Darryl Kubian

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Opera News review of The Music of Danny Elfmann featuring Darryl Kubian as Theremin soloist.

NJ Symphony Orchestra Premiere of Kubian's Latest Work, O For a Muse of Fire a Success!

The NJSO gave the world premiere of composer Darryl Kubian’s O For a Muse of Fire in a program with works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky this month. Media outlets highlighted Kubian and the new work, which the NJSO presented as part of the New Jersey Roots Project.  Reviews can be found below.

The Times of Trenton reports: "O for a Muse of Fire," which takes its name from the prologue to "Henry V," will be performed at Princeton University's Richardson Auditorium on Friday at 8 p.m. Music director Jacques Lacombe will conduct. Also on the program will be Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique," and Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini," with pianist Serhiy Savlov.

The program will be repeated at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Saturday at 8 p.m., and at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, Sunday at 3 p.m.

Kubian's work takes its inspiration from the Bard's rousing history, which yet portrays the king's private struggle of conscience as he leads a vastly outnumbered army into France to unlikely victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

"What attracted me to 'Henry V' is one person's ability to make a decision that holds people's lives in the balance," Kubian says. "He has to make a decision to go to war that he knows will inevitably lead to the deaths of many people. It's his struggle with that throughout the play, even up until the eve of the battle, that I found really compelling."


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The NJSO Plays Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and Kubian


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" ... The generosity and respect afforded to the classics also extended to the world premiere of "O for a Muse of Fire" by orchestra violinist Darryl Kubian.

The final performance of the New Jersey Roots Project, a five-year initiative celebrating composers with local ties, the work drew inspiration from "Henry V". As the composer noted in an articulate pre-performance introduction, the music dealt with the conscience of the king, exploring matters earthly and spiritual and taking on sounds of both warfare and contemplation.

The piece began with the war-launching insult from a French prince to the King. Illustrating the box of tennis balls he sent, Kubian used a volleying theme of a few descending notes launching from the first violins to the second violins.

This expanded into a cinematic fabric with deep lower strings and soaring brass. Dissonant threads in sustained chords and warlike percussion contrasted warm, meditative passages. In an earthy alto, vocalist Mary Fahl sang passages of Shakespeare text and keened wordlessly in the work's more impassioned moments. A waterphone added an otherworldly tinge before a frenetic rise and the pound of battle drums led to a fittingly heroic conclusion."



ADAM COHEN / Broadway World

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" ... Then violinist/composer Darryl Kubian introduced his composition "O FOR A MUSE OF FIRE" which is based on Shakespeare's Henry V. The piece included vocalist Mary Fahl, a water phone, and dramatic musical play between the violins. A four-note motive between the violins is passed throughout the orchestra met by a three-note motive started by the brass. Each represents the call to arms and battle between the French and English. Strings and woodwinds represent the English archers. As soldiers realize defeat and murder young English attendants the water phone stirs. Kubian cited his piece as musically rendering the complexity of man's relationship with violence - especially that of a king's power over many and his relationship with a god like entity.   ...  

The overall composition is dramatic with flurries of vibrant musicality especially among the violins and brass. ... He will be a composer to keep one's eye on whether he pursues dramatic or cinema scores or continues in a classical venue."


Concerto's debut is simply electric


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New Jersey Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Eric Wyrick plays "3-2-1," composed by NJSO colleague Darryl Kubian.

It's often lamented that symphony orchestra subscribers, particularly those outside the major cultural centers, are conservative by nature, preferring the comfort of the familiar to the thrill of the new. But it isn't always the case. 

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra played Haydn and Brahms symphonies with hearty aplomb under Neeme Järvi this weekend, but that wasn't what made the most impact. It was a 21st-century creation, and a homegrown commission besides, that generated the immediate ovation on Saturday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. 

The piece was "3-2-1," a concerto for acoustic and electric violins composed by Darryl Kubian, a member of the NJSO's first violin section since 1992. He wrote the score especially for the orchestra and its concertmaster, Eric Wyrick. The music has had Wyrick switching back and forth from his usual violin to a souped-up, amplified instrument during the statewide premiere run, which winds up at NJPAC tomorrow afternoon. 

Kubian, a 42-year-old Rutgers alumnus, has a fascination with science and technology, as well as experience writing scores for television. Both pursuits color "3-2-1," a half-hour work inspired by the energy of the "expanding universe," as the composer pointed out in an audience-priming talk beforehand. The piece balances the sort of electronic effects taken for granted in pop music with an open-hearted lyricism redolent of mainstream film scores, as it moves from an evocation of the Big Bang to a pool of idyllic repose to a cyclic, out-the-door rush. 

