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Theodore Presser Co./Merion Music                                                                                                                                     

                                                             Photo: Marina Garcia-Burgos


10th Anniversary: Rasputin to be Performed by Helikon November 11 and 12 

Press Release from the University of Pennsylvania

Opera Composed by Penn’s Jay Reise Celebrates 10th Anniversary in Russia

Celebrating its 10th year on stage in Russia, an opera composed by University of Pennsylvania music professor Jay Reise will be performed in Moscow’s new Stravinsky Hall this fall. 

The performances of Reise’s Rasputin by the Russia’s Helikon Opera company are scheduled for November 11 and 12, and will be conducted by Alexander Briger, founder and Chief Conductor of the Australian World Orchestra.

Reise wrote both the music and libretto for Rasputin, which was commissioned and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988 under the late Beverly Sills. Known for his courses on music composition and theory, Reise has been a member of the Penn faculty since 1980. 

The opera was given its Russian premiere in Moscow in 2008 by Helikon under the direction of Dmitry Bertman, and has been a staple of the company’s repertory ever since. Rasputin was first performed in Helikon’s new state-of-the-art Stravinsky Hall in February. 

“I am very gratified to be celebrating this tenth anniversary of the Helikon Opera’s production of Rasputin,” Reise said. “Director Dmitry Bertman has created what is for me an ideal rendition that I hope will continue to speak to international audiences.”

The opera has also been presented by Helikon at Opéra Massy in Paris and at the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia. Rasputin is one of the few American operas to be produced in Russia.

Music composed by Reise has been performed extensively in the United States and abroad. His work includes a ballet, The Gift to Urashima Taro, a concerto for violin and orchestra entitled The River Within, and a symphonic poem based on Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale The Selfish Giant. Many of his works have been recorded, including The Devil in the Flesh and Other Pieces featuring pianist Marc-André Hamelin. He is currently at work on an opera Al Capone based on the notorious gangster.

Reise’s awards and fellowships include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Fromm, and Rockefeller Foundations, and the US-Japan Friendship Commission.



Rasputin Performed in Moscow's New Stravinsky Hall

Feb. 10 & 11 Jay Reise's opera Rasputin was performed in Moscow's new state-of-the-art Stravinsky Hall, home of the Helikon Opera Theater just outside the Kremlin. Dmitry Bertman's spectacular production, with a new stellar cast (headed by Grigory Soloviev in the title role who was heard recently in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Shostakovich's The Nose), was led by Australian conductor Alexander Briger.

Commissioned by Beverly Sills and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988, Rasputin is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the Helikon repertory. It is the only American opera to have been produced by a Russian opera company and has travelled to Opéra Massy in Paris and the Saaremaa Opera Festival in Estonia. 

 Rasputin - Soloviev

Grigory Soloviev as Rasputin

Act I Sc. 2

Act I Scene 2 Prince Felix Yusupov (Ivan Ozhogin),Tsarina Alexandra (Anna Pegova) and Rasputin

Curtain Call

Curtain Call


Matthew Bengtson Performs Reise Transcriptions for Left Hand Alone of Scriabin Etudes Op. 2 No 1, Op. 8 Nos. 11 & 12

Virtuoso pianist Matthew Bengtson has been performing these Reise transcriptions in a number of national and international venues including the Scriabin in the Himalayas FestivalThey were written with the tradition in mind of the left-hand transcriptions of Chopin Etudes by Leopold Godowsky, and the Prelude and Nocturne for left hand alone Op. 9 that Scriabin himself wrote in 1894 when he was hit by a horse-drawn carriage and suffered an injury to his right hand.

Op. 2 No. 1: Link to video This very free arrangement is dedicated to my late father Harold Reise  – teacher, mentor, and long-time Scriabin enthusiast. I took more liberties with this rendition than the others, stretching the harmonies to the point that the famous mystic chord makes an appearance near the end. Gary Graffman included this transcription in his 2008-09 international tour.

Op. 8 No. 11: This lovely piece takes on, I think, a somewhat more intense quality in its left hand format. I was particularly attracted to the sonoroso cello register in which the piece resides. This arrangement was given its world premiere in 2014 by its dedicatee Mikhail Dubov in the Scriabin Museum in Moscow. 

Op. 8 No. 12: Link to video I made this arrangement of this notorious etude because I discovered to my amazement that I could. And then I found a pianist who was willing to take it on: its dedicatee Matthew Bengtson.

All three arrangements were originally published by the The Journal of the Alexander Scriabin Society of America: Op. 2 No. 1 (Vol.8, Winter 2003-04); Op. 8 No. 12 (Vol.11, Winter 2006-07); Op. 8 No. 11 (Vol.13, Winter 2008-09.)

