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February 04-11, 2002
  Glass At 65
Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg

What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
        a new thing under the Sun?

by Jerry Bowles
Like a naughty cherub in a Montangna fresco, the spirit of Allen Ginsberg scampered mischievously along the rafters of Carnegie Hall Sunday afternoon during the  65th birthday celebration for Philip Glass which was highlighted by the world premiere of a new Glass symphony—his sixth—based on the late Beat poet’s epic 1978 poem “Plutonium Ode.” 

For Glass, who had performed frequently in poetry/music collaborations with Ginsberg during the last decade of the poet’s life, the symphony is a way of the closing a chapter of his life. The best known of their collaborations is Hydrogen Jukebox, an evening length "opera" which the pair presented in over 30 cities as part of an international tour.  They had planned to create a new, major collaboration based on Plutonium Ode and before he died in 1997, Ginsberg had made several recordings of the poem in preparation for the new work. At that time, Glass says, he had in mind simply an extended piano work to accompany Ginsberg in live performance.

“I put aside the project in 1997, feeling that I wouldn't want to go ahead without Allen,” Glass says. “A few years past and the commission of a new symphony from Carnegie Hall and the Brucknerhaus Linz reawakened my interest in the project. I felt, then, that Plutonium Ode was unfinished business between Allen and myself and this would be the opportunity to complete it. By then, the piano music I had originally imagined had grown to a full orchestra and Allen's resonant speaking voice to a lyric soprano.”

Like the poem, the symphony is in three parts.  Part one, called “What new element…” is a  passionate outcry against nuclear contamination and pollution, the second, “The Bard surveys Plutonian history” takes a turn towards healing, and the final movement, “This Ode to You O Poets,” is an epiphany arrived at through personal transformation.

To bring Ginsberg’s words to life, Glass chose the great soprano Lauren Flanigan, who is—in my view, anyway--the only good reason to keep the New York City Opera alive.  She is an incredibly gifted singer and actress and in a just world Dawn Upshaw would be her maid.  But, of course, the Met singers get the big contracts.  Dennis Russell Davies and the American Composers Orchestra are practically the Glass house band and it showed in the rock solid support they gave to Flanigan’s passionate reading.

Although Glass’s compositional devices have become so familiar that they sometimes invite parody, the Sixth Symphony manages to sound fresh and inventive.  It is passionate and restrained, angry and thoughtful, and has about it not a little sense of loss—the loss of a friend, perhaps, or the loss of innocence, or the sense of having reached the point in one’s life when one realizes that the major theme has shifted from hope to loss, and the eventual peace that one makes with that sense of finality.  It is one of those rare works where substance wins out over Glass’s formidable style.

Alas, the same cannot be said about the opening half of the program which was the U.S. premiere of three Glass pieces called Passages written in collaboration with Ravi Shankar in 1989.  All three were pleasant enough and given a distinctive edge by guest artists, the Rascher Saxophone Quartet,  but, ultimately, they were cut and paste Glass.

The composer himself took a bow at the end of the program, looking extremely fit for a man his age and possessing a full-head of impossibly black hair.  But, then, who among those of us of a certain age does not look to Clairol for a little help in these matters nowadays?

In societies governed by individuals with musical taste more evolved than Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours, a major new work and a birthday by the nation’s most influential composer might be a minor state occasion—a reception at the Palais or a dinner at Downing Street, but, alas, this is George Bush’s America and administration officials were apparently too occupied with the business of draping naked statues  and drawing up plans to invade whatever Virgin Islands we don’t own already to even send a note so poor Glass had to make do with a sold-out concert at that most venerable of rental halls on West 57th Street.  Let’s hope that by the time he hits 70, there will be somebody in office who realizes what a national treasure we have here and will give him the party he deserves. 

What's New

Sex and Female Musicians Or Babes in Boyland
Jerry Bowles

13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird--Number 8

Deborah Kravetz

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

A New Hall for Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Complete List of Grammy Nominations

Exploring the Carnegie Hall
Millennium Piano Book
Deborah Kravetz

Terry Riley Gets Hot
A new recording makes an unlikely star.

Indie-Rock Meets Neo-Bach
Key to Relâche Repertoire
Deborah Kravetz

Kernis Wins Grawemeyer
Adds to Pulitizer; nets $200,000

Death of Liberty
The Boston Symphony's cancellation of The Death of Konghoffer chorus does not bode well for the future of the arts in a free society.

