tumblr page counter

Robert Aitken, artistic director

An Evening with Marco Stroppa and Benny Sluchin

Thursday December 11, 2014 at The Music Gallery
Marco Stroppa guest composer | Benny Sluchin solo trombone
Wallace Halladay saxophone
NMC Ensemble | Robert Aitken direction
Co-presented with The Music Gallery
Introduction 7:15 | Concert 8:00
The Music Gallery, 197 John Street [MAP]
Reservations: 416.961.9594

Composer Marco Stroppa and trombonist Benny Sluchin perform with electronics plus Elliott Carter's 106th birthday.


Marco Stroppa (Italy/Germany 1959) - …of Silence… (2007) Canadian premiere
Marco Stroppa - From Needle’s Eye (1996-2001; rev. 2007) Canadian premiere
Paul Steenhuisen (Canada 1965) - Anthropo (2014) World premiere, NMC commission
Elliott Carter (USA 1908-2012) - Epigrams (2012; his final work) Canadian premiere


Marco Stroppa

Composer, researcher and professor, Marco Stroppa (Verona, 1959) undertook a range of musical studies - piano, choral music and choir conducting, composition and electronic music – under Laura Palmieri, Guido Begal, Renato Dionisi, Azio Corghi and Alvise Vidolin at the Conservatories of Verona, Milan and Venice. He also studied computer music, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence at the Media Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1984-86.

Between 1980 and 1984 he worked at the computer music centre of the University of Padua (Italy), where he produced his first mixed piece, Traiettoria, for piano and computer. In 1982 Pierre Boulez invited him to work as a composer and researcher at IRCAM, the largest institution of the world devoted to computer music. His constant contact with this institution has been fundamental to his musical education and work as a composer.

A highly appreciated and active pedagogue, he has lectured widely and has published essays in a number of international reviews. In 1987 Mr. Stroppa founded the composition and computer music workshop at the International Bartók Festival in Szombathély, Hungary. During thirteen years at its head, he met the greatest musicians in the country and broadened his horizons by reading a great deal of poetry. He also taught composition at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris and Lyon and since 1999 he has been professor of composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts (Musikhochschule) in Stuttgart, as successor to Helmut Lachenmann.

Mr. Stroppa composed for both acoustical instruments and new media. His repertoire includes works for concerts, one music drama, two radio operas and various special projects. His keen interest in sound and space has often led him to rethinking the placement of the instruments on stage so as to achieve a spatial dramaturgy that will be revealed and highlighted by the unfolding of the music.

He often groups several works around large cycles exploring specific compositional projects, such as a series of concertos for instrument and a spatialized orchestra or ensemble inspired by poems of W.B. Yeats, a book of Miniature Estrose for piano and three string quartets. He has approached chamber and choral music for only ten years. His widely acclaimed first opera, Re Orso (King Bear) was premiered at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 2012. He is currently writing a horn octet and two concertos, one for three accordions and orchestra and one for cello.

Marco Stroppa: ...of Silence (2007-13)

for alto saxophone and acoustic totem, from The enormous room, a cycle for solo instrument and chamber electronics. Commission: Concert Hall Shizuoka / Shizuoka City Cultural Promotion Foundation.
1. Winsome 2. Sensible and quick 3. Scattering 4. Smarting

Lady of Silence
from the winsome cage of thy body
through the sensible night
quick bird
(tenderly upon
the dark’s prodigious face thy
scattering perfume-gifted wings
suddenly escorts with feet sun-sheer
the smarting beauty of dawn)
— e.e. cummings

...of Silence is the fourth piece of a cycle of works based on poems of e.e. cummings for solo instrument and chamber electronics, a term invented by myself which has several meanings: aesthetically, I am searching for a delicate and intimate relation between a soloist and other invisible sounds around him or her; technologically, all the electronic sounds are diffused only from the stage; spatially, the performer occupies for each movement a different position on the stage. In ...of Silence a single sound source, made of five loudspeakers, is standing on the stage, a system that I call an “acoustic totem”. The unfolding of the piece follows the poem, which depicts the passage of the night (the lady of silence) toward the “smarting beauty of dawn.”
This is the first work that used a revolutionary system, called Antescofo and developed at IRCAM by a team directed by Arshia Cont, which gives the computer a more musical behaviour and allows it to follow the score and the tempo of a human performer, exactly as in a chamber music situation.— Marco Stroppa

