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Red Contributor


Jonathan Besser

Composer

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Born: 1949

Biography

Composer/Pianist Jonathan Besser was born in New York City in 1949, and studied composition in New York at the Mannes College of Music with David Loeb. Resident in New Zealand since 1974, based mainly in Wellington. He has created acoustic and electronic music in collaboration with leading writers, choreographers, musicians, artists and film makers, including Gaylene Preston, Mary Jane O’Reilly, Warwick Broadhead, Keri Hulme, Ross Harris, Michael Parmenter, Philip Mann and Allen Brunton, Don McGlashan, Billy Apple and Australian author Roger McDonald. He has composed original music for many film, radio, stage and T.V. productions.

His commissions include the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Wellington Sinfonia, and the New Zealand String Quartet (touring schools with them in 1994). He is leader of his own New Music groups most notably the ‘Besser Ensemble’ (1987-1997) touring schools throughout N.Z. with major support from Creative NZ as well as making numerous recordings. He is also founding member of Free Radicals (electronic music) and Triphonics, touring China with Triphonics in March 1996. In 1997 he performed at the WOMAD festival (Auckland), and he had his orchestral piece No Riff premiered by the Wellington Symphonia. In June 1997 he collaborated with Warwick Broadhead on a huge movement music theatre spectacle at Downstage theatre ‘The life and Times of Constance Flux’.

In 1998, Besser travelled to New Caledonia to produce original film music for the new Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in Noumea and in the 1998 Wellington International Arts Festival he performed solo (piano) nightly at the Dans Paleis. He is currently living in Auckland where he was 1998 composer-in-residence with Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and director of the New Romantics. His latest new performance group ‘Bravura’ are performing around Australia and New Zealand. He was a finalist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Music 2000 Prize and composer for Mary Jane O’Reilly’s ‘Te Rangi Marie’ Millennium dawn event collaborating with Waihirere Kapa Haka group.

In 2012 Jonathan toured New Zealand with his group Gimel, performing his Gimel Suite, a work composed especially for the group. Jonathan's group The Zestniks performed in 2015 as part of the Auckland Jazz Festival, which included some of his original compositions.


Works (144)

...and the hills will start their chanting

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


3 Pieces for Orchestra

for orchestra, 14m


5757 A Symphonic Tone Poem

for orchestra, 22m


A Storm in a Teacup

For Cello and Piano


African Legacy

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 3m


Around

short work for 12 unspecified instruments, standing in a circle, 1m


Art of the Sail

large scale installation music/sculpture, Whangarei


Bass Polka

for chamber sextet, 4m


Bird Without Wings

For female voice and ensemble, 14m


Blues for Dad

blues for violin and piano, 7m


Bosnia Trio

for harpsichord trio, 11m


Caucasian Blood

for violin and piano


Celebrating Differences

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 2m


Chessboard Cowboy

an improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, with live processing, 4m


Circus Tango

for flute, clarinet, saxophone, guitar and percussion


City Raga

for violin and piano


Classical Challenge

for (improvising) chamber quintet, 4m


Cloud Formation Microscope

improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, 4m


Coldwater Light Bulb

improvisation for bass clarinet and piano, 3m


Colonial Parade

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 2m


Dance of the Zestniks

for clarinet, 2 violins, percusssion, piano, double bass, 7m


danceabout

educational resource for dance (levels 1 - 6), 52m


Dark Wind

for violin and piano, 45m


Dharti Ki Sair

for chamber orchestra, 25m


Dissent on Tone Row

for oboe, violin, viola and cello, 15m


Duet for Soprano and Cello

for soprano and cello, 22m 15s


Duo for Violin and Piano

for violin and piano, 18m


Dust Bunny Meditation

An improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, with live processing, 3m


Earth Mix

electronic music performance work


Ecstasy

for chamber music septet


Effort

for (improvising) chamber quintet


Finale (1998)

for (improvising) chamber quintet, 6m


Finale - Stepping Over

for chamber ensemble, 7m


Five candle boats

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Five New York Tone Rows

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass, 5m


Forever, unrequited

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Four Symphonic Dances

for orchestra, 19m


From Knowledge Love Grows

for female voice and ensemble


Fruit Cake

an improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, 6m


Gamjam 1

improvisation for ensemble, 11m


Gamjam 2

improvisation for ensemble, 14m


Gamjam 3

improvisation for ensemble, 11m


Geosynchronous Hibernation

An improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, 1m


He iti no, na te aroha

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 3m


He wai ma papa

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 2m


Hokianga

for string quartet, 15m


Homage to Morton

for full orchestra, 9m 30s


Hudson River Pieces

for orchestra


Hudson River Pieces

for string quartet


Immaterial Elements

electronic work


Introduction for an Unfinished Sweet

for soprano, lute, viol and recorder, 3m


Invention I

for prepared piano and violin, 4m


Invention II

for prepared piano and violin


Jaywalking

for violin and piano, 4m


Jean

ballet in three acts for full orchestra, based on the life of Jean Batten, 1h 30m


