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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”


Stephen Melillo

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 onethousandth

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.”

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