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REVIEWS OF B. WARREN'S COMPOSITIONS

A review of B. Warren's life and work as excerpted from Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and His Students, from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski, by Howard Pollack (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992), p. 364-366.

…. Born in Boston in 1921, Warren was raised in Maine…. After two years at the University of Maine, she attended Radcliffe and Harvard (1940-44), earning both a bachelor's and master's degree. At Harvard she studied 16th-century counterpoint with Merritt, and fugue, harmony, and composition with Piston. She also studied with Boulanger but decided that "Piston had everything Boulanger had plus a sense of humor." She especially was moved by Piston's "complete integrity," by the way he made his students feel like "humble servants before the throne of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms…." [read more]

Excerpted from Jameson Marvin's Program Notes to a Harvard University concert entitled Music by Harvard Composers: Present and Past, presented at Sanders Theatre, May 6, 2000.

Corinna and Oz are two poems from a set of five by David McCord. B. Warren set these charming poems in 1980 in "Five Songs in Five Minutes" for unaccompanied chorus. Her compositional style and keen ear captures the essence of each poem. The "call to dinner [to] Corinner" [Boston accent] mimics humorously the pitch and rhythm of speech. Brief homophonic exclamations provide points of arrival for this delightful contrapuntal setting of McCord's poem. The setting of the four words of the poem Oz: "Is Oz? Oz was." reveals Warren's contrapuntal craftsmanship. Harmonically reminiscent of Gesualdo's chromatic madrigals, the shifting tonal centers, imitative counterpoint (canons in inversion and retrograde), dynamic contrasts, and slow tempos sung "mysteriously" vividly embellish McCord's delightful, child-like poem.

From "B. Warren", an article by Betsy Small appearing in the Lute Society of America Quarterly (Vol. 36, No. 1, Feb. 2001, p. 25).

B. Warren, a prolific Boston-area composer, has written a finely-crafted collection of interrelated pieces entitled The Lutenist's Solo and Duet Book, edited and intabulated by Douglas Freundlich. The pieces were commissioned in 1997 by Arthur Ness to honor the 500th anniversary of Francesco Canova da Milano's death, as well as to stimulate public interest in new lute music, a cause that has long been of interest to Mr. Ness. Last summer, after having become familiar with this collection, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Warren at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts... [read more]

Reviews of B. Warren's Ride-a-Cock-Horse

"This title covers a short two-movement work of Grades 5-6 standard. The first is gigue-like and supple hands are needed to cope with the quick lateral shifts. The second section is gently melodic. A good Festival Test-Piece." (P.T.A. Piano Journal, February 1983)

""Slightly wry humour with unexpected harmonic and melodic twists in the first [movement]; the second more wistful and expressive. Metronomic and pedal indications included. No fingering." (Music Teacher, Sept. 1983)

Reviews of Wiscasset Music Publishing Company's Bach's 263 Settings of 73 Chorale Melodies, compiled by Mary Phillips Webster:

"Admirers of Bach's chorale settings will hasten to acquire '263 Settings'… Each chorale is set out across a wide page so that different harmonizations can be directly underlaid for easy comparison… Presents very clearly the marvelous variety of these settings." (Early Music News)

"…Students should acquire 263 Settings… and steep themselves in the form. There is no real substitute and this exhaustive collection does a major service in providing a critical source." (Organists' Review)

"Various editions of his 371 chorales have long been a required text for students, but this new edition…goes several steps ahead of any of them… This layout, which is very neat and pleasing to the eye…greatly facilitates comparison among the various settings." (Keyboards and Music Player)

"A useful reference and teaching tool." (The American Organist, March 1985)


Review of B. Warren's The Appletree Madrigals:

"The music is unusual and fairly modern in style. The chosen idiom is convincing and it works well. Given its fairly contemporary train of thought, this music is fairly difficult to sing, though people who sight-sing reasonably well, rather than just guessing, should not have too much trouble! The textures are expressive and the harmonic thought is good. There is a good sense of direction and 'structural down-beat' so Warren's composition has much charm…." (Music Teacher, May 1985)

Review of B. Warren's Jonah:

"[This cantata] is specifically for Baritone, with string quartet. The words are from the book of Jonah, and the piece would be a good central item for a church recital programme. It is declamatory in style, and not too difficult musically or technically. Range is B flat - G, but the F and G are only touched briefly." (Singing, Spring, 1985)


Review of B. Warren's Saxophone Quartet:

"This is an especially good student piece because each of the saxophones has nearly equal responsibility for strong melodic playing, blend, and continuity; melody lines are often broken up between instruments. The work as a whole is not difficult, but there are wide interval leaps. There are no harmonics used. This would be playable by a good high school quartet, and could easily become part of a college group's repertoire. One negative aspect for teacher is the lack of a score." (Review by David Demsey in Saxophone Journal)

Review of B. Warren's For 2 Saxophones:

"The duo maintains much the same harmonic style and vocabulary as does the [Saxophone Quartet]; however, it is more difficult with faster tempos, some mixed meter in the first movement and faster note values, especially in the final movement, a minute-long stream of sixteenth notes….The movements interlock nicely, with motives based on perfect fourths occurring throughout the entire piece…Both instruments share the melodic responsibility, with a great deal of imitation. The piece is written in score format, and the engraving is easily readable." (Review by David Demsey in Saxophone Journal)

Review of B. Warren's The Blue Goat (a piece for guitar):

"The work is in four movements; Largo, Allegro, Andante and Moderato. None of them offer much in the way of problems either technically or musically. Fingering is limited to the odd string or position suggestion. Warren has a nice flair for melody and this, together with the fact that the music falls easily under the fingers, should make this piece accessible to players of moderate ability. (Review by Phillip M. Thorne, Classical Guitar, August 1983)


Review of B. Warren's Violin Sonata No. 2:

"…cleverly constructed work of great charm" (Reviewed by Peter Lavender, Music World, October 1984)


Review of B. Warren's Theme and Variations for Four Brass Instruments:

"…particularly useful for the school brass group repertoire. Score and parts are very good value." (Reviewed by Peter Lavender, Music World, October 1984)

Review of The Lutenist's Solo and Duet Book:

"What better way to affirm the position of the lute as a living instrument than to commission new works for it? This collection was commissioned by Arthur Ness 'to honor the 500th anniversary of Francesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543)', and consists of ten pieces, four solos and six duets, for six-course lutes of equal pitch. The composer offers various performance options: the pieces may be played as two partitas of five movements (in which the players take one solo each), or selectively, 'in any order'. The musical language ranges from basically tonal with a restlessly shifting tonic, to the gently atonal. The texture is predominantly single-line with a few two- and three-note chords, and no avant-garde techniques are required. Indeed the textures are reminiscent of much early sixteenth-century lute music, particularly in the solo movements. The composer obviously has a good feel for what works on a renaissance lute; the result is light and transparent, and doesn't feel anachronistic on the instrument.

Each piece is presented in staff notation and Spanish tablature, all of the solos use the alto clef; the duets use treble and bass. This somewhat unconventional notation is actually rather well chosen; the Spanish tablature is familiar to guitarists, and these pieces can equally be played on guitars with the third string retuned. The clefs are the obvious ones for the registers in which the music lies, and any serious musician should be familiar with all three. Lutenists who are not familiar with this notation should not be put off by it; the notes can be found easily from the tablature. If you can read the staff notation you should, as all the performance instructions are arranged around this. The editing and intabulation are by lutenist Doug Freundlich, who has fitted the notes to the fingerboard idiomatically, though if you are mainly a first-position player, you may find yourself exploring certain bits of the fingerboard for the first time! A good sense of rhythm is required, but otherwise the pieces are technically straightforward.

The layout and appearance of the music is exemplary. Overall these pieces are attractive and effective, and provide unusually carefully-written material for an adventurous duo. Good modern lute music is rare, and a warm welcome is in order for collections such as this." (Reviewed by Lynda Sayce in The British Lute Society Journal, November 1999)

Review of "Learning by Listening: The Wiscasset Music Listening Course, Vol. 1 (1998)":

"This is a book of 20 well-chosen pieces from around the world, accompanied by musical scores, a glossary, and a CD. Nine of its twenty musical examples were composed during Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque times, which should make it an excellent resource for eductors interested in integrating early music in the curriculum. Also of interest is the collection's attractive final composition, a lively saxophone duet by Ms. Warren herself." (from "B. Warren", an article by Betsy Small appearing in the Lute Society of America Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 1, Feb. 2001, p. 25)

"I had the pleasure of using Learning By Listening: The Wiscasset Music Listening Course in my classroom during the past year. The program introduces students to classical music by mentioning a composer's name and time of life, along with the title of a short piece of his or her work. Students then listen to a minute or two of music by that composer. Within a few days, I began to notice some of them tapping their feet, some directing with a finger, some just listening. Students began requesting repeats of some pieces that they liked and smiled warmly when they were given. I would rate the program as a success, its objective being to introduce students to classical composers and pieces. In fact, I would rate it highly. It is just that added touch that fills small pieces of time that inevitably arise in any classroom." (Richard Delano, Teacher, Grade 6, Topsham, Maine)

 

 



Two for Twenty

Two for Twenty was a birthday gift in honor of Eden's Edge's twentieth birthday. It is a delightful piece -- just perfect for that occasion. It was not a normal instrumentation, but that's what Betsy specializes in."

Lynn Nowels, cello

"…Enjoyable to play… [these pieces] made a favorable impression on our audiences. They show [B. Warren] understands the characteristics of the instruments and can tailor her music to show them in their best light."

Steven Jackson, clarinet


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