July 14, 2018

Scores: New Orchestral Works

Concert Information

About the composers and their works

Jonathan Cziner

Jonathan Cziner (b. 1991) is an American composer based in New York City. His music combines colorful harmony and texture with nostalgic lyricism, creating a sound-world that ranges from dark and mysterious to vibrant. Drawing on a wide variety of inspirations, Jonathan’s writing engages the senses and the emotions, fully immersing listeners in the musical experience.

A 2018 Charles Ives Scholarship recipient from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Jonathan's works have been performed in the United States and Europe by artists including pianist Steven Masi, Dallas Symphony principal harpist Emily Levin,and by ensembles including the New Juilliard Ensemble, Atlantic Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble, and violin duo Les Deux. His work Transient Bodies for Sinfonietta, commissioned by the New Juilliard Ensemble, was awarded the 2017 Palmer Dixon Prize, given to the year’s most outstanding composition at the Juilliard School. Other recent commissions include Once New for the Lyric Chamber Society,Fantasy Chorale for the American Guild of Organists, and Nebulous for the Dallas Harp Quartet, with performances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York City.

Jonathan received a Bachelor of Music degree at New York University, studying with Justin Dello Joio. He completed his Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Robert Beaser, and currently a doctoral candidate in Juilliard’s prestigious C.V. Starr doctoral program.

Resonant Bells

We live in unsettling times. Bells by nature can be advisory or prophetic, and in a world that is wracked with turbulence, the words of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells” ring true. Resonant Bells captures the essence of alarm bells, and the implication of warning that echoes in the ears of those who hear them. The piece opens mysteriously, with the announcement of a repeating note rhythmic motto. After a vertical unfolding of harmony and an expansion of the repeating note figure, the music explodes, introducing us to premonitory tolling bells made up of an amalgamation of vibraphone, chimes, glockenspiel and celesta. A dramatic, possibly even heroic lyrical passage builds the work to its first climax, which is thwarted by the bells, this time orchestrated in winds and brass in addition to the original percussion. After the dust settles, a transitional passage comprised of meandering woodwind solos is interspersed with a new iteration of the original repeating note motto. The musicpushes forward into a dizzying scherzando section, which is at times playful, and at other times demonic. After much whirling and twirling, the chaos erupts at last into an apocalyptic reprise of the lyrical passage now intertwined with the dizzying scherzando material. Any hope of altering course is once and for all derailed by the tolling of the bells, now in the entire orchestra. The piece closes with an elegiac chamber-like setting of the lyrical passage, and in the final moments, returns us to the very opening, as if to remind us that “we were warned.”Resonant Bells was composed November 2017 to February 2018 and lasts approximately 11 minutes in duration.

Natalie Dietterich

Natalie Dietterich is an American composer and vocalist from Harleysville,Pennsylvania. Her visceral work mines patterns and is often tangential to social issues. Recently her music has been performed by the Shanghai Symphony, wild Up as part of the LA Philharmonic’s National Composers Intensive, The Crossing as part of the Big Sky New Music Initiative, and as a fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. Dietterich has beenawarded residencies at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, the Norfolk Chamber Music Institute, and at Arts, Letters, and Numbers. She is the recipient of a 2018 New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission,the 2016 Leo Kaplan prize of the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and has been an honorable mention for awards from BMI, ASCAP, and The American Prize, among others. Dietterich is a graduate of the Yale School of Music with an M.M. and M.M.A. in composition, and of West Chester University with a dual degree in composition and violin. She will be starting her Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University this fall.

Aeolian Dust

The idea of aeolian, or atmospheric, dust could be considered an analog to the passage of time within a world where unrelated events coexist and have potential to become something bigger than itself, or perhaps simply occupy a space together with nothing to bridge them but the moment in which they occur.

Aaron Hendrix

A Houston native, Aaron recently completed his Masters degree in composition from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He completed his undergraduate studies at Houston Baptist University, where he graduated first in his class with a double major in composition (studying with Ann Gebuhr) and piano performance (studying with Melissa Marse and Shannon Hesse).

His portfolio includes commissions and performances by various Houston-based ensembles, including the Scordatura New Music Society, the Fidelis String Quartet, and HBU’s Schola Cantorum. More recently, his music has been performed by Michigan’s University Symphony Orchestra, and the Ann Arbor new-music collective, Converge.  

