The music of Houston composer Karim Al-Zand has been called “strong and startlingly lovely” (Boston Globe) and has been praised in the US, Canada and abroad. . .
His pieces have garnered several national awards and prizes including the prestigious Sackler Composition Prize, the ArtSong Prize and the Louisville Orchestra Competition Prize. Al-Zand is also a founding member and vice-president of Musiqa, Houston’s contemporary music group, which presents concerts featuring new and classic repertoire of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
For this week’s The Front Row Performance of the Week we feature Karim Al-Zand‘s Pattern Preludes for Piano. Composed in 2005 for pianist Calogero Di Liberto the work features six short preludes for piano. The composer writes that “‘Pattern’ pieces abound in the piano literature, pieces constrained by a single idea (usually a rhythmic or textural ostinato) through which a composer expresses a narrowly focused thought. Patterning is especially well suited to preludes, which are by convention short, concise, and introductory. Most of the patterns in these six preludes are immediately identifiable: a repeated-note motive in no.2; asynchronous cascades between the hands in no.4; and a gesture bouncing between interlocked hands in no.6. In addition, three of the pieces give a nod to other famous preludes in the piano repertoire. No.1 is a gloss on what is likely the most famous prelude ever written. Within an innocent arpeggio, Bach skillfully intertwines several rhythmic patterns, something exploited in my paraphrase. No.3 takes its cure fom Chopin’s Op.28/4, which every student of harmony knows (and which a professor of mine once called the epitome of ‘creeping chromaticism’). No.5 is a retirement gift dedicated to my high school music teacher, whose lessons were inspirational preludes to my own study of music. In mood and phrasing it echoes some well-known Debussy preludes.”
Karim Al-Zand’s music has had performances by groups such as the California E.A.R. Unit, the New Millennium Ensemble, Mendelssohn String Quartet, Third Angle Ensemble, Collegium Novum, New England Conservatory Camerata, Ensemble Noir, The Flux Quartet, North/South Consonance, Brave New Works, Pinotage, Indiana University Wind Ensemble and OrchestraX. He has been awarded three times in the Canadian SOCAN Competition; for Fantasy and Fanfare, Sonata and String Quartet. His two string quartets have received numerous awards including the 1997 Blodgett Composition Competition, the Salvatore Martirano Award (University of Illinois), Harvard’s Bohemians Prize and the Tampa Bay Composers’ Forum Prize for Excellence in Chamber Music. While a fellow at the 2000 Oregon Bach Festival Composers’ Symposium, Al-Zand’s work Parizade and the Singing Tree was performed to critical acclaim.
Subscribe to KUHF’s TFR Performance of the Week Podcast for a weekly excerpt from KUHF’s extensive archive of local recordings.