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  February 24-March 3, 2003

Tobias Picker's
Orchestral  Work

By Duane Harper Grant

Tobias Picker is perhaps best-known for his operas Emmeline and Thérèse Raquin but as a new Chandos CD release shows the New York born (1954) and
 raised composer has composed a vast body of distinguished work ranging from orchestral to opera to ensemble and everything in between. In 1982 he was commissioned to write a piece to celebrate the centennial of the Brooklyn Bridge. Eight months later in front of an audience of over 2 million people the piece premiered at the  celebration with Picker playing the piano. It was a great success. That piece, a piano concerto titled "Keys to the City", is the first piece on this new Chandos CD.

In writing this 18-minute piece Picker immersed himself in his subject. He studied the bridge, its life, legacy and lore. He went to the bridge and took it in from many perspectives at different times of day and evening, taking in its look, its construction, its sounds and its life, its prose and poetry. What is evident from the onset of the piece is that it is of the lineage of great piano concertos of the Romantic and Post-Romantic eras. The opening is grand and grabs the listener with rhythmic, textural and thematic interest. Then we are led into the piece by the sinewy piano ruminations with an underpinning of strings supporting the piano's every move. And move it does. There is no dearth of ideas in this single movement piece. A rhapsodic work, it springs from theme to theme using jazz harmonies and riffs, show-type melodies and a tip of the hat from the piano to Gershwin. It it held my attention with brilliant intent and propulsion.

The title of the second piece on the new Chandos, "And Suddenly it's Evening," is taken from a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo. Commissioned by a consortium of youth orchestras the piece, which is also inspired by the same poem, is a reflection on the fading of youth. The first movement is thematically subtle but stays intact throughout and seems to suggest; yes, it is almost dark. The second movement captures at once an essence of wonder and foreboding. The violin and viola express their plaintive themes. In the third movement, "Suddenly Evening", we hear an urgency and alarm in the strident statement of the strings. As the horn enters we are aware of the eminent falling of night.

"The Concerto For Cello and Orchestra" was commissioned by the BBC and first performed at a London Proms concert in August 2001. This is just beautiful writing. The cello is so rich and full of texture its melodies stand out against the underpinnings and counter melodies of the orchestra. The first movement, "Not Even the Rain" I was listening to on a rainy Sunday afternoon in February and was a perfect complement for the reflective mood I was in. The segues from solo to orchestra and back are seamless. "Those We Loved" is the title of the second movement. Beautiful and poetic the cello is again set against rich under textures and the counter melodies are used well to give the feeling of a little urgency. "Lament" the third movement is dark and still like a long, cloudy afternoon or dusk. It's mesmerizing. Play it on a rainy afternoon and feel it all the way through.

If you only know Picker through his operas, this CD is a splendid introduction to his formidable symphonic talents. 

Keys to the City, And Suddenly it's Evening, Cello Concerto
Composer:  Tobias Picker
With Paul Watkins-cello, Jeremy Denk-piano,
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by: Thomas Sanderling
Chandos CD 10039
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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

Giving Russian Musicians A Reason To Stay The Russian government hs established a set of grants designed to provide incentive for the nation's top musicians to keep their talents in country, rather than seeking out higher-paying positions in Europe and America. The average Russian orchestra musician currently makes around US$120 a month. The grants, which will be doled out to seven musical organizations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, will be used principally to increase those salaries to as much as $1400 a month. The money is a welcome relief for cash-strapped orchestras and conservatories, but many fear the fix may be temporary. Gramophone 02/19/03 

Danielpour, Morrison Team Up For Opera Poet Toni Morrison and composer Richard Danielpour have been commissioned to write a new opera by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Detroit's Michigan Opera Theater and the Cincinnati Opera. Working title for the piece is "Margaret Garner", "the name of a pre-Civil War Kentucky slave. Forced to be the mistress of a plantation owner, Garner escaped with her children, but, when captured, attempted to murder them and herself rather than return to slavery." The premiere will be February 2006. Philadelphia Inquirer 02/20/03 

Come Hear The Propaganda! Just over a decade ago, no one in America would have dared mount a festival of music by Soviet composers who were compelled to write inane Socialist Realist glorifications of Josef Stalin and the Party. The backlash would have been tremendous. Now, with the Soviet Union more than ten years dead, its history is more easily examined without the bluster of American righteousness, and Vladimir Ashkenazy is seizing the moment. Ashkenazy is at Carnegie Hall this week, mounting a festival of music dedicated to works composed under duress by Soviet composers. Andante 02/19/03 

Unfunding Scottish Music The Scottish Arts Council has come under fire for its funding intentions. But not much noticed was a decision to remove funding for two organizations that have been essential to the cause of new music in Scotland. How does this serve the cause of Scottish culture? Glasgow Herald 02/19/03 

