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Afterword for two violins and piano

February 20, 2022 – Paul Huang, violin; Danbi Um, violin; Juho Pohjonen, piano

Chris Rogerson began playing piano at the age of two (!) and cello at age eight, but he found his true calling as a composer. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Yale School of Music, and Princeton University with renowned composers Jennifer Higdon, Aaron Jay Kernis, Martin Bresnick, and Steve Mackey. Rogerson’s music, praised for its “haunting beauty” and “virtuosic exuberance” (New York Times) includes Of Simple Grace for Yo-Yo Ma, a book of Nocturnes written for ten different pianists from around the world, and works for the Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New World, and San Francisco symphonies, among others.

The constant demand for Rogerson’s compositions has resulted most recently in a new piano concerto, commissioned by the Bravo! Vail Festival for Anne-Marie McDermott, and The Little Prince, a violin concerto for Benjamin Beilman commissioned by the Kansas City Symphony. Other premieres this season include Sacred Earth for mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges with video by National Geographic photographer Keith Ladzinski and two premieres with the Dover Quartet: Dream Sequence, a piano quintet also featuring Anne-Marie McDermott, and Arietta with bassist Edgar Meyer joining the quartet.

As 2010–12 composer-in-residence for Young Concert Artists, Rogerson had works premiered in the YCA Series in New York at Merkin Concert Hall and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He served in the same capacity for the Amarillo Symphony, which commissioned and premiered six of his works, among them his Dolos Sielut (Ancient Souls, 2017) and Four Autumn Landscapes (2016), a clarinet concerto for New York Philharmonic principal clarinettist Anthony McGill. Rogerson has also held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Copland House, and won the Jacob Druckman Prize as a Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. Rogerson’s numerous honors include the 2012 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and prizes from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts and the National Association for Music Education.

Rogerson co-founded Kettle Corn New Music in New York City in 2012 and serves as its artistic director. Since 2016 he has also been a faculty member at his Curtis, his undergraduate alma mater in Philadelphia, where he lives full-time.

Afterword for two violins and piano was commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and premiered in February 2020 by Danbi Um, Paul Huang, and Orion Weiss. Dedicated “to my great friend Jacob,” the piece owes its most ethereal sounds to a two-fold inspiration. Rogerson explains: “There is something noble, sweeping, and grand about looking back on life, reflecting on life’s triumphs, pains, joys, and mysteries. I composed this piece after Jessye Norman’s death, and listened to her sublime recording of Strauss’s autumnal Four Last Songs frequently. Strauss perfectly captures this feeling of contemplation, especially in the final song ‘Im Abendrot.’ In Afterword, I make subtle references to this song.

“I also composed this piece while reading Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life, which is at its core a meditation on life’s sweetness and anguish. Without spoiling the novel, one of the characters experiences unimaginable pain. To me there is something particularly poignant about someone who reflects on a difficult life: the shortness of it, how cruel it can be, how ephemeral, how sweet.”

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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