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  March 10-17, 2003
Tan Dan:
All Over the Map

Tan Dun is known for bringing together disparate forms and cultures in his works — most notably the traditions of Eastern and Western music. His new work The Map, a Concerto for Cello, Video, and Orchestra,  which has its New York premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the composer himself at Carnegie Hall on Monday night, is a continuation and expansion of that effort. 

After the BSO commissioned a new work from Tan for the orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, he decided to revisit the traditional music of the Hunan province of China, where he grew up. He returned to Hunan in 1999 and began searching for the musical customs and influences he remembered from childhood, capturing them on video. He was especially interested in finding a stone drummer who seemed to bridge past, present and future but he learned that the stone drummer was dead, and, with him, his art. Tan decided  he wanted his new piece to be a map tracing a personal journey to encounter the drummer and what he represented. 

Rather than simply use the video as visual notes, Tan decided to incorporate his own original music with video images from his research.  There are 10 sections in the 45-minute piece, most of them centered on video material of performers of various ancient folk arts, including one called ''stone drumming,'' in which Tan evokes the lost art from memory.

The piece is less a map than a travelogue, but the ingenuity of it all, and the quality of the folk arts and performers, made it the most persuasive piece Tan has created in years, and it reminded us of why everyone got so excited about him in the first place. wrote Richard Dyer, in the Boston Globe where the work debuted last month.

A winner of the Grawemeyer Award, today's most prestigious prize for classical music, Tan  began his musical career with the Peking Opera. He is a graduate of Beijing's Central Conservatory, and holds a doctoral degree in Music Arts from Columbia University in New York. Tan Dun's music is played throughout the world by the leading orchestras and ensembles of our time. 

Among Tan's compositions are Ghost Opera, which has toured worldwide with the Kronos Quartet; the Orchestral Theatre series, a four-hour orchestral exploration of multi-cultural and multi-media; Crouching Tiger Concerto, based on his Oscar-winning film score for Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"; and Symphony 1997 (Heaven Earth Mankind), premiered with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and broadcast around the world to commemorate the unification of Hong Kong with China. His  Grawemeyer-winning opera, Marco Polo, set to a libretto by Paul Griffiths, was commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival and has been performed in Munich, Vienna, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Turin, London, New York, Tokyo, Zagrab, and Hong Kong. It was named "Opera of the Year" by the noted German magazine Oper. 

Commissioned by the BBC, PBS Television, and Sony Classical, his 2000 Today: A World Symphony for the Millennium was broadcast on the first day of the new millennium by more than 55 major networks worldwide.

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Sophie's Wrong Choice
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On Being Arvo
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Dead Man Walking
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Steve Reich/Alan Pierson

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

Berlin's Opera Battles "The future of government-sponsored opera in Berlin may be in the balance. In practice, even more is at stake. In a peculiar way over the last three years the opera story has become a gauge of the still volatile relations between the two halves of this long-divided city and even a test of Germany's willingness to give Berlin the profile of a genuine capital city." The New York Times 03/04/03 

Time To Abolish Queen's Master Musician? With the death of the latest Master of the Queen's Music, maybe it's time to abolish the position. "There is little evidence that Her Majesty takes much interest in music (Her website finds room for the Master of the Horse but not, alas, of the Music). As with the poet laureate, one's heart bleeds for anyone given the unenviable task of having to write memorial verse or songs for most royal or state occasions. So the kindest thing might be quietly to declare the job redundant. That would be a shame. There have been many undistinguished composers since the first Master in 1626, but also many distinguished ones - including Bax and Elgar." The Guardian (UK) 03/04/03 

One-Minute Opera - How To Write Better For The Stage There aren't enough good operas being written. Why? Poor music, bad stories, awkward librettos. Aldeburgh is trying to help. So it invited a group of writers and composers to spend a week together exploring one another's craft. First assignment? team up and write a one-minute scene. It's tougher than it seems... The Guardian (UK) 03/06/03 

