Saratoga Springs, NY (June 7, 2001) — Yaddo composer Lowell Liebermann (www.lowellliebermann.com) recently won the inaugural American Composers Invitational at the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, with a piece which received its premiere in last year's Yaddo Centennial Arts Festival.
The American Composers Invitational marks the first time in the history of the renowned piano competition that the sponsoring Van Cliburn Foundation (http://cliburn.org) has departed from its tradition of commissioning a single new work. This year, at the suggestion of American composer John Corigliano, a 25-member nominating committee of distinguished musicians invited 42 noted American composers to submit piano scores eight to 12 minutes in length.
Of the 31 scores ultimately submitted, five were picked by Mr. Corigliano and Yale University professor and composer Martin Bresnick for final consideration. Each of the 30 pianists in the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition examined the scores, the composers of which were not identified, and chose one work to include in the repertoire for their semifinal performance. Any composer whose piece was played received $2,500; the work chosen most often earned its author an additional $5,000. Only Mr. Liebermann's work, Three Impromptus, Op. 68, and a piece written by Judith Lang Zaimont, were heard in the semifinals; competitors who did not make the semifinals chose two other composers' works.
Van Cliburn Foundation President Richard Rodzinski called the American Composers Invitational "an opportunity to encourage a wider variety of American composers to write new works for the piano." He said performers play a key role in determining what repertoire is actually heard and that the "innovative format" of this new twist to the organization's piano competition gives American audiences an opportunity to "hear excellent new American compositions on an international stage." He said it also makes it more likely that the pianists will include the works in future performances.
Three Impromptus, Op. 68, was premiered by the acclaimed pianist Stephen Hough in a recital last May at Lincoln Center in New York City. It was the first event in the Yaddo Centennial Arts Festival, a series of notable public events featuring works by artists who have been to Yaddo organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Yaddo. The work reflects back to the Impromptus of Schubert and shares with them the technical characteristic of almost obsessive use of a predominantly unvaried rhythmic figuration for each piece. Like Schubert's, these pieces are absolute music in the purest sense and are of an intimate and introspective nature.
At the time of last year's premiere, Mr. Liebermann, one of the most frequently performed composers of his generation, said he wrote Three Impromptus, Op. 68, "with much gratitude and affection" to celebrate Yaddo's centenary.
"I first visited Yaddo as a 21-year-old beginning to find my way as a composer. It was an artistic revelation to be in such a gloriously nurturing environment that existed specifically so that I could write my music, and others could create their art. For the first time in my career, I felt like a professional composer. I have worked at Yaddo many times since, and each time it is a moving and profoundly encouraging experience," added Mr. Leibermann.
Mr. Liebermann has been honored twice by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, first with the Charles Ives Scholarship in 1980, when he was the youngest composer to receive this scholarship, and then with a Charles Ives Fellowship in 1989. He produced his First Piano Sonata, Op. 1, at age 15. Time magazine featured him last year as "one of the New Tonalists, a group of composers who have turned their back on the hard-edged, complicated, avant-garde sounds that dominated the American new-music scene after World War II."
Artists who have performed Mr. Liebermann's works include James Levine, David Zinman, Robert White, Joshua Bells, and Paula Robinson. The National Flute Society honored his Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 23; Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 39; and Soliloquy, Op. 44, as among the best newly published flute works. James Galway commissioned his Flute Concerto and performed the work in 1995 with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Liebermann's Trumpet Concerto was premiered last May by The New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mr. Hough premiered Mr. Liebermann's Second Piano Concerto, Op. 36, which the Baltimore Sun described as "perhaps the best piece in the genre since Samuel Barber's Concerto." His two-act opera based on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, the first American opera commissioned by the Opera of Monte Carlo, premiered in the United States in 1999. Mr. Liebermann currently is composer-in residence with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and a member of the board of directors of Yaddo.