Current Projects

Robert Beaser continues to be a very active composer and has just finished a choral setting of of John McCrae’s World War I poem, “In Flanders Field,” for chorus, keyboard, and cello. The work will be premiered, along with a new performance of his SDG commission, Song of the Ascents, on November 2, 2017, during Beaser’s three-day composer-in residence at the University of North Texas. 

Beaser is also working on a guitar quartet for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, which will also be premiered as a guitar/orchestra piece by the Boston Classical Guitar Society. In addition, he is deep into composing a new work for wind ensemble.

New Recording

Beaser Guitar Concerto CD

In July of 2017, Linn Records released a world premiere commercial recording of Beaser’s Guitar Concerto, which has been hailed by critics:

"Luminously orchestrated."—MusicWeb International

“A thrilling, expansive composition brimming with terrific ideas."Gramophone

Listen to a few excerpts and you’ll hear why Gramophone calls Beaser’s music “accessible, emotionally direct and exciting.”

To get an inside glimpse of Beaser's delightful approach to composition, check out this short video clip of the composer working with Eliot Fish on the Guitar Concerto.

 

Robert Beaser - Oct 2017 SDG Composer of the Month

Robert Beaser

Picture this: A five-year-old boy goes to a piano recital and asks if he can play one of his own compositions on the program. The problem? The boy has never taken piano lessons, and it’s not his recital—it’s his older brother’s!

But for young composer Robert Beaser, this was no problem at all. He just wanted to play his music.

Blame it on “The Moldau.” 

Though Robert didn’t grow up in a musical family, his parents had a collection of classical music records. Robert’s first memory of hearing classical music is, at the age of two or three, putting his ear next to the high-fidelity speakers in the living room and listening to Smetana’s symphonic poem over and over again. He was hooked.

 

A TALENT BLOSSOMS

Robert wasted no time. In addition to learning to play the piano, he learned to play drums so he could play in the school orchestra; he sang in school choirs; and he earned some money as a tenor soloist in churches and synagogues. He started writing music at the age of 5, and while he was 15, he wrote what he called his first “real” composition, a choral setting of Psalm 23. The following year when he went on to high school, he conducted the school choir in the work’s first performance. At the age of 16, he was invited to conduct his first orchestral work, Antigone, with the Boston Youth Symphony and went on to tour with it throughout Great Britain. Yet this passionate young musician didn’t limit his experience to classical music. An avid fan of pop music and a drummer, he played drumming gigs, in jazz bands, and in a high school rock ‘n roll band.

Perhaps it is Beaser’s love of rhythm and singing—two of the most primitive music-making urges we experience as human beings, he suggests—that account for critics describing Beaser as having “a gift for vocal writing that is perhaps unequaled” (The Baltimore Sun); or writing “glistening, percussion-tinged orchestral textures and utterly singable melodies [that] are a joy to hear at every turn” (USA Today).

A college friend from Yale, who is now a Professor of Composition at the University of Arizona, went so far as to say:

Beaser’s pieces always SING, and of course I am not just speaking about those pieces that involve a singer and words. His music, like all the very best, combines body and soul. His rhythm partakes of the vernacular (like Bernstein or Copland) but raises its potential and possibilities which is of course what a fine composer does, like Haydn and Mozart did with the Minuet or Bach with the gigue.”
Daniel Asia, head of the Composition Department, The University of Arizona

 

A CAREER TAKES OFF

At the age of 23, the year after Beaser received his master's degree from the Yale School of Music, he became the youngest composer to win the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. At the age of 24, he became the Co-Music Director and Conductor of the innovative contemporary chamber ensemble Musical Elements at the 92nd Street Y, bringing premieres of over two hundred works to Manhattan for the next 12 years.

In 1986, Beaser’s widely heard Mountain Songs was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Composition. From 1988-1993 he was the Meet the Composer/Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. In 2001 he was named ACO’s Artistic Director, and after 12 years in that role, he is now Artistic Director Laureate. Since 1993, Beaser has been Professor and Chairman of the Composition Department at The Juilliard School in New York.

Beaser has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Fulbright Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Charles Ives Scholarship, an ASCAP Composers Award, a Nonesuch Commission Award and a Barlow Commission. in 2002 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. When they honored him with their lifetime achievement award, they wrote:

His masterful orchestrations, clear-cut structures, and logical musical discourse reveal a musical imagination of rare creativity and sensitivity...and put him in the forefront of his generation of composers."
—American Academy of Arts and Letters

Beaser has received major commissions from the New York Philharmonic (150th Anniversary Commission), the Chicago Symphony (Centennial Commission), the Saint Louis Symphony, The American Composers Orchestra, The Baltimore Symphony and Dawn Upshaw, The Minnesota Orchestra, Chanticleer, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, and WNET/Great Performances, among others.

