Sound Recognition

November 6, 2012

By Frank Radosevich II

Bradley assistant music professor Dr. John Orfe, an internationally known composer and pianist, was recently named the recipient of the 2012 Heckscher Composition Prize with his piece "Sonata for Flute and Piano."

The Ithaca College School of Music awards the Heckscher Prize annually to a chamber composition for a set instrumentation. The 2012 Prize specified a work for solo instrument and piano. As this year's recipient, Orfe will visit campus as guest composer in April, where Ithaca's faculty will perform his winning work.  

Orfe's winning piece developed from his collaboration with professional flutist and friend Sergio Pallottelli when the pair toured Central and South America in 2006 and 2007 performing at music festivals. Orfe wrote the piece for the trip with Pallottelli in mind.

"It's helpful to write a piece for someone you know, with whom you've been performing, because then it becomes something more than an abstract piece for this ideal flutist in your head," Orfe said.

Orfe said he was surprised to have won the competition.

"I'm shocked. This is not a piece that I finished in 2012; this is a piece that has been in my catalogue for years," he said. "But I'm certainly no less happy for it." Orfe's piece was selected out of nearly 200 entries worldwide.

A Bradley faculty member since 2008, Orfe has won numerous awards and accolades, such as a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, a Tanglewood Fellowship, a Morton Gould Award and twelve Standard Awards from ASCAP. His works have been performed around the globe in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Central and South America.

Flutist Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and pianist Yvonne Lee performed Orfe's sonata as part of Boston's Dinosaur Annex series in 2009. Locally, Dr. Kyle Dzapo, Caterpillar professor of music, and Orfe have performed the sonata in central Illinois in 2009 and 2011, including on Bradley's campus.

Orfe described the 12-minute-long piece as one "full of rhythmic and melodic life" that has "received a positive response" from fellow musicians and audiences.

The winning sonata's first movement, "Chucho," was inspired by the Latin jazz of renowned Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes. The second movement, "Chouchou," a French term of endearment, serves as a meditation on the fragility of life. The third and final movement, "Catch," is a scherzo, a light, fast-paced dance.