||Chamber Music

String Quartet

String Quartet

Two violins, viola, and cello

Commissioned by South Mountain Concerts. Premiered Pittsfield, MA, September 16, 2004, by the Muir Quartet.

Composed: 2004
Duration: 18:00
Publisher: Pear Tree Press Music Publishing distributed by Subito Music
Catalog Number(s): 80500311


Reviews:

The final work [of the concert] was [Ronald] Perera’s “String Quartet,” written in 2004 but not heard in Northampton until this concert. The players—Joel Pitchon, violin; Romina Kostare, violin; Ronald Gorevic, viola, and Volcy Pelletier, cello—did justice to this challenging and satisfying work.

The second of its three movements was a set of “Variations on a Mandolin Tune,” written as an homage to Perera’s grandfather, who was a concert mandolinist. The movement was played with deep feeling, and was the high point of the concert.

Mark Moroford, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA 11/2013

Perera’s String Quartet was cast in three movements, ranging in character from an acerbic, angular opening through an unabashed sentimental second movement to a straightforward, sunny C major finale.

A stark, assertive opening fanfare built of tritones, sixths, and sevenths provided much of first movement’s impetus and language. The movement unfolded with a disarming mercurial abandon, hopping about in complex meters and teasing the ear with sudden dramatic swerves.

Perera’s program note indicated that the second movement, Variations on a Mandolin Tune, was “an homage to my grandfather, Gino L. Perera, an Italian musician and painter whose early career as a classical mandolinist took him to many American cities in the 1890’s.”

Perera drew this simple, charming G major theme through successive variations of increasing complexity, at first merely decorous and elegant, but gradually clouded by rhythmic and chordal complications until a clever fugue brought round its cheery restatement and gentle final cadence.

The finale was a galloping rondo with little of the rhythmic or harmonic quirkiness that spiced the opening.

Perera put a bird-like main theme through impressive paces. and introduced as an episode a chorale-like tune against arpeggiated chords reminiscent of the Pilgrim’s March from Harold in Italy.

The Republican, Springfield, MA 9/2004

String Quartet for Viola and Piano



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String Quartet 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

Piano Trio


Piano Trio

Piano Trio: Violin, cello, and piano

Commissioned by Joel Pitchon. The second movement is based on the third movement (“The Symphony”) from The White Whale.
Movements:

  1. Incisivo
  2. Adagio cantabile e sostenuto (“The Symphony”)
  3. Scorrevole
Composed: 2002
Duration: 17:00
Publisher: Pear Tree Press Music Publishing distributed by Subito Music
Catalog Number(s): PTM 301
Piano Trio for Viola and Piano



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Piano Trio 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

Breathing


Breathing

Soprano, Baritone and Keyboard

Text based on the poem “Breathe Into Me” by Gary Lowery. A piece especially appropriate for a wedding.

Composed: 2003
Duration: 3:00
Publisher: Pear Tree Press Music Publishing distributed by Subito Music
Catalog Number(s): PTM 221
Breathing for Viola and Piano



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Breathing 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

Three Poems of Günter Grass

Three Poems of Günter Grass
Mezzo-Soprano and Flute (doubling piccolo, alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet, alto sax), violin, viola, cello, piano, tape

Commissioned by Boston Musica Viva. Three poems by the German author reflecting on Germany after World War II. The first poem, “Gleisdreieck,” was inspired by the train station of the same name on Berlin’s elevated railway. The second poem, “Klappstühle” (“Folding Chairs”), uses the chairs as a metaphor for the impermanence of home caused by the war. The final poem, “Schlaflos” (“Sleepless”), is the nightmarish vision of a man with insomnia counting himself to sleep by recounting his life. Eventually he confronts his own and his nation’s guilt, for which it seems there is no atonement.

Crossing the Meridian CD cover Crossing the Meridian is the title work on the CD Crossing the Meridian, which offers a collection of Ronald Perera’s works for chamber music with voice. It includes Crossing the Meridian, Three Poems of Günter Grass, Visions and Alternate Routes. Performed by the Boston Musica Viva. Soloists include Elsa Charlston, John Aler, Jane Bryden, and Karen Smith Emerson. On CRI.

