The Montgomery, Alabama-based ClefWorks, Inc. received approximately 115 submissions from composers throughout the world for its 2008 Compositional Competition. When the judging was complete, Dr. Scott Robbins of Converse College was named the first prize winner for his work “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1999/2008).”
Among the countries represented by the submissions were China, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Greece, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Uruguay, Mexico and Argentina. The Penderecki String Quartet, formed in Poland in 1986 and one of the most celebrated chamber ensembles of their generation who have performed throughout the world, served as judges for the competition.
ClefWorks, a nonprofit organization, offers an annual series of chamber music performances in Montgomery by classically trained musicians from all over the world.
For the 44-year-old Robbins, Associate Dean of Converse’s Petrie School of Music and Associate Professor of Musicology and Composition, the ClefWorks prize is the latest in an impressive string of over 50 compositional awards, including multiple awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and commissions from the South Carolina Music Teachers Association, the Second International Sergei Prokofiev Composition Competition, Yale University’s Norfolk National Composition Prize, National Association of Composer’s Young Composers Award, ASCAP Foundation Grant to Young Composers, American Music Center Composer Assistance Award and the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship. In 2005 he became the first faculty member from the Petrie School of Music to receive Converse College’s O’Herron Faculty Excellence Award.
Robbins’ works have been performed commercially and recorded by the Czech Radio Symphony, Warsaw National Philharmonic, Moyzes Quartet, Ensemble Radieuse, the Gregg Smith Singers and the Dale Warland Singers. “The Clearing,” a film for which Robbins composed the soundtrack, received the CINE-Eagle award and has been broadcast on Bravo and HBO.
According to Robbins, a native of Boone, North Carolina, “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano” was the first song he wrote when he and his family moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1999. “I originally wrote the piece as sort of a christen of the house we moved into. The street number is 789, and everything in the piece is based upon those numbers. For example, there are numerous places where there are seven notes, followed by eight then nine,” he said. “I also wrote the piece for The Converse Trio (a group comprised of Petrie School professors Sarah Johnson, violin, Kenneth Law, cello, and Douglas Weeks, piano).”
By his own admission, “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano” holds a special place in Robbins’ heart. “It is one of those pieces that I really like because I do not let it go. If something doesn’t sound quite right with most pieces that I compose, I will leave them alone and move onto something else. But I keep adding to ‘Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano.'”
The Penderecki Spring Quartet Composition Competition judges commented on “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano” by saying that it “demonstrates a compelling harmonic language and engaging musical narrative with striking and expressive use of the string instruments.”
Robbins will be flown to Montgomery in January as special guest of ClefWorks for a special performance of “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano.”