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Cygnus Ensemble

New music by Peyman Farzinpour, Georg Friedrich Haas, Giacomo Manzoni, and Daniele Venturi

The Italian Academy at Columbia University hosts the League of Composers / ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) in a concert of new works by Milanese master Giacomo Manzoni and two of his students, Daniele Venturi and Peyman Farzinpour, placing the focus of this program on Northern Italian modernism, with compatible works by composers from the US, Ireland, & Austria. The program of short works features the Cygnus Ensemble, Bodies Electric (an electric guitar quartet) and Sheer Pluck, the Queens-based guitar ensemble.

Giacomo Manzoni, a leading composer of his generation in Milan, is represented with a new work, Cygnusquintet. Manzoni is known for many remarkable works including his film score for director Werner Schroeter's Malina, based on the novel by Ingeborg Bachmann (one of Hans Werner Henze's librettists, along with Auden).

Two students of Manzoni have contributed new works for this program. Daniele Venturi's “Alla Luna” is a setting of a poem by Leopardi for guitar, mandolin and soprano. Venturi, of Bologna, lists Manzoni and Grisey as his principle teachers. Venturi's work was selected for performance at the Belgium World Music Days in the fall of 2012, which brought his work to the attention of ISCM's US delegate, William Anderson (Cygnus' founder).

Composer/Conductor Peyman Farzinpour, born in Los Angeles, studied in Milan with Manzoni. Farzinpour, who now lives in Boston, will conduct his new work “(ri)percurso.” The title refers to a cycle of works by Manzoni.

Dina Koston's “In Memory of Jeanette Walters,” for trumpet, oboe, & clarinet, is a work that is very much in sync with the Italian modernists represented here. Koston (1929-2010) attended Darmstadt courses, as did Manzoni, Nono, Henze, and many others. Moreover, Koston was a student of Luciano Berio. Koston was active in Washington D.C., where, together with her co-director Leon Fleisher, she led the Theater Chamber Players (TCP). TCP, for over 30 years, exposed Washington D.C. audiences to new music, luring them into the hall with Fleisher's unsurpassable Brahms, then blasting them with Berio, Crumb, Davidovsky, etc. Koston was recently celebrated with a concert at the Library of Congress with a pair of concerts given by Cygnus and Leon Fleisher.

John McLachlan is a central figure in Ireland's music scene, and regularly serves as the delegate from Ireland at the ISCM World Music Days festivals. “Youtunes” was composed for NYC-based Bodies Electric, an electric guitar quartet led by guitarist John Chang, of Seoul, Montreal, and lately of New York City.

Martin Boykan, who divides his time between Boston and New York, contributed a new work for Cygnus, “Diptych,” also a quintet. Boykan and Manzoni were both born in the early 1930s.

The balance of the program is comprised of short works by Robert Martin, Georg Friedrich Haas, and Fred Lerdahl. A few miniatures from Martin's “Diary of Seducer,” for 1, 2, and 3, guitars, will be performed by Sheer Pluck, the adventurous Queens-based guitar ensemble. “Imbrications,” by Lerdahl, is a short, brilliant work for six instruments. Lerdahl is the Director of Composition at Columbia University.

Georg Friedrich Haas, a pioneer in microtonal and spectral music, is joining the Composition faculty at Columbia University. Sheer Pluck, the Queens-based guitar ensemble, will offer Haas' Quartett für 4 Gitarren.

Cygnus Ensemble

Critically acclaimed Cygnus was founded in 1985 by guitarist and composer William Anderson. The group’s core instrumental formation consists of winds and strings in pairs, as well as a pair of plucked string players who, together, cover classical and electric guitars, theorbo (a giant Baroque lute), mandolin and tenor banjo. The instrumentation has roots in the Elizabethan “broken consort,” combining instruments from different families, but Cygnus moves freely from the Baroque sound world into newgrass, electronica and world music.

Cygnus proudly celebrates its unflagging commitment to a great number of diverse American composers and has had numerous key modernist and postmodernist works composed especially for it, including Milton Babbitt’s “Swan Song No. 1,” David Lang’s “Warmth” and Sebastian Currier’s “Broken Consort.” The ensemble has produced many CDs and has given concerts in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. The ensemble’s recording of American composer Harold Meltzer’s “Brion” (Naxos 8.559660) received accolades as one of the best recordings of 2010. Cygnus is currently in residence at Sarah Lawrence College and the City University of New York's Graduate Center. In February/March, 2012 Cygnus was in residence at the Library of Congress to inaugurate the Dina Koston and Roger Shapiro Music Fund concerts there. For more information, go to


Tara Helen O'Connor, flute
Robert Ingliss, oboe
Calvin Wiersma, violin
Susannah Chapman, 'cello
Oren Fader, guitar
William Anderson, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo