Performances and Events

Dec. 5 Tre Espressioni; Preludes; Impromptu · Ursula Oppens and Robert Levin (pianos) · Symphony Space, New York, NY · Release of Bridge Records CD: Rands Piano Music 1960-2010.
Dec. 14 Adieu for Brass Quintet and Strings · All Star Orchestra conducted by Gerrard Schwarz · Wyoming · PBS T.V.
Dec. 19/20/21 "...where the murmurs die..." · Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach · Chicago, IL
Dec. 29 Adieu for Brass Quintet and Strings · All Star Orchestra conducted by Gerrard Schwarz · Columbus, OH · Broadcast on WOSU Public T.V.
Dec. 31 Preludes for Piano · Robert Levin (Piano) · Nevada Chamber Music Festival · Reno, NV

2014


Jan. 11 Prism for Saxophone Quartet · H2 Quartet · Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
Jan. 26 Preludes for Piano (Complete) · Robert Levin · Cambridge, MA
Jan. 29 Danza Petrificada; Chains like the sea · Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra · Cleveland, OH
Feb. 7 Prelude...sans voix parmi les voix...; Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · Rice University · Houston, TX
Feb. 9 Walcott Songs · Network for New Music Ensemble · Haverford College, PA
Feb. 14 Memo 7 for Female Voice · Julia Mihaly · Akademie fur Tonkunst, Darmstadt, Germany · EUROPEAN PREMIERE
Feb. 14 Memo 7 for Female Voice · Amy Beth Kirsten · Lyric Hall, New Haven, CT
Feb. 19 Memo 6 (Solo Saxophone) and Prism - Memo 6b (Sax. Quartet) · Coral Gables, Miami, FL
Feb. 22 Prelude...sans voix parmi les voix...; Impromptu for solo piano; "...in the receding mist..." · Florida International University · Miami. FL
Feb. 22 String Quartet No. 2 · Amernet String Quartet · Florida International University · Miami, FL
Feb. 25 Impromptu #2 for solo piano · WORLD PREMIERE · Century Association · New York, NY
Mar. 7 "now again" - fragments from Sappho · Julia Bentley (mezzo), Michael Lewanski (conductor) · 20+ Ensemble · Chicago, IL
Mar. 13 London Serenade · Berkshire Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Adelson · Williamstown, MA
Mar. 28 Madrigali · Cleveland Chamber Symphony · Cleveland, OH
Apr. 3 Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · New England Conservatory · Boston, MA
Apr. 3/4/5/8 Concerto for Piano & Orchestra · WORLD PREMIERE · Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Spano · Jonathan Biss, soloist · Boston, MA · BSO Commission
Apr. 6 Impromptu & Impromptu #2 · Max Lifchitz (piano) · North/South Concerts, New York
Apr. 19 String Quartet # 2 · Amernet String Quartet · New Music, Miami Festival · Miami, FL
Apr. 24 deja for ensemble · Manhattan School of Music · conducted by Jeffrey Millarsky · New York, NY
May 3 Induction as Fellow into the Illinois Lincoln Academy · Field Museum · Chicago, IL
May 7/8/9 Concerto for Piano & Orchestra · Gewandhausorchester conducted by Sir Andrew Davis · Jonathan Biss, soloist · Leipzig, Germany
May 16 "chains like the sea" · Boston Modern Orchestra Project · Boston, MA
May 23 Tableau · Chimera Ensemble · Rymer Auditorium · York, UK
June 3 Canti Lunatici · Julia Bentley, mezzo soprano · June in Buffalo Festival · Buffalo, NY
June 3 Preludes for Piano · Stephen Beck · June in Buffalo Festival · Buffalo, NY
June 3 String Quartet No. 2 · Amernet String Quartet · Barranquilla, Columbia.
June 6 Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · Signal Ensemble conducted by Brad Lubman · Jacqueline Leclair, solo oboe · June in Buffalo Festival · Buffalo, NY
June 8 "...where the murmurs die..." · Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta · June in Buffalo Festival · Buffalo, NY
June 16/17/18 Danza Petrificada; Cello Concerto No. 1 (Johannes Moser, soloist); Chains like the sea · BBC Philharmonic – Salford · BBC Focus Festival · Manchester, UK · Several chamber music concerts of Rands' repertory TBD
June 17 Impromptu and Impromptu No. 2 for Piano · Anthony Cheung (piano) · The Stone · New York, NY
June 17 Fanfare for Brass Quintet · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 17 Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 17 Ceremonial for Wind Band · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 17 Memo 6 for Solo Alto Saxophone · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 17 Prism for Saxophone Quartet · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 18 Memo 4 for Solo Flute; Walcott Songs; Preludes for Piano · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 18 Memo 1 for Solo Contrabass; Memo 4 for Solo Flute; Walcott Songs for Mezzo Soprano & 'Cello; Preludes for Piano · Royal Northern College of Music · Manchester, UK
June 18 Danza Petrificada; Cello Concerto No. 1 (Johannes Moser, Cello); Symphony · BBC Philharmonic Orchestra · BBC Media Center · Salford, UK
June 19 Preludes for Piano · Robert Levin · Artist Showcase, Sarasota Festival · Sarasota, FL
June 22 — 28 Memo 4 for Flute; Memo 6 for Alto Saxophone; Prism for Saxophone Quartet; Three Pieces for Piano; · Guest composer at the Bangkok International Festival · Bangkok, Thailand
June 23 Ceremonial for Wind Band · Bangkok International Festival · Bangkok, Thailand
June 28 "Chains like the sea" for orchestra · Bangkok International Festival · Bangkok, Thailand
July 20 Folk Songs for Female voice and Eight instruments · WORLD PREMIERE · Tanglewood Festival · Lenox, MA · Tanglewood commission
July 21 String Quartet No. 3 · Steans Institute, Ravinia Festival · Highland Park, IL
Aug. 15 Concerto for Piano & Orchestra · BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Markus Stenz · Jonathan Biss, soloist · BBC Promenade Concerts · Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
Sept. 12 Impromptu & Impromptu # 2 for Piano · Musica Viva · Buenos Aries, Argentina
Oct. 25 String Quartet No. 2 · Spektral String Quartet · Constellation · Chicago, IL
Nov. 2 String Quartet No. 2 · Spektral String Quartet · University of Chicago · Chicago, IL
Nov. 9 "in the receeding mist" · Sheffield, UK
Nov. 9 Three Pieces for Piano · Sheffield, UK
Nov. 9 Preludes for Piano · Sheffield, UK
Nov. 9 Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · Sheffield, UK
Nov. 11 Prelude & sans voir parmi les voix · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 11 Memo 4 · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 11 Walcott Songs · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 11 Scherzi · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 11 Memo 8 · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 11 "in the receding mist" · Lontano Ensemble · London, UK
Nov. 13 déjà for ensemble · ICE Ensemble · Composer's Portrait at Miller Theater, New York, NY
Nov. 13 Memo 6 · ICE Ensemble · Composer's Portrait at Miller Theater, New York, NY
Nov. 13 Concertino for Oboe & Ensemble · ICE Ensemble · Composer's Portrait at Miller Theater, New York, NY
Nov. 13 Folk Songs · Anthony Roth Costanzo (Countertenor) · ICE Ensemble · Composer's Portrait at Miller Theater, New York, NY
Dec. 7 For Liza · Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra · Cleveland, OH
Dec. 7 London Serenade for Orchestra · Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra · Cleveland, OH
Dec. 7 Danza Petrificada for Orchestra · Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra · Cleveland, OH