Will The Big Five Recording Companies Become The Big Three? The recording industry is talking merger again. In this shrinking market, the savings that might be squeezed from a merger offer a lifeline. In the past, European regulators have been an obstacle, repeatedly blocking mergers among the big five record companies—Vivendi's Universal Music, Sony Music, EMI, AOL Time Warner's Warner Music, and Bertelsmann's BMG—which between them control 70% of the global recorded-music market. In 2000, they blocked a merger of Warner and EMI by imposing heavy divestment conditions. They stopped EMI marrying BMG even before a formal proposal was tabled." But with the industry's current woes, the merger proposition might get a more sympathetic hearing. The Economist 03/03/03 

Opera As A Big Fun Show "Whether or not the Broadway Bohème is an operatic success is almost beside the point. It is a marketing triumph that will likely allow Luhrmann and his investors to recoup the show's $6.5 million investment - and then some. La Bohème's success shows that it's possible, if expensive, to sell opera to non-operagoers. There's a lesson here for opera impresarios. It shouldn't be that hard to persuade people who love the art form to attend performances by giving them a good reason for going. And if opera can go to Broadway, why can't Broadway go to the opera?" Opera News 03/03 

Opera Australia's New Boss In taking on the top job at Opera Australia, conductor Roger Hickox committed to "moving to Sydney, fund-raising and programming one new Australian opera every two years." Mr Hickox, 55, was the unanimous choice of the board and the advisory committee. He was among a four-person shortlist that included two Australians. Mr Hickox has been involved with the company since 1994 and has conducted five operas for it." Sydney Morning Herald 03/07/03 

Looks: 10...Music? How can opera compete in a world of multimedia? "In an attempt to connect with a broad and unspecialized public, opera companies have sought the ministrations of directors who are inventive, fearless - and often indifferent to the music they purport to serve. These theatrical interpreters are granted liberties that musical interpreters would never take: Operas are constantly being shuttled from one era to another, causing havoc with time-bound librettos, yet the score remains more or less sacrosanct." Newsday 03/09/03 

Houston Symphony Musicians To Strike Musicians of the Houston Symphony say they'll go on strike after Saturday night's concert, rejecting the orchestra's imposition of unilateral cuts in pay. The musicians had offered a compromise pay cut Friday, but the orchestra rejected it. "Our decision is a stand for the principles that we continue to espouse: that Houston deserves a world-class orchestra. It has one now. It stands to lose that now." Houston Chronicle 03/08/03 

Fogel: Bad Times For Orchestras Going To Get Worse Orchestras across America are struggling to stay in business. And it's going to get worse, says Henry Fogel, president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. "The great economy and high stock market of the '90s helped mask some of the problems orchestras are now facing. And watch out - Fogel predicts that 'next year will be the worst year for orchestras, which by then will have suffered three bad years in a row'." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 03/09/03 


 Last Week's News
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Tina Davidson was one of the featured composers at Voces Novae et Antiquae's celebration of Philadelphia composers

Caught in the Act
Celebrating Philadelphia's
Contemporary Composers
by Deborah Kravetz

 Artistic Director Robert A.M. Ross has produced a combination of music by and about women, but not directly, so much as a reflection of feminine nature, in the rebirth of spring, the air we breathe, the light we see and in the dances of Eve -- aspects that blend together traditional and modern texts.

      Harrison Boyle's 1976 Two Madrigals from Equinoxes celebrate the
turning points of the equinoxes, autumnal and vernal, at their opposing
positions of the calendar. In two miniature tone poems, he contrasts
women's and men's voices in high and low descending cadences in Late Autumn, and forming stately layered chords in Trees , to texts by Sheldon Flory and Philip Larkin.

      Commissioned in 1998 for the 100th anniversary of the Fleisher Art
Memorial in 1998, River of Love, River of Light by Tina Davidson was
inspired by her interest in the Virgin Mary of Guadeloupe, and is performed
with cello, clarinet, and percussion. The texts of diverse origins in
English, Latin and the Aztec language of Nahua, bring a sense of mystery
and the exotic; dramatic use of vibraphone and percussion in High Seas
contrasts with quiet pleas for the Virgin that remain primarily a capella
and text-oriented pieces. The interlude introducing The Blessed Virgin
Compared to the Air we Breathe is itself a breath of fresh air; the
colorful and jaggedly rhythmic text by Gerard Manley Hopkins is
well-matched by Davidson's swelling melody, flowing smoothly with the
text's alliterations and repetitions.

