Matthew Recio and Christopher LaRosa have been named the first- and second-prize winners, respectively, of this year’s NOTUS Student Composition Contest.
Recio’s first-prize work is “How to Survive Vesuvius” for mixed chorus a cappella. A second-year graduate student, he is pursuing a Master of Music degree in composition at the Jacobs School, where his principal teachers have been Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström. He is a member of NOTUS and will sing in the premiere of his work during the March 2016 concert.
Recio says of his work, “I wanted to write a piece that would combine rhythm, melody and harmony in a way that would sparkle with energy. With this as a starting point, I asked my friend Jenna Lanzaro to write me the text for this work. . . . Having been to Pompeii, I have seen the remains of people frozen in their natural state with the exact facial expressions of when the eruption occurred. . . . I wanted the opening motive to represent lava gradually enveloping this person’s world around them.”
LaRosa’s second-prize work is “Breath” for mixed chorus a cappella. A graduate student pursuing his Doctor of Music degree in composition at the Jacobs School, he currently studies with P. Q. Phan.
LaRosa says of his work, “The text of ‘Breath’ comes from Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘The Sonnets to Orpheus,’ a cycle of 55 poems divided into two series. Originally in German, I chose to translate the poem to English. In the poem, Rilke vividly personifies breath. Despite its invisibility, breath carries our most important ideas and intimate words. Much of the air around us has at one time been inside us—a sea of breaths surround us.”
NOTUS will premiere both of these prize-winning works on the concert program “Electric Resonances” on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, at 8 p.m. in Auer Hall.
The concert will also feature three other pieces: a world-premiere performance of “The Giver of Stars” by Sven-David Sandström; Arvo Pärt’s groundbreaking “Te Deum” for three choirs, string ensemble, prepared piano and tape; and a new piece by sophomore composition major Alex Berko, whose work “Forgiven Tears” has been named the winner of the Raymond Brock Memorial Student Composition Prize, given annually to one composer nationally by the American Choral Directors Association.
NOTUS will also perform Sandström and Berko’s works at the ACDA Central Division Conference in Chicago this coming February.
The judges awarded two honorable mentions for Nicolas Chuaqui’s “Infinity” and Felipe Tovar-Henao’s “Oh, misteriosa alma mía.”
The contest is an initiative of Dominick DiOrio, assistant professor of music in the Choral Conducting Department and conductor of NOTUS: IU Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. The annual competition is open to all current undergraduate and graduate students at the Jacobs School of Music.
Judges for the competition included John Gibson, associate professor of composition (electronic and computer music), and Betsy Burleigh, chair of Choral Conducting and associate professor of music. DiOrio did not take part in the judging panel. The submission of scores was anonymous, and the judges did not see names or identifying information until after final decisions were made.
Composer and performer in various mediums, Recio’s (b. 1991) evocative compositions generate a vivid imagistic experience for listeners. He is a summa cum laude graduate and Charles F. Hockett scholar of Ithaca College, where he earned a B.M. in composition and music education. While at Ithaca, he was awarded the Smadbeck Dean’s composition prize for three consecutive years as well as the ACDA choral composition prize. His work has recently been selected for performance at the Midwest Composer Symposium (2014-15), the UNK New Music Festival, Hammer and Nail Contemporary Dance Collaboration, and the New Voices Opera Exhibition. He is the winner of the 2015 IMTA Opus young artist composition competition of Indiana, where he was recognized last October at the state festival for his work.
He is the recent winner of the 2015 Quartet Nouveau (resident ensemble of the California Chamber Orchestra) composition competition and will have his work “Clutch of Venus” performed in San Diego this spring. His choral work “How to Survive Vesuvius” will be showcased at the 2016 ACDA convention in Boston this February in a master class with Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky. Recio is one of three finalists in Michael Kerschner’s Young New Yorker’s Choral composition competition and will have a new work premiered with the ensemble June of 2016. In the past, he has been chosen to participate in the Atlantic Music Festival as well as being selected as an emerging composer for the IMANI Winds chamber festival in New York City. Last summer, he was a composition fellow at the Valencia International Performing Arts program of Spain, where his clarinet piece “Sea Calls” was performed by Ausiás Morant (bass clarinetist of the BBC Orchestra). His principal teachers include Dana Wilson, Eric Ewazen, Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström.
LaRosa’s (b. 1990) music dramatically integrates melodic lyricism, rhythmic vitality, harmonic color and timbral shadings. His oeuvre displays a fascination for temporal perception, human aggression and compassion, and natural phenomena. His music has been described as “deftly crafted” by the Boston Classical Review and “charismatic, well scored and positively received” by the Hartford Courant. He has received performances throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada and Austria by ensembles such as the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, CEPROMUSIC, Boston New Music Initiative, and Genesis Chamber Singers.
In 2015, LaRosa won the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s commissioning competition. His “Sextet” won the CEPROMUSIC/BU Composition Competition in 2014. His “Symmetries” for two string quartets won the Frank Robert Abell Prize for Chamber Music and the Louis Smadbeck prize in 2012, and his dramatic song cycle “Vignettes of Two Lovers” was selected for the Boston Metro Opera’s 3rd Annual Contemporary Americana Festival. His flute preludes, “Mythologies,” won second place for the Louis Smadbeck prize in 2011, and, in 2010, his song cycle “Spring Giddiness” won the Jack Downey Prize and was selected by the Boston Metro Opera’s 2nd Annual Contemporary Americana Festival.
LaRosa grew up in Downingtown, Pa. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Ithaca College and his Master of Music degree at Boston University. During the 2012-13 academic year, he served as the composition instructor and student assistant at IES Abroad in Vienna. He has studied with Dana Wilson, John Wallace and P. Q. Phan.