Jack Behrens

Jack Behrens. Teacher, composer, b Lancaster, Pa, 25 Mar 1935; B SC (Juilliard) 1958, M SC (Juilliard) 1959, PH D (Harvard) 1973. His composition teachers were William Bergsma, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin at the Juilliard School and Leon Kirchner and Roger Sessions at Harvard U.

Behrens, Jack

Jack Behrens. Teacher, composer, b Lancaster, Pa, 25 Mar 1935; B SC (Juilliard) 1958, M SC (Juilliard) 1959, PH D (Harvard) 1973. His composition teachers were William Bergsma, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin at the Juilliard School and Leon Kirchner and Roger Sessions at Harvard U. He also received instruction from Darius Milhaud at the Aspen Music Festival (summer 1962) and from Stefan Wolpe and John Cage at the Emma Lake Composers-Artists Workshop (summers 1964, 1965) in Saskatchewan. In Regina 1962-6 he taught at the University of Saskatchewan and was head of the theory department at the affiliated conservatory. He taught 1966-70 at Simon Fraser University and 1970-6 at California State College. He joined the Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario in 1976 and was chairman of its department of theory and composition until 1980, and was dean of the faculty 1980-6. He has given many lectures and lecture-recitals on 20th-century music. His compositions include commissions from Adele Marcus, the CBC, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), Orchestra London, and several Saskatchewan organizations. He has recorded some of his own compositions together with Peter Racine Fricker's Ballade for Flute and Piano (with Fiona Wilkinson) and Bagatelles for Clarinet and Piano (with Robert Riseling) on the album Signs (1983, Orion ORS-83455).

Behrens' 1965 Canada Council-sponsored research in the Scandinavian countries on Viking literature, art, and music led to a Canadian centennial commission for the chamber opera The Lay of Thrym (libretto by C.K. Cockburn). Behrens has stated that 'Those of us involved... felt that the boldness and enterprise (sometimes artistic) of the Vikings might serve as an appropriate focus as Canada was about to begin its second century of confederation' (Ewen, American Composers). Based on an Icelandic legend, the four-scene work is atonal and employs aleatoric and improvisational techniques. He conducted its premiere 13 Apr 1968 at Darke Hall, Regina. His orchestral work The Sound of Milo won first prize in the New Orleans Symphony contest in 1970 and in the same year he was awarded the Francis Boott Prize at Harvard U for his choral work, How Beautiful is the Night. A friend of the author Margaret Laurence, Behrens composed music to accompany her reading of A Fable - For the Whaling Fleets. Thematic material from this work was used again in his Landmarks which uses sentences from three of Laurence's books as guides, 'landmarks,' for the listener. Though Behrens' idiom is thoroughly modern, he is not fettered by any single approach: '[His] compositional methods range from serial to indeterminate, although few works are exclusively either' (ibid). Much of his music reflects the individual talents of the particular performer for whom it was composed.

Behrens' music has been performed on the CBC and on US radio stations. He is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

His wife is the pianist Sonja Peterson Behrens.

Selected Compositions

Stage
The Lay of Thrym, opera (Icelandic 'Thrymskvitta,' transl C. Keith Cockburn). 1968. Ms

Writings

Jack Behrens, 'Recent piano works of Christian Wolf (1972-76),' Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario, vol 2, 1977

'Helpful hints for program building,' Piano Q, 106, Summer 1979

'Peter Racine Fricker on his 60th birthday,' Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario, vol 5, 1980

Orchestra

Trumpet Concerto. 1955. Ms

Introspection. 1956. Str orch. Ms

Declaration. 1964. Ms

The Sound of Milo (Jack Wasserman). 1970. Narr, orch. Ms

Concerto 'Triple Concerto'. 1971. Cl, violin, piano, orch. Ms

Fantasy on Francis Hopkinson's 'My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free'. 1976. Sm orch. Ms

New Beginnings. 1976. Ms

A Greeting. 1977. Ms

Fantasia On A Fragment. 1984. Fortepiano, chamber orch. Ms

Landmarks. 1991. Ms

Chamber

Quartertone Quartet. 1960. Str quartet. Ms

Green Centre. 1964 (rev 1990). Wind ensemble. Ms

Early Song (Ted Godwin). 1965. Ten (bar), fl, oboe, horn, violin, viola. Ms

Serenades. 1969. Fl, clarinet, piano, violin, violoncello. Ms

Happy Birthday John Cage I and II. 1972. Solo instr in C, A, G, E flat. Ms

Clarinet Quintet. 1974. Cl, string quartet. Ms

Bass Variants. 1977. double-bass. Ms

Looking Back (Pratt). 1979. Sop, fl, piano. Ms

Dialogue. 1980. Vc, piano. Ms. Orion ORS-83455 (Tsutsumi violoncello, Behrens piano)

String Quartet 'In Nomine'. 1980. Ms

Fiona's Flute. 1982. Fl, piano. Ms. Orion ORS-83455 (Wilkinson)

Well-tempered Duo. 1984. Vc, fortepf. Ms

A Fable - For the Whaling Fleets (Laurence). 1985 (rev 1990). Narr, fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano. Ms

'I Have Mislaid Something' and 'The Death of the Loch Ness Monster' (G. MacEwan). 1985. Bar, fl, piano. Ms

Reflections. 1990. Va, clarinet. Ms

Reverberations. 1990. Tpt. Ms

Keyboard

Passacaglia. 1964 (rev 1976). Pf. Ms

Music for a New Arrival. 1970. Hpd. Ms

The Feast of Life. 1975. Ms. 1976. Opus One 13 (Behrens)

Taos Portraits. 1976. Pf. Ms

Music For Two Pianos. 1979. Ms

Tributaries. 1981. Ms

Aspects. 1983. 3 piano. Ms. McGill 83017 (L-P. Pelletier, Helmer, P. Couture

Others, including a film score, The Old Order Amish (1959); many works for voice, choir, including 'In a Manger' (Elkan-Vogal 1964) and How Beautiful is the Night (1969)


Further Reading

  • Ewen, David. American Composers (New York 1982)