Available on:
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iTunes

Movements:

  1. Gleisdreieck
  2. Klappstühle
  3. Schlaflos
Composed: 1974
Duration: 22:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): 0160, Study Score
Instrumental parts available for rental.


Reviews:

Ronald Perera’s “Three Poems of Günter Grass” used tape and imaginative ensemble writing to vividly conjure the melancholy anguish of life in postwar Germany.

The Boston Globe, Boston, MA, 2008

Ronald Perera’s setting of Günter Grass poems, commissioned in1974 and mixing electronic tape with voice (the estimable Pamela Dellal), spoken word and instruments, showed that trendy doesn’t have to go out of date if done well.

Boston Herald, Boston, MA, September, 2008

This time around I caught your Grass songs, and, to say something outrageously self-centered, it was one of the few times I regretted that I was not writing. They are a so compelling, sensitive, imaginative extension of the poetry, and one of the things I found especially exciting was your courage, as it were, in making them the point of departure for really big pieces of music.
Letter to the composer 12/15/75 from Michael Steinberg, former Boston Globe music critic, currently Artistic Advisor, San Francisco Symphony

Mr. Perera’s musical language is a blend of avant garde vocal and instrumental techniques (sprechstimme, aleatory passages, use of string and wind microtones, prepared piano, etc.) and the semi-popular sound worlds of Kurt Weill and Johann Strauss. The composer combines these elements in a very dramatic setting of three poems which, although symbolic rather than explicit, make powerful statements about the recent political history of Germany.

NATS Bulletin 5/78

The most interesting work on Stock’s concert was Perera’s song-cycle, a powerful setting of Grass’ disturbing poems in which the human voice is accompanied by six instruments and electronic tape.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3/2/81

Shapely lines wound through a leisurely and well-integrated texture for tape and instruments, overlain by a collage of quotations and memories: Strauss waltzes, political songs, the sounds of the Berlin overhead railway.

The Independent (London) 10/20/88

Three Poems of Günter Grass is, quite simply, one of the most haunting works of the last 25 years. Scoring for soprano, chamber ensemble, and electronic tape, composer Ronald Perera sets three poems by the German author depicting different aspects of Germany after the Second World War. The tape is used to provide musique concrete derived from the sounds of Germany—a departing train, a military march, a Nazi rally (the unmistakable voice of Hitler is very evident in the third song)—in effect local color for the eloquent soprano line and imaginative instrumental writing. The first song, Gleisdreieck, was inspired by the train station of the same name on Berlin’s elevated railway. Prior to the Berlin Wall it was where one crossed the frontier from west to east. Grass uses it as a metaphor for the rootlessness of postwar German society, and Perera sets it to a variety of train sounds, real and musical. The second song, Folding Chairs (I give the titles in English; the cycle is sung in German), uses the chairs as a metaphor for the impermanence of home caused by the war. Perera sets it to ghostly, distorted reminiscences of Strauss’s Kunstlersleben (Artist’s Life). The vocal line is itself a ghost of the many arrangements of Strauss waltzes for soprano and orchestra, complete with climactic high note, a phantom of a culture devastated by the Nazis. The final song, Sleepless, is the nightmarish vision of a man with insomnia counting himself to sleep by recounting his life. Eventually he recounts the guilt of his actions during the war, a guilt for which there is no atonement. Words do not convey the power of this 20 minutes or so of music, as wrenching in its way as Schoenberg’s harrowing A Survivor from Warsaw. The fine soloist, Elsa Charlston, is beyond praise.

