The Music of John La Montaine and Paul J. Sifler
In 1975, John La Montaine and Paul J. Sifler founded Fredonia Press, for the purpose of publishing exclusively the works of the two composers. Beginning in 2017, this catalog is undergoing a major renovation, so keep an eye out here for updates and new engravings.
Pulitzer Prize winning composer, John La Montaine, was a native of Chicago, Illinois. From the age of five, he was drawn to devote his life to composition—well before he had any formal training. Along the way toward that goal, he eventually became a superb pianist, and served with the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini, who advised and encouraged the young composer.
The compositions of John La Montaine include a wide range of undertakings: symphonic, chamber ensemble, ballet, opera, choral and solo works. His influences are also wide-ranging: medieval, classical, romantic; modal, diatonic, dodecaphonic and serial; hymn, folk song, jazz and the sounds of nature. The highly varied scope of his creative palette has been awarded with admiration of critics and affection of a wide public.
Major orchestras that have performed La Montaine’s works include The National Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The New York Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras.
The premieres of La Montaine’s three Christmas operas took place in the Washington Cathedral. The second of the operas, “The Shephardes Playe, Op.38,” was televised nationally by ABC. The Joffrey Ballet created the ballet “Nightwings” from the score “Birds of Paradise, Op. 34.” The “String Quartet, Op. 16” was awarded the Rheta Sosland Prize for Chamber Music. The “Wilderness Journal,” Symphony for Bass-Baritone, Organ and Orchestra, Op. 41, was commissioned by Mrs. Jouett Shouse and opened the second season at the Kennedy Center, to celebrate the dedication of the Filene Organ. Sarah Caldwell, with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Pennsylvania State University Choirs presented the premiere of the Bicentennial opera, “Be Glad Then America, Op. 43.” A documentary on the creation of the opera was televised nationally by PBS.
One of La Montaine’s earliest works, the “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 9,” commissioned by the Ford Foundation, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. Two Guggenheim fellowships followed, and commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation, and the William Inglis Morse Trust for Music. Other honors include an award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, accompanied by a grant to record his Piano Concerto, an Eastman School Distinguished Alumni Award, and an appointment to serve in 1962 as Composer-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome. He also served for short periods of time at major educational institutions: Eastman School of Music, The University of Utah, North Texas State University, and Whittier College.
La Montaine’s composition teachers include Stella Roberts, Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers, Bernard Wagenaar, and Nadia Boulanger.
(Ann Labounsky with Paul J. Sifler, c. 1989)
Paul J. Sifler (long 'i', rhymes with 'eye') was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which was then part of Austria. At age eleven he immigrated to the United States and subsequently became a citizen. He initially lived in New York City, later moving to Hollywood, California. His large body of compositions reflect this multi-cultural background.
Sifler's organ and choral works in particular have brought him much international recognition. His tragic work for organ, "The Despair and agony of Dachau" has been performed in most of the capitals of Europe and across the United States, from Notre Dame to the Washington Cathedral. One of Sifler's orchestral works, "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" was scheduled for its premiere by the Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra the day after the bombing by the Serbs began. The orchestra postponed the premiere until the following month in Trieste, Italy.
Sifler's Music is rich harmonically, melodically, and is rhythmically vital. In all his works, the human element is uppermost. The gamut of his compositions includes such diverse works as "The Nine Suitors," a comic musical based on Slovenian folk tunes; the starkly serious "The Seven Last Words of Christ" for organ solo; and the "Mass for Voices and Marimba."
As an outstanding concert organist, Sifler has appeared extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He gave a year-long series of historical organ recitals in St. Paul's Chapel in New York City (George Washington's church). He has also appeared as a soloist, performing his own Piano Concerto many times. Former student, Ann Labounsky (pictured above), began her organ studies with Sifler and credits him with the reason she wanted to become a professional organist. She frequently performs his compositions as professor of organ studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Paul Sifler's broad background, American, European, in church, in temple and in the theatre is reflected in the broad scope and universality of his music.