Claude Baker
Class of 1956 Chancellor's Professor
Department of Composition
Indiana University
Jacobs School of Music
1201 E. Third Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405



WASHINGTON POST, Joseph McLellan (Kennedy Center/Friedheim Awards)
“Baker’s work, based on the novel of the same name by Hermann Hesse, is an ambitious philosophical statement about the arts in our time…It is a tour de force and an intense effort to communicate…While it played, the [Curtis] orchestra was totally objective in its treatment of the music, but during the announcement of prizes, it showed obvious partisanship.  The loudest, most prolonged and evidently unanimous applause – a sort of standing ovation by the orchestra – went to Claude Baker when he came on stage…”

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Daniel Webster (Kennedy Center/Friedheim Awards)
“The Curtis Orchestra applauded Claude Baker for his THE GLASS BEAD GAME, a monumental work written as a bitter comment on the backward-looking state of music.  His title refers to Hermann Hesse’s novel, and his work layered examples of music from the 17th century onward, making his piece a compendium of styles that were explorative in their time but are now embalmed.  Serialism, expressionism, impressionism – everything is there, including a grand climax on Bach’s name:  B-flat, A, C and B-natural.  That was Baker’s warning to all composers everywhere; but even in parodying style, he produced potent music.  Those players in the Curtis Orchestra heard Baker correctly.”


“It is not surprising that this work has been championed by Leonard Slatkin, among others.  Baker takes full advantage of a rich, innovative palette of sounds and colors, bringing them together in a fascinating, compelling whole.”


“Claude Baker’s THE GLASS BEAD GAME…contained many unusual ideas and had the most immediate appeal of all the works [on the program]…Striking contrasts and polarities, delicate and orgiastic gestures, and artful fusions of old and new materials emerged…Baker’s music displayed craft and sonic manipulation of high order.”


“The most intriguing piece of the evening was the world premiere of Claude Baker’s THE GLASS BEAD GAME…Baker blends past and present with a stylistic assurance that is constantly fascinating.  The piece moves with a confident stride…In a work of enormous wit and intellectual stamina, he seems to be seeking a way to make the present open a door on the future…There is no doubt that it’s an attractive new work, perhaps even an important one, and the audience received it warmly.”


“Baker’s piece is a triumph…It’s all great fun, finely crafted and deserves repeated performances.”

“Clearly, Baker has concocted a remarkable musical parallel of Hesse’s novel, a composition that forces the listener to reflect on the musical and artistic life of our time…For this reviewer, the most interesting part of Baker’s composition is not its quotations from the past…but Baker’s own music – inventive in both concept and sonority.”

“As social commentary, the composition…remains chillingly effective.  Especially when heard in the context of a typical symphony concert, THE GLASS BEAD GAME is food for thought.”

FANFARE, Ronald E. Grames (Naxos, "The Orchestral Music of Claude Baker")                                                                                                                               THE GLASS BEAD GAME -- inspired, as is almost all of his music, by a literary work and quoting from the compositions of others as annotation -- is quintessential Claude Baker and therefore a perfect work to open the program. Baker uses Hesse and the music to shine a light on 20th-century musical obsessions, using a brilliantly executed, numerologically complex serial canon; a dream-like, period-correct performance of a Johann Schein courtly dance commented upon by modern atonality; and an amazing collage of six works...given unity by their incorporation of the famous B-A-C-H motive. The six pieces are assimilated Castalian-style into a final movement which is both amazing in its virtuosity and sobering in its ultimate emptiness.... The execution of this bold, dramatic, and exceedingly challenging music is flawless, the moments of quiet and delicacy are sublimely poised, and even more to the advantage of the music, all is presented with absolute conviction.



DER TAGESSPIEGEL (Berlin), Hellmut Kotschenreuther
“…[with SHADOWS], the American Claude Baker was able to prove himself one of the more original composers of his generation…The enthusiastic applause seemed to show that most of the audience knew how to appreciate what Baker was trying to convey in his SHADOWS.”

“The piece is both extreme and subtle.  DIRGE-NOCTURNES conjures the ghostly side of the night and was grippingly presented with great awareness.  In SHADOWS, Baker makes maximum use of the orchestra’s sound:  sensual with exquisite timbral combinations, interpreted with clear structures, yet never allowing them to dominate.  The woodwinds were beautifully phrased, the strings were marvelous, the brass determined but measured.”