News

Life

  • Biography

    Through more than a hundred published works and many recordings, Bernard Rands is established as a major figure in contemporary music. His work Canti del Sole, premiered by Paul Sperry, Zubin Mehta, and the New York Philharmonic, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music. His large orchestral suites Le Tambourin won the 1986 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award.

    Conductors including Barenboim, Boulez, Berio, Maazel, Maderna, Marriner, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Rilling, Salonen, Sawallisch, Schiff, Schuller, Schwarz, Silverstein, Sinopoli, Slatkin, von Dohnanyi, and Zinman, among many others, have programmed his music.

    Rands served as Composer in Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra for seven years. The first three years were funded by the Meet The Composer Residency Program, with four years continued funding by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Through this residency Rands made a wonderful and dedicated contribution to the music of our time.

    Rands’ works are widely performed and frequently commercially recorded. His work Canti d’Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy Award in 2000.

    Born in England, Rands emigrated to the United States in 1975, becoming an American citizen in 1983. He has been honored by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; Broadcast Music, Inc.; the Guggenheim Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; Meet The Composer; the Barlow, Fromm, and Koussevitzky Foundations, among many others. In 2004, Rands was inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

    Recent commissions have come from the Suntory Concert Hall in Tokyo, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Internationale Bach Akademie, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Many chamber works have resulted from commissions from major ensembles and festivals from around the world. His chamber opera, Belladonna, was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival and School for its fiftieth anniversary in 1999.

    Rands is currently composing a full-scale opera, Vincent, based on the life and work of Van Gogh, with poet J.D. McClatchy.

    A dedicated and passionate teacher, Rands has been guest composer at many international festivals and Composer in Residence at the Aspen and Tanglewood festivals. Rands is the Walter Bigelow Rosen Research Professor of Music at Harvard. He has received honorary degrees from several American and European universities.

    The originality and distinctive character of his music have been variously described as 'plangent lyricism' with a 'dramatic intensity' and a 'musicality and clarity of idea allied to a sophisticated and elegant technical mastery' – qualities developed from his studies with Dallapiccola and Berio.

    Musical America has referred to Rands as "a composer with a poet’s sensibility and a painterly love of color and line."

  • Chronology

    1934 Born March 2 in Sheffield, England, U.K.
    1940-1952 Studied piano, organ, counterpoint and harmony with private teachers.
    1952 Entered the University of Wales to study music, philosophy, English and Celtic literatures.
    1958-1960 Composition studies in Italy with Roman Vlad (1958–59) in Rome; and Luigi Dallapiccola (1959–60) in Florence.
    1960-1965 Professor of Composition at the University of Wales.
    1962-1963 Further studies in Italy with Luciano Berio.
    1963 First publications by U.E. Vienna and London.
    1963 Darmstadt Festival Premiere of Actions for Six by Kranischsteiner Ensemble, conducted by Bruno Maderna.
    1963-1965 Studies at the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt, with Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez.
    1965 Darmstadt Festival Premiere of Espressione IV by Aloys and Alfons Kontarsky.
    1966 Premiere of Formants I (Les Gestes) – now titled Memo 3 – by Francis Pierre, harp, at the Royan Festival, France.
    1966-1968 Harkness International Fellowship in the United States. Composer-in-Residence for one year at Princeton University and for one year at University of Illinois, Urbana.
    1969-1975 Professor of Composition at York University, England.
    1969–1975 During this time, several works were commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation and premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez:

    Mésalliance for piano and orchestra

    Wildtrack 1
    for orchestra

    Wildtrack 2 for soprano and orchestra

    Aum for harp and orchestra
    1970-1971 Creative Arts Fellow, Bresenose College, Oxford University.
    1972 Metalepsis II for mezzo-soprano, six voices and 11 instruments premiered in London by Cathy Berberian, London Sinfonietta, conducted by Luciano Berio.
    1975 Emigrated to the United States. Became Professor of Composition at the University of California from 1975 to 1985. Founder and Music Director of SONOR (1976–81). Guest conductor of orchestras and ensembles in many countries.
    1977 Madrigali for chamber orchestra, commissioned and premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington, DC, conducted by Rafael Druian.
    1978-1979 Co-director of the Aspen Music Festival and School Composition Seminar.
    1980 Canti Lunatici for Soprano and Ensemble premiered by Carol Plantamura and SONOR, conducted by the composer.
    1981 Canti Lunatici for Soprano and Orchestra premiered by Dorothy Dorow, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the composer.
    1983 Became a U.S. citizen.
    1983 Canti del Sole for Tenor and ensemble premiered by Paul Sperry and SONOR, conducted by the composer.
    1983 Canti del Sole for Tenor and orchestra premiered by Paul Sperry and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta.
    1984 Canti del Sole awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize.
    1985 Le Tambourin Suites for orchestra awarded Friedheim 1st Prize,
    Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC.
    1989 Ceremonial 2 for Orchestra commissioned by and premiered at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
    1989-1996 Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
    1989-2005 Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard University.
    1990 Bells for large chorus and orchestra commissioned and premiered by Northeastern Philharmonic, Pennsylvania.
    1990 “...body and shadow...” for orchestra commissioned and premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa.
    1991 Ceremonial III for orchestra commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its 100th anniversary. Premiered by Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
    1992 Tre Canzoni Senza Parole commissioned and premiered by Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by the composer.
    1993 Canti dell’Eclisse for Bass voice and orchestra commissioned and premiered by Thomas Paul and the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Gerard Schwarz.
    1993 “where the murmurs die...” commissioned and premiered by New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
    1995 Symphony commissioned and premiered by Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
    1995 Canzoni per orchestra commissioned and premiered by Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Wolfgang Sawalisch.
    1995 Trio commissioned and premiered by Chicago Symphony Orchestra (for Boulez 70th birthday celebration.)
    1995 Interludium for chorus and orchestra commissioned by the Internationale Bach Akademie, Stuttgart and premiered by the Israel Philharmonic, conducted by Helmut Rilling.
    1997 Cello Concerto No. 1 commissioned for and premiered by Mstislav Rostropovich and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa.
    1999 Chamber opera, Belladonna, commissioned and premiered by the Aspen Music Festival, conducted by David Zinman.
    2000 Canti d’Amor for chamber chorus commissioned, premiered and recorded by Chanticleer; wins a Grammy Award.
    2004 apókryphos for soprano, large chorus and orchestra commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
    2004 Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
    2006 Walcott Songs for Mezzo-soprano and cello, premiered at the Tanglewood Music Festival.
    2006 “now again” – fragments from Sappho commissioned and premiered by the Network for New Music, Philadelphia.
    2007 12 Preludes for piano commissioned by the Ruhr International Piano Festival and premiered by Robert Levin at the Essen Festival.
    2008 “chains like the sea” commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Lorin Maazel.
    2010 Jonathan Biss premieres Three Pieces for Piano in Mainz, Germany on December 3 and performs the piece on tours throughout the US and Europe, which includes its Carnege Hall debut on January 21, 2011.
    2011 Vincent, an opera in two acts commissioned by Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, scheduled world premiere on April 8 in Bloomington, IN, conducted by Arthur Fagen.
    2011 Danza Petrificada commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them in May, conducted by Riccardo Muti, followed by performances during the orchestra's summer tour in Salzburg, Lucerne, Luxembourg, Paris and Vienna.

