Katherine Needleman, Oboe
Katherine Needleman is a multi-faceted musician and curator of the Coffee, Patisserie, and Classical Music series in her native Baltimore, exploring the connection between composer and performer through historically marginalized music. She became the Baltimore Symphony’s principal oboist in 2003, the same year she won first prize at the International Double Reed Society’s Gillet-Fox Competition.
As soloist, she has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Saint Paul, Baltimore, and Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestras; the Albany, Richmond, and Haddonfield Symphonies; and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, in addition to her frequent appearances with the Baltimore Symphony. She has performed as guest principal oboist with the New York Philharmonic, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Zealand, and San Diego.
Needleman gave the U.S. premiere of Ruth Gipps’ Oboe Concerto, conducted and played the U.S. premiere of Brenno Blauth’s Concertino, and gave the West Coast premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Oboe Concerto at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. She gave the premiere of Kevin Puts’ oboe concerto, Moonlight, at the Baltimore Symphony’s New Music Festival with Marin Alsop.
Before the 2019-2020 season was truncated by COVID-19, Needleman presented two recitals throughout the U.S., one for oboe alone, and one for oboe and piano consisting of music by women composers. In late March 2020, she began her Lockdown Oboe Solo Concerts, broadcasting eleven weekly performances, including numerous premieres, to an audience of 80,000 from her living room—except for one performance which began on a raft floating in a cold lake near the Canadian border and ended with her swimming into shore.
The music of American composer Andrea Reinkemeyer, D.M.A, “offers a luminous glimpse of the next world” (Fanfare Magazine) as it “explores a reverent sound world that hovers just above the brink of silence” (Second Inversion), using “spare, melancholy passages to traverse a complex emotional landscape” (Eugene Weekly) “from reverence and supplication to mournfulness and despair” (textura). Reinkemeyer’s work has been praised as “clever, funky, jazzy and virtuosic” (Schenectady Daily Gazette), “enchanting” (International Choral Bulletin), and “hauntingly melodic and fun, dancing and almost running its way forward…whimsical” (Fanfare Magazine). Her current musical explorations focus on intersectional feminist narratives, natural phenomena, home, and grief.
Reinkemeyer’s music is distributed by Murphy Press and the ADJ•ective Composers’ Collective and is featured on recordings by Idit Shner, Society of Composers, Inc. (S.C.I.), In Mulieribus, A/B Duo, and Post-Haste Reed Duo. Recent commissions include the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the League of American Orchestras with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Rhymes with Opera, H. Robert Reynolds and The Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Mid America Freedom Band, Fear No Music, Lacroute Arts Series at Linfield University, Rodney Dorsey, Abigail Sperling with support from the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Music Teachers Association, The Wild Swan Theater, and many other performers and visual artists. Featured performances include the Eugene Symphony, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, New Music Gathering, American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings, North-South Consonance Chamber Orchestra, Great Noise Ensemble, Thailand International Composition Festival, and conferences of the International Alliance of Women in Music (I.A.W.M.), Iowa Music Teachers Association, Society of Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (S.E.A.M.U.S.) and S.C.I.
Reinkemeyer is Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Linfield University, where she coordinates the Composers Studio and Lacroute Composer Readings Program. She holds degrees in music composition from the University of Michigan (M.M. and D.M.A.) and the University of Oregon (B.M.). Born and raised in Oregon, Andrea has also lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Bangkok, Thailand.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts has established himself as one of America’s leading composers, gaining international acclaim for his “plush, propulsive” music (The New York Times), and described by Opera News as “a master polystylist.” He has been commissioned and performed by leading organizations around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, Opera Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera, and many more, and has collaborated with world-class artists such as Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Marin Alsop, among others.
In March 2022 Puts’ fourth opera, The Hours had its world premiere on the concert stage by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and was hailed as a “historic event … with a lush orchestration that hits you in the solar plexus.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). The Hours premiers as a fully staged production at the Metropolitan Opera in November 2022 starring sopranos Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. Other highlights of 2022 include the west-coast premiere of The Brightness of Light featuring Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. His triple concerto Contact, written for the groundbreaking string trio Time for Three, had its world-premiere in March 2022 with the Florida Orchestra, and will receive additional performances in summer with the Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Sun Valley Symphony. A recording of the piece by the Philadelphia Orchestra was released on the Deutsche Grammophon label in June 2022.
