On May 12, clarinetist Ian Tyson gives the first performance of Leanna Primiani’s new work Crystal Cathedral at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University (Long Island, NY). Presented as part of the university’s lecture-recital series, the performance focuses on the music of Olivier Messiaen and Primiani and how each composer’s music is organically inspired by nature’s birdcalls.
Tyson first met Primiani in August 2013, when she was a featured composer at the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival. Tyson performed Primiani’s chamber work Thursdays, Saturdays, and Twice on Sundays during the festival finale concerts. Inspired by Primiani’s compositional voice, Tyson approached her about writing a piece for clarinet, and Crystal Cathedral is the resulting musical collaboration.
“For centuries, composers have been emulating birdcalls and nature,” Tyson shares. “Messiaen is probably the best known composer who was masterly in both mimicking birdcalls and utilizing them in his compositions…[He also] adored the clarinet, and [his music] was also inspired by his Catholic faith. ‘Quartet For the End of Time’ made an astounding impact on the classical repertoire that followed it.…Like Messiaen, Primiani is highly inspired by nature and also loves the clarinet, and has strong religious roots stemming from her Greek heritage. However, Primiani’s Crystal Cathedral differs from Messiaen in imagery, as it is more about one’s experience of sitting in a church with giant crystalline stained glass windows and experiencing nature — sunlight, shadows, birds, and spiritual awareness….”
Primiani comments, “Ian is one of the foremost up-and-coming clarinetists in the US, and when he asked me to write a piece for him based on the music of Messiaen, it was a welcomed project. I’ve always been a Messiaen-disciple, and have taken his ideas of time, harmony, etc. and put them through my own compositional filter. My mind went immediately to the image of the cathedral, and how Messiaen’s profound ideas about writing music would translate into a transcendental journey…[So, in] my ‘tone poem’ Crystal Cathedral, the clarinetist takes the musical journey from the confines of earth and ascends into heaven.”