Press Room

APA’s commissions from five women composers premiere in April

The American Pianists Association has commissioned works for solo piano from five rising-star women composers – Lisa Bielawa, Margaret Brouwer, Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli and Sarah Kirkland Snider – and the pieces will be given their world premieres in Indianapolis on April 15 by the five Finalists for the APA’s 2013 ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards. The Finalists – Sean Chen, Sara Daneshpour, Claire Huangci, Andrew Staupe and Eric Zuber – will perform the APA-commissioned works during the New Music Recital as part of the APA’s Discovery Week, the culmination of a yearlong competition for a prize valued at more than $100,000. On April 20, one Finalist will be named the APA’s 2013 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow, a musician with the potential to make significant contributions to American cultural life. New York City’s historic Trinity Church will present the APA’s newly selected winner and the four laureates in its Concerts at One series on April 25, when the five pianists will give the New York premieres of the five new APA-commissioned solo piano works.
Joel Harrison, president/CEO and artistic director of the APA, explains why they chose this particular method of selecting the winner: “The competition process incorporates the various ways in which pianists participate in the musical culture: playing chamber music, solo recitals, concertos, accompanying singers, as well as working with composers and performing new works. Our nine concerts during Discovery Week cover that gamut. The commissioned pieces add a unique way in which we can assess the musical potential of these brilliant young pianists. It’s one thing to play a Beethoven Sonata where you can listen to decades of recordings. But when you’re assigned the premiere of a new work, you are the resource, the yardstick. It’s a special challenge for the pianists to come up with a compelling, imaginative performance, so it enables us to see another side of the pianist.”  
“Leading the APA,” Harrison continued, “I want to foster more new American music for these American pianists to play. For this particular occasion, we‘re fortunate to have a very generous grant from The Sorel Charitable Organization. In our discussions with the leadership at Sorel – whose mission is to support female musicians – we decided to have a round of commissions for women composers. They’re all Americans, and to some extent, I leaned in the direction of the younger generation. Other than the charge to write pieces for solo piano of 5-7 minutes in length, I gave the composers no restrictions and no limitations on compositional style. The pieces I’ve had the pleasure to look at so far are fascinating and I’m thrilled. They’re exciting works.”
Judy Cope, executive director of The Sorel Organization, stated, “Our support for the commissions is intended to honor this impressive competition, the talented performers and exceptional composers. Like light in a stained glass window, the repertoire the APA pianists perform reveals their layered gifts. Hopefully these new works will provide added colors and dimensions.”
“I would also like to note,” Cope added, “that the woman ultimately responsible for funding these commissions – Claudette Sorel – once walked in the same shoes as these young pianists. She was a child prodigy turned concert pianist and teacher, and she continues to give back to the art form through the legacy work of her organization.” 
The composers on their works
Lisa Bielawa: Vireo Canons and Chorale:
“There is something incredibly beautiful about watching young musicians discover the depth and expanse of their own talent. As I began work on this short offering for an as-yet-unknown young pianist, I remembered how that fierce energy felt to me in my early 20’s when I was just discovering that I was actually a composer. Like Prokofiev in his third piano sonata, I went back to old notebooks from that time and found my drafts for a massively ambitious full-length opera entitled Vireo. I took a few fragments of material from these notebooks and created multiple canons and an expansive chorale from it — the piece is both a dialogue with my earlier self and a celebratory embrace of a new generation of musicians.”
Margaret Brouwer: Prelude and Toccata (working title)
“It was a challenge to write a solo piano work for a competition between fine pianists. Should it be virtuosic? Should it be more about expressivity? Should it be difficult? Should it not be difficult? In the end, I put aside these concerns and wrote the piece I wanted to write knowing it would get a wonderful performance by a fine pianist. This is a work with a forward thrusting motor rhythm, yet the underlying impetus of the music threads through various emotions.” 
Gabriela Lena Frank: Karnavalito No. 1
“Having attended the finals of an American Pianists Association in a previous year, I am well acquainted with the extraordinarily high level of skill and imagination on the part of the contestants. It’s an honor, therefore, to have been asked to compose a work for the competition, and I can’t wait to see what the young pianists will do with the Karnavalito No. 1! The piece is inspired by the distinctly Andean concept of mestizaje as championed by Peruvian folklorist José María Arguedas (1911-1969) whereby cultures can co-exist without one subjugating another. Allusions to the rhythms and harmonies of the mountain music of my mother’s homeland of Perú abound in this boisterous work, albeit freely transformed in the blender of my personal imagination. About five minutes in length, the work is dense in its virtuosity, with stylistic nods to the Hungarian composer Bela Bartók, a musical hero of mine.” 