Puts’ breakthrough opera Silent Night – for which he was awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize following its 2011 premiere by Minnesota Opera – has been heralded as “remarkable” (The New York Times) and “stunning” (Twin Cities Examiner). In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Puts has received numerous honors and awards for composition. Since 2006, he has been a member of the Composition Faculty at the Peabody Institute.
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). Recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post, Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Will Liverman, Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo, vocalist Shara Nova, eighth blackbird, A Far Cry, and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. The winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition, Snider’s upcoming projects include the world premiere of Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement for the New York Philharmonic, and an opera on 12–century polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects. Penelope and Unremembered, her first two LP song cycles, earned critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Gramophone Magazine, and Pitchfork, among others. In fall 2020, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records released Snider’s third LP, Mass for the Endangered—a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned prayer for the environment performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus—to wide critical acclaim. In naming the album to its Best of 2020 list, NPR proclaimed, “Snider must be recognized as one of today’s most compelling composers for the human voice.” A founding co-artistic director of Brooklyn-based nonprofit New Amsterdam Records, Snider has an M.A. and Artist’s Diploma from the Yale School of Music, and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Her music is published by G. Schirmer.
Water Sings Fire (2018)
Andrea Reinkemeyer (b. 1976)
Water Sings Fire for Orchestra was commissioned by the League of American Orchestras and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra with the generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Carlos Miguel Prieto conducted the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for the premiere performances at the Orpheum Theatre in New Orleans, Louisiana in January 2019.
The piece draws inspiration from Leigh Bardugo’s short story, “When Water Sang Fire”—a feminist origin myth to the Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Little Mermaid—in which themes of ambition and betrayal are explored allegorically through Ulla’s transformation from obscure mermaid to tempestuous sea witch.
With nimble precision, Ulla manipulates the mer-music’s magical properties—a show of power irresistible to an ambitious prince whose lack of natural talent drives his relentless pursuit of the throne. In the end, Ulla’s ability to transform wishes into reality rewards the treachery of the young prince, and it costs her everything.
The loss of her voice, friend, and form illustrates the degradation of her true source of personal power. Desperate to survive, Ulla uses a magical mirror to amplify her weakened voice with the support of “all these broken, betrayed girls” reflected in the mirror. Together, they build a song of storm magic to pull apart the prince’s ill-begotten prize.
Bardugo writes that following Ulla’s descent, she clutches her memories and “…held each sorrow like a chafing grain of sand, and grew her grudges like pearls.”
While this piece does not strictly adhere to the narrative arc of the story, its episodic form strings together grievances, while Ulla, who frets in the deep, waits for the “lonely, the ambitious, the clever, the frail, for all those willing to strike a bargain. She never waits long.”
Like the story, the sparse textures of the opening moments conjure the barren lands stripped of life by Ulla’s storm, and slowly builds with the sorrow of each painful memory re-lived. The themes resonate with societal changes that challenge our nation—as we strive to give voice to the wronged and the disenfranchised. The work is dedicated, with hope and with gratitude, to “women who sing truth though the world rains fire upon them.”
—Andrea Reinkemeyer and Kate Verotsky
To read Leigh Bardugo’s short story, When Water Sang Fire see: https://www.leighbardugo.com/book/the-language-of-thorns/
Moonlight (Second Concerto for Oboe and Strings) (2017)
Kevin Puts (b. 1972)
[West Coast Premiere]
Immediately following her performance of the beautiful Oboe Concerto of Christopher Rouse at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in August 2016, I approached Katherine Needleman about doing a project together, and to my great delight she was enthusiastic.
The piece was written in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, during a time of great upheaval and division in the country and—for me—a profound feeling of disillusionment. I floundered for several months, searching for inspiration until the discovery on a cross-country flight of the 2016 film Moonlight in the in-flight entertainment guide. I found it exquisitely made, and the film’s demonstration of tolerance and compassion in the midst of a tough environment stayed with me for some time, giving me cause for hope.