Works

Recordings

Piano Music (1960-2010)
Bridge 9415
Le Tambourin Suites 1 & 2, Canti dell'Eclisse, Ceremonial 3
New World Records 80392
Now Again
Albany TROY 1194
Canti Trilogy
Arsis Records CD156
The Vision of Francis Goelet: Works by Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions, George Perle, Bernard Rands
New World Records 80631
Canti Lunatici, Canti Del Sole, Obbligato
New World Records NWCR591
Requiem of Reconciliation
Hänssler Classics CD 98.931
The Music of Bernard Rands
Albany Records TROY355
Eclipse: The Music of Bernard Rands
TNC Recordings CD-1423
Dream Journal
Albany Records TROY 488
Walton, W.: Henry V Suite / Cello Concerto / Violin Sonata / Rands, B.: 3 Canzoni Senza Parole
Delos International DE 3342
Love Songs
Arsis Records CD138
Colors of Love
Teldec 3984-24570-2
Sound Encounters
GM Recordings GM 2039
The Composer's Voice: New Music From Bowling Green, Vol. 2
Albany Records TROY 490
New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble
Albany Records TROY 340
Harvard Composers
Bis BIS-SACD-1264
Visions in Metaphor
Albany Records TROY 442
"...in the receding mist..."
North / South Recordings N/S R 1003
Music for Chamber Ensemble
NEUMA Records 450-79
Fanfares and Passages
Mark Records 4247-MCD
Twentieth-Century American Music
Capstone Records CPS-8762
The American Collection
North / South Recordings N/S R 1014
When Wind Comes to Sparse Bamboo
Capstone Records CPS-8717
Paradigm
Klavier Music Productions KCD-11059
A roaring flame
NMC Records NMC D079
The President's Own
USMB-CD-11127
Ceremonial
Mark Records 9835-MCD

Performances

Photos + Videos

    • Adieu - The Composer and His Work

    • Impromptu | Petrushka Project

    • Now Again: Recording the Music of Bernard Rands

    • Now Again: Music by Bernard Rands

    • Interview with NewMusicBox

    • Bernard Rands discusses the composition of Vincent

    • Librettist J.D. McClatchy discusses his role as the librettist for Vincent

    • Interview with cast and production staff of Indiana University's premiere production of Vincent

    • Bernard Rands discusses his upcoming work Danza Petrificada

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    • Kathleen Ginther interviews Bernard Rands on WSIU's "InFocus"

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    • Bernard Rands on 'chains like the sea'

    • Bernard Rands on listening to new music

    • Bernard Rands discusses the inspirations for his work "chains like the sea" prior to its 2008 premiere

Press

  • Quotes

    Rands has been pursuing an aesthetic ideal that has made him one of the foremost composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Rands's compositions are elegant yet meticulously structured, bringing tonal and nontonal elements into a fusion that is firmly enough based in musical tradition to be inviting, yet unpredictable enough.....to convey a sense of modernity
    The Boston Globe

    Adieu
    brass quintet and orchestra

    The program had begun with the latest in the series of Gund/Simonyi Farewell Commissions being presented in honor of the music director's final season. Aptly titled "Adieu," Bernard Rands' six-minute contribution is one of the best to have emerged thus far from the project, combining genuine musical development with a zestful rhythmic urge that is intensified rather than dissipated by the occasional change of meter.
    The Seattle Times

    apókryphos
    Soprano solo, SATB chorus, and orchestra

    For all its large forces, apókryphos was a surprisingly tender, intimate work...Rands’ vocal lines had great lyrical flow...this is a masterful work, one whose images and sounds linger in the mind.
    Chicago Tribune

    This often powerfully dramatic music nevertheless pierces the heart with a dark, disturbing intimacy...the precise and lively instrumental craftsmanship, highly personal lyricism and vivid intensity of expression that mark the best of Rands’ mature works are fully evident in apókryphos...the emotional tension that builds to the uneasy consolation of the final section is overwhelming.
    Chicago Sun Times

    Canti dell'Eclisse
    Bass and orchestra

    Wandering in the labyrinth is one of the Canti Trilogy’s pleasures: Rands unspools a shining thread to guide us and keep us safe. Still another is the alluring sensuousness of surface Rands stretches over troubling depths. The composer has an extraordinary ear; the sonorities and ideas are deep, dark and magical.
    The Boston Globe

    Canti dell'Eclisse
    Bass and ensemble

    This is a set that promises to reveal new subtleties with each hearing...snap this up while you can.
    American Record Guide

    What Rands has created is a 90-minute work that is forceful, compelling, dynamic, luminous and revelatory.
    Desert Morning News

    Canti del Sole
    Tenor and orchestra

    Pulitzer Prize-winning Canti del Sole is a noble and exultant paean to the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual states of man.
    The San Francisco Chronicle

    Canti del Sole is a magnificent accomplishment. Rands’ sensitivity to texts and their various heritages is stunning.
    The Baltimore Sun

    Canti del Sole
    Tenor and chamber ensemble

    In Canti del Sole Rands has created an arresting, demanding work that shimmers, blazes, and startles.
    The Cleveland Plain Dealer

    Canti Lunatici
    Soprano and orchestra

    Canti Lunatici is a distinctive score of remarkable dramatic power and poetic invention.
    The New Yorker

    Ceremonial
    wind ensemble

    Ceremonial made the strongest impression, an example of minimalism at its most emotionally resonant and generous minded. Its atmosphere is strong and dark and its orchestration shows the hand of a master.
    The Boston Globe

