Bruce Hobson - Equinox Music CD 0102 Liner Notes
Bruce Hobson: Two Isorhythms and other works
Liner Notes

In the conclusion of The Perspective of the World, the third volume of his monumental history, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Fernand Braudel mentions the ambiguous relations between capitalism and culture: "they contain a contradiction: culture is both support and challenge, guard dog and rebel." This description can easily be applied to the music on this disc. The duality of Braudel's generalization can be seen in my music through the conservative use of ancient musical techniques such as counterpoint and isorhythmic repetition versus the rebellious quality of advanced chromaticism and plentiful free dissonance.

The same interaction of conservative and progressive forces can be observed in commercial rock music. But there the rebelliousness frequently appears in the lyrics, the self-brutalization of performance style, or "mosh pit" hysteria, whereas the underlying music is built upon extremely conservative formulas. From the smallest detail to its grandest 2 1/2 minutes, the musical creation of a rock song is driven by concerns of potential market share: the slightest deviation from the standard formulas means a loss of customers. Participation in the market ensures that rock music is a guard dog of the system.

My music contains many formulas that are deliberately not "standard" but are created instead from what I find most passionate and exciting in music. In place of the commercial grid of pulse, phrase, 32 bar form, and blues chord progression, I've established a musical hot house in which each composition is grown organically from a single melody or theme. The rebellion against standard formulas intensifies the listening experience by constantly invigorating the musical material; and conversely, the supportive side of Braudel's hypothesis appears in my compositional goal of guarding the listener from the tinge of falsehood that often inhabits the pandering clichés of commercial music.

The lyrical foundation of my Trio for violin, cello, and piano is proclaimed in the forte opening measures of the violin. Composed in a single movement of 20 minutes, this work is divided into three sections that represent a gigantic expansion of the rhythm and expressive shape of the opening violin melody. Each large section is delineated by its own tempo and texture: moderate with trills or changing note tremolos, faster with staccato double stops or doubled figures, and finally, slow with repeated notes. Local rhythms, phrases, and midsize sections are also expressive derivations of the original eight note violin theme. Completed in 1990, the Trio was first performed in November of that year in New York City by the Guild of Composers.

In his New York Times review of the first of my Two Lyric Pieces for piano, Allen Hughes observed that it "sounded as though it had resulted from the composer's genuine desire to write music that would evoke emotive response." This 1977 work opens and closes with a long dramatic melody that is the basis for a series of surging variations that change the musical texture of the melody as they build steadily to a climax and subsequent peaceful ending.

The homophonic beginning of the second Lyric Piece presents a slow majestic theme whose chordal accompaniment is immediately separated from it contrapuntally with the chords moving at a slower speed. A two-part counterpoint of chordal and melodic versions of the melody is exchanged between the hands as the rhythmic activity intensifies. Melody begins to dominate the two-part texture with giant, heroic leaps that finally collide and culminate in a ferocious mid-range chord.

After its composition in the year of its title, the Trio 1966 was first performed at the New England Conservatory in 1967. Written for violin, clarinet, and cello, the piece brings together five short movements with very different and distinct characteristics. The first expands each instrument's opening phrase through ornamentation; the second, Lento, moves from an agitated mist to lyric clarity while gradually assembling the closing melody from intervallic fragments and phrase segments; the third is a high speed fugal chase; the melody and accompaniment texture of the fourth repeats the melody unchanged while the accompaniment is extensively varied; and the fifth is a motivic collage that gradually shifts emphasis from one motive to another.

In looking for love poems to set to music before composing my Three Songs, I found many contemporary poems by various poets that described sexuality but few that combined emotion with sensuality. The poems of e. e. cummings that I was pleased to find for setting portray a strong connection between affection and lovemaking. The music is composed to emphasize and strengthen this connection. The Three Songs received their first performance in a 1988 Guild of Composers concert in New York City.

The final and perhaps most ambitious work on this disc is the Cantilena Infinita, which is receiving both its world premiere performance and first recording here. The voluptuous, cantabile statement of the theme by the flute begins the piece and establishes the dramatic framework of what follows. As in the piano Trio, the large sections-marked on the CD by ID numbers-correspond to a tremendous expansion of the exact rhythm and inferred expressive contour of the opening cantilena. In contrast to the Trio, the Cantilena's many sections have assumed more of the characteristics of a traditional theme and variation format, although here the music is through composed and performed without pauses. The continuous, goal directed motion is relaxed throughout the piece by a generous sprinkling of fermatas at dramatic high points and low points. The harmonic language of this and the other pieces on this disc is conceived as a highly chromatic extension of tonality. In the Cantilena, this can be heard from the opening to the glorious A-flat eleventh chord of the climax (ID number 25) and the soothing repose of the E-minor ninth chord of the ending.