Premiere of Dance Piece The Gift to Urashima Taro

Link to video

Link to Synopsis

The Gift to Urashima Taro, a dance piece with music and libretto by Jay Reise, was premiered on August 16, 2015 by Exit Dance at the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. The story recounts a Japanese folk tale about a fisherman who rescues a turtle, and is then transported by the turtle to the underwater kingdom of the Princess of the Sea. He stays with the princess for a time and upon his return to his village, finds himself many years in the future. The music is scored for shakuhachi and string trio; performers included renowned shakuhachi master James Noryaku Schlefer. The director and choreographer was Stephen Haley. The piece was commissioned by the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, David Yang Artistic Director. 

 Torturing the Tortoise

Urashima Saves the Tortoise Who is Being Tortured by Schoolchildren

Photo: Nicole Goodhue Boyd


 Urashima Taro at the Graveyard

2.   Urashima in the Graveyard Confronts the Ghosts of His Parents and Friends

  Photo: Jay Reise          

Premiere of Disenchanted Forest

Jay Reise’s Disenchanted Forest, for Clarinet and Piano was premiered by Todd Palmer and Ieva Jokubaviciute on August 8, 2015 at the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival where Reise served as composer-in-residence.  The piece was commissioned by Preston Reed especially for the festival. 

Recalling the discrepant sight of Fitzcarraldo's boat half-sunk in the still waters of the Amazon and the recent disturbing presence of coyotes in New York City, Disenchanted Forest is a mood-commentary on the present entropy of the wild-lands, with hope that they will return to their former glory when we are gone....


The Ghost of the Red Sea Swallow
 Performed in the UAE and Qatar

The Ghost of the Red Sea Swallow for flute and piano received performances in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), and in Doha, Qatar in May and June.

The performers were the splendid flutist Julietta Curenton and the wonderful pianist Mark Loria. The performance was part of a concert tour by Orchestra 2001.

It was especially gratifing to have the piece performed on the Arabian peninsula since the Red Sea swallow’s final flight took place between Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; not exactly “on location” but in the neighborhood.

The story of the Red Sea swallow Hirundo perdita is a strange one. The bird is known only from one specimen, found dead in May 1984 at Sanganeb lighthouse in Sudan. A live specimen has never been definitively sited. The bird is considered by specialists most likely to be found in the Red Sea hills of Sudan or Eritrea, or possibly across the Red Sea in the coastal hills of western Saudi Arabia - if it can be found at all. Conjecture on the Red Sea swallow's habitat is also based on the slim evidence that two pale-rumped swallows were sited flying out over the Red Sea towards Saudi Arabia a short time before the discovery of the lifeless bird.

The all-Philadelphia composers program also included pieces by George Crumb, Samuel Barber and George Rochberg.

The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow - The Wail of the Voice!

Listen to the concert (excerpts and complete) here: The Wail of the Voice!

Every year the University of Pennsylvania Department of Music presents a concert called The Wail of the Voice! The title is a take-off on the famous 1971 piece by Penn Professor Emeritus George Crumb Vox Balanae (The Voice of the Whale). Works presented are by composers drawn from the Penn musical family - emeritus and current faculty, and alums. In the inaugural concert in March 2012, Vox Balanae was featured.

This year concert was given on January 11. The program consisted of Matthew Schreibeis's In Search of Planet X, James Primosch's Fantasy Variations (Piano Trio), Anna Weesner's The Space Between, my own The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow (ballad version for flute and piano), and Richard Wernick's String Quartet No. 8.

The instrumental ballad The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow was written originally for violin and piano and was premiered by Maria Bachmann in 2011. I arranged it for flute and piano in the summer of 2012 and this was the version presented on the Wail! concert this year. The performers were the splendid flutist Michele Kelly and the remarkable pianist Matthew Bengtson. 

        Wail! Composers

Wail! Composers: Jay Reise, Richard Wernick, Matthew Schreibeis & James Primosch

The Ghost of the Red Sea Swallow Premieres in Cuba

The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow (poem version for flute and piano) received its world premiere in Cuba on November 28, 2012 at the Havana International Festival of Contemporary Music. This poem version is an adaptation of the ballad with the same title, and was prepared especially for this concert. The performers were the incredible flutist Christina Jennings and the wonderful pianist Mark Loria. The performance was part of a concert presented by Orchestra 2001 as part of the Havana International Music Festival, 2012. Other works on the program included pieces by George Crumb and a recital of contemporary Latin American works by pianist Ana Cervantes.

