Composer Kenneth Frazelle’s music has been commissioned and performed by numerous prominent artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jeffrey Kahane, Dawn Upshaw, Anthony Dean Griffey, Emmanuel Ax, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Ransom Wilson, Paula Robison, John Adams, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Jan DeGaetani and Gilbert Kalish. He has received commissions from Music@Menlo, the Ravinia Festival and the Spoleto Festival. Frazelle first received international acclaim with his score for Still/Here, a multimedia dance theater work for the Bill T.Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Frazelle has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy in Rome, and Columbia University, and he was the winner of the 2001 Barlow Prize, the international competition administered through Brigham Young University. He has held residencies with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Rosa Symphony and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Frazelle was a pupil of Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and attended high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he studied with Robert Ward. His music is published by Subito Music Corporation.
Kenneth Frazelle / Full Biography
Kenneth Frazelle is a composer whose music, according to The San Francisco Examiner, "came straight from—and went straight to—the heart, an organ too seldom addressed by contemporary composers." Frazelle’s distinctive voice blends structural and tonal sophistication with a lyrical clarity; he has been influenced not only by his study with the great modernist Roger Sessions, but also by the folk songs and landscape of his native North Carolina.
Frazelle’s heartfelt compositions have included commissions from such renowned performers as Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Paula Robison and members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Recent commissions include works for tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, the Music@Menlo Festival, the Ravinia Festival and the North Carolina Symphony.
Frazelle's song cycle "Songs of Clay and Stone," inspired by his longtime fascination with the American Southwest, will premiere in August 2017 at the Eiteljorg Museeum in Indianapolis. It will be performed by mezzo soprano Kathryn Findlen and pianist Robert Brewer.
In the 2015-16 season, his piano work "Wildflowers" was used in a new dance work by choreographer Brenda Daniels. Another piano work, "Six Drawings," received a surprise premiere when it was performed by five friends of the composer at a birthday celebration.
In December 2014, Matthew Michael Brown premiered Frazelle's work for organ, Aria (with Diversions), at his recital at Westminster Abbey in London. The piece was commissioned for Brown by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts.
The 2012-2013 season included two major new works. In March, the chamber ensemble Strata premiered A Book of Days, a large-scale work for violin, clarinet and piano, which the group commissioned and is performing on concerts across the U.S. Frazelle's Triple Concerto, commissioned for the seventieth anniversary of the Meadowmount School of Music, was premiered by the Meadowmount String Orchestra in August of 2013. Soloists were Meadowmount alumni James Ehnes, violin, and Robert deMaine, cello, along with Meadowmount director, Eric Larsen, piano.
Additionally that season, mezzo soprano Kathryn Findlen and pianist Richard Masters performed Frazelle's Songs in the Rear View Mirror at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall (its New York premiere) and six other concerts in Texas, North Carolina and Washington, DC. The Weill Hall concert also featured Richard Masters performing the world premiere of Frazelle's Book of Blue Flowers for solo piano.
Songs in the Rear View Mirror, for voice and piano, blends personal history with a look at the American South through the eyes of photographers William Christenberry and Walker Evans. It was written for both the acclaimed tenor Anthony Dean Griffey and popular folksinger Laurelyn Dossett, who have given the work two very different interpretations. Griffey performed the piece at the Kennedy Center in May of 2010 and as part of the San Francisco Performances series in May of 2011.
Other recent works include Violin Bonkers, for violin and bongos, written for the inaugural concert of Forecast Music in Winston-Salem, NC. In 2011 Frazelle was composer-in-residence at the Chamber Music Conference and Composer's Forum of the East at Bennington College, writing the chamber work Winter Turns for conference participants.
Frazelle's two-volume Appalachian Songbook, for soprano or tenor, has found remarkable popularity, with frequent performances by professional, student and avocational musicians alike. Also widely performed is the solo piano work Wildflowers, ten characterizations of native plants from the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2010 Jeffrey Kahane performed Wildflowers at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.
Frazelle first received international acclaim with his score for Still/Here, a multimedia dance theater work for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Still/Here premiered in Lyon, France in September 1994 and toured throughout the world the following two years to rave reviews. The New York Times praised Frazelle’s score: “part Schubert, part Kurt Weill, Mr. Frazelle’s songs have their own lyric beauty.” The Washington Post wrote, “Kenneth Frazelle’s music for ‘Still’…makes one think of late Beethoven string quartets and their otherworldly perfection.” The film version of Still/Here was viewed by millions on U.S. public television in addition to numerous international broadcasts.
