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      February 11-18, 2002
Songs of Life:
Ralph Shapey at 80
Next Saturday night (February 16), the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago will mark the 80th birthday of its founder Ralph Shapey with a performance of PRAISE, his oratorio for bass-baritone, double chorus and chamber ensemble.  Carmen Helena Téllez, Resident Conductor Rockefeller Memorial Chapel  5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. For tickets call: 773/702-8068
Ralph Shapey is one the those maverick American composers whose work stands as a monument to rugged individualism. Leonard Meyer and Bernard Jacobson have described him as a "radical traditionalist" and he clearly belongs in the company of Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, and Harry Partch, although his music doesn't sound anything like theirs. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1921, Shapey's career has taken several distinct paths.  As a conductor, he has led many ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the London Sinfonietta.  He was the founder and music director of the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, a group which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2004. He has been for many years Professor of Music at the University of Chicago.

As a composer, Shapey has always pursued excellence in his own style, regardless of trends; and in a world that frequently places at least as much emphasis on the personality and image of the artist as on his work, he uncompromisingly holds the idea that the music, once created, should stand on its own. His commitment to this attitude, refusal to compromise his integrity, and disillusionment with the musical climate of the time, led him to withdraw his compositions from 1969 to 1976, since he felt that people were unable to appreciate and perform his work for its own sake.

This lack of attention to politics has obviously cost Shapey some recognition.  Ten years ago, the Pulitzer Prize music jury unanimously chose his "Concerto Fantastique" for the 1992 Pulitzer for music, only to be overruled by the Pulitzer board, who awarded the prize to Wayne Peterson instead. 

Shapey remains as independent as ever.  New England Conservatory composer Malcolm Peyton recently traveled  to Chicago to videotape an interview with Shapey, who has been ailing and is unable to travel.  A typical Shapey comment from the interview: ''When I am conducting, I do not jump up and down and wiggle my ass around. My job is to get out of the way. ... What I want performers of my works to do is make music. I don't know what I mean by that, but all of us know it when we hear it.''

Shapey's Presser Bio

Contemporary Chamber Players

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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

THE MOST EXCITING ORCHESTRA IN AMERICA? In the past seven years, Michael Tilson Thomas has turned the San Francisco Symphony into one of the most talke about orchestras in America. "The charged chemistry among maestro, players and community undoubtedly owes much to the nature and size of the city and the Bay Area, and it may be hard to replicate elsewhere. Still, it becomes all the more striking now that several other major American orchestras have lined up their next music directors. In large part, those orchestras were seeking expertise in contemporary and American programming like that Mr. Thomas has long demonstrated." The New York Times 02/10/02

THE MUSICAL MEMORIAL: The New York Philharmonic is commissioning a piece of music to open next season with a memorial to the World Trade Center. Will this be a significant musical memorial? "The odds, it seems to me, are low that the music will be up to the occasion ó that a composer, asked to interpret in tones a calamity mere months after it has happened, will have the clarity and the inner urge to write just the piece we need." Andante.com 02/06/02

FIGHT OVER CD's: CD-maker Philips and the big recording companies are in a fight over copy protection. Recording companies want to embed "errors" into CD's that help prevent them from being copied. Philips, which helped determine technical standards for CD technology, says it won't go along. The fight could "hasten the death" of the 20-year-old format. Wired 02/04/02

BUDGET CRUNCH IN BALTIMORE: "Rising costs, an economy that made grants and donations hard to come by and a stock market that pummeled endowments have all converged to put the [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra] in a tight financial spot. Even though the BSO is making more money than it spends, the tight times ended up squeezing out the symphony's 147-person chorus last month... Wall Street's dismal 2001 took its toll. The symphony's endowment investments lost more than $9 million in value in 2001 compared with an almost $15 million profit from those investments a year earlier." Baltimore Business Journal 02/01/02

NOT JUST ANOTHER OPERA: What's the difference between an opera and a musical? Bruce Springsteen has announced he's writing a "rock opera." "Though one must not prejudge these things, it's surely likely to be more of a musical than an opera, just as in 1968 the Who's Tommy was a musical masquerading as this new-fangled genre, with its vaguely subversive label - the revolutionary language of rock imposing itself on the apparently elitist world of opera." The Guardian (UK) 02/09/02