Marco Stroppa: From Needle’s Eye (1996-9/2007)

for solo trombone, double quintet and percussion.
Commission: Ensemble InterContemporain.
1. Polished 2. Silently boundless
3. Crackling (like a whirl of unrestrainable dances)

A Needle’s Eye
All the stream that’s roaring by Came out of a needle’s eye;
Things unborn, things that are gone, From needle’s eye still goad it on.
— W.B. Yeats (from: A Full Moon in March, 1935)

This is the second work belonging to a cycle of concertos inspired by poems by W. B. Yeats. It is also the first outcome of a long-lasting cooperation with Benny Sluchin, that started in 1982 at IRCAM, when he was working on the analysis of mutes for brasses. The ensemble is “spatialised”: in the centre, in front, the soloist; on the left and right hand side of the stage two quintets “battenti” – as the double choirs in Venice in the XVI century; in the centre, but behind, a percussionist, a kind of fleeting shadow of the soloist. Each quintet, comprising one string instrument, two woodwinds and two brasses, has a specific sound colour: soft and velvety on the left, harsh and biting on the right. During the whole piece the placement of each sound in this space was used as a way to generate, for instance, an oppostion of volumes or spatial “canons.”

The piece has three movements connected to each other. The first is based on oscillating chords between the two quintets. Each chord is finely “polished” in all its details of orchestration and further enriched by bowed percussion instruments. The oscillation, which may suggest a supple breathing, is punctuated at first by short, almost “shy” notes played by the solo trombone, and then by increasingly longer and more expressive phrases. This process yields a series of “beginnings of phrases,” that never manage to be entirely developed and start each time again and again, as if the soloist were in quest of an impossible contact with the ensemble.

The second movement is announced by the stroke of a Tam Tam at the end of the first movement, that is metamorphosed into a glissando Tam (a water gong). Inspired by the sonority of the “dung,” the huge Tibetan trumpet played on the roofs of the monasteries, the movement explores an unusual feature of “virtuosity,” a dimension, each concerto has to deal with in a way or another! Rather than pushing the instrumental technique to its extremes of speed or power (a very western interpretation of virtuosity), I tried to achieve complete mastery of a very slow, but perfectly smooth movement: a glissando in the lowest register of the trombone (the so- called pedal tones). The majesty of the “dung,” as well as the impressive beauty of the boundless landscape surrounding them, is thus recalled by sounds quietly growing in the most unfathomable of the trombone’s registers, and by a glissando gong, a percussive double bass (playing with a timpani mallet) and, at the end, by the enigmatic presence of a bell.
The third movement emerges from the atmosphere of the second one and starts with an increasingly frenzied cadenza for trombone and wah-wah mute, where the soloist has to dissociate the movement of the right hand (the slide of the trombone), from the one of the left hand, opening and closing the waa-waa mute according to different rythmical patterns. The other instruments progressively join the trombone, build a highly polyrhythmic and hectic fabric around it, and finally fade out into a soft and immobile atmosphere that ends the piece. I would like to thank Benny Sluchin, whose bravura, inquisitive mind and patience have greatly inspired me. — Marco Stroppa

Elliott Carter

Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the first composer to receive the United States National Medal of Arts, one of the few composers ever awarded Germany's Ernst Von Siemens Music Prize, and in 1988 made "Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the Government of France, as well as receiving the insignia of Commander of the Legion of Honor in 2012, Elliott Carter is internationally recognized as one America’s leading voices of the classical music tradition. He was a recipient of the Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award and was one of the few living composers to be inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame during his lifetime. Carter was recognized by the Pulitzer Prize Committee for the first time in 1960 for his groundbreaking String Quartet No. 2. Igor Stravinsky hailed Carter’s Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano, and two chamber orchestras (1961) and Piano Concerto (1967), as "masterpieces."

Carter’s prolific career spanned over 75 years, with more than 150 pieces, ranging from chamber music to orchestra to opera, often marked with a sense of wit and humor. His astonishing late-career creative burst resulted in a number of brief solo and chamber works, as well as major essays such as Asko Concerto (2000) for Holland’s ASKO Ensemble. Some chamber works include What Are Years (2009), Nine by Five (2009), and Two Thoughts About the Piano (2005-06), widely toured by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Carter showed his mastery in larger forms as well, with major contributions such as What Next? (1997–98), Boston Concerto (2002), Three Illusions for Orchestra (2004), called by the Boston Globe "surprising, inevitable, and vividly orchestrated," Flute Concerto (2008), a piano concerto, Interventions (2007), which premiered on Carter's 100th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall with James Levine, Daniel Barenboim, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (December 11, 2008), and the song cycle A Sunbeam’s Architecture (2011).

