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  March 17-24, 2003
Little Women,
Big Talent:

Mark Adamo

Mark Adamo's operatic adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's cherished 1868 novel Little Women is one of the few instant hits in the world of contemporary opera, arriving at the New York City Opera yesterday trailing favorable notices from more than 20 productions around the U.S. Adamo, 38, is a native of Philadelphia who was raised in the suburbs of New Jersey, is currently composer-in-residence of the New York City Opera. Though he has premiered several vocal works, Little Women, which was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera (HGO), is his first opera. 

When Little Women was premiered in March 1998 by the Opera Studio of Houston Grand Opera, General Director David Gockley pronounced it "destined to be an American classic," and scheduled Little Women for a mainstage revival of 8 performances in March 2000 -- making it the first of HGO's twenty-five odd commissions to be so revived. G. Schirmer published the opera in May 1998; National Public Radio broadcast the recording of the premiere the following September; Civic Opera Theatre of Kansas City unveiled a new production in February of 2000; Ondine Records released a recording of the complete opera on compact disk in 2001 and, the following day, the PBS series Great Performances broadcast a television recording made from three performances of the Houston Grand Opera revival. 

Sunday’s opening is a new co-production by Glimmerglass Opera and New York City Opera. We’ll have a review next week.

Adamo’s next project for the Houston Grand Opera was to have been Lysistrata, a comedic chamber opera adapted from Aristophanes' play in which the women of warring Athens and Sparta stage a sex strike: no sex until the men agree to renounce war.  Alas, the HGO has had a complete failure of courage when it comes to anything having to do with war (It also canceled Mark-Anthony Turnage’s much admired The Silver Tassie.)

Adamo’s other compositions include orchestral and choral works: Late Victorians - a solo oratorio in four movements and Alcott Portraits - a chamber orchestra suite from Little Women, both commissioned and premiered by The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra in Washington, D.C.; Cantate Domino: Choral etude on Psalm 97 - commissioned and premiered by the Choral Arts Society of Washinton at the Kennedy Center; The Poet Speaks of Praising - commisioned by the GALA V Festival; and Three Appalachian Folk Tunes - commisioned by the Congressional Chorus of the United States and recently performed and broadcast by the BBC Singers.  Washington's National Symphony Orchestra has commissioned and scheduled Adamo's first piece for large orchestra, Angelus: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in the 2003-2004 season. 

Adamo began his education at New York University, where he received the Paulette Goddard Remarque Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate achievement in playwriting. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music Degree cum laude in composition in 1990 from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In his spare time, he also wrote the lyrics to his long-time companion John Corigliano's two cabaret songs: "Dodecaphonia (or, They Call Her Twelve-Tone Rose)" and "Marvelous Invention," both of which were introduced to New York by the New York Festival of Song.

Little Women 
Composer: Mark Adamo
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Performer: Catherine Ciesinski, James Maddalena, et al.
Ondine - #988 
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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


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.
Margaret Atwood Sees Her Word Turned Into Music Writer Margaret Atwood was suprised when she was approached with the idea of turning her book "The Handmaiden's Tale" into an opera. "I was aware of the problems the creators of the opera must have faced. The novel has much internal monologue: how would they handle that? How to convey the back-story to the plot? Would the costumes look not strange and ominous, but merely silly?" The Guardian (UK) 03/23/03 

Getting It Together To Sell Music Pretty much everyone agrees that digital copying of music isn't going to stop any time soon. And there's a growing consensus that the recording industry needs to "loosen up" if it wants to emerge with a viable business in the "rip, mix, burn" era. Finally tech companies and recording producers are getting together to explore nw ways of distributing and selling content. Village Voice 03/18/03 

Of Goalies I Sing... Any doubt that opera is the high-art form of the moment? "The Czech National Theater said on Monday it was working on an opera to commemorate the surprise gold medal victory of the Czech men's Olympic ice hockey team in Nagano in 1998. 'It is a kind of modern Czech legend and operas have always been based on legends. We know it is an unusual motif but it is quite interesting and able to carry some kind of a musical form'." Yahoo! (Reuters) 03/18/03 

Can The English National Opera Be Saved? Members of the troubled English National Opera - threatened by layoffs - have some hope that their fortunes will improve. "Their cause is further boosted by the company's comic inability to communicate information in a timely, orderly and credible fashion. Statements are sent out and swiftly recalled; press briefings verge on the farcical. The verifiable fact that ENO is living beyond sustainable means is lost in transmission." But will striking save company jobs? No, writes Norman Lebrecht, "the grim truth about strikes in the arts: they never work." London Evening Standard 03/19/03 

The One-Hour "Carmen" The Welsh National Opera is producing a radical version of "Carmen." It's short - clocking in at about an hour long. "Its short span is not the only unusual thing about this production, which is currently on tour. It is also radically cheap - tickets cost £5 and £10 - and played at unfamiliar times. Performances are at 2.30pm and 6.15pm: the afternoon show is designed to allow visiting parties of kids to be back at the school gates by home-time, and the early-evening performance is aimed at an after-work crowd." Will this really tempt people to get the opera habit? The Guardian (UK) 03/20/03 