              Rudin Fernandez Reise, Havana 2012

Andrew Rudin, Teresa Fernandez, Jay Reise, Cuba 2012

The Warrior Violinist Appeals to Kids

The Warrior Violinist, a fairy tale for narrator, violin and cello, with a libretto by the composer was premiered by Auricolae Children's Troupe at St. Bernadette School, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania and Francis Scott Key School in South Philadelphia, September-November, 2012. Support for this project was provided by a Community Partners Grant from the American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter. David Yang was the mesmerizing narrator and the expressive instrumentalists were Guillaume Combet (violin) and Naomi Gray (cello).

The Warrior Violinist tells the story of a poor young boy who plays the violin but aspires to win the love of a princess.

The Warrior Violinist was recently recorded in London and is scheduled for release later this year.

Click here for the libretto.

              The Warrior Violinist - FS Key School

David Yang, Guillaume Combet, Naomi Gray at FS Key School, 2012


Rasputin a Success at the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia

Rasputin was presented at the Saaremaa Opera Days, a festival on the beautiful island of Saaremaa off the coast of Estonia, in July 2012. It was performed before an audience of about 2,000 in the great medieval Kuressare Castle by the Helikon Opera of Moscow who have been presenting it in repertory since 2008. The cast was excellent with many of the principal leads from Moscow reprising their parts in Estonia: Rasputin - Nikolay Suslov; Tsar Nicholas II - Andrei Palamartshuk; Empress Alexandra Feodorovna - Natalya Zagorinskaya; Prince Felix Yusupov - Vassily Efimov;  and the brilliant young conductor Konstantine Chudovsky.

The review in Eesti Päevaleht (24. July 2012) noted,

"Saaremaa Opera Days, after achieving success in the traditional classical repertoire of modern opera, presented Rasputin. [Composer] Jay Reise captured the audience and Rasputin was well received. [His] score was full of postmodernism quotations and allusions to other works. It was all set up very intelligently, so that there was a clear conflict of musical and dramatic sequence of events. Human ambition and struggle for dominance was a major theme. Dmitry Bertman staged and dramatically highlighted this confrontation to great effect."

Rasputin will next be performed by Helikon in Moscow November 8-9, 2013.

      Rasputin in Saaremaa, Estonia 2012

Rasputin at the Saaremaa Opera Days Festival, Estonia 2012

     Kurrusaare Castle

Kuressare Castle at the Blue Hour


To the Point CD on Audiophile Audition's

                    "Best of the Year" Discs for 2011

                                To the Point Cover

Fine Reviews for The River Within on CD

The River Within (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra), premiered in 2008 by Maria Bachmann and Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia’s Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center, was released on CD by Innova Recordings in June and was greeted with excellent reviews. The concerto is presented on an album of orchestra music performed by Orchestra 2001 Philadelphia’s award-winning ensemble which specializes in music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The CD also features works by Jennifer Higdon, Andrew Rudin and Gunther Schuller. James Freeman conducts all the pieces except for Schuller’s Concerto da Camera which is led by the composer.


Orchestra 2001: To the Point

JENNIFER HIGDON: To the Point for string orchestra
ANDREW RUDIN: Canto di Ritorno (Concerto for Violin(1) and Small Orchestra)
GUNTHER SCHULLER(2): Concerto da Camera
ROMEO CASCARINO(3): Blades of Grass
JAY REISE: The River Within (Concerto for Violin(4) and Orchestra)

(1) Diane Monroe, violin
(3) Dorothy Freeman, English horn
(4) Maria Bachmann, violin
Orchestra 2001, James Freeman and (2) Gunther Schuller, conductors
Innova Recordings 745 (Distr. by Naxos)

“The most recent work here, Jay Reise’s The River Within – composed in 2008 for Orchestra 2001 and soloist Maria Bachmann – is also a violin concerto. One, in fact, that shares some affinity with Jennifer Higdon’s To the Point, its own “rhythmic polyphony” owing something to the hypnotic ‘foreign’ influences of jazz and the Carnatic music of southern India.

Composed for a Classical-sized orchestra, it adds spice to its formalist leanings by stripping the orchestral forces back to single winds and brass with the addition of piano (which operates as the default continuo) and a small selection of percussion instruments. The result is something both predictably spare and surprisingly lush, solo winds and brass proving slickly adept at providing astringently contrapuntal commentary on a solo violin line that, itself, soars into virtuosic reveries of 19th-century dimensions. Bachmann seems wholly inside the sinuous, labyrinthine twisting and turning of the music, the orchestral accompaniment delivering elegant framing and support.” - The Classical Review


“This fascinating program concludes with “The River Within” by Jay Reise. This is a full three movement concerto for violin, taking its title from a passage in a novel from 1887 by J.K. Huysmans citing the inexorable flow of a river. In three movements – fast, slow, fast – the structure is pretty traditional. However, Reise describes his use of “ rhythmic polyphony”; some use of cells of rhythm derived from both Eastern music as well as jazz. This is a very exciting piece, easy to listen to and propulsive but not at all ‘ harsh’.