      Andrea Clearfield's attention to Hebrew texts and tones reverberates
throughout her compositions from this, one of her earliest pieces, Nes
Gadol Hayah Sham (1992) (A Great Miracle Happened Here) celebrating
Hanukah, the festival of lights. Here, the stress is on the miracle of
light and the light quality of the light itself, expressed as texture and
colors. From the low cello introduction to the rising choral repetitions,
from bass to soprano solo, from the minor becoming major, the effect is as
of light out of darkness, growing in strength and warmth.

      The Heart of Singing Light (1999) is Scott Robinson's world premiere
piece on this program . His background in folk and eastern music with his
band, Gypsophilia, permeates his music, but so does Robinson's knowledge of
religious music, often drawing on Greek themes and tonality. All that has
led to this, written to texts by Rumi and soprano Shannon Coulter, sung by
Jodi Karin Applebaum and accompanied by Gypsophilia. The spirit of dance
and Renaissance rhythms are the hallmark of God Made Eve Dancing, and in places the chorus acts as another instrument. Other sections are more
meditative, but celebrate the transforming power of music.

      Overall, this was nothing less than a multi-sectarian worship service--
of nature, of the Virgin Mary, of the light of God and of the power of
music and dance as pathways to prayer.

Voces Novae et Antiquae
A Celebration of Philadelphia Composers
Trinity Center, Philadelphia
February 28, 2003

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 3/7/03)

NWEAMO 2003: The Exploding Interactive Inevitable 
October 3-5, 2003: Portland, Oregon (B-Complex) October 10-12, 2003: 
(San Diego State University) 

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance

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 - March 2003 (In Progress)

Concierto De Aranjuez / Fantasia Para Gentilhombre
Composer Joaquin Rodrigo
Performers:  Socias, Pons, Orquesta Ciudad Granada
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901764
A superb recording of one of the best-known pieces of music of the 20th century.  Finished in 1939, the Concierto de Aranjuez made Rodrigo famous overnight. It is presented here with its ideal coupling, the Fantasía para un gentilhombre, along with two much more rarely performed works. The performers here, all of them Spanish, bring an authentically Iberian coloring to these sunny, romantic works.


Complete Orchestral Works 5
Composer: Joaquin Rodrigo
Performers: Gallen, Clerch, Valdes, Asturias So
Naxos - #8555842

Poul Ruders Edition, Volume 3 - Concerti
Composer: Poul Ruders
Conductor: David Starobin
Performer: David Starobin, Mette Ejsing, et al.
Bridge - #9122
 Ruders,  (b. 1949 in Denmark) will be having a "career" year this season, with new orchestral works due for  premiere by the Berlin Philharmonic and The New York Philharmonic.  His opera, "The Handmaid's Tale" is set for new productions by the English National Opera  (April, 2003) and the Minnesota Opera (May, 2003), and the CD of The Handmaid's Tale received two 2001 Grammy nominations–for "Best Opera"; and "Best Contemporary Composition".  This CD features premiere recordings of three Poul Ruders concertos, including Paganini Variations, Ruders's second guitar concerto, a high spirited romp through Paganini's famous 24th Caprice, and a brilliant display vehicle for the brilliant guitarist David Starobin.  The City in the Sea is a dramatic setting of Edgar Allan Poe's gothic poem about a lifeless decaying city, sung with enormous power by Mette Ejsing.  Anima, Ruders's second cello concerto, is a work of true lyric beauty and is played here by the Czech cello virtuoso, and Tchaikovsky competition prize winner, Michaela Fukacova.

Orchestral Works
Composer:): Bright Sheng
Performers: Gondek, Qiang, Wong, 
Hong Kong Phil
 Naxos #8555866
Following on to its Michael Torke release last month, Naxos delivers another of the bright young stars of American music.   Born in China in 1955, Bright Sheng moved to New York in 1982 to study music at Queens College and Columbia University, George Perle and Leonard Bernstein being among his teachers. Chiina Dreams was composed between 1992 and 1995, and each of the four movements are dedicated to various conductors and orchestras in the States, finally brought together after each of their first performances to form a symphonic suite. Each movement is a vivid and dramatic picture of regions in China; the work's title is taken from the idea for the last movement that came to Sheng in a dream. Though there is a sense of Eastern music, the orchestration is purely from the Western world, and employs a large orchestra.  Compelling music, masterfully played.

