A composer of "fearless eloquence" (Andrew Porter, The New Yorker), Louis Karchin has a highly acclaimed compositional portfolio of over sixty works. He was born in Philadelphia in 1951 and studied at the Eastman School of Music and Harvard University. Recent music includes
vocal-instrumental song cycles Songs of John Keats, Songs of Distance and Light, Orpheus, American Visions, and his latest work, The Gods of Winter. Recently, the Guggenheim Museum presented his 70-minute one-act comic opera Romulus, in a fully-staged production, and his Chesapeake Festival Overture was premiered this past summer by the Orchestra di Stato della Romania at the Alba Music Festival (Italy) and performed shortly after by the Chesapeake Orchestra at the River Concert Series of St. Mary's College, MD.
Karchin's music has been commissioned and performed by some of the world's most acclaimed ensembles for new music, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Group for Contemporary Music, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Louisville Orchestra, the Delta Ensemble of Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Spectrum Sonori (South Korea). New World, Albany and CRI labels have recorded his works and C. F. Peters Corporation and ACA have published his compositions. He is the recipient of Koussevitzky and Barlow Foundation Commissions, and two awards each from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University. Mr. Karchin is Professor of Music at New York University, teaching in an advanced graduate program in composition which he organized for the Department of Music in 1989.
To the Stars (2003)
“In 2002-03, I was totally immersed in the Orpheus myth, writing a masque for baritone, instruments, and dance, based on a modern recasting of the legend by poet Stanley Kunitz. While researching various versions of the story, I came across a book of Orphic hymns, most likely written in the third or fourth century A.D. by followers of a religious sect that had grown up around the legend of Orpheus. The hymns were beautifully translated by classics scholar and UC Santa Barbara Professor Apostolas Athanassakis. At first, I thought of incorporating them into my masque, but in the end, two of the hymns became separate short works—To the Sun and To the Stars. To the Sun is for soprano and piano, and To the Stars, for chorus. The two pieces may be performed separately or as a set. To the Sun has been released on an Albany CD, recorded by Elizabeth Farnum and Stephen Gosling; this concert marks the premiere of To the Stars.
To the Stars (text)
I call forth the sacred light of the heavenly stars
and with devotional prayers I summon the holy demons.
Heavenly stars, dear children of dark Night,
On circles you march and whirl about,
O brilliant and fiery begetters of all.
Fate, everyone’s fate you reveal,
and you determine the divine path for mortals
as, wandering in midair, you gaze upon the seven luminous orbits.
In heaven and on earth, ever indestructible on your blazing trail,
you shine upon night’s cloak of darkness.
Coruscating, gleaming, kingly and nocturnal,
visit the learned contests of this sacred rite,
finishing a noble race of works of glory.
Anonymous, circa 3rd century A. D.
Translated by Apostolas Athanassakis
Copyright 2002 Apostolas N. Athanassakis. Used with permission