Missy Mazzoli: Heartbreaker
“As a composer who started her musical life as a pianist, it was unexpectedly difficult to write a short piece for the American Pianists Association’s competition. I wanted to write something virtuosic but something that stood out from traditionally showy “competitive” pieces. My new work, Heartbreaker, is virtuosic in subtle, unusual ways. It starts out deceptively simple, and quickly spirals into something that is just within the limits of the pianist’s control. It requires a virtuosity that is not about playing faster than everyone else, or even about playing more accurately than everyone else, but more about striking a balance between rhythmic precision and the freewheeling abandon the piece requires.”
Sarah Kirkland Snider: The Currents
“Piano was my first instrument and musical passion, so a solo piano commission for a competition initially intimidated me greatly. I know the literature well – how deeply and imaginatively the instrument has been explored, and how difficult it is to invent new ways to challenge the pianist. There is an idea that a piece written for a competition should do this, that it should invent new technical demands and showcase extreme pyrotechnical dazzle. When I was younger, I wrote some piano music that consciously strove for virtuosity, but that is no longer where I am as an artist. These days I am more interested in getting at what is most peculiarly personal and in need of expression. So when I was asked to write this piece, I decided that my contribution would be something that challenged the pianist to be at their most expressive, poetic, and lyrical, something that would reward a sharp attention to detail and sensitivity to pacing and narrative. Of course, the fact that it was for a competition never fully left my mind, so the piece does require a formidable technique, but my hope is that The Currents allows the performer to exercise and display other kinds of skills as well – skills that, to my mind, are just as essential to becoming an unforgettable pianist.”   
About the Commissioned Composers
Lisa Bielawa
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock.” Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Her compositions are performed throughout the U.S. and in France, Italy, the U.K. and Rome. Recent highlights include the premiere of Rondolette by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston, as well as the premiere of Graffiti dell’amante performed by Bielawa with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in Chicago and with Brooklyn Rider in New York; Harrisburg, PA; and Rome. Her Double Violin Concerto and In medias res were premiered by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project as part of Bielawa’s three-year Music Alive residency. Bielawa’s works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Whitney Museum and the MAXXI Museum in Rome. Her Airfield Broadcasts, two massive 60-minute works for more than 500 musicians each, will be performed on the tarmac of Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport in May and on Crissy Field in San Francisco in October.
Margaret Brouwer
Composer Margaret Brouwer’s music has been praised for its lyricism, musical imagery and emotional power. Her Concerto for Viola and Orchestra was commissioned and premiered by the Dallas Symphony with solo violist Ellen Rose in 2010. The Dallas Morning News said about the work: “The music engages from start to finish.” Last season, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra premiered her orchestral piece Caution Ahead – Guard Rail Out. She received a Meet The Composer Commissioning/USA award to compose Path at Sunrise, Masses of Flowers, which was premiered by the Cleveland Women’s Symphony in 2010. Brouwer’s first children’s symphonic drama, Daniel and Snakeman, was premiered by CityMusic Cleveland in 2011. Summer 2011 marked the inaugural season of the “Music by the Lake” chamber music series, which featured Brouwer’s music performed by her ensemble, Blue Streak. In 2011, Brouwer was a composer-in-residence at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, where Marin Alsop led the Festival Orchestra in a performance of Brouwer’s Pulse on opening night. Her music has been performed by the Detroit Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, and South Carolina Symphony. Brouwer’s Light was performed at the Tanglewood Music Center’s 2005 Festival of Contemporary Music; about this piece, the New York Times said: “Margaret Brouwer’s fantastically eclectic Light filtered fragments of medieval and Renaissance pieces through a prism of free-ranging melody.” Brouwer served as head of the composition department and holder of the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music from 1996 to 2008. She received an Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and letters in 2006, was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2004, and was awarded an Ohio Council for the Arts Individual Fellowship for 2005. 
