raoul Pleskow (b. 1931, Vienna, Austria) was educated in New York where his teachers included Karol Rathaus, Otto Luening and Stefan Wolpe. From 1954 until 1994 he taught at Long Island University’s CW Post College. His many awards and prizes include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a Guggenheim  Fellowship. His music combines traditional and contemporary harmonies and is distinguished by its expressive melodic writing and unusual textural settings. Written especially for Max Lifchitz, Quatrains is a collection of seven epigrams. The New York Times described the work as  “a tersely expressive, neo-Lisztian essay.”

  Alexander Semmler (b. 1900; Dortmund, Germany; d. 1977; Woodstock, NY) studied with Gustav Jenner — Johannes Brahms’ only composition student. Arriving in New York City in 1923, Semmler found immediate success as pianist and pedagogue. From 1927 until 1944 Semmler served as staff pianist and conductor for the CBS Radio Network and later worked for the RKO-Pathe film company. He provided musical scores for many motion pictures, radio programs and television shows. In 1951 he became the music director of the RIAS (Radio in American Sector) station in West Berlin. Returning to the US in 1954, he assumed the directorship of the Maverick Concert series in Woodstock. Written in April of 1968, the quasi-improvisatory and highly lyrical  Fleeting Moments represent Semmler’s late compositional style characterized by his growing awareness and use of the harmonic and melodic innovations of the Second Viennese School.

   The program will conclude with a performance of the prophetic, intriguing and exciting Static Music (Stehende Muzik) by the uniquely original  Stefan Wolpe (b. Berlin, 1902; d. New York, 1972). Having studied with the legendary Ferrucio Busoni and Anton von Webern, Wolpe immigrated to Palestine in 1933 following the German annexation of Austria. He came to the US in 1938 and taught at Black Mountain college in  NC and Long Island University’s CW Post College. Sadly, he developed Parkinson’s disease in 1964, at the height of his creative powers. Written in 1925 many years before “minimalism” gained acceptance, Static Music is built around the intense reiteration of simple musical ideas in totally unexpected ways.  While the harmonic language of the work is harsh and atonal, its extraordinary rhythmic energy propels the  engaging  music into a chaotic climax.


     Active as pianist, conductor and composer, Max Lifchitz was born in Mexico City in 1948 and has resided in New York City since 1966. Described by the American Record Guide magazine as “a consummate musician of America’s finest exponents of contemporary piano music,” Mr. Lifchitz has released 9 highly praised compact disc albums  featuring piano music by composers from the Americas and appears as collaborative artist or conductor on many more. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT

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