College to host free concert tribute to top composer

Composer George Tsontakis.Decorated classical composer George Tsontakis will visit SUNY Oswego on March 24 as part of a continuing collaboration between Oswego’s Rob Auler and Le Moyne College’s Andrew Russo, both accomplished pianists who each will perform pieces in a Tsontakis tribute at both schools.

Tsontakis will begin the Oswego event, which is free and open to the public, with a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. March 24 in Sheldon Hall ballroom.

Auler and Russo then will lead chamber performances of Tsontakis’ “Eclipse” (1995) a quartet for piano, violin, cello and clarinet, and “Stimulus Package” (2009) for cello, piano and percussion. The concert is part of SUNY Oswego’s Ke-Nekt Chamber Music Series.

Auler pointed out that while Tsontakis’ work bears the “new music” label, he connects with mainstream classical audiences.

“Tsontakis is one who is writing in a modern idiom, but he certainly has a structure the audience can hang onto,” said Auler, assistant professor in SUNY Oswego’s music department. He pointed to the “rhythmic impulses” in the composer’s work. “You want the audience to feel edified, to know what’s going on, and you do with George Tsontakis.”

Tsontakis, a native of Queens who now resides in Ulster County, has won both the Charles Ives Living and the Grawemeyer awards. Tsontakis appeared at the world premiere of “Stimulus Package” last summer at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Albany Symphony and Da Camera of Houston all have published discs with Tsontakis concertos, meditations and sonatas, and pianist Stephen Hough performed Tsontakis’ “Ghost Variations” for a Hyperion compilation disc called “Variations.”

Russo, now chair of Le Moyne’s music department, is an accomplished concert pianist who has performed globally. He will lead a trio in Tsontakis’ “Stimulus Package”—including cellist Stephanie March and percussionist Robert Bridge—at Oswego and at 7:30 p.m. March 23 at Le Moyne’s Panasci Chapel.

Auler, also an award-winning concert pianist, will join Trevor Jorgensen on clarinet, violinist Stephanie Koppeis and cellist Jackie Wogick for “Eclipse” at both schools.

Collaborations like the ones with Russo at Le Moyne and Bridge at Onondaga Community College can enable smaller colleges to book top composers like Tsontakis, said Auler, pointing to last year’s evening with composer Aaron Jay Kernis.

“This partnership between Le Moyne College and SUNY Oswego, now in its third year, allows the faculty, students and surrounding communities of these two fine institutions to interact with today’s leading composers in a meaningful way,” Russo said. “This style and quality of project is rare and offers our campuses opportunities that exist in very few communities throughout this nation. Le Moyne College and SUNY Oswego should be proud to have distinguished themselves in this way.”

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(Posted: Mar 10, 2010)