Lilith 2001
Deborah Drattall's revisit to the Garden of Eden delivers less than promised.

Interview with Poul Ruders

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jbowles@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

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  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.



Modern Music News
STAYING THE NEW MUSIC COURSE: Nearly every American orchestra pays regular lip service to the concept of contemporary music, and occasionally even performs some in public. Very few orchestras, however, ever really make a lasting commitment to advancing the music of living composers. But in Los Angeles, the L.A. Philharmonic's New Music Group is 21 years old and going strong. "The New Music Group has survived changing administrations and budget crises, and in the process it has become part of what defines the feisty spirit of the Philharmonic." Los Angeles Times 01/31/02

THE POWERHOUSE FINNS: What is it about Finland, these days? "Half a century after the death of Jean Sibelius, his tiny Nordic homeland has emerged as a musical superpower of the new millennium. A fierce national commitment to musical culture has made the Finnish scene the envy and the talent reservoir of countries throughout Europe and North America." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/02/02

REINVENTING ST. PAUL: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which bills itself as "America's Chamber Orchestra," is reinventing itself, making changes in its home concert hall, and planning more tours to large cities. The goal? To be "the beacon for cultural excellence" in the Twin Cities. "Thirty years from now, when people talk about Twin Cities arts groups, we’d like the first thing off their tongues to be the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It’s no different than what the arch did for the city of St. Louis." St. Paul Pioneer Press 01/31/02

L.A. OPERA LIGHTLY TAPS THE BRAKES: Los Angeles Opera has been ambitiously scaling up its productions, and the company has announced numerous new initiatives and plans in the past few years. Now, with the announcement of next year's season, some of those plans have been scaled back as part of the artsworld's generally sobering reassessment of risks. Los Angeles Times 01/30/02

DOTCOM MUSIC MELTDOWN SPURS BBC: Online e-music ventures have poured millions of dollars into trying to create viable businesses. But GMN.com one of the most established, shut down last week, out of money, and its owners are looking for a buyer. Interestingly, as the dotcom meltdown continues, the BBC has rediscovered a commitment to broadcasting culture. It's about time, writes Norman Lebrecht. The Telegraph (UK) 01/31/02

AND YOU THOUGHT THIS STUFF ONLY HAPPENED IN ALABAMA: The Catholic hierarchy in Naples, Italy is taking a cursory shot at the city's leftist government, denying permits for the use of several of Naples's historic churches for concerts. Among the well-regarded guest musicians who may be left out in the cold is La Scala director Riccardo Muti. The local monsignor is questioning "whether performing artists should be chosen "mainly for their showmanship and social acceptance rather than for their personal commitment in bearing witness to the values of the Gospel." Andante 01/28/02

THE ONLINE ORCHESTRA: "All the evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, suggests that the virtual box office is changing the way orchestras do business." American orchestras are selling more and more of their tickets online - the Chicago Symphony, for one, has seen e-sales double or triple each year in the past four seasons. Andante 01/27/02

REPORTS OF MY DEATH... So some orchestras are struggling in the business of survival of late. And some may even go out of business. But the orchestra is hardly dying as an institution, writes David Patrick Stearns. There is too much evidence to the contrary. Besides, "those orchestras will survive, because the public, more unconsciously than consciously, knows that when its opera company and symphony orchestra go away, the only thing left in many cities will be congested strip roads, plastic burger signs, abandoned bowling alleys and cable TV." Andante 01/27/02

PARALYSIS CAN'T DERAIL CONDUCTOR: Mario Miragliotta was a promising conductor who had recently finished his term as music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and had been appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, when he got into a car accident last June that left him paralysed, unable to move his hands or legs. Determined to overcome the injuries, he's been working daily to get back on the podium, and he's got a concert coming up... Los Angeles Daily News 01/28/02

THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC: Miami-area classical music fans were upset when WTMI, the area's only classical music station, changed its format to dance music in January. Now the University of Miami college radio station is taking up some of the slack by programming classical. Miami Herald 01/31/02

 --more news--

               PHILIP GLASS

Philip GLASS: Violin Concerto / Company
Adele Anthony, violin 
Ulster Orchestra 
Takuo Yuasa, conductor

Electronic Dialogues

An Interview with
Steven R. Gerber
Steven R. Gerber's music has achieved international recognition recently as a result of two CDs of his orchestral music released on Chandos and KOCH International Classics.  Chandos has issued his Symphony #1, "Dirge and Awakening," Viola Concerto, and Triple Overture, played by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra under Thomas Sanderling, with Lars Anders Tomter, viola, and the Bekova Sisters Trio, and the CD has received  rave reviews in a large number of magazines, newspapers, and websites in Great Britain and the U.S.  Under a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund, KOCH has just released his Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto, and Serenade for Strings, with the National Chamber Orchestra under Piotr Gajewski and soloists Kurt Nikkanen and Carter Brey.

