Elizabeth Raum
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Elizabeth Raum

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"Commissioned works ignite local music scene"

March15, 2001 by Daniel Buckley
Commissioned works ignite local music scene

One of the things that has set the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and its Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival apart from other presenters around the world is its program of commissioning new works from contemporary composers. Others do so on occasion, mostly when they have access to some grant program or a corporate sponsor. But AFCM's commissions have all been sponsored by members of its audience. Two new works commissioned by AFCM are reviewed in the CD reviews section of the current Calendar issue. During last week's festival, a new piece for piano four-hands by Canadian composer Elizabeth Raum was premiered by pianists Bernadene Blaha and Kevin Fitz-Gerald. As the composer noted in her comments before the show, the theme of the three-movement work's middle section was supplied by her 3-year-old granddaughter, who had a dream that there was a fire in her house and that only her grandparents made it out. Like Raum's daughter before her, little Geneva likes to sing her way through life, so she sang the song she'd made up about her dream into Grandma's answering machine. So struck was Raum by both the beauty of the melody and the fact that one so young would hold visions of death, she made it the germ for a series of thoughtful variations, followed by a "Hymn to the Children" movement as a kind of musical resurrection. Raum's music proved animated, tonal and traditionally rooted from the start, with both a sense of drama heightened by unexpected twists, and a feeling of heart and soul that permeated the work. Its first movement balanced lyrical, high-spirited themes with more probing, often virtuosic, call and response materials that engaged the players in conversations and musical arguments. Its second movement, connected without pause to the finale, saw the craftsmanlike manipulation of her granddaughter's gorgeous, somewhat sad theme, sometimes in quiet, romantic moods or dramatic scramblings, interlaced with quotes from the Dies Irae (the Gregorian chant from the Mass of the Dead) and contrapuntal latticeworks. Blaha and Fitz-Gerald played it to profound and exciting effect, creating a unified conception of the work that readily translated to the appreciative crowd. Commissioners Jean Paul Bierny and Fred Chaffee got their money's worth with a piece that piano duos will love to play as much as audiences will love hearing. Something especially interesting about the commission program is the range of composers from whom AFCM has sought works. They include Turkish-born pianist Fazil Say, Gerhard Schurmann, Brazilian Raimundo Penaforte, Dan Coleman, Stephen Paulus, Reza Vali, Curt Cacioppo, Augusta Read-Thomas, Anthony Iannaccone, Robert Maggio, Jiri Gemrot and Joan Tower. On April 4, Tucsonans will hear the premiere of yet another new, AFCM-commissioned work - a string quartet by Joelle Wallach to be performed by the Muir String Quartet. Next year's festival will debut two AFCM-commissioned works. As with all new works, there's no guarantee the piece will become a staple of the repertoire like a Beethoven quartet. But it is the way many enduring masterpieces did come into the world, and a hopeful way in which AFCM's audience commissioners can leave behind something for the generations to follow. In the meantime, it is one of the many ways AFCM is leading the chamber music world and expanding Tucson's artistic radius of influence beyond our borders.
Copyright © 2001 Tucson Citizen - Tucson Citizen

"Elizabeth Raum"

Fall 2001 by Mark Nelson

Recordings of solo tuba with orchestra are still rather rare other than the half-dozen or so current recordings of the Vaughan Williams concerto. To have three original tuba concerti on one disc is truly an outstanding accomplishment. John Griffiths, the great Canadian tubist who recently hosted the ITEC conference in Regina, has teamed up with composer Elizabeth Raum, her husband and conductor Richard Raum, and the Orchestra of the Capella of St. Petersburg in Russia to produce a fabulous CD recording of Raum’s three tuba concerti: The Legend of Heimdall, Concerto Del Garda, and the Pershing Concerto.

Elizabeth Raum has been a composer friend of the tuba for years and has the distinction of being the only non-tuba or euphonium person to ever appear on our journal cover. She is an accomplished oboist with the Regina Symphony and has written many works for tuba and tuba/euphonium ensemble. The concerti on this disc all share great melodies, lush Romantic harmonic settings, and virtuoso writing for solo tuba. Each concerto is in a standard three-movement format using traditional forms to convey the music.

The Legend of Heimdall is by far the largest of the three concerti at slightly over twenty-four minutes in length. It is based on the legend surrounding the ancient Norse god Heimdall who guards the gates of Asgard, the city of the gods. Its three movements, Heimdall’s gjallarhorn, The Tale of the Bard, and The Attack on Asgard, allow John Griffith’s world-class tone, nimble fingers, and broad and expansive melodic interpretations to fully capture the spirit of Heimdall. The range and agility of the tuba is put to the test, especially in the third movement. Griffiths shines in all respects. The orchestra displays sensitivity and grace as well as power and fury under the able direction of Richard Raum.