John Story, Fanfare Magazine, January/February 1999

Three Poems of Günter Grass for Viola and Piano



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Three Poems of Günter Grass 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

Children of the Sun


Children of the Sun

Soprano, Horn, and Piano

Written for soprano Gretchen d’Armand. Text by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Movements:

  1. The Sun’s Travels
  2. Rain
  3. The Swing
  4. At the Sea-Side
  5. Auntie’s Skirts
  6. Happy Thought
  7. Summer Sun
Composed: 1978
Duration: 15:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): 0167


Reviews:

Children of the Sun is a cycle of seven songs set to poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson. The pieces are light-hearted and fun, imaginatively set in atonal musical language. Each piece depicts a tiny scene or mood, with titles like Rain, At the Sea Side, and Summer Sun. For example, in The Swing, Perera employs Sprechstimme to express the excitement of a child going up and down on a swing. Tremolos and sweeping glissandos depict the swing’s movements. One particularly playful piece is Auntie’s Skirts, written in a comic blues style.

Music Library Association, NOTES 3/84

Here are seven poems from that favorite collection for children, A Child’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson. Included are The Sun’s Travels, Rain, The Swing, At the Sea Side, Auntie’s Skirts, Happy Thought, and Summer Sun. The words create a world of serenity and happiness. The music reflects this: some of the words suggesting the mood at the beginning of each song are “exuberantly,” “vividly,” “impetuously,” “very marked,” “with serenity.” The music is very dissonant, with little sense of tonality, but the melody line carries the text expressively, and all the parts dance along most attractively. The horn some times reinforces the voice or piano, but more often adds a new melody. This is delightful music, about sixteen minutes in length, with a pitch range for the soprano C4 – A5.

NATS Bulletin 3/14/87, currently Artistic Advisor, San Francisco Symphony

Children of the Sun



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Children of the Sun 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

The White Whale


The White Whale

Baritone, Flute (doubling piccolo), oboe, 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, contrabassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp, piano (doubling celesta), percussion (two players), strings

The White Whale is a musical projection of Ahab’s madness as revealed in fragments of soliloquy and dialogue from nine different chapters of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The four movements do not attempt to mirror Melville’s continous narrative. Instead, they reflect some of the novel’s greatest discontinuities by juxtaposing paradoxical aspects of Ahab’s character—aspects which are revealed one by one in non-successive chapters strung out like beads on a chain throughout the book—in a radically compressed time frame. The compression heightens awareness of the depth and complexity of Ahab’s personality and of his relationship to the whale while creating a particular dramatic tension of its own. The text was adapted from the book by the composer.

Movements:

  1. The Prisoner
  2. In Nomine Diaboli
  3. The Symphony
  4. A Hump Like a Snow-Hill
Composed: 1981
Duration: 30:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): Piano/Vocal Score, 4098
Full score and parts available for rental.
The White Whale



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Crossing the Meridian


Crossing the Meridian

Tenor, flute (doubling alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), percussion (one player), violin, viola, cello, piano

Commissioned by Boston Musica Viva. Text by Ruth Whitman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, and James Dickey.

Crossing the Meridian CD cover Crossing the Meridian is the title work on the CD Crossing the Meridian, which offers a collection of Ronald Perera’s works for chamber music with voice. It includes Crossing the Meridian, Three Poems of Günter Grass, Visions and Alternate Routes. Performed by the Boston Musica Viva. Soloists include Elsa Charlston, John Aler, Jane Bryden, and Karen Smith Emerson. On CRI.

Available on:
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iTunes

Movements:

  1. I. July 18, 1846, Crossing the Great Divide
  2. II. That Sensual Phosphorescence
  3. III. Meticulous, Past Midnight
  4. IV. Danse Russe
  5. V. Math
Composed: 1982
Duration: 20:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): Piano/Vocal Score, 4097
Full score and parts available for rental.

Reviews:

Perera’s texts come from Ruth Whitman, Hart Crane, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Carlos Williams and James Dickey. They differ widely in tone and in method, but all concern themselves with in-between moments in which time is momentarily suspended, and the self is alone. The music, as the composer said in some prefatory remarks, is tonal, triadic, and transparent; like the poems, it concerns itself with limits, and transcending them. There is something cold about it, in an attractive sense — there is no self-indulgent swooning here.

