What’s New From Daniel Dorff
I’m delighted to have this chance to introduce a few recent pieces:
SERENADE for Flute and Harp
The Sparx Duo (Joan Sparks flute and Anne Sullivan harp) was founded in 1986, and they commissioned the Liebermann Sonata to celebrate their 10th anniversary season. They recently commissioned me to write a piece for their 30th season, and the premiere was October 15, 2016 in Wilmington, DE.
Maybe because I heard their Christmas concert in a dark old church, or maybe it’s the harp’s sonority – somehow I automatically thought of the flute/harp duo conjuring the music and spirit of medieval France. This coincided perfectly with an idea I’ve had since learning about early music back in college, and particularly my fascination with the 14th-century composer Solage, a protégé of Guillaume de Machaut.
The SERENADE is in 5 movements, and Mvt 4 is an unadorned transcription of Solage’s chanson "Helas! Je voy mon cuer a fin venir" with the other movements designed to make this medieval guest fit in naturally, just as architecture sometimes takes advantage of fixed surroundings. The SERENADE blends my own voice, the music of Solage, and French medieval style.
The five movements are:
I. ESTAMPIE was an exuberant dance of the period, the word being cognate to our "stamp" and "stomp." It was defined not by a characteristic rhythm, but rather as a series of strains (called puncta), each played twice, often with a recurring ritornello-like closing phrase common to every strain. Here’s how the suite opens:
II. MON COEUR means "my heart" and this movement is similar in spirit to medieval courtly love poetry, with its charming yet naïve melodrama.
III. MUSETTE refers both to the medieval reed instrument, and to a folk dance using a drone bass; this movement is a dance-like scherzo.
IV. "HELAS! JE VOY MON CUER A FIN VENIR" is the authentic Solage song, originally for male singer and 3 instrumental lines. It works beautifully for flute and harp, and the song’s melodic motifs pervade the other movements.
V. RONDEAU is an optimistic answer to the unrequited love of Solage’s work, and a denouement of the previous movements.
The Sparx Duo performed SERENADE at the 2017 NFA and Mid-Atlantic Conventions, and Presser’s publication won 1st Prize in the Music Publishers Association’s annual awards for Best Music Engraving.
DESERT DUSK for Alto Flute and Cello
In 2015, flutist Kimberly Reighley asked if I would write a new work for her Delaware-based ensemble Mélonamie, choosing any combination from this fascinating group whose core players are Flute, Violin, Gamba (not doubling cello), Cello (not doubling gamba), Harpsichord, and Sitar. I went with the richly evocative Alto Flute and Cello to inspire a fresh world of sonorities, using an instrumentation from their group that will remain practical for others to perform.
During the year between receiving this commission and having the opportunity to begin writing, I had the treat of being guest clarinetist in a wind quintet concert (featuring my Cape May Breezes) in the California desert valley that’s home to Palm Springs, the Coachella Festival, and many hot springs spas. While I knew the flora, fauna, and landscapes would be unfamiliar and the sunsets spectacular, I was totally surprised by the torrential winds typical of evenings in the long, thin valley when the temperature drops.
DESERT DUSK is a 10-minute tone poem inspired by these evenings. The first section is gentle and idyllic, with a few hints of a mourning dove (which in real nature sounds like an alto flute). The middle section is a fervently increasing wind storm which incrementally calms into the final section, a radiant sunset that further calms into night.
Kim Reighley and cellist Douglas McNames performed DESERT DUSK at the 2017 NFA Convention and have also given performances in their own concerts in Delaware.
FOLK SONG SUITE for Two Flutes
One evening at the 2014 NFA convention in Chicago, Cindy Rugolo and Cindy Anne Broz met up to plan an all-Dorff duo concert for the upcoming 2015 Mid-Atlantic Flute Fair; they’d each play sonatas with Tim Carey on piano, and alternate them with short flute duets. The programming flow and duration worked out almost fine, except they needed one more short duet. Cindy Rugolo suggested I write a new duet on the folk song Cindy for them to premiere as a planned encore ending the recital. After hearing The Two Cindys give their high-spirited premiere, I decided this setting needed to be expanded into a longer set of folk songs. A big empty folder sat on my piano for almost two years before I could block off some time to create the collection.
At the beginning of 2017, Oh Susanna was added as a hoe-down type of first movement, Red River Valley as scherzo variations, and Shenandoah as a lullaby leading attacca into the rollicking Cindy as a grande finale.
Ruth Washington Mayhew and Cindy Anne Broz premiered the full suite in February at a Flûtes de Salon concert in Southern California, and the same duo performed the suite at NFA 2017.
SONATA (SPIRIT OF THE HUDSON)
for Bass Flute and Piano
I’ve long been entranced by the exotic and mystical world that bass flute seems to evoke automatically, opening a metaphysical doorway to our interior landscape. When Peter Sheridan offered me a commission to write him a sonata for bass flute and piano, I immediately envisioned the Hudson River and its grandeur – from the upstate source down to its cosmopolitan conclusion at the Statue of Liberty. This was not to be about specific locations along the river, but a deeper evocation of the river’s flow through time, the surrounding forests, and the unspoiled region before European settlers adapted the river’s majestic body and surrounding woodlands.
The sonata is in four movements, grouped as two pairs of slow-fast, perhaps inspired by some baroque sonata forms. Not everyone has the opportunity or stamina for a 14-minute bass flute performance, so I’ve designed each pair of movements to work as a stand alone for occasions needing shorter repertoire. The movements are titled:
I. Sprawling, burbling; II. Sparkling, glistening
III. Under Winter; IV. Spring Spirits
Peter Sheridan will premiere the Sonata in April 2018 at the International Low Flutes Festival in Reston, VA, and it will be on Peter’s next CD.
Daniel Dorff was born in New Rochelle, NY; acclaim came at age 18 with First Prize in the Aspen Music Festival's annual composers' competition for his Fantasy, Scherzo and Nocturne for saxophone quartet. Dorff later received degrees in composition from Cornell and University of Pennsylvania; teachers included George Crumb, George Rochberg, Karel Husa, Henry Brant, Ralph Shapey, Elie Siegmeister, and Richard Wernick. He studied saxophone with Sigurd Rascher, and bass clarinet with Ronald Reuben. Dorff served from 1996 through 2015 as Composer-In-Residence for Symphony in C, in which he played bass clarinet from 1980 through 2002.
Daniel Dorff is VP of Publishing for Theodore Presser Company; a sought-after expert on music engraving and notation, he has lectured at many colleges as well as Carnegie Hall, and advises the leading notation software companies. He serves on the Boards of Directors for the Music Publishers' Association of the USA, Charles Ives Society, Vincent Persichetti Society, Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia, and has served on the Board of the National Flute Association.
Dorff's compositions have been published by Theodore Presser Company, Carl Fischer, Lauren Keiser Music (formerly MMB), Shawnee Press, Mel Bay, and Kendor Music, and recorded on Albany, Bridge, Crystal, Azica, and many other labels.