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 four discs of the composer’s music. [Preview Volume III here]. LIGHT DANCES (Chamber Concerto No. 2) Da Capo Chamber Players, Bridge 4001. Youtube

News, February 2022: Bridge Records issues “The Music of Stephen Jaffe, Vol.IV”  in hard copy and digital formats.  First recordings of String Quartet No. 2 (“Aeolian and Sylvan Figures”) and Sonata in four parts are included on the new disc in performances by the Borromeo String Quartet, David Hardy, cello and Lambert Orkis, piano.  Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2) features the Da Capo Chamber Players with Michael Lipsey, percussion. See the blog post concerning availability.

News, June 2023: The collaborative cantata A Forest Unfolding will be performed at the Aspen Music Festival in July, with the Aspen Contemporary Players and soloists to include Renée Fleming and Richard Powers as narrator.   Powers and Nnenna Freelon have alternated narrating roles as A Forest Unfolding has enjoyed performances this spring at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Oberlin College-Conservatory,  the University of South Carolina’s Southern Exposure series, and the Weymouth Center for the Arts. A recording was made in April to feature Powers, Tom Meglioranza baritone, and Rachel Calloway, mezzo-soprano and wonderful instrumental ensemble.  A Forest Unfolding blog post.  Mother Tongues for high voice and piano, set to poems of Tsitsi Jaji was premiered by Louise Toppin, soprano and Stephen Jaffe, piano in two June concerts at Duke and in Greenville, NC.  On June 11, at their summer concert, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players presented String Quartet No. 2 (“Aeolian and Sylvan Figures“) to a full and enthusiastic audience in Washington, D.C.  Tableaux, a major piano work, was presented by Lisa Emenheiser at the Hirshhorn Museum in February, 2023.

The composer’s recent output also includes Three Arcs, one of five chamber concertos, premiered at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, May 2, 2022 by Network for New Music and the Pennsylvania Girlchoir in celebration of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia’s bicentennial. Four other chamber concertos include Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2); “Singing Figures” (Chamber Concerto No. 1) for Oboe and Ensemble; Hip Concerto (for period or modern instruments), and Migrations (Chamber Concerto No. 4) for walking violin soloist and ensemble.  Stephen Jaffe’s recent chamber works are a Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, written for Washington D.C.’ s 21st Century Consort and premiered in February 2022, and Mother Tongues (four songs of Tsitsi Jaji) for soprano and piano, written for Louise Toppin’s New Generation Project.  The cantata A Forest Unfolding is inspired by recent scientific research into the rich communication and subterranean connectivity between trees–also evoked in Richard Powers related novel, The Overstory. The 35-minute work for two voices, narrator and instrumental ensemble was collaboratively composed with Eric Moe, Melinda Wagner and David Kirkland Garner, writers Richard Powers and Anne LaBastille, and others.  A Forest Unfolding premiered at the Portland Chamber Music Festival and New Hampshire’s Electric Earth Concerts in 2018.   String Quartet No.2 (“Aeolian and Sylvan Figures”) and String Quartet No. 3 (“A Tapestry”) were commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for the Miami Quartet, and by the Ciompi Quartet, and have been championed as well by the Borromeo Quartet, who recorded the String Quartet No. 2, and the Kennedy Center Chamber Players.  Orchestral works created for the North Carolina Symphony include Poetry of the Piedmont, and Cithara mea (Evocations): Spanish Music Notebook for Orchestra, based on Spanish Renaissance music, in collaboration with the visual artist Thomas Struth.  In these works, Stephen 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.  Homage to the Breath: Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten Instruments, with a text by Thich Nhat Hanh, was 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 Bridge 9255.

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 Distinguished 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 posts on Tableaux and A Forest Unfolding. Readers can find a link to “We Composed It Collaboratively”,  an editorial written about the Forest 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, new commissions and new releases.

Jaffe writes: “We are thankful, from the perspective of June, 2023, to have returned to musical presentations that can be shared and enjoyed by our audiences, our students, and our colleagues.  May it continue!  Meanwhile, please note how the musical world suffered during the pandemic–to say nothing of such terrible loss of life.  The pandemic was especially difficult for collaborating partners in the wide world of music, including my collaborators: the Kennedy Center Chamber Players (David Hardy, cello and Lambert Orkis, piano); pianist Gloria Cheng; Bridge Records; soprano Louise Toppin and the New Generation Project, and in Philadelphia, the Network for New Music, the Pennsylvaniagirlchoir and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia.  The premiere of the latter and its small part in the celebration of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia’s bicentennial was delayed by two years, depriving the ensemble players income and a chance to play, and the participating choristers a unique opportunity to work with a composer and the Network for New Music.   At Duke University the partnerships on which our faculty and Duke Performances rely to give students a world-class experience suffered terribly;  our partners 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, Yarn/Wire Ensemble and the Ciompi String Quartet of Duke University.  These are but a few of the musicians and artists who have had to rearrange everything,  foregoing income from concerts and the chance to play beautifully, to weather the storm and to find ways further art of music, despite all.  May my colleagues in these circumstances, and others in more dire ones — heal and return to normal, soon.”

Among music’s awful losses are remembered Cosmas Magaya, the great mbira practitioner, Diane Moser, a multi-faceted pianist, composer and sound artist. In 2021, the deaths of James Primosch and Louise Andriessen are especially pungent, followed in February 2022 by George Crumb.