“The genesis of American Visions stems from my friendship with the eminent Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who was a Visiting Professor at New York University in the 1990’s, and for a semester lived across the hall from me in NYU faculty housing. As we got to know each other, I found myself more and more taken both with the drama and beautiful language of his poetry. Yevtushenko himself chose the first poem of the two-movement cycle, Who are you, Grand Canyon?, and to complement it and sustain the American theme, I selected Requiem for Challenger.
The cycle was first premiered in a chamber version by the Da Capo Chamber Players (with the poet in attendance), and performed by them on quite a few occasions subsequently, including on tour in Russia. A decade later, I had an opportunity to create a version of the work for orchestra---a version I had always intended to compose--for a concert celebrating the 90th anniversary of the New York University Department of Music.
The poem, “Who are you, Grand Canyon, portrays the vast expanse of the canyon as a mirror of history, with imagery ranging from “Che Guevara’s cigar” to “stone apple pie.” It reaches to a “Whitmanesque” tradition, as writer Robert Carl notes, and invites grand gestures in its musical rendering. The second song is more subdued, but for balance, it too seemed to require a climax of marked intensity. The work is approximately 26 minutes in length.” LK
Thomas Meglioranza, baritone, David Dzubay, conductor
Orchestra of the League of Composers
the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, May 7, 2012