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  January 19-26, 2004

Charles Wuorinen
at 65

Charles Wuorinen turned 65 last June 9, but the Cygnus Ensemble and the Composers Guild of New Jersey were still celebrating last week with a splendid program of his chamber music at Merkin Hall.  Guest performers included such luminaries as Fred Sherry and Ursala Oppens 

Wuorinen, a native New Yorker, has been composing since he was five and has been a forceful presence on the American musical scene for more than four decades. 

In 1970, he became the youngest composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in music, the specific work being Time's Encomium, an electronic composition written on commission from Nonesuch Records. The Pulitzer and the MacArthur Fellowship are just two among many awards, fellowships and other honors to have come his way.

Wuorinen has written more than 200 compositions to date. His newest works include Cyclops (2000) for Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta, Symphony Seven, vocal setting of poems by John Ashbery, Les Murray, Derek Walcott and W.H. Auden, as well as three works for the Brentano Quartet: Fourth String Quartet, Alap and Josquiniana. 

In 1975 Stravinsky's widow gave Wuorinen the composer's last sketches for use in A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky. Wuorinen was the first composer commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi (Movers and Shakers); and likewise the first to compose for Michael Tilson Thomas' New World Symphony (Bamboula Beach). Fractal geometry and the pioneering work of Benoit Mandelbrot have played a crucial role in several of his works including Bamboula Squared and the Natural Fantasy, a work for organ.

His works have been recorded on nearly a dozen labels including the Piano Quintet, The Mission of Virgil and Percussion Quartet (Koch), A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky (Deutsche Grammophon), Genesis for chorus and orchestra and Mass (Koch) a solo disc with pianist Alan Feinberg performing the Third Piano Sonata, Capriccio and Bagatelle (Grammy Award nomination)

Wuorinen's works are published exclusively by C.F. Peters Corporation. He is the author of Simple Composition, used by composition students throughout the world (recently translated into Chinese).

An eloquent writer and speaker, Wuorinen has lectured at universities throughout the United States and abroad, and has served on the faculties of Columbia, Princeton, and Yale Universities, the University of Iowa, University of California (San Diego), Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, State University of New York at Buffalo, and is presently Professor of Composition at Rutgers University. 

Wuorinen has also been active as performer, an excellent pianist and a distinguished conductor of his own works as well as other twentieth century repertoire. His orchestral appearances have included the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the American Composers Orchestra.

In 1962 he co-founded The Group for Contemporary Music, one of America's most prestigious ensembles dedicated to performance of new chamber music. In addition to cultivating a new generation of performers, commissioning and premiering hundreds of new works, the Group has been a model for many similar organizations which have appeared in the United States since its founding. 

Wuorinen is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

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Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jerry@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note. JB
BBC Broadcasts "Silent" Work The BBC has broadcast John Cage's 4'33" - his famous work that includes no instrumental notes. "Despite having no notes to play, the musicians tuned up and then turned pages of the score after each of the three "movements" specified by the composer. The silence was broken at times by coughing and rustling sounds from the audience, who marked the end of the performance with enthusiastic applause." BBC 01/18/04 
The Meaning Of Cage As a major festival of the music of John Cage begins, musical luminaries talk about Cage's influence on music. "I do believe the future, let's say 25 to 50 years from now, will place Cage as the most important composer of the 20th century. This is not sticking my neck out." The Guardian (UK) 01/16/04 
Springer Opera Picks Up Olivier Noms Jerry Springer the Opera has been nominated for eight Olivier Awards in London. The nominations include an unusual commendation: "The 20 actors in the line-up of the sell-out show at the Royal National Theatre were jointly shortlisted for 'best performance in a supporting role in a musical' in the final stage of the contest to be concluded on February 22." The Guardian (UK) 01/16/04 

Boston: What, No Tchaikovsky? James Levine is taking over the Boston Symphony next season. And he's taking the orchestra in a direction it hasn't been. "What is new in Levine's programming for the orchestra is an emphasis on the whole of the 20th century, not just the first third. Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Bartok appear, as they have for decades -- but so do midcentury figures as diverse as Gershwin and Messiaen, and such late-century masters as Ligeti, Lutoslawski, and Elliott Carter. The 21st century is represented on Levine's programs by new works from Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuorinen, and Boston's John Harbison." Boston Globe 01/16/04 

