Category Archives: Kostas Tiliakos

Meet Filippo Santoro, composer and new music DMA

Before coming to UW-Madison in 2009 as a recipient of a University Fellowship to study composition with Prof. Stephen Dembski, Filippo Santoro studied with renowned Italian composers Luciano Pelosi and Boris Porena and was inspired by teachers Franco Donatoni and Bruno Maderna. A native of Rome, Santoro received a master’s in composition as well as diplomas in piano performance and chamber music from the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1998 and 2007; holds a master’s degree  in music and semiotics from the University of Bologna (2002); and a master’s degree in composition from the State University of New York, Binghamton (2009).  His work Arioso Mistico for soprano and orchestra was a winner of the 2010 UW-Madison Concerto Competition.

Filippo Santoro
Filippo Santoro

Last week, Filippo received his DMA from UW-Madison, with a dissertation project that included writing a collection of new chamber works that engage nearly every corner of the School of Music.  We asked him to talk a bit about his life, his work, and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your dissertation project.
My dissertation is a collection of five works, one hour of music, that I call Modules. They can be seen as a whole or as independent works.

In these works I explore four different notions of modularity that I refer as “dynamic modularity,” “static modularity,” “interactive modularity,” and “on-stage modularity.” The concept of “dynamic modularity” appears in Per Quattro, my work for flute, clarinet, bassoon and double bass, comprised of sections that performers arrange in a different order each time they perform it. In my two pieces entitled Duplum for two cellos and two percussionists (see video below), I use “static modularity” in that there are also unique sections but these sections are performed in a fixed order that creates the overall form of the piece. “Interactive modularity” appears in Re-mote for solo bassoon and applied technology, in which the order of the sections of the piece is determined by the audience in real time through the aid of interactive web-based technology. Finally, I engage “on-stage modularity” in Cleave, a work for two percussionists, flute, bass clarinet, viola, double bass, trumpet, tuba, harp, mandolin, which combines the concepts of static and dynamic modularity.

What inspired you to become a composer?
Becoming a composer was a slow but natural process for me. I started as a performing pianist and I played a lot of chamber music in Italy. I think I became interested in writing music while I was playing with other musicians.

Tell us about a piece or project you have worked on recently.
I have been fortunate to collaborate with several fantastic performers here in Madison. I have been collaborating with Clocks in Motion, the School of Music alumni percussion ensemble and was one of the first composers to be commissioned by the group. It is beautiful to see how truly devoted they are to performing new music and to promoting new works. The commissioned piece is named Duplum and will be featured on their debut album “Escape Velocity” to be released in June. I also had a terrific experience working with Marc Vallon, professor of bassoon here at UW-Madison. I wrote him a long piece in which the audience participates in the performance through the aid of live technology. I am also writing a work for Kostas Tiliakos, visiting professor of oboe, and I am particularly excited since four other faculty professors will participate in this project.

How do you approach the process of starting or writing a piece?
I like to use a metaphor to describe it: imagine that an architect is commissioned to design a building. A good architect will begin by observing the architectural style of the surrounding buildings, the nature of the soils at the building site, how the space is currently used and the building’s proposed purpose. Similarly, a piece of music always develops from a small idea, like a seed, that you may want to take care of even long before it becomes a piece. I strongly believe that the music I write now reflects a biological process and that it somehow resembles the way plants grow. Sometimes I wait until I feel an urgency to write the piece I have in mind. After that, the most interesting part is the collaboration with the performer in which we determine how to convey musically complicated ideas within the score.

Who have been your influences as a composer and why?
Initially everybody! In my years in Rome at Santa Cecilia Conservatory, I had multiple interests. Of course, late Italian music played a role in my understanding of new music such as that of Berio, Sciarrino, Nono and Maderna. I was lucky to study with teachers who believed that there was no understanding of new music without an understanding of composers like Ravel, Bach and even Monteverdi.

How has your work as a composer influenced other parts of your life or vice versa?
Writing music is what I do and therefore I may have the tendency of seeing and finding music in other parts of my life. I think it is called “professional deformation.”