     Gerber has written for many of the major performers of our time.  In addition to the concertos written for Nikkanen and Brey, he wrote his String Quartet #4 for the Fine Arts Quartet, his Viola Concerto for Yuri Bashmet, who premiered it at his festival in Tours, and several works for Russian violinist Tatyana Grindenko. His works have also been performed by such groups as the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra under Kirk Trevor, Philharmonia Virtuosi under Richard Kapp, and The Russian National Orchestra under Mikhail Pletnev.  Most recently, he received a commission from Concertante Chamber Players for a work entitled "Spirituals" for clarinet and string quartet, premiered by them in 2001 in Harrisburg, New York City, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

    Born in Washington, D.C. in 1948, Gerber now lives in New York City.  He has degrees from Haverford College and from Princeton University, which awarded him a 4-year fellowship for graduate studies.  His works have been played throughout the U.S., Europe, and the former Soviet Union, where he has toured frequently and had literally dozens of orchestral performances and 
many concerts of his own chamber and solo works.  Several solo and choral works of his have been recorded on CRI and the French label Suoni e Colori.  His works are published by MMB, Boelke-Bomart/Mobart, and APNM.  Currently he is working on a clarinet concerto for Jon Manasse and has been commissioned by Voice of America to write a new work for its 60th anniversary.

S21: You are a remarkably prolific composer and have created works in a wide variety of forms—orchestral, chamber, choral, solo.  Do you prefer one form over another? 

SRG: For a long time I preferred to write solo, vocal,  or chamber works and didn't expect to write much for orchestra.  When I began my Symphony in 1988, at the age of 40, I had written only one previous work for orchestra, some settings of Wallace Stevens for soprano and orchestra, which were still unplayed.  (I had to wait nearly 15 years for them to be performed; oddly enough they were given two performances in Ukraine during the same year with two different orchestras, singers, and conductors.)  I Had no idea when I would hear the Symphony, or my next work, a Serenade for Strings, but I got 
lucky very soon after they were finished and they were both played a lot, first in Russia, and then, in the case of the Serenade in the U.S. too, and 
those performances inspired me to write a lot more for orchestra.  Since then I have enjoyed alternating between orchestral works and works for much smaller groups, but I think my greatest affinity may be for writing pieces for solo viola, solo oboe, etc.  At one time I enjoyed writing songs and choral music more than anything else, because the texts made me feel a connection to the world in a way I didn't feel with instrumental music, but I haven't written for voice since 1988.


Violin Concerto
Composer: Steven R. Gerber
Performer: Kurt Nikkanen, Carter Brey
Koch International Classics - #7501 


The Adams Chronicles

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

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

EDITOR'S PICKS - January 2002

The Music of Elliott Carter, Volume Four
Composer: E. Carter
Conductor: Elliott Carter
Performer: Susan Narucki, David Starobin, et al.
Ensemble: Daniel Druckman
Bridge - #9111 
Volume four of Bridge's comprehensive Elliott Carter series includes the  masterpiece, Eight Pieces for Four Timpani,  as well as a number of short recent works. Particularly fine  is  David Starobin's performance of  "Shard," a piece for solo guitar that is short but breathtakingly original.

Complete Crumb Edition, Volume 5: Easter Dawning, Celestial Mechanics, A Haunted Landscape, Processional
Composer: George Crumb
Conductor: George Crumb
Performer: Thomas Conlin
Ensemble: Haewon Song , Robert Shannon Don Cook 
Bridge - #9113 
The fifth release in Bridge's award winning Complete Crumb Edition includes the premiere recording of Crumb's1992 carillon solo, "Easter Dawning"  played by Don Cook, carilloneur at Brigham Young University."Celestial Mechanics", for piano, four-hands is pure Crumb.  "A Haunted Landscape" 1984) for orchestra is played by  The Warsaw Philharmonic under conductor Thomas Conlin, the same combination that produced the Grammy-winning "Star-Child". 

