A monthly musical offering by a composer member of the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers.
Both your listening and comments are encouraged.
As a kind of spiritual wayfarer’s song, “Ballade for Violin & Piano” maps out a lyrical musical journey ending in a serene and heavenly reward. Like Dante with Virgil (and later Beatrice) in the Divine Comedy, the two instruments here are evenly matchedfull partners in their upward musical travels. The work is in a large ternary form, closing with an expansive, ethereal coda.
In keeping with the principle “Grace builds upon nature,” my compositional approach is first of all rooted in God’s natural gifts. The first of these is the composing gift itself. The second is the tremendous patrimony of musical beauty and wisdom handed on to us by composers of the past and present. This is, as it were, the “nature” upon which grace can build in my work. It is incumbent upon me to develop it to the best of my ability, availing myself of all the helps of the musical tradition.
With regard to grace, I am reminded of the closing words of the prologue to the Gospel of St. John: “The law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). We also know from other words of Our Lord that he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (e.g., Mt. 5:17).
In a similar way, my God-given musical gifts, however good in themselves and well-honed by the tradition, will never rise above the gravitational pull of original sin without grace.(see NOTE) Therefore, if I am serious about conveying a transcendent and live-giving message to my audience, I need to be in regular, intimate communion with the Transcendent (& Incarnate!) One: Jesus Christ, and with the Church he founded. Among other things, this means regular prayer, reception of the Sacraments, spiritual direction, and most of all, a sincere desire to walk according to God’s will.
All of the above lead by way of analogy to the other major principle undergirding my work as a composer, the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the God-Man. The musical ramifications of this reality are many but can be summarized here as follows:
NOTE: I believe this is true even in cases of agnostic or atheistic composers who nevertheless occasionally write very transcendent works (e.g., Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis). God can and does use unbelievers to communicate his truth (consider, for example, the prophecy of Caiaphas, John 11:49-50).
Brian J. Nelson was born in Madison, Wisconsin and received his Bachelor of Composition degree from the University of Michigan in 1990, where he studied with William Bolcom, William Albright and Nick Thorne. He completed a Master’s degree in Composition at the University of Wisconsin in May 2000 and a D.M.A from the University of Kansas (2011) where he studied with James Barnes. A committed Catholic, Brian is a prolific composer of sacred music as well as chamber and orchestral works. His growing catalogue includes his “Elegiac Folk Song for French Horn and Piano”, commissioned by hornist Alice Codiek (premiered by Ms. Codiek and Ellen Bottorff, piano); “Ballade for Violin and Piano”; “Capriccio for Flute, Oboe and Piano”; “Responsorial Psalms for Advent and Christmas”, a collection of responsories based on the Catholic lectionary, et al.
To date, Brian's music is represented on two CD's: “Responsorial Psalms for Advent and Christmas” (November, 2009), featuring a sampling from the collection just mentioned; and “Vocalise - Instrumental & Vocal Music of Brian J. Nelson”, which features a complete representation of Brian's output from instrumental to chamber to choral to sacred music. You may order this recording at:
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