Alluvion continues the tradition

New music has played an important role in the American Pianists Awards dating back to APA CEO Joel Harrison’s installation as artistic director in 2001. The commissioning of new works began in earnest in 2003 with the Christel Award, given to a past winner for “an innovative project that advances the career of the Fellow and enriches or broadens the profession.” Jim Giles, the 1995 Awards winner, presented the world premiere performances of pieces by Augusta Read Thomas, Lowell Liebermann, and Earl Wild in a special concert in advance of the 2003 Awards.

The New Music Recital became an important addition to Discovery Week, the culminating week of the Awards. Frank Felice, Lisa Bielawa, and Missy Mazzoli were among composers who partnered with the Awards for the early editions.

Most recently, Judith Lang Zaimont offered a new work titled "Attars" for the 2017 competition. The name refers to fragrant essential oils used for perfumes as well as medicinal, therapeutic, and religious purposes. In this short piece, five well-known attars are profiled.

Critic Jay Harvey commented, “The composer's imaginative rendering of something difficult to translate from olfactory to auditory reality — the five essential oils — makes up a seven-minute piece that enthralled each time it was performed.”


The 2021 American Pianists Awards, like pretty much everything in the world, had to be revised in light of the pandemic. Dr. Harrison was insistent that the reimagined version stay true to the artistic philosophy of prior years. To that end, new music must still be incorporated.

Composer Laura Kaminsky was commissioned for the new music component of the 2021 Awards. Kaminsky, cited in The Washington Post as “one of the top 35 female composers in classical music,” frequently addresses critical social and political issues in her work, including sustainability, war, and human rights. Possessing “an ear for the new and interesting” (The New York Times), “her music is full of fire as well as ice, contrasting dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide).

For the abbreviated 2021 season, this piece was added as a required selection to each solo recital program. So instead of a single night of five performances of a world premiere, we will hear this new piece five times from May 23 to June 20, 2021.

Earlier this year, the finalists had the opportunity to talk with composer about her new work. While we cannot share the full conversation, here are a few comments from Kaminsky that might help frame the listening experience.



Laura Kaminsky
Laura Kaminsky on Zoom

The word Alluvion is about the flow of water. As it flows it reconfigures the land it is covering. It pushes and erodes along the way, but it can lead to flood.

I write a lot of music that comes from visual and nature imagery or political and social imagery. In a way, this piece has the turbulence of some of the climate changes that we are experiencing. But it also has some of the turbulence we are dealing with in the social/political landscape. So part of the reason there are the different energies in the piece is to capture all this sense of motion and turbulence and flow that we are living through and the planet is going through.

Usually you write a piece for one individual pianist, and now I have a whole bunch of really phenomenal players really scrutinizing the score. With this in mind, I wanted to make a piece that would give you some freedom. I wanted it to be a journey. Each section flows into the next.

I hope you take the interpretative freedom you need to make connections that work for you as artists. The ambiguity is part of the beauty always.


"Alluvion" was commissioned with generous underwriting from The Elizabeth and Michael Sorel Charitable Organization, Inc. It will be performed five Sundays in a row, May 23 to June 20. Tune in for the livestreams on Facebook or YouTube at 3:30pm ET each week!




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