Trading Salary For Stability In Detroit For the third time in the last 15 years, the musicians and staff of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have agreed to temporary furloughs and pay cuts in an effort to help the organization stabilize a precarious financial situation. The deal is somewhat complex, as negotiations to redo the musicians' contract were focused on enabling the DSO to save money in the short term without sacrificing its position as one of the top American orchestras in the long term. Over the next two seasons, the musicians will accept several weeks of furlough and allow four open positions in the orchestra to go unfilled, but will be guaranteed a return to a competitive pay scale in the 2005-06 season. Detroit News 01/15/04 
Betrayal and Backlash in Harlem The Harlem Boys Choir is in crisis, with a $30 million lawsuit alleging sexual and physical abuse at the hands of trusted employees threatening to tear the organization apart, and the choir's founder under pressure to step down. But Walter Turnbull insists that he did nothing wrong, and cannot imagine the choir, which has changed the lives of countless underprivileged kids, going on without him. Moreover, he is still incredulous that an employee with whom he trusted his choir of young boys implicitly could have turned out to be a child molester. Washington Post 01/14/04 
The Power of Bach A weeklong conference on the music and legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach is going on in Toronto, and William Littler finds himself wondering what it is about Bach that continues to so fascinate and inspire musicians, audiences, and scholars across the generations. "Perhaps it is the very ability of Bach's music to survive a variety of approaches that provides a clue to its universality. As [conductor Helmuth] Rilling put it, a bad performance of Bach is still Bach, but a bad performance of Handel isn't very good." Toronto Star 01/14/04 
Will European Noise Regulations Kill Beethoven 9? European Union noise regulations for workers might mean that symphony orchestras will have to quiet down. "The intriguing issue, though, is whether the directive will impose changes in the repertoire itself. The London Symphony Orchestra says that this is a real possibility. Loud works like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and the symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler may have to be scheduled more rarely and surrounded by quieter pieces. Look up the European commission's website and you will find a section mocking the idea that Beethoven's Ninth symphony - the EU's anthem - might even fall foul of the noise at work directive. But the idea is not so far-fetched." The Guardian (UK) 01/17/04 
In Defense Of Cell Phones Musicians are becoming increasingly agitated by the plague of ringing cell phones and beeping watches in the concert hall, but composer Gavin Bryars takes a more zen-like view of the uninvited chirps, beeps, and squawks. Having once endured the humiliation of having his own phone ring (with a tone he himself had composed) during a performance of his own music, Bryars has come to accept the unscheduled interruptions as nothing more than spontaneous extensions of the concertgoing experience, and sometimes, as legitimate musical enhancements. The Guardian (UK) 01/14/04 

Symphony Orchestras - A Refuge From Mundane Reality The symphony orchestra is a remarkable thing, writes Norman Lebrecht. But "economically, it makes no sense at all. A sold-out symphony concert at the Royal Festival Hall yields an average loss of £48,000. It costs £1.9m a year in state subsidy and as much again in private fundraising to keep a London orchestra afloat. And yet, against all rational prognostications, five symphony orchestras and a dozen chamber ensembles flourish in this city of 12 million inhabitants, reaching (at an informed estimate) no more than 30,000 active concertgoers. The noose is getting tighter." La Scena Musicale 01/07/04 

 Last Week's News

Duo LiveOak: A Modern Day Renaissance Couple

Meet Frank Wallace.  He composes, sings, plays a formidable clasical-romantic guitar and lute, and produces exquisite-sounding recordings.

And Nancy Knowles.  She sings, writes poems and sometimes lyrics, makes very arty photographs, and designs promotional material.  (She's also very nice.  I met her at the Chamber Music America conference last week.)

Together, they perform as Duo LiveOak and their new CD called Woman of the Water (songs written by Frank, of course) is terrific.  Their repertory spans the ages from medieval to contemporary, often featuring Wallace's own works and arrangements, which sound like what you imagine John Dowland would sound like if he were alive and writing today.

Naturally, the couple live in a 1789 farmhouse in the scenic and artistic Monadnock region of New Hampshire.

Woman of the Water  
Songs by Frank Wallace
Duo LiveOak
Nancy Knowles, soprano
Frank Wallace, lute, guitar, baritone GyreCD 10082 


Frank Wallace, his own new works 
Frank Wallace, classical guitar
Gyre CD 10012 
Previous Interviews/Profiles
Simon Rattle, Michael Gordon,Benjamin Lees, Scott Lindroth, David Felder, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Erkki-Sven Tüür,John Luther Adams, Brett Dean, Judith Lang Zaimont, Meyer Kupferman, Evan Chambers, Poul Ruders, Steven R. Gerber, Gloria Coates, Tobias Picker

Previous Articles/
Busoni The Visionary
The Composer of the Moment:  Mark-Anthony Turnage
Electronic Music
Voices: Henze at 75
Henze Meets Emenim
On Finding Kurtag
Charles Ruggles:  When Men Were Men
Ballet Mécanique
The Adams Chronicles

