June 6, 1903, Tbilisi, Georgia
May 1, 1978, Moscow, Russia
“Aram Ilich Khachaturian was born near Tiflis on 6 June 1903 and died in Moscow on 1 May 1978. Educated at the Gnesin School and the Moscow Conservatory, Khachaturian emerged — along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich — as one of the most popular and successful composers of the Soviet period. His unique musical idiom was indelibly marked by his Armenian heritage; his scores are noted for their sensuous, singing melodic writing, colorful orchestration, and elemental rhythmic drive. Known in the West chiefly as the composer of instrumental concerti and the vivid scores for the ballets Gayaneh and Spartacus (the former including the brilliant ‘Sabre Dance’), his output also encompassed symphonies and other works for orchestra, film and theater music, works for band, chamber music, and a large number of patriotic and popular songs.” – from Music Sales Classical
August 18, 1957 – Changsha, China
“The world renowned artist Tan Dun, following in the footsteps of his musical icons composer/conductor’s Mahler and Bernstein, has made an indelible mark on the world’s music scene with a creative repertoire that spans the boundaries of classical music, multimedia performance, and Eastern and Western traditions. A winner of today’s most prestigious honors including the Grammy Award, Oscar/Academy Award, Grawemeyer Award for classical composition, Musical America’s Composer of The Year, Bach Prize of the City of Hamburg and Moscow’s Shostakovich Award, Tan Dun’s music has been played throughout the world by leading orchestras, opera houses, international festivals, and on the radio and television. As a composer/conductor, Tan Dun has led the world’s most esteemed orchestras, including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, Orchestre National de France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Filharmonica della Scala, Münchner Philharmoniker, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and has recently been named Honorary Chair of the Carnegie Hall China Advisory Council. As a global cultural leader, Tan Dun uses his creativity to raise awareness of environmental issues and to protect cultural diversity. In 2010, Tan Dun served as “Cultural Ambassador to the World” for World EXPO Shanghai and most recently, UNESCO appointed Tan Dun as its global Goodwill Ambassador.
Tan Dun’s individual voice has been heard widely by international audiences. In recent seasons, a new percussion concerto, The Tears of Nature, for soloist Martin Grubinger that premiered with the NDR Symphony Orchestra and Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women, a symphony for 13 microfilms, harp and orchestra inspired by the secret Nushu calligraphy of Tan Dun’s home province of Hunan and commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His first Internet Symphony, which was commissioned by Google/YouTube, has reached over 15 million people online. His Organic Music Trilogy of Water, Paper and Ceramic Concerti has frequented major concert halls and festivals. Paper Concerto was premiered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the opening of the Walt Disney Hall. His multimedia work, The Map, premiered by YoYo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has toured more than 30 countries worldwide. Its manuscript has been included in the Carnegie Hall Composers Gallery. His Orchestral Theatre: The Gate was premiered by Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and crosses the cultural boundaries of Peking Opera, Western Opera and puppet theatre traditions. Other important recent premieres include Four Secret Roads of Marco Polo for the Berlin Philharmonic and Piano Concerto “The Fire” for Lang Lang and the New York Philharmonic. Tan Dun was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to write the Logo Music and Award Ceremony Music for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Most recently, Tan Dun has been appointed as Honorary Artistic Director of China National Symphony Orchestra.
For Tan Dun opera has always been a leading creative outlet and source of inspiration. Marco Polo was commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival and has had four different productions including, most prominently, with De Nederlandse Opera directed by Pierre Audi; The First Emperor with Placido Domingo premiering the title role, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera of New York; Tea: A Mirror of Soul, premiered at Japan’s Suntory Hall in 2000, has since had new productions with Opera de Lyon, a co-production by Santa Fe Opera and The Opera Company of Philadelphia; and Peony Pavilion, directed by Peter Sellars which has had over 50 performances at major festivals in Vienna, Paris, London and Rome.