Gabriela Lena Frank
Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian-Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian-Jewish descent, Gabriela Lena Frank explores her multicultural heritage and the concept of identity through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bartók and Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist; she has traveled extensively throughout South America, and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, as they incorporate poetry, mythology and native musical styles into a Western classical framework that is uniquely her own. Moreover, she writes, “There’s usually a story line behind my music, a scenario or character.” Frank’s compositions often reflect her virtuosity as a pianist; when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire. Frank’s recent premieres include a new work for the band Huayucaltia and the Los Angeles Master Chorale; a cantata for the Berkeley Symphony, soprano Jessica Rivera and the San Francisco Girls Chorus; and Raíces for the Annapolis Symphony. A frequent collaborator with artists in other disciplines, she has developed a number of projects with Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz, among them La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), a song cycle for Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra that premiered in 2011. For her Inca Dances, Frank received a 2009 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, with guitarist Manuel Barrueco and Cuarteto Latinoamericano performing. Frank’s music has also been performed by the Houston Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, Brentano String Quartet, David Finckel and Wu Han, and Chanticleer. She received a 2009 Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
Missy Mazzoli
Recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” by the New York Times, Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed all over the world by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, American Composers Orchestra, New York City Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, Albany Symphony, South Carolina Philharmonic and Dublin’s Crash Ensemble, among others. She is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Opera Company of Philadelphia; in 2011-12, she was Composer/Educator in residence with the Albany Symphony. This season features such major Mazzoli premieres as SALT, re-telling of the story of Lot’s wife, written for cellist Maya Beiser and vocalist Helga Davis (at UNC Chapel Hill and the BAM Next Wave Festival), as well as premieres by the Ensemble ACJW (Carnegie Hall), the Kronos Quartet (Carnegie Hall) and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra Hall, Detroit). Last November saw the release of the original cast recording of Mazzoli’s first opera, Song from the Uproar, on New Amsterdam Records; the work was premiered at the Kitchen in New York, with the Wall Street Journal calling the opera “powerful and new.” Her music has also been performed by the Albany Symphony, violinist Jennifer Koh, Santa Fe Chamber Players and violist Nadia Sirota. With Mazzoli as keyboardist, she performs with her own ensemble, Victoire, recently at the M.A.D.E. Festival in Sweden, the C3 Festival in Berlin, and across Europe with Efterklang, My Brightest Diamond and many others; the group’s album, Cathedral City, was named one of 2010′s best classical releases by Time Out New York, NPR, New Yorker and the New York Times. Mazzoli is the recipient of four ASCAP Young Composer Awards, a Fulbright Grant to the Netherlands, the Detroit Symphony’s Elaine Lebenbom Award and grants from the Jerome Foundation, American Music Center and the Barlow Endowment. In 2006, she taught composition in the Music Department of her alma mater, Yale University; from 2007-2010, she was executive director of the MATA Festival, an organization in New York dedicated to promoting the work of young composers.
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Described as “among the brightest lights to emerge in recent seasons” by Time Out New York and “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed “culturally electric” by the Los Angeles Times. Her works have been commissioned and performed internationally by such artists as ACME, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Colin Currie and the Knights, among others. Her music has been heard in venues from classical (Carnegie Hall) to experimental (the Kitchen) to rock (the Bell House), as well as at such festivals as Aspen, Ecstatic, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Bang on a Can Summer, MATA, 21C Liederabend, and the Keys to the Future Contemporary Piano Music, among others. In 2010, Snider released her first album, Penelope, which features a Getty Center-commissioned song cycle with lyrics by playwright Ellen McLaughlin and featuring singer Shara Worden and Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman, on New Amsterdam Records. Penelope was lauded as “rapturous” by the New York Times and “a hauntingly vivid psychological portrait” by Pitchfork, along with being named to year-end top 10 lists by NPR, WNYC, Time Out New York and the Huffington Post, among others. Highlights of Snider’s 2012-2013 season include performances of Penelope featuring Worden with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony of Ontario, the Indianapolis Symphony, FearNoMusic of Portland, OR, and yMusic as presented by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Walker Art Center. From 2001 to 2007, Snider co-curated the Look & Listen Festival, a new music series set in modern art galleries. Since 2007, she has served as co-director of New Amsterdam Records, a Brooklyn-based independent label called “the focal point of the post-classical scene” by Time Out New York.
