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CD148   Thomas Oboe Lee: The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards & more



Thomas Oboe Lee:
The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, Opus 66,
& Selections from Twenty-Nine Fireflies for Solo Piano

The Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo
Sally Pinkas & Evan Hirsch

  • 8-page insert with notes by the composer
  • 59'34" total playing time

CD148     $15.95

Purchase from Canticle Distributing


The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards, Opus 66
22 Salon Pieces for Two Pianos (1996)
1.             Il Matto 12.      XI.      La Fortezza
2.     I.       Il Saltimbanco 13.      XII.      Il Penduto
3.     II.       La Papessa 14.      XIII.      La Morte
4.     III.      L'Imperatrice 15.      XIV.      La Temperanza
5.     IV.      L'Imperatore 16.      XV.      Il Diavolo
6.     V.      Il Paps 17.      XVI.      La Torre
7.     VI.     L'Amore 18.      XVII.      La Stella
8.     VII.     Il Carro 19.      XVIII.     La Luna
9.     VIII.    La Giustizia 20.      XIX.       Il Sole
10.    IX.     Il Vecchio 21.      XX.       Il Giudizio
11.    X.     La Ruota Della Fortuna 22.      XXI.      Il Mondo
The Hirsch-Pinkas Duo
Selections from Twenty-Nine Fireflies for Solo Piano
23.  Firefly x...0247 Like the whirlwind!
24.  Firefly xxvii... 0127 Procession... very quiet.
25.  Firefly xii...0258 Fantastically!
26.  Firefly vi... 0157 Singing!
27.  Firefly xxii... 0246 Allegro molto... Dramatically!
28.  Firefly xxix... 0123 Allegro appassionato!!!
        Sally Pinkas
29.  Firefly xxiv... 0268 Andante con moto
30.  Firefly xv...0145 Presto!
31.  Firefly xxv...0167 Lento
32.  Firefly xvii... 0369 Prestissimo!
33.  Firefly xviii... 0347 Like a music-box...
        Evan Hirsch

Listen Listen:

VI. L'amore

XXI. Il Mondo from The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards by Thomas Oboe Lee


The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards (1996)

The literature for two pianos is vast and varied. Major contributions have been composed by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Poulenc, Gottschalk and Messiaen. When the Reed sisters, Elizabeth and Lydia, asked me to write a new work for two pianos, I wasn't quite sure where or how to begin. Then I came upon a book on numerology by Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers. In it I discovered a lot of fascinating things, mystical and magical, associated with each number from one to 10,000. Since I would be writing a piece for a duo, double digits would do the trick. Number 22 stood out. It has two important associations: the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, and there are 22 major arcana cards, or "mysteries," in a deck of tarot cards. Perfect. I could write 22 pieces, each with a musical rendering of a card. [And, coincidentally, this is opus 66.] For pictorial inspiration, I bought a Pierpont Morgan Library copy of the Visconti Sforza Tarot Cards from 15th century Italy. For musical inspiration, I listened to the wonderful salon music of the Polish composer Frederic Chopin, the American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and the Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth.

The 22 pieces in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards are:
  Il Matto.  The Fool entertains the gathered guests with a tarantella
  Il Saltimbanco.  The Mountebank shuffles his cards and does a samba.
  La Papessa.  The High Priestess concocts a magic potion.
  L'Imperatrice.  The Empress dances all night.
  L'Imperatore.  The Emperor promenades into the Great Hall, and inspects the courtiers.
  Il Papa.  The Pope makes a proclamation that all sinners will be pardoned.
  L'Amore.  Love in a tropical paradise.
  Il Carro.  Triumphant in battle, the gladiators ride into town on chariots.
  La Giustizia.  Justice is swift and unrelenting.
  Il Vecchio.  The Old Man reminisces.
  La Ruota della Fortuna.  Fortunes rise and fall unpredictably.
  La Fortezza.  Strength and Fortitude will prevail.
  Il Penduto.  Lamentation for the Hanged Man.
  La Morte.  Death lurks around the corner.
  La Temperanza.  Temperance in A major.
  Il Diavolo.  The Devil seduces with his charm and wit.
  La Torre.  The Tower topples and crashes onto the populace gathered below.
  La Stella.  Twinkle, twinkle, little star...
  La Luna.  Minuet for moonstruck lovers.
  Il Sole.  Sunshine, margaritas and salsa cubana.
  Il Giudizio.  On the Day of Judgement, the angels blow their trumpets...
  Il Mondo.  The World would be a happier place if we all dance together.
--Thomas Oboe Lee

Twenty-Nine Fireflies for solo piano (1977-2002)

It was in a composition seminar taught by Donald Martino at the New England Conservatory of Music (1976) that I discovered that there are twenty-nine distinct tetra-chords in atonal music. At that time I was also completely engrossed by the music of Frederic Chopin. Chopin's Preludes, Opus 28 contains twenty-four short movements. One of the pieces Martino taught us in that seminar was Schoenberg's Five Piano Pieces, Opus 23. These two compositions became the inspiration for Twenty-Nine Fireflies for solo piano.

The cycle is divided into five books. Each book begins with a movement modeled after Schoenberg's Piano Pieces, followed by pieces modeled after Chopin's Preludes. The books are dedicated to my dear friends and colleagues Julie Cavadini (Book I), Kathryn Gleason (Book II), Robert Levin (Book III), Ya-fei Chuang (Book IV), Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch (Book V).