Classical Grammy: Who Would Win If The Heathens Didn't Get a Vote? "A perennial anticlimax for classical fans is the fact that, although a blue-ribbon committee of classical specialists determines the Grammy nominees... the opportunity to cast votes for the winners is thrown open to all Recording Academy members, including many from nonclassical genres. In previous years, they appear to have picked classical winners on the basis of artist name recognition and weight, in tons, of marketing materials behind each album." Of course, since almost no one watches the Grammys to see who wins the classical awards, we might as well just decide now who ought to win. Gwendolyn Freed is up to the task. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 02/23/03 

A Cello's Tale Several cellists in the New York Philharmonic could have solo careers. Some have. But there's something special about being a member of an elite orchestra. "Ask cellists to define the part the cello plays in an orchestra, and they describe it as subtle but essential. 'It's a foundation role. It provides stability and structure." The New York Times 02/21/03 

Layoffs In St. Paul The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, America's only full-time professional chamber orchestra, has laid off ten administrative employees in an attempt to balance its books in the face of a shrinking endowment and below-average donations. Observers were surprised by the layoffs, since the SPCO finished last season in the black, one of only three American orchestras to do so. The ensemble survived a brush with bankruptcy a decade ago, but has operated without deficits for nine straight seasons. St. Paul Pioneer Press 02/21/03 

New Jersey - Orchestra Of Strads The New Jersey Symphony has pulled off a deal to buy 30 priceless string instruments - including 12 Stradivari violins - for $18 million. It "is believed by experts to be the first time in history that any ensemble has purchased so many instruments from Italy's Golden Age at one time - and that includes during the lifetime of Antonio Stradivari himself. Details of the deal are to be released at a press conference in Newark on Wednesday." New Jersey Star Ledger 02/16/03 

No "Oh Canada" For This Orchestra The Toronto Symphony touts next season's programming as "balanced." "You might think that an orchestra that's all ours would aim to be reflect where it lives; and that 'balanced' would imply some kind of symphonic variations on the old rhyme about something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. But at the TSO next year, the old and the borrowed trump everything else. The new is hardly there, and as for the blue - well, that would describe the mood of anyone scanning the new schedule for music created in Canada." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/17/03 

Music Man Raymond Gubbay is the kind of populist promoter who draws contempt from more traditional arts managers. "His success is based on providing what he has accepted is middle-brow populist material." But his shows consistently sell, and he prides himself on finding entertaining ways to present music and opera. The Guardian (UK) 02/18/03 

Music For The Modern Age The sooner the industry embraces digital technology, the better off we'll all be, says Don Tapscott. Not that internet audio is perfect - far from it. But unlike traditional media, the MP3 has created a world full of choice, and that's what modern society demands. "This is great news for budding musicians, since music isn't exclusionary in its use. In an increasingly hectic society, almost all of us have less time for the activities we enjoy, except listening to music. Music makes a good experience better." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/22/03 

Why Orchestras? Philippe Herreweghe is a leader of the period instrument movement. But the conductor wonders about the use of tradional symphony orchesras. "Must we go on with these traditional orchestras? The ancient music movement is very strong. First they played Baroque music, and the attitude of the traditional orchestras was to say 'OK, it's not serious music. Let them do it, but they are not good enough to play real music.' But later, we played Mozart and Beethoven. We play Brahms, Schumann and Bruckner, and we noticed that there was an interest from the public and the press. And now, when there is a concert of Schubert symphonies on gut strings here in Antwerp, it attracts a full audience with young people, but when some local orchestras play the same symphonies of Schubert or Haydn in a traditional way the hall is half empty." The Telegraph (UK) 02/18/03 

 Last Week's News
Advertising and Sponsorship Info

Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony
Wins Best Classical Grammy
The big classical winner at last night's Grammy Awards ceremony was Telarc's recording of "Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony (Sym. No. 1) which won for awards for best classical album; best choral performance, and best engineered classical album.  On top of that, Telarc co-founder Robert Woods was voted classical producer of the year.
Classical Album
Choral Performance
Best Engineered
Sea Symphony
Composer: Ralph Vaughan Williams Conductor: Robert Spano
Performers: Christine Goerke, Brett Polegato
Atlanta Symphony and Chorus
Telarc - #80588
Lamentations and Praises
Composer:  John Tavener
Performer(s): Chanticleer, 
Elektra/Asylum - #41342 
Classical Contemporary Composition
Best Small Ensemble

The other big winner was John Tavener whose "Lamentations and Praises" performed by Chanticleer won best classical contemporary composition and best small ensemble performance.

