david del tredici

Chamber Music Northwest preview: David Del Tredici’s “Bullycide”

American composer creates a tribute to victims of hatred and ignorance.

Although he’s one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, David Del Tredici was worried when his new composition for piano and string quintet was about to premiere last August at California’s La Jolla SummerFest.

“I felt like a bull in a china shop,” the 77-year-old California-born, longtime New Yorker remembers. Even though his new Bullycide’s passionate music would appeal to fans of Brahms and other Romantic composers as well as contemporary music aficionados, he also knew that “classical music is the most conservative area of the arts, socially and textually speaking,” he told Oregon ArtsWatch. “The other pieces on the program were so well mannered, and a big piece on a gay-related social topic is unusual.”

David Del Tredici helped re-open the door to tonal composing.

David Del Tredici helped re-open the door to tonal composing.

That topic was a tough one. The inspiration for Bullycide, which receives its Northwest premiere at Chamber Music Northwest (which co-commissioned it) Monday and Tuesday, came from the well-publicized 2010 suicide of the young college student Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after his roommate posted surreptitious video footage of Clementi’s fling with another male student. Del Tredici, who has written several other works dealing with aspects of gay life, soon learned that Clementi’s was only the latest in a long string of bullying-induced suicides of young gay Americans, which stirred memories of the composer’s own childhood. “I was also bullied a lot in school,” he recalls. “I was flooded with painful memories… that awful feeling of being treated as a ‘defective’ person,” he wrote in the program notes for Bullycide.

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