    "chains like the sea"
    two movements for orchestra

    Mr. Rands creates pieces filled with technical demands that make them gratifying to the performer, as well as sufficient sensual beauty to appeal to listeners. Rands has an unerring knack for lucid orchestration; here, scintillating details regularly pricked through an overall melancholy tone....and seemed to leave behind a humid, bluesy wilt in their wake. The orchestra's polish and commitment earned a warm reception from the audience.
    The New York Times

    Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

    When one speaks of the concerto as a genre, composers of the 20th and 21st centuries have felt more free to completely reinvent the terms of the discussion. Bernard Rands does so at once with a boldness and a marvelously organic quality in his striking new Concerto for Piano & Orchestra. In this concerto, neither party is subservient to the other. In fact our interlocutors are engaged in a constant empathic exchange of mood and information, audibly influencing the other's lines as they shape their own. The Piece, a Boston Symphony Orchestra commission, follows what is an outwardly familiar three-movement flight path, but the subtlety of color and the sophistication of Rands's compositional craft, not to mention the protean interplay between soloist and ensemble, make this score feel refreshingly free of formulas.
    The Boston Globe

    Danza Petrificada
    orchestra

    The main point of interest was the world premiere of Danza Petrificada by Bernard Rands. The CSO commission was rescheduled from last October due to Muti’s illness and interrupted fall residency.

    Composed at Muti’s request to mark the centennial and bicentennial of Mexico’s independence and revolution, Danza Petrificada takes its title from a stanza of Octavio Paz: “. . . a banquet of forms, a petrified dance under the clouds that make and unmake and never stop making themselves always in transit toward their future forms.”

    To his credit, the English-born American composer avoids the usual Mexican dance rhythms and tourist-trap musical tropes. Yes, Danza Petrificada calls for a large percussion battery for four players and opens with a rustle of maracas and muted trumpet. But Rands’ piece is more edgy and impressionistic than sunny homage, a moody tone poem with passing Mexican elements, glimpsed as if through a refracted lens.

    Danza Petrificada is that rare work that manages to be both intelligent and individual, while also serving its functional purpose as a lively, audience-friendly, nine-minute curtain-raiser—even with the abrupt coda.
    —Chicago Classical Review

    British-born American Bernard Rands was Muti’s choice for the first new work in his Chicago directorship. Rands, now a youthful 77, was composer in residence for three years of Muti’s time leading the Philadelphia Orchestra, and through conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez, also has strong connections to the CSO and his adopted hometown. He is a composer of unique technical gifts and abilities who makes music that, unlike works by many in the field of orchestral composition, does not sound like anyone else’s.

    As with the haunting orchestral interludes in his long-awaited van Gogh opera, “Vincent,” which had its world premiere at Indiana University in Bloomington last month, Rands has a way of creating the aural equivalent of a visual scrim so that sounds and layers of sound move in and out of the foreground, often as in a kind of haze. For his 11-minute “Danza Petrificada” (“Petrified Dance,” the title coming from a poem by the great Mexican writer Octavio Paz), Rands incorporated rhythms and percussive sounds from many parts of that country — cicadas seemingly everywhere! — into a rich and highly crafted score for large virtuoso orchestra, rather than making yet another suite of “Mexican folk tunes” (Rands does not do hackneyed). Muti had devoted his recent break at his Italian home to learning this work and conducted it as if he had known it for years. He will take it with the CSO on its late summer European tour. While it could benefit from a fuller and lengthier ending, I look forward to repeated hearings.


    Chicago Sun Times

    Cinco de Mayo also gave the CSO a relevant peg on which to hang a world premiere — Bernard Rands' "Danza Petrificada" ("Petrified Dance"), a piece inspired by Mexico and Mexican culture. The CSO commission was to have received its first performance at these concerts in October but had to be postponed because Muti cancelled several weeks of Chicago appearances because of exhaustion.

    The Chicago-based Rands took his title, and the work's larger associations, from a poem by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz. The composer then extracted the essence of sounds and rhythms common to Mexican music, filtered them through his sophisticated orchestral imagination and came up with a nine-minute gem of magical musical realism.

    Rands' scoring is laced with all manner of scraped and rattled percussion that give the ear a vivid feeling of place without his having to resort to picture-postcard quotation. I love the kaleidoscopic subtleties of this music, the sure sense of craft with which its colors and textures cohere, the insistent energy with which it carries one to its riotous close. Muti and the orchestra sounded fully invested in it, and Rands was present to share in the warm reception given it by audience and CSO members alike.


    Chicago Tribune

    In Danza Petrificada by naturalized American composer Bernard Rands,the percussion becomes enthused in the Mexican design, among fossils of sun and moon, with handfuls of Aztec mystery.......the contribution of the brasses and other winds is by no means secondary.
    —Il Messaggero, Rome

    The reception to Bernard Rands' Danza Petrificada was enthusiastic.
    —Chicago Tribune

    This Danza Petrificada, the product of meticulous writing, charmed the public, who warmly acknowledged it.
    —Tageblatt, Luxembourg

    Memo 3
    harp

    ...the same control, the same inspiration is present in [Memo 3]. It is a very rich piece, admirably exploiting the traditional and new resources of the instrument...the work’s career will be most successful and rewarding in the hands of such a virtuoso.
    French Journal of Music

    Mésalliance
    piano and orchestra

    Mésalliance is indeed more than a piano concerto. In this compelling and impressive work, ideas are carried through brilliantly.
    Melos, Germany

    Mésalliance is a sort of mad concerto. It ends on a fantastic cadenza which threatened to (and did) bring the house down.
    The Guardian, London

    Metalepsis II
    Mezzo-soprano, small chorus, and ensemble

    Metalepsis 2 found me reveling in Rands’ magical command of the massing and contrasting of sonorities and his breathtakingly exact instinct for the moment to change mood and texture. It seemed, beyond doubt, one of the finest compositions of recent years.
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

    "now again" – fragments from Sappho
    Mezzo-soprano with chamber ensemble

    The piece has a wonderful strangeness and mystery. You longed for an instant encore. As with all great pieces, so much was implied by so little.
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    The 17-minute Sappho piece shows Rands’s welcome marriage of precise technique and sensuous lyricism and scoring
    Chicago Sun Times

    The score ["now again" - fragments from Sappho] is less a dramatic song cycle than a reflective meditation, painting a spare, melismatic evocation of the broken, elliptical texts.Yet Rands’ luminous music is consistently compelling and ear-catching, lyrical yet cast with neo-Classical restraint.
    Chicago Classical Review

    RANDS Prelude - Sans voix parmi les voix - Scherzi - Walcott Songs - "now again" fragments from Sappho. Network for New Music. ALBANY 1194.