PROMOTING THE YOUNG: "The historically low percentage of minorities in orchestras is a vexing issue. The lasting effects of racism play a role, say experts, but other factors include cuts in school music programs, the lack of role models and peer-group support and cultural forces that push young blacks and Latinos into pop and vernacular styles rather than classical." The five-year-old Sphinx Competition seeks to identify and encourage young minority musicians. Detroit Free Press 02/06/02

NATIONALISM TO A REGGAE BEAT? Worried that French school children increasingly don't know the French national anthem, the government compiled a CD with dozens of versions of the Marseillaise, and is sending copies to every school in France. Along with traditional versions, there's also a reggae version, an arabic version, and a samba version. "The aim of the project is to make children better understand their history and heritage," says culture minister Jack Lang. The Globe & Mail (Reuters) (Canada) 02/07/02

NAME THAT TUNE: Ah, pity those who cannot carry a tune. Not a happy condition. "There is nothing quite so vulnerable as a person caught up in a lyric impulse. The singing-impaired are forever being brought up short in one. When the singing-impaired chime in, they may notice a sudden strained silence. Or just a sudden loss of afflatus in the music about them. (The singing-impaired can tell.)" The Atlantic 02/82

PARIS - AN OPERA BARGAIN: So you're an opera fan and you live in London where going to see the opera is an expensive proposition. The budget alternative? Take the Eurostar to Paris, catch some first rate productions and stay in a "homey" hotel. The whole trip will cost you less than a ticket for the Royal Opera (and the experience might even be better). Really. Truly. The Times (UK) 02/05/02

TITLE TRADEOFFS: Some call supertitles at the opera one of the biggest advances in the artform in the past 50 years. But there are tradeoffs. "Over the course of more than four hours of dense, nonrepeating dialogue, the compulsive reader at War and Peace will be scanning some 1,000 captions, each conveying a potentially vital piece of information. For each, we sacrifice, say, two seconds' attention to the stage, which adds up through the evening to a whopping 33 minutes. How to sort out the costs and benefits of these constant illuminations and distractions?" The New York Times 02/10/02

 --more news--

Looking Backward 
to Crumb and Mahler
by Deborah Kravetz

It used to be that Orchestra 2001 looked forward, presenting music of the future by new and local composers. But now, in 2002, they seem to be looking backward, not to 2001, but further back, to established, but not mainstream, composers of the last century.

This concert, of George Crumbís Ancient Voices of Children (1970) 
and Mahlerís Das Lied von der Erde (1907-09), would seem to have a common theme in the earthiness and commonality of the subject matter, yet their execution varies so widely they might have been composed centuries apart. Crumb uses the truly primitive aspects of modern instruments with the inchoate vocalizing extremes of the human voice to invoke the prehistoric and timelessness suggested by the texts of Garcia Lorca. Mahler uses modern romantic tonality and civilized human expression in metaphorical and direct texts of human longing, joy and suffering.

Here, in the yet unfinished Perelman Hall, the differing extremes of the music stumbled. The all-too cavernous stage lacked resonance. This was fine for the Crumb, but the Mahler just did not resound with any warmth: the small ensemble huddled at the front, the strings sounded thready and forced, the piano tinkly and almost out of tune. Perelman has a cool sage fabric and blond wood appearance with latticing fronting the balconies, but the vinyl seats groan ominously with slight movement, the movable chairs scrape the floor, the long aisles seem too narrow for safe movement, and the semi-finished restrooms are tan and dimly lit and lack signage.

Fortunately, the acoustics are excellent for vocal recitals, and the voices of soloists Barbara Ann Martin, soprano, in the Crumb, Suzanne DuPlantis, mezzo-soprano, and Stuart Neill, tenor, in the Mahler resounded well over the small ensemble, with clear diction supplemented by projected text translations. In the Mahler, it was easy to glance at the text and then ignore it, but the Crumb piece was augmented with scraps of text decorated with sliding graphics and geometric shapes by Kenneth Hiebert that I found distracted me from the music. Martin has spent twenty-five years perfecting her technique in this piece, and her heartfelt trills, chirrups, yodels and wails were strongly evocative of an ancient child trying to find a voice; the use of the open piano well and sounding board was like calling down a well and listening for the echo. DuPlantisí voice was warm and mellow while retaining precision and clarity, but Neill sounded somewhat forced on the higher notes, and lacking in emotional color, despite his fervor.

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 2/8/02.)


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, Steven R. Gerber

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 Bryarís concerto, "Farewell to Philosophy", Rolf Wallinís "Ground" for solo cello and strings, Krzysztof Pendereckiís 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 Reichís 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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