You are not only a composer but also a composition teacher. What is your approach to teaching composition?
I tailor my approach to the needs of the particular student I’m working with. Regardless of who the student is, however, I believe that clarity and transparency are critical components to teaching composition. This is particularly true for the teaching of young students who are looking for models to begin with. With students who are more advanced, I always think of myself as an active observer, who helps the student to find what he/she is looking for. A renowned Italian teacher, Franco Donatoni, said once that composition cannot be taught and that therefore one should strive only to stimulate in the student an attitude of inventiveness. I embrace this fully and I think that stimulation for a composer often means to search for ideas within the scores of other composers.

What do you see as the most important skills for a composer to have?
I’d say the ability to nurture curiosity in the listener. The role of a composer/artist is always to reveal something beyond what we already know.

What do you want your students to take away?
I want my students to understand, first and foremost, that what they do as composers should express something of who they are as individuals. All the rest should come naturally.

What do you hope to achieve through your music?
Basically, my music reflects the way I see the world, but I hope that it can also reflect and/or enhance the way others see their own.

Why do you think people have difficulty in understanding contemporary music?
This is something that has always sounded paradoxical to me. Understanding contemporary music shouldn’t be more difficult than understanding contemporary painting or architecture. The question for me is how to make new music available to be “explained” in the same way other form of arts are. If more so-called “classical” concerts programmed contemporary works alongside other less recent works, the audience would begin to see contemporary music as the product of a natural musical evolution. Doesn’t that happen to anybody who goes to a museum and walks from one historical island to another? Naturally, this person will begin thinking about connections and relationships between different artistic eras. I think performers and composers have a moral responsibility to encourage such an approach in their audiences. I believe new music should be “by definition” more interesting than any other music since it depicts where we are coming from, who we are in the moment and where we are possibly going in the future.

What are your plans now?
I intend to continue to work with ensembles and performers who are engaged in my music language and I am keen to explore and promote new avenues for composer and audience interaction through technology. Based on the concepts described in my dissertation, I plan to start working on a book that describes the integration of compositional methods and theories of natural systems. I also plan to publish analyses of the late works of Franco Donatoni to further explore the concepts of figura and growth.

 

 

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Student recitals in full swing; Thimmig & Friends present rarely-heard Morton Feldman work; Perlman Trio + 2 on April 12

Spring means recitals at the School of Music

For musicians in college music programs, spring often means a hectic gathering of resources to produce the ultimate in personal statements: the solo recital. In the next five weeks, we will present dozens of them, offering a smorgasbord ranging from Beethoven to Brazilian.  Most recitals are listed on our calendar; click on “show student recitals” to find them. Selected examples include:

MIKKO_uwmusic-mayco-080713-4542
Mikko Utevsky, conducting the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra in summer 2013. Photograph by Mike Anderson.

Thursday, March 27, 7:30 PM, Capitol Lakes Retirement Community
Mikko Utevsky, viola
Haydn/Piatigorsky,  Divertimento in D major; Bloch, Suite Hebraïque; Milhaud, Viola Sonata No. 1 (“On anonymous, unpublished 18th-century themes”); Brahms, Sonata for Viola (Clarinet) and Piano in E flat major, Op. 120 No.2. Utevsky also directs the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra, which is now preparing for summer concerts.

Nicole Tuma
Nicole Tuma. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

Saturday, March 29, 1:30 PM, Morphy Hall
Nicole Tuma, flute, with Steve Radtke, piano, Rachel Bottner, cello, Allison Kelley, oboe, Rosemary Jones, clarinet, Ross Duncan, bassoon, and Sarah Gillespie, horn.
“Of Flutes and Fauna: Music Inspired by the Animal Kingdom”
Malagigi the Sorcerer, Efrain Amaya; “Goldfinch” Concerto, Antonio Vivaldi; Opus No. Zoo, Luciano Berio; Solo de Pajarillo, Omar Acosta; and Vox Balaenae, George Crumb.

Oxana Khramova.
Oxana Khramova.

Saturday, April 5, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall.
Oxana Khramova, piano
A DMA solo recital featuring Beethoven’s Sonata op. 10, No. 3 in D Major and Ravel’s Miroirs.

Saturday, April 19, 3:30 PM, Morphy Hall.
Quadrivium Saxophone Quartet, performing transcriptions of works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Grieg, and more.