    Here the long-term Network-Rands relationship results in definitive performances of seminal works by one of the world's great living composers.....with whom it it has worked and partnered for many years. This isn't easy stuff to play, because it requires not only virtuosic musicianship, but also contemporary-music chops.......to record these never-before-recorded but often-programmed Rands pieces.

    Rands's Prelude (2004) is sublimely performed. The mystical thing about Rands's writing is that the instruments don't seem to be playing as an ensemble; rather it's as if they accidentally coincided at the same time in the same key. A gorgeous harp solo follows.

    Scherzi is a playful and sensitive piece. Rands isn't difficult listening, and.....the effect is almost always disarming and transporting. Rands also invents all the time.......and produces a random, brittle sound but it always seems to make sense in the end.

    Now Again - fragments from Sappho is the pièce de résistance. It is based on fragments of the ancient poet Sappho (fragments are just the sort of thing Rands loves). The configuration is wild, with three female voices, trumpet, a string trio, harp and percussion. In the modalized atmosphere that Rands creates, a montage of fragments somehow coalesces to create a portrait of Sappho and her ancient world. It's as much a dramatic piece as it is a musical one, but in this case it's a puzzle that comes together to form more puzzles. Underneath, however, there is a consistent poignancy that makes this three-dimensional quilt drip with humor and sadness mixed.
    Fanfare January/February 2011.

    Fragments from his Sappho, sounded as if duly encased in gold. An inexpressible depth and lushness permeated the piece, and when the last notes were sounded, it was difficult to accept the finality of it, because it so engendered a desire for more. Impeccably orchestrated and lyrically powerful, it provided a satisfying closure to an unabashedly successful event.
    —Justin Capps (justincapps.wordpress.com)

    Preludes
    piano

    Bernard Rands's Twelve Preludes for solo piano is an impressive, emotionally draining work.....a sense of music history and lyricism pervade the Preludes. The score conjures a sound world that Debussy would have recognized. At the same time, the melancholy cast of many of Rands' pieces was Rands' own.
    —Los Angeles Times

    Five of the "Twelve Preludes" (2007) by Puitzer Prize winning composer confirmed that admirable, and immaculate music is still being produced.......
    The Washington Post

    A set of six preludes by Bernard Rands all drew on similar textural constructions and motivic material, and in that sense could be mistaken for theme and variations. The first prelude, Durezza, laid out the basic premise for the whole set: strong and stately middle-registered themes answered in ever-expanding chords above and below like a brightening halo. The fourth prelude, Notturno, dedicated to composer Donald Martino, was my favorite. Here, a simple theme built on repeated notes was surrounded by widely spaced high and low sonorities that seemed to define a sonic space of cosmic dimensions and beauty. Cheng imbued this seemingly static sound world with undercurrents of bittersweet drama.
    The Boston Musical Intelligencer

    Prelude...sans voix parmi les voix...
    flute, harp, and viola

    [Prelude...sans voix parmi les voix... is] wonderfully irresistible, obsessive in its way, yet sinuous and supple--rather like seeing a blue-ribbon tabby fascinated by the sight of a whirling mobile..
    —21st Century Music

    RANDS Prelude - Sans voix parmi les voix - Scherzi - Walcott Songs - "now again" fragments from Sappho. Network for New Music. ALBANY 1194.

    Here the long-term Network-Rands relationship results in definitive performances of seminal works by one of the world's great living composers.....with whom it it has worked and partnered for many years. This isn't easy stuff to play, because it requires not only virtuosic musicianship, but also contemporary-music chops.......to record these never-before-recorded but often-programmed Rands pieces.

    Rands's Prelude (2004) is sublimely performed. The mystical thing about Rands's writing is that the instruments don't seem to be playing as an ensemble; rather it's as if they accidentally coincided at the same time in the same key. A gorgeous harp solo follows.

    Scherzi is a playful and sensitive piece. Rands isn't difficult listening, and.....the effect is almost always disarming and transporting. Rands also invents all the time.......and produces a random, brittle sound but it always seems to make sense in the end.

    Now Again - fragments from Sappho is the pièce de résistance. It is based on fragments of the ancient poet Sappho (fragments are just the sort of thing Rands loves). The configuration is wild, with three female voices, trumpet, a string trio, harp and percussion. In the modalized atmosphere that Rands creates, a montage of fragments somehow coalesces to create a portrait of Sappho and her ancient world. It's as much a dramatic piece as it is a musical one, but in this case it's a puzzle that comes together to form more puzzles. Underneath, however, there is a consistent poignancy that makes this three-dimensional quilt drip with humor and sadness mixed.
    Fanfare January/February 2011.

    Scherzi
    chamber ensemble

    [Scherzi is ] tight, witty, no-nonsense stuff that leaves the listener perfectly satisfied.
    New Music Connoisseur

    RANDS Prelude - Sans voix parmi les voix - Scherzi - Walcott Songs - "now again" fragments from Sappho. Network for New Music. ALBANY 1194.

    Here the long-term Network-Rands relationship results in definitive performances of seminal works by one of the world's great living composers.....with whom it it has worked and partnered for many years. This isn't easy stuff to play, because it requires not only virtuosic musicianship, but also contemporary-music chops.......to record these never-before-recorded but often-programmed Rands pieces.

    Rands's Prelude (2004) is sublimely performed. The mystical thing about Rands's writing is that the instruments don't seem to be playing as an ensemble; rather it's as if they accidentally coincided at the same time in the same key. A gorgeous harp solo follows.

    Scherzi is a playful and sensitive piece. Rands isn't difficult listening, and.....the effect is almost always disarming and transporting. Rands also invents all the time.......and produces a random, brittle sound but it always seems to make sense in the end.

    Now Again - fragments from Sappho is the pièce de résistance. It is based on fragments of the ancient poet Sappho (fragments are just the sort of thing Rands loves). The configuration is wild, with three female voices, trumpet, a string trio, harp and percussion. In the modalized atmosphere that Rands creates, a montage of fragments somehow coalesces to create a portrait of Sappho and her ancient world. It's as much a dramatic piece as it is a musical one, but in this case it's a puzzle that comes together to form more puzzles. Underneath, however, there is a consistent poignancy that makes this three-dimensional quilt drip with humor and sadness mixed.
    Fanfare January/February 2011.

