The Day Florestan Murdered Magister Raro was the winner of the 1999 Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Composition Competition and received its West Coast premier by that ensemble in 2000. Florestan and Magister Raro are characters found in Schumann’s piano character pieces. Florestan is the wild, free tune that perhaps needs to be put in its place. Magister Raro, actually Schumann himself, is the wise, controlling voice that made sense of the proceedings. It does seem at times in this work as though the tunes have overtaken the good sense of the composer. The quick cuts and tiny quotes (mainly Schumann and Messiaen – the quartet’s namesake) reflect the quick-cutting, hyperactive attention spans of television, especially cartoons.
Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.
His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.
He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.