Boston Globe

The first of a sequence of four concerts in St. John’s Smith Square contained no less than three British premieres, of which the most striking was Ronald Perera’s song-cycle Crossing the Meridian. Its debt to Britten is clear enough, but Perera’s music is sensitive to atmosphere and technically most expert and economical.

The Sunday Telegraph (London) 11/9/86

Crossing the Meridian



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Crossing the Meridian 2017-10-03T00:37:33+00:00

Visions


Visions

Two Sopranos, Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, contrabass, piano

Written in memory of Phillips Perera, the composer’s brother, a talented amateur painter. The work celebrates the creative artist in painting, poetry, and sculpture. Texts are by Susan Snively, Richard Wilbur, and Carol Edelstein.

Crossing the Meridian CD cover Crossing the Meridian is the title work on the CD Crossing the Meridian, which offers a collection of Ronald Perera’s works for chamber music with voice. It includes Crossing the Meridian, Three Poems of Günter Grass, Visions and Alternate Routes. Performed by the Boston Musica Viva. Soloists include Elsa Charlston, John Aler, Jane Bryden, and Karen Smith Emerson. On CRI.

Available on:
Amazon
iTunes

Movements:

  1. Sky Above Clouds
  2. The Writer
  3. After Brancusi
Composed: 1993
Duration: 14:00
Publisher: Pear Tree Press Music Publishing distributed by Subito Music
Catalog Number(s): Full Score, PTM 501


Reviews:

Visions, . . . scored for soprano duet and large chamber ensemble, shows the lyrical tendencies in the first song of Crossing the Meridian fully in flower. Perera’s idiom by 1992 had blossomed fully into tonality, and the music fairly glows with warmth. The three songs all deal with artistic creation, normally a big yawn as a subject for artistic exploration so far as I am concerned, in interestingly oblique ways. The first and last songs, dealing with painting and sculpture respectively, have the voices more or less moving in parallel textures. The second song, The Writer, concerns the poet and her daughter, who is writing her first story. The mother is portrayed by the singers alternating lines, the daughter by the voices together. Interestingly enough, although neither singer has the vocal endowments of Elsa Charlston, the effect when they sing together is to cancel out the flaws in each voice to utterly ravishing effect.

John Story, Fanfare Magazine, January/February 1999





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Visions 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

The Writer (from Visions)


The Writer

Soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and piano

The Writer is the second movement of the larger work, Visions. It is based on Richard Wilbur’s narrative poem and concerns a young writer—the poet’s daughter—who is writing her first story. The setting and the poem capture the writing process, from the tapping of fitful typing to the frenzied attempts to express a thought to the lyrical soaring of clear expression.

Crossing the Meridian CD cover Crossing the Meridian is the title work on the CD Crossing the Meridian, which offers a collection of Ronald Perera’s works for chamber music with voice. It includes Crossing the Meridian, Three Poems of Günter Grass, Visions and Alternate Routes. Performed by the Boston Musica Viva. Soloists include Elsa Charlston, John Aler, Jane Bryden, and Karen Smith Emerson. On CRI.

Available on:
Amazon
iTunes

Composed: 1993
Duration: 6:00
Publisher: Pear Tree Press Music Publishing distributed by Subito Music
Catalog Number(s): Full Score, PTM 502


Reviews:

The Writer, . . . scored for soprano duet and large chamber ensemble, shows the lyrical tendencies in the first song of Crossing the Meridian fully in flower. Perera’s idiom by 1992 had blossomed fully into tonality, and the music fairly glows with warmth. The three songs all deal with artistic creation, normally a big yawn as a subject for artistic exploration so far as I am concerned, in interestingly oblique ways. The first and last songs, dealing with painting and sculpture respectively, have the voices more or less moving in parallel textures. The second song, The Writer, concerns the poet and her daughter, who is writing her first story. The mother is portrayed by the singers alternating lines, the daughter by the voices together. Interestingly enough, although neither singer has the vocal endowments of Elsa Charlston, the effect when they sing together is to cancel out the flaws in each voice to utterly ravishing effect.