Wyrick's solo line spirals out of the initial squall of sound, with the tone of the electric violin having an alluring edge, like that of an electric guitar. He triggered new colors with a pedal board at his feet, shifting from that initial serrated timbre to a sound like a celestial lyre; the violinist also set echoing loops into motion so that he accompanied himself along with the orchestra. The effect was so texturally engaging that one almost wished that Kubian had written a concerto entirely for electric violin (as John Adams did so well recently with "The Dharma at Big Sur"). 

Wyrick clearly relished the electric violin's keening power, though he switched between the instruments with an ease bordering on nonchalance. Moreover, the episode that called on him to play his regular, unamplified violin had a pastoral, beguiling loveliness. When the orchestra's strings echoed Wyrick's melodic motif, it was as if they had morphed into an electronic loop, a beautiful touch. 

If Kubian showed influences from jazz-fusion and electro-rock in the violin line, his writing for orchestra was resolutely traditional, even neo-Romantic; any real dissonance came from the burring overtones of the electric violin. There are hints that the composer's rhythmic facility isn't as developed as his melodic gift; a pounding timpani exchange early in "3-2-1" is square, and metallic riffs in one of Wyrick's cadenzas will seem banal to anyone who really knows rock music. 

These were passing blemishes, though, in a piece that brims with imagination. When Wyrick's electric violin soared above the orchestra again in full cry, the sheer lyricism was stirring, the instrument's hot edge searing away any sentimentality into something pure and affecting. Kubian had said that he felt a "state of terror" just before the players launched into his piece for the first time, one that soon turned into a "sense of joy." Listeners seemed to enjoy the experience from the first note, with an attentive excitement in the air that isn't always there. 

Instead of letting Kubian's score lay silent as he awaits other performers to take it up, the NJSO should encore "3-2-1" soon. The organization should also make the radio recording available for downloading from the orchestra's website, as Carnegie Hall is doing with its series of commissioned works.





NJ Composer in NJSO Spotlight

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Darryl Kubian is a rarity. The New Jersey native, who lives in Pompton Lakes, is both composer and working musician. His work as a composer will be highlighted in March, when the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra premieres O for a Muse of Fire, Kubian’s concert overture based on Shakespeare’s Henry V.


This is the second of Kubian’s compositions to be premiered by the NJSO. The concert will also feature Tchaikovsky’s swan song, Symphony No. 6Pathétique and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  O for a Muse of Fire is the last installment in this season’s New Jersey Roots Project, a program, now in its fifth season, that spotlights talented musical voices from New Jersey’s past and present. 

Larger than life questions and ideas attract Kubian to composition. His first piece for the NJSO, 3-2-1, which the orchestra debuted in the 2007-2008 season, is a vision of the universe expanding and contracting as discussed in an article in Scientific American. Both works tackle large questions, whether it is our place in the universe or the extent of a king’s power. The new work dramatizes the Battle of Agincourt, which cemented Henry V as the king of England and France. A king’s ability to send people to their death lies at the center of the work and according to Kubian, what relates the piece to the concert as a whole, “it’s a relationship about death [King] Henry has to make the decision to send people to die.”

In addition to his work as a composer, Kubian plays violin and the theremin in NJSO . This dual role was common in centuries past, but today it is rarely seen. He has also written for television, reworking the main theme of National Geographic’s Really Wild Animals series, and working for the Bronx Zoo, scoring advertisements in all five boroughs. This work has given him recognition; still his roots in New Jersey and with NJSO will always be a part of his work. “I saw NJSO as a young adult and it feels like coming full circle.” 


New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Shows World Premiere of Darryl Kubian's 'O for a Muse of Fire' and Works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky Feat. Pianist Serhiy Salov

Feb 16, 2015 03:13 PM EST | Jaime Prisco (

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The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will give the world premiere of Darryl Kubian’s commissioned work O for a Muse of Fire as part of its New Jersey Roots Project. The program will also include masterworks by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky featuring pianist Serhiy Salov. Jacques Lacombe will conduct the performances.

Kubian is an accomplished composer and the NJSO’s first violinist. O for a Muse of Fire is inspired by Shakespeare’s Henry V and echoes the NJSO’s Winter Festival, which celebrates the Bard through music. The work will feature vocalist Mary Fahl. The premiere will culminate with the orchestra’s five-year New Jersey Roots Project, which showcased works by composers whose time in New Jersey significantly influenced their artistic identity.

“The New Jersey Roots Project truly comes full circle with this commission from Darryl Kubian,” music director Lacombe said in a press release. “For patrons to play a part in bringing this new work to life makes this world premiere an even greater celebration of the vibrant artistic culture of our state.”

Salov will also be included in the night's festivities as he returned to the NJSO stage for Rachmaninoff’s "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." The program will close with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, “Pathétique.”

To complement the Russian classics being performed, NJSO Accents will include a Russian poetry reading following some of the performances. Victoria Juharyan will read poems from the Gold and Silver ages of Russian poetry in Russian and English.