Concert 4: Julia Mortyakova & Miguel Campinho, New Music for Piano

Sunday, March 8 | 2:00 pm
Christ Church Cathedral
45 Church Street
Hartford, CT 06103

The final concert of our festival weekend features works by Mel Fitzhugh, Anais Azul, Sarah Mauro, Beth Ratay, Deborah Yardley Beers, Kala Pierson, Patricia Leonard, Melanie Mitrano, and Dana Kaufman, all selected for their musical interest and idiomatic use of the piano by the creative team at the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. The works will be performed by guests of the composers and by two accomplished pianists and scholars, Julia Mortyakova and Miguel Campinho. Originally from Moscow, Dr. Mortyakova currently teaches and serves as Chair of the Department of Music at the Mississippi University for Women. Miguel Campinho, a native of Portugal, is currently finishing a DMA at the Hartt School, and has been a popular guest performer with the Women Composers Festival of Hartford over the last decade. Join us for what is sure to be an intimate and moving afternoon recital of piano works and songs in the beautiful space of Christ Church Cathedral.


Program Notes

Swords: for solo piano by Anaís Azul

As a listener, I don’t like being told what to hear for in new music to my ears. With that said, here is my story:

The first seed for Swords was the obsession of a chord. This chord then grew after waking up from a dream where I knocked on an apartment door and got on my knees to sell two samurai swords. While the woman living there ran around her home trying to gather enough quarters in a drawstring bag to make the purchase, I saw her young son standing on disintegrating stairs. It was clear that she needed the swords to protect him, so I gave them to her for the quarters she had.

Swords has a narrative that came from my subconscious thoughts but it may be completely different for you, and that’s great. That is the beauty of music.

Three Near Dances by Mel Fitzhugh

Three Near Dances can be likened to three near misses – these movements are loosely based on traditional dance rhythms which have gone gently awry.

Tali or Toli?  by Mel Fitzhugh

Tali or Toli? was inspired by a conversation with curtal and shawm player Frank Jones, who was telling me about two of his favorite early Baroque composers — Antonio Bertali and Giovanni Antonio Bertoli — and trying to recall which one had written a particular sonata for treble recorder, baroque bassoon and continuo he had played some years ago with Cathy Reuben. He went on to challenge me to write a piece for sopranino recorder and curtal…although, there is a good possibility that he might have been joking…ah, well, too late now! Tali or Toli? is dedicated to Frank Jones, his love of the organ, and his decades-long friendship with Cathy.

On the Move (I rörelse) by Dana Kaufman

Poetry by Karin Boye
Translation by Nancy Pick

A satisfied day is never much.
The best day is a day of thirst.

Aim and meaning may mark our path,
But it’s the journey that matters.

The true goal is a night-long pause,
the burning fire, a bite of bread.

In places where one stops but once,
One sleeps deep, and dreams in song.

Strike camp, strike camp! The new day dawns.
Endless is our great adventure.

Fantasy No. 1 by Sarah Mauro

“Fantasy No. 1” is Mauro’s first extended solo piano work. Written in the spring of 2011, it draws from the music of Debussy and Chopin. It employs several of her trademark characteristics: ternary form, modality, a sense of duality created by opposing key centers or chord quality, and delicate lyricism.

The A section opens with a simple melodic line, played rubato, harmonized against a fully diminished triad; a melodic sequence brings the phrase to an end on a half cadence. The twinkling of the first half of A is countered by a tempo guisto section using mode mixture and pedal tones.

The B section is a boisterous waltz characterized by chromatic neighbor tones, anticipations, wide leaps with zig-zagging descents, and a simple accompaniment. It fades back to the A section from a sustained C dominant minor ninth chord. As the piece ends, Mauro contrasts the keys of A and F (another affinity of her, third relationships), finally landing on A major.

Two Phobias & An Infatuation by Melanie Mitrano

Two Phobias & An Infatuation are extracted from a larger cycle of eight songs for female voice and piano called Phobias & Infatuations.  Winner of the 2011 Summit City Art Song Festival Composition Award, this  genre-crossing work combines elements of classical art song, musical theater and jazz.  Setting her original texts, the composer explores her deep and personal fascination with intense love and intense fear.  Although seemingly disparate emotions, both have the power to consume and obsess one wholly.  Throughout the cycle, the juxtaposition of the two contradictory mental states is paramount.  The infatuations create varied atmospheres of sheer ebullience, sexy languor, pure love and wistful yearning.  These contrast sharply with the declamatory anxiety, biting sarcasm, and neurotic self-consciousness of the phobias.

Spark by Kala Pierson

I wrote Spark in 2014 for Holly Roadfeldt’s Preludes Project. As I’ve listened to Holly play my other pieces over the last few years, I’ve loved her instincts for elegant gesture and articulation, flair for drama, and mediative focus. These impulses all come together in Spark, where gestures float, blur, fall, and sometimes burn.

Song Without Words by Beth Ratay

This piece was written for my husband to convey feelings better expressed without words. The instrument and meter choices reflect his personal taste.