What's Recent
An Interview with Tobias Picker
Handmaid Tale's Debuts in English
Rautavaara Joins B&G 
Who's Afraid of Julia Wolfe
Derek Bermel's Soul Garden
 The Pianist: The Extraordinary 
True Story of Wladyslaw Szpilman
John Adams' Atomic Opera
A Bridge Not Far Enough
Turnage Signs With B&H
Sophie's Wrong Choice
Copland's Mexico
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson

Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for our Editor's Pick's of the month.  Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, NY, NY 10019
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

Composer: Luigi Dallapiccola
Conductor: Ernest Bour
Radio France

 Dallapiccola's final masterpiece, the opera Ulisse, which premiered in Berlin in 1968, recounts the voyage both of Homer’s hero and of mankind's search  for eternal truths.  Recorded in 1975, a few months after the composer's death, this performance is the culmination of a lifetime of meditation and musical discipline by one of the great humanists of the 20th century arts.

Early and Unknown Piano Works
Composer:  Morton Feldman
Performer(s): Debora Petrina
OgreOgress Productions

Previously unrecorded pieces from the early 40s reveal Feldman during the period he studied with Wallingford Riegger.  No real surprises here but no klunkers either.  His  composition style borrows 12-tone techniques and atonality but deploys them within more traditional neo-classic structures. 


Guitar Concertos & Solos
Composer:  Poul Ruders
Performer:  David Starobin, guitar

The long and intimate collaboration between Poul Ruders, the brilliant composer, and David Starobin, the splendid guitarist, (who also happens to be David Starobin, the successful record executive--co-founder of Bridge Records)--has led to some of the most challenging and original compositions in the modern guitar repertory.  Consider this a kind of "greatest hits" for the modern classical guitar.

Symphonies 1 & 7
Composer:  Aulis Sallinen
Performer:  Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Ari Rasilainen

Another great Finnish composer, ho hum, but Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935) is, with Rautavaara, the latest proof that small countries can produce big composers.  There are hints of Sibelius, of course,  but Sallinen is a unique voice that speaks directly.  His work is tonal and completely devoid  of the modern  medievalism that characters much north of the Arctic Circle music. 

String Quartets 1 & 3
Composer:  Frank Bridge
Performers:. Maggini String Quartet

Frank Bridge is a bit of a lost horse in the English stable of composers that includes such giants as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and, his student, Benjamin Britten.  But he shouldn't be. No. 1, written in 1901, is a mature, fully realized work; No. 3, composed in 1927 is one of the pilars of 20th century chamber music.  As always, the Maggini play magnificiently and the recording is first rate.

Le Villi
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Performer: Melanie Diener, Ludovic Tezier, et al. Radio France Chorus, French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Just listening to young Puccini's first opera (as opposed to seeing it staged and sung), you notice immediately that the big sweeping melodies, the ingenious "hooks" are already there. Naive has also issued a Radio France recording of Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, written five years after Le Villi.   In this more ambitious and complicated work, Puccini develops his technique using a score that merges stirring arias and ensembles. 

Emerson Concerto / Symphony 1
Composer:  Charles Ives
Performers:  Alan Feinberg (piano), National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, James Sinclair (conductor)

Ives sketched the Emerson Concerto in 1907 but never fully finished it, although he used portions in other works.  David G. Porter, a noted Ives scholar, was  able to create a performing version which was premiered in 1998 by Alan Feinberg, the pianist on this premiere recording.  The piece is extremely demanding, often abrasive, and demands exceptional  virtuosity.  Symphony No. 1 is fetching, but not as charateristic, of the great American maverick that followed.

Piano Concertos 2 & 3
Composer: Einojuhani Rautavaara
Performers: Laura Mikkola (piano), Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eri Klas (conductor)

The Finnish composer Rautavaara has enjoyed enormous success in recent years with his unique blend of northern lights impressionism and romanticism  served up in an aura of modernity. His Cantus Articus is immensely popular, conjuring up associations of Messiean, although the latter is a much more important composer.   The Third Piano Concerto from 1998 is forceful, drawings on  the Russian school of pianism, although it not technically flashy until the finale.  The Second, composed nine years earlier, is more traditional and  Laura Mikkola, already on disc with a highly regarded account of the First Concerto, again provides an outstanding performance.

Composers: King, Kline, Reynolds, Ziporen
Performers:  Ethel

New York's most daring string-quartet sensation, Ethel, makes its debut here with a menu of the kind of hard-edged downtown music that has won the group a big following in the NY new music scene.   Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins; Ralph Farris, viola; and Dorothy Lawson, cello—all began their careers in New York as freelance musicians, playing difficult music that relies heavily on non-classical sources but requires a virtuoso classical ensemble to play. Its repertoire ranges from John King's energetic blues transcriptions to  the gnarly quartets  of Julia Wolfe and on Todd Reynolds' quirky
musical postcards.  Adventuresome and fun for the advanced music listener.

