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MP3 Bruce Polay - Pictures For an Exhibition: Music of Bruce Polay

Contemporary classical art music: symphonic, chamber, and solo

15 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, CLASSICAL: Orchestral

Bruce Polay (b. 1949) has served jointly as professor of music and chair of the music department at Knox College and music director/conductor of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony since 1983. He received the prestigious 2004 Illinois Conductor of the Year award from the Illinois Council of Orchestras, having achieved this esteemed recognition for an unprecedented second time. The Knox-Galesburg Symphony has also been twice recognized Illinois Orchestra of the Year during his tenure. Bruce’s recent appearances as guest conductor have included performances in Belarus, England, Italy, Mexico, Romania, Russian, Spain, Ukraine, and in the US, all resulting in requests for re-engagements, conducting orchestras such as the Belarussian State Philharmonic (Minsk), the State Orchestra of Mexico, the Orvieto Summer Festival Orchestra (Rome), the Chamber Orchestra of the Emporda (Spain), and the Bolshoi Theatre Chamber Orchestra (Moscow). Bruce’s recognition as a composer has been enhanced with awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in ASCAP’s Rudolf Nissim Composition Competition and ASCAP/Plus Awards received each year since 1993.


"Semi-Suite for Violin, Cello, and Piano" (2000) was commissioned by the Friends of Chamber Music, Quad Cities, Illinois/Iowa, and was given its premiere in 2000 by the Knox-Galesburg Symphony Trio. The title for the original three-movement work came out of a conversation with David and Carolyn Suda (violin and cello of the trio). David kiddingly mentioned that I should call the piece “semi-suite,” when I proposed that the piece would be written on the “lighter side of serious composition.” So with tongue still in cheek I decided to take David up on his quip.

Hora lunga is taken from the Romanian hora lunga, an enigmatic gypsy-inspired style. The harmonies are derivative of Eastern European flavor, particularly reminiscent of Dohnanyi. The early violin cadenza serves as a transition from the dramatic and moody introduction (alla Shostakovich) to the hora lunga proper. Slow Dance combines neo-romantic harmonies with pop style. It is modeled structurally after the opera aria – in which the singing style is of textless, lyric quality. Chocolate Mess was composed a year later in Snowbird Lodge, Utah, while I served on the Board of Advisors for the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. Its highly rhythmic and terse style recalls Martinů, a Slavic connection directed at David Suda’s heritage. This is really where the tongue in cheek begins and is continued mercilessly in Tangolay. The idea of creating a tango came to me from a wonderful Argentinean biology student who was in my American music class at Knox College. This tango is a potpourri of quasi-Latin/Ravelian influences, saucy club-pop, flavored with invective jazz, Stravinsky-isms, and Poulenc flare with just a lick of Leroy Anderson and a hint of the stuff of major league baseball.

"Elegy for Violin Solo and Small Orchestra" (2001) was commissioned by Rimma Sushanskaya in “thoughtful remembrance” of her late husband, Eric. Music of its character was inspired by a picture of Eric that sits on the piano of Rimma’s Stratford-upon-Avon home. Elegy contains a number of duets, pairing the solo violin with oboe, English horn, or French horn. The harmonic style borrows from the early-20th-century Russian tradition, recalling Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Glazunov, and Svetlanov. This is a respectful reminiscence, intended to reflect the wonderment of cherished time spent together.

"Pictures For an Exhibition" (1995) is a suite of five movements for piano solo which was composed for paintings by Rick Ortner, now a member of the art faculty at Louisiana State University, who was chair of the Knox College art department at the time. The connection to Mussorgsky’s epic masterpiece is intended in homage. The first four movements are my interpretations of Rick’s paintings. The fifth movement was composed for Rick to complete a visual interpretation. Later, it dawned on me that these movements seemed to reflect the personalities of our five children. So, if you will, “picture” our children, and maybe your own in each of these short tunes.

"Three Reflections for Solo Piano" (1999) were created as part of an evening of music commissioned by the Carl Sandburg Festival Committee for its annual Sandburg Days Festival in 2000. Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg. His youngest daughter, Helga, and I collaborated on poems by her and her father. I found Helga’s poems most inspiring and very different from her dad’s. I am most grateful for her enlightened creativity and our friendship that continues to this day. The poems that inspired these three tunes can be found on the Zimbel website, courtesy of Helga Sandburg

"Amazing Grace" (2002) and "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (2003) were composed for my talented wife, Louise, who, along with our eldest daughter Elizabeth, have been after me for some time to publish arrangements of church-related music which I oftentimes create as gifts for special holidays and birthdays. With five children, one can imagine the collection of dust-covered manuscripts with smiley faces that clutter the piano. Both of these arrangements were inspired by the fine abilities of my gifted wife, who is both a fine violinist and a true believer. It took only a hint from Louise to bring about effort on these beautiful melodies, which are so abundantly endowed with insight and majesty.

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