“Shakkei,” a term used in Japanese landscape design, means “borrowed scenery.” Two well-known examples of shakkei underlie the oboe concerto. The first movement, marked “slow and spacious”, is inspired by Mount Hiei as viewed from Shoden-ji, a temple with a dry landscape garden. The second movement, marked leggiero, is inspired by the hills of Arashiyama as viewed from Tenryu-ji, a temple with a lush stroll garden. In musical terms, the sparse landscape of the first movement is complemented by an “overgrown” second movement. In both movements the composer could not resist lightly “borrowing” from Debussy’s Nuages since the idea of borrowing was part of the identity of the piece and a cor anglais was at hand. – HT
Performed here by Virginia Shaw, oboe and the North/South Chamber Orchestra conducted by Max Lifchitz. (Audio is an excerpt from the 2nd Movement.)
That Jewel-Spirit was commissioned by Lick-Wilmerding High School to commemorate the life of former student Moe Christie Nakamura. Sacred Mount Haguro links the words of contemporary American poet Penny Harter and the Japanese haiku by Matsuo Bashô (tr. W. J. Higginson). Bashô's haiku was written at Mount Haguro as a memorial poem; Penny Harter wrote "At the Top of Mount Haguro, Japan" while she and her husband W. J. Higginson were part of an international party following the Dewa section of Bashô's "Narrow Road of the Interior." The connections between “Momo” (the nickname of the beloved student who was an accomplished singer in her own right), Japan, and the USA are many. – HT
Morlais Castle is a seemingly haphazard pile of rocks near the composer’s first home in Wales. At one point a protruding piece of wall is evident. The rhythmical placement of stones in the partial wall lies in contrast to the boulder-strewn surrounding landscape. The composition was inspired by this contrast and also the implied contrast between the hustle and bustle of the former castle and its present bleak appearance where the ruin is practically indistinguishable from the natural contours of the high moorland. The Walls of Morlais Castle (mixed trio) was composed in fall 1998 when the composer was teaching in Nanjing Normal University. – HT
It was transcribed for strings in 2009 and was premiered in Merkin Hall NY, March 8 2010, by the N/S Chamber Orchestra conducted by Max Lifchitz.
Toward Dusk is an arrangement by the composer of the last movement of Water’s Edge, a piano duet for advanced students commissioned by the 1993 New York State Music Teacher’s Association Conference. The "edge" of the original title refers to the upper surface of the water as it reflects or refracts light. During Toward Dusk echoes of the previous two movements ("Dawn Light" and "From the Riverbed") are heard as the light gradually fades from view. – HT
Toward Dusk received its first performance May 6 2001 in Saratoga Music Hall, Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, by the Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra conducted by Lucy Joseph.
Performed here by the Slovak Radio Orchestra, Kirk Trevor, conductor. (Audio is the beginning.)
Water’s Edge is in three interlinked movements, each of which may be performed separately. The “edge” of the title refers to the upper surface of the water as it reflects or refracts light. In the first movement (Dawn Light), the light is held at the surface, while in the second movement (From the Riverbed), the light dances through the upper surface of the water to the riverbed below. During the final movement (Toward Dusk), echoes of the previous two movements are heard as the light fades from view. – HT
The work was originally composed as a piano duet for advanced students in response to a commission from the New York State Music Teachers’ Association. The first performance was given at the NYSMTA Conference, 30 October 1993, at SUNY Purchase, NY. The composer’s transcription for string orchestra was premiered the following year (30 August, 1994) by the Presteigne Festival Orchestra conducted by George Vass, in Presteigne, Wales. The US premiere took place in Schenectady NY, by the St. Cecelia Orchestra conducted by Peter Bay, 6 November, 1994.
Performed here by the North/South Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Max Lifchitz. (Audio excerpt is the beginning of Mvt. 2: From The Riverbed.)