    String Quartet No. 3
    string quartet

    Rands’ new string quartet is further evidence that the madness that fell upon a good part of 20th-century music has lifted. This strong and deeply sincere piece is cause for celebration.
    The New York Times

    Symphony
    orchestra

    Rands is a master of piquant orchestration...but one can discover plenty of method behind his lovely madness. The ideas unfold with compelling, organic logic...but he never slights lyrical expression in his quest for linear sophistication. This Symphony deserves repeated hearings. Soon!
    The Los Angeles Times

    Le Tambourin Suites 1 & 2
    orchestra

    Rands knows how to make an orchestra speak in wonderfully colorful tones and Le Tambourin could find a place in many an orchestra’s modern repertory.
    The New York Times

    His orchestral suites Le Tambourin are tours de force of modernist impressionism. Impressive work; impressive composer.
    The Chicago Tribune

    Three Pieces for Piano
    solo piano

    Three Pieces for Piano ... are concise, brilliantly crafted, etude-like works. They provide great opportunities for pure virtuosity, as in the pointillistic flurries of the "Caprice" and the rapid, percussive repeated note motives that dart through the "Arabesque"... The lyrical side ... in the "Aubade" seems to be haunted by the harmonic turns of the Prelude to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde."
    The Baltimore Sun

    ...this brilliant, thirteen-minute group of pieces evoke Scriabin's restless flights, Debussy's intense tranquility and Ravel's dazzling colors.....
    The New York Times

    Rands writes here with clarity as a guiding ideal. Biss, who commissioned the piece (Three Pieces for Piano) found a lot of color in it......eruptive, driving rhythmic passages, almost hypnotic flurries of notes.
    The Huffington Post

    Vincent
    opera in two acts

    Dreamy, fragmentary, and muted in its passion, Rands’ score is sensitive, evocative, and enduring, resulting in a magical experience of music, drama, spectacle, providing a glimpse of where opera is headed in the new millennium. If opera is to continue, and I have no doubt that it will, we have, in Vincent, a shining model to follow.
    —muscatdaily.com

    Walcott Songs
    Mezzo-soprano and cello

    [In Walcott Songs] ...the unabashedly melodic vocal writing has an immediate and lasting appeal.
    The New York Times

    RANDS Prelude - Sans voix parmi les voix - Scherzi - Walcott Songs - "now again" fragments from Sappho. Network for New Music. ALBANY 1194.

    Here the long-term Network-Rands relationship results in definitive performances of seminal works by one of the world's great living composers.....with whom it it has worked and partnered for many years. This isn't easy stuff to play, because it requires not only virtuosic musicianship, but also contemporary-music chops.......to record these never-before-recorded but often-programmed Rands pieces.

    Rands's Prelude (2004) is sublimely performed. The mystical thing about Rands's writing is that the instruments don't seem to be playing as an ensemble; rather it's as if they accidentally coincided at the same time in the same key. A gorgeous harp solo follows.

    Scherzi is a playful and sensitive piece. Rands isn't difficult listening, and.....the effect is almost always disarming and transporting. Rands also invents all the time.......and produces a random, brittle sound but it always seems to make sense in the end.

    Now Again - fragments from Sappho is the pièce de résistance. It is based on fragments of the ancient poet Sappho (fragments are just the sort of thing Rands loves). The configuration is wild, with three female voices, trumpet, a string trio, harp and percussion. In the modalized atmosphere that Rands creates, a montage of fragments somehow coalesces to create a portrait of Sappho and her ancient world. It's as much a dramatic piece as it is a musical one, but in this case it's a puzzle that comes together to form more puzzles. Underneath, however, there is a consistent poignancy that makes this three-dimensional quilt drip with humor and sadness mixed.
    Fanfare January/February 2011.

    "...where the murmurs die..."
    orchestra

    You hear echoes of Debussy's "Jeux" in the delicate Impressionistic haze that surrounds this elegantly crafted piece, the refined solo writing for flutes and trumpets in particular. Listening to it is like looking at the waters of a pond that's still on the surface but teeming with life underneath. The CSO players drew its subtleties into a resonant whole and joined in the applause that greeted the composer at the end. Rands looked pleased and he had every reason to be.
    Chicago Tribune

    Wildtrack 2
    Soprano and orchestra

    Wildtrack 2 proved riveting: its gripping emotional power is the work of a major composer, with something major to say.
    The Financial Times, London

  • Photo by Ted Gordon
    Photo by Ted Gordon
    Photo by Ted Gordon
    Photo by Ted Gordon

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Vincent

  • Vincent

    Opera in Two Acts
    Bernard Rands, Composer
    J.D. McClatchy, Librettist

    WORLD PREMIERE
    Indiana University Jacobs School of Music
    April 8, 9, 15 & 16, 2011 | 8pm
    Conductor: Arthur Fagen
    Stage Director: Vincent Liotta
    Costume Designer: Linda Pisano
    Production Designer: Barry Steele

    Purchase Tickets

  • Inspiration

    I happened to be in Amsterdam playing concerts when the then new van Gogh museum opened, and so was one of the first in the building as soon as it was open to the general public. Though I was familiar with much of his work from visits to many museums in Europe, I was overwhelmed by the Amsterdam experience. In particular, the top floor exhibited all his drawings in pencil, charcoal, gouache etc., and I thought "maybe one day I will make an opera about this man!" That was early 1970, and the subsequent 40 years have been spent reading, reseaching, sketching (Le Tambourin Suites 1 & 2 beautifully recorded by Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra incidentally), hoping... to find the right librettist, the right opportunity... Then, three years ago, the dean of Indiana University contacted me (knowing of my long-standing interest in the subject for an opera) offering me a wonderful commission to make it for their 100th anniversary.

    The Work

    I have been very fortunate to have as librettist J.D.McClatchy - a terrific poet and experienced librettist, and we have had a wonderful collaboration. Much if the libretto is based on, and culled from, van Gogh's voluminous letters.

    It is a two-act opera - first act (7 scenes) some 1 hour and 10 minutes: the second (6 scenes) approx. 45 minutes. It has an orchestra of about 75 players, a chorus of 36 mixed voices. So, a "grand" opera!

    Story

    Although much of the detail of his life in general is represented (he was a genius, a religious fanatic, an epileptic, an alcoholic with a short-fuse temper) it mainly deals with the late years - his attempt to work in his uncle's gallery as a "salesman" (a failure); his attempt to placate his father's wishes by becoming a missionary in the coal-mining community in the Borinage (a failure); his desire to be a family man by living with Sien, a prostitute, and her child (a failure); and finally meeting Gauguin in the Cafe Le Tambourin and leaving to go to "the south." - end of act 1.

    Act 2 finds van Gogh in the Yellow House preparing for Gaugin's arrival - he comes, stays, they work together for a while and then have a vicious falling out - Gauguin leaves (another failure) and from then on is the rapid decline of physical and mental health leading to "the ear" episode, the sanatorium, the suicide attempt (almost a failure!) and his death with Theo, his brother, at his bedside.

    Production

    I think it is going to be quite a marvelous production and through the magic of contemporary theater technology, quite a spectacle of color and van Gogh's work.

    Although we are dealing with young voices (except for the two Vincents) I have auditioned all and am satisfied they can meet the challenges of the work.

