1993

"With a Song in Their Hearts: Bolcom and Morris"


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Seattle native and UW alumnus William Bolcom served as the Hans and Thelma Lehmann Distinguished Professor in the UW music department during 1993-94. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his work, 12 New Etudes for Piano.

Bolcom studied composition at the UW under John Verrall; later, he studied with Darius Milhaud. Bolcom has composed I Will Breathe A Mountain, premiered by Marilyn Horne at the Carnegie Hall Centennial; Third Sonata for Violin and Piano, commissioned for and premiered by Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg at the Aspen Music Festival; and Songs of Innocence and of Experience, described as "a masterpiece of our time and place" by The New York Times.

Bolcom's 1992 opera, McTeague, commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Civic Light Opera, earned praise from the New York Magazine for its "gallant effort to restore music to its rightful place as the dominant and defining element in the operatic mix." The opera was televised by the Public Broadcasting Service as The Real McTeague, a television special conceived by Robert Altman. The Los Angeles Times wrote: "The composer, a master of his complex craft, wrote an accessible score that cannily bridged period pop, mild-mannered modernism and old-fashioned operatic convention."

Integrating current classical styles with popular idioms, from ragtime and jazz to blues and salsa, Bolcom's performances with singer/actress Joan Morris have won national recognition. Newsweek magazine notes:

She is a classically trained singer/actress who has done opera and serious concert music. He is a renowned composer/pianist who studied with Darius Milhaud and one of whose scores had its world premiere at the Stuttgart Opera. Yet, when Joan Morris and William Bolcom get together on the concert stage, the usual matter at hand is a marvelously varied repertory of American popular songs, from vaudeville numbers of Lillian Russell's era to the show tunes of Broadway's heyday. She sings them straight, her mezzo-soprano aglow with wonderment at the simple dramatic beauty of a Kern or a Gershwin phrase. He provides an elegant partnership at the keyboard that transcends the rather denigrating recital-hall term 'accompanist.' "Don't worry about whether this is classical or popular," they seem to be telling us. "Just listen; isn't it wonderful?" Yes, it is.

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