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  March 18-25, 2002
 
Doing the Monster Mash:
HK Gruber
H (einz) K (arl) Gruber's music refracts Viennese tradition, both classical and popular, through contemporary lens. His works draw on the cabaret style of the Weimar Republic, often combined with irreverent black humor.
This week marks a reunion of sorts for Austrian composer, conductor, chansonnier and double bass player HK Gruber when he joins Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra at New York's Carnegie Hall to perform his most popular and beloved composition, the neo-gothic Ďpan-demoniumí Frankenstein!!. The piece was premiered in 1978 by Rattle with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and was a key factor in establishing both Gruber and Rattle's international reputations.

 Since then it has travelled across several continents in several languages and in different guises: in concert, more than 1000 staged, television  and film performances. In 1997 the work was released on CD by EMI Classics with the Camerata Academica Salzburg and Franz Welser-Möst, featuring the composer as chansonnier. 

Gruber has been something of a cult figure on American shores but he has rarely performed--or had his works perfomed--here.  He will then spend two days in the New York spotlight: he appears on Carnegie Hallís "Making Music" series at Weill Hall on Monday night (hosting the New York premiere of his Cello Concerto) and then joining Rattle and the Philadelphians for a performance of Frankenstein!! at Carnegie on Tuesday.

Born in Vienna and a former Vienna Choir Boy, Gruber studied composition, theory and double bass there. From 1961 he played double bass with the ensemble die reihe and from 1969 to the present with the ORF Symphony Orchestra. In 1969, he helped form the MOB art and tone ART ensemble, taking on the roles of singer and actor for the first time. 

In addition to Frankenstein!!, he is particularly noted for his concertos, and Aerial (1998-99), for trumpet and orchestra, has already established itself as one of the most successful concertos of recent years. In the space of a few short years, more than 20 performances have been given or scheduled in ten countries, with Swedish virtuoso Håkan Hardenberger as soloist. 

His dramatic works include the apocalyptic opera, Gomorra and Gloria. He composed music for the television film, Bring Me the Head of Amadeus as part of the 1991 Mozart celebrations. 

Gruber has traveled widely as composer, conductor and cabaret artist, regularly performing the chansonnier role in Frankenstein!! on an international basis, and he took a leading role in the Alternative Vienna series presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has recently completed Zeitstimmung for chansonnier and orchestra. Future projects include new works for the Vienna Philharmonic and London Sinfonietta. 


Links:
Boosey & Hawkes
Intermusica
 


What's New

Interview with Gloria Coates

Gorecki Symphony Headlines 

Modern Polish Music Concert
Deborah Kravetz

A Touch of Shanghai In Old Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Julia Wolfe after minimalism

Philip Glass at 65
Jerry Bowles

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird--Number 8

Deborah Kravetz

A New Hall for Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Interview with Poul Ruders

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.

 


 


Modern Music News
WHEN MODERN MUSIC WORKS: Michael Tilson Thomas is highly regarded as a champion of contemporary music. But there are genres of music he doesn't perform. "If a music director doesn't feel the spirit, why should he be compelled, out of a sense of obligation, to yield to pressure - especially if he can offer an alternate and more persuasive aesthetic? That Thomas has been permitted to flourish in his own manner and to fashion the San Francisco Symphony into a partner in his ventures has made audiences feel like collaborators, too, even when the score on the conductor's desk requires a kind of unlearning on the part of the listener." San Francisco Chronicle 03/10/02

THE INHERENT DRAMA OF MUSIC (HELPED A BIT): Chamber music has generally been delivered in plain wrappers - small groups of musicians dressed in black performing on a stage. After decades of conventional performances, the Emerson String Quartet, arguably the finest quartet currently performing, "has begun confronting the idea that a concert is inherently a theatrical experience" and has begun performing Shostakovish as part of a visual/dramatic performance. Los Angeles Times 03/17/02

108 YEARS OF MUSIC (OR WAS IT 109?): Leo Ornstein was one of the most innovative American composers of the 1920s - if you'd asked most music critics of the time, they probably would have pegged him as America's brightest music prospect. But by the 1930s he had disappeared from the music scene. Doesn't mean he died though. In fact, he didn't die until a few weeks ago, at the age of 108 or 109 (the year is in dispute). The Economist) 03/14/02

BUILDING A BETTER COMPOSER: The hardest part about being a composer may be that no one ever tells you how to do it. You write works for dozens of instruments that you don't really know how to play, and hope that everything works out. But a new seminar in Minneapolis aims to change the sharp learning curve many composers face. "The musical boot camp, unique in the United States, entailed more than the usual orchestral run-throughs. It involved seminars about copyrighting, licensing and public speaking; sessions about how to write grant applications and deal with unions and contracts, and workshops on how to write better for particular instruments." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/14/02

WORDS ABOUT MUSIC: Monster, a new Scottish Opera about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein by Sally Beamish and Janice Galloway has revived a longstanding debate about the relationship between words and music in opera. "The libretto is elegant, the music full of beauty and invention. Why, then, does the combination not quite catch fire?" The Observer (UK) 03/10/02 

