The USC Four (clockwise, from center front): Morten Lauridsen, James Hopkins, Donald Crockett and Frank Ticheli.

A Quartet of Composers

Faculty composers take their talents on the road, in part to
reinforce the notion that “composers are living human beings.”
FOUR OF THE SEVEN faculty in USC’s Department of Composition are currently composers-in-residence in Southern California, a record number. Department chair Morten Lauridsen is working with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Frank Ticheli with Orange County’s Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Donald Crockett with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and James Hopkins with Orange County’s Pacific Chorale.
A fifth, Stephen Hartke, was composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1988 to 1992.
In a residency program, the sponsoring organization invites a composer with a track record in certain kinds of music, such as orchestral or choral works, to be a resident, usually for two years or more. The appointment is part-time, allowing the composer to continue to write or teach.
Morten Lauridsen, a professor of music, is known for his many art songs and choral works, including the vocal cycles Les Chansons des Roses, A Winter Come, Madrigali, Cuatro Canciones (Lorca) and Mid-Winter Songs, which are regularly performed by distinguished artists and ensembles.
In 1985, the Los Angeles Master Chorale performed one of his pieces; now he is in his fourth year as a resident. “They’ve done several of my pieces,” Lauridsen notes, “including some of my French chansons. They want to do a piece of mine each year, with a brand new one every other year.”
Frank Ticheli, associate professor of composition, is completing his sixth year with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. During his residency, he has written five pieces; the orchestra recently recorded two of them, Radiant Voices and Postcard, on the Koch International Classics label.
“I think the advantage of these residencies is that for the audiences it reinforces the notion that composers are living human beings,” he says. “They get to make an intimate connection with the composer, and the conductor will take our music out into the world. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”
In residence with the Pacific Chorale, professor of composition James Hopkins premiered a new work, From the Realm of the Sea, in June. The work, with seven movements, was performed by the Pacific Chorale and the Pacific Symphony, with John Alexander conducting.
“In the texts I deal with various aspects of the sea, either metaphorically or liter-ally,” Hopkins says of the new piece. “The last movement is very much influenced by one of Debussy’s La Mer movements.”
Donald Crockett, professor of composition, has written four pieces in his six years of residency with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. His Celestial Mechanics for oboe and string quartet took second prize in the 1991 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards; and two of his pieces for chamber orchestra, Antiphonies and Roethke Preludes, were nationally broadcast on public radio. He composed another chamber work, Aubade, for collaboration between the musicians of the orchestra and students from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

– Paula Korn

Playing to the Home Crowd

USC GRADUATE ROBERT THIES, the first American since Van Cliburn to win a major Russian piano competition, performed with the USC Symphony to an overflow crowd at his alma mater this spring. Carl St.Clair, music director of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, was guest conductor.
The evening honored the achievements of Thies, who won a gold medal at the second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg in December 1995. The competition, which is supported in part by the Russian Ministry of Culture, carries a first prize of $10,000 plus numerous concerts and recordings.
Thies brought down the house at USC with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, a favorite among concert audiences for its lyrical themes as well as its display of unrelenting passion and energy.
“I learned this piece when I was 16,” he says. “And I remember how the experience quite literally opened my ears.... I started to hear music differently from that point on. So, naturally, the piece has a nostalgic place in my heart.”
The program, which was taped and later broadcast on KUSC Radio, also included Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Capriccio espagnol.
Thies, who at 26 is making of the rounds of the concert circuit, earned a bachelor of music summa cum laude in 1993 and a master of music in piano performance in 1995.



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Photograph of composers by Irene Fertik / photograph of Thies by Bryan Ballreich

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