Jacob Wolbert
Jacob Wolbert
Photograph by Mike Anderson

Saturday, April 26, 1:30 PM, Morphy Hall.
Jacob Wolbert, percussion. Featuring marimba, multiple percussion and Brazilian music, with special guests!
Many more recitals to be found at this link! http://www.music.wisc.edu/calendar  [click “show student recitals]

Perlman Piano Trio (+ 2) presents annual concert

The Perlman Piano Trio + 2.
The 2013-14 Perlman Piano Trio (+ 2). L-R: Madlen Breckbill, violin; Alice Bartsch, violin; Daniel Ma, cello; SeungWha Baek, piano; Jeremy Kienbaum, viola. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

The free annual performance of the student ensemble, the Perlman Piano Trio (+ 2) will take place on Saturday, April 12, at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall in Humanities. The original ensemble, formed as a piano trio in 2007, is funded by Dr. Kato Perlman, a retired research scientist who was inspired by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain, who is also heavily involved with the school of music through his support of several competitions. (One of these, the Beethoven Piano Competition, will hold its annual winners’ recital on April 6 at 3:30 PM in Morphy Hall. Winners have not yet been announced.)

As students graduate, new musicians audition to replace them. This year’s ensemble consists of Madlen Breckbill, violin; Alice Bartsch, violin; Daniel Ma, cello; SeungWha Baek, piano; and Jeremy Kienbaum, viola. Both Madlen Breckbill and SeungWha Baek were previously featured this year as winners of the school’s annual concerto competition, the Symphony Showcase, while Alice Bartsch was a winner two years ago.

The April program will include the 40-minute long Trio No. 1 in B-flat major for piano, violin, and cello, D. 898, written by Franz Schubert (click here to hear audio) and finished in 1828, just before he died.  It will also include the adagio of the piano trio in E flat major, Hoboken XV:22, by Joseph Haydn, written in 1794, as well as the piano quintet op. 81 in A major by Antonín Dvořák, composed in 1887. A public reception will follow the performance.

Thimmig, Hedstrom and Kleve to perform final work in Morton Feldman trilogy

Russian-Jewish experimental composer (1926-1987) from New York City wrote music that was “glacially slow and snowily soft”

On March 30, at 5 PM in Mills Hall, UW professor Les Thimmig (on flute), pianist Jennifer Hedstrom, and percussionist Sean Kleve (the last two both members of Clocks in Motion, UW-Madison’s new resident percussion ensemble), will perform the final work of three trios, “For Philip Guston,” dedicated to Philip Guston, who was a painter and Feldman’s closest friend, who died in 1980. This final installment is a Wisconsin premiere, according to Thimmig, and is four hours long.

American composer Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was first noted for his inclusion in the “Cage School”; in addition to John Cage, the group included Earle Brown and Christian Wolff. Their approach of “letting the sounds speak for themselves” stood in marked distinction to the structuralist side of the early 1950’s avant garde, a group including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Milton Babbitt, among others. Feldman’s music served as an important influence and guide in the development of the minimalist school of the 1960’s, including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley. A prominent influence on Feldman’s musical development was the work of the painters of the New York school of Abstract Expressionism: Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko, among others.

Thimmig3

Thimmig and Feldman were acquaintances in New York, Thimmig says. “We sat on bar stools together, we ate dinner together.” Feldman’s music is not often heard, he adds: “It’s important for this to get out. As the years go by, this kind of music goes into the music history dustbin.”

In 2006, writer Alex Ross of The New Yorker published a lengthy analysis of Feldman; you can read it here.

Ross wrote: “The often noted paradox is that this immense, verbose man wrote music that seldom rose above a whisper. In the noisiest century in history, Feldman chose to be glacially slow and snowily soft. Chords arrive one after another, in seemingly haphazard sequence, interspersed with silences. Harmonies hover in a no man’s land between consonance and dissonance, paradise and oblivion. Rhythms are irregular and overlapping, so that the music floats above the beat. Simple figures repeat for a long time, then disappear. There is no exposition or development of themes, no clear formal structure. Certain later works unfold over extraordinarily lengthy spans of time, straining the capabilities of performers to play them and audiences to hear them. More than a dozen pieces last between one and two hours, and “For Philip Guston” and “String Quartet (II)” go on for much longer. In its ritual stillness, this body of work abandons the syntax of Western music, and performers must set aside their training to do it justice.”

Percussionist Sean Kleve says the the trios “are unlike any performance experience I’ve ever had.”