While at Michigan, he co-founded //meridian, an eight-voice, new-music chorale, and he currently serves as composer-in-residence of the ensemble.

Aaron resides in Ann Arbor with his beautiful wife, Emily, and his friendly but tone-deaf parrotlet, Bernard.

Night Train

According to my mom, the love and fascination I have for trains began before I could speak. Whether this is a slight “motherly exaggeration”, or simply a reflection on how long it took me to start talking, I am uncertain. Regardless, the context provided by this adorable anecdote is helpful here.

A railroad line runs parallel to the neighborhood I grew up in, and this proximity put it within earshot of three different crossings. My house sat directly in line with the second of these.

Though trains run this route at all hours, I rarely noticed them during the day, their sounds swallowed by the ambient noise of a world awake. At night, however, with most sonic rivals at rest, a passing train could announce its presence unhindered.

Dreamlike and hazy at first, the horn seemed to float directionless as the train passed the first crossing, distance and darkness imbuing it with an almost haunting profundity.  However, the call grew steadily louder and more distinct- haze replaced by inevitability- as the powerful machine approached the second crossing. A moment or two of silence followed, then a final heralding for the third crossing, distant once again, and fading.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve waking in the middle of the night to this familiarity. Each time a train approached the nearest crossing felt like an increasingly urgent summons to climb aboard and dream.

This is where the piece begins: with the dreamlike image of a distant but rapidly approaching train. When it reaches us, we are swept along with it, experiencing both excitement and trepidation as the train speeds off into the dark unknown. Suddenly, the train begins to accelerate, hurtling almost out of control. At the last second, we are transported safely back to our original dream-state, and the train continues off into the night.

This piece is about my many childhood trips aboard the Night Train. Whether real, imagined, or dreamed, I am not completely sure, and the music never really decides.

I like to think maybe a little of all three.

Brian Shank

Brian Shank is a composer and percussionist who divides his time equally between what he considers to be two wholly complementary disciplines. An active performer since an early age, composing took an increasingly important role in his life while studying percussion at Juilliard, in his early twenties. His expressive compositional style is inspired by the rich harmonic language of France’s Impressionists and later twentieth century masters.

Presently, he studies harmony, counterpoint, composition, and orchestration with Dr. Philip Lasser in the French tradition. In March 2018 Shank was selected as a winner of the New Jersey Symphony’s Cone Composition Institute and the orchestra will premier his new work Into the Rose Garden in July 2018. While concert music is his focus, he has composed music for the ballet company Tom Gold Dance, and for various theater productions, including a production of A Clockwork Orange, directed by Tony award-winning actor Alex Sharp.

As a performer, his stylistic interests are widely varied and include jazz, contemporary performance, electronic and electro-acoustic music, and various 'world music' instruments. He performs as a percussionist with the Æon Chamber Ensemble, Andy Clausen’s Split Stream Big Band, and is the drummer and co-founder of the jazz group The Joe Mohan Trio.

Shank began his musical training in percussion, studying with John Antonio and Richard Albagli in Albany, New York and he undertook significant studies of music history with Albagli at the same time. At age 17 he entered the Juilliard Pre-College and received a Distinguished Graduate Award and now holds a degree from The Juilliard School in percussion performance under professors Daniel Druckman, Gordon Gottlieb, and Joseph Pereira.

As a teacher, he is Percussion Faculty at the Luzerne Music Center and is a teaching artist with the Bridge Arts Ensemble. 

Brian Shank lives in New York City and is originally from Saratoga, New York. 

Into the Rose Garden 

This piece for orchestra takes its inspiration from a shared image of two of the great English-speaking poets of the past century: T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats. Both address the image of rose specifically in regard to the relationship between Time and Possibility.

In his poem "To the Rose upon the Rood of Time" Yeats asks of the rose to allow him to leave aside "mortal hopes that toil and pass" and to, instead "hear the strange things said/ By God to the bright hearts of those long dead/ and to learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know."

Eliot in turn uses the image at the very outset of his "Four Quartets." His use shares the same spirit and power as Yeats' when he declares that all possibilities of past events are not lost, but in fact exist somewhere; "Down a passage which we did not take/Towards the door we never opened/Into the rose-garden."

The sonic material present in this piece emerged from the reflection on eternal possibility and the courage it would take to open such a door.


Major underwriting support for the NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is generously provided by the Edward T. Cone Foundation and Princeton University.