Composer Bernard Rands sits down with CIM's Head of Composition, Keith Fitch, to discuss his earliest musical memories and youth.
Keith Fitch currently heads the composition department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he holds the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition and also directs the CIM New Music Ensemble. Called “gloriously luminous” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, his music has been consistently noted for its eloquence, expressivity, dramatic sense of musical narrative, and unique sense of color and sonority. Reviewing a performance of his work Totem by Wolfgang Sawallisch and The Philadelphia Orchestra (chosen by Maestro Sawallisch to celebrate the orchestra’s centennial), The Wall Street Journal praised “the sheer concentration of his writing, and its power to express a complex, unseen presence shaping the course of musical events.” His works have been performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan by such ensembles as The Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and new music ensembles around the country. Additionally, his music has been heard at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the June in Buffalo Festival, the Midwest Composers’ Symposium, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Milwaukee PremiereFest, New York’s Carnegie and Merkin Halls, and in university settings nationwide. Highlights of recent seasons include the premieres of ’Tho Night Be Falling (commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for the Colorado String Quartet); Midnight Rounds, written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Da Capo Chamber Players; and Mean Fiddle Summer, composed for the acclaimed violinist Lina Bahn. The 2012-13 season brings the premieres of Knock on Wood (for the harp/guitar duo of Yolanda Kondonassis and Jason Vieaux); Cascade, a fanfare commissioned by Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the inauguration of their new building; and In Memory, a new chamber orchestra work commissioned by the League of Composers Orchestra (NY).
A native of Indiana, Keith Fitch (b. 1966) began composing at age eight and began formal musical training on the double bass at age eleven. While still in high school (age sixteen), he received his first professional orchestral performance. Subsequently, he attended the Indiana University School of Music, where he completed his Doctorate in 1995. At Indiana, he studied composition with Frederick Fox, Eugene O’Brien, and Claude Baker, double bass with Bruce Bransby and Murray Grodner, and chamber music with Rostislav Dubinsky, founder of the Borodin Quartet. He also counts Donald Erb and Joan Tower among his compositional mentors. Among his many awards are the annual Dean’s Prize for Composition at Indiana (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994), the Kate and Cole Porter Memorial Fellowship at Indiana (1993-1995), three ASCAP Young Composer Awards (1988, 1989, 1993), the ASCAP-Raymond Hubbell Scholarship (1988), three National Society of Arts and Letters awards (1990, 1992, 1993), an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), and a Fromm Foundation Commission (2005). He has enjoyed multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony (1998, 2001) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007), as well as at The Charles Ives Center for American Music (1991), and the Atlantic Center for the Arts (1989), and he has twice served as Resident Composer and faculty at the Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East (2002, 2006). He has also served as guest composer at California Summer Music (2010) and at the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music at Bowling Green State University (OH, 2010). Most recently, he was the recipient of a 2012 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council.
Highly regarded as a teacher, chamber music coach, and conductor of new music, he has taught at Indiana University (2001), Bard College (2005-2006, 2007-2008), and for eleven years served on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music in New York (1997-2008), where he founded the new music ensemble, CIRCE. His students regularly win awards from such prestigious organizations as ASCAP, BMI, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as attending leading summer festivals around the world. Students interested in studying with Dr. Fitch are strongly encouraged to contact him at The Cleveland Institute of Music (www.cim.edu) prior to auditioning.
His music is published by Non Sequitur Music (www.nonsequiturmusic.com).
Through more than a hundred published works and many recordings, Bernard Rands is established as a major figure in contemporary music. His work Canti del Sole, premiered by Paul Sperry, Zubin Mehta, and the New York Philharmonic, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music. His large orchestral suites Le Tambourin won the 1986 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award.
Conductors including Barenboim, Boulez, Berio, Maazel, Maderna, Marriner, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Rilling, Salonen, Sawallisch, Schiff, Schuller, Schwarz, Silverstein, Sinopoli, Slatkin, von Dohnanyi, and Zinman, among many others, have programmed his music.
Rands served as Composer in Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra for seven years. The first three years were funded by the Meet The Composer Residency Program, with four years continued funding by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Through this residency Rands made a wonderful and dedicated contribution to the music of our time.
Rands’ works are widely performed and frequently commercially recorded. His work Canti d’Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy Award in 2000.
Born in England, Rands emigrated to the United States in 1975, becoming an American citizen in 1983. He has been honored by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; Broadcast Music, Inc.; the Guggenheim Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; Meet The Composer; the Barlow, Fromm, and Koussevitzky Foundations, among many others. In 2004, Rands was inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Recent commissions have come from the Suntory Concert Hall in Tokyo, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Internationale Bach Akademie, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Many chamber works have resulted from commissions from major ensembles and festivals from around the world. His chamber opera, Belladonna, was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival and School for its fiftieth anniversary in 1999.
Rands is currently composing a full-scale opera, Vincent, based on the life and work of Van Gogh, with poet J.D. McClatchy.
A dedicated and passionate teacher, Rands has been guest composer at many international festivals and Composer in Residence at the Aspen and Tanglewood festivals. Rands is the Walter Bigelow Rosen Research Professor of Music at Harvard. He has received honorary degrees from several American and European universities.
The originality and distinctive character of his music have been variously described as 'plangent lyricism' with a 'dramatic intensity' and a 'musicality and clarity of idea allied to a sophisticated and elegant technical mastery' – qualities developed from his studies with Dallapiccola and Berio.
Musical America has referred to Rands as "a composer with a poet’s sensibility and a painterly love of color and line."