The Sound Inside Your Head HyperSonic Sound is something entirely new in sound reproduction. It sounds like it's coming from inside your head. "It is no exaggeration to say that HSS represents the first revolution in acoustics since the loudspeaker was invented 78 years ago - and perhaps only the second since pilgrims used 'whispering tubes' to convey their dour messages." The New York Times 03/23/03 

Rattle At The Top Is there a bigger star in classical music than conductor Simon Rattle? "Rattle's career path has been a perfect, shooting-star arc from the National Youth Orchestra to Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to his mould-breaking 10 years with the City of Birmingham Orchestra. At 48, he is very young to be a conductor of international repute and he remains, to many, the perennial high-achieving golden boy of British classical music. He certainly seems to be much too amiable and accommodating to have survived and thrived in one of the notoriously brittle areas of the arts." The Telegraph (UK) 03/21/03 

English National Opera Fails To Get Bailout The English National Opera, which is thought to have asked the Arts Council for a £10 million bailout because it is "on the verge of bankruptcy, has been turned down, offered a smaller funding package instead. "The package is believed to contain £2 million to pay for seats which tilt back, and a system for surtitles - a surprise request for a company founded to produce operas in English." Martin Smith, the company's chairman, "claims that the company will be £4.2 million in the red by January, and insists a fifth of its workforce of 500 will have to go if it is to survive. The number of productions will also have to be cut." The Guardian (UK) 03/21/03

Happy Ending After All in Colorado Less than a week after the beleaguered Colorado Springs Symphony dissolved itself in bankruptcy court, the musicians of the old CSSO joined with their old music director and a new board leadership of their choosing to form the new Colorado Springs Philharmonic. The executive director of the Phil will be Susan Greene, who had been dismissed from the same position at the CSSO a year ago, sparking angry questions from the musicians. Denver Post 03/18/03 

Baltimore Symphony Facing Money Woes "Like a persistent virus, the economic downturn continues to infect musical organizations across the country. No immediate cure is in sight... The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's projected deficit for the current fiscal year has gone from $515,000, estimated last November, to $806,000 as of this month. Underlining the troubling financial picture is the fact that BSO management has unexpectedly opened up negotiations with the musicians, even though their contract, approved three years ago, doesn't expire until 2005. Neither side will provide details of these discussions, but it's clear that the orchestra is looking into every option, including possible financial concessions from the players, to stop the flow of red ink." Baltimore Sun 03/18/03 

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 Marie Goyette et Yumiko Tanaka in Heiner Goebbels' Hashirigaki

Caught in the Act

Heiner Goebbels--A Composer For the Times
by Duane Harper Grant

Heiner Goebbels is a man of, and for, the times. There is a lot that you can say about him and his work. There is a lot you can¹t say about him (and his work).  For  saying something about him and his work  is not unlike measuring, or observing something in the quantum world. The observed thing will react and morph according to what you are looking for and at the same time the act of measuring collapses all other possibilities of what it can be/could have been. As it is now, there is no easy way to define much of Heiner Goebbel's work as is true for his piece performed at BAM last week, "Hashirigaki", I love the sound of that word. There is a lot you could say about Hashirigaki, (loosely translated from the Japanese as "the act 
of walking, thinking, and talking at the same time.")  There is a lot that you can¹t say about it. There is a lot you could say if you were going to say nothing, really. Maybe just a little small talk. There are many things that one could say but probably ought not to. For saying might collapse its possibilities, Saying could compromise its holistic essence.  I mean, good heavens; take Gertrude Stein, The Beach boys, Japanese music, The Star Trek holi-deck, a chain saw, the wild theremin box, children¹s toys, a wild vocorder mime and on and on. And one just has to leave one's discerning intellect a few paces behind. It sometimes reminded me of looking at my lava lamp ­ it hovers and dances its slow motion iridescent dance, so sweetly innocent, captivating, and beautiful. I never know what forms will next emerge.

"Hashirigaki" is performed (on stage) by three women: Yumiko Tanaka from Japan, Marie Goyette from Canada and Charlotte Engelkes from Sweden. Their chemistry is magical and sweet and light hearted and very funny at times. "Hashirigaki" is very lighthearted and fun. It is prose; it is poetry. It fulfills its own meaning (if meaning was indeed necessary).

