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An Albany disk of piano works was funded in a similar way, but with a new twist. It features the well-known virtuoso Ian Hobson. He liked the Fourth Piano Sonata and the Fantasy Variations and Lees told him, 'I'll write you a piece if you will record [them].' Hobson said that would be wonderful. Lees said to me, 'I began writing something that took ten years to complete. Something called Mirrors.' Hobson gave a Chicago Symphony Hall performance of the first four sections and followed through with the promised recording after six sections were completed. Hobson also recorded the Second Piano Concerto on a separate disk, this time funded by Albany.

The largest and most recent of Lees' Albany projects, three symphonies on a two-disk set, required yet another funding variation. Lees obtained grants from three non-profit organizations to cover most of the costs. It took two years to schedule and complete the recording.

Other performers and labels are planning additional releases. Although a distribution company has not yet been identified, the Cypress Quartet has begun to record the five string quartets. Pierian expects to issue a 1964 New York concert performance of the First Piano Concerto as part of a series of 'significant premiers by American composers'.

Benjamin Lees in 1968
Benjamin Lees in 1968

Benjamin Lees' music caters neither to a public that expects the comfortably familiar nor to academic and critical communities that have often reserved their strongest accolades for atonal and serial composers. In spite of that, and unconventional passacaglias, he is receiving a fair amount of attention. In the next part of my report I'll cover the composer's comments on trends in composition and music during the last half of the twentieth century.

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Copyright © 29 June 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA



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