Reise has written many different works in all genres, including opera. He is presently a professor of composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Soloist Maria Bachmann performs the work with technical flourish and style throughout.” - Audiopfile Audition


“The final work on the disc is The River Within (2008) a concerto for violin and orchestra by Jay Reise. Reise teaches at the University of Pennsylvannia and his music has been performed quite widely. The work is inspired from a 19th century novel by J.K. Huysmans. The piece is cast in three movements, designed in more traditional form. The primary difference here is Reise’s decision to use single (i.e., not paired) winds and brass causing more intriguing color combinations. What is interesting is that Reise does use his winds and brass combinations in clear lines that cut through and support the soloist very well. One of the techniques, described by the composer as “rhythmic polyphony,” takes rhythmic motives and develops them within a phrase essentially implying a cadence. Traditional harmonic and linear writing are on display as well which aid in the accessibility of what turns out to be a rather engaging work. The opening movement’s focus on rhythm, gives way to a slow central section whose opening measure are quite beautiful and continue to be so even as the tension builds underneath. The harmonic language here is most interesting to hear unfold. The final movement seems a blend of the rhythmic polyphony Reise mentions in his program note and the long linear solo writing that comments upon and essentially deconstructs and reworks these ideas. The movement is more a conversation between ensemble and soloists at times and the energy takes off and is reigned in repeatedly with a fine dramatic sense over the 9-minute playing time.” – Cinemusical


“..The River Within, a fantastically vibrant piece by Jay Reise..” – Sequenza 21



Massy, France –- December 4, 2010 Rasputin, opera in two acts with music and libretto by the composer, had its French premiere December 4-5, 2010 to sold-out houses at the Opéra de Massy just outside Paris. The production was that of the Helikon Opera which staged the work in Moscow in 2008-09.

The stage director was Dmitry Bertman and Konstantine Chudovsky conducted the Orchestra de l’Opéra de Massy. Nikolai Galin sang the title role, Natalya Zagorinskaya sang the role of the Empress Alexandra, Nicolai Dorozhkin was Nicholas II and Vasily Efimov sang the chameleonic role of Rasputin's assassin Prince Felix Yusupov.

VIEW excerpts from RASPUTIN on YouTube

 See “Reviews” to your right →.

 Click "Rasputin" to your right → for a libretto.


Lunahuaná Premieres in Philadelphia

Lunahuaná, an 8’ piece for percussion 2 players, was premiered at the Orchestra 2001 concerts November 6-7 at Trinity Church, Philadelphia and Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College. The two percussionists were William Kerrigan and David Nelson. Given the complexity of the rhythms and the large space separating the two performers, Orchestra 2001 Artistic Director James Freeman conducted – an option suggested in the score.

The theme of the concert was "Chinese Visions" and included works by Chinese-American composers Tan Dun and May-Tchi Chen as well as Scottish-American Jennifer Barker. All the works were clearly derived from or inspired by indigenous music.

Last year, on a trip to Ayacucho, a town located deep in the Peruvian highlands, I was struck by some music I heard which sounded for all-the-world like Peking Opera. Peru and China are both on the vast Pacific rim and many sounds, sights, and sensations in Ecuador, Peru and Chile echo those of China and Japan. So I was pleased that Lunahuaná was included on a program centered on "Chinese Visions".

Lunahuaná was inspired by a trip to the Peruvian village at the edge of the highlands in the summer of 2009 where I began the piece. The name comes from two Quechua words, RUNA: people; and HUANAC: chasten. RUNAHUANAC: that which makes people take warning. Lunahuaná is located at a permanent point where the threatening clouds and the sunshine-blue sky buttress up against each other. Raucous fiestas take place among the barely perceptible echoes of ancient civilizations and the ghosts of the conquistadors.

Percussion I plays the vibraphone along with a few cymbals and crotales or antique cymbals). Percussion II performs on tubular bells and marimba along with the “Battery” – a raucous group of non-pitched instruments prodded along by a persistent whistle suggesting a fiesta atmosphere with a buzzing crowd.



See “Reviews” to your right →.




See these titles under Works for audioclips:

Orchestra - The Selfish Giant

Instrumental - Concerto for Cello & 13 Instruments

Chamber Music - Lunahuaná

Piano - Six Pictures from 'The Devil in the Flesh'                        (6."The Madwoman on the Roof")