“Summer’s style and viewpoint hints at the myriad possibilities for expression within these texts”

Classical Music Daily

Joseph Summer began playing French horn at the age of 7. While attending the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina at age 14 he studied composition with the eminent Czech composer Karel Husa. At age 15 he was accepted at Oberlin Conservatory, studied with Richard Hoffmann, Schönberg’s amanuensis, and graduated with a B.M. in Music Composition in 1976. Recruited by Robert Page, Dean of the Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University, Summer taught music theory at CMU before leaving to pursue composition full time.

For the next 20 years, Summer concentrated his efforts composing a series of comic operas based on the bawdy stories of Boccaccio’s The Decameron. These consist of four completed works: And The Dead Shall Walk The Earth; Courting Disaster; Their Fate In The Hands Of The Friar; and Gianetta. The fifth in a projected cycle of seven: Also Known As is currently in progress.

Summer is currently composing his ever expanding collection of settings of the bard’s ever living texts, which he titles The Oxford Songs, (titled thus due to Summer’s support of Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the likely identity of the author also known as William Shakespeare). In addition to the individual scenes, sonnets, and songs from Shakespeare in The Oxford Songs, Summer completed the opera Hamlet, in 2006 and The Tempest in 2013. Summer’s operas Hippolytus and The Tenor’s Suite have been performed several times in piano reduction. In the recent past Summer has focused on string quartets, including The Garden of Forking Paths, the Sea Change Quartets (two quartets depicting littoral scenes), Invisible Women, and Variations on L. The Ulysses String Quartet is currently engaged in a long term project performing and recording all of Summer’s quartets. — Joseph Summer

Albums

Music to Hear

Release Date: May 22, 2020
Catalog Number: NV6283
21st Century
Vocal Music
String Quartet
Voice
MUSIC TO HEAR, Joseph Summer’s follow up to WHO IS SYLVIA from Navona Records off his Shakespeare Concerts set, is the result of the composer’s lifelong obsession with poetry. The album pairs the works of contemporary poets as well as Shakespeare with Summer’s music in order to express deeper significance than either words or music are capable of on their own.
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Who is Sylvia

Release Date: May 8, 2020
Catalog Number: NV6282
21st Century
Vocal Music
Piano
String Quartet
Voice
Joseph Summer’s WHO IS SYLVIA, new from Navona Records, is a collection of Shakespeare’s works set to music that will make you question everything you thought you learned in high school English. Summer believes that the famous playwright’s true identity is not William Shakespeare but rather Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Many of the songs found on WHO IS SYLVIA come from Summer’s aptly-named The Oxford Songs, a collection of scenes, sonnets, songs, and Summer’s original opera version of Hamlet. These are paired with music from the likes of Schubert and Schumann to create a dynamic and colorful musical experience worthy of the Bard himself.
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Summer’s Distillation

Release Date: January 24, 2020
Catalog Number: NV6263
21st Century
Vocal Music
Voice
With SUMMER'S DISTILLATION, Joseph Summer, as composer, offers a new look at the timeless texts credited to William Shakespeare. As artistic director, Summer presents settings by Brahms, R. Schumann, and Benjamin Pesetsky, curating an overall impressive collection of works for voice, harp, and horns.
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No Enemy but Winter and Rough Weather

Release Date: January 12, 2018
Catalog Number: NV6134
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Voice
Even the most fearful of the cold will draw warmth from Joe Summer’s comforting  No Enemy But Winter and Rough Weather, the sixth album honoring The Shakespeare Concert Series, of which he is founder and executive director. Track 1 is Summer’s own Concert Overture for Piano, an icy introduction performed by SangYoung Kim. Following are two settings of “Under the Greenwood Tree.” Track 2 is the inviting setting by William Walton performed by soprano Kathryn Guthrie and pianist John McGinn. Alluring, too, is Track 3 the Erich Wolfgang Korngold setting of the text performed by Kim and mezzo-soprano Thea Lobo. Kim stays at the piano for Track 4—“When Birds Do Sing”—also by  Korngold; Guthrie delivers this spritely tune.
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Fleeting Realms

Release Date: September 8, 2017
Catalog Number: NV6107
21st Century
Chamber
Percussion
Piano
Saxophone
FLEETING REALMS is an inviting compilation of chamber music featuring six composers. Though the album obviously mixes different compositional voices, the different pieces share many characteristics. FLEETING REALMS is defined by a pervasive uplifting quality. Many of the album’s works feature driving rhythms and a joyfully relaxed sensibility. Even dissonance is used playfully or as a counter weight to beautiful lyricism. Such consistency in manner across six pieces by six diverse composers is obviously remarkable, and it makes FLEETING REALMS a very special musical collection.
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PARMA Music Festival Live 2014

Release Date: June 9, 2015
Catalog Number: NV6002
21st Century
Chamber
Orchestral
Cello
Orchestra
14 concerts, 12 venues, 4 days. The 2014 PARMA Music Festival featured a diverse range of events, from concert performances of orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo instruments, and jazz groups, to an outdoor presentation of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and panel discussions about music licensing and multimedia composition, as well as improvised collaborations between indie rockers and classical instrumentalists.
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Full Fathom Five

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Catalog Number: NV5996
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Voice
FULL FATHOM FIVE, the fifth offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, takes the story of The Tempest, from the shipwrecked crew and magical spirits to the imprisoned servants and their questions of identity, and presents a variety of works from the 18th to the 21st centuries that set texts and depict themes from Shakespeare's play.
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Orpheus With His Lute Made Trees

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Catalog Number: NV5995
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Voice
On the fourth offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, ORPHEUS WITH HIS LUTE MADE TREES, executive director and composer Joseph Summer presents original works and pieces by composers from the 18th through the 21st centuries that celebrate the myth of Orpheus.
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Goddesses

Release Date: October 14, 2014
Catalog Number: NV5973
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Voice
GODDESSES is the third offering in Navona Records' The Shakespeare Concerts Series, which presents several works by composer Joseph Summer from his collection of settings of Shakespearean scenes, sonnets, and soliloquies, Oxford Songs.
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The Fair Ophelia

Release Date: November 1, 2013
Catalog Number: NV5935
21st Century
Stage Works
Vocal Music
Piano
Voice
THE FAIR OPHELIA, the second installment on Navona Records' Shakespeare Concerts Series, features works by composer Joseph Summer that are inspired by Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark! With Shakespeare's texts accompanied with music by Brahms, Strauss, Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Schumann, and Joseph Summer, this album for vocal and chamber music consists of diverse settings that present the listener with an opportunity to hear Ophelia in a three dimensional perspective.
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Fine Music, Vol. 4

Release Date: May 1, 2013
Catalog Number: NV5916
21st Century
Concertos
Orchestral
Oboe
Orchestra
Saxophone
FINE MUSIC, VOL. 4 is the fourth compilation of the Navona Records Fine Music digital series. This installment features the works of David Nisbet Stewart, Brian Noyes, Jonathan Little, Daniel Perttu, Curt Cacioppo, Santiago Billoni, Alejejandro Rutty, Joanne Carey, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Summer, Roger Bourland, Kjell Magne Andersen, and Jan Van der Roost.
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Shakespeare’s Memory

Release Date: January 1, 2013
Catalog Number: NV5899
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Piano
Voice
SHAKESPEARE'S MEMORY is the first offering Navona's The Shakespeare Concerts Series. A salmagundi of selections from composer Joseph Summer's The Oxford Songs, this album includes previously unreleased recordings spanning the life of the series.
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