The Sorel Charitable Organization
The Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization Inc., established in 1996 by their daughter, Claudette Sorel, is a 501(c)(3) private foundation. Claudette Sorel was a child piano prodigy who made her New York Town Hall debut at the age of ten and performed with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall the following year. She finished high school in three years as valedictorian, and simultaneously left The Juilliard School as its youngest graduate. While achieving her Artist Diploma with highest honors at The Curtis Institute of Music, she also studied at Columbia University, from which she received a Mathematics Degree Cum Laude. Sorel became a distinguished professor of piano at the State University of New York-Fredonia. Born in Paris in 1932, she passed away in New York City in 1999. Through the Medallion program, The Sorel Organization creates opportunities for women in composition, conducting, piano, voice and film scoring. The organization’s mission is to keep musical excellence alive and to help stretch the boundaries for women in music.
About the APA Fellowship
The APA’s Fellowship provides a $50,000 cash award and two years of career assistance and performances, valued together at more than $100,000. Performance opportunities during the fellowship period involve solo recitals as well as appearances with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and symphony orchestras of Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Santa Fe and Tucson. Previous winners have been presented at the Kennedy Center, Phillips Collection, Dame Myra Hess Series, Chopin Foundation of America, in various recital series nationwide, and on tours overseas. Steinway is the official piano of the 2013 Fellowship, and the chosen Fellow will issue a solo recording on the Steinway label, for distribution by ArkivMusic
Unlike any other major piano competition, the APA focuses equally on classical and jazz pianists. Since 1992, the Association has offered Jazz Fellowships, with a similar cash award of $50,000 – the largest available in the jazz piano world. The 2011 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz is Aaron Diehl, hailed by the New York Times as a “revelation.” Former Fellows include Dan Tepfer (2007) and Aaron Parks (2001). The next Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz will be named in April 2015.
The mission of the American Pianists Association is to discover, promote, and advance the careers of young American classical and jazz pianists of world-class talents. Since its founding in 1979, the organization has supported 43 Fellows. The 2009 Classical Fellows are Adam Golka, also a Gilmore Young Artist, who impressed the Washington Post with his “combination of brilliant technique and real emotional depth”; and Grace Fong, a “positively magical” (Cleveland Plain Dealer) winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition. Among the previous Classical Fellows are Spencer Myer (2006), Christopher Taylor (2000), Frederic Chiu (1985) and Sara Davis Buechner (1981). The APA was founded in 1979 as the Beethoven Foundation. In 1982, two of its founders, Victor Borge and Tony Habig, moved the national headquarters to Indianapolis.
Schedule of APA Discovery Week Events
Note: All events take place in Indianapolis unless otherwise indicated.
April 15, 2013, noon
Discovery Week; Christ Church Cathedral
Solo recital and Dvorák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81
Eric Zuber, piano; Linden String Quartet
April 15, 2013, 7:30pm
Discovery Week; Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall
New Music Recital: Premieres of APA-commissioned works by Lisa Bielawa, Margaret Brouwer, Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli and Sarah Kirkland Snider
April 16, 2013, noon
Discovery Week; Christ Church Cathedral
Solo recital and Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44
Sara Daneshpour, piano; Linden String Quartet
April 17, 2013, noon
Discovery Week; Christ Church Cathedral
Solo recital and Shostakovich: Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57
Claire Huangci, piano; Linden String Quartet
April 18, 2013, noon
Discovery Week; Christ Church Cathedral
Solo recital and Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
Andrew Staupe, piano; Linden String Quartet
April 18, 2013, 7:30pm
Discovery Week; Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
Song Recital
Jessica Rivera, soprano with all five APA Finalists
April 19, 2013, noon
Discovery Week; Christ Church Cathedral
Solo recital and Dohnányi: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor. Op. 1
Sean Chen, piano; Linden String Quartet
April 19, 2013, 8pm
Discovery Week; Hilbert Circle Theatre
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Gala Finals
Sara Daneshpour – Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor
Claire Huangci – Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major
Eric Zuber – Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
April 20, 2013, 8pm
Discovery Week; Hilbert Circle Theatre
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
Sean Chen – Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major
Andrew Staupe – Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor
Gala Finals and naming of the winner: 
2013 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow of the American Pianists Association
April 25, 1pm
New York, NY
Trinity Church (Wall Street & Broadway) 
Concerts at One
Performances by all competition pianists (including the winner, who will be named on April 20): Sean Chen, Sara Daneshpour, Claire Huangci, Andrew Staupe and Eric Zuber
New York premieres of APA-commissioned works by Lisa Bielawa, Margaret Brouwer, Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli and Sarah Kirkland Snider











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