Recent seasons have marked the introduction of two milestones for composer Stephen Jaffe: the world premiere of the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by the National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin conducting, with David Hardy, cello soloist (at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.); and the premiere recording of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra with the Odense Symphony of Denmark, Gregory Fulkerson, violin, and Donald Palma conducting. Both have met with warm acclaim.  Stephen Jaffe’s music has been featured at major concerts and festivals including the Nottingham, Tanglewood, and Oregon Bach Festivals, and performed throughout the U.S., Europe, and China by ensembles including the R.A.I. of Rome, Slovenska Filharmonija (Slovenian Philharmonic), the National Symphony, the San Francisco, North Carolina and New Jersey Symphonies, Berlin’s Spectrum Concerts, London’s Lontano, and many others. Bridge Records has issued three discs of the composer’s music. [Preview Volume III here]. New Release, December 2018! LIGHT DANCES (Chamber Concerto No. 2) Da Capo Chamber Players, Bridge 4001. Youtube

The composer’s recent output includes Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2), written for Philadelphia’s Network for New Music, and String Quartet No.2 (“Aeolian and Sylvan Figures”) commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for the Miami Quartet, as well as two orchestral works written for the North Carolina Symphony: Poetry of the Piedmont, and Cithara mea (Evocations): Spanish Music Notebook for Orchestra, based on Spanish Renaissance music.  In these works and others, Jaffe’s  musical language ranges from the lyrical, singing voices of the cello and violin to an orchestral world filled with the sounds of contemporary percussion, from steel drums in the Concerto for Cello to sampled songs of Black Capped Chickadees in Poetry of the Piedmont.  Another notable work is Homage to the Breath: Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten Instruments, with a text by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduced at the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C. by the 21st Century Consort, who subsequently recorded the work with mezzo-soprano Milagro Vargas on the Bridge label.

Jaffe has been the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including the Rome Prize, Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, Brandeis Creative Arts Citation, and fellowships from Tanglewood, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Bridge’s recording of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra received the Koussevitsky International Recording Award; in May, 2012, Stephen Jaffe was elected to membership in the  American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He is Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Professor of Music at Duke University, where he has taught since 1981. Together with colleagues, Jaffe directs Duke’s contemporary music concert series Encounters: with the Music of Our Time, and works with a inventive and gifted group of young composers.

See Recent posts in Stephen Jaffe’s Blog, including recent writing on the collaboratively written cantata, A Forest Unfolding (premiered August 12 and 18, 2018 by New Hampshire’s Electric Earth Concerts, and Maine’s Portland Chamber Music Festival). You can find a link to “We composed it Collaboratively” an editorial written about the project with Richard Powers.  Also, learn about Stephen Jaffe’s newest large ensemble work, A Symphony of Spiral and Light, for orchestral winds, brass and percussion, and new commissions and releases, including Three Arcs  (Chamber Concerto No. 5) for Chamber Ensemble with optional Cameo Chorus.

A number of 2020 premieres and recordings have been postponed given the Covid-19 virus.  This has been especially difficult for collaborating partners in the wide world of music, including the Kennedy Center Chamber Players (David Hardy, cello and Lambert Orkis, piano); pianist Gloria Cheng;  Bridge Records; and in Philadelphia, the Network for New Music, the Pennsylvaniagirlchoir and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia.   At Duke University the partnerships on which our faculty rely to give students a world-class experience have suffered terribly, and deserve your support, among many others who interested readers will want to help.  These include the North Carolina Symphony; Imani Winds; Horszowski Trio; American Ballet Theater; flutist Alex Sopp and Thomas Meglioranza, baritone, and the Ciompi Quartet only this year, and are but a few of the musicians and artists who have had to rearrange everything,  foregoing income and the chance to play beautifully to further art of music. May my colleagues in these circumstances, and others in more dire ones — heal and return to normal, soon.

Among 2020’s awful losses I remember Cosmas Magaya, the great mbira practitioner, Diane Moser, a multi-faceted pianist, composer and sound artist.