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and clashes of cultures and sensibilities are highlighted in this program
of new Relache commissions and older pieces. Tonality, inspirational influences,
instrumentation and themes come together from varied directions to form
the unique Relache sound.
Incessant xylophone strikes almost obscure the opening theme, but piano adds to and replaces the xylophone in the next phrase. After a cacophonous opening, the theme appears in single high piano notes, but the ensemble resumes, resembling nothing so much as an urban construction site; however, a mid-section features a jazzy pizzicato viola and bass. A section for English horn, flute and sax most closely represents the Turkish influence, enhanced with long chords in piano and string strokes. A percussion riff at the end really drives up the temperature.
Inspired by her daughter’s experience with epilepsy, Cynthia Folio has created a multi-media piece in movements representing the aura, ictal and post-ictal phases of brain seizures accompanied by art created by people who have experienced it. When the Spirit Catches You presents the aura by scattered notes and jagged artwork that mutates shapes and colors. Steel pans provide an echoey percussive tone to accompany the “tingling feeling” a patient describes; the “roller coaster” sensation brings cascades of notes and “sounds distorted”. Throbbing percussion and rat-a-tat of drums speeds up as the ensemble joins in unison, while an EEG appears on screen and visual colors become throbbingly bright with shattered shapes and jagged rhythms. Post-ictal confusion is hollow and eerie with vocalizations to flute and oboe, vibraphone runs, deep chords, lonely saxophone, surreal visuals and disjointed words. The piece ends with the tinkling of a dozen music boxes running down as the musicians leave the stage.
Duo by Maurice Wright combines the qualities of viola and marimba as a
metaphor for the combination of disparate perspectives and personalities.
In its five short movements of varying pace, long flowing viola lines are
accompanied by short phrases of warm marimba tones punctuated by light
drum beats. The two lines remain mostly independent, but go together well
if not exactly congruently, and with eminent coherence.
program closed with Turquoise by Kamran Ince, a piece that has been performed
several times by Relache over the years. Ince explained that it was conceived
as a set of “ Turkish-sounding” phrases played in various displacements.
The primary theme starts in unison, but becomes varied with repetition.
Ecstatic + Mysterious
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Early and Unknown Piano Works
Composer: Morton Feldman
Performer(s): Debora Petrina
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
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.
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Performer: Melanie Diener, Ludovic Tezier, et al. Radio France Chorus, French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
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
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
Return from a Journey
Composers: Gurdjieff, De Hartmann,
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
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.
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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