The Concerto Del Garda was originally written for John Griffiths as a sonata for tuba and piano and premiered by John Griffiths at the 1997 ITEC conference in Riva del Garda, Italy. Mr. Griffiths thought the music should be orchestrated and as the program notes state: "insisted it be called a concerto." Roger Bobo was so impressed at the premiere performance he arranged to premiere the orchestrated version at the 1998 ITEC conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At nearly fifteen minutes, it is a compact concerto with a more classical approach of clarity and balance. The three movements, moderato grandioso, lento, and allegretto con anima recall an earlier era of clarity and balance much as though a modern day Mozart might have written it. In the outer movements, the solo part uses extensive range and alternates between expansive melodic passages and scalar and arpeggiated sequences much like concerti of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The middle movement is full of expressive melodic sequences and stays much of the time in the high F tuba register. In fact, the range is so extensive for this concerto that Raum also wrote adaptations for euphonium as well as the CC tuba. There is no question, however, that Griffiths is the supreme master of this concerto. He has complete command of every note without a trace of anything but a world-class sound and absolute clarity in rhythmic execution despite the extreme high range and many extended scalar and arpeggiated runs. The ending cadenza is something to hear!

The Pershing Concerto was originally written for euphonium instead of tuba. It follows a similar scheme of the Concerto de Garda with classically shaped movements and clarity of form. Originally inspired by a biography of General Pershing given to the composer by John Griffiths. It was written for Griffiths for a solo appearance with the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" at the annual Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Conference held in January, 2000. However, the Pershing Concerto was originally written as a three movement concerto for euphonium and piano for a recital by the composer’s husband, Richard Raum. It was then re-written for band accompaniment for Griffith’s solo appearance. Later, it was again re-written for tuba and orchestra and premiered in that version by Griffiths at the ITEC 2000 conference with the Regina Symphony conducted by Roger Bobo. The concerto attempts to capture the flavor and character of General "Black Jack" Pershing and men like him through more extensive use of brass and percussion as well as march-like outer movements. While the inner movement is more of a waltz and much more lyrical, the outer movements are a tour-de-force for solo tuba, complete with the obligatory cadenza in the third movement. While Raum may have wanted a more military style for this concerto, her writing is still very romantic with expansive melodies that perhaps soften the reflection of Pershing’s personality.

John Griffiths has produced a marvelous CD recording that is simply grand in design and in execution. The playing is nearly flawless and quite virtuosic. Con - ITEA Journal

"Elizabeth Raum"

Arizona Daily Star - Arts Journal
Tucson, Arizona
Sunday, 11 March 2001

Musical sparks shimmered and whirled through the TCC Leo Rich Theatre last Tuesday with spectacular, sometimes frenzied speed, as husband-and-wife pianists Kevin Fitz-Gerald and Bernadene Blaha blazed through a recital. The event was sponsored by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music as part of the 2001 Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival.

At the heart of the program was the world premiere of Elizabeth Raum's Sonata for Piano Four Hands, commissioned by two Tucsonans - Friends of Chamber Music president Jean-Paul Bierny and Fred Chaffee.

With Blaha playing the primo (or treble) part and Fitz-Gerald playing the secondo (or bass), the couple gave the work a tight, fiery reading; both revel, though differently, in speed. As in other pieces on the program, Blaha delivered the emotional fireworks, while Fitz-Gerald played with more reserve.

The sonata unfurled melody after singing melody with a relentless forward drive that in the end seemed to split it into two separate pieces, rather than creating a united whole. The first, neoclassical movement proved an intricate, heady battle among all four hands for control of two motives.

The second and third movements were more romantic in style. The second, "The Geneva Variations," developed variations from a startlingly rich, aria-like melody that came to Raum's granddaughter Geneva in a dream when she was 3. Raum deepened and darkened her granddaughter's airy song by weaving into it the Dies Irae from the Catholic Mass for the Dead. The third movement, "Hymn to the Children," lifted the work to finish with a pianistic declaration of exulting, upbeat power.

The audience briefly paused in reflection, and then leapt to its feet for applause. Raum joined Blaha and Fitz-Gerald on stage, and commissioners Bierny and Chaffee delivered roses to all three musicians.

Also on the program were Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Six Morceaux for Piano Four Hands," Op. 11 and John Corigliano's "Gazebo Dances for Piano Four Hands." Fitz-Gerald gave Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28, a brilliantly technical reading.
- Arizona Daily Star


How Bodies Make Ecstatic Marks - Contrasts Trio (Centrediscs 2007)



Elizabeth Raum is active both as an oboist and as a composer. A native of Boston Massachussetts, she earned her Bachelor of Music in oboe performance from the Eastman School of Music in 1966 with Robert Sprenkle, and her Master of Music in composition from the University of Regina in 1985 with Thomas Schudel. She currently plays principal oboe with the Regina Symphony Orchestra in Regina, Saskatchewan.

She has been featured in many publications including Opera Canada, the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, the Tuba Journal, the New Grove's Dictionary of Opera, the New Grove's Dictionary of Women Composers, and will be included in the upcoming New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Whenever possible, she will listen to, and even watch an individual performer before she begins to write for them. Often, these sounds and images combine to become the impetus for her creative process, which one can hear in the results. Her music always provides scope for the full expressive range of any given instrument, which is as gratifying to the performers as it is to the public.

Early in her career, Elizabeth experimented with many systems and styles of composition. Finding an artistic voice can be a confounding task for many young composers. For Raum, the question which began as "what" or "how", became "why, to what end do I raise my voice?" The answer was finally very simple: to write the music she would like to hear, music that moves and elevates the spirit.