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NYWC April 2024 Spotlight: Elizabeth Bell

We are excited to continue our collaboration with the New York Women Composers (NYWC). This month, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of NYWC, we present a piece by the organization’s co-founder and special angel, Elizabeth Bell (1928–2016).

April 2024 NYWC Spotlight Elizabeth Bell

Bio (from the American Composers Alliance website):

Elizabeth Bell was born in 1928; graduated from Wellesley College (Music) in 1950, and from Juilliard (Composition) in 1953. She was music critic of the Ithaca Journal, 1971-1975; one of the founders and a longtime director of New York Women Composers; and a member of Board of Governors of American Composers Alliance, 2000-2004. She received grants and commissions from fine artists around the world, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Bradshaw/Buono duo, the Inoue Chamber Ensemble, North/South Consonance, the Putnam Valley Orchestra, and Vienna Modern Masters. Awards included the Delius Prize (Keyboard), 1994; first prize (1986), and grand prize (1996) in the Utah Composers Competition; many Meet-the-Composer grants.

There are three all-Bell CD’s: “The Music of Elizabeth Bell”, MMC 2082; “Snows of Yesteryear”, N/S R 1029; and “A Collection of Reflections”, N/S R 1042. Other recordings are on CRS, Classic Masters, VMM, and North/South Records. There have been six all-Bell concerts, including two to celebrate her 75th birthday: NYC 10/12/03, and Yerevan, Armenia, 4/28/04. Performed world-wide, she was a member of BMI, ACA, SCI, AMC, NACUSA, and other professional organizations. She passed away on December 19, 2016.

Featured Work: Soliloquy: A Collection of Reflections for Solo Cello

COMPOSITION DETAILS

  • Title: Soliloquy: A Collection of Reflections for Solo Cello
  • Composer: Elizabeth Bell (1928–2016)
  • Year of Composition: 1980
  • Instrumentation: unaccompanied cello
  • Movements: 8
  • Duration of Work: 9’
  • Number of Measures: 180
  • Number of pages: 7
  • Tempo: varied
  • Difficulty Level: advanced/professional
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Techniques Employed: bass, tenor, and treble clefs; N/N, 3/8, 2/8, 7/16, 3/4, 5/8, 2/4, 4/4, 4/8, 6/8, 5/32, 7/8, 5/4, 2/2, 3/2, 8/8, 7/8, 9/8, 9/16, and 6/4 time signatures; left-hand pizzicato, pizzicato, glissandos; double, triple, and quadruple stops; con sordino, grace notes
  • Publisher: American Composers Edition BMI
  • Where to Purchase the Score: American Composers Alliance
  • Cost of Score*: $12.00

Recording

Program Notes

“Soon after separating from my husband of 22 years, I needed to write some music that would express the sadness within me. As I went on, I realized that my feelings were more complex than sheer sadness: there was anger and bitterness, but also joy for a new beginning, and for the good things I had. So there are many moods in this piece, which is subtitled “A Collection of Reflections” – reflections implying both those in a mirror, or in slightly disturbed water, and those that occur in one’s thoughts while daydreaming. It explores the range and scope of the solo cello, using a twelve-tone row mainly as a unifying device. The row is not used strictly, and is unusual in being almost entirely scalar; it is presented in its downward version in the first twelve notes of the piece. I wrote Soliloquy for my oldest son, a cello student at Oberlin at that time, who gave it its première in Richmond, Virginia, in 1980.” – Elizabeth Bell

Links


A Collaboration with the New York Women Composers (NYWC)

The NYWC series at the Cello Museum was created to showcase its members who have composed various pieces for cello, informing cellists seeking new music to add to their repertoire, and helping listeners find new favorites. Many thanks to the NYWC for this wonderful collaboration.

Read other installments in the series here.


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