  • Vincent

    opera in two acts

    Libretto (EN) by J.D. McClatchy

    Commissioned by the Indiana University School of Music and Opera Department

    First Performance: April 8, 2011 · Indiana University Jacobs School of Music · Conductor: Arthur Fagen · Bloomington, Indiana

    Press

    Dreamy, fragmentary, and muted in its passion, Rands’ score is sensitive, evocative, and enduring, resulting in a magical experience of music, drama, spectacle, providing a glimpse of where opera is headed in the new millennium. If opera is to continue, and I have no doubt that it will, we have, in Vincent, a shining model to follow.
    — muscatdaily.com

    Videos

    • Bernard Rands discusses the composition of Vincent
    • Librettist J.D. McClatchy discusses his role as the librettist for Vincent
    • Interview with cast and production staff of Indiana University's premiere production of Vincent

    Program Note

    Based on an original libretto by American poet J.D.McClatchy (which draws on the letters of van Gogh) this two-act opera is a succession of "tableaux" each placing Vincent in contexts which were his real experiences thus revealing his complex character - that of genius artist, religious fanatic, alcoholic, epileptic, unstable of temperament resulting in behavior ranging unpredictably between kindly affability and violent aggression. The scenes suggest a more-or-less chronological outline of his late years; a transition from the “dark” environment of his early years, full of positive enthusiasms amid the dark surroundings, to the darkening of his inner light amid the brightness of the South. This narrative suggests a process of alienation and the degradation and diminishing of the human spirit culminating in madness and suicide.

    Synopsis

    Act I

    Scene 1 - Arles, 1889

    Vincent Van Gogh is writing a letter to his brother, Theo, in Paris.

    Scene 1A - Van Gogh’s family home- The Netherlands, 1870

    Theo convinces their father, Theodorus, a Protestant pastor, to allow Vincent to pursue a career in art.

    Scene 2 - Paris, 1875

    The scene opens in the Goupil Art Gallery in Paris in 1875, when Vincent is 22 years old. The gallery director, Vincent’s Uncle Cent, is speaking with the young Van Gogh, whom he has hired as a favor to his father and is encouraging him to learn the business of art so that he can become a success. Vincent is still highly religious and passionate about God and art. A couple stops in front of a painting and the director sends Vincent to try and close the sale. But as he interacts with them and other prospective buyers, Vincent is disgusted at the superficiality of the patrons. Unable to contain himself, he confronts a lady patron and challenges her, thus highly offending her. Uncle Cent and Vincent determine that the gallery is not the place for him.

    Scene 3 - Belgium, 1878

    Vincent is now at the Borinage, where he has gone as a missionary to preach. The scene opens at a pit-head of the mine. The mine underground has collapsed, trapping several miners. The atmosphere is grim as friends and families anxiously gather around the pit-head. As the miners begin to see their rescue attempt as futile, Vincent begins to preach, leading the crowd in a rousing hymn of praise. As he continues to preach, he begins to stutter, becomes disoriented and collapses.

    Scene 4- Belgium- A missionary church in the Borinage, 1878

    Theo arrives in search of Vincent and is astounded at the beauty of the paintings Vincent has laying around. Again, Theo asks Vincent why he is “wasting his time” here when he can be using his great talent to paint. Vincent responds that nothing is any use unless we bring the word of God to His people. He asserts that he belongs here, doing what he is doing. Theo tells Vincent that their father and mother are here. Theodorus Van Gogh has been asked by the Elders of the Evangelical Society to come and hear Vincent preach. Theodorus tells him that his work at the Borinage has been met by the elders with disfavor. Vincent is stunned and argues that there has been a preacher in every generation of the family, and he wants to humbly follow in this father’s footsteps. He rushes to the pulpit and begins preaching. He breaks down in tears and his father is forced to tell him that he is not missionary stock. Vincent is left to muse on what he perceives as his father’s abandonment.

    Scene 5 - The Hague, 1882

    Vincent is living in a shabby studio. His brother, Theo, comes to tell Vincent that he is going to marry. He also brings him painting supplies, which Vincent desperately needs. Vincent seems happy, saying he is free “ to paint the shapes of God.” Sien, pregnant and haggard enters with her child. She slaps some coins on the table. Vincent confesses that neither child is his, but that he is going marry Sien. Theo, confused, leaves. After some bickering between them, Vincent poses Sien and begins sketching her. Theo returns and vehemently opposes Vincent’s marriage to Sien and an argument ensues. Sien states she does not want to come between then, nor does she want to be saved. Theo leaves angrily. Sien tells Vincent she does not need him, repeating the theme, “ no one needs you” and leaving Vincent once again to muse on his perceived abandonment by someone he loves.

    Scene 6 - Neunen, 1885

    Vincent is alone at his easel. He is creating furiously and with great intensity, all the while murmuring to himself that he is doing the work of God, using the colors of God’s canvass. He is creating the picture known as “ The Potato Eaters”.

    Scene 7 – Paris, 1887

    Vincent and Theo are at the Cafe Le Tambourin, a lively artists’ bar in the Montmartre. Its patroness, Agostina Segatori, with whom Vincent has been having an affair, presides over the raucous scene of singing and carousing. Henri de Tolouse Lautrec introduces Paul Gauguin as the “ future of painting.” This announcement is met with bawdy remarks from the patrons. Lautrec then asks for Agostina to sing them a song during which she teases Vincent and flirts with Gauguin. The patrons become more and more drunk. But Vincent and Gauguin connect and Vincent invites Gauguin to come with him to paint in Arles. They both leave the Café arm in arm as the act comes to an end.

    Act II

    Scene 1 - Arles, 1888

    The scene opens in the famous yellow house in Arles, where Vincent has been living and painting. Gauguin arrives, suitcase in hand. Vincent is elated and leads Gauguin to his room full of plans for the future. He then takes Gauguin to the village Café, which is overflowing with patrons and prostitutes.

    Scene 2 - Arles, 1888

    It is morning. Gauguin is waking up after an evening spent with a prostitute. Vincent is already awake and working. Gauguin comes down stairs with his suitcase and announces to Vincent that he is leaving. When Vincent pursues the reason for this, Gauguin admits that it is because he is tired of being lectured by Vincent. Vincent is mystified. Gauguin tries to explain how he feels about painting. He accuses Vincent of painting everything violent and pure, with no gradation. “That is not painting, Vincent” he says, “It’s just paint.” It becomes obvious that neither man understand each other. Gauguin leaves with the prostitute. Vincent is once again in despair at his abandonment by Gauguin. In desperation, he takes a razor and cuts his ear.

    Scene 3 - Saint Remy, 1889 - The courtyard of the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole

    Theo enters and sits on a bench where he is joined by Dr. Payron. The doctor informs Theo that Vincent is recovering and will be glad to see him. He cautions Theo that Vincent’s unpredictable episodes of epilepsy can still cause him terrible outbreaks, but that he seems calmer and is starting to paint again. Vincent enters, and brightens when he sees Theo. They are left alone, and Vincent confesses to Theo that his mind is not right. He tells Vincent that he and Johanna are having a baby and if it is a boy they will call him Vincent. Theo leaves and Vincent sets his easel and starts painting. As soon he begins, one of his seizures comes upon him and he begins to eat paint and smear it on his face.