Tan Dun records for Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Opus Arte and Naxos. His recordings have garnered many accolades, including a Grammy Award (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and nomination (The First Emperor; Marco Polo; Pipa Concerto), Japan’s Recording Academy Awards for Best Contemporary Music CD (Water Passion after St. Matthew) and the BBC’s Best Orchestral Album (Death and Fire). Tan Dun’s music is published by G. Schirmer, Inc and represented worldwide by the Music Sales Group of Classical Companies.” – from Tan Dun’s Official Website
A living legend, 92-year old African-American composer made history when in 1996 he became the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Music. Writing music for orchestra, piano, voice, and chamber music, Walker’s work has been referred to as “accessible, rhythmically defined, and ultimately life enhancing.” – (Fanfare Magazine, 2008) In addition to his work as a composer, Walker is an accomplished pianist who has recorded many works from the standard piano repertoire alongside his original compositions.
5 Pieces by George Walker
1) Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2
2) Lilacs for voice and orchestra
3) Ev’ry Time I Feel De Spirit
4) String Quartet No. 2
5) Piano Sonata No. 2
Bonus Piece: Music for Brass, Sacred and Profane
Czech composer and pianist Oldřich František Korte (1926-2014) persevered through a very difficult career interruptions due to political tumult in his home country. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp during his studies at the Prague Conservatory and though he was forced to find employment outside of the arts upon his return to society. His musical language does not rely upon one particular style or genre.
5 Pieces by Oldřich František Korte
1) Philosophical Dialogues for violin and piano (1975)
2) The Story of Flutes (1958)
3) Sinfonietta for large orchestra (1947)
4) Songs of Troubadours
5) Sonata for Piano (1953)
2010 winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Music, a 2009 Grammy Award, in addition to awards by the Guggenheim Foundation and ASCAP, composer Jennifer Higdon is one of the most celebrated female American composers of today. Her neoromantic language and use of octatonic scales have made her music a favorite for performing artists across many compositional genres including: flute solo, mixed chamber, saxophone ensemble, percussion, choral, orchestral, vocal solo, wind ensemble and band. At present Higdon resides in Philadelphia and teaches composition at the Curtis Institute.
5 Pieces by Jennifer Higdon
1) An Exaltation of Larks for string quartet
2) Piano Trio
3) Concerto for Orchestra (2002)
4) Impressions for string quartet
5) Splendid Wood for percussion
July 14, 1961 – Seoul, South Korea
South Korean composer Unsuk Chin has won many prestigeous new music awards in a career spanning over three decades, including: the Grawemeyer Award (2004), University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition (2004), the Arnold Schönberg Prize (2005), the Music Composition Prize of the Prince Pierre Foundation (2010). She studied with one of the most famous avant-garde composers of the latter-half of the 20th century, György Ligeti. Her body of works include compositions for orchestra, solo and double concerto, small ensemble, piano, opera, voice as well as pieces for tape and electronics. In addition to her life as a composer with her works played by major orchestras across the globe, Unsuk Chin promotes new music through an advisory role for the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music Today series.
Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin (b. 1932) is one of the most recognizable Russian composers of concert music today. Shchedrin has a diverse and prolific compositional output including: operas, musicals, ballets, symphonies, concertos, chorus, solo voice, solo piano works, solo instrument as well as chamber ensemble. While Shchedrin is highly celebrated in his homeland, his works aren’t as well known to us in the west. Below we have compiled a playlist of works to introduce you to Shchedrin’s signature sound:
1) Cello Concerto, “Sotto Voce” for cello and orchestra in four parts (1994)
2) Self Portrait, variations for orchestra (1984)
3) Concerto for Orchestra #5 – “4 Russian Songs” for orchestra (1998)
4) 4 Pieces from The Humpbacked Horse for piano (1952-1961)
5) Carmen Suite (after G. Bizet) for ballet orchestra (1967)