“Outburst” and “Meditation by Starlight” from Through Tears and Beyond by Deborah Yardley Beers

“Outburst” and “Meditation by Starlight” are the last two pieces in a set of four pieces for piano, either hand alone, called Through Tears and Beyond.  The set, dedicated to my piano student, Patrick Wood, who died tragically in his twenties, is about grief and dealing with grief.  It began, though, as a set of three pieces intended as a resource for students who had injured a hand. Patrick once played the early version of “Outburst” as a favor to me, even though he had full use of both hands and arms.

After learning of Patrick’s tragic death, I revised the three original pieces and composed a fourth, “Meditation by Starlight” to conclude the set. This last piece is a free canon based on a theme from Brahms German Requiem, which is rudely interrupted by a theme from the “Outburst”, but ends peacefully with the conclusion of the Brahms theme.

Composer Bios

Peruvian  born  Anaís  Azul  (1995)  has  been  composing  music  since  she  started  playing  the  piano  four  years  ago  in  Berkeley,  California.  As  of  the  summer  of  2012, she  began  composing  for  chamber  ensembles  at  the  John  Adams  Young  Composer’s  Program,  experimenting  with  electroacoustic  composition  as  well  as  acoustic.  Before  then,  Anais  was a  singer  at  BUMP  Records  within  the  Bay  Area  Video  Collation  (BAVC).  While  there,  she  wrote  poetry  and  lyrics  for  the  songs  she  sang  in  collaboration  with  electronic  beats  other  young  artists  made.  Anais  Azul  is  pursuing  her  BM  in  Music  Composition  and  Theory  at  Boston  University.

Deborah Yardley Beers is a Boston-based pianist and composer. Works of hers have been performed at the Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young at the Rivers School Conservatory and on Modern American Music recitals at the Longy School of Music. Her compositions have been published by the Boston Music Company and reprinted in Keys magazine. Currently a member of the piano faculty at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, Massachusetts, and an Artist Teacher at the Cambridge Music Consortium, she holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in piano performance from the University of Colorado.

Melika M. Fitzhugh (A.B. Harvard-Radcliffe) recently received her Master’s degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music, where she studied with John H. Morrison. She was the 2013 winner of their annual composition contest and her orchestral piece, Clever Sinks, was premiered in November 2013.

Dana Kaufman’s works have been performed throughout North America, and in Estonia, the Czech Republic and Italy. Her music has been featured at Estonian Music Days, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre Fall Festival, Centro Musica Contemporanea di Milano, Ravinia Festival, Music Institute of Chicago, Peoria Civic Center, New England Conservatory (NEC), and North American Jewish Choral Festival; it has been performed and recorded by groups including Firebird Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, SO Percussion, and Atlantic Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble. Since returning from Estonia as an ethnomusicology/composition Fulbright Fellow in 2013, she has been pursuing her Composition M.M. at NEC.

Sarah L. Mauro is a music educator and composer based in northwest Connecticut. She received her B.A. in Music from Mount Holyoke College and her M.M. in Composition from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Sarah’s music is introspective, lyrical, and often programmatic, with influences from Ravel, Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein. While she wishes for her music to be accessible, she does not feel this equates simplicity or precludes innovation. Currently, Sarah teaches music at North Canaan Elementary School. She also blogs about the intersections of arts, education, and society.

The inspired musical landscape of singer-songwriter Melanie Mitrano spans many genres, including jazz, Brazilian, classical, musical theatre, pop, and Portuguese Fado.  An award-winning ASCAP composer, her eclectic music feels at home in almost any setting, be it a concert hall, theater, or jazz club.  Melanie is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and has the distinction of being the first woman to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston.  She has worked with many esteemed composers, including György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, and John Harbison.  She was a founding member of the Boston-based Auros Group for New Music and has sung with similar groups in the New York area, including Speculum Musicae, Ensemble 21, Composers Concordance Ensemble, Vox Novus, and Friends & Enemies of New Music.  With Absolute Ensemble, she recorded the film score for the movie Perfume, winner of the 2007 German Film Award, directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Dustin Hoffmann and Alan Rickman.  Her voice appears in the film and on the EMI movie soundtrack.

Kala Pierson is an American composer and sound artist. Vivid and rhythmically free, her music has been performed in 30 countries on six continents, widely commissioned and awarded, and published by Universal Edition. Her music’s “seductive textures and angular harmonies” (Washington Post) are “intricately structured, both mathematical and lyrical” (Dnevnik). She sets mostly texts of cultural and political significance by living writers, producing music of “marvelous political power” (Louis Andriessen). Kala lives in Philadelphia with her spouses and son. She greatly values listener comments and contact; visit, follow kalapierson on Twitter, or email

Beth Ratay has been composing for over 20 years. As a composer, she has had works performed in the U.S. and Germany, by performers such as the Phoenix Symphony Chorus, flutist Javier Montilla and the University of Colorado Wind Ensemble. Her works have been featured at the April in Santa Cruz Contemporary Music Festival and by the Mosaic Ensemble of Santa Cruz. Dr. Ratay received her Doctor of Musical Arts in World Music Composition from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2013. She has studied with composers David Evan Jones, Paul Nauert, James DeMars, and Michael Theodore.