I must say that I am not that familiar with Gertrude Stein. The text (the spoken work of the piece) is taken from Stein's The Making of Americans, "Every Afternoon". It, if labels were necessary, seems to be a precursor to minimalism; much repetition and permutation of phrase; the soliloquy of the repeated permutated phrase. Hasirigaki weaves the words, the rhythms of the words and their sound through its spatial and temporal fabric. Sound is central and important in Goebbels¹ lexicon. It's interesting that all the performers at times play musical instruments and sing sometimes doing this together. Sometimes really getting down and doing some serious jammin¹. Maybe to Goebbels sound is consciousness. It doesn¹t matter where it comes from; what time and space. There is a communication and a conscious field that develops from its vibrations. It's a vehicle for transportation. The sound design, done extremely well, is by Willi Bop. Having said all this the visual effect here is even more stunning and just fun to look at. (After all humans are first visual and then auditorial). 

The set and lighting done by Claus Grunberg provide a container where space and time are present entities but we, the performers, the events of Hashirigaki are not bogged down and constrained by them.

It seems that Heiner Goebbels is a man of and for the times. Ironically the last words of Hashirigaki is from a 60's pop song, a kind of sigh and oh-well, "I guess I just was not made for these times".

Heiner Goebbels

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

             EDITORS PICKS - March 2003 (In Progress)

Gigantic Dancing 
Human Machine
Composer: Louis Andriessen
Performer: Bang on a Can
Dutch composer Louis Andriessen stands American minimalism on its head with edgy, pulsating works filled with inner drama that are more likely to induce a dancelike rather than trancelike response.  The results are exciting, even downright racuous and overpoweringly aggressive. Andriessen is from the what architect Robert Venturi might call the  "less is not more, less is a bore" school of composition. Hoketus - the landmark of European minimalism - takes its name from the medieval art of hocketing, splitting a single melody between two groups of instruments separated in space. Earth-shattering and tribal in its elemental power, Andriessen described this piece as a "Gigantic Dancing Human Machine." Its recording is an international collaboration of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, members of London's Icebreaker ensemble, and musicians from Andriessen's own group.


Composer: Gideon Lewensohn
 Ecm Records - #461861 
The  ECM debut of Israeli composer Gideon Lewensohn is an unveiling of an important compositional voice. "Odradek," which apparently doesn't mean anything in any language, is comprised entirely of premiere recordings of pieces that defy
 categorization. His work is sometimes playful, sometimes serious but always hinting at a beauty too fragile to be long sustained.   In his compositions, Lewnsohn pays tribute to Kurtág, Kancheli, Lutoslawski, Shostakovich, Bartók, Mahler, Rochberg, the Hilliard Ensemble, ragtime composer Scott Joplin and many others but in spirit and style his work reminds me most of that of Valentin Silvestrov--music from a strange but beautiful spiritual world of timeless drifting.


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
As  Duo46, guitarist Matt Gould and violinist  Beth Ilana Schneider  make exciting music together. On this CD, they work their magic on ten pieces specially commissioned from composers who are not household names yet--but all of whom display great potential. Gould and Schneider are polished players who imbue these short works with a full-range of emotional context.


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
Michael Byron blends  minimalist and maximalist techniques and rigorous processes with freely composed music to create works that range from the hynotic to the boisterous.  Continents of City and Love and Tidal, written 20 years apart, are both arch-form pieces scored for two pianos, synthesizer, string quartet, and doublebass. This new CD collects four of Byron’s very recent works and a new recording of a piece from 1981, all performed by some of today’s most-respected new-music champions, including Sarah Cahill and Joseph Kubera on pianos, Kathleen Supové on synthesizer, and the FLUX Quartet.

Level 7 
Composer: Evan Ziporyn, et al. 
Performer: The Robin Cox Ensemble
The Robin Cox Ensemble is a unique new music group that combines violin, cello, percussion, and live electronics to create vivid performances of new music. In its first three years, this quartet with a one-of-a-kind instrumentation has already staged more forty performances and collaborated with many prominent choreographers and composers, including on this--the group's second CD--the marvelous Evan Ziporyn. 

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 to serve as Queen) 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 
Recent recordings of Carbon's dazzling Violin Concerto, performed by Violinist Peter Zazofsky with Gerhardt Zimmermann conducting the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra; also a marvelous reading by Richard Stoltzman of Carbon's Clarinet Concerto, and Notturno for Trumpet, Harp, and Strings, performed by Gerard Schwarz (with Jeff Silberschlag on trumpet) and the Seattle Symphony.  Valuable recording of an unjustly neglected composer.

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.

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.


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.

An Hour Out of Desert Center
Composer: Chas Smith 
Cold Blue Music CB0013
Chas Smith is a composer, inventor, instrument builder, and performer from the Harry Partch tradition who creates his own musical world, complete with its own instruments he makes himself or finds. as well as a "language" His is a  world of carefully sculpted textures that never sit absolutely still, textures that evolve and are always in the process of a slow change of aural perspective. Critics have frequently compared Smith’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes brooding compositions to those of Ligeti. The three pieces on this new recording feature the composer performing on pedal steel guitars, composer-designed-and-built crotales and sound sculptures, zithers, and a 1948 Bigsby lap guitar.

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