My concerto is in three parts, played without break. I call the first movement (and the whole piece) “Moonlight” because…why not? Beethoven did it. Or his publisher did. Anyway, I heard this opening music every time I thought of the film, though it does not sound like the soundtrack to the film (which I loved, by the way).
The second part, “Folly,” is driving and sinister, at turns threatening and grotesque, obsessively hanging onto a repeating two-note motive throughout.
The third part follows a short cadenza for the oboe out of which a long-breathed melody emerges. Theodore Roethke wrote, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” I continue to strive for vision and understanding in the midst of our great national division.
My most sincere gratitude and admiration goes to Katherine Needleman for her guidance in shaping the oboe part, and to Bette and Joseph Hirsch for their friendship and generous support for this project. And as always to Marin Alsop for her belief in my work.
Sarah Kirkland Snider (b. 1973)
Film by Mark DeChiazza
[West Coast Premiere]
Hiraeth is a Welsh word with no direct English equivalent. The University of Wales defines it as “homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed; a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness.” Oxford and Merriam Webster define it as “a homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or that never was.”
In 2013 the North Carolina Symphony commissioned me to write a large-scale piece about my family ties to the state. My father was born and raised in the small town of Salisbury, and according to family lore, his ancestors had been in North Carolina for thirteen generations. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my family in Salisbury. My grandmother, who worked as a local historic preservationist, assiduously educated my brother, cousin, and me on our ancestors going back several generations. From a young age, all of this created in me a deep feeling that while New Jersey was my circumstantial home, North Carolina was my spiritual one—a safe harbor, a place that, if all else failed, would take care of me somehow.
My plan was to write a personal meditation on notions of home, family, and belonging, as seen through the prism of my childhood memories of North Carolina. Then, life interfered: shortly after receiving the commission, my father was diagnosed with a rare, untreatable cancer. Three months later he was gone. Reeling from the shock and pain of his loss, my initial ideas about the piece were now suffused with melancholy and angst. In thinking about my father’s life—all its joys, tragedies, triumphs, and misfortunes—my reflections on small-town North Carolina shifted from rosy recollection to something more complex and realistic. It was a place that had signified home and belonging for me as a child, but it was also a place that had borne witness to terrible events in our nation’s history and was culturally steeped in denial and many narrow ways of thinking—narrowness that was not without impact on my father and his family, privileged though they were.
Ultimately, Hiraeth is both an elegy for my father and a personal reflection on the layered, conflicting emotions and dreamlike sensations that attend memories of the past. Formally, I strove to emulate the architectural logic of memory: motifs overlap in evolving ways; thoughts wander and interrupt one another. Frequently, one memory, with a specific set of emotional evocations, is imbued with the color and perfume of another—harmonically, motivically, or texturally. Mostly I tried to immerse myself in the complex feelings I have for this time and place I can’t return to—the naive childhood affection, and the clear-eyed adult perspective—and give voice to what rose to the surface.
—Sarah Kirkland Snider
About the film for Hiraeth:
DeChiazza’s film, which partners with live performance of composer Sarah Kirkland Snider’s 27-minute orchestral work Hiraeth, aims to realize moments that never existed—rarefied memories from an imagined childhood. The film’s imagery could be understood as an intricate collage of invented home movies—an idealized and amped-up version of Dad’s old super-8s.
Shot on location around Salisbury, North Carolina, where Snider’s father grew up and where, as a child, she would visit her grandparents’ home. DeChiazza cast Jasper and Dylan, Snider’s own children, as the primary subjects of his film, drawn to the immediate and tactile way that children explore their surroundings through play, and how childhood memories are shaped through this mode of encountering the world.
The film also features Snider’s father’s identical twin, Britt Snider, as well as members of her extended family.
With real people and places as raw material, the camera’s eye constructs a fictional nostalgic past, selectively focusing on some elements while leaving others obscured in luminous haze. It can draw very close or pull back to skirt the periphery of its subjects as it seeks to simplify what is complicated and lingers to burnish the beautiful.
The children exist within a story that is always kept slightly outside of our frame—we are right beside it but always looking at a tangent to it. Evading narrative’s factual details, we instead become steeped in the tones, colors, and textures it exudes—a poetry that can be understood through sensation and experience.