2020 Visions

William Bolcom composer
Michael Cohen composer
Robert Sirota composer
Hilary Tann composer
Theo Chandler composer
Preston Stahly composer

Fischer Duo
Norman Fischer cello
Jeanne Kierman Fischer piano

Release Date: August 26, 2022
Catalog #: NV6444
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Cello
Piano

2020 VISIONS from the Fischer Duo celebrates the piano-cello group’s 50 years of performances together. The Duo is known for performing music from the likes of Beethoven alongside the works of emerging composers. The pair celebrated the anniversary of their formation in 1971 during the height of the pandemic; though the performance was given virtually, the resulting recording is a declaration of love and resilience. This album features three works commissioned for the Duo including Pulitzer Prize and GRAMMY Award-winning composer William Bolcom’s Second Sonata, as well as three recent compositions from promising new composers. Expressing the pain of loss as well as the hope for a better tomorrow, 2020 VISIONS showcases this duo’s versatility and musicianship.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Second Sonata for Violoncello and Piano: I. Introduction and Allegro William Bolcom Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 7:29
02 Second Sonata for Violoncello and Piano: II. Andante mosso William Bolcom Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 3:25
03 Second Sonata for Violoncello and Piano: III. Scherzo non giocoso William Bolcom Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 3:48
04 Second Sonata for Violoncello and Piano: IV. Waltz-Variations William Bolcom Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 5:51
05 A Song for Silenced Voices Michael Cohen Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 9:05
06 Family Portraits: I. Norman Robert Sirota Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 3:17
07 Family Portraits: II. Jeanne Robert Sirota Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 4:02
08 Family Portraits: III. Becca Robert Sirota Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 2:52
09 Family Portraits: IV. Abby Robert Sirota Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 4:00
10 On Ear and Ear Hilary Tann Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 8:53
11 Studies in Change: I. From Darkness to Light, Four Times Theo Chandler Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 4:41
12 Studies in Change: II. From Entropy to Dance and Back Again Theo Chandler Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 5:05
13 Studies in Change: III. From Machine to Song Theo Chandler Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 5:22
14 Corona Blue Preston Stahly Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Kierman Fischer, piano 3:56

Recorded May 17-19 and December 13-14, 2021 at Stude Hall, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston TX
Producer Judith Sherman
Engineer Francis X. Schmidt
Editing Assistant Jeanne Velonis
Mastering Judith Sherman, Jeanne Velonis

Mr. Fischer’s cello is made by Sergio Peresson 1972 and bows by David Hawthorne.
Mr. Fischer is a Larsen Performing Artist and uses Larsen “Il Cannone” strings.

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Director Levi Brown
Production Assistant Martina Watzková

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland, Brett Iannucci

Artist Information

Fischer Duo

Fischer Duo

Ensemble

The Fischer Duo has performed on five continents in its over-50-year history. Founded in 1971 while students at Oberlin College, the Duo has developed a wide-ranging repertoire covering the “canon” plus many forgotten or unknown works of the past. In addition, the Fischers have been very active with music of our own time, commissioning over 30 works and recording even more. The Duo’s extensive discography includes 18 albums from Beethoven, Brahms, 20th Century French Masters, Chopin and Liszt to generations of American composers similar to this recording’s compendium. These recordings have garnered rave reviews from The Strad, Gramophone, Strings Magazine, and BBC Music Magazine.

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Michael Cohen

Composer

New York City native Michael Cohen has a diverse and expansive career as a composer. His many compositions include works for chamber ensemble, musical theater, opera, and television. He attended the High School of Music and Art and the Dalcroze School of Music, graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and studied composition with Harold Shapero and Irving Fine.

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Hilary Tann

Composer

Welsh-born composer Hilary Tann lives in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York where she is the John Howard Payne Professor of Music Emerita at Union College, Schenectady. Her compositions have been widely performed and recorded by ensembles such as the European Women’s Orchestra, Tenebrae, Lontano, Marsyas Trio, Thai Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

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William Bolcom

William Bolcom

Composer

National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and GRAMMY Award-winner William Bolcom (b. May 26, 1938) is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music.

He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Music in 1973, was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in 1994, and retired in 2008 after 35 years. Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano, and his setting of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience on the Naxos label won four GRAMMY Awards in 2005.

As a pianist, Bolcom has performed and recorded his own work frequently in collaboration with his wife and musical partner, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Cabaret songs, show tunes, and American popular songs of the 20th century have been their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings. Their 25th album, Autumn Leaves, was released in 2015.

