Christopher Rouse is one of America's most prominent composers of orchestral music. Born in Baltimore in 1949, he developed an early interest in both classical and popular music. He graduated from Oberlin Conservatory and Cornell University, numbering among his principal teachers George Crumb and Karel Husa. His music has been commissioned or performed by nearly every major orchestra in the United States, and by many of the great orchestras abroad. Much in demand as a teacher at the Juilliard School and the Aspen Festival and School, he has also taught at the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. Much of Rouse's recent effort has gone into a string of works for soloist with orchestra, including the Pulitzer-winning Trombone Concerto (1991, for Joseph Alessi), and the Grammy-winning Concert de Gaudí, a guitar concerto (1999, for Sharon Isbin).
Compline, however, is scored for flute, clarinet, harp, and string quartet. Rouse tells us that the title refers to the seventh (and final) canonical hour in the Catholic Church. "However, what religiosity Compline may contain is more observational than participatory, reminiscent perhaps of various scores by Respighi in which religious elements are included. For me, Compline is first and foremost a souvenir of my 1989 trip to Rome, a city I fell in love with instantly and that is, of course, dominated by the twin cultures of the ancient Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. In Compline, as in Rome itself, the sound of bells is never far away." The work was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and first performed in 1996.
-- Steven Stucky is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Consulting Composer for New Music.