Jeremy Gill

National Sawdust Log profiles composer Jeremy Gill

Jeremy Gill: 
Whitman, Pascal, and 
Varieties of Variations

Words: Christian Carey
Images: Arielle Doneson

While Jeremy Gill is best known as a prolific composer, he is a musician who wears many hats. An accomplished pianist, active conductor, and lecturer, Gill is a staunch advocate for new music in all of these contexts. Born in Pennsylvania and currently based in New York City, he has strong connections to Boston and the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, as well.

Several recordings of Gill’s work have been released. His first chamber music disc for Albany dates all the way back to 2008; the label also released Book of Hours/Helian in 2011. More recently, Boston Modern Orchestra Project released a portrait disc of Gill’s orchestral music, and the Parker Quartet documented his hour-long Capriccio for Innova.

While there is a some vocal music on the BMOP CD, more of Gill’s vocal music is yet to be committed to disc. An upcoming portrait concert at National Sawdust, on April 7 at 7pm, affords its audience the opportunity to hear this compelling side of the composer’s output. The program sets two significant vocal works alongside pieces for chamber forces. Variant 6, a mixed vocal sextet, performs Gill’s Six Pensées de Pascal and, in celebration of the bicentennial of Walt Whitman’s birth, the composer’s Whitman Portrait.

Also featured on the program are a formidable Duo for Violin and Piano and the premiere of Lascia fare mi, a duo for two violins. In a recent conversation, Gill discussed his upcoming activities.

NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG: What inspired you to set Walt Whitman’s poetry? How did you come to work with Variant 6?

JEREMY GILL: If I had to pick a single favorite American poet it would be Whitman. I wanted to set his poetry for many years, but I always ran into trouble when I tried. Whitman is so expansive and all-inclusive that I never felt I could adequately address his breadth via a single singer, say—his poetic persona is too multi-faceted, and his attempts to encapsulate the whole of what he understood to be the American experience too wide-ranging.

However, when I was a fellow with American Opera Projects’ Composers & the Voice program, I was tasked with composing one song for each of AOP’s six resident singers, and these ran the gamut from bass-baritone through high coloratura soprano. This wealth of vocal personalities allowed me to explore Whitman’s many faces, moods, and proclivities.

Read the entire article at this link.

Jeremy Gill interviewed by David Osenberg on WWFM The Classical Network

On Tuesday April 2, 2019 composer Jeremy Gill spoke with David Osenberg of WWFM about his recent compositions, including Six Pensées de Pascal and Whitman Portrait, both of which will be performed in his composer’s portrait concert at National Sawdust on April 7.

Listen to the interview at this link.

Complete details about Jeremy Gill’s portrait concert at National Sawdust at this link.

Insider Interview: Jeremy Gill, composer

On Sunday, April 7 at 7:00 pm, at National Sawdust (80 North 6th St., Brooklyn), composer Jeremy Gill showcases his compositions inspired by the words of Whitman, the philosophy of Pascal, and the film The Last Tango in Paris.  In this Insider Interview, we spoke with Gill, whose upcoming composer portrait concert is presented by Chris Grymes' Open G performance series.  More info online at nationalsawdust.org.

Classical Music Communications: What led you to a career as a composer?

Jeremy Gill: I started composing shortly after I started playing, and my first composition was performed publicly when I was 12 years old. My first instrument was saxophone and I played in a lot of concert bands, so my first pieces were written for the large ensembles in which I played. I only started playing piano later, and didn’t study piano at all until I was about 16 years old (I taught myself, and was playing a lot by then). By the time I enrolled at the Eastman School for my undergraduate degree I was certain that composition would be my main focus (oboe was my main performing instrument by then) as it has remained. Composing was a natural extension of my music making, and performance and composition have both continued in tandem.

CMC: How would you describe your composition style, and what other composers do you draw inspiration from?

JG: It’s impossible to describe one’s style, but I can say whose work I admire and emulate in one form or another. Among recent composers, George Rochberg and George Crumb were both teachers of mine and are important influences. György Ligeti is extremely important for me, particularly his earlier and later works (the middle, experimental music is less interesting to me). Bartók is hugely important, and I admire Stravinsky. Benjamin Britten is extraordinarily smart and there are several pieces of his I love (the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings above all; Turn of the Screw is nearly perfect). Arthur Honegger’s symphonies are fabulous and I return to them often. The classical period is the one for which I feel the greatest affinity – I never, ever tire of discovering a new Haydn menuet, and Beethoven is the most important composer for me of any period. Of romantics, Brahms is probably the dearest, although Schumann’s Lieder are central for me and I feel his symphonies are underrated (the second is perfect). I love Borodin – almost every note he wrote! I love much early music, too, particularly Monteverdi and Machaut, but there are many other gems that I come across by composers I’ve never known before (Tromboncino, for example).

CMC: How does your work as a pianist and conductor inform your compositions?

JG: All music making informs all music making, for me. When I am playing or conducting I am discovering things that will help with a compositional problem, or provide a model for a particular work. I am also a regular concert-goer. I think it’s very important to be listening to other people’s performances, new works, etc. Recordings are wonderful but some pieces do not work in real life acoustics and it’s important to hear that (for a composer, at least). I also perform my own music, and I learn how to clarify my works when I encounter problems conducting or playing my music.

CMC: How does literature inform or inspire your vocal and instrumental compositions?

JG: I am a big reader, and on some level I’m always looking for texts to set, but I’m inordinately picky. When I wrote my chamber opera I read 80 short plays before I found the one by Don Nigro that I used. I enjoy dense poetry – setting Hart Crane’s Voyages II in my Before the Wresting Tides was one of my greatest text setting joys – there was so much to find there and in his life. Georg Trakl’s poem Helian was a thrilling discovery – as I read it I knew it would be a song cycle. But novels can also inspire me and do. I am particularly interested in early 20th century European novels – the novelistic tradition that Milan Kundera is always promoting and defending.

