Biography

The first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin Prize, Laura Elise Schwendinger, is a Professor at UW-Madison. Her music, described as "evok(ing)..serene mystery and infinite beauty” (Fanfare), “evince(ing) an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft.” (Chicago Tribune), “darkly attractive, artful and moving…” (NYT) and “shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the ‘season's best’ list it goes.” (Boston Globe) has been performed by leading artists of our day including Dawn Upshaw (on tour 1997-2013) and on Voices of Our Time, a TDK/Naxos DVD) , Janine Jansen, Matt Haimovitz, the Arditti and Jack Quartets, Trinity Choir, the New Juilliard Players, the Franz Liszt chamber orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra, at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tullyat Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Théâtre du Châtelet, the Ojai, Aspen, Tangelwood and Ravinia music festivals, and Off-Broadway in the acclaimed Sounding Beckett project. Her honors include those from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, two from the American Academy of Arts of Arts and Letters (including a Leiberson Fellowship given to“mid-career composer of exceptional gifts”), the Harvard Musical Association, Chamber Music America, NewMusic USA, the Copland House, the MacDowell, Yaddo colonies and the, Bellagio and Bogliasco Centers, as well as first-prize of the ALEA III Competition. Upcoming commissions and performances for the Lincoln Trio, JACK Quartet,and Miranda Cuckson. Her C’è la Luna Questa Sera?, recorded by the Lincoln Trio, and released on Cedille’s Notable Women in 2011 (described as a "hidden gem" in the UK Guardian), received great critical praise. William Zagorski (Fanfare) wrote of it“it evokes a sense of serene mystery and infinite beauty.”

Her Albany CD, 3 Works for solo Instruments and Orchestra, featuring Matt Haimovitz, Curt Macomber and Christina Jennings-- reviewed as "ballsy, confident music making in both writing and execution and proves that serious music does not have to dumb down to be immediately accessible and emotional. Highly recommended." by Barnaby Rayfield in Fanfare, was released in December 2012. Her CD, High Wire Acts was released on Centaur in 2013 to rave reviews, and her CD QUARTETS, featuring the JACK QUARTETS, Jamie Van Eyck and Christopher Taylor, will be released in 2014.

 

Longer Bio

Laura Elise Schwendinger was the first composer to win the prestigious American Academy in Berlin Prize fellowship. Her setting of in Just- spring was performed on tour by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish, at venues including Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, the National Arts Center in Canada and at the Tanglewood and Ojai Music Festivals (1997-2005) and is available on a Naxos TDK/DVD, Voices of Our Time, with Ms. Upshaw from the Theatre du Chatelet-Paris.

In 2011 she was commissioned by the American Composer's Orchestra for thier UnSafe series, culminating in the premiere of SHADINGS, in collaboration with her cousin, lighting artist Leni Schwendinger at Carnegie's Zankel March 4, 2011. Her C'e La Luna Questa Sera was just released on Cedille records "Notable Women" with the Lincoln Trio and performed it in July 2011, at the Ravinia Festival.

Laura was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with one of two $15,000 Goddard Lieberson Fellowships, given to "mid-career composers of exceptional gifts" in 2009. Her other honors include fellowships and commissions from the Guggenheim Foundation (2008), the Koussevitzky (2001) and Fromm Foundations (1999), the Harvard Musical Association (1999), a Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2002/2003), a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1993), a Copland award from the Copland House (2007), a Jane Adams Wait residency from Yaddo (2005), a Judge's Commendation from the Barlow Endowment (1995), a Norton Stevens and North Shore fellowship from the MacDowell Colony (1994), two Meet the Composer Grants(1997,1998), an American Composers Forum Grant and First Prize of the 1995 ALEA III International Composition Competition (the first American winner in over a decade), an Illinois Arts Council grant, and fellowships from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including the H. I. Romnes Faculty named fellowship (2008) and an Emily Mead Baldwin-Bascom Professorship in the Creative Arts (2006) and grants from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1999,2000) for the creation of a new concert work and recording project with the Chicago Chamber Musicians. And in 2005, her Nonet was nominated for the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award by the Chicago Chamber Musicians. She has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony (8), Yaddo (5), Bellagio Conference Center, Tyrone Guthrie Center-Ireland's premiere artist residency program (4), Bogliasco, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (4) and was a resident Artist at the American Academy in Rome, Land Salzburg (the cultural arm of the City of Salzburg) and the KOFOMI festival in Mittersill, Austria. Her work "cow music" is avaible on KOFOMI #13, from Ein Klang records.