Orchestral Performance

Symphony No. 6
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: Michael Tilson Thomas
San Francisco Symphony 
Delos #SFS1

Composer: Richard Wagner
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Performer: Jane Eaglen, Peter Seiffert, Berlin State Opera Chorus, Berlin Staatskapelle
Elektra/Asylum - #88064
Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra
Brahms/Stravinsky: Violin Concertos
Composer: Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky
Conductor: Neville Marriner
Performer: Hilary Hahn
Sony - #89649
Classical Vocal Performance

Bel Canto
Composer: Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, et al.
Performer: Renee Fleming
Orchestra of St. Luke's
Universal #467101


NWEAMO 2003: The Exploding Interactive Inevitable 

October 3-5, 2003: Portland, Oregon (B-Complex) October 10-12, 2003: 
(San Diego State University) 

The Northwest Electro-Acoustic Music Organization (NWEAMO) is currently seeking audience-interactive electro-acoustic works to include in its fifth annual international festival, NWEAMO 2003: The Exploding Interactive Inevitable. The three-day festival will be held in Portland and San Diego on October 3rd to 5th and 10th to 12th, respectively. 

These works must rely on some form of audience participation to complete their execution. The form of interaction may be physical, intellectual, sensory, and/or other type, and it may be achieved through technological, entirely human, or other means. Works may be representative of all styles and aesthetics, from the classical avant-garde and microsound to the fringes of experimental pop.

NWEAMO also welcomes submissions of electro-acoustic works that do not involve audience interaction. A live performance element must be featured, however. Submissions may include: 

  • Turntable works (vinyl or CD) 
  • Works involving the use of digital audio rendering environments such as SuperCollider, CSound and Max/MSP 
  • Works for solo instrument (acoustic or electric) and electronics 
  • Experimental dance music 
  • Live all-electronic performances (DJ/VJ, laptop) 
  • Live performer with prerecorded material 
  • Music involving the creative use of electronic amplification 
  • Video with integrated music 
  • Music involving theatrical or dance performance 
  • Installations with audio elements 
  • Multimedia works with audio element 
As in past years, between seven and nine performances will be presented on each of the festival's two nights. We would like to end at least one night with experimental dance music.  For more details, go to NWEAMO.

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance
Classical Grammy Winners

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

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

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.
             EDITORS PICKS - JANUARY 2003

Music of Our Time
Composer(s): Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, György Ligeti, Wolfgang Rihm
Performer(s): Gottfried Michael Konig, Karlheinz Stockhausen, et al.
Wergo - #6921 
The Big Box of 20th century modernism.  Four disks--one each devoted to the music of Stockhausen, Cage, Ligeti, and Rihm--to celebrate Wergo's 40 years at the cutting edge.  An outstanding collection and a must have for the serious collector of contemporary music--even if you have some of the pieces on other recordings. 

Rapture / An American Abroad / Jasper
Composer: Michael Torke
Performer(s): Currie, Alsop, Royal Scottish Nat'l Orch
Naxos - #8559167 
Michael Torke is among the most talented of the younger generation of American composers. In the past few years he has risen to international prominence with an exciting series of orchestral and ensemble works that explores a unique fusion of jazz, rock, and more traditional classical influences Captured beautifully here are three pieces Torke wrote while serving as composer in residence at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Jasper, An American Abroad and the energetic percussion concerto, Rapture, with Colin Currie, soloist. 

Footprints in New Snow
Composer:  Christos Hatzis
 Cbc Enterprises - #1156-2
Footprints in New snow is an electroacoustic composition for tape  based on prerecorded katajjaq, the vocal games of the Inuit by the Greek-born, Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. The material was recorded on location at Iqaluit and Cape Dorset at Baffin Island from June 15-26 along with interviews with throat singers, respected elders of the community and various environmental sounds of the north. This extensive material was subsequently edited and incorporated in the composition using digital sampling and digital audio technologies.  The results are fascinating, often mesmerizing.

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Composer: Wojciech Kilar
Performers: Cracow Philharmonic Chorus, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice), Antoni Wit (conductor). Marco Polo
Wojciech Kilar is best-known for his film music although he is also an outstanding composer of orchestral works.  Few people alive are better are capturing musical moods and creating a sound world that perfectly matches the images they illustrate.   Born in Poland in 1932, and having studied at the Katowice State Music School, he eventually arrived in Paris as a student of Boulenger. He had composed for over one hundred Polish films before moving into the Hollywood industry.

New American Piano Music
Composer(s): David Rakowski, Henry Martin, et al.
  Performer: Teresa McCollough
innova 552
 Pianist Teresa McCollough reviewed more than 300 original piano compositions by American composers.  and  picked the best seven to include on her recital programs and national tours.  The result is a exciting and adventuresome program of contemporary music in a variety of approachable styles and of uniform high quality. 