Klezmer Suite
Composer: Sid Robinovitch
Cbc Records --Naxos-- - #5212 
Okay, so klezmer is not everybody's bag but folk and popular music blend seamlessly with the classics in this appealing new release from CBC Records celebrating the music of Sid Robinovitch. The three works performed  are Klezmer Suite, Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra, and Camptown for Banjo and Orchestra.

Dioscures, Ephemeres
Composer: Yves Prin
Conductor: Bruno Ferrandis
Performer: Pierre-Yves Artaud
Ensemble: Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Naxos - #8555347 
Once you know that Prin was in Boulez's first composition class at IRCAM, the fact that all of these pieces are revisions of earlier pieces begin to make sense.  Like the master, Prin is obviously a harsh critic of his own work.  At 41 minutes, the disk covers a lot of contemporary territory and contains flashes of geninue originality.

Violin|Viola and Keyboard Works
Composer: Alan Hovhaness
Performers: Christina Fong, Arved Ashby
This disc  might easily be subtitled "music to chill out by."
Deceptively simple and meditative with just the right touches of exotic  eastern mysticism, this is music that captivates through  simplicity.  A keeper. 

Colored Field · Musica Celestis · Air 
Composer: Aaron Jay Kernis
Conductor: Eiji Oue
Performer: Truls Mørk
Emd/Virgin Classics - #45464
Some of Kernis' greatest hits retooled for Truls, who performs them magnificently.


This Is the Colour of My Dreams
Conductor: Mario Bernardi
Performer: Shauna Rolston
Ensemble: CBC Radio Orchestra
Cbc Records --Naxos-- - #5214 
Ralson is an enthusiastic advocate and performer of contemporary music. She has given the North American premiere of Gavin Bryar’s concerto, "Farewell to Philosophy", Rolf Wallin’s "Ground" for solo cello and strings, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Sextet for violin, viola, cello, piano, clarinet and horn, as well as the Canadian premiere of "Kai", a work for solo cello and 18 instruments by Mark Anthony Turnage. Here she delivers  the world premieres of  works written especially for her by Canadian composers Heather Schmidt, Christos Hatzis, Chan Ka Nin, and Kelly-Marie Murphy.

Selected Songs
Composer: Ned Rorem
Performer: Ned Rorem, Carole Farley
Naxos - #8559084 
Pushing 80, Rorem continues to add to his extensive catalogue of over four hundred songs. His individual settings and cycles draw their texts from a wide range of poetry. Among his favorites sources have been Walt Whitman, Theodore Roethke, Kenneth Koch, Paul Goodman, and the English Metaphysical Poets.  Nobody does art songs better.

Composer:  Paul Lansky 
 The title track, 'Ride', is a 19 minute piece made from sounds of a highway, processed and filtered to create sweeping sonic landscapes. An 8 channel version of the piece was played at Lincoln Center's 'Great Day in New York' festival in January 2000. 

 Triple Quartet/Music for a Large Ensemble/Electric Guitar Phase
Steve Reich, Kronos Quartet, conductor Alan Pierson
Wea/Atlantic/Nonesuch - #79546
This is the first recording of Reich’s Triple Quartet performed by Kronos Quartet, who commissioned the work and in whose honor it was written. This disc, the first to include a new work by Reich since the 1996 release City Life,  also features first recordings of Electric Guitar Phase and Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint, as well as the first recording of a newly revised edition of Music for Large Ensemble. 

Pulse Shadows
Composer: Harrison Birtwistle
Wea/Atlantic/Teldec - #26867 
Written for soprano, string quartet & ensemble of 2 clarinets, viola, cello and double bass, Pulse Shadows' nine string quartet movements alternate with the 'song' ensemble. The nine quartet movements comprise five Fantazias and four 'Friezes', of which the fourth is an instrumental meditation on Celan's famous poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue), with its strange recurrent image of black milk.

Brahms · Stravinsky - Violin Concertos
Composer: Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky
Performer: Neville Marriner
Sony Classics - #89649 
Thank heaven for little girls. Kid breathes new life into old workhorses.

The Ancient Thespians
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SEQUENZA/21/ is published weekly by Sequenza/21 
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editors: Armando Bayolo, Sam Bergman, Joshua Cohen, Karina Cristina Demitrio, Deborah Kravetz 
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