In a tiny New York studio just big enough for an upright piano, a chair, a desk, and an espresso machine, composer Yotam Haber found a rather unconventional muse. On a commission for Cornell University he wrote Espresso for wind ensemble in 2004.
The work has now received another push into the repertory. Espresso has been awarded the second bi-annual ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize, an award that includes a $5,000 cash prize in addition to a performance—the 28-year-old composer’s first in New York City—during the National CBDNA Conference in February 2005 by Rutgers University Wind Ensemble.
Named for CBDNA founder Frederick Fennell, the competition is intended to encourage American composers between the ages of 18 and 30 to create new works for concert band.
Haber says he was looking to distance the piece from the stereotypical marching band sound and “just write interesting, engaging music for an ensemble that has now entered the mainstream of accepted ‘serious’ music ensembles.”
Playing off the title, he describes the work poetically as a “dark, short, concentrated shot of a piece” that ends with a calm coda, “an aftertaste, faintly recalling flavors just experienced.”
David Rakowski, whose own work for wind ensemble, Ten of a Kind, was commissioned by “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, mentored Haber with characteristic good humor.
“The band that was rehearsing it for the first performance was having a difficult time,” Haber recalls. “It was too hard and the response I was getting from the student musicians was incredibly depressing. So I showed Rakowski the score and he said, “Well, even though Ten of a Kind was short listed for a Pulitzer, only two bands in the world have ever played it…so I’m not the guy to ask if it’s ‘too hard.’ ”
Haber, currently Information Services Coordinator at the American Music Center, is an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award winner. He has been a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, and been in residence at the Aaron Copland House and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Haber holds a doctoral degree from Cornell University.
The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2004 competition were: Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, David Del Tredici, and Melinda Wagner. The conductor jurors selected by CBDNA were Thomas Duffy (Yale University) and Charles Peltz (New England Conservatory of Music). Additional works selected for Special Distinction and Honorable Mention by the panel will be circulated to ensembles performing at regional CBDNA conferences.
Recognized for Special Distinction:
- Eric Knechtges, age 26, Lansing, MI—Broken Silents for wind ensemble
- Joseph Eidson, age 22, Jefferson City, MO—Chadron for wind ensemble
- Eli Marshall, age 27, Montville, ME—Grand Laudations for concert band
- Daniel Perttu, age 25, Columbus, OH—Atop Black Balsam for wind ensemble
- Carl Schimmel, age 29, Wakefield, RI—The Blatherskite’s Comeuppance for wind ensemble