WHEN CONTROVERSY DOESN'T SELL: A controversial English National Opera production of Verdi's Masked Ball that featured "male rape, transvestites, dwarves, Elvis impersonators and a row of chorus singers using the toilet without washing their hands" got lots of attention in the press last month. But it was something of a flop with audiences. The production sold few tickets. The Guardian (UK) 03/09/02

DESPERATELY SEEKING AN IDENTITY: Almost since its inception, New York's City Opera has been the bastard stepchild of the Gotham opera scene. Overshadowed by the Met, ignored or reviled by its Lincoln Center masters, and confined to a ballet theater specifically designed to muffle sound, the company recently saw its fortunes turn with a massive gift towards the purchase or building of a new home. But even with the cash infusion, City Opera constantly runs the risk of seeming directionless, and must always struggle to be noticed in a city overflowing with culture. New York Observer 03/18/02

PUCCINI A LA BAZ: When Baz Luhrmann's bohemian odyssey Moulin Rouge hit theaters last year, with its over-the-top theatrics and reworked pop songs, "some critics reached for rhapsodic analogies, others for aspirin bottles." Luhrmann's next project is a daring attempt to bring Puccini's La Boheme to Broadway, and to do it without bastardizing the music as with Elton John's Aida. "His idea is not exactly to reinvent La Boheme, but to make it accessible for audiences unschooled in the opera tradition." The New York Times 03/14/02

BUSINESS CORRECTION: Even if classical music recording is on the wane, what does it really say about the health of the artform? Not much. "What's left when the record companies, with all their marketers and middlemen, finally fade away is a world full of artists left to their own considerable devices, making records, not for the promise of nonexistent glory, but for the sake of the music. Recordings, I wager, will be fewer, but they will have been made with more of a sense of mission." Andante 03/13/02

CLASSICAL RADIO ALTERNATIVES: Classical music stations are going off the air as station licenses become more valuable and owners look for more profitable formats. That doesn't mean classical listeners are going away - they're just finding other outlets such as digital radio and the internet. Christian Science Monitor 03/15/02

SPEEDING TO THE BEAT: An Israeli researcher says drivers who listen to fast music in their cars may have "more than twice as many accidents as those listening to slower tracks." The study demonstrated that while listening to fast music "drivers took more risks, such as jumping red lights, and had more accidents. When listening to up-tempo pieces, they were twice as likely to jump a red light as those who were not listening to music. And drivers had more than twice as many accidents when they were listening to fast tempos as when they listened to slow or medium-paced numbers." New Scientist 03/130/02

 Last Week's News

Electronic Dialogue/14
An Interview with

Gloria Coates
Gloria Coastes 1986 photo by Anne Kirchbaum
Gloria Coates was born in Wausau, Wisconsin, and began composing at an early age, winning a National Federation of Music Clubs Composition Contest at age 12. Earning a Masters of Music degree in composition from Louisiana State University, she did post graduate studies at Columbia University and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Her primary composition teachers were Otto Luening and Alexander Tcherepnin.

In 1986, Coates was one of the 10 finalists for the International Koussevitsky (KIRA) Award which honors a living composer for an important work for her composition "Music on Open Strings." She has been the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and distinctions.

Coates' music has been performed by leading soloists, ensembles and orchestras such as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Stuttgart Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the London Sinfonia, Polish Chamber Orchestra, various international chamber ensembles including Das Neue Werk Hamburg, the Dresden Ensemble for New Music and the Kronos Quartet.

Her work Music on Open Strings, written in1973 for orchestra, was premiered at the Warsaw Autumn of 1978 and proved to be the most widely discussed work on the Festival. In 1979 she was commissioned to write a work for the East Berlin Festival, the first non-socialist composer ever to be performed on it. Some other Festivals include the Dresden Festival, New Music America - New York 1989, Musica Viva Munich, The New York Microtonal Festival, Henze's Festival Montepulciano, Passau International Festival, and the Dartington Festival in England.

From 1969 to 1989, Coates lived in Europe where hers was a powerful voice on behalf of American music. She has lectured, written musicological articles, produced and broadcast radio programs, and organized a concert series of German-American music in Munich from 1975 - 1984. Since 1989 Gloria Coates has divided her time between the United States and Europe. In addition to her composition, she is a trained painter and the CD covers featured in this article are photos of her work.

Coates' canon of work includes compositions for orchestra (13 symphonies), chamber (7 string quartets) and solo music, vocal (a song cycle on poems by Emily Dickinson), choral music, live electronic and music for the theater. Her string quartets 1, 5 and 6 have just been released on Naxos CD.


S21:  You are best-known for your symphonies. How do  you decide what constitutes a symphony? What elements must a work contain to be a symphony rather than, say, an Essay as Barber sometimes called his  pieces)?  Does your definition somehow relate to Mahler's idea that a  symphony is a work that contains everything it takes  to make a "world?"