—November 2013. Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes

Elliott Carter: Epigrams (2012)

Epigrams is Elliott Carter’s final work, composed during the spring and summer of 2012 at the age of 103. It was written for the Aldeburgh Music Festival and was premiered there in 2013 during a Tribute to Elliott Carter presented by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Oliver Knussen. This is the work’s first Canadian performance.

Paul Steenhuisen

Paul Steenhuisen (born Vancouver, Canada) is an independent composer working with acoustic and digital media. His concert music consists of orchestral, chamber, solo, and vocal music, and often includes live electronics and soundfiles. Additionally, he is the composer for the HYPOSURFACE installation project. Raised by parents from The Netherlands and Curaçao, the confluence of his heritage and upbringing in North American culture has informed both his education and musical output. Initially, Steenhuisen worked with Keith Hamel (DMA, UBC), then with Louis Andriessen at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague and Michael Finnissy in Hove, England, and later with Tristan Murail at IRCAM in Paris. During those years, he was laureate of more than a dozen national and international awards, including the Governor General of Canada Gold Medal as the outstanding student in all faculties (UBC), seven awards in the PROCAN/SOCAN Competition, and four in the CBC Young Composers Competition. He was a finalist in the Gaudeamus Music Week, and his piece WONDER was a "recommended" work at the International Rostrum of Composers (UNESCO, Paris). Subsequently, Steenhuisen was composer in residence with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Alberta. In 2011, he was awarded the Victor Martin Lynch-Staunton Award (Canada Council for the Arts) as the outstanding mid-career artist in music. He is also the author of ‘Sonic Mosaics: Conversations with Composers’, and host of the SOUNDLAB New Music Podcast (iTunes). His music has been called “Superb… the high point of the concert” (Neuzeit Graz, Austria), as well as “filth” (La Presse, Montréal), with a “freshness that bodes well for the future” (Paris Transatlantic).

Paul Steenhuisen: Anthropo (2014)

From the root ánthrōpos (human being), the trombone be-comes the unstable centre of ambiguous hybrids – combined, cross-synthesized, anthropomorphized, and cannibilized (anthropophagized). Analyses of the trombone (anthropometrics) are resynthesized into dynamic physical models of the instrument (via Modalys/IRCAM), then further compounded by pushing the outputs back through virtual models of metals – like taking the sound of the trombone and resonating it through the metal of another trombone, multiplied by X and divided by fragile impurities. Anthropo was written for Benny Sluchin with the support of a multi-faceted project grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. — Paul Steenhuisen

Benny Sluchin

Benny Sluchin studied music at the conservatory of his native city, Tel Aviv, and in the Academy of Music in Jerusalem. Simultaneously, he studied mathematics and philosophy at the university of Tel Aviv and received his "Master of Science."

For two years, Sluchin played in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. For the following 4 years he was co-soloist in the Symphony Orchestra of Jerusalem (Radio Orchestra). A scholarship from the German government brought him to Cologne where he studied with Vinko Globokar, receiving his Artist's diploma with distinction.

Since 1976, he is a member of the Ensemble InterContemporain (dir. Pierre Boulez), playing the most representative music of the present century and participating as soloist in premières of solo works by Iannis Xenakis, Vinko Globokar, Gérard Grisey, Pascal Dusapin, Frédéric Martin, Elliott Carter, Luca Francesconi, Marco Stroppa, James Wood, Paul Mefano, György Kurtag, Jonathan Harvey…

Apart from this, he participates in various research projects in brass acoustics and musicolgy at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique). He completed a PhD thesis in Mathematics and is the author of many articles and pedagogical books. The SACEM prize for pedagogical realization was given in 1996 to his Introduction to contemporary trombone techniques and Singing and playing simultaneously on brass instruments (Éditions Musicales Européennes). Writing with Raymond Lapie he also published Le trombone à travers les âges (Buchet-Chastel, 2001).

Trombone professor at the Conservatoire de Lavallois, and teacher at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris (CNSMDP), he offers workshops, instrumental master classes and conferences.

Benny Sluchin took part in many recordings and completed Le Trombone Contemporain, (Musidisc 243673), French Bel canto Trombone (Musidisc 243662), Xenakis - Keren (Erato 2292-45770-2), Berio - Sequenzas (DGG 457 038-2), and Luca Francesconi – Animus (Kairos 0012712KAI).