“[SHADOWS] is both frighteningly loud and lyrically melodic, eventful, worth hearing and accepted by the audience as Baker himself, acknowledging the ovations, could ascertain.  Both the orchestra [Saint Louis Symphony] and the conductor, Leonard Slatkin, provided a very sensitive, finely shaded interpretation.”

“Grim, expressive abysses, full of timbre, open up into chords that are rammed into the ground, with strings ringing and brass snorting.  An impressive sound-show of music, elicited from outside rather than within, softened on one hand by a sweet melody and, on the other, by a beautiful pianist.  The applause was warm for the composer…”

“Like the haiku poetry that serves as its inspiration, the score is concentrated and sparse; the gestures are presented not simultaneously but in succession, and every one of them seems packed with meaning.  It is a piece whose lovely sonorities are in perfect harmony with its serious content…”

“Slatkin honored Baker…by including SHADOWS: FOUR DIRGE-NOCTURNES FOR ORCHESTRA in his programming [with the New York Philharmonic].  The music proved worthy of the honor…Baker successfully combines Asian and European styles.  The large orchestra (with a huge percussion section) is used primarily to create sonic effects:  sudden claps fading into a resonant glow, hints of driving energy lasting just a bit longer than expected before dying away, the clack of wind chimes, both bamboo and glass.  Timbre and sonority are used as structural devices, brightness blossoming out or fading dully…SHADOWS is a piece I’d be interested in hearing again.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Edward Rothstein
“The seventeen-minute work is imaginative in its use of color…and is appropriately evocative, using sharp outbursts and shivers of sound to suggest desolation, isolation and mourning.  Here and there, echoes of the musical past have a poignant tinge, seeming pulled like taffy from memory.”

“Also welcome was a 1990 work, American composer Claude Baker’s SHADOWS…Inspired by Japanese haiku and music by Mahler, Britten and Stravinsky, Baker has written an appealing collection that conveys thoughts of death in subtle, vivid instrumental detail.  The use of percussion is kaleidoscopic.  Baker’s ability to convey mood is striking.  The Pittsburghers gave the work a transparent, sonorous reading.”

DE VOLKSKRANT (Amsterdam), Hans Heg
“…Baker, in his FOUR DIRGE-NOCTURNES FOR ORCHESTRA, comments non-verbally on four Japanese haiku texts, creating a rich arsenal of moods.  In his light and shadowy nocturnes, he takes you along secretive paths and confronts you continuously with haunting and macabre images.”

“There was a new work, Claude Baker’s SHADOWS…It was distinctive, well done and well-received…As Baker has a gifted ear and touch, and as only one thing at a time occurs in his music, and with lots of space between for each gesture to work its effect, SHADOWS spoke with an immediacy that was clearly appreciated…SHADOWS has a strong curve, an expressive shape that was finely caught by Slatkin.”

“It is music that casts a spell and spins a mood.  It also makes use of an orchestra’s full heft and resources…”

“The two American works were clear winners…In the often delicate, ephemeral orchestration, Baker almost miraculously translated the oblique essence of haiku into sound…The piece was constantly intriguing in a fine performance.”

“…the music painted a landscape of profound grief and loss.  The first movement opened with heavy, thrusting chords, arid exclamations of pain.  Eventually the mood softened, and a tenderly mournful quote from Mahler’s ‘Song of the Earth’ floated by in fragments, like a distant memory.  The second movement erupted with a powerful, metallic hiss.  Individual instruments called to each other across seemingly vast distances in long, lonely cries.  The third movement was full of crystalline clamor, with driving rhythms pushing repeatedly to grand climaxes.  A sweet, restless solo violin tune carried over into the final movement, which was full of luminous, soaring solos ending in serene harmony.”

“SHADOWS has its basis in the poems’ quiet, eerie, sometimes wild nocturnal imagery:  a low moan of the wind through a moonlit graveyard; a deathly silence punctured by the dry rattle of gourds; a violent eruption of pounding drums and driving brass.  But this music is much more than a mere succession of clever programmatic effects.  What turns spare ancient words into accessible modern sounds are Baker’s allusive ingenuity, keen sense of orchestral color and often delicate use of a large battery of exotic percussion.  The truest compliment one can pay SHADOWS is that it engages the ear but doesn’t talk down to the mind.”

