Nov. 7, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 4

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    Nov. 12 Shapey tribute concert will feature his ‘Songs of Life’

    By Seth Sanders
    News Office

    [Ralph Shapey]
    The late Ralph Shapey, Professor Emeritus in Music

    The musical legacy of Ralph Shapey, the late composer and Professor Emeritus in Music, will be honored at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Mandel Hall.

    A group of speakers, including President Randel, Shulamit Ran, the William H. Colvin Professor in Music, and Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, will pay tribute to Shapey’s memory and creative influence. Acclaimed musicians will perform Shapey’s music, including one of his previously unheard compositions.

    Shapey, a controversial and influential American composer who united avant-garde and romantic sensibilities, and who was involved with the University Department of Music for more than 40 years, was 81 when he died in June of this year.

    “Shapey wrote about 200 works, and probably 199 are extremely substantial,” said Ran, who studied under Shapey. “He wrote very few works that you could describe as small or sketch-like.” Ran said two works for cello and piano had been selected for the evening’s performance as well as a world premiere of a piece for violin and cello. “It’s a work written in the late 1980s for the violinist Paul Zukovsky but never before performed,” she said.

    The fourth work, “Songs of Life,” for voice, cello and piano, was of particular significance to Shapey. “I know he expressed to me the desire that ‘Songs of Life’ be performed at any memorial. The text also was very special to him,” said Ran.

    “This concert involves only four performers, but it’s extraordinarily powerful and moving music, played by some of the people who have been among his closest advocates,” said Ran.

    Those performers include cellist Joel Krosnick, and Joel Smirnoff, a violinist who was an original member of the Contemporary Chamber Players, a University group that Shapey established to share new music with the public. Both Krosnick and Smirnoff are members of the Julliard Quartet.

    Also allied with Shapey and performing in the tribute concert is his long-time pianist Gilbert Kalish.

    “These are people for whom Ralph wrote quite a few important pieces. These are the kind of composer-performer relationships that have been important throughout history. The fourth performer, Carol Meyer, is a great singer from a generation who came to know Shapey and to admire his work greatly.

    “There also are special people speaking on this occasion,” said Ran. Tim Page, a critic for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and an “insightful commentator on Shapey’s music,” will speak.

    More information on the tribute concert is at (773) 702-8484.