Charles Wuorinen: Spinoff

Program Note

Spinoff, composed for Speculum Musicae, one of the new-music ensembles that are part of the progeny of Wuorinen’s own Group, and dedicated to Benjamin Hudson, makes contact with the demotic. Wuorinen lives on New York’s Upper West Side, and the sounds of his environment sometimes invade his music. Here it is as though he had imagined a violinist and a bass player rehearsing chamber music in a non-air-conditioned West End Avenue apartment with the windows open, their music being gently, charmingly, insistently invaded by sounds emanating from the works of Riverside Park.

—Michael Steinberg

Wuorinen's career started very early. Although temporarily distracted by a love of astrophysics, by the age of six he had set his sights on becoming a composer, writing little imitations of Mozart and Bach which he played on the piano. In 1970, Wuorinen became the youngest composer at that time to win the Pulitzer Prize (for the electronic work Time's Encomium). The Pulitzer and the MacArthur Fellowship are just two among many awards, fellowships, and other honors to have come his way.

Wuorinen has written more than 260 compositions to date. His newest works include an opera on Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain, Time Regained, a fantasy for piano and orchestra based on early music (Matteo da Perugia to Orlando Gibbons) for Peter Serkin, James Levine and the MET Opera Orchestra, Theologoumenon, an orchestral tone poem commissioned for James Levine's 60th birthday, Eighth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Metagong for two pianos and two percussion. Wuorinen has also been active as performer, an excellent pianist and a distinguished conductor of his own works as well as other twentieth-century repertoire. His orchestral appearances have included the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the American Composers Orchestra. In 1962, he co-founded the Group for Contemporary Music, one of America's most prestigious ensembles dedicated to performance of new chamber music. In addition to cultivating a new generation of performers, and commissioning and premiering hundreds of new works, the Group has been a model for many similar organizations that have appeared in the United States since its founding.