FANFARE MAGAZINE, James H. North (SLSO, 6-CD Set, “The Slatkin Years”)
“Claude Baker’s SHADOWS: FOUR DIRGE-NOCTURNES FOR ORCHESTRA combines a dark and mysterious ambience with percussion-laden fortissimo outbursts, yet it avoids the implied clichés and emerges as a fascinating work in a spectacular recording.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Lawrence R. Johnson (SLSO, 6-CD Set, “The Slatkin Years”)
“The sheer textural elegance of the St. Louis Symphony at its best is showcased in Claude Baker’s SHADOWS: FOUR DIRGE-NOCTURNES FOR ORCHESTRA…Mr. Baker’s [work] exploits the emotional explosiveness of darkness, whether of the world or of the soul…Mr. Slatkin’s orchestra summons the potency of the Baker with equal parts of conviction and finesse.”

AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (SLSO, 6-CD Set, “The Slatkin Years”)
“The work is fascinating for its unusual percussion sonorities and the richness of its dramatic content.  SHADOWS is an attractive, meaty, challenging, and rewarding work.  The performance is inspired; Slatkin and his orchestra clearly revel in the mysteries of contemporary American music.”



GRAMOPHONE, Donald Rosenberg                                                                         (Naxos, "The Orchestral Music of Claude Baker")                                                           Whether he is making subtle references to music of distant eras or applying his own contemporary stamp, Claude Baker has a way of drawing the listener into sonic worlds both intriguing and eloquent. The works on this disc reveal the American composer's command of dramatic tension, metaphoric imagery and orchestral colour. The performances by the St. Louis Symphony...under former music directors Leonard Slatkin and Hans Vonk, brilliantly convey the spectrum of beguilling sonorities and styles built into these significant scores.



"...'From Noon to Starry Night' emerges as music skillfully designed and intriguingly orchestrated with all sorts of striking resonances, music stylistically varied from fully contemporary to effusively Romantic, music stimulating enough to draw and sustain a listener's attention....Ovations from the audience [Indianapolis Symphony] were enthusiastic and deservedly so....May we have another opportunity to hear Baker's work; it deserves a repeat."

THE WHOLE NOTE, Alex Baran (Naxos, “Piano Concerto: From Noon to Starry Night / Aus Schwanengesang”)                                                                                         The five-movement concerto is complex and presents considerable technical and interpretive challenges for the pianist. [Marc-André] Hamelin’s performance integrates beautifully into this demanding ensemble requirement. He is particularly potent where he dominates the orchestra in pianissimo passages. For all its beauty, the work is one of very high tension. Baker is a brilliant composer and has the perfect pianist to premiere this remarkable work.  

FANFARE, David DeBoor Canfield (Naxos, “Piano Concerto: From Noon to Starry Night / Aus Schwanengesang")                                                                                          These two works provide some of the most original and profoundly moving music that I've heard in a long time and prove Claude Baker to be one of the most important composers currently active in America.  This CD is, as far as I'm concerned, an essential purchase by anyone who has the slightest interest in the music of our time.  It's practically a shoo-in for my next "Want List."             

THE TENNESSEAN (Nashville), Jonathan A. Neufeld

(Aus Schwanengesang for Orchestra)

"The night [Nashville Symphony] opened with AUS SCHWANENGESANG...[a work of] charm and power...written by Claude Baker in 2002. The American...'recomposed' six Schubert songs in a distinctly contemporary idiom. He ingeniously layers, knits and transforms Schubert's melodies, or fragments of melodies, into a darker, eerier -- and occasionally humorous -- tonal and timbral palette. The variety of tone impressive."

FANFARE, Colin Clarke (Hor che’l ciel e la terra for 24-Voice Chorus and Percussion; Innova, "Notus: Of Radiance and Refraction")                                             Baker's splendid piece (an "expansion" [of Monteverdi's composition] rather than any sort of modern "realization") seems to take in the uncompromising status of much Italian contemporary music.  Eastman trained, Baker's writing is stunningly effective, his responses both to the text meaning but also to the very sound of the language, an absolute miracle.                                   