A resident of Manchester, Vermont, Bruce Hobson was born in 1943 in Hartford, Connecticut, where he studied piano and trumpet at the Hartt School of Music in the 1950s. During studies at Columbia University and the New England Conservatory of Music, his composition teachers included Otto Luening, Chou Wen Chung, and Malcolm Peyton. Equinox Music is serving as publisher and recording company for Mr. Hobson's compositions recorded on this and a companion disc, CDs 0102 and 0101. Conceived ten years ago, this recording project has taken Mr. Hobson to Budapest, Warsaw, New York City, Vienna, and also Bratislava, where his Three: for Two Trumpets and Orchestra and Concerto for Orchestra were recorded for Vienna Modern Masters CDs 3017 and 3024 respectively.

Mr. Hobson has lived in southern Vermont since 1973, composing and teaching piano privately. He has continued his participation in the musical life of New York City by becoming a founding member of the Guild of Composers, a performing organization, and the Association for the Promotion of New Music, a music publisher.

Pianist Margaret Kampmeier is active as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player, and teacher. She has performed extensively in the United States and abroad. Her appearances in New York City have included many concert venues and radio. She has played with Speculum Musicae, The New Music Consort, and the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, and has recorded for Centaur, CRI, Koch, and Bridge records. Ms. Kampmeier is a founding member of the New Millennium Ensemble, a mixed chamber group that made its New York debut in February 1994 and won the 1995 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. Ms. Kampmeier studied with pianist Gilbert Kalish at SUNY Stony Brook, where she earned her Master's and Doctoral Degrees. She has participated in the Aspen, Tanglewood, Scotia, and Ravinia Festivals, and has won prizes in the Olga Koussevitsky and Frinna Awerbuch competitions. A native of Rochester, New York, Ms. Kampmeier currently resides in New York City.

Bass-baritone Jan Opalach is highly regarded for his performances of many roles on the international opera stage as well as his singing in solo, chamber, and orchestral works. Mr. Opalach is a master of both the standard repertoire and difficult contemporary works. He has won first prize in the Naumburg Vocal Competition, Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, and the prestigious international vocal competition of s'Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. He has appeared with major opera companies throughout the world and has recently recorded works by Stravinsky, Carter, Kernis, Wolpe, and Beaser.

Born in Budapest in 1971, conductor Gergely Kesselyák began studying the cello in 1982 and later took up contrabass and piano as well. Voice and theory lessons followed while he improved as a cellist and lead the cello section in seven orchestras. From 1990 to 1995 he studied conducting at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music with Ervin Lukács and Y. Simonov. He has been active as a composer since 1988. After winning third place in the International Television Conductors Contest, he was awarded the special prize of the National Philharmonia of Hungary. His proficiency with a wide variety of repertoire from opera to musicals led to a very active conducting schedule with numerous organizations including The Hungarian State Opera, several Hungarian theaters, The Hungarian State Concert Orchestra, and The Hungarian Youth Radio Orchestra. He has been conducting modern music for compact disc recordings since 1990 in addition to helping with the preparation of radio and television recordings. In 1997 he became music director of the National Theater of Miskolc.

Notes by Bruce Hobson

Trio for violin, cello, and piano; engineer: Judith L. Sherman; editing and producer: Bruce Hobson; recorded on June 18, 1995 in the Music Division Recital Hall, State University of New York at Purchase

Two Lyric Pieces, Three Songs, engineer: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions; editing and producer: Bruce Hobson; recorded on May 18-19, 1994 in the Music Division Recital Hall, State University of New York at Purchase

Trio 1966 for violin, clarinet, and cello, engineer: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions; editing and producer: Bruce Hobson; recorded on May 14, 1992 in Theater C of the Performing Arts Center of the State University of New York at Purchase

Cantilena Infinita, producer: Dávid Zsolt Király, The Kiraly Music Network; recording: István Biller, Appleton Limited; editing: Bruce Hobson; recorded on September 11, 1996 in the Evangelical Church, Gyor, Hungary