The flute takes center stage on this album of orchestral works by five American composers of the twentieth century, including the world-premiere recording of a 1996 piece by Chicago’s Lita Grier, an award-winning composer who recently began writing music again after a long absence.
Born in New York City, composer Lita Grier studied composition at Juilliard with Peter Mennin. At age 16, she won first prize in the New York Philharmonic Young Composer’s Contest. At UCLA, she studied with Lukas Foss and Roy Harris. She received a master’s degree in composition and UCLA’s Atwater Kent Prize, then abandoned composition. "At that time there was little encouragement for women composers, especially those working independently and in a more tonal harmonic language," she writes.
Renascence is a sophisticated work combining vibrant syncopation with jazz and folk elements. It’s an adaptation of her earlier Sonata for Flute and Piano, dedicated to former Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic principal flutist Julius Baker. Renascence’s final movement was inspired by a passage from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Since its world premiere in April 1996, it has won expressions of support from James Galway, Carol Wincenc, and Julius Baker, who called it "a new classic in the standard flute repertory."
Griffes’ Poem melds Native American influences with impressionistic sonorities and an air of mystery. The most "familiar" work on the album, Poem is a cornerstone of American flute and orchestra repertoire.
This is the first album version of Thomson’s inventive, enigmatic Flute Concerto. The first movement is a reflective cadenza for unaccompanied solo flute. In the second movement, the flute rises above a lush web of conflicting string harmonies. In the finale, pizzicato string rise and fall in counterpoint to the flute; the celesta and other percussion add color and rhythmic animation. The piece was conceived as a musical portrait of painter Roger Baker.
Kent Kennan was the recipient of the American Prix de Rome in 1936; he studied composition with Howard Hanson and Hunter Johnson, among others. Kennan’s haunting Night Soliloquy, his best-known work, gets a rare orchestral performance. (It’s usually performed on just flute and piano.) Arturo Toscanini chose Night Soliloquy for performance by the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1943 -a rare honor for an American composer.
Siegmeister’s highly charged Flute Concerto, with its sultry blues moods and offbeat themes, receives its first digital recording - and its first new recording in three decades. The American Institute of Arts and Letters described Siegmeister’s body of work as "highly charged, admirably crafted, and deeply rooted in the life of the people as well as in his profound emotional experience."
Mary Stolper brings a signature vibrancy and technical flair to this repertoire. Ms. Stolper tours and performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and is principal flute of Concertante di Chicago and the Chicago Sinfonietta.