Return from a Journey
Composers:  Gurdjieff, De Hartmann,
Performer:  Kremski

Gurdjieff was a Russian Aremenian spiritual master who, in addition to the main body of his teaching created sacred dances, or Movements, as well as  200 or so musical compositions--all of which were were done  in collaboration with German composer Thomas de Hartmann at Gurdjieff's  Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, near Paris,  in the years 1925–27.  For many years, the pieces heard here were played only by De Hartmann or another of Gurdjieff's disciples but in recent years they have attracted the interest of a number of adventuresome pianists.  Kremski plays these exotic, vaguely oriental and oddly thematic pieces with great respect and warmth.

Chichester Psalms
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Marin Alsop (conductor)

Commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester, Bernstein’s colorful Chichester Psalms is one of the composer’s most successful and accessible works on religious texts, contrasting spiritual austerity with impulsive rhythms in a contemplation of peace. The composer fashioned his Oscar nominated score to the 1954 movie On the Waterfront into a symphonic suite, skillfully capturing the oppression of the New York dockyards in the ’50s. The Three Dance Episodes were extracted from the popular On The Town, Bernstein's first successful foray into musical theatre.  Bernstein protege Marin Alsop gets a robust performance from Bournemouth orchestra and chorus.

Double Concerto
Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski
Performers:  Polish National Radio Symphony, Antoni Wit

Volume 8 in Naxos' indispensible survey of Lutoslawski's orchestra work brings us into lesser known territory but there are still treasures to be found.   The  Dance Preludes from 1955 is basically a five-movement clarinet concerto, with lots of  interesting harmonies and rhythmic twists and turns. The Double Concerto for oboe and harp from 1990 rattles the ear a bit and has a  demanding oboe part, beautifully  played by Arkadiusz Krupa. The Children's Songs, gorgeously sung by the soprano, Urszula Kryger, are beguiling. 

Doña Francisquita
Composer: Amadeo Vives 
Performers: Maria Bayo,
Alfredo Kraus, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife, Antoni Ros Marba

A superb performance of Amadeo Vives' zarzuela masterpiece, sung with enormous vivacity and brio by the ravishing-voiced Maria Bayo and the sturdy Alfredo Kraus.  With its nineteenth century Madrid setting, its roots in classical Spanish drama  and its festive nocturnal amours, Doña Francisquita provides  a retrospective on the romantic zarzuela tradition and its crowning glory. The work was immediately recognized not only as Vives’ masterpiece, but as the greatest full length zarzuela of its era. If you're not into zarzuela already, this is the perfect place to start your  collection.

Symphony 9 Visionaria
Composer:  Kurt Atterberg
Satu Vihavainen (mezzo-soprano); Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)
NDR Choir, Prague Chamber Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic, 
Ari Rasilainen

The 9th and final symphony of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg bears a superficial relationshp to Beethoven's 9th with its big, expresssive choral sound but Atterburg's world is a good deal less joyous.  Atterberg's choice of texts reflects the lasting impact on his psyche made by World War II and the Korean War. The Poetic Edda, an Icelandic epic dating from around 1270, relates the visions of a wise prophetess (hence the Symphony's title "Sinfonia Visionaria") who foretells the creation of the world, the warring among gods, giants, and humans, the world's destruction, and finally its recreation. 

Atterberg uses mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with chorus and large orchestra, as  well as a quasi-oratorio form, to tell his epic tale. This is extraordinary symphony by a composer who is far too little-known in the musical world.

The Complete Mazurkas
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin

Marc-Andre Hamelin continues his extraordinary journey through the forgotten rivers and bayous of the modern piano repetoire with masterful performances  of Szymanowski's Twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50, composed between 1926 and 1931.  After assimilating the influence of Stravinsky, Szymanowski began looking for folk themes in Polish music to rival the Russian folk touches of the master. The Mazurka,  a traditional Polish dance in three-quarter-time with an often erratic-seeming emphasis on the second beat, (and a favorite form for Chopin) offered great possibilities . 

These highly diverse pieces are more complex  than Chopin, more modern and dissonant, yet also more muted and elusive.  Still,  Szymanowski remained too much a romantic to settle for anything less then flamboyant virtuosity--a quality that Hamelin possses by the truckload. 

Composers:  Transciptions:
Bach, Barber, Berg, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Wolf
Peformers: : Choeur De Chambre Accentus, Equilbey

Worth having for the ravishing performances of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" and Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5." 

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