Originally written for the folksinger Odetta, Frazelle’s score for Still/Here was reworked in 2004 for jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson to accompany an updated version, renamed The Phantom Project: Still/Here Looking On. In 2004 and 2005 The Phantom Projectreceived numerous performances throughout the country and abroad, including runs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, and Sadler’s Wells in London.
Gee’s Bend Pieces, for trumpet, percussion and piano, was written as part of a residency with the 2010 New Music Festival of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Frazelle's Piano Trio, composed in 2008, was the first commission of the Music@Menlo Festival in Palo Alto, CA. It was performed at the festival by Jeffrey Kahane, piano; Joseph Swensen, violin; and David Finckel, cello.
Winter Traces, three miniatures for solo piano, was written as part of New Scenes from Childhood, a set of eleven new works honoring Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood commissioned by the 2006 Ravinia Festival. The Swans of Pungo Lake, commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony, was performed across the state during the symphony’s 2006-2007 season.
In 2005 Frazelle composed two solo works for piano, both of which he premiered himself. Sonata-Fantasy is a large-scale work commissioned by Reynolda House Museum of American Art. “Wildflowers,” its central movement, is intended to be performed either as a part of the sonata or as a freestanding piece. Frazelle’s five-movement Inventions to Marden, was inspired by the work of artist Brice Marden and was first performed at an all-Frazelle concert celebrating the composer’s fiftieth birthday at N.C. School of the Arts.
Frazelle was the winner of the 2001 Barlow Prize, the international competition administered through Brigham Young University. The award was a commission for a new sacred song cycle and resulted in From the Song of Songs for soprano Erie Mills, which premiered in 2003.
Other projects include Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, co-commissioned in 2002 by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Boston Modern Orchestra Project. In 2001 Paula Robison premiered Blue Ridge Airs II for flute and piano, a reworking of the concerto Frazelle wrote for her in 1991. In 2000 the Phoenix Symphony commissioned and performed The Four Winds, a concerto for wind quartet, and the Santa Rosa Symphony commissioned and premiered From the Air.
In 2000 Frazelle was awarded a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award given to young composers of exceptional gifts. He was artist-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Santa Rosa Symphony from 1997-2001, and in 1998 was artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In 1997 Frazelle was a recipient of the American Academy in Rome's Regional Visiting Artist Fellowship.
Highlights of earlier seasons include the 1998-99 tour of Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax performing New Goldberg Variations, variations on Bach’s theme commissioned from a group of six composers including Frazelle, John Corigliano and Peter Schickele. Frazelle's full-evening work, The Motion of Stone, based on A.R. Ammons’ poem, “Tombstones,” premiered in 1998 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, with Ann Howard Jones conducting the Boston University Chorus and the Gardner Chamber Orchestra. Also that year the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioned and performed Frazelle's Laconic Variations, and the Santa Rosa Symphony gave the West Coast premiere of Shivaree, which it co-commissioned with the Winston-Salem Symphony. In 1997 soprano Dawn Upshaw performed Frazelle's Sunday at McDonald’s at her Carnegie Hall debut, accompanied by pianist Gilbert Kalish. In 1996, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presented the composer’s Quintet for Flute, Guitar and String Trio, featuring Ransom Wilson and Manuel Barrueco. The nationally broadcast radio program Saint Paul Sunday commissioned Sonata for Harpsichord in 1995; it was prompted by the success of his Fiddler’s Galaxy, which has aired on the show many times and is a playlist favorite of classical stations around the country.
Yo-Yo Ma and Jeffrey Kahane have performed Frazelle’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (1989) throughout the country, and the piece has also been performed on several national tours by cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O’Riley. Kahane has performed the composer’s Blue Ridge Airs I (1988) for piano at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the Kennedy Center and the Montreal International Music Festival.
Other works by Kenneth Frazelle have been performed by pianist Gilbert Kalish and mezzo-soprano Jan deGaetani, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra.
Kenneth Frazelle was born in Jacksonville, N.C. in 1955. He was a student of Roger Sessions at the Juilliard School, and attended high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he now teaches. His music is published by Subito Music Corporation