David Conte, composer
(2015-16 ART composer-in-residence / 25th Season)
Composer David Conte (b. 1955) grew up in Cleveland, where he attended Lakewood Public Schools, studying choral music with B. Neil Davis, and piano with Berdi d’Alberti. He is the composer of over eighty works published by E. C. Schirmer Music Publishing, including six operas, a musical, works for chorus, solo voice, orchestra, chamber music, organ, piano, guitar, and harp. He has received commissions from Chanticleer, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Dayton, Oakland and Stockton Symphonies, the American Guild of Organists, Sonoma City Opera and the Gerbode Foundation. In 2007 he received the Raymond Brock commission from the American Choral Directors Association. He has composed songs for singers Barbara Bonney, Thomas Hampson and Phyllis Bryn-Julson, and his work is represented on many commercial CD recordings. His opera, The Gift of the Magi, has received over 25 productions in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. David Conte co-wrote the film score for the acclaimed documentary Ballets Russes, shown at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals in 2005, and composed the music for the PBS documentary, Orozco: Man of Fire, shown on the American Masters Series in the fall of 2007. In 1982, Conte lived and worked with Aaron Copland while preparing a study of the composer’s sketches, having received a Fulbright Fellowship for study with Copland’s teacher Nadia Boulanger in Paris, where he was one of her last students. He was also recipient of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Fellowship and an Aspen Music Festival Conducting Fellowship. David Conte earned his Bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University, where he studied with Wallace DePue, and his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Cornell University, where he studied with Karel Husa and Steven Stucky. He is Professor of Composition and Chair of the Composition Department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has taught at Cornell University, Keuka College, Colgate University and Interlochen. In 2010 he was appointed to the composition faculty of the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, and in 2011 he joined the board of the American Composers Forum. In 2014 he was named Composer in Residence with Cappella SF, a professional chorus in San Francisco. In 2015 a CD of his Chamber Music was released on Albany Records.
Program Notes: Clarinet Sonata
(written for Franklin Cohen / ART 25th Season)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano is a work in progress, written especially for clarinetist Franklin Cohen, former Principal Clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra. Having grown up in Cleveland, I have long admired Mr. Cohen’s playing. The clarinet is one of my favorite instruments, a sentiment that is shared by many composers as evidenced by the rich solo repertory composed for this instrument. This composition has been commissioned as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Arts Renaissance Tremont Chamber Music Concert Series, Chris Haff-Paluck, Founder and Artistic Director.
The concert features the first movement of my Sonata, marked Allegro moderato, appassionato. The work begins with a brief introduction in the manner of a solo recitative for the piano, which features a motive built on successive perfect fifths, which is the basis for much of the musical ideas in this movement. The piece is in a quite straight-forward Sonata-allegro form. The first theme is a broadly sung lyrical melody, supported by an undulating accompaniment in the piano, and is unabashedly romantic in character. This gives way suddenly to an agitated variation of this first theme, which transitions into a second theme, marked Moderato cantabile, accompanied by stately quarter-note chords in the piano. As the theme progresses, the clarinet and piano trade the melody back and forth, finally culminating in a canon between the two instruments. This gives way to a more relaxed closing theme in the Clarinet, marked Slower, mysterious, spacious, which is supported in the piano by many ringing perfect fifths, sounding somewhat like chiming bells. A brief development follows, leading to a climax, and followed by an affirmative return to the first theme. The movement unfolds with a restatement of all three themes, ending with a quietly solemn coda.
– David Conte