William Bolcom composed two third of the pieces in the program presented by the New Century Chamber Orchestra, in a run which opens tomorrow in Berkeley (and repeats Friday in Palo Alto, Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in San Rafael). He is also penning a world premiere for another NCCO concert series next May.

Bolcom won multiple Grammies, a Pulitzer, the National Medal of Arts and teaches composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where we reached him at his home. We chatted about his partnership with NCCO fiery Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, about his upcoming world premiere with her next spring, about the "Bolcom Meets Strauss" program this week and about the French composers he studied with, Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen. And while Bolcom is as American as apple pie, born in Seattle, earning a doctorate from Stanford, he floored us by conducting half of this interview, with the same charming volubility, in an impeccable French acquired during his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris.