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Sept. 14, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Utsch premieres composers' lost music

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The fall semester is a time of firsts. Glenn Utsch, Slippery Rock University professor of music, will present a musical first on Sept. 27 when he performs the premieres of piano music written by the late American and British composers Arthur Farwell and York Bowen.

Utsch said he rediscovered the music during a sabbatical last year and will present their lost compositions and other American pieces during his free "Remembering Two Forgotten Composers: An Evening of the Music of Arthur Farwell and York Bowen" at 7:30 p.m. in SRU's Swope Music Hall. The performance is part of the weeklong series of events celebrating the inauguration of Cheryl Norton as the 16th president of the University.

Frederick White, SRU professor of English, who heads the University's Native-American programming, will read Native-American poetry selections. The poetry will provide a transition into the performance of Native-American and early American folk music integrated into music by Farwell.

Farwell (1872-1952) wrote instrumental, chamber, choral and orchestra music as well as theater scores and music for community performance. Bowen (1874-1961) wrote more than 160 works and was a conductor, organist, violist and horn player.

Utsch said both were considered unconventional composers when they wrote their pieces in the early to mid 20th century. Most music at the time was "atonal," meaning with no key center, dissonant and harsh, and hard to listen to for many people. The music of Farwell and Bowen was classified as "romantic" although it was written in the 20th century.

"These composers felt that the emotions they wanted to put into their music could not be expressed in atonal type of music," Utsch said. "In contrast to many early 20th century composers, Farwell's music and Bowen's music remain tonal and full of musical expression and dynamics."

The premieres will include Farwell's Polytonal Studies from the 1940s and Bowen's "Rhapsody in G Minor, which he composed in 1902.

Of note, Utsch said, is Farwell's interest in helping to create music that sounded truly American in the early 1900's. To create this "American sound," he used Native American melodies, American folk tunes, songs of Black Americans, and the Spanish American population. One of his better known collections is "From Mesa to Plain," composed in 1905.

Dr. White will introduce sections of the recital featuring melodies of the Navajo and Omaha's, Utsch said.

"What was happening was there were a number of people, including Farwell, who were trying to create music that sounded American, right around 1900," he said. "Native American music was his first choice to integrate with classical music in order to create a truly American style of 20th century music."

Utsch said he conducted research on Farwell at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and on Bowen at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

"These two composers have been largely neglected, and I am trying to help promote their music here in the States. These are 20th century composers that were overlooked. I feel, as well as a number of international colleagues, that they need to be promoted and their music heard."

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.