In 2018, nine world premieres of Bolcom’s works commemorated his 80th birthday.

Website: www.williambolcom.com
Photo credit: Philip Brunnader

Robert Sirota

Robert Sirota

Composer

Robert Sirota’s works have been performed by orchestras across the United States and Europe, by ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound, Sequitur, yMusic, Chameleon Arts, and Dinosaur Annex; the Chiara, American, Ethel, Elmyr, Blair and Telegraph String Quartets; the Peabody, Concord, and Webster Trios; and at festivals including Tanglewood, Aspen, Yellow Barn, and Cooperstown; Bowdoin Gamper and Bowdoin International Music Festival; and Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Recent commissions include Jeffrey Kahane and the Sarasota Music Festival, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Palladium Musicum, American Guild of Organists, the American String Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, the Naumburg Foundation, and yMusic, Thomas Pellaton, Carol Wincenc, Linda Chesis, Trinity Episcopal Church (Indianapolis), and Sierra Chamber Society, as well as arrangements for Paul Simon.

Grants include the Guggenheimand Watson Foundations, NEA, Meet the Composer, and the American Music Center. Sirota’s works are recorded on Legacy Recordings, National Sawdust Tracks, and the Capstone, Albany, New Voice, Gasparo, and Crystal labels. His music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Schott, Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser, and To the Fore

Website: www.robertsirota.com
Photo credit: Ryuhei Shindo

Theo Chandler

Theo Chandler

Composer

Theo Chandler is a Houston-based composer of concert music and stage works. His music finds inspiration in the nuances of instrumental idiom, as well as the dramatic potential of soloistic outpourings within ensemble settings.

Chandler is a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award, SCI/ASCAP Graduate Commission, American Prize for Vocal Chamber Music, Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund Award, Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Graduate Music Award from the Presser Foundation. Chandler has received commissions from the New York Youth Symphony First Music Program, Tanglewood Music Center, Utah Arts Festival, Les Délices, Golden West Winds, and others. He was selected as a winner of Juilliard’s Orchestra Competition, Juilliard’s Gena Raps Competition, the New Juilliard Ensemble Competition, the Maryland Wind Festival Call for Scores, and was runner up for the RED NOTE New Music Festival Chamber Music Competition.

Chandler has been a fellow at the Cabrillo Festival Composers Workshop, Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Mizzou International Composers Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Copland House Cultivate, and Aspen Music Festival. He has been the Composer in Residence for the Maryland Wind Festival, Young Artist Composer for Da Camera, Emerging Composer Fellow for Musiqa, Composer in Residence for Les Délices, Young Composer in Residence for the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, and participated in the I-Park Composer + Musicians Collaborative Residency with Akropolis Reed Quintet.

Website: www.theochandler.com

Preston Stahly

Preston Stahly

Composer

Preston Stahly is a composer and producer in New York City. He has written chamber, vocal, and symphonic works, and has also written music for film (Robert Altman’s Secret Honor) and television (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Children’s Television Workshop). His concert works focus on acoustic and electro-acoustic techniques with a wide variety of instrumentation ranging from solo and chamber works to film and video.

Recent projects and commissions include Sapphire for violin and electronic track (2010) for violinist Mary Rowell; Burn Rate for piano and electronic track (2012) for pianist Geoffrey Burleson; Pleiades for violin and electronics (2013) for violinist Zach Brock; Igneous Rex (a full-dome animated project) for I-Max and orchestral score premiered at the Reuben Fleet Science Center in San Diego in 2014; Taffrail (a duo for pianist Eleonor Sandresky and violinist Mary Rowell in 2016); Honey Smack (for the ensemble Classical Jam) premiered in 2019 at The Cell theater in NYC, and Corona Blue for cellist Wendy Law.

He is a co-founder of the Tribeca New Music Festival from its inception in 2001, and spearheaded the Avant Pop movement in NYC, focusing on a new art music infused with American pop culture. The press has praised the series saying, “the success of the Tribeca New Music Festival no doubt stems both from high-quality performances and from its eclectic, anti-elitist ‘avant pop’ programming ethos” (New York Times), and “the reigning aesthetic, dubbed ‘the emerging avant pop’ by artistic director Preston Stahly, welcomes a wide variety of composers, united by creative engagement with popular culture” (Steve Smith, TimeOut NY).

Stahly is currently the artistic and executive director of Tribeca New Music, Inc., in New York City.