--Thomas Oboe Lee

In the fall of 2000, when Evan and I (as the Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo) were asked to play a selection from Tom Lee's The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards in Newton, MA, we were thrilled to discover a dynamic and humorous musical personality. Tom has a special talent for miniatures. He is bubbling with ideas, sometimes funny, always intriguing. As often happens, our musical relationship with Tom developed into a personal friendship. We took some of the Tarot Cards to St. Petersburg the following year and enjoyed our audience's reaction to their liveliness.

During 2002 we programmed the complete Tarot Cards in our New England concerts, as we were celebrating our 10th anniversary. We recorded them along with selections from Twenty-Nine Fireflies for solo piano in June, at the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College.

--Sally Pinkas

Hirsch-Pinkas Piano DuoSince its 1992 debut, the Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo has presented one-and two-piano recitals to enthusiastic audiences throughout the world. Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch, each an active soloist, bring to their collaborations virtuosity, enthusiasm, and striking warmth (they are married). Dedicated to an exploration of twentieth-century music, their repertoire includes rarely-heard works such as Messiaen's Visions de l'amen, Milhaud's La création du monde and Rochberg's Circle of Fire (which they premiered). Equally at ease with the standard repertoire, the Duo's offerings range from Byrd to Mozart and Rachmaninoff, and include works especially arranged by Hirsch. Popular with young audiences, the two often present master classes and performance workshops in conjunction with their concerts.

Pinkas and Hirsch made their European debut in 1995 at the Officina Musicale dell'Altopiano in Abruzza, Italy, where they have been performing regularly ever since. In 1998 they were in residence at the Kfar Blum Music Festival in Israel, and in 1999 they toured Nigeria and Russia to critical acclaim. In 2001, following a second highly-acclaimed and extensive tour of Nigeria, the Duo was invited to participate in a conference on piano duet literature at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Duo celebrated its tenth anniversary season with performances throughout New England, Israel, and Italy, and followed with an extensive concert and teaching tour in Bulgaria. In 2004 they participated in the Masters de Pontlevoy Summer Festival in the Loire Valley, France, and embarked upon their first China visit, playing and teaching at the Xian Conservatory and the China Conservatory. The Hirsch-Pinkas duo's recordings of music by Rochberg and Pinkham are available on the Gasparo and the ARSIS labels.

Sally Pinkas has concertized widely in the USA, Europe,and Israel. Professor of Music and Artist-in-Residence at Dartmouth College, she is also on the Artist Faculty at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her discography includes works by Debussy, Rochberg, and Christian Wolff on the Centaur, Gasparo, and Mode labels. Her recording of Fauré's Thirteen Nocturnes on the Musica Omnia label was named one of 2002's best CDs by the Boston Globe. A native of Israel, Pinkas holds performance degrees from Indiana University and the New England Conservatory of Music, and a PhD in Composition and Theory from Brandeis University.

Evan Hirsch, an active recitalist and chamber player, holds a Bachelor of fine Arts from SUNY Purchase and a Master of Music from New England Conservatory. In addition to teaching piano and chamber music at Brandeis University, he has been on the Adult Education faculty at the New England Conservatory, and taught at Dartmouth College as a Visiting Professor in 1999 and 2001. A dedicated champion of new music, Hirsch has performed with numerous contemporary ensembles throughout New England, and has recorded for New Albion and Gasparo Records. His recording of recent piano music by George Rochberg was released in the fall of 2003 on the Gasparo label.

Thomas Oboe Lee was born in China in 1945. He lived in São Paulo, Brazil, for six years before coming to the United States in 1966. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he studied composition with William Thomas McKinley, George Russell, and Gunther Schuller at the New England Conservatory (1972-76); with Betsy Jolas at Tanglewood (1976) and Earl Kim at Harvard University (1077-81). He currently teaches at Boston College.

Mr. Lee has recieved many awards for his work, among them the Rome Prize Fellowship, the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, two Guggenheim Fellowships, two National Endowment for the Arts Composers Fellowships, two Massachusetts Artists Fellowships, First Prize at the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards for his String Quartet No.3..."child of Uranus, father of Zeus, "the Georges Enesco International Composition Prize, the Koussevitsky Tanglewood Composition Prize, recording grants from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, residencies at Yaddoo, the MacDowell Colony and the Charles Ives Center in Danbury, CT, and Charleston, SC.

In 1984, Esquire Magazine selected him as one of two composers in its First Annual Register, "The Best of the New Generation: Men and Women Under 40 Who are Changing America." He has been commissioned by Amnesty International USA, the Thoreau Society, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Koussevitsky Music Foundation, the American Jazz Philharmonic, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, the Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Lydian, Kronos, Artaria, Manhattan, and Hawthorne String Quartets, the Diaz Trio, the Raphael Trio, Madam Rubio, the Arto Ensemble, Marimolin, Alea III, Collage, Apple Hill Chamber Players, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Cambridge Chamber Players. Additional orchestral performances include those by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Keith Lockhart, the Charleston Symphony with David Stahl, and the American Composers Orchestra with Gunter Schuller.

His music is published by G. Schirmer/Associated Music Publishers, Inc. and is recorded on GM, MCA Classics, Northeastern, and Nonesuch records. A compact disc of his music featuring the Hawthorne String Quartet has just been released on Koch International Classics. Mr. Lee is also active as a jazz flutist. A recording of his band, Departed Feathers, is available on GM Recordings.