Bernard Rands (born 1934) is a major composer and conductor in contemporary music, publishing more than 100 works in a wide range of performance genres. Born in England but now an American citizen, Rands studied in Italy under Luciano Berio, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Roman Vlad. His distinquished academic career included professorships at York University, Oxford University, and the University of California San Diego. His composition "Canti del Sole" won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and his orchestral suites "Le Tambourin" won the 1986 John F. Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Rands has been called one of the most important musical voices of our time.
Rands was born March 2, 1934, in Sheffield, England. He studied music and English literature at the University College of Wales, Bangor, earning a bachelor's degree in music in 1956 and a master's degree in 1958. After completing his academic degrees, he traveled around Italy for two years to study composition and conducting under Roman Vlad in Rome, Luigi Dallapiccola in Florence, and Bruno Maderna. Rands's most influential teacher in Italy was Luciano Berio from Milan. From 1961 to 1964 he attended the summer courses of Boulez at Darmstadt.
Rands's early compositions in the 1960s explored new instrumental techniques. He employed a mature style that was lyrical, dynamic, and sensitive. He superimposed original timbres on an intuitively derived chromatic pitch content. His writings for voice accompaniment for orchestra and chamber ensemble were treated with elegance.
Rands demonstrated an impressive academic career and held fellowships at numerous universities. He was a guest lecturer at the University of Wales from 1963 to 1967, and in 1966 acted as composer-in-residence and visiting fellow at Princeton University and composer-in-resident at the University of Illinois until 1970. He was a member of the faculty in music and Granada fellow of creative arts at York University from 1968 to 1975. From 1972 to 1975, Rands was a fellow in creative arts and professor of music at Brasenose College at Oxford University.
In 1975 he emigrated to the United States and became professor of music at the University of California at San Diego. In 1983, Rands became a US citizen. Eventually traversing the country, he served as professor of composition at Boston University and simultaneously as a faculty member of Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He was also composer-in-residence at Aspen, Colorado, and Tanglewood, Massachusetts, festivals. From 1989 to 1996 he was composer-in-residence for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Rands also had a career as a conductor with ensembles and orchestras around the world. Composers, performers, audiences, and critics praised him for his performances of a large and diverse repertoire of contemporary music. An impressive list of fellow conductors led orchestras in Rands's music, such as Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Neville Marriner, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Helmuth Rilling, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Gunther Schuller, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Leonard Slatkin, Christoph von Dohnanyi, and David Zinman.
Some of his many organization affiliations include membership in the American Society of University Composers and a seat on the advisor board of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. He has been chosen as the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard University and serves as the Walter Channing Cabot Fellow also at Harvard.
The beginning of Rands's long record of honors and awards was his receipt of the 1966 Harkness International Fellowship of the Commonwealth Fund of New York. Starting in 1977, Rands received a total of three National Endowment for the Arts grants and earned an American Academy of Arts and Letters award. He received the 1978 California Arts Council Award and earned a 1982 Guggenheim Fellowship. He was also honored by the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, Pew Trust, and Carey Trust.
With his musical voice demanding to be spoken, Rands has shined in the past two decades. His compositions have won prestigious awards, such as the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music for "Canti del Sole," which Rands wrote for tenor and orchestra and which was premiered by Paul Sperry and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta. In 1986, Rands won the John F. Kennedy Center's prestigious Friedheim Award for his orchestral suites "Le Tambourin."
Over the years, Rands has been perused for commissions from major ensembles, orchestras, and festivals around the world. International commissions have come from the Suntory Concert Hall in Tokyo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Internationale Bach Akademie in Stuttgart. Commissions in the U.S. were awarded from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
Rands wrote a piece for the New York Philharmonic's 100th anniversary, a cello concerto for the Rostropovitch celebration of this 70th birthday, and a piece for a consortium of orchestras and soloists for Meet the Composer. Recently he wrote for the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Dale Warland Singers, and the Mendelssohn String Quartet, which has performed a world premiere of his string quartet.
Rands received two commissions from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress. The first was in 1983 for his "Suite No. 2-Le Tambourin." The second was presented in 1994 by The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, Inc. to Rands and to the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he was composer-in-residence. The new work was premiered in May 1995, under the direction of music director Wolfgang Sawallisch.