Notes

On May 23, 1971, the Fischer Duo performed together for the first time, and now more than 50 years later (with concerts on five continents and dozens of recordings) we celebrate our relationship with a great body of repertoire from Beethoven to tomorrow. Indeed, championing new scores has always been an integral part of the Duo’s mission, through recording and commissioning. In 2020 when it was time to celebrate the anniversary, the concert halls were shuttered, and our audiences were at home on screen. There was also great pain in losses of loved ones, and isolation from our friends and family. This recording is a declaration of love and resilience, with three commissioned works for the Duo and three recent works by new friends and supreme artists.

In March 2020, William Bolcom attended one of our concerts. Afterwards in conversation, we recalled our first meeting in 1972 and the many shared performances and recordings. At our invitation, he was delighted in the idea of writing a new work for us. By Thanksgiving, the Second Cello Sonata was finished and the Duo went to work. The first movement, “Introduction and Allegro” can stand on its own, as Bill says, and deals with the powerful emotional issues of 2020, both political and spiritual. A short serene slow movement in C# Major precedes a diabolical Scherzo non giocoso where seemingly all hell breaks loose. Not wanting to leave us all in a state of despair, Bill provided a set of waltz variations on a tune that he wrote in 1949 for an older cellist he had a crush on growing up in Seattle. Themes from earlier in the sonata come back, and at the end it leaves us with a wink and a smile.

A Song for Silenced Voices: Recitative for Cello and Piano is, as the title suggests, a powerfully lyrical, passionate work that deals with the pain and loss of those we love. Although originally written in 1997 while working on his Anne Frank project in memory of those lost in the Holocaust, we are surrounded by similar feelings of senseless loss with pandemic deaths. Michael Cohen is a master at writing for the voice, and this work is an inspired testament to his vision.

Meeting Robert Sirota freshman year at Oberlin College is by now, a famous family story. I commissioned a sonata from Bob at adjacent shaving sinks one morning in freshman year when I found out he was a composer. When I kept hounding him (so that he knew I was serious), he wrote a work that I performed frequently in our college years. In the intervening years Sirota wrote me five more works for cello as our lives proceeded, sharing the joys of our children’s births and mourning our parents and family. This close friendship extended to our four children who all chose careers as musicians. Every one of us has joyously performed Sirota and, also together in multigenerational chamber music. Family Portraits is a loving celebration of the depth of these relationships with four movements capturing each member of our family. Norman (“Energetic”) and Jeanne (“Expressive”) are obviously the parents. Violinist and older daughter Becca (“Mysterious, elegant”) is followed by our singer Abby (“Luminous”).

In 2011 Hilary Tann was invited to compose a memorial work for her teacher Milton Babbitt for viola and piano. She chose two points of inspiration, the first few notes of Babbitt’s 1950 Composition for Viola and Piano and the poem The Sea and the Skylark by Gerard Manley Hopkins. On Ear and Ear so vividly captures the motion of both waves and flight in a hypnotic vision of the natural world. In 2020 Tann graciously made a version for cello and piano for us, and we have embraced it fully, not only for the way in which she captures the instruments and sounds but also the way it feels when we play it drawing us into the center of her universe.

Even though composer Theo Chandler is the youngest composer on our album, he is no stranger to broad recognition of his work with prizes and grants galore. After hearing his works at Tanglewood and Rice University, we invited him to write a work for our 50th. In considering the work Theo wanted to capture opposite characters that would transform in a single movement and Studies in Change is the result. The titles of each piece clearly describe the character transformations, “From Dark to Light Four Times,” “From Entropy to Dance and Back Again,” and “From Machine to Song.” In the last movement, one can hear how the piano is prepared with poster tack on two bass strings and two high treble strings to create more percussive timbres to marvelous affect. What one isn’t prepared for is the return of the first movement theme and the inspired apotheosis at the end.

— Norman Fischer

During the 2020 COVID pandemic in New York City, an important respite for exercise and fresh air was to take walks in the parks of New York. It was such a strange sight to see hundreds of families, couples, and individuals from all walks of life filling the parks as never before. This common humanity, spirit, and determination to survive moved me greatly.

In addition to being a composer, I’m also a photographer. I was compelled to begin a series of street portraits entitled Corona Portraits to capture this amazing shared humanity.

My good friend, neighbor, and cellist Wendy Law had asked me to write her some music for her YouTube channel. Inspired by my Corona Portraits project, I composed a short piece for cello and piano called Corona Blue to capture both the sense of tragedy and the will to overcome. The form of the piece is something like a Gershwin prelude, and the language is inspired by my own coming of age in the ubiquitous American pop culture sea in which we all swim.

— Preston Stahly