Jay Reise

Professor of Music


Jay Reise is the composer of the opera Rasputin which was commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988. It was described in The Washington Times as "a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation." Rasputin was given its highly successful Russian premiere in Moscow by the Helikon Opera in September 2008. It has been performed every season since to sold-out houses and is now in the ongoing Helikon repertory. Rasputin received its Paris premiere in 2010 and is scheduled for the Saaremaa Festival, Estonia in 2012.

Reise's Oscar Wilde-based ballet fairy-tale The Selfish Giant was commissioned and premiered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London in 1997. The River Within (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra) was premiered and recorded by Maria Bachmann and Orchestra 2001 (Innova Records); the recording has received rave reviews from the leading periodicals in the industry. Other important works include the Concerto for Horn and 7 Instruments, commissioned and premiered by Adam Unsworth and the Network for New Music; the piano quintet Powers That Be, commissioned by the Barlow Foundation and premiered by the Cassatt Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin. Some critical phrases describing Reise’s music have included "..magnetism was immediate in the heart-grabbing opening violin solo"; "Nature in its most songful state"; "... fluidity and mastery that creates an optimum showcase for his attractive thematic ideas"; and "The River Within is a most moving work".

Reise was born in 1950 in New York City and has lived in Philadelphia since he was appointed to the Penn music faculty in 1980. Previously he taught for four years at Hamilton College during which he composed his first two symphonies supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship. Symphony of Voices was premiered at the Monadnock Festival and his Second Symphony was premiered by the Syracuse Symphony, conducted by Christopher Keene, and performed subsequently by the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Third Symphony was supported by the Dietrich and Rockefeller Foundations and premiered by the Long Island Philharmonic. Other awards and fellowships have come from the Fromm Foundation, Bellagio, the Camargo Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and twice from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The music of Jay Reise music has been performed widely both in the United States and abroad including an all-Reise retrospective concert in Moscow in 2000. He has been a recipient of the US-Japan Creative Arts Fellowship and has served as president of Orchestra 2001 and as the Director of Contemporary Music at the Grand Teton Music Festival. Gary Graffman included Reise's elaborated left-hand transcription of Scriabin's Etude Op. 2 No. 1 in his international tour 2008-09.

Deeply influenced by Carnatic (South Indian) music and jazz (Jimmy Giuffre and George Russell), Reise works with an approach he calls "rhythmic polyphony" in which rhythmic motives are developed within the phrase such that the cadence point is implied by the rhythms alone. This technique has been a part of his music since 1990.

Among his recordings are the chamber concerto Chesapeake Rhythms and Concerto for Cello and 13 Instruments recorded on CRI by Orchestra 2001. The Devil in the Flesh and Other Pieces (Albany) features pianist Marc-André Hamelin and Rhythmic Garlands (Centaur) includes performances by Gregory Fulkerson and Jerome Lowenthal. Jay Reise: Chamber Music (Albany) was released in March 2008 through support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Bassoonist Charles Ullery and the Cassatt Quartet have also recorded his music.

Jay Reise's articles have appeared in Opera News, Nineteenth-Century Music, Perspectives of New Music and the volumes of essays Indeterminacy: The Mapped, the Navigable, and the Uncharted, and Reading World Literature. His music is published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.





Research Interests: 


New work for Network for New Music, voice and ensemble, Harbison project, pending, 2012-13.

New work for string quartet and percussion for the Lark Quartet and Yousif Sheronick, pending.



Selected Publications: 


Rasputin - opera in two acts (1988) (2 hrs.) Libretto by the composer. Revised 2008, Helikon Opera, Moscow 2008-11. Opéra de Massy, Paris 2010. Scheduled Saaremaa Festival, Estonia, July 2012. Commissioned by Beverly Sills and the New York City Opera 1988.

The River Within (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra) (26:00) Maria Bachmann, violin; Orchestra 2001, 2008 (Recorded Innova 745)

Six Pictures from The Devil in the Flesh for piano, (16:00) (2000) Marc-André Hamelin, piano (Recorded Albany TROY665)

The Selfish Giant  (Choreographic tone-poem in six scenes for orchestra) (26:00) Commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra (London) 1997, Djong Yu, conductor 

Symphony No. 3 (22:00) Long Island Philharmonic Orchestra 1983

Symphony No. 2 (25:00) Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, 1980; Philadelphia Orchestra 1984




The River Within: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Innova 745)

*Jay Reise Chamber Music (Albany TROY 1004) 2008 

*The Devil in the Flesh and Other Pieces (Albany TROY665) 2004 

*Rhythmic Garlands and Other Pieces  (Centaur CRC 2598) 2003 

Concerto for Cello and 13 Instruments  (CRI 899) 2002

Chesapeake Rhythms CRI 760 (CD) (1997)