Sonate, que me veut-tu? (The Exam)

1987/2004 listen

This is not quite your stereotypical sonata.  It owes its title to Pierre Boulez (the title of his essay on his Troisieme Sonate), and its existence to Lejaren Hiller of my Ph.D. program in Composition who told me to write a “sonata form” with “contemporary” materials. This request struck me as definitely odd and crazy yet I had no choice but to comply.  Fortunately, the choice of the instrumentation was left to me. Concern with balance of silence, sound and resonance as they override the ridiculous adherence to the multiple schlerosis of the formal blueprint gave me mischievous joy as I composed it, and again, as I updated it for today’s performance.

Gyula Csapo CA

Gyula Csapó is one of the most prominent composers to come out of the composition class of the late Morton Feldman, as well as a protégé of the late John Cage. Originally from Hungary, Mr. Csapó graduated from the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest in Composision and Music Theory; he also studied privately with Zoltán Jeney and had musical consultations with Albert Simon and György Kurtág.

While still a student of the Academy, he was invited to join the New Music Studio, Hungary's leading avant-garde formation under the mentorship of György Kurtág; his composition Handshake After Shot was premiered at the Great Hall of the Liszt Academy in Budapest at the suggestion of Zoltán Kocsis in 1979. In 1981 Mr. Csapó received a French Government Scholarship to pursue studies in musical acoustics and computer music with David Wessel and Stephen McAdams at IRCAM, Paris. Meanwhile, his music gained exposure all over Europe; in 1983 he was awarded the Woodburn Fellowship to study with Morton Feldman in the United States. He taught at SUNY in Buffalo and completed his PhD in Composition with financial help from the Soros Foundation. Mr. Csapó was twice awarded grants from the Contemporary Performance Arts Foundation in New York City and in 1990 was invited to teach Orchestration, Music Theory and Contemporary Music Ensemble at McGill University in Montreal, becoming a permanent resident of Canada. He went back to the United States for three years to take up an appointment as Assistant Professor of Composition at Princeton University, and returned to Canada in 1994 to the position he is currently holding, helping New Music to take roots in Saskatoon.

Gyula Caspó’s music is performed world-wide. Hungarian Television has produced a program featuring his music; he had two full performances of his music in New York City and one in Paris; the City of Köln sponsored a full evening of his works at the Alte Feuerwache; and a recording of his A Desert March was issued on the Open Space label in the United States in 1995.

During the 1996-97 academic year, he became Fellow at Collegium Budapest - Institute for Advanced Study, where he continued to work on a five-act "musical tragedy", Phaedra; that same year, he received a grant from the Canada Council to complete three electroacoustic works. A new CD of Mr. Csapó's work is now available, jointly sponsored by the Budapest Music Center and Editio Musica Budapest.

Gyula Csapó is Assistant Professor of Composition and Music Theory at the Department of Music, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon; he is also Artistic Co-director and one of the founders of the annual Saskatoon New Music Festival.

Gyula Csapo