In addition to her ACO premiere, other recent performances of her music include her Brushstrokes for the Stonybrook New Music Ensemble (11/18/10 Merkin Hall and 11/17/10 SUNY Stonybrook), the Empyrean Ensemble (Song for Andrew, 1/23/2011), Mise-en-Scene for Boston Musica Viva (5/6/11) for which Elisa Birdseye of the Boston Musical Intelligencer wrote "The title of the program derived from the world premier centerpiece of the evening, Laura Elise Schwendinger’s Mise-en-scene (2011). But it also provided a context for the other pieces on the program...Schwendinger’s music was clear, delightful, and descriptive, almost an opera without words", her Nonet by the McGill New Music Ensemble (3/9/11), and her String Quartet in three movements played by the Jack Quartet at UW Madison and the University of Iowa (11/10,11/11; 2010), her violin concerto Chiaroscuro Azzurro for violin and orchestra, with soloist Wei He and the San Francisco Conservatory Blueprint ensemble under the direction of Nicole Paiement reviewed in the San Fransisco Civic Center Blog "The happy news is that Saturday's concert was on the exciting and revelatory side of the spectrum. This was due primarily to a hugely ambitious, 40-minute violin concerto called Chiaroscuro Azzurro by Laura Schwendinger, which is the work of a brilliant composer coming into her own. It's also very difficult music, densely packed with ideas going in all directions, but the lyricism of the solo violin writing keeps one focused. The fiddling by Wei He, by the way, was beautiful and heroic.", her Song for Andrew by the New Juilliard Players at MOMA's Summergarden Series, reviewed by Allan Kozinn in The New York Times "Laura Elise Schwendinger’s “Song for Andrew” (2008) pays tribute to her teacher Andrew Imbrie, who died in 2007, by wrapping a theme from his “Pilgrimage” (1983) in her own harmonization and gradually taking it into her own rhythmic and harmonic world. The piece is darkly attractive, artful and moving, and the ensemble, a piano quartet, played with the warmth and soulfulness it demanded, and her HighWire Act by Voices of Change Ensemble, reviewed in the Dallas Morning News "Mexican-born Laura Elise Schwendinger, with a Berkeley doctorate, is a composition professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her 2005 quintet High Wire Act was inspired by Alexander Calder's little wire sculptures of circus performers. The five movements perform their own daredeviltry of skitters, gleaming hesitations and long-strung lines. Schleuning and Markina joined flutist Helen Blackburn, violist Barbara Sudweeks and cellist Kari Nostbakken in another exhilarating performance."

Other performances include her Waking Dream for flute and orchestra with soloist Christina Jennings, Chiaroscuro Azzurro for violinist Jennifer Koh and the International Contemporary Ensemble, commissioned by Miller Theater of Columbia University (3/27/08) as part of thier "Pocket Concerto" series, an entire concert of her works was part of the Four Score Festival at the Music Institute of Chicago with composers Augusta Read Thomas and Stacy Garrop (3/6/2010), pianist Christopher Taylor premiered her Van Gogh Nocturnes (3/12/2010), the percussion/piano duo Sole Nero (9/14/2010) premiered Equatorial Jungle, Jenny Lin (Womens's work in NY and Bargemusic 5/1/2009); Performances of her High Wire Act include those by The Piitsburgh New Music Ensemble (7/14,15/09), the American Modern Ensemble (8/08) at the Times Center in NYC, with the Left Bank Concert Society at the Kennedy Center (12/08), the Orion Ensemble (March 2009), Eighth Blackbird as part of the Contempo Series at the University of Chicago (11/14/2009), the Aspen Ensemble (4/14/10) and will be performed next year by the University of Boulder New Music Ensemble (12/1/10). In November 2008, Matt Haimovitz returned to Madison to record Esprimere with the UW Sinfonietta, an orchestra of faculty and students from the UW School of Music with Nicole Paiement conducting and will be realeased on an Albany CD: Two Concerti, which will also feature Chiaroscuro Azurro.

