Published September 10, 2019
SUNY Distinguished Professor David Felder’s new orchestral piece “Die Dämmerungen” will receive its world premiere in a pair of performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of JoAnn Falletta at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6, at Kleinhans Music Hall.
The extended four-movement work muses on various forms of twilight, with each movement framed by accompanying poetic inscriptions, including those of William Carlos Williams, Dana Gioia, and the Book of Psalms, as well as Frederick Nietzsche’s “Twilight of the Idols.”
“I’m deeply honored to have been able to compose ‘Die Dämmerungen’ for JoAnn Falletta and the wonderful musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and am very excited to hear the premiere at Kleinhans,” says Felder, the Birge-Cary chair in music composition in the Department of Music, part of UB’s College of Arts and Sciences.
UB faculty, staff and students and residents of East Aurora, Felder’s hometown, will receive a 30 percent discount for tickets purchased online through the BPO’s website by using the code FELDER30.
“We are thrilled to present this new work by David Felder, one of the foremost American composers today,” said Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. “The BPO has a long history of presenting new works. Our audiences have come to expect it — to love it. It’s such a joy to present the premiere performance of this great work to our audiences at Kleinhans Music Hall. The BPO and I are happy to celebrate the close relationship between our orchestra and the University at Buffalo.”
For Felder, who is widely recognized as one of the leading composers of his generation, twilight (“Die Dämmerungen” translates from German as twilights) is an encompassing theme that speaks to a recurring diurnal nature as easily as it references sweeping representations of place, position and time of life.
He says light has always been a source of fascination, its shades, durations and intensities expressed in ways often specific to time and geography. Felder mentions witnessing the brief but spectacular southwestern sunsets and their longer more subtle northern counterparts, as well as looking out his backyard in East Aurora, N.Y.
The village’s name references the Roman goddess of dawn. It inspired Felder to reflect on that mythology, along with the current historical moment in “Die Dämmerungen’s” second movement, while speculating on twilights of persons, and civilizations — both their beginnings and their endings — in later movements.
Felder’s use of poetic texts in “Die Dämmerungen” represents both passion and inspiration. Poetry, in this case, speaks not only to his personal interests, but creates a frame that provides what he calls an ancillary way of looking at the music.
That Felder explores cycles of time in some ways speaks to his own evolution as an artist.
“Die Dämmerungen” is another step in a decades-long line of collaborations with the BPO that began in 1987 with the orchestra’s performance of Felder’s double concerto for clarinet and piano, performed as part of what was the North American New Music Festival. He also wrote in 1991 for the former BPO music director Maximiano Valdes a piece titled “Six Poems for Neruda’s ‘Alturas…’”
Felder served as Meet the Composer BPO composer-in-residence for three years beginning in 1993 as part of a national program that put five other composers in residence with American orchestras. And since then, he has worked with the BPO on many concerts for June in Buffalo, UB’s internationally celebrated new music festival.
But his current work represents his interest in speaking more directly and simply.
“I think simplicity is among the qualities that clarifies one’s work as we get older,” he says. “As a younger composer, part of my focus was on the formal and technical as points of departure in working out my own language, but as you get older and more comfortable with that language, you can be more direct in how you disperse the material you have in hand for the artistic purposes you desire.”
As a younger composer, Felder was interested in writing extended single movement forms expressed in complex formal vehicles.
“In ‘Die Dämmerungen,’ as in much of my recent work, I’ve concentrated more on shorter, individual movements which are essentially binary forms,” he says. “These are more simple forms than my earlier work, basically two parts, but clearly connected – the movements rhyme in a manner of speaking.”