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Composer's work performed by Gilmore Artist

March 4, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A composition by award-winning composer, pianist and Western Michigan University music professor Dr. Curtis Curtis-Smith was recently performed in Finland by acclaimed pianist and Gilmore Artist Ralf Gothoni and accomplished Finish violinist Elina Vahala.

Gothoni and Vahala premiered the same piece, Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings, in 2006 at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. In December, Gothoni and Vahala reprised their Gilmore performance, this time with the Oulu Symphony in Oulu, Finland. The program featured just two works, Curtis-Smith's Concerto and Shostakovich's Fifteenth Symphony.

A Finish conductor and pianist, Gothoni is the 1994 recipient of the Gilmore Artist Award and has been the principal conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra. Vahala, one of the most sought-after Finnish soloists, performed last year at the Nobel Peace Prize Awards ceremony and has recently been appointed to a "lifetime" professorship at Die Musik Hochschule in Detmold, Germany.

Curtis-Smith unreservedly praises the interpretations of the two musicians.

"Elina performs with a magnificent, singing tone and perfect intonation," says the composer. "Ralf directs the concerto from the piano, and does so with the greatest of ease. He is a consummate musician, regardless of the style of music he is playing."

The sentiments are mutual, with Gothoni saying he admires Curtis-Smith's compositional language.

"It is a world of colors, of atmospheres and moods, and technical skill, all combined into an American texture and grain," Gothoni says. "In the second movement, what is uppermost is a buoyant, swinging airiness, but with a pulse and flood of radiance from the colors of the world. The harmonies are original, and they are very much of their own time."

According to Vahala, it is a very American work in its style and idiom.

"New music in America has come along a very different path than in Europe," she says. In the USA new music has never been put in the strait-jacket of modernism."

Vahala points out that in the Concerto, the jazz impulse and influence is evident.

"The piano has passages which resemble the improvisations of a jazz pianist," she notes. "The same is true of rhythm and the work's harmonic concepts. The work's singing, sad melodies are enough to illustrate this point, but there is also the necessity of a sustained, gritty virtuosity. Moreover, a special alertness is demanded from the orchestra---to be ready for the passionate, joyous, fiery rhythms."

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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