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James Piorkowski's new compositions for guitar and beyond

Photo by Rupinder Jatana

"Nine" Live

The Montante Center on Main Street at Canisius College will host the first of a pair of concerts consisting of recent works by James Piorkowski, a SUNY distinguished professor at Fredonia State College, which will appear on a soon-to-be released CD titled NINE Live on the Centaur record label. Piorkowski will be the featured artist on the guitar along with some of his musical colleagues from Fredonia this Sunday, October 5 at 7pm. The concert will be repeated at Fredonia in Rosch Recital Hall on Tuesday October 7th at 8pm.

The music on Piorkowski’s new CD that will be performed is heavily influenced by both the power of memory and the power of love. The composer unexpectedly lost his adult son Benjamin at the very young age of 29 this past spring, and the CD is dedicated to his memory.

As Piorkowski explains, the title of the first work on the program, Eucharisteo, written for solo guitar, derives from the Greek words for “giving thanks” along with the prefix “eu”, meaning “good or well,” charis, “grace or favor,” and chara which means “joy and gladness,” and “the intent of this composition is to express and celebrate these qualities and attributes.” Piorkowski composed Eviania for solo guitar as he anticipated the birth of his son’s daughter; he had completed it before her birth, but only named it the day after the baby’s name was revealed.

His Toward the Light, Flight 3407, after the poem “Toward the Light” by Jane Sadowsky written in response to the 2009 airplane crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence, will be performed by Angela Haas, soprano, Natasha Farny, cello and Anne Kissel Harper, piano.

The Greatest of These, a commissioned work from 2000 for guitar and chamber choir sets the text of the 13th chapter of the 1st Book of Corinthians, known commonly as the “love chapter.” Hear, O Heavens, Listen, O Earth, which will feature baritone Daniel Ihasz with Piorkowski on guitar, uses a passage from the Old Testament book of Isaiah as the composer’s response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Piorkowski and cellist Natasha Farny will perform El Camino a Oviedo, a work written for her that mixes Arabic and flamenco traditions in depicting dramatic weather on a mountainous roadway through the majestic landscapes of northern Spain. The solo guitar work One Morning in Venice originated in a walk that the composer took with his wife in Venice when he was overwhelmed by the cascading ethereal sounds of overlapping bells from that city’s many churches.

Composed as a homage to the contemporary French guitarist and composer, Rolando: A Tango for Roland Dyens, Piorkowski says “I created a tango motif as a nod to Dyens’ popular Tango en Skaï, and included other references to his influences and trademarks—unusual rhythms, a jazzy upright bass line, and Bartok pizzicati”. About his Hear My Train: An Homage to Jimi Hendrix, Piorkowski says “It can be reasonably argued that Jimi Hendrix was the most revolutionary electric guitarist of all time and I integrated elements of Hendrix’s musical language into this composition”.

Admission to both events is free.

Signal at Slee

The UB Department of Music, along with the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, will present Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman, on Tuesday, October at 7:30 pm in Slee Hall in a performance of modernist works from the early 1980’s. Based in NYC, the group is dedicated to offering broad audience access to a diverse range of contemporary works through the performance, commissioning, recording, and education of contemporary music instrumentalists. Signal appears here regularly, most recently as part of the June in Buffalo Festival.

A year ago, the Slee Sinfonietta performed Pierre Boulez’ monumental Derive II. This year, Signal will perform the first work in the series, Dérive I, which is based on two of Boulez’ earlier compositions, Répons (1981) and Messagesquisse (1977), which he composed to mark the 70th birthday of the Swiss conductor and musical benefactor Paul Sacher. The “derivative” element is also a sequence of variations on the Sacher’s name, using six chords to build a circular rotation that mimics the structure of the piece.

Charles Wuorinen’s New York Notes utilizes a sextet of instrumentalists engaged in virtuoso play. The piece makes use of three duets of the related pairs of instruments, as well as featuring six solo sections.

Elliott Carter’s Triple Duo treats its six players as three pairs of instruments with the flute/clarinet, violin/cello, and piano/percussion pairs engaged in a fantasy involving contrasts, conflicts and reconciliations among the three duos.

Tickets: $15/10; free for UB students. Information:

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