Matthew McCright‘s advocacy of American piano music has brought him into collaboration with lots of composers and his standard bio starts with this list: Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, August Read Thomas, Paul Dresher, and Michael Gordon – some experimental and free thinkers, to be sure.
So it was an interesting departure for McCright that his latest recording project was of music by Gene Gutche (1907-2000), a German immigrant who wrote some rather vivid works but did hew to a rather old school tonal idiom. So I asked McCright to tell the story of how he became connected to Gutchë’s music and why he was passionate enough to devote an entire disc to it.
I first moved to Minneapolis in 2002. As a specialist in new music I began to become involved in the contemporary music scene in the Twin Cities. Naturally I met lots of composers and began playing their music (Mary Ellen Childs, Judith Zaimont, et.al.). They in turn connected me to other composers, and on and on it goes.
I eventually made the acquaintance of Abbie Betinis, composer-in residence at the Schubert Club (an national arts organization based in St. Paul, the twin of Minneapolis). It was through her that Gene Gutchë’s music entered my life. The composer and his estate placed the Schubert Club as the keeper of both his archive and legacy money left to create a performance incentive fund. Thankfully I was awarded money from the fund to perform a few pieces by Gutchë for concerts in the region.
I became quite taken with this music and as I researched more about the composer I discovered that none of the piano music has been recorded. In fact, very little of his work had been recorded despite the success he enjoyed during his life including several prominent orchestras programming his pieces. I decided to take on the task and eventually found that Centaur Records also had an interest in capturing this music for future generations. After some generous funding from the Ditson, Copland, and again the Schubert Club funds, the project has reached its finish.
So much of my work has been about the journey into a composer’s universe; trying uncover the authentic nature of their sound world. In the case of contemporary music, there is not a 200 year performing history to help guide you through the process. This is very much the same with Gutchë.
Although he is recently deceased, his music remains unknown to many. It has been a remarkable process to discover this music and share it with the world.
– Matthew McCright
Previously on MyBigGayEars: