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  February 16-25, 2004

Aaron Jay Kernis
Remembers September 11

"I was unable to hear music in my head for many days,” recalls Aaron Jay Kernis, about    the events of September 11th. But his Sarabanda In Memoriam, which the Orchestra of  St. Luke’s and Donald Runnicles will premiere on 26 February as part of its 9/11 memorial concert at Carnegie Hall, is nonetheless a response to that day.

   “I was very certain that I could not and would  not write music in direct response to the attack," he says. After many months passed, and the  numbness was somewhat internalized, parts of 
 the slow movement of my second string quartet suddenly re-sounded in my ears, and expanded in sound and mass for a large string group. In its initial version, this movement, a work of intimate
   and private mourning for four instruments, had been written in memory of a dear friend.

     Though the music is virtually an exact  transcription of the original, I feel that this new  version is more directly public in its sonic mass   and scope, and is now a memorial to far too many victims.”

 Born in Philadelphia on January 15, 1960, Kernis  began his musical studies on the violin; at age 12 he began teaching himself piano, and in the following year, composition. He continued his  studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Manhattan and Yale Schools of Music, working with composers as diverse as 
   John Adams, Charles Wuorinen and Jacob Druckman. 

     One of America's most honored young composers,  Kernis received the coveted Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition (2002)  for the cello and orchestra version of "Colored Field," the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 ("musica instrumentalis"), and Grammy Award nominations for both "Air" and Second Symphony. He has also been awarded the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, an NEA grant, a Bearns Prize, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and three BMI Student Composer Awards. 

   He has become an especially familiar and much-admired presence in Minnesota's Twin Cities; in September 1993, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, and the American Composers Forum, and he returned in the fall of 1998 as New Music Advisor to the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he retains to this day. 

   This month, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center showcases Kernis’s Air for flute and piano as part of its 35th anniversary season.  Upcoming Kernis performances include: Colored Field in Germany with cellist Truls Mørk and the Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt led by Hugh Wolff in April; the Mikrokosmos Chamber Choir’s five-city French tour of I Cannot Dance Oh Lord in May; the Atlanta Symphony’s May Concerts of New Era Dance and Symphony No. 2, and the Milwaukee  Symphony’s Performances of Musica Celestis in June.

Advertising and Sponsorship Information
Conductor Berates Audience, Musicians From The Stage Conductor Daniel Gatti and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had just finished a performance in Naples, Florida and the audience was applauding, when Gatti quieted the crowd: "Gatti, 42, began by apologizing for the quality of the performance, explaining that the orchestra had been on tour for two weeks. Then, in heated, broken English, he berated everybody there - the presenters, the orchestra and the audience - for a full two to three minutes." Washington Post 02/14/04 

Harlem Boys Choir Dumps Leaders The Boys Choir of Harlem has decided to fire its executive vice president, Horace Turnbull, and strip its founder, Walter Turnbull, of his chief-executive duties. "It was like a ma-and-pa candy store," says one board member. "He [Walter Turnbull] viewed the choir as his creation and [acted as if] he deserved full entitlement. There were clearly problems which were addressed by the independent members of the board, but there were obstacles at every single step." New York Post 02/13/04 

Washington Chamber Group Disbands After 36 Years The Theater Chamber Players, a "much-admired Washington ensemble that presented a brainy mixture of new and established music" founded by pianist Leon Fleisher and Dina Koston in 1968 is disbanding after 36 years. "The group elected to retire because of differing views on its most appropriate future direction." Washington Post 02/13/04 

Promoting Classical Music On Its Strengths "Rock music, to adopt Nietzsche's famous distinction, is perceived as alluringly Dionysian - a surrender to instinct and emotion, an invitation to the orgiastic. Classical music, on the other hand, has become purely Apollonian: it represents restraint, structure, order and discipline." But, writes Rupert Christiansen, the way to incite the passions about classical music isn't to hip it up. Rather, play to the strengths. The Telegraph (UK) 02/11/04 

Volpe To Leave Met Opera Metropolitan Opera general manager Joseph Volpe announces he'll leave the company after 40 years. "He said he had been preparing to step down for some time. The workload and the demands of attending at least four performances a week had become taxing, he said." The New York Times 02/10/04 

A Met Legend Departs Last week, Joseph Volpe announced that he was stepping down as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His departure will end a remarkable 42-year association with the Met. "Improbably, that association took a Flatbush-born high school graduate with no advanced education, no musical training and scant feeling for opera from an entry-level job as an apprentice carpenter to the general manager's office in 1990. It is sometimes said of a hands-on chief executive who has worked his way to the top that he knows every nail in the place. This is really true of Mr. Volpe, who hammered quite a few nails into the place himself." The New York Times 02/15/04 

UK Music Singles In Precipitous Sales Decline Sales figures in the UK of record singles show a one-third decline, from "52.5m in 2002 to 35.9m last year. The drop is mirrored by a 'disturbing' increase in illegal in ternet downloads. But albums continue to rise in popularity, which means the total value of record sales remained steady." The Guardian (UK) 02/09/04 

Brooklyn Opera Agrees Not To Use Virtual Orchestra Reversing a decision aimed at saving money, "the Opera Company of Brooklyn will no longer use a computer that replicates an orchestra in place of live musicians. A deal reached with the musicians' union explicitly bans the use of the computer, known as a virtual orchestra machine, or any other type of synthetic music, the union and opera announced Monday." Newsday (AP) 02/09/04 

Vienna Embraces Ozawa A year-and -a-half ago, Seiji Ozawa finished up 29 years leading the Boston Symphony, and headed for Vienna to direct the State Opera. "Ozawa seems energized by all the change. Some critics and musicians felt that he had overstayed his welcome in Boston, that 29 years was too long a marriage for any conductor and orchestra. He acknowledges that it was a long time, adding that his style is to work slowly and methodically. But now he finds himself living in an even more musical city, associated with two of Europe's great musical institutions. And already Vienna has adopted him as its own." The New York Times 02/15/04 

Carnegie Hall Announces Next Season "Continuing its transformation into a full-fledged arts center from merely one of the world's most storied concert halls, Carnegie Hall next season will fill its three stages with 140 classical concerts, plus more than 45 jazz, folk, world-music, and even pop performances." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/12/04 

Michael Gordon (back) surrounded by Ridge Theater's Laurie Olinder, Bill McGrath and Bill Morrison.
'Gotham' Opens ACO's
Orchestra Underground Series
Michael Gordon tells a story about arriving at JFK airport from Europe and having a customs agent glance at the occupation line on his passport and ask what kind of composer he was.  "Classical," Gordon answered.  "I thought all you guys were dead," the agent said, stamping the document and waving him through. 

In both his solo work and his entrepreneurial efforts as a co-founder of Bang on a Can, 
Gordon has been doing his best to prove that classical composers are still very much alive and relevant.  His latest effort, another multimedia effort with the members of Ridge Theater, is called Gotham and it will be unveiled in Carnegie's new Zankel Hall on February 27. 

Ridge Theater is an avant-garde company that has been presenting new theater works since 1987 and has developed into one of New York's premier creators of experimental theater and opera. Gordon has worked with the group a number of times in the past on projects like Bang on a Can's collective opera The Carbon-Copy Building and on Ridge member Bill Morrison's highly-acclaimed film Decasia, which was featured at the 2002 Sundance Festival, shown on the Sundance channel, and added to the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art.

Gotham is a new symphony by Gordon with film by Bill Morrison and projected artwork by Laurie Olinder, directed by Bob McGrath. Morrison's film. 

The production is part of a new Orchestra Underground series by the American Composers Orchestra, Steven Sloane, Music Director and Conductor.  The concert will also feature the world premiere of The Right Weather by Lisa Bielawa. 



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
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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

Composer: Lee Hyla
Conductor: Gil Rose
Performer: Laura Frautschi, Tim Smith
 New World Records

A rare opportunity to hear several of the major symphonic works of a true American original.  Hyla happily mingles expressionistic, complex contemporary atonal idioms with elements of avant-garde jazz, and rock and garage band with results that cannot be anticipated.

His  honking, strongly articulated rhythms mask  an inner beauty that almost always seems ready to burst into radiant sunshine. 

The three works on this disc—Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra (1988), Trans (1996), and the Violin Concerto (2001)—show Hyla at peak form, with stunning performances by Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.


Mein Herz Brennt
Composer: Torsten Rasch
Performer(s): Rene Pape, Katharina Thalbach, Dresdner Sinfoniker
Deutsche Grammophon

The best part of this odd little exercise is the sensational baritone Rene Pape, who sings these re-set songs by the German punk rock group, Rammstein, as if they were written by Mahler, on a good day.

Four Psalms, Emerson
Composer:  John Harbison
Performers:  The Cantata Singers & Ensemble
New World Records

This is the first recording of one of John Harbison’s most important works, Four Psalms, which was commissioned to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.  The composer describes Four Psalms as follows: "[It] opens with a prelude for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, a prayer composed by Amemar in 454 A.D., which states the major themes of the piece, both musical and philosophical … There follow four psalms, in Hebrew, alternating with the voices, in English, of people now living. The psalm settings employ fully developed forms—march, antiphon, passacaglia, and aria—suggested by the majesty and mystery of the Hebrew language. In contrast, the contemporary voices are set within brief inventions, their form echoing the momentary illuminations granted to those reflecting upon their own time." The other work, Emerson, is an a cappella setting of an extract from Emerson’s philosophical prose.  Stunning performances and a must-have disk.

Homage to Haydn / Triumph of St Joan
Composer:  Norman Dello Joio
Performer(s):   Slatkin, Louisville Orch
First Edition 

American composer Norman Dello Joio turned 91 in January and this re-issue of two of his significant works shows that his music  is wearing well.  Perhaps, a little too neo-classic or "accessible" for some modern sensibilities, Dello Joio's unique  compositional fusion of American popular music, jazz, Italian opera and the liturgical music of the Catholic church has an elegance that transcends the label of easy listening. Two wonderful works by Dello Joio are featured on this First Edition release: the stirring, widely acclaimed Louisville Orchestra commission, Triumph of St. Joan Symphony, which debuted with Martha Graham as dance soloist, and his Homage to Haydn, an jubilant tribute that reflects Dello Joio’s studies with Paul Hindemith.

Black Earth
Composer: Fazýl Say
Conductor: Muhai Tang, Eliahu Inbal
Performer: Fazil Say, Laurent Korcia

The Turkish pianist Fazýl Say has built a formidable reputation for himself through a string of first-rate recordings  of Mozart, Bach, Gershwin and Stravinsky.  This time around,  Say demonstrates that he is also a composer of considerable talent.  The title piece, Black Earth for solo piano, is  based on a Turkish folksong, in which Say, evoking the saz, a Turkish traditional instrument, simultaneously plays the keys and the strings inside the piano, producing an otherworldly sound. Say's compositions are hardly classical--more like Keith Jarrett with a dynamite hook-- but these are daring and exciting performances.

American Angels
Performer(s): Anonymous 4
Harmonia Mundi Franc 

Anonymous 4 turns from the medieval repertoire to explore the roots of American sacred music. Developed in Toni Morrison’s Atelier program at Princeton in spring 2003, American Angels includes songs of redemption and glory from the time of the American Revolution to the present day: 18th-century psalm settings from rural New England, 19th-century shape-note and camp revival songs from the rural South, and some of the nation’s best-loved gospel songs. Drawing from collections including “The Southern Harmony,” and “The Sacred Harp,” - the album explores the beauty and power of early American sacred music and the relatively obscure form of a cappella choral singing known as Sacred Harp.

Violin Concerto
Composer: Khachaturian,
Performer(s): Mihaela Martin, Kuchar, Nat'l So Ukraine

It takes a lot of virtuosity to keep Khachaturian's demanding Violin Concerto afloat and the Romanian violinist, Mihaela Martin, does a masterful job.  Her version is less daring, say, than that of, David Oistrakh, to whom the piece is dedicated, but she skillfully navigates the bristling outer movements and pours her soul into the elegaic central movement.  Among recent versions this holds it own with the very best. 


Piano Concerti Nos. 1 & 2
Piano Concerto No. 2
Marc-André Hamelin (piano), 
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton

Marc-Andre Hamelin makes child's play of these two very different piano masterpieces of Shostakovich.  Fabulously accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony, led by Andrew Litton,  Hamelin provides not simply his usual technical brillance but also a feeling for the material that sounds--to this listener--definitive.  The Shchedrin concerto, though less well-known, is no less enjoyable. 

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. 

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