— Kyle Gann, The Village Voice, New York
Virko Baley is a Jacyk Fellow at Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, and Distinguished Professor of Music, Composer-in-Residence and co-director of NEON, an annual composers’ conference, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He received a 2007 Grammy® Award as recording co-producer for TNC Recordings and the prestigious Academy Award in Music 2008 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The citation read:
"A highly cultured, polyglot intellectual, brilliant pianist and a dynamic and accomplished conductor, the Ukrainian-born Virko Baley composes music which is dramatically expansive of gesture, elegant and refined of detail and profoundly lyrical. It is music which ‘sings’ with passionate urgency whether it embraces (as in his more recent work) folkloric elements from his origins or finds expression in a more universal style of modernism typical of his earlier music. It is always a singular voice and a deeply felt and acutely heard music."
In the spring of 2013, his magnum opus, the opera Holodomor (Red Earth. Hunger) (begun in 1985) received two performances in a special chamber concert version in Las Vegas and New York, and was repeated in Kyiv, Ukraine at the Shevchenko Opera in November of that same year, this time with an orchestra. Plans are now being made to have a fully staged production done in the 2017-18 season.
Virko Baley was born in Ukraine in 1938, but has spent his creative life in the United States and considers himself a citizen of the world. Multi-lingual and multi-disciplinary, he infuses his music with themes of contemporary and traditional motifs. Shirley Fleming, reviewing a concert of his music given by CONTINUUM, in the New York Post called his music "vibrant, dramatic, communicative, much of it framed by extra-musical allusions that place it in a solid context." The New York premiere of Concerto No. 1, quasi una fantasia for violin by the New Juilliard Ensemble, Joel Sachs conductor, Tom Teh Chiu, soloist, prompted the Village Voice critic Kyle Gann to describe it as full of "sonic images memorable enough to take home.” His Symphony No. 1: "Sacred Monuments" was described by David Hurwitz in Classics as, "Powerfully imagined, clearly articulated, and quite moving… It's a very serious ambitious statement by a gifted artist, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it turns out to have more staying power than many other contemporary works by today's trendier composers." In 2010, reviewing a recent CD released of Virko Baley’s music, Robert Schulslaper wrote that “Baley’s music [is] deeply lyrical and emotively powerful in equal measure. Recommended,” while American Record Guide pronounced, “These are exceptional compositions and fantastic performances. The language in these pieces is a part of a larger context of exploration for new sounds in the world of instrumental music.” In reviewing Baley’s monumental chamber cycle Treny in Gramophone, Ken Smith wrote “The strength of the piece lies in its highly - and unapologetically – emotional content, dispensed artfully with the utmost thematic discretion…Hearing nearly 73 minutes of brooding Slavic ruminations on death may not inspire much toe-tapping, but Baley does arrive at an effective catharsis. The vocal line, whose wordless hum soon blooms into a text reconciling itself to human morality, descends on the earthiness of the cello like a message from above…”
Virko Baley joined UNLV’s Department of Music (as it was known then) in 1970 and during his tenure, in addition to founding the composition area, established an Annual Contemporary Music Festival (1971-1985), was honored with the first NEA music grant given to Southern Nevada, created the Las Vegas Chamber Players (1975-1995), was Music Director and Conductor of the Nevada Symphony (1980-1995), the Music director of NEXTET (2001-2016), and co-founded with Jorge Grossmann of N.E.O.N. (2007-2009, 2016), the annual composers’ conference, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
This new website will make available all of Virko Baley’s scores, discography, audio and video files as well as program notes, reviews, articles and even a bi-monthly blog.