1000 Premieres in Germany
Piece #1000 was premiered in a Beautiful German Hall with fine players and chorus. Thank you!
Here is an article translated from the German Magazine:
“I love the German Language”
and his 1000th work
by Klaus Härtel, translated by Petra Buchmann
Surely you wouldn’t be wrong, if you said that Stephen Melillo is a productive composer. Because in the last 53 years - that‘s how old he turned on December 23rd - the American didn‘t compose less than 1000 works. That are - if he would have began composing on Christmas Eve 1957 - 18 works a year. Or calculated differently: Stephen Melillo writes a different work every 20 days.
The world premiere of his Anniversary work was a short time ago in Rot a. d. Rot in a baroque church. For the world premiere of a work - along with it‘s numbers and layered meanings - a musical milestone, composers and interpreters often search for great locations. For example, Carnegie Hall in New York. Or the Royal Albert Hall in London. Or the philharmonic in Berlin. Adequate to the incidents.
Not Stephen Melillo. The work “The Prayer of Our Lord” was premiered in the ministry of Rot a. d. Rot and Rot a. d. With respect, Rot didn‘t make music history as a stronghold for extraordinary world premieres... so far (although the “Antiphonarium ad usum chori Rothensis” - the red Choral manuscript - by Michael Haydn, who composed it for the men of choir of the Premonstratensian abbey)... and who saw and listened to the premiere, surely recognized, that there wasn‘t a better place for it.
It was the same observation for Stephen Melillo and the publisher family Rundel from Rot a. d. Rot, who connects with Stephen through a longlasting friendship. They knew each other since a performance of Stephen Melillo‘s work “Godspeed!” in 1998, says Thomas Rundel. And since the early “zero-years” they have worked closely together. “With the time we became close friends,” added Stephen Melillo. “Thomas and his family provided access to my music in Germany and in then the whole world. They are loyal and dedicated and I believe, that they hold my music in high regard.
The one-thousandth work is dedicated to the Rundel Family. This setting of the Lord‘s Prayer is made possible by Claudia, Thomas & Stefan Rundel and is lovingly dedicated to Antonie & Siegfried Rundel.”
“Every night I pray with my kids.”
"The Prayer of Our Lord” is scored for Wind Orchestra and choir. As lyrics he uses the “Our Father”. Stephen Melillo was musically inspired by the Hungarian-American composer, Miklós Rósza, who he calls, “my personal hero and role model.” Stephen Melillo characterizes how his one thousandth work arose: “I always pray these words in my thoughts. I listened to the Prayer in my Heart... and I wrote it down, what I felt, when I spoke those words. I tried to imagine the different level of meaning that can only happen when music surrounds and uplifts the prayer. Music visualizes, what might have been felt when the prayer was spoken the first time (in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6,5 to 15)... and portrays the emotions that are there when we pray it every day. I pray this prayer every night with my kids and every night it is a ‘new’ prayer. The words are profound, what Jesus tells us. The prayer encompasses great darkness and misery and yet ends with a promise that extends into many thousands of years.”
The work was premiered by the choir and the wind orchestra “Kreisjugendmusikkapelle Biberach” under the direction of Tobias Zinser. The conductor, surely honored to have the possibility to premiere an authentic Melillo work, knows the composer well and knows, what the composer wants. “The work is very much a Melillo work”, says Zinser. It begins piano and ends in fortissimo, an attribute, that is not atypical for the US-composer. “The horns can‘t be too loud or too high,” tells the band leader. And the work is more a “sound work” than a “melodic work.”
The choir is assembled as an additional timbre - and definitely as a vehicle of the text. The challenge was, explains Zinser, that the choir persists in the loudness against the band. But the speech was clearly distinguishable. In the comparatively short work (3.13 minutes) “there is more drama and dramaturgical message than in many 30-minuteworks,” says Zinser.
Firstly, Stephen Melillo’s many pieces appear as American-declamatory works, but they are authentic. An intensive work with mathematics, natural science and philosophy are always reflected in his works. You can always find significant numerical symbolism. By example, the change from measure 33 to 34 is always important in his works.
In “The Prayer of Our Lord” you can see it in the text - from “but deliver us from Evil” to, “Thine is the kingdom” - and also in the instructions - from “Death... Rit...” to, “The Resurrection of All”. Measure 33 is designated through a ritardando, that shows the power of evil. Because of a crescendo this part is intensified, like the quint in the wood winds. In the deep registers you can find frictional passages, while the horns churn up with declamatory signals. With the turn to God we have a clear D-major chord in measure 34 again in constant forte. “Thine” - in the German version, “dein” - is punctuated with brilliant Trumpet sounds.
“Music speaks its own language - beyond
English and German”
Stephen Melillo didn’t need to give musical instructions. “That wasn‘t necessary, except from the leveling of the German text. I’ve always known that the music was in good hands with Tobias. We didn‘t talk about the music per se. I believe, music speaks its own language - beyond English or German.”
In the concert in Rot a. d. Rot they performed the German version. The text was reworked by Ludwig Kibler. “You wonder if you can begin with ‘Unser Vater’ instead of ‘Vater unser,’’’ says Kibler. He was allowed to. Unser Vater fit better because “Vater” sounds in D-major, when “unser” has a minor-chord.
The perfectionist Melillo rubber-stamped this. The composer says that he has not yet heard the German version, “but I know, that I will love this version, because I love the German language... and I know, that the German singers will sing with their hearts and with great respect for this prayer. In German the prayer appears older - timeless - Particularly when it is sung in the language of Beethoven and Bach. I hear it in my head.”
He doesn‘t speak German, but nevertheless he hears it as music and knows its meaning. “That is the great thing about music. It is awesome in every possible language. We are all Brothers and we should respect all the prayers across the whole world. I just returned from China, where I visited a Buddhist Temple. I’m sure that every honest prayer reaches into heaven.”
Stephen Melillo admits that he doesn‘t remember every single piece of his 1000 works. “I can do that when I look into my data base,” he laughs. “When I began to compose, my aim was to compose one single piece so that I could become a better teacher. I continued composing - obviously. But I only called myself a composer the first time when I had completed my 404th work.”
That must have been in 1992, when Stephen Melillo created his “S-MATRIX Symphony # Numberless,” which was premiered by the conductor, Gerhardt Zimmerman and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. But that still would be about 600 compositions in the last 18 years. 33 per year... every eleventh day another work.
“I was surprised myself about this one-thousandth work,” says Melillo. “Many years ago, I thought that maybe I could write 1000 pieces in my entire lifetime. In my imagination I was a very old man. I was in between many important works, and this very special number 1000 just happened... without any planning. I‘m glad, that I received this inspiration to compose the ‘Our Father’ - and that this work would mark such a milestone.”