Untaming the Fury
New American Music for Guitar and Violin
Summit Records  SMT-346
 Matt Gould & Beth Ilana Schneider


Baltic Voices 1
Composers: Arvo Pärt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, et al.
Conductor: Paul Hillier
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #907311
Paul Hillier leads the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in Volume 1 of Baltic Voices — a three-year project to explore the choral riches of the Baltic Sea countries. With a special attention to the choir’s native Estonia, these recordings will highlight the mainstream tradition of the past hundred years, complemented with music of earlier periods and commissions from younger composers. Volume 1 features haunting secular and sacred works by 20th-century composers Cyrillus Kreek, Arvo Pärt, Einojuhani Rautavaara,  Sven-David Sandstrøm, Peteris Vasks, and Veljo Tormis.  Cool, ethereal, other worldly music from a hot bed of great contemporary composers.

Awakening at the Inn of the Birds, etc.
 Composer: Michael Byron
 Performers: FLUX Quartet, Sarah Cahill, Joseph Kubera, and Kathy Supove
Cold Blue Music CB0012


Level 7 
Composer: Evan Ziporyn, et al. 
Performer: The Robin Cox Ensemble

Orchestral Works 4
Composer: Krzysztof Penderecki
Peformers: Chee-Yun, violin; Wit, 
Polish Nat'l Rso,  Naxos 
The two violin concertos presented here are from the 1970s when Penderecki returned from strict modernism to more traditional modes of composition. The first concerto dates from 1977, and was written for Isaac Stern, its solo writing containing prodigious technical difficulties. The second is not much easier but both violinists on this CD produce lively, impressive accounts.

Albert Herring
Composer: Benjamin Britten
 Performer: Bedford, Northern Sinfonia
 Naxos - 
In which young Albert Herring, the May King (apparently no female virgin could be found) is taken into hand by the lovers  Sid and Nancy, fortified with rum, and treated to a night on the town where he does--or does not--lose his virtue.  Wonderful, gay comedy and beautifully sung.

Complete Orchestral Works 3
Composer: John Carbon
Conductor: Vladimir Valek, Marin Alsop, et al.
Mmc Records - #2120 

Works for Wind Band 3 
Composer: John Philip Sousa
Performer(s): Brion, Royal Artillery Band
Born in Washington DC on 6 November, 1854, the father of American march music was the son of a trombonist with the United States Marine Band and a true prodigy.  He began music lessons at age six and by the age of eleven he organized and led his own ‘quadrille orchestra’. The rest of his orchestra consisted of seven grown men and quickly became a popular dance orchestra in the Washington area. At the age of 25, he was chosen to become Director of the United States Marine Band in Washington. He began leading the Marine Band in January 1880, beginning a fabled 52 year career as a bandmaster. 


Left to His Own Devices
Composer:  Eric Chasalow
 New World Records - #80601 
 Eric Chasalow is Professor of Composition, and Director of BEAMS, the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio. Two of the seven electro-acoustic works on this disc--Left to His Own Devices and Suspicious Motives--pay homage to his Columbia-Princeton mentors; the former is built from vocal samples of Milton Babbitt and the sound of the RCA synthesizer while the latter incorporates two motives from Davidovsky’s music—primarily the opening to Synchronisms #6. 
Notable also are two purely acoustic chamber pieces, In the Works and Yes, I Really Did, which reveal a consistency of vision across both musical frontiers.

A Night at the Symphony
 Composer: Marie Barker Nelson
Conductor: Vladimir Valek, Gerard Schwarz, et al.
Mmc Records - #2103 


Etudes Books I & II
Composer: Gyorgy Ligeti
Performer: Idil Biret, piano
Naxos - #8555777
Ligeti wrote this series of fifteen studies over a period of ten years beginning in the 1980s and the result is  one of its great masterworks of the keyboard. Not for the timid, these pieces take the pianist's skill to levels that border on the impossible.  Idil Biret meets the challenges head-on and delivers an extraordinary performance.  Highly recommended.

Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer: Helmut Deutsch, Dietrich Henschel
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901780

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