With recent premieres of commissioned works by major ensembles such as the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, the music of composer Sean Shepherd (born 1979) has appeared in celebrated venues across the United States and Europe. Engagements include those with the National Symphony Orchestra’s CrossCurrents Contemporary Music Week at the Kennedy Center, the 2008 Aldeburgh Festival, and a portrait concert at the ultramodern Radialsystem V in Berlin, presented by the Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble, with the composer conducting. Oliver Knussen premiered Shepherd's Wanderlust in Cleveland in 2009, and Alan Gilbert led the premiere of These Particular Circumstances, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the inaugural season of CONTACT!, the New Music Series, in April 2010 to general acclaim.
Notes from the Composer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Performed by the Scharoun Ensemble of Berlin; Conducted by Sean Shepherd.
I chose these excerpts from my Octet (completed in 2008) and my sextet Lumens (completed in 2006) in an attempt at broad contrast: fast vs. slow, soft vs. loud, lyrical vs. punctuated. But when I listened to what I had selected, I was more struck by the similarities in the pieces than by the differences. Both are final sections of longer pieces for medium-sized chamber forces, both are for standard, time-tested ensembles, and both are, in the end, full of contrast in and of themselves. Each has plenty of soft, fast, and lyrical, and each has plenty more.
Performed by the Cornell Chamber Players; conducted by Sean Shepherd.
Where these excerpts truly differ is in character. The Octet selection comprises a whole movement, the fourth, entitled «The Perplexed Machine,» taken (as the other titles are) from the Wallace Stevens poem Sea surface full of clouds. Anyone might take some kind of dark, sarcastic pleasure in observing our nimble yet confused mechanical friend bumbling along—there certainly was pleasure on my part in guiding the bumbling. In Lumens, it’s quite the opposite. Arriving after a busy, joyous piece that teems with energy for long stretches, the excerpt begins just as apogee melts away, revealing a hushed and innocent final prayer, marked in the score: Benediction (blessing, in the most universal sense).