“I’ve had to work on new ways to experience the music in which I allow myself to concentrate in the moment and not permit my mind to think about what is to come and what I have already played,” he added. “At a certain point in rehearsals, I don’t even feel like the music takes that long to play. Rather, it feels like a series of related or unrelated moments which are happening to me. My major role as the performer is to fit in and allow the music to unfold in its natural pace and patient manner.”

“The Annals of Accompanying”: UW pianist Martha Fischer describes the unique skills needed to be a collaborative pianist

Blogger Jake Stockinger presents a two-part series on his website, “The Well-Tempered Ear,” in which he interviewed UW pianist Martha Fischer and UW baritone Paul Rowe about their upcoming concerts (Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch, which they will perform with alumna Julia Foster, who earned a BA in 2003) as well as the qualities required to become a truly good collaborative pianist.

 

Paul Rowe, Martha Fischer, and alumna Julia Foster.
Paul Rowe, Martha Fischer, and alumna Julia Foster.

“No longer are they called ‘accompanists’; today these performances are understood to be much more,” Fischer says. “If we, as pianists, think of it as “just accompanying” — as a lesser experience — then we are perpetuating the stereotype that accompanists are good sight-readers who should stay in the background and be nothing more than pretty wallpaper to the soloist’s great artistry. If we as pianists bring all we have to offer to the table and are as prepared (or more so) than our partners, then we play in a way that demands respect. And that’s where it should all begin.”

Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.

Concerts:

TONIGHT: Madison, Wisconsin, Wednesday, March 26, 7:30 PM, Mills Hall.

Vermilion, South Dakota, Friday, March 28, 9AM, University of South Dakota (as part of the National Association of Teachers of Singing regional meeting and competition. The three will then serve as judges the following day.) Click here for more info.

 

Musicologists to gather at UW for the Midwest Graduate Music Consortium, April 11 & 12

The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium (MGMC) is a joint venture organized by graduate students from Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. MGMC encourages the presentation of original research and the composition of new music by graduate and advanced undergraduate students. Conferences are held annually on a rotating basis, at Madison, Chicago, or Evanston.

The eighteenth annual MGMC meeting will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will include paper sessions, a new music concert, and a keynote address delivered by Tamara Levitz. MGMC 2014 is generously funded by the UW-Madison School of Music and the UW-Madison Lectures Committee. For the full program, click here: https://sites.google.com/site/mgmc2014/program

Friday, April 11, 4PM, Room 2650 Humanities: “Riot at the Rite: Racial Exclusion and the Foundations of Musical Modernism,” a talk by Tamara Leivitz, UCLA. Abstract: “The premiere of Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet Rite of Spring in Paris on May 29, 1913 had received much attention in scholarly works for the infamous riot that confronted its first performance. The lecture aims to deconstruct the myth of the riot, with the goal of exposing the process of racial exclusion in modernist listening practices that emphasized the work’s newness over its strangeness. Through the proliferation of this myth, Prof. Levitz will show how concert organizers, musicologists, and journalists cemented the practices of racial exclusion that define listening cultures of modern music to the present day.”
Saturday, April 12, 1 PM. New Music Concert at Luther Memorial Church, 1021 University Ave, featuring new works for Clocks in Motion and the woodwind quintet, Black Marigold. 

Faculty oboist Kostas Tiliakos to perform Greece-inspired program with Christopher Taylor and Stephanie Jutt

Pianist Christopher Taylor and flutist Stephanie Jutt will accompany Kostas Tiliakos on oboe and English horn in his only solo recital this year, April 7 at 7:30 PM in Morphy Hall. His program will consist by composers Minas Alexiadis, Anastassis Philippakopoulos, Theodore Antoniou, Jurgis Juozapaitis, and Thea Musgrave. Tiliakos, a visiting assistant professor of oboe, replaced retiring faculty oboist Marc Fink last fall. “The idea was to play music either written by Greek composers or music inspired by Greece and its history and mythology,” Tiliakos says. Three of the pieces were written and premiered by Tiliakos: Alexiadis’ Folk Cadenza No.5 (premiered at the International Double Reed Conference 2013, at University of Redlands, California); and Philippakopoulos’ Syrna and Antoniou’s Trio Lyrico for oboe, flute, and piano. The last two were premiered by Tiliakos in Athens in 2000 and 2008, respectively.

 

Kostas Tiliakos.
Kostas Tiliakos.