FANFARE, Mike Silverton   
(Omaggi e Fantasie for Double Bass and Piano; Gasparo, “Songs and Night Scenes”)
“Like your [CD] reviews concise?  This one’s a beauty – buy it…OMAGGI E FANTASIE honors Crumb specifically, and Messiaen, Bartók, and Mahler too, with deftly handled quotes.  Gorgeous stuff!…A quotation from ‘Der Abschied,’ the final movement of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, quite breaks the listener’s heart.”

(Omaggi e Fantasie for Double Bass and Piano)
“OMAGGI E FANTASIE sustained interest on more levels than anything else heard last night.  The music, intended partly as an ‘homage’ to composers who influenced Baker, is a fastidious balance of intellectual and emotional elements, episodic in structure and consistently demanding of the players’ technique…Last night’s performers appeared to revel in their tasks.  And the music they produced beguiled, shifting from spiky, atonal passages to comforting nostalgic lyricism.”

(Omaggi e Fantasie for Tuba and Piano; ACA, “Contrasts in Contemporary Music”)
“Of special interest [on this CD] is the unusual and attractive piece by Claude Baker…This is seventeen minutes of avant-garde techniques (including inside-the-piano percussion), beautiful sounds, and a sort of cosmic timelessness.  I hope it will become an important part of the repertory.”

(Awaking the Winds, orchestral version)
“The sonorities are rich in color, the structure is episodic; the dynamic flow stems from bold contrasts of texture and volume level; the foreground material consists not so much of melody but of figuration.  AWAKING THE WINDS is easy to absorb and pleasantly dark in mood…It teems with evocative imagery.”

(Awaking the Winds, orchestral version)
“…the pacing is quiescent, and there is a justified fixation on the sound of each sonic event, rather than its import in a dramatic context.  Eventually, this succession of carefully detailed and paced sonic events seems restive, creating a need for structural counterpoint and contrast.  And when the wind is finally awakened (it is difficult to avoid the textual allusion of Baker’s title), the music both satisfies and imparts new focus to the previous slow pacing.”

(Awaking the Winds, chamber version)
“Baker shows a fascination for coloristic gestures, especially harmonics that establish eerie textures or slide into nothingness.  All sorts of instrumental techniques are explored on this traversal, which includes tumultuous free patterns and intersecting lines of intriguing personality.  [The Cleveland Chamber Symphony] played the score with great transparency, allowing Baker’s ideas to come forward or take their place within the evolving framework.”

(Awaking the Winds, chamber version; IUSM, “New Music from Indiana University, Vol. I”)
“Claude Baker’s AWAKING THE WINDS is an intense, exciting piece reminiscent in many ways of Lutoslawski at his best.”

BLOOMINGTON (INDIANA) HERALD-TIMES, Peter Jacobi                      (Märchenbilder for Orchestra)                                                                                            "Baker has shaped an interesting and sagaciously orchestrated composition, one that speaks subtly versus clamorously, in controlled manner rather than extravagantly. It is contemplative instead of action-filled; the music moves along judiciously. Whatever fairy tales Baker had in mind are of a subdued nature, a touch surreal, a touch mysterious. The music prompts thinking, not emotional release. (Arthur) Fagen and the [Indiana University Concert Orchestra] gave MÄRCHENBILDER a properly refined and cleanly articulated reading."

(Whispers and Echoes for Orchestra)
“The centerpiece of the concert was Claude Baker’s WHISPERS AND ECHOES, in its West Coast premiere.  Composed for Leonard Slatkin and the [Saint Louis Symphony] orchestra, the moody twenty-minute work falls into four movements, each inspired by pithy poems by Japanese master poets and each incorporating Western musical allusions and quotations.  Each finely crafted movement, in turn, evoked suggestive moods and imagery, ranging from dramatic seriousness, poignancy and dignity to nostalgic stasis and pain…”

(Whispers and Echoes for Orchestra)
“From the evidence of this piece, Baker is a master orchestrator, has exquisite taste in poetry, and is adept at setting delicate and evocative moods.”

