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Illustration of the Copernican system of the universe from Galileo's  Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi

Illustration of the Copernican system of the universe from Galileo's Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi

As part of its collaboration (Humanities in Spaaaace!) with the DePaul University Humanities Center, the BBE is pleased to perform two new commissioned pieces, based on the theme "Orbits."

The BBE worked with Mark Nowakowski in December 2015. For its "Christmas in the East" program, Mark composed three new works for the BBE. (You can hear In the still of the night: A medley of Polish sacred songs and carols and Mizerna Chicha on the BBE's Soundcloud.)  Mark's sound is grand, sustained, and haunting. You can find more of his music at www.marknowakowski.com.

Kurt Westerberg has written for Baroque instruments before - a solo violin work and a duet for violin and harpsichord - but this concert is a BBE premiere. Kurt's aesthetic is a fantastic contrast with Mark: atonal and motivic. You can hear more of Kurt's work on a number of recordings, including Dual Visions.

Below, you can find out about the new works that the BBE will be premiering. And don't miss the concert! You can find out more details here.


Mark Nowakowski is a composer whose works represent a modern merger of bold expressionism and mystical contemplation, Slavic pathos and American individualism.  His music has been commissioned and performed by such notables as the Kronos Quartet, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, The Monteverdi Cello Octet, The Voxare Quartet, the FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, Three Notch’d Road, Stowarzyszenia Mozart, Vox Musica of Sacramento, the Choir of the Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Dominican House of Studies Schola, the wind ensembles at the University of Maryland, Ursinus College, and Illinois State University, and the Cracow Brass Quintet.  His first commercially available full length recording is currently awaiting release courtesy of the Voxare Quartet. The son of Polish immigrants, Mark’s music derives a great deal of its experiential and aesthetic influence from his bicultural experience. Philosophically and spiritually, he is deeply influenced by the long history of Catholic mysticism, and is always seeking the transcendent element in all of his work.

The Cycle of the Seasons , Hildegard of Bingen's illumination from the "Liber Divinorum Operum"

The Cycle of the Seasons, Hildegard of Bingen's illumination from the "Liber Divinorum Operum"

O dulcis electe
Mark Nowakowski

The multi-talented visionary Saint Hildegard of Bingen has long held the fascination of scholars in various disciplines, not the least among them musicians. This version of her responsory O dulcis electe sets Hildegard’s text to new music, though a repeated “responsory” type section draws inspiration from the music of the original chant. In picking a topic suitable for both the exploration of the orbits – as in the original premiere event – and the use of ancient instruments for the Bach and Beethoven Ensemble, the works of St. Hildegard seemed particularly appropriate.

 R. O dulcis electe,
qui in ardore ardentis
effulsisti, radix,
et qui in splendore Patris
elucidasti mistica,
et qui intrasti
cubiculum castitatis
in aurea civitate
quam construxit rex,
cum accepit sceptrum regionum:

R. Prebe adiutorium peregrinis.

V. Tu enim auxisti pluviam
precessoribus tuis,
qui miserunt illam
in viriditate pigmentariorum.

R. Prebe adiutorium peregrinis.

R. O chosen sweet,
inflamed by Flame
you gleamed, a root,
and in the Father’s radiance
you beamed the mysteries,
and went into
the bed of chastity
within the golden City,
constructed by the King
when he received the scepter of the lands:

R. To pilgrims lend your aid.

V. For you have swelled the rain
together with your predecessors,
who cast it
with the spicers’ viridity.

R. To pilgrims lend your aid

Kurt Westerberg

Kurt Westerberg

Kurt Westerberg received degrees from St. Olaf College and Northwestern University, studying with G. Winston Cassler, Arthur Campbell and Alan Stout. He joined the faculty of DePaul University in 1987 and is currently an Associate Professor, having served as chair of the Department of Musical Studies and currently serving as Director of Musicianship and Composition as well as Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. His solo and ensemble music has received performances nationally and internationally in a variety of venue. Recent works performed include: Night Music I for solo guitar (1994), Fantasy for violin and piano (2005), Sargasso for String Quartet (1999), In Time of Silver Rain (2007) for SATB chorus and piano, Fanfare for Brass and Percussion (2002, commissioned by DePaul University), Night Music III for two marimbas (2002), Einstein Dream Preludes (2007) for solo piano, Night Music II (2009) for two pianos, Rituals and Laments (2009) for solo percussionist, Nomads for flute, clarinet and cello (2011), Vision and Prayer (2012) for voices and chamber ensemble, Ensembles and Monologues (2013) for clarinet trio, Winterbourne (2013) for keomungo and chamber ensemble, and Fragments, Remnants, Shards (2014) for flute, harp and piano. He has been Director of Music at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evanston since January, 1998.

The Hymns of Orpheus , with translations by Thomas Taylor

The Hymns of Orpheus, with translations by Thomas Taylor

Kurt Westerberg

Orbits is the second recent work of mine for a Baroque ensemble. Both works owe their genesis to a demonstration/presentation by violinist Brandi Berry for DePaul’s student composer studio class on extended instrumental techniques in Baroque string music. This initially led to a work (Baroco) for Baroque violin and harpsichord, which was premiered by Brandi and Mabel Kwan in February of 2016. 

Orbits owes its existence to a suggestion by Brandi that I compose a work for this specific concert and the Bach and Beethoven Ensemble. She suggested the text, a translation (from 1792) by Thomas Taylor of Orphic Hymn VI. This is one of 87 brief Greek poems that were created sometime during the late Hellenistic or early Roman era, and reflect the philosophies/beliefs of Orphism, a cult which honored and believed itself to be descended from the teachings of Orpheus. I found the poem’s imagery (stars, lights, fires, flames) compelling and inspiring – imagery that fit the many festivals of light that take place in December.

My musical style is usually highly chromatic and “atonal” – not seeking to establish a consistent tonal center or key. Instead, the music makes consistent use of groups of pitches which form referential sonorities as chords, melodic ideas, and rhythmic motives. In this work, the two string instruments are used as a duo that provides support to the vocal part as well as presenting its own group of musical ideas that amplify textual images. The string and vocal parts, while using “modern” pitch idioms, refer to music of the Baroque through the use of dotted rhythms, fanfare motives, trills, terraced dynamics, repeated chords, pizzicato “walking bass” patterns, etc. The essence of the work is its presentation and elaboration of the rhythm and imagery of the text.