 

Robert Beaser

His music has been performed, recorded and commissioned by artists such as Leonard Slatkin, Paula Robison, Richard Stoltzman, Eliot Fisk, James Galway, Lauren Flanigan, John Aler, Ransom Wilson, Carol Wincenc, Dawn Upshaw, David Zinman, Gerard Schwarz, Dennis Russell Davies, Christopher Taylor, Manuel Barrueco, Renée Fleming, Lukas Foss, Paul Sperry, Kim Kashkashian, Alasdair Neale, Stewart Robertson, and Big Bird. His music is featured on commercial recordings released on many record labels including London/Agro, Milken Archives, New World Records, EMI-Electrola, Koch, Siemens and Innova. His recent album, Beaser Guitar Concerto, was just released this past summer on Linn records, and has been garnering rave reviews in the worldwide press.

His one-act opera,The Food of Love (Terrence McNally libretto), from the Central Park Trilogy, has been called “a little masterpiece” by the Arizona Republic, and the accolades and awards just keep piling up:

Masterly... dazzlingly colorful, fearless of gesture... beautifully fashioned and ingeniously constructed.”
—Gramophone Magazine

A “lyrical gift comparable to that of the late Samuel Barber.”
—The New York Times

“One of this country’s huge composing talents.”
—The Baltimore Sun

 

A Mentor Composer

Matthew Kramer, David Felder, Robert Beaser reviewing scores
Matthew Kraemer, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra
Associate Conductor, with mentor composers David
Felder and Robert Beaser providing feedback to
young composers

Professor Beaser leads a very full life, commuting from his home in Boston to teach at Juillard. As a teacher involved with multiple students on a daily basis, Beaser makes this observation about today’s young composers:

 "A younger generation of composers, whom I teach and interact with regularly, are indeed wrapped up in the present time. One of the younger fellows at the academy last year said that his main struggle was the ‘creeping irrelevance of being a composer in the first place.’ Composers today have complete access to the entire cosmos of sound and the means to deconstruct and reorganize it, without boundaries. Finally, everyone can be a composer. There’s an app for it!”

Beaser’s advice?

Music is a calling. No matter where you come from, who you grow up with, if it beckons, you know. I came from a nonmusical family, but this was not an impediment. On the contrary, my passion and motivation was all the more authentic because of it. No matter what  the challenges are to living the life of a creative artist, it is one of the greatest privileges on earth to wake up each morning knowing that today you make music."—Robert Beaser

Robert Beaser with his wife, Katie Agocs, and daughter, Olivia
Robert Beaser and his wife, Kati Agócs,
with their daughter, Olivia

If you’re wondering if there is room for anything else in Beaser’s life, the answer is a resounding YES.

Married to composer Kati Agócs, who is a faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, they are parents to a five-year-old daughter, Olivia. Beaser and family enjoy the Boston sports teams (yeah, Red Sox!). He is a lifelong fan, and player, of tennis and a mean Italian chef, learned from his days living and working in Rome. His older children, Adam and Julia, now live in New York, where he can catch them between teaching hours for a bite to eat and some catch-up conversation.

 

  

SDG COMMISSIONS BEASER FOR THE PSALMS PROJECT

When SDG Music Foundation was looking for the culminating work in its 15-composer Psalms Project series of choral music, Robert Beaser’s gift for vocal writing seemed to call for his inclusion in the project. He chose the text from Psalm 121, which, in the Jewish tradition, is said in birth rooms, for newborns, asking for God’s protection in life’s journey.


The intent of the words is very human, very personal – real people encountering real dangers, looking to something beyond them to guide them, to give them comfort, to give them hope."—Robert Beaser

The world premiere of Beaser’s Song of the Ascents took place on February 1, 2015, at the Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Earl Rivers conducting the Knox Presbyterian Choir. Listen to this archival recording, and you’ll begin to understand why Beaser is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished creative musicians of his generation.

 

 

 

cover of Psallite II CD
 

 

SDG will be releasing a professional recording of Beaser's Song of the Ascents on its Psallite II CD, recorded by Cor Cantimao under the direction of Eric A. Johnson, in the Spring of 2018. 

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