 THE TOLEDO BLADE, Sally Vallongo
(Whispers and Echoes for Orchestra)
“But for true complexity, nothing topped Claude Baker’s four-part adventure into musical poesy, [WHISPERS AND ECHOES]…Inspired by Japanese verse forms, Baker’s extended essay displayed an impressive vocabulary of sounds.  Juxtapositions of timpani tattoos and slashing chords opened the first movement…with never a dull moment.  A quick shift led to delicate tracery and wind-like string sounds, seemingly to illustrate the imagery of Basho, the great 17th-century haiku master.  Yet another movement suggested the fractured nature of light as stacks of chords, sounded in split-second intervals, echoed over a gently rolling line of trills.  The final section connected surprisingly with Mahler through deep organ-like chords and traces of familiar melody.”

YA (Madrid), Fernando Ruiz Coca
(Four Songs on Poems by Kenneth Patchen for Soprano and Orchestra)
“This new piece had its world premiere during the Festival de Granada and was now being performed for the first time in Madrid, with Ana Higueras as soloist…The favorable impression it made in Granada was here again confirmed:  we are faced with a work of great instrumental refinement, with a very individualistic orchestration, [a work] which creates a richly sonorous atmosphere for each of the four poems.”

EL PAIS (Madrid), Enrique Franco
(Four Songs on Poems by Kenneth Patchen for Soprano and Orchestra)
“Conceived, fundamentally, with the voice in mind and conveying faithfully the expression of the lyrical texts, the SONGS…reveal a refined musical and acoustic sensitivity, and comparatively original thinking at those points where the soloist and orchestra combine.  The instrumental forces sound with delicacy and moderation, adhering, for the structure of each song, to the content and form of Patchen’s verses.”

INFORMACIONES (Madrid), Antonio Iglesias
(Four Songs on Poems by Kenneth Patchen for Soprano and Orchestra)
“We are presented with a composition that strives to realize thoroughly the scope of Kenneth Patchen’s texts.  This is being done over a highly fluent, agile and original orchestral foundation, within the same mode of expression that breathes in the poems themselves…At the end of the first performance in Madrid, the composer, who was present in a loge at the Teatro Real, repeatedly shared the applause given to his composition…”

(Tableaux Funébres for Piano Quintet)
“One short listen wasn’t enough to penetrate all the glories that may lie within Claude Baker’s TABLEAUX FUNÉBRES for piano and string quartet…It is an inspired pastiche and adaptation of musical and extramusical seeds…While the music has undeniably haunting, bleak textures, what really grabs the ear of an experienced listener is the use of musical quotation.  The “tableaux” are of series of well-integrated, surreal frames, in which Baker sets some of the most heart-wrenching moments in music…In each, Baker’s setting is exquisitely done…Like any fanatical quoter, Baker runs the risk of stirring his audience to go listen to the real thing.  But in this quintet, at least, the settings were just as important as the gems, and the piece sounded like a jewel transcending the mixed idioms of its inspirations.”

(Tableaux Funébres for Piano Quintet)
“For some composers, musical tradition is a liberating force.  For others, it’s a barrier against independent development.  Claude Baker subscribes to the first premise.  He has never denied his place in a continuum that, whether overtly or subconsciously, helps shape the music he creates.  Instead, he makes context an integral facet of his works.  Such is the principle behind Baker’s TABLEAUX FUNÉBRES…It quotes from works by Mahler, Stravinsky, Schubert and Richard Strauss, without wallowing in nostalgia.  Instead, the allusions distill and focus Baker’s own voice…Baker has done an excellent job of self-editing.  Like the haiku [on which the work is based], the music makes an advantage of restraint.  Specific phrases evoke specific responses, with virtuoso use of silence and decay of sound…TABLEAUX FUNÉBRES is a significant accomplishment.”

(Divertissement for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano)
“In DIVERTISSEMENT, [Baker] introduces delightful approximations of classical and romantic styles with droll excesses of melodic invention and ornamentation.  Mixed in are interruptions of just as excessive contemporary material.  The gentle satire is obvious…The whole business is great fun.  It’s tongue-in-cheek.  It’s droll.  It’s a frolic.  And the four instrumentalists played it for all it’s worth.  How often does one hear laughter in a concert hall?  There was.  A 'divertissement' indeed.  Delightful!”