WMU News

New York Times critic praises WMU composer's work

April 12, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- To have a world-renowned pianist premiere your music during a recital at New York's famed Lincoln Center would be a dream come true for most composers.

Then to have that same work highly praised in a review in the New York Times would be almost too good to be true. Yet that is exactly what happened recently to Dr. Curtis Curtis-Smith, a Western Michigan University professor of music.

New York pianist Bruce Levingston performed four of Curtis-Smith's recently composed "Twelve Etudes for Piano" on April 1 in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall along with pieces by the likes of Brahms, Debussy and Liszt. It turned out to be no April fool's joke when the concert and Curtis-Smith's composition were given a glowing review in the Times.

"Mr. Curtis-Smith takes up where Debussy's lonely, bleakly beautiful last music ends," wrote critic Bernard Holland. "Yet these four pieces have a voice of their own. One hears ideas at work and a momentum that carries thoughts coherently and convincingly from first note to last."

Two of the etudes, titled "Ghost" and "Passacaglia," were given their world premieres at the Lincoln Center concert. The venerable music hall has become something of a staging ground for Curtis-Smith's work. In September 2000, WMU associate professor of music Dr. Lori Sims premiered seven of the etudes in her Lincoln Center debut. Holland also praised Curtis-Smith's work in a review of Sims' concert in the Times.

Since their completion, the etudes have been enthusiastically received elsewhere. A group of four etudes were among pieces selected for performance by last year's Van Cliburn competitors in Fort Worth, Texas.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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