AAAL Announces 2001 Award Winners: Russell Platt

Russell Platt
Russell Platt
photo by Melissa Richard

Russell Platt is senior editor for classical music at the “Goings On About Town” section of The New Yorker. He was educated at Oberlin College, the Curtis Institute of Music, Cambridge University, and the University of Minnesota, where he earned his Ph.D. He has been a fellow at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, the Blue Mountain Center, the Djerassi Foundation, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. He has received commissions from the American Composers Forum, the tenor Paul Sperry, and the Dale Warland Singers, and The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Ensemble has performed his music.

Platt recently completed his chamber symphony for the Intergalactic Chamber Ensemble. It will be performed “sometime next season,” according to Platt. He is currently working on a concerto for former Milwaukee Symphony principal clarinetist Russell Dagon, commissioned by the American Composers Forum as part of their Composers Commissioning Project program. Dagon will perform the new concerto with the Waukesha (WI) Symphony under the direction of the composer’s brother, Alexander Platt. He also has plans to write a violin sonata and a cycle of songs for voice and chamber ensemble. The Fellowship, Platt commented, will give him “a little breathing space.”

Platt describes his music as “pretty much in the mainstream lyrical tradition of the 20th century,” a tradition embodied in the works of his teachers Ned Rorem and Dominick Argento. As a Curtis student, he also became quite familiar with the works of Samuel Barber. At the same time, he has a long-standing interest in minimalism and feels that it is his “responsibility to incorporate stylistic technical innovations of the Second Viennese School.” While this last influence may sound incompatible with the first two, Platt explained that he sees Schoenberg‘s influence in his music’s “forceful, expressive profile.”

Platt faces a formidable challenge in balancing the work of a full-time writer with that of a composer. The challenge is not new to him: before coming to The New Yorker, Platt was the principal music critic at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It is hard to have a sense of perspective,” Platt confessed. “There are only so many things in your life you can concentrate on. Like everyone, I am trying to pull off a balancing act.”