John Story, Fanfare Magazine, January/February 1999





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The Writer (from Visions) 2017-10-03T00:10:55+00:00

Five Summer Songs


Five Summer Songs

Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Ensemble
Harp, piano (doubling celesta), percussion (one player), and strings

Five songs on poems of Emily Dickinson. Arrangement of the 1972 songs for medium voice and piano (ECS Publishing #161). The poems included are New Feet Within My Garden Go, South Winds Jostle Them, I Know a Place, To Make a Prairie, and The One That Could Repeat the Summer Day.

This arrangement was commissioned by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.

Also available for Mezzo-soprano with piano accompaniment (E. C. Schirmer Music Company, Catalog No. 0161).

American Music CD cover Five Summer Songs is available on American Music for Flute, Voice, and Strings, a CD collection of American music by various composers. Performed by soprano Carole Wilson. On Albany Records, Troy 519.

Available on iTunes

Songs:

  1. New Feet Within My Garden Go
  2. South Winds Jostle Them
  3. I Know a Place Where Summer Strives
  4. To Make a Prairie
  5. The One That Could Repeat the Summer Day
Composed: 1993
Duration: 6:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): Piano/Vocal Score, 4836
Full score and parts on rental.



Reviews:

Rec. lyric medium voice (b-f#2); 12:00; titles are: New Feet Within My Garden Go; South Winds Jostle Them; I Know a Place; To Make a Prairie; The One That Could Repeat the Summer Day; best kept as a set; excellent variety of mood and color; atonal, but with a strong feeling of tonality throughout; gentle dissonances; not difficult for the voice, but the colorful piano writing is intricate and requires dexterity; elegant, lyrical, compelling songs.

A Singer’s Guide to the American Art Song 1870-1980
by Victoria Etnier Villamil (The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, NJ & London, 1993)

]Perera’s thoroughly pleasing and admirably written set of songs would grace any singer’s repertory. The unadorned style and clarity of the musical language make the set an attractive proposition for a beginner to the field. The “Five Summer Songs” could be put with other Emily Dickinson settings. They would not seem out of place in a traditional recital programme because of their unpretentious and direct appeal. The set would form a good foil for late Romantic lieder with more exotic textures.

New Vocal Repertory
by Jane Manning (Taplinger, 1987)

With detailed instructions for both the singer and accompanist these songs are wonderful for an accomplished, artistic, sensitive singer.

NATS Bulletin 5/78

Five Summer Songs



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Five Summer Songs 2017-10-03T00:47:45+00:00

Chamber Concerto


Chamber Concerto

Solo brass quintet, 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), oboe, 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, horn, trumpet, bass trombone, percussion (2 players), piano

Commissioned for ALEA III and the Empire Brass Quintet, Chamber Concerto does not follow the traditional three-movement Baroque concerto form, but is instead a set of six variations. It pays homage to the Baroque and Classical styles in its concern for symmetry, traditional chord structures, felt meters, uncluttered textures, and solo instrumental writing that demands virtuosity without recourse to the non-traditional playing techniques and special effects prevalent in much contemporary music.

Composed: 1983
Duration: 20:00
Publisher: E. C. Schirmer Music Company
Catalog Number(s): Study Score, 4096
Full score and parts available for rental.


Reviews:

Perera’s “Chamber Concerto” received its premiere Wednesday night. At 21 minutes it was by far the longest work on the program. It is actually a set of seven variations in which a brass quintet (The Empire) coexists, contentedly and otherwise, with an orchestra of woodwinds and percussion. Perera has an acute ear for sonority. There was a gripping opening dialogue between on and off-stage trumpets, vivid use of various mutes, some stirring bell sounds (Boris Godunov came to mind), wildly swirling wind writing, and floor-shaking bass. Despite a lack of subtlety (at least in this performance), and emphasis on sound per se, Perera’s instantly accessible music compels attention through its sheer visceral impact.

Boston Globe 3/21/84

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Chamber Concerto



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Chamber Concerto 2017-10-03T00:11:11+00:00