CMC: What do you look for in a text?

JG: If I’m setting a text I generally need to have a moment – a point of revelation that is the text’s raison d'être. I also respond well to a narrative arc that can translate into musical form. And I really need to love the words, their rhythm and sound. I hate verbose texts with no innate sense of music and don’t understand the current mania for setting political speeches and “found” texts – even well-written prose that doesn’t have a musical affect generally won’t work for me.

CMC: In writing for a specific artist, how do you tailor your work to their character and style?

JG: Some players have very strong personalities that I respond to. I remember writing for pianist Peter Orth; I would listen to him perform and then go home to my sketches and try to imitate his playing with my music, imitate how I thought he might approach the ideas, and this helped me form the piece for him. I’ve written for the Parker Quartet a lot, and I love the way they approach music of all types, so just try to write them music that I think will fire their imaginations, based on what I know of their proclivities. For singers it’s generally quite straightforward – I find the sweet spots in their voices and write to those points. Many singers even have single notes that are particularly shimmery and expressive: I wrote some songs for Sarah Wolfson years ago and I loved her high A-flat so much that structured the songs so that she had a beautifully expressive high A-flat in each song.

CMC: What projects are you focusing your attention on lately?

JG: I am nearly finished with a four-hand piano concerto, which has been occupying me for over a year on and off. This current incarnation of the work (which is the final version!) was begun when I moved to NYC in September. I have three opera projects in mind, in various states of development. One, in collaboration with a London-based soprano and choir, may have a scene ready by the fall. I’m playing a lot lately, which is nice – this spring its some Elliott Carter with Lucy Shelton (she’s the best person to do that rep with!), lots of art song repertoire on a National Opera Center Emerging Artist Recital; conducting music by Carlos Carrillo, and playing my own Whitman Portrait at National Sawdust in April. My wife and I will be in Prague and Brno in June, where I’ll perform some recitals.

April 7: Composer Portrait Jeremy Gill at National Sawdust

Program features world premiere for violin duo in reaction to The Last Tango in Paris, and New York premiere of settings of Walt Whitman's poetry

"The execution is fresh and clever….a compositional tour-de-force that shows Gill’s versatility and attention to detail." – The American Record Guide

On Sunday, April 7 at 7:00 pm, at National Sawdust, composer Jeremy Gill showcases his compositions inspired by the words of Whitman, the philosophy of Pascal, and the film The Last Tango in Paris. A fresh face in NYC, this concert marks the first program consisting entirely of Gill's music since his move to the Big Apple last year. Jeremy Gill's composer portrait concert is presented by Chris Grymes' Open G performance series at National Sawdust.

Described as “vividly colored” (The New York Times) and “exhilarating” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), Jeremy Gill's music has been championed by renowned musicians worldwide. Recent highlights include the premiere of his oboe concerto by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jaap van Zweden; the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet's Innova Recordings release of Gill's epic hour-long string quartet Capriccio, and the premiere of Gill's four-hand piano concerto performed by Shai Wosner and Orion Weiss with the Chautauqua Symphony conducted by JoAnn Falletta, with a subsequent performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Read more details about Jeremy Gill's busy Spring 2019.

The program for this portrait concert features works all written in the last five years. Violinists Mandy Wolman and Beverly Shin perform the world premiere of Lascia fare mi. Translated as "leave me alone", Lascia fare mi is a fantasy for two violins that plays in nine uninterrupted “scenes,” inspired by the scenes from Last Tango in Paris in which the characters of Jean and Paul appear alone. These scenes reveal their evolving relationship, and as they inevitably come to know one another more conventionally, their interactions grow increasingly more passionate and more violently antagonistic.

Celebrating the bicentennial of Walt Whitman's birth, the Whitman Portraitwill be performed by the six singers for whom it was written, including Kristin Sampson and Rachel Calloway (complete details below). A collection of six songs, this will be the NYC premiere of the Whitman Portrait performed in its entirety.

Also a NYC premiere, the Duo for violin and piano was commissioned for the 35th anniversary of Market Square Concerts, and performed here by Duo Prism. Rounding out the program, Six Pensées de Pascal is Gill's setting of text by the 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal. This work was written for the Philadelphia vocal ensemble Variant 6, who will be performing on this concert.

Tickets are $29 for general admission and are available at nationalsawdust.org. National Sawdust is located at 80 North 6th Street in Brooklyn.

CALENDAR LISTING

April 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Chris Grymes Open G Series at National Sawdust:

Jeremy Gill, Composer Portrait

Program:

Whitman Portrait (2014) (New York premiere)

Performers: sopranos Deborah Lifton and Kristin Sampson, mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway, tenor Dominic Armstrong, baritone Jorell Williams, bass-baritone Matthew Burns, and pianist Jeremy Gill

Duo for Violin and Piano (2015) (New York premiere)

Performers: Duo Prism (Jesse Mills, violin and Rieko Aizawa, piano)

Six Pensées de Pascal (2017)

Performers: Variant 6

Lascia fare mi (2018) (world premiere)

Performers: Violinists Mandy Wolman and Beverly Shin

National Sawdust

80 North 6th St in Brooklyn

Tickets are $29 for general admission, and are available at nationalsawdust.org

WFMT interviews Jeremy Gill about BMOP Concerto release

Composer Jeremy Gill recently had the opportunity of a lifetime when the Boston Modern Orchestra Project agreed to record not one, not two, but three of his concertos. Listen to WFMT’s “Relevant Tones” to hear Seth Boustead talk with Jeremy and clarinet soloist Chris Grymes about this fantastic new release and play selections from the recording.

Listen to the interview at this link.