Dr. Milton Schlosser, music professor at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, has just released his 5th album. Entitled 1890, the CD is a cross-cultural exploration that touches upon major events that happened in that year.
The CD includes the world premiere recording of Crowfoot, a work written for Schlosser in 2010 by University of Alberta graduate and Métis artist Nicholas Howells. A twelve-minute work, it contains, among other aboriginal aspects, words attributed to Chief Crowfoot around the time of his death in 1890: “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
As well, the CD highlights significant pieces written by Johannes Brahms, a German-speaking composer active at the time of Crowfoot’s death. In 1890, at the height of his popularity as a composer and concert pianist, an exhausted Brahms declared that he would compose no more, stating “it is high time to stop.” However, he then proceeded to write some of his most beautiful piano works, including the collections Opus 117 and Opus 118. For over a century, music listeners have admired these two collections for their skillful construction, arresting intimacy, and passion.
The University of Alberta’s President’s Fund for the Creative and Performing Arts funded the recording. With few aboriginal composers active in the Western European tradition, the CD is significant for showcasing Howells’ unique artistic voice. To date, Howells’ Crowfoot has been performed by Schlosser in Canada, the US, and Japan. On June 6th, it will be given its European premiere by Schlosser at the Canadian embassy in Berlin.
Schlosser is an established artist who purposefully brings together both traditional and contemporary elements. Although destined for a global audience, the CD is grounded in “the local”; Schlosser has lived for almost thirty years in Camrose, a city located in the federal riding named Crowfoot. The CD includes the contributions of two former piano students who studied with Schlosser at the university’s Camrose campus—Howells and liner note author Elizabeth Clarke.
The CD is available at Camrose’s Candler Art Gallery as well as at University of Alberta bookstores. It will be released later this year on iTunes.