Jupiter Rain

for (improvising) chamber quintet


Klez

for chamber quintet, 5m


Klez

for chamber septet, 5m


Klez

for string quartet, 5m


Klezmorim

for violin and piano, 4m


Life is a Spider

music for film


Living Past

for solo violin (with some scordatura tuning required), 10m 30s


Lonely Sunday

for (improvising) chamber quintet, 7m


Longing for the near horizon

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Lovalova

for violin and piano, semi improvised


Magnificent Photon

An improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, 2m


March

for (improvising) chamber quintet, 4m


March

semi-improvised work for violin and piano


March Vivo

for violin and piano, semi improvised


Middle East

for (improvising) chamber quintet


Migration Music

for nonet and string orchestra


Miriam's dance

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Mitzvah Round

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass, 4m


Monkey Monk

for violin and piano, 3m


Mr. Darwin's Dances

for octet, 24m


Mr. Darwin's Dances

for orchestra, 12m


Niu Tireni

music composed specially to accompany this exhibition, 24m


No Riff

for orchestra, 10m


No Tango Today

for violin and piano, 3m


Noche Flamenco

for violin and piano


Old Jewish Dance

semi-improvised work for violin and piano


Passover Dance

for orchestra, 8m 16s


Piano Trio 1

for violin, cello and piano


Play-On

an educational resource for young musicians


Ponsonby Road 1

for large string orchestra, 4m


Precious Legacy

for chamber quintet


Precious Legacy

for piano, guitar, vibraphone/percussion and cello, 7m 20s


Precious Legacy Suite

for chamber ensemble, 30m


Predawn Meditation

arrangement for string orchestra, 10m


Predawn Meditation

for orchestra, 10m


Prime Minister Suite

for chamber sextet, 8m


Reflections in Thirds

for orchestra


Resolution

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass


Road to Outram

music for video, 25m


Romantic Rite

for violin and piano, 9m


Septet

for 3 violins, viola, cello, piano and electric bass, 12m


Shimmering Stillness

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass, 3m


Shine

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Six Short Pieces

for electronic tape, 12m


Sleeping Wheel

an improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, 5m


Solemnity

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass


Spring Rain Before Blossom

for violin and piano, 2m


Steam Engine Love Letter

an improvisation for soprano saxophone and piano, with live processing, 3m


Stillness

semi-improvised work for violin and piano


Stretto and Round

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass, 6m


Summer Riffs

for chamber sextet, 8m


Sunday Night

for (improvising) chamber quintet, 3m


Suzy-in-Spain

semi-improvised pieces


System Piece 1

for chamber orchestra with ad lib musicians


System Piece 2

for chamber orchestra and ad lib musicians


The 12

for full orchestra, 9m


The day becomes what you are

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


The Fried Judge

improvisation for bass clarinet and piano, 4m


The Manukau Heads

a symphonic fanfare for orchestra


The mourning tree

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


The Muslin Room

music theatre, 40m


The Sea

incidental music


The sweet perfume, the mysterious air

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


The Watch Bells

music for 22 bells for gallery installation, 13m


Three Choral Pieces

for women's choir, 8m


Three Ecstasy Pieces

for chamber orchestra (and optional ad lib musicians)


Three Impressions

for violin and piano, 15m


Three Pieces from ‘Ecstasy Suite’

for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and double bass


Time and Place

for vocalists and ensemble, 12m 30s


To remake the night for fish

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Tomato Blade

improvisation for bass clarinet and piano, 2m


Travelling Music

for chamber sextet or chamber quintet, 5m


Tribute to Bali

for mixed chamber sextet, 5m


Tuesday from a Musical Diary

for clarinet, 2 violins, percusssion, piano, double bass, 8m


Turn

for piano, violin, accordion, guitar, acoustic/electric bass, 4m


Une chikonzero

for acoustic guitar, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, drums, taonga puoro (Maori instruments) with Maori and English vocals, 4m


Waitemata Harbour

for violin and piano, 6m


Waltz For

for chamber septet or chamber quintet, 7m


We go without language

for chamber ensemble and gamelan ensemble


Wellington Harbour

for violin (or other feature instrument) and piano, 7m


Wellington Harbour

for bass clarinet and piano, 6m


Yiddish Dance. Blues

for violin and piano


You Got Your Wish

for violin, accordion, guitar, electric bass, piano, percussion and singer


Zelanian Music

for flute, clarinet, viola and piano, 9m