Twenty-Five Years of String Compositions: The Slapin Anthology

November 10, 2022, 6:31 AM · As a private teacher, I always find it interesting what brings people in to take lessons. Sure, there are some people who simply fell in love with the instrument. Either they attended concerts when they were young, found some viola videos at YouTube, or inherited a relative's violin. Just as often though, it could be the music itself (not the instrument) that is the primary interest.

I would put myself more in the second category. As a young kid, I was playing the overture to Wagner's Meistersinger in the preparatory orchestra for the New Jersey Youth Symphony (conducted by my first violin/viola teacher Barbara Barstow.) I thought the music was just amazing! I started buying up all the Wagner cassettes at the record store in the Short Hills Mall. Eventually I owned all that they had, so I moved on to other Romantic-era composers like Mendelssohn and Mahler, and then to Neo-Romantic composers--- music from my own century!---- such as Barber and Walton.

Which brings me to stress that I didn't perceive this music as either old or something overly intellectual. There were (and still are) living composers writing in (Neo-)Romantic style both for concert and film music; it's probably the biggest single draw for orchestra concerts, and much of the general public is familiar with it through film scores. For me, this is music of our time that just happens to stretch a little further back than most other genres.

Early on I started writing chamber music for me, my family, and friends to play. (And yes, the earliest stuff kind of sounded like Wagner on a bad day! You have to start somewhere.) My composition teachers all advised me to learn to play as well as I could as that would make me a better composer--- both through understanding what string instruments could do as well as through playing and studying what great composers of the past came up with.

Eventually I ended up with nine albums of my own music, and I recently decided to put together an anthology to give an overview of it all. My goal in putting together this anthology was to gather some of my more accessible music that would appeal to a wide audience, not just to one that went to a conservatory. In some sense, I imagine it to be the kind of music that might have gotten my own attention back in the 1980s when I was buying cassettes at the Short Hills Mall.

Though all modern bowed string instruments can be heard on this album (I'm even playing violin on three of the pieces), there's no doubt that the viola is a prominent thread throughout it all, as the viola is my main instrument. The viola has a lot of modernist music written for it, but there's not nearly as much music in Romantic style, so we turn to a lot of transcriptions. I have nothing against transcriptions, but maybe some of the music on this album might help fill the gap.

The Slapin Anthology is available at Apple Music, Spotify etc. or you can just listen at the YouTube video above. (Sadly it's not available at the Short Hills Mall.) I hope you enjoy the music! (If you are interested in playing this music, the sheet music is available here.)

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Replies

November 11, 2022 at 04:55 PM · Very cool Scott! I like all the references and stylistic interpolations that I heard.

November 12, 2022 at 04:26 PM · Thanks for listening, Christian-- I'm glad you enjoyed it!

November 16, 2022 at 06:16 PM · Wow, Scott! This is absolutely wonderful! I stand in awe of all that you have accomplished. Thank you so much for sharing!

November 17, 2022 at 11:08 AM · Thanks for listening, Diana!

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