Student Commissioning Project 2015

George Katehis (composer) and Alexander Meszler (organist) were selected in 2014 as one of the first two composer/organist pairs. Mr. Meszler premiered Mr. Katehis’ piece Diátritos on June 12th, 2015, at Bales Organ Recital Hall in Lawrence, KS. Listen to the first two movements of Diátritos:


Alex MeszlerAlexander Meszler was a graduate student in organ performance and music theory at the University of Kansas where he studied with Michael Bauer and James Higdon.

Alex: My interests are usually 20th Century music and Baroque (early) music, however, I am always playing something new and different. I would love to carve out a larger area in the organ world for new music. Playing Diátritos was challenging because there is a complex rhythmic structure that keeps the player busy. George had not composed for the organ before, but he’s looking for new sounds wherever he is, and his aesthetic transcends the instrument. I guess knowing George made the piece both harder and easier—he was the one to really push me due to the personal connection. All in all, I think this project is great, and I would definitely recommend it! It is not at all about the prize money, it’s about having a goal to achieve. I must say, however, that it has been a challenge to work with George from such a distance (NY to KS).

George KatehisGeorge Katehis received his B.A. in composition from the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University and his M.M. from the Manhattan School of Music.

George: Diátritos is a strange piece for me in that its conception began well before I started using my current compositional system, which is essentially extended twelve tone writing. I had begun thinking about writing a work not just for organ but specifically for Alex in 2012, and I actually began sketching some music in the spring of 2013. In a nutshell, the original plan was to write a work similar to Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal for guitar which would function formally as a reverse theme and variations. This was particularly appealing because I have a huge interest in early music, and my “source” material was already decided upon (G. Gabrieli’s madrigal). As the project developed, however, I became less interested in the formal element of the piece as the foreground idea and more drawn to the incredibly interesting acoustic world of the organ. It was most tricky making the piece work when there were these massively consonant sections (movements II, IV) that were conceived early on, being juxtaposed with more saturated sounds.

I compose exclusively for others and most often prefer working with performers that I have a close relationship with. The challenge is not only having the availability of a lot of time with the players but our listening honestly to each others’ feedback. In that sense, there’s an extraordinarily high level of necessary collaboration. I would definitely recommend the student commissioning project to friends. For non-organists, this is a great opportunity to interact with an instrument that we don’t really talk about in academia.