Q&A with Stefan Cwik, Symphony Parnassus composer-in-residence
Stefan Cwik, Symphony Parnassus composer-in-residence, is proud to present his latest work, Luz Dorada: Music After Three Paintings by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado in a world premiere with Symphony Parnassus.
Stefan, 30, who was named composer-in-residence in 2016, has collaborated three times before with Symphony Parnassus, premiering his Concert Dances for Orchestra, Piano Concerto, and his English horn concerto, The Sword in the Stone.
He is professor of music theory and musicianship at the San Francisco Conservatory, from which he also has a bachelor’s degree in composition. He also has a master’s in composition from The Juilliard School, where he won the orchestral composition competition twice, with his works Terpsichore and The Illusionist.
Originally from Chicago, he now resides in the Bay Area.
How did you become acquainted with Eduardo, the artist who inspired your music? What is it about his paintings that drew you in?
Finding Eduardo's paintings was a happy accident. I was browsing through abstract art on my computer. I hadn't intended to come across a living artist since I was looking through older art from the late 1800s and early 1900s. A picture of one of Eduardo's artworks made its way into my search. That led me to his website where I learned about him as an artist and as was able to explore some of his works. I was immediately drawn in by the extraordinary use of fragmentation of forms and sensitivity to color and light. Upon reading his artistic statement, I immediately connected with him as an artist, specifically this line (taken directly from his website) "In most of my paintings I represent the human form or some sort of human element and our connection to another plane of consciousness."
Was it unusual to find inspiration in paintings? Have you done this before?
I had never before used visual art as an inspiration for a piece of music. I have always loved art museums and the process of experiencing and receiving a visual work of art but had not directly used art for my music.
Which composers inspire you and why?
I tend to listen to Igor Stravinsky, Britten, Ravel, Esa Pekka Salonen, and Thomas Adès. I like them all for different reasons, but I would have to say that what links them together is their ability to draw from the music that came before them for inspiration and innovate with an enormous creative sensibility that allows them to compose in an instantly recognizable style.
How has it been to work with Symphony Parnassus this time around?
It has been great working with Symphony Parnassus. The orchestra has been picking up the music rather quickly. The music seems to sit well with all of the instruments, which has been good to experience because it shows a general improvement in my orchestral writing. It is a very playable piece.
The challenges are always the same. Generally they are specific things such as bowing and phrasing for the strings, which is something that I consider a weak point in my orchestration skills. Although it is happening much less this time around, in the past it always takes a little bit of time to communicate the affect of the music to the players if the notated music does not communicate that obviously.
Steve helps an awful lot with this because he is such a sensitive musician that he can look at the score and understand what the underlying musical intention is. It is really an honor to work with him every time I get the chance.