New trombone ensemble holds first concert; Mark Hetzler to solo

The Madison Area Trombone Ensemble will present its inaugural concert at 3pm on Sunday, March 30th, at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Ave. Founded by School of Music alumnus and Madison freelance trombonist Kevan Feyzi (BM, 2012), MATE is an all-volunteer group is comprised of some of the top trombonists in the community. The program will feature Mark Hetzler, associate professor of trombone, performing David P. Jones’ Bone Moan, a composition for solo trombone with six-part trombone choir and the title track on Hetzler’s eponymous album, released in December on Summit Records. The program also includes compositions by local trombonist Rich Woolworth plus Randall Thompson, Haydn, Duke Ellington, and arrangements by members of the group.

Trombonist Mark Hetzler.
Trombonist Mark Hetzler. Photo by Michael R. Anderson.

New faculty oboist Kostas Tiliakos brings new flair to the School of Music

Oboist Konstantinos (Kostas) Tiliakos has always enjoyed dipping his toes into all manner of pursuits: He’s had his Pink Floyd and Genesis stage, his writing and editing stage, his mountain climbing stage, his shrimp protein stage –yes, that’s right, shrimp protein. That would be the research he did as an undergrad biology major at National Kapodistrian University in Greece, where he was born and raised.

Kostas Tiliakos
Kostas Tiliakos
Photo by Katherine Esposito

In the end, as with so many of us, it was the impressions from childhood that remained: the memories of hearing Strauss and Beethoven on the record player at night, his father helping his children to nod off. “I remember sleeping with that soft music,” Tiliakos says.  Today, those melodic lines continue to inspire him, as he joins the SOM this fall as visiting assistant professor of oboe, replacing Marc Fink, who retired this past spring.

Kostas Tiliakos has been principal oboe in the Greek National Opera Orchestra in Athens since 1997, where he previously held the solo English horn position. An avid lover of contemporary music, Tiliakos has been a member of the Hellenic Ensemble for Contemporary Music since 1990 and has premiered and recorded many works by contemporary composers, often dedicated to him. He has also recorded solo and chamber music pieces on Wandelweiser (Germany), Lyra and Irida Classics (Greece) labels and has been broadcast on radio and television throughout Europe. Internationally, he has appeared as a soloist throughout Europe, Africa, Canada and the US. Tiliakos has also been a successful teacher as many of his students hold currently positions at orchestras, bands and conservatories.

Tiliakos has studied with oboists Didier Pateau (Paris), Claude Chieulet (Athens), Paul Dombrecht (Brussels), and Hansjörg Schellenberger (Germany) and holds a BA in European Cultural Studies. In addition to performing, he has spent considerable time as a music writer and critic with the largest media organizations in Greece, including the National Geographic Society in Greece.

Along the way, he decided to take an academic break from his job at the Greek National Opera and pursue a sabbatical to the US. In 2002, Tiliakos had met Marc Fink, then professor of oboe at UW-Madison and president of the International Double Reed Society, at a IDRS conference. He immediately loved Fink and his “American” sound, once considered rounder and less reedy than those from Europe, and subsequently applied to study at UW where he received a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowship. In 2012, he earned a master’s in oboe performance and began work on a DMA, but unbeknownst to him, Fink was making retirement plans. After Fink made his announcement and the search started for a replacement, Tiliakos was selected for the job. His official title will be visiting professor of oboe, and he will also become the newest member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, which performs all over the state of Wisconsin and will play in Madison on November 21 at Mills Hall.

Tiliakos’s wife Anastasia, a cellist and doctoral student in musicology at Greece’s Ionian University, is also here in Madison, as are their two young children Ellie and Nick.

Fink calls Tiliakos “rather unusual in his background, having studied with both French and German teachers growing up.”

“In the process of learning the ‘American style,’ he has adapted his style of reedmaking and worked very hard,” he adds. “He is a wonderful artist and teacher and I am delighted that he will be teaching oboe here next year.”

For his part, Tiliakos, who plans to climb the craggy hills of Devils Lake State Park and cruise Madison’s bicycle paths, is thrilled to have the opportunity to expand his musical boundaries and grow as a performer. “All this exchange makes you rich,” he says. “The American educational system is more open, and different ideas are really important for a musician.”

“It’s a fulfilment of a dream,” he continues. “It’s a great school, a great program, a great university. And I really like the weather.”