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About Otto Luening
Otto Luening's career spanned most of his near-century of life: born in 1900, he died in 1996, still composing regularly even in his last days. Originally raised in Milwaukee, the son of German musicians, as a teenager he spent several years in Germany and then Zurich, where he studied piano and composition with Ferruccio Busoni and Philipp Jarnach, and became a flute player and actor in James Joyce's English Players theater company. Upon his return to the United States, he taught at Bennington College, later becoming a professor at Columbia University. He was one of this country's most prolific composers.
While Otto is well known for his flute pieces, short orchestral works, and pioneering work in electronic music (with Vladimir Ussachevsky, he founded the famous Columbia- Princeton Electronic Music lab in the 1950s), his music for solo voice is a significant, essentially unrecorded repertoire -- one that was especially important to Otto throughout his career. The songs, dating from 1918-1993, are unique, varied, and highly reflective of a sophisticated musical/poetic sensibility. Most are for soprano, the earlier ones written for Otto's first wife, Ethel Codd Luening, to sing. In 1986, Tim Page, reviewing Danielle's New York debut recital which included a group of Luening songs, commented in his New York Times review that this repertoire should be recorded:
"Best of the evening was a set of songs by Otto Luening, spanning the course of nearly 70 years....one admired the poetic evocation of the German Lied in the early At Christmastime, the quirky humor of The Little Vagabond and the Foster-like directness of She Walks in Beauty. A recording of Mr. Luening's songs would be welcome and would do much to dissipate his reputation as a stern avant-gardist."Otto Luening was also a tireless advocate of contemporary American music and of the importance of the arts in late-20th-century life. He encouraged and advised several generations of musicians younger than he, including Danielle Woerner and flutist Patricia Spencer, who also performs on this CD.
About Robert Starer
Robert Starer, currently a Woodstock, New York resident, was born in Vienna in 1924, becoming an American citizen in 1957. Vocal music has also always been an important focus in his work, frequently playing a part in his large-scale symphonic works as well as in more intimately-scaled pieces. He often uses texts written by his partner, the novelist Gail Godwin. Robert's stage works include three operas and several ballets for Martha Graham (by coincidence, a colleague of Otto's at Bennington). His orchestral works have been performed by major orchestras here and abroad under conductors including Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Steinberg and Mehta. Itzhak Perlman's recording of Robert's Violin Concerto, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, was nominated for a Grammy.
Robert Starer taught at Juilliard (where his young vocal-repertoire students included Leontyne Price and Shirley Verrett), and was a Distinguished Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center. As Otto was too, he is a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among the many awards he has received, Robert's native Austria honored him in 1995 with the Medal of Honor for Science and Art. In addition to his many compositions and an extensive discography of recorded work, Robert Starer is the author of a biography, Continuo: A Life in Music, and a novel, The Music Teacher.