Posts tagged SF Conservatory of Music
Composer Profile: Stefan Cwik
Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence for Symphony Parnassus, studied composition and guitar performance with Dusan Bogdanovic, and composition with David Conte, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He studied with composer Michel Merlet at the European American Musical Alliance summer program in Paris, France, and completed his graduate studies in composition with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School in New York.

Bassoonist Paula Brusky premiered Cwik’s Eight Miniatures for Chamber Ensemble (Hommage a Stravinsky), a winner of the 2010 Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition. It was also was premiered at the 2011 International Double Reed Society Conference. It is published by TrevCo Publishing with a recording on the MSR classics label. Cwik’s piece Acrobats for four-hand piano, commissioned by the ZOFO duet of San Francisco, and winner of the 2013 BMI Student composer award, will be recorded and released on the Sono Luminus label.

While at Juilliard, Stefan won the Orchestral Composition Competition for two consecutive years. His orchestral work Terpsichore was premiered and recorded by the Juilliard Orchestra, and was given honorable mention at the 2012 Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute. The Illusionist, his second winning piece, was given honorable mention at the 2013 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

Stefan has already collaborated four times with Maestro Stephen Paulson and Symphony Parnassus, premiering his Concert Dances for Orchestra (2009), his Piano Concerto with soloist Scott Foglesong (2011), his English Horn concerto The Sword in the Stone featuring soloist Russ DeLuna (2016), and Luz Dorada (Golden Light) in 2017. His final commission as composer-in-residence for Symphony Parnassus is Relics: Dances for Percussion Quartet and Orchestra, to be premiered on today’s program.

Stefan Cwik is currently professor of music theory and musicianship at SFCM. Stefan is a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). Examples of his music can be found on his website, www.StefanCwik.com, and can be requested by contacting him via email at stcwik@gmail.com.

Pianist Wuu connects with deep feelings in Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody'
Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano soloist for the Symphony Parnassus June 11 concert, loves the deep feelings evoked by Rachmaninoff, the great Russian Romantic composer who also happens to be his favorite.

“I feel like I can connect with the strong emotions. I adore his heart-wrenching harmonies,” Elliot says.

Elliot, 17, lives in Fremont, Calif., and attends Valley Christian High School in San Jose. He studies piano with Yoshikazu Nagai at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Division, and when not practicing, he likes to play with gadgets and technology, and also loves to swim and play basketball. He has been studying piano since age 6.

His love of music began early: His parents told him that as a baby, he frequently slept next to the piano bench while his sister Rebecca practiced; she is now preparing to graduate with a piano degree from the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

And as for Elliot, all those naps next to the piano bench, plus many years of practice have paid off.   

Elliot Wuu, piano

Elliot Wuu, piano

He is excited to play Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini at the upcoming concert. “I am ecstatic to perform with Symphony Parnassus,” he said. “I hope I will be able to share my love of music with the audience, and to inspire them too!”

“I really like Rachmaninoff's creativity throughout this piece,” Elliot says. “He uses numerous ways to vary the Paganini motive to compose unique textures and expressions in each variation.”

The Rhapsody—one of Rachmaninoff’s most popular pieces—is actually a set of 24 variations on the 24th and last of composer Paganini's Caprices for solo violin. In 2015, Elliot performed it to win the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. That achievement is one of many national and international prizes he has won in his young career, including:  

  • 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist Winner
  • 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts candidate
  • 2014 Lang Lang International Music Foundation Young Scholar (2014-2016)
  • 2016-2021 Music Teachers Association of California Young Artist Guild, the highest honor bestowed to California music students
  • Two-time first prize winner of the Pacific Musical Society Competition, whose past winners include violinist Yehudi Menuhin and pianist Leon Fleisher
Painter's use of light and color inspires composer Cwik's 'Luz Dorada'
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Q&A with Stefan Cwik, Symphony Parnassus composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, composer-in-residence

Stefan Cwik, 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. 

Composer Cwik's latest piece inspired by Arthurian legend
Stefan Cwik, composer

Stefan Cwik, composer

In The Sword in the Stone, a concerto for English horn and orchestra, composer Stefan Cwik uses the solo instrument as the “voice” of Merlyn the wizard, leading the way for magical adventures with talking animals and daring knights as he educates the future King Arthur in this famous story.

“The first thing I thought of with ‘The Sword in the Stone’ is that it has to be light, because the English horn is not a loud instrument,” he said, describing Merlyn’s voice as “low and lyrical, can be seductive, but is not shimmery or pretty.”

The challenge, he said, was for the English horn and the orchestra to “have a conversation without the soloist being drowned out.”

Cwik, 29, is no stranger to Symphony Parnassus, which has premiered his Concert Dances for Orchestra, as well as his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. He has a degree in composition from San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a master’s degree in composition from the Juilliard School in New York, where he won the Juilliard Orchestral Competition for two consecutive years.

Originally from Chicago, Stefan came to San Francisco to study guitar performance at the conservatory, but found his true calling when he switched to composition. He cites influences such as Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Britten, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. He also likes a lot of American folk music, which finds its way into his compositions.

Though other members of his family played instruments, he is the first to have pursued a musical career. The son of a lawyer (his father), and a retired judge (his mother), Stefan said he feels fortunate that his parents valued education and encouraged his interest in music. He studied trumpet and guitar growing up. “I am lucky,” he said. “I got the extra push to do it, but no one ever had to make me practice. I always wanted to do it.”

Stefan Cwik, Stephen Paulson, and Russ deLuna discuss Cwik's English horn concerto during rehearsal

Stefan Cwik, Stephen Paulson, and Russ deLuna discuss Cwik's English horn concerto during rehearsal