The San Francisco-based Chanticleer vocal chamber ensemble commissioned a set of pieces from Rands for inclusion in its 1991 Colors of Love album. Rands wrote "Canti d'Amor," a set of fifteen poems from James Joyce's Chamber Music, a volume of verse published in 1907. Chanticleer selected seven of Rands's pieces, including "Winds of May that dance on the sea" and "Silently she's combing her long hair," that evoked complex harmonies for a warm and sensuous experience. Colors of Love won the Grammy award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Rands's commission of "Canti d'Amor" was paid for by a grant from the Meet the Composer/ Reader's Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace/ Reader's Digest Fund.
Rands is known for composing for a wide range of performance genres. He expresses an original and distinctive style that has been described as "plangent lyricism" with "dramatic intensity." His music drew parallels between text and musical structure in his compositions.
Rands developed his elegant technical mastery from his studies in Italy. Berio had a lasting musical influence on Rand's music, evidenced by Rands's early compositions, the 1971 "Metalepsis II" and the 1980 "Canti Lunatici," for the way Rands approached word settings and his choice of multi-lingual libretto. Influenced most conspicuously by his teacher Berio, Rands infused his music with his enjoyment of solo virtuosity and in his approach to verbal language.
Rands himself influenced the next generation of performers. He was the main composition teacher of British modernist singer and composer Vic Hoyland, who attended York University in the late 1960s. Rands's enthusiasm for the Italian approach to music and composition imparted an impression on Hoyland.
Rands's 1998 album The Works of Bernard Rands, performed by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, features three works connected with Rands's teacher Luciano Berio. "Metalepsis II," dedicated to Bruno Maderna, was conducted by Berio. The five short movements of "Madrigali" were inspired by Berio's "Il Combattimento." The final piece was the world premiere of Rands's "Triple Concert," dedicated to Berio and commissioned by the Core Ensemble. Reviewer Hubert Culot wrote of the album, "This wonderful release undoubtedly provides for a thought-provoking survey of Bernard Rands' musical journey and also a good introduction to his often beautiful sound world and his honest and serious musical thinking."
Rands's 2000 album featuring his piece "Ceremonial for Symphonic Wind Band" is a collection of new-band music. A send up of "Bolero," "Ceremonial" presents a single repeated melody that becomes progressively elaborate generating its own harmony. In his review of the composition in Fanfare magazine, Robert Carl noted that the effect was like a grave processional, gathering in substance throughout the piece. "What could in other hands be a great aesthetic miscalculation instead sounds imaginative and personal, proving that a good idea can continue to live in new guises," Carl said.
In demand all over world, Rands has been guest composer at many international festivals and was the featured topic at the Rands Symposium held at Brigham Young University in November 1994. Also in 1994, the Aspen (Colorado) Music Festival commissioned Rands to write a piece for its 50th anniversary. For the festival, Rands wrote his first chamber opera, "Belladonna," 1 of 160 new works that premiered at Aspen. Japanese mezzo-contralto Makiko Narumi, a Juilliard Opera Center performer, sang the role of Agatha Liu in the world premiere of "Belladonna."
Rands was one of 50 composers featured at the 35th National Conference of the Society of Composers, Inc. hosted by Syracuse University's Setnor Auditorium and performed by the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa. The three-day marathon in March 2001 highlighted works by live composers from around the country. Rands's selected piece "Concertino for Oboe and Ensemble," commissioned by the Philadelphia Network for New Music in 1998, displayed imagination, originality, and technical mastery.
In November 2001, the Colorado College's Great Performances and Ideas Series presented a concert of Rands's solo and chamber works, performed by the college's Lanner Faculty artists, the Da Vinci Quartet, and the Italian Contemporary Players. In December 2001, the concert group The Ensemble Sospeso in New York presented the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by Rands. Sospeso's oboist Jacqueline Leclair performed the piece.
Rands's works are a popular source of music for various organizational events, such as the 2001 Netherlands-America Foundation (NAF) fundraiser concert by the NAF Fellows and NAF beneficiaries. Rands's "Memo" for solo soprano was presented at Southeast Alaska's Cross Sounds 2002 music festival.
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