Seattle Symphony composer to bow out in style
The weekend of June 2-5 is one of celebration and farewell as Seattle Symphony marks composer-in-residence Samuel Jones' 14-year tenure.
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Symphony Orchestra• Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 (including the world premiere of Samuel Jones' "Reflections: Songs of Fathers and Daughters," 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. June 4, and 2 p.m. June 5; $17-$107.
• Samuel Jones Celebration, 8 p.m. June 3,
Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $19-$31 (206-217-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
In a few short weeks, Gerard Schwarz's 26-year era as Seattle Symphony Orchestra's music director comes to a close.
But the end of SSO's current season will also complete the 14-year tenure of Samuel Jones as the organization's distinguished composer-in-residence. Jones, who has written a number of original works for Seattle Symphony and turns 76 next month, is retiring, and he's going out with a bang.
"It's been a marvelous experience to be associated with these wonderful musicians," Jones says from his home in Tacoma, "and with Jerry (Schwarz), one of the great conductors of our time and one of the strongest proponents of contemporary music."
On June 2, Jones' new composition, "Reflections: Songs of Fathers and Daughters," will have its world premiere on a bill with another debut (Paul Schoenfield's "Freilach"), a Shostakovich symphony and a Liszt concerto featuring guest pianist William Wolfram. Schwarz will conduct the event (which repeats Saturday and Sunday) in Benaroya Hall.
On Friday, Jones will be the artistic and personal focus of the symphony's "Samuel Jones Celebration," a remarkable program bringing together several of his older and more recent works, including his Piano Sonata, soprano excerpts from "A Christmas Memory" and a chamber version of his orchestral piece, "Janus."
A stellar lineup of guest artists includes Adam Stern on piano, violinist Emma McGrath, mezzo-soprano Jenny Knapp and cellist Julian Schwarz, who performed the world premiere of Jones' Cello Concerto in 2010.
Jones says the project amounts to a stylistic retrospective in which he hears, in stand-alone works, the development of his mature style over decades.
"Even though there are certain turns of phrase and harmony and color that become familiar, every piece has its own character and personality," he says.
Despite retirement, Jones, like Schwarz — who will become SSO's conductor laureate and occasionally wield a baton in Benaroya — isn't going very far.
"Each year I've been here," Jones says, "I've told Jerry I'll step down, and he says, 'Are you kidding? It's going well.' But with new artistic direction coming in, I felt I should let Ludo choose who he might want for composer-in-residence."
"Ludo" is Ludovic Morlot, the French conductor appointed as SSO's new music director commencing next season. Jones says Morlot accepted his resignation, but asked him to stay on as director of the annual Young Composers Workshop, which mentors school-age composers. Jones agreed.
"Amidst all the predictions of doom and gloom that art music is dying," says Jones, "every year comes along a new wave of high-school kids burning with desire and ability and talent to keep this art form alive. It's the most affirming thing I can think of in terms of the future of our art."
Jones' own artistic output is hardly slowing.
"I just finished the busiest compositional period of my life," he says. "I had four major premieres this year. I have a number of pieces people have asked me to write that I've had on the back burner. I've never written a string quartet, for example, and I'm extremely interested in that great challenge."
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
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