This spring, spotlight on AAR composers: Bermel, Carter, Currier, Makan, Norman, Rohde, Ueno

It’s been quite a season for American Academy in Rome Fellows in Musical Composition. Here are just three snapshots from the last few months…

On 11 March, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton NJ) announced the appointment of composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel FAAR’02 as its Artist-in-Residence. His term begins on 1 July 2009.

Bermel-James-Pomerantz-1Derek Bermel FAAR’02. Credit: James Pomerantz

During his stay at the Institute, Derek Bermel will pursue his scholarly and creative interests while developing major work, profiting from opportunities similar to those offered by the Institute to visiting scientists and scholars. As the IAS resident composer, Bermel also will arrange the Institute’s annual Edward T. Cone Concert Series.

A composer, clarinetist, conductor, jazz and rock musician with numerous high-profile commissions to his credit, Bermel made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 as soloist performing his own critically acclaimed clarinet concerto, Voices. He held a 2001/2 Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome; his composition Spider Love is featured with those of other Academy luminaries on the Americans in Rome 4 CD set (Bridge Records, 2008). Bermel is published by Peermusic Classical.

Bermel’s awards also include the Alpert Award in the Arts; Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships; the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center; the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the Paul Boylan Award from the University of Michigan; commissions from the Fromm and Greenwall Foundations, Meet the Composer and the Cary Trust; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar and Civitella Ranieri.

Bermel comes to the Institute from a three-year position as the American Composers Orchestra’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence. In that position, he played a central role in programming and serving as curator and artistic advisor to the organization’s Orchestra Underground series.

As IAS Artist-in-Residence, Derek Bermel succeeds Paul Moravec FAAR’85, University Professor at Adelphi University and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music. You can read more about Bermel and Moravec at the IAS on p. 10 of the Spring 2009 number of The Institute Letter.


Our next glimpse of AAR composers comes from the weekend of 20-22 March, when the American Academy in Rome hosted a concert series by Berlin’s Scharoun Ensemble in memory of Avv. Vittorio Ripa di Meana (1927-2008). During its time at the Academy, the Scharoun Ensemble came to meals and in general totally integrated itself into AAR life.

Vittorio Ripa di Meana, one of Italy’s leading corporate lawyers, a co-founder of the national daily La Repubblica, and former chairman of the Capitalia investment group, had served as a valued Trustee of the Academy from 2003-2008. Ripa di Meana died on 28 December, aged 81.

Among Ripa di Meana’s many significant accomplishments must be counted his work first as Commissioner and then Vice-President of the Rome Opera House (1994-1996), which he succeeded in restoring to both administrative and artistic health.

In December, the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, addressed a message of sympathy to the Ripa di Meana family for its loss, recalling of his departed friend “the refinement and human kindness, the quality of cultural commitment, the deep democratic and republican faith, the professional passion and integrity.”

The President concluded his message by speaking of “a grave loss for those who believe in the ideals and moral values that Vittorio Ripa di Meana stood for throughout his life.”

AARPresidentsPresident Napolitano signing the guestbook of the Villa Aurelia as AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor FAAR’84 looks on. Napolitano came as a private citizen to the concert series out of friendship with the Ripa di Meana family, and spoke briefly at the memorial concert.

The memorial concert series featured on its first night (Friday 20 March) Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, in addition to recent compositions by Elliott Carter FAAR’54, RAAR’63, ’69, ‘80 and current Elliott Carter Rome Prize Fellow Kurt Rohde.

A composer and violinist, Rohde has been the recipient of the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and numerous commissions. A member of the New Century Chamber Orchestra and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Rohde teaches composition at UC Davis.

On Night Two (Saturday 21 March), the Scharoun Ensemble performed Schubert’s Octet (op. 166), as well as a selection from Hans Werner Henze’s 1958 Kammermusik and two compositions by Dan Visconti, currently the Leonore Annenberg Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

night 2 with 3 composersFrom left, composers Dan Visconti, Keeril Makan, Kurt Rohde

The third program (Sunday 22 March, in the German tradition, starting at 11.30 AM) marked the long friendship of Vittorio and Isabella Ripa di Meana with Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) in spectacular fashion: the composer’s daughter, Majella Stockhausen, performed his Klavierstück IX (1961).

The Scharoun Ensemble also presented Beethoven’s Septet (op. 20), a selection from Luciano Berio’s Duetti for two violins, and the world premiere of Keeril Makan’s Washed by Fire for string quartet.

As it happens, Makan is currently the Luciano Berio Rome Prize Fellow in Musical Composition at the AAR. The first CD of Makan’s music, In Sound, was released on the Tzadik label in June 2008 with performances by the Kronos Quartet and Paul Dresher Ensemble.

Makan is assistant professor of Music at MIT; current projects include commissions from the California EAR Unit and the Harvard Musical Association.

Our final snapshot: New York 16 April 2009, the Janet & Arthur Ross Rome Prize Ceremony.

Following the presentation of the 2009/10 winners, the Cassatt String Quartet performed pieces by three AAR composers: Light Screen by Andrew Norman FAAR’07, Toxis Chromaticus by Ken Ueno FAAR’07, and Quartetset and Quiet Time by Sebastian Currier FAAR’94.

AARCassattQuartetThe Cassatt String Quartet at the NYC Metropolitan Club 16 April 2009

Currier is the 2007 recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. He has two new recordings of his chamber music released, one of string quartets by the Cassatt String Quartet, and the other of mixed chamber music by Music From Copland House.

In addition to his Rome Prize, Currier has been awarded the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also has held residencies at the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies.

Currier wrote both Quartetset (1993-1994, composed at the AAR) and Quiet Time, for the Cassatt String Quartet.

Ken Ueno is an assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley. His music has been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musik Trienale Köln Festival, STEIM and the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (Amsterdam), the Hopkins Center for the Arts (Hanover NH), Spoleto Festival USA, and the Norfolk Music Festival (CT), where he was guest composer/lecturer. Ueno twice has been commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for orchestral works.

Andrew Norman is a graduate of the University of Southern California and an Artist Diploma candidate at the Yale School of Music. He has been commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, the New York Youth Symphony, and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, among others.

Norman is the recipient of numerous prizes in addition to his Rome Prize, with distinctions including the Berlin Prize, the ASCAP Kaplan and Nissim Prizes, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Ives Scholarship. He has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Copland House, the Aspen Music Festival, and the National Youth Orchestra Festival.

Andrew Norman is currently Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists.

And that was just the last three months!

And not including late breaking news on incoming 09/10 Fellow Lisa Bielawa (who wrote a concerto to mark the end of her term as Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s composer in residence, performed at Boston’s Jordan Hall 22 May), Thomas Oboe Lee FAAR’87 (whose harp concerto “. . . bisbigliando . . .” the BMOP performed on the same program), and Robert Beaser FAAR’78. Beaser, who is professor and chairman of the Composition Department at the Juilliard School of Music, saw his symphonic work “Evening Prayer” performed earlier this month at the 2009 Beijing Modern Music Festival.

Corriere2Corriere della Sera covers the 20-22 March Scharoun Ensemble Berlin concerts at the AAR

For their help with this article, many thanks to AAR Heiskell Arts Director Martin Brody RAAR’02, Christine Ferrara (Senior Public Affairs Officer, Institute for Advanced Study), and Erin Rogers (Peermusic Classical).


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