String Quartet No. 3
Composer: Arnold Bax
 Performer(s): Maggini Quartet
Label: Naxos - #8555953 
 The last and longest of Bax's published quartets sounds like a combination of  his earlier two, although that's not bad. Outdoorsy, English cow patty music that sounds best after a spirited day afield, in the company of a big slobbering dog, blowing the heads off small game with a James Purdey, London, shotgun, followed by a good cigar and  an Irish whiskey by the fireplace.  Ah, sweet motherland. 


Lo the Full Final Sacrifice & Other Choral Works
 Composer: Gerald Fenzi
 Performers:  Choir of St John's College, Cambridge / Christopher Robinson, conductor
Of Italian Jewish ancestry, Gerald Finzi was among the most English of composers, spending much of his life in the countryside of Hampshire and later near Newbury. His interest in earlier English music and in English literature is  reflected in these settings of choral works performed splendidly by the Choir of St. John's College. 


Fall of Berlin / Unforgettable Year 1919 
Composer: Dmitry Shostakovich
Performer: Ellena Alekseyeva, piano / Moscow Capella & Youth Chorus / Moscow Symphony Orchestra / Adriano, conductor 
Marco Polo - #8223897 
Shostokovitch was so often in trouble with the authorities that often the only music he could get recorded was zippy patriotic anthems to accompany propaganda films.  Fortunately, he had a great knack for creating a hook and his film work was well-known to a populace that had never heard his more important modernist pieces because they had been supressed.  The pieces heard here are fine examples of Shostokovitch ability to walk the fine line between blarney and satire.

Chamber Works
Composer: Richard Dubugnon
Dubugnon was born  in Lausanne in 1968 and began serious studies of the double bass and composition when he was twenty, entering the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris in 1990, later moving to London's Royal Academy of Music as a student of Paul Petterson. He combines composition with a career as a double bass player, appearing as soloist with a number of contemporary music groups.  These small pieces suggest a young composer with a unique voice and lots left to say. 

Sinfonia Sevillana
Composer: Joaquín Turina:
 Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
Performer: Hamish Milne
Hyperion - #67326 
Turina was one of Spain's greatest composers but his work is unjustly neglected.  Lots of fire and passion 

Complete Orchestral Works 3
Composer: Joaquin Rodrigo
Performers: Symphony Orchestra of Castille and Leon
Naxos - #8555840 
Impossibly sunny music, guaranteed to warm your soul in a cold February.  If you only know Rodrigo for Concierto de Aranjuez, this superb Naxos series is a revelation.


All Rivers at Once
Composer: Phillip Schroeder
Performer: Duo Savage
Capstone - # 8709)
Hints of Mahler and the late Romantics run through these lovely pieces performed by Duo Savage, consisting of Susan Savage (oboe and English horn) and Dylan Savage (piano and synthesiser). This is haunting, beautiful, music that transports the listener to a world that is considerably more genteel than one in which we live. 


Stabat Mater
Composer: Francis Poulenc
 Opus Arte/Distributed by 
Poulenc's Stabat Mater, Litanies a la Vierge Noire, and Quatre Motets pour un Temps de Penitence are performed by  English choirs (plus the BBC Philharmonic in the Stabat Mater). The performances are first-rate; picture and sound quality are excellent. The disc includes an intriquing documentary on Black Madonnas and a virtual visit to Rocamadour (where Poulenc underwent a religious experience relevant to the music on this program). 

Die Tote Stadt
Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
ArtHuas Musik/Distributed by 
 Long before Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897–1957) became  one of Hollywood’s most famous film composers, his opera ‘Die tote Stadt’ became a resounding success. The libretto, a many-layered and disturbingly morbid love drama between Paul, mourning for his dead wife Marie, and Marie’s spitting image Marietta, is based on the 1892 symbolist cult novel ‘Burges-la-Morte’ by Georges Rodenbach.  This highly acclaimed Strasbourg staging by Inga Levant creates a suggestive spectacle somewhere between Hollywood and Fellini.

Piano Music Vol. 4
Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Performer: Hakon Austbo
Naxos - #8554655
Messiaen is this year's flavor of the month as record companies continue to  turn out dozens of  versions of his works both large and small.  This Naxos series is the best bargain of the lot, with wonderful, well-recorded performances that reflect the growth of Messiaen's reputation as one of the giants of 20th century music.

Orchestra Music
Composer: Silvestre Revueltas
Conductor: Enrique Barrios
Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra
Naxos - #8555917
All the greatest hits of Mexico's  best dead composer, performed marvelously by a sympathetic orchestra, at a bargain basement price.  If you don't know Revueltas' work, shut down the computer immediately, run to the nearest CD store, plop down your money and prepare to be amazed.

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Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
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