GC: It was never an intention of mine to write a  symphony, although since 1973 I had written quite a number of orchestral works with three or four movements, always  changing the titles and never being satisfied. Sometimes they would be related to the structures such as "Music on Open Strings" and sometimes to the emotional content such  as "Illumination in Tenebris."  Finally in 1990, all titles seemed  totally unfitting to a  new orchestral work which lasted a half hour and had 52 instruments playing simultaneously.  This was a very serious work and had used various structures that I had developed over many years in a new way, and it seemed heavier in comparison to my other compositions.

Interview continues



String Quartets 1, 5.6
Composer: Gloria Coates Performers: Kreutzer Quartet
Naxos - #8559091

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

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




EDITOR'S PICKS - February-March  2002

Dead Man Walking
Composer: Jake Heggie
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Performer: Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade
Ensemble: San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Wea/Atlantic/Erato - #86238 
No "Nixon in China" or "Einstein at the Beach" but young Heggie has a way with melody and this debut opera suggests there may be better things to come.

A Prole do Bebe No. 2, Cirandinhas
Composer: Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performer: Sonia Rubinsky
Naxos - 
Flat out fantastic.  Rubinsky makes child's play of Villa-Lobos' thornier conceits. If you live in New York, write this down: 
Sonia Rubinsky will be performing selections from Vol. 2 and the upcoming Villa-Lobos: Piano Music Vol. 3 on March 14th, Thursday, at 6:30 pm at the Klavier-Haus located at 211 
West 58th St. 

Music for the Movies
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998) 
Composer: Alfred Schnittke
Conductor: Frank Strobel
Ensemble: Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin
Cpo Records 
Schnittke  regarded film music as a legitimate expressive medium and  wrote more than sixty film scores and worked with the prominent directors of his day.  This collection demonstrates that he understood film composition thoroughly and considered it  a new vista for his creative work.

 NEWBAND
Composers:  Harry Partch, Dean Drummond
Innova 561
Works by former cohorts and microtonal pioneers, Harry Partch and Dean Drummond. This stunning new recording  is performed by members of Newband primarily on the original Partch collection of hand-made instruments, notable for their sculptural and acoustic beauty. The music integrates declaimed poetry (masterfully performed by Bob Osborne) with colorful instrumental accompaniment. The Drummond pieces are first recordings, the Partch are the first since the 1940s.
 

Preludes & Fugues for 13 solo strings: Three Postludes; Fanfares
Composer: Witold Lutoslawski
Conductor: Antoni Wit
Naxos - #8555270 
A treasure trove of Lutoslawski's "little" works,  with lots of delightful listening for even those not fully committed to 20th century work.

Passacaglia, Symphony, Five Pieces
Passacaglia, Symphony, Five Pieces
Composer: Anton Webern
Conductor: Takuo Yuasa
Ensemble: Ulster Orchestra
Naxos 
Who knew that the Second Viennese School could be so...listenable.  Has the music changed or have our ears adapted to the atonality?
 

Concerto for Strings
Composer:  Joly BRAGA SANTOS 
 Performer(s): Braga Santos, Creswick, Somov, Blair, Cassuto
Marco Polo - 
Joly Braga Santos is one of the most interesting and gifted composers of the 20th century--and one of the most unknown. His musical language is based on a strong sense of architecture and drama, with generous melodic lines and a natural instinct for structure and formal coherence. If you don't know the work of this 20th century Portugese master, grab it.

Symphony No. 1
Composer: George Barati
Conductor: Laslzo Kovaks, Vladimir Valek
Ensemble: Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra
Naxos - 
The First Symphony was written in 1963 during a stay in Switzerland. Set in three movements, it is packed with musical incident. The Chant of Darkness was composed in 1993 as an expression of the composerís grief as his daughter lay dying from cancer. The work exhibits a frightening sense of finality. The Chant of Light dates from 1994-5 and is cast in a simple structure, displaying Baratiís love of working with small motivic cells, combined with the use of luscious orchestral color.

90% Post Consumer Sound
Composer: Ellen Band
Performer: Adele Armin Ellen Band 
Band creates  'sound art' from everyday noises with results that sometimes sound celestially musical and sometimes sound like..well everyday noises. 

Three2, Twenty-Three, Six, Twenty-Six 
Composer: John Cage
Performer: Christina Fong, Glenn Freeman, et al.
Orchard - #6260 
The first recordings of Cage's final works for string ensemble and percussion ensemble.  Fong is a committed advocate and she makes the most of the minimalist elements presented here.

String Quartets 1 & 2
Composer:  Arnold Bax
Performer: Maggini Quartet
Naxos - 
Fresh from the Gramophone Award-winning Naxos recording of Vaughn Williams, the Maggini turn their attention to another English composer of elegiac melodies with superb results.

Guitar Music, Vol. 2
Composer: Leo Brouwer
Performer: Elena Papandreou
Naxos - 
One of the best writers for the guitar alive today, Brouwer combines elements of his native Cuba with jazz and European modernism.  Papandreou performs these tricky pieces elegantly. 

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Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editors: Armando Bayolo, Sam Bergman, Joshua Cohen, Karina Cristina Demitrio, Deborah Kravetz 
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