    Scene 4 - Auvers, 1890 - The house of Dr. Gachet

    Dr. Gachet is in his salon, posing for the portrait which Vincent is painting of him. An easel with the almost completed picture is near-by. Dr. Gachet’s daughter, Marguerite, enters with tea for her father. They begin an argument about Vincent staying in their home. She tells her father that Vincent is ill and needs to be in a hospital, away from painting, which only upsets him. Vincent comes in, overhears the conversation, and offers to leave. Dr. Gachet will not have it. Vincent gratefully thanks Dr. Gachet for believing in him. He now understands his illness and knows the attacks will return, but painting helps him. Vincent also attempts to share his feelings of love for Marguerite, who rejects him. As he talks with Dr. Gachet about his paintings, he becomes more animated and accidentally knocks over the cup of tea. Vincent becomes very upset and rushes out of the room saying that he should not be there.

    Scene 5 - Auvers sur Oise, France, 1890

    A field Vincent is wandering in the field, knowing that another attach is coming on. He realizes that everyone he knows has someone except himself. He feels that he is a burden on all who know him. Making the decision that he will no longer be a burden to anyone, he takes out a pistol and shoots himself in the chest.

    Scene 6 - Auvers sur Oise, two days later

    A room Vincent lies dying. With him, as always, is his brother Theo. Vincent talks of Theo and his son, and how he used his paintings to show his gratitude. With Theo at his side, Vincent dies, remembered alone for his art.

  • Reviews

    • Charles H. Parsons (American Record Guide July/August 2011)

      For the premiere of Bernard Rands's Vincent at Indiana University's Musical Arts Center on April 8, much of the foyer was set up for an in depth preview of the work by the composer, librettist JD McClatchy, and costume designer Linda Pisano, moderated by stage director Vincent Liotta. One could not have asked for a better introduction to this production by IU's Opera Theater. This panel could not only sell a contemporary opera to a distrusting audience; they could sell a refrigerator to the Eskimos.

      The production by Barry Steele was awesome. On the three sides of the empty stage were huge gray panels. A scrim enclosed the audience's side. Upon these were projected scores of paintings by Van Gogh, creating a 3‐D video "based on the world as Van Gogh saw it", according to Liotta. The set breathed with glorious beauty and intensity, constantly in motion, always changing. Just as Van Gogh was engulfed by his art, so the audience was engulfed in the bizarre beauty of his world. Little in the way of props or furniture was needed: a few paintings, a desk, a bed, appearing in the orchestral interludes.

      But what of the libretto and music? Did they support the storyline; were they strong enough not to be overwhelmed by the visuals? Rands's experience in the field of opera was limited to a single two‐act opera, Belladonna, commissioned by the Aspen Festival, performed there in 1999, and not seen since. On the other hand, McClatchy's previous experience was major. A poet and literary critic, he had already written eight opera librettos, including Ned Rorem's Our Town (1966), Lowell Lieberman's Miss Lonelyhearts (2006), Lorin Maazel's 1984 (2005), and Tobias Picker's Emmeline (1996).

      For this opera McClatchy based most of his libretto on the correspondence between the artist and his brother Theo. Many quotes from the letters are quite revealing psychologically. Dramatic contrasts are the hallmarks of Van Gogh's paintings and life, and McClatchy captured the artist's life and personality, not just his despair but his transcendent art. McClatchy said, "It's a kind of double helix rather than just a downward spiral."

      The music itself is aural magic. Sometimes it delicately imitates objects or ideas like church bells or a heavenly (offstage) choir. Sometimes Rands uses delicate orchestration (harp, tambourine, bongos, and wood blocks for a dance) or strong harmonies that create a tremendous musical climax. The numerous orchestral interludes would make an effective collection, much like Benjamin Britten's 'Sea Interludes' from Peter Grimes. In fact, the vocal lines seem highly influenced by Britten, often caressing the ear, sometimes assaulting it, but never less than effective.

      In the title role, Christopher Burchett, with his handsome baritone voice and deeply moving characterization, was magnetic. The role is quite lengthy, but Burchett never faltered or tired; his final monolog was heart‐rending. The only other sizable role was the painter Paul Gauguin, sung and acted with gauche panache by Adam Walton. Steven Linville flounced and bounced as a towering (!) Toulouse‐ Lautrec. The orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagan, played with sonorous beauty, delicate and powerful by turns.

      The stunning climax of the opera is Van Gogh's suicide. The audience was "with Van Gogh" in that passionate wheat field, as much a part of the production as the singers or Van Gogh himself. At the sound of the single gunshot, a flock of Van Gogh‐esque crows took flight (via film)‐a startling sight, much like what might have been Van Gogh's last vision.

      So impressed was I by the opera and its production that I returned for a second performance. This is an opera that should be taken up by the operatic establishment. Even without the stunningly elaborate production fielded by IU, it can stand on its own. Dramatic and accessible, it is an opera from the heart to the heart.

    • Dr Nasser al Taee (muscatdaily.com)
    • Tom Alvarez (examiner-com)
    • Peter Jacobi (Herald Times)
    • Benjamin Barber (Huffington Post)
    • John von Rhein (Chicago Tribune)
    • Carmen Helena Tellez (Sequenza21)
    • Lou Harry (Indianapolis Business Journal)
    • Susan Elliott (Musical America)
  • In The News

    From March 12, 2012 through early April, Rands will be guest resident composer at the Hermitage Artists' Retreat in Florida. On March 15, Rands will give a lecture/interview presentation of his recent opera Vincent, at the Asolo Theater, Sarasota.

    Opera “Vincent” premieres tonight at Indiana University (Cincinnati.com)

    IU Jacobs School of Music presents 'Music in the Media' panel discussion April 9 (Indiana University)

    IU debuts new opera 'Vincent' (nuvo)

    Vincent in IndyStar's 'Best Bets' (IndyStar)

    Many creative minds behind IU’s new opera, Vincent (Herald Times - subscription required)

    Bernard Rands explores Van Gogh's magnificence in IU opera (Courier-Journal)

    Composer's Palette: An Interview with Bernard Rands (Opera News)

    Links

    Peter Jacobi interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands and distinguished poet and librettist J.D. McClatchy

    An excerpt from the Vincent manuscript

    Video of a Performance of Vincent at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

    Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Vincent Site

    Portrait of an Icon - In Music, Words, Drama, and 3D-Video Projection

    Opera about van Gogh, Vincent, to make world premiere at IU Opera Theater April 8

    World Premiere Preview of Vincent from Schott Music

    Opera About Van Gogh, Vincent, Makes its Premiere 4/8