Performances of her music also include the premiere of her String Quartet by the Arditti Quartet (1/03) as part of the great quartet series at MIT (A Harvard Musical Association commission), Celestial City (a Koussevitzky Foundation commission) featuring the dynamic young recording artist Janine Jansen with Spectrum Concerts of Berlin at the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal (1/03), Fable by Collage New Music at Harvard University (2/03), Magic Carpet Music by Dinosaur Annex in Boston (5/03) and the piano version with Jenny Lin on a WFMT Radio broadcast, Dame Myra Hess Concert (4/03) and Galapagos Art Space (NY), Rapture, by Jens Peter-Maintz, on a Deutsches Symphonie Orchestra Berlin, Akademie-konzerte(4/03), Buenos Aires by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (8/03), Lontano for Chicago's CUBE ensemble (3/04) and Nonet (a Fromm Foundation Commission), for the Chicago Chamber Musicians, premiered on live from WFMT radio (8/04), and New 2 little whos by German duo Ahlert & Schwab with the Chicago Composer's Consortium (5/05).Her Songs of Heaven and Earth, and Magic Carpet Music for the Theater Chamber Players, were premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Other recent performances include her Garden of Earthly Delight, premiered by the Cygnus Ensemble (12/16/08), Esprimere a cello concerto for Matt Haimovitz and the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra (3/28/07), and Three's a Crowd with the B3+ brass trio for Composers Concordance (4/4/08), Aerialist for by Christina Jennings, premiered at Symphony Space, New York (11/30/06), 2 little whos for the violin and guitar ensemble Duo 46 (10/3/06), a setting of Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus, commissioned by Nicole Paiement and the Ensemble Parallele for the opening concert of the 2005/2006 Blueprint Series at the SanFrancisco Conservatory of Music (10/05) with Canadian mezzo-soprano Patricia Green, Respiro for violist Sally Chisholm (of the ProArte String Quartet) and pianist Christopher Taylor (3/06), Elements for Anthony Di Sanza and his Western Percussion Ensemble at UW-Madison, C'e La Luna Questa Sera? for the Lincoln Trio (5/06), Basso-Non Profundo by bassist David Murray (11/06), and High Wire Act for Christina Jennings and the BrightMusic ensemble (11/05) which received a standing ovation at its premiere.

In addition, her music has been performed by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Hungary, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the New York Camerata, ALEA III, the New England String Ensemble, the New Millennium Ensemble, the Northwestern University New Music Ensemble, Vancouver New Music, and the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society (at Merkin Hall, NY). In June 2005, she was composer in residence at Chamber Music Quad Cities (Greg Sauer, Director) in Davenport, Iowa and in April of 2001, the "Music For A While" series at the Music Institute of Chicago, presented an entire concert of her works.

Her music has been reviewed by the nation's leading newspapers. Her music has been called "...music of considerable power "by Robert Commanday in the San Francisco Chronicle, as "fanciful" by Anthony Tomassini of the New York Times, as having "an impressive luster and transparency", poignant...and "revel(ing) in sinewy counterpoint"... in the Washington Post, as "delectable" and "especially captivating" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Richard Buell of the Boston Globe wrote "This was shrewd composing, the genuine article. Onto the season's best list it goes", "an unmistakable lyric intensity...a fine piece...worthy of the Arditti's attention", and " Schwendinger's Magic Carpet Music like the composer's other music, rejoices in edge and has a force that has its way...Here is a composer with distinct voice." Mark Kanny of the Pittsburgh Tribune wrote "The absence of any visual entertainment for Schwendinger's Buenos Aires focused attention on the musical excellence of her hard-driving quartet for flute, bass clarinet, violin and cello. She creates fresh and compelling lines that are brought together to a powerful climax." Stephen Brookes wrote in the Washington Post "Different but ness engaging was Laura Schwendinger's "High Wire Act," a charming work inspired by Alexander Calder's circus figures." John Van Rhein wrote in his Chicago Tribune review of Eighth Blackbird's performance in Novemeber, "Schwendinger's 2005 "High Wire Act" acheived more by attempting less. Inspired by the wire circus figures of Alexander Clader, the four character portraits, with thier high twitterings, undulating arpeggios and rippling figurations, evinced an acute sonic imagination and sure command of craft. The piece was beautifully played by Eighth Blackbird".

Ms. Schwendinger is a Prof. of Composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is also the Artistic Director of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley, where she studied with Andrew Imbrie, Olly Wilson and John Thow. She has also been an Associate Prof. of Composition and Theory at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a lecturer at the Music Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Smith College and on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music-Preparatory Division, where she started a program for young composers, several of whom have moved on to successful careers. Her Chansons Innocentes
, published by Hildegard Publishing Company, is available through Theodore Presser and her Chamber Concerto, reviewed in the American Record Guide as "melodic and atmospheric", is on the CD Grand Designs from the Society of Composer's records series on Capstone records. Two CDs of her works were just released this past year. High Wire Acts features her chamber works on the Centaur label, and 3 Works for solo Instruments and Orchestra, featuring Matt Haimovitz, Curt Macomber and Christina Jennings-- reviewed as "ballsy, confident music making in both writing and execution and proves that serious music does not have to dumb down to be immediately accessible and emotional. Highly recommended." by Barnaby Rayfield in Fanfare, was released in December 2012. A third CD of her entire piano music was recently recorded by the incomparable Christopher Taylor, and a new CD QUARTETS featuring the JACK QUATET is forthcoming on Albany.

 





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