Magnetic South: Contemporary Music Collaboration with Charleston Symphony

By | October 2, 2018

Magnetic South, a collaborative project between the College of Charleston Department of Music and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO), will present its first contemporary classical music concert of the season on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.

Magnetic South’s 2018-19 season opening concert features two new works by Charleston composers along with two iconic works from the early 20th century. Béla Bartók’s Contrasts is a trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, one of the first works he performed upon his arrival to the United States. French-American composer Edgar Varèse’s rarely performed Octandre is one of his defining pieces, widely imitated in movie scores and other modernist works in the 20th century. A Cosmos in Stone, Respawning a virtuosic work for large ensemble by Charleston native Nicholas Bentz will be receiving its world premiere. College of Charleston  voice faculty member Kayleen Sánchez will perform The Captive, for Soprano and String Orchestra, composed by Professor Emeritus David Maves. The podium will be shared by College of Charelston faculty member and Magnetic South’s Artistic Director Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, and Music Director of the CSO Ken Lam.

The concert on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 Saint Philip St. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door, by calling (843) 723-7528, ext. 110, or online at charlestonsymphony.org.

Edgar Varèse trained in Paris and extended his contacts with artists in Berlin, where he met Ferruccio Busoni and Arnold Schoenberg – both of whom he owed much of his revolutionary ideas. During his career in N.Y, he attracted modern composers such as Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Pierre Boulez, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who later regarded Varèse as a major influence on their work. Varèse is best known for pieces centering on percussion, on electronics combined with acoustic instruments, and for one purely electronic piece, Poeme èlectronique, which best contributed to his being known as the “Father of Electronic Music.”

Nicholas Bentz is a composer-performer who is primarily interested in the intersections of art and alternative modes of perception and expression. His music takes its inspiration from a wide array of sources including visual and cinematic art, anthropology and philosophy, and interactive art. Bentz has received commissions from the Charleston Symphony, Occasional Symphony, Symphony Number One, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and SONAR New Music Ensemble, among others, and has had his music played by the Jacksonville Symphony and the Peabody Modern Orchestra. Bentz was a winner of an EarShot New Music Reading through American Composer’s Orchestra and SONAR New Music Ensemble’s RADARLab Competition as well as the Baltimore Choral Society’s Student Composer Project. He was also a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards in 2014, and was the Composer in Residence for Symphony Number One’s 2016-17 season.

Béla Bartók was born in the Hungarian town of Nagyszentmiklós (now Sînnicolau Mare in Romania) in 1881, and received his first instruction in music from his mother, a very capable pianist; his father, the headmaster of a local school, was also musical. After his family moved to Pressburg (now Bratislava in Slovakia) in 1894, he took lessons from László Erkel, son of Ferenc Erkel, Hungary’s first important operatic composer, and in 1899 he became a student at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest, graduating in 1903. His teachers there were János Koessler, a friend of Brahms, for composition and István Thoman for piano. Bartók, who had given his first public concert at the age of eleven, now began to establish a reputation as a fine pianist that spread well beyond Hungary’s borders, and he was soon drawn into teaching: in 1907 he replaced Thoman as professor of piano in the Academy.

Oregonian David Maves began his professional life as a composer in 1963. Fresh out of the University of Michigan with a master’s degree, he was appointed a Ford Foundation Composer-in-Residence in Raleigh, N.C., and was expected to compose for any musical ensembles in the area from primary school classroom ensembles to school or professional groups. After four years of various such postings, he returned to Ann Arbor to continue studies with the much beloved teacher Ross Lee Finney and received his doctorate leading later to a thirty-year appointment as Composer-in-Residence at the College of Charleston. He has had a close, forty-year relationship with the CSO:  he was timpanist for eight years in the late 1970s and early 1980s; he was commissioned by conductor Lucien de Groote to compose a work in honor of Stravinsky’s birthday; he conducted the premiere of his own Third Symphony; and later his Two Piano Concerto for pianists Wilfred Delphin and Edwin Romain was premiered, conducted by David Stahl, and more recently Rob Taylor conducted a performance of his “God’s Grandeur” (text by Gerard Manley Hopkins) with the CSO, featuring the Charleston Symphony Chorus. Retired from the College since 2007, Maves feels he has returned to his first position as “composer-in-residence,” this time in beautiful downtown Ansonborough. The Captive is a recent work, premiered in New York City in February 2017 and recorded there a year later with the North/South Consonance String Ensemble, scheduled  to be released this fall as a CD and on iTunes.

About Magnetic South:

Magnetic South is an innovative partnership between the College of Charleston Department of Music and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO). It combines the resources of the two institutions to present contemporary classical music in Charleston in an informative context. The goal of the Magnetic South partnership is to bring to the audiences of the Lowcountry, including students at the College, masterworks of the 20th and 21st centuries along with important new works by living composers. The concerts, performed by CSO musicians and conducted by College of Charleston faculty member Yiorgos Vassilandonakis and CSO Music Director Ken Lam, feature carefully selected works from a variety of aesthetic directions and styles to represent the panorama of the music of our time. Magnetic South was co-founded in 2012 by Vassilandonakis; fellow faculty member Edward Hart; and CSO concertmaster and Principal Pops conductor, Yuriy Bekker.