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  April 15-22, 2002
Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton

by Frank J. Oteri

In the quest to discover the music of the 21st century, a great place to start is this recording of five works by Kitty Brazelton, even though all of them were composed in the final years of the 20th century. But just as historians frequently state that the 20th century really only began in earnest with the onslaught of the First World War, it also ended earlier than expected with the fizzling out of the Cold War and the subsequent emergence of a world where nothing seems so certain anymore. And just as the music of the 20th century reflected the geopolitics of the 20th century with all its competing -isms attempting to overthrow previous notions of how order could be established, the music at the dawn of the 21st century is a borderless powder keg.

Unlike any other new music in the past, this new music of the 21st century is being advanced as much by women composers as men composers. A deeper plunge into its origins reveals that the seeds for this music were planted in the 20th century and can be traced back to the Women's Rights Movement in the late 1960s and the subsequent emergence of a generation of women composers not beholden to any of the dogmatic -isms of 20th century music, all of which were created by men. Growing up during this empowering time, Kitty Brazelton started jamming, leading bands (as vocalist and songwriter) and writing chamber music in the early '70s.

Brazelton's past three decades of music creation demonstrate her ability to bypass the "isms": her '70s group Musica Orbis wove medieval plainchant into free jazz, folk song, "George Crumb classical" and acid rock while her '80s band Hide The Babies plumbed arena rock and heavy metal for inspiration, her '90s nine-piece 'rockestra' Dadadah fused charted song structures with improvisation while Hildegurls, her late '90s recasting of a Hildegard von Bingen morality play with fellow women composer/performers Eve Beglarian, Lisa Bielawa and Elaine Kaplinsky, became a Lincoln Center sensation. Brazelton's current project, the "digital-chamber-punk band" What Is It Like To Be A Bat?, employs fixed- and real-time computer-generated materials in live performance.

"Music is a living language spoken between listeners and music-makers," Brazelton says. "Like any language, despite the solidifying effect of notation and recordings, music evolves. We don't segregate our increasingly multilingual music-listening, and we can't primly parse out our music-making, either. We can't say what needs to be said in languages that no longer reflect the way we live."

For Kitty Brazelton and other composers of her generation and beyond, there is no longer an uptown or a downtown, no hermetically-sealed classical music and no must-be-shied-away from pop music, and there's no longer a clear dividing line between the irrefutable will of a composer and the dutiful obeisance of a performer. Brazelton, like many of these new composers, is a composer-performer and is equally at home writing a string quartet or playing in a punk rock band.

Kyle Gann describes the music of these composers as totalist, since it embraces the totality of music-making possibilities. Another appellation, "21st-century schizoid music," implies the unpredictability and volatility of this multiple-personality music.

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Chamber Music for the Inner Ear
Composer: Kathy Brazelton
Performer: Manhattan Brass Quintet
Composers Recordings - #889

What's New

RELÂCHE Meets William Duckworth
Deborah Kravetz

Duane Digs HK Gruber

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

PROTESTING A PULITZER: A critic who heard the world premiere of Henry Brant's Ice Field  last December in San Francisco is stunned that the work won this year's Pulitzer. "Entertaining at best, the composition's only distinction was being one of the most pointless and frustrating concert experiences in my memory." San Francisco Classical Voice 04/09/02

MORE ON ICE FIELD: The Pulitzer "was given to a piece that is by no means an easygoing, conventional piece. I regard it [the prize] as an encouragement to keep going the way that I go." Los Angeles Times 04/10/02 

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: "Montreal-born composer Henry Brant has some advice for young artists of all sorts. 'Take care of yourself until you're old enough to do your best work. That's when everything becomes clearer what's important and what's less important, and how to proceed.' Nobody could accuse him of failing to heed his own advice: At the age of 88 he's in good health and has just won a Pulitzer Prize for composition." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/13/02

TURNING OPERA AROUND: Tom Morris is "the man who is giving opera a good name. And it's not just the heads of the opera and theatre establishment who are craning their necks to see how it's done. It's everyone." They're coming to the backside of South London to his Battersea Arts Center for productions like "Jerry Springer: The Opera - a vulgar, violent, crude and thrilling work-in-progress which set the travails of the freaks and misfits of daytime television to an exhilaratingly promiscuous score. At less than a fiver a ticket, audiences and critics couldn't get enough of the Lesbian Dwarf Diaper Fetishist, the Chick with a Dick or the Fighting Bitches, and fought for returns outside the stuffy 150-seater auditorium." The Telegraph (UK) 04/10/02

MIXED MESSAGES: Part of the trouble with the classical music profession is that the recording industry seems to have a profoundly different idea of what classical music is for than do its performers and advocates. "While live music goes on being promoted as a multicolored festoon of passion, thrills, bedazzlement and beauty, the marketing of recorded music at a certain level is more and more emphasizing the calming effect." In other words, orchestras want to be exciting, while record labels want to help people fall asleep. The New York Times 04/14/02

A BEER AND A BUMP AND SOME BACH: There was a time when classical music was not the stuffy, formal, tuxedo-clad beast that it has become. Back in the day (the 18th century, actually,) classical music was, y'know, popular. A 31-year-old Israeli cellist is taking a stab at duplicating the effect, playing Bach in bars, clubs, and all sorts of other places you'd never think of. Baltimore Sun 04/13/02

CUTTING YOURSELF: The Philadelphia Orchestra came up with an outreach program that offered to demystify classical music for those who were new to it. "The format is probably the most elucidating and engaging new experience any orchestra has come up with. The largely young listeners seemed perplexed at first, but after a few minutes you could practically see the lightbulbs go on above their heads." But just as audiences for the new program were building, the orchestra has dropped the series. Why? Money. "A bigger penny-wise, pound-foolish miscalculation the orchestra hasn't made in years." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/09/02

SAME OLD DIRGE: Surely with all the wonderful music out there, official funerals could offer something other than Chopin's Funeral March, that dirge that gets trotted out for every important death. "Can no one compose a better send-off than the dreary third movement of Frederic Miseryguts Chopin's Sonata number two in B-flat minor?" London Evening Standard 04/10/02 

THE MAKINGS OF A CAREER: "Why do some splendid performers enjoy major international careers and other equally splendid performers do not? And how to explain why certain flashy performers have thriving international careers, while more substantive performers never seem to break out of a regional success? It may come down to a certain temperament or drive that propels some artists to popular success. A marketable image, or just an inexplicable something that audiences connect with. The artist makes choices, too." New York Times 04/11/02

AFTER HE'S GONE: Musicians of the Montreal Symphony seem unrepentant that they provoked music director Charles Dutoit to quit the orchestra. "In the past year or so it's become intolerable. The musicians are constantly berated or they're insulted or there are sarcastic comments."  So what comes now for Canada's top orchestra? "In terms of its international prestige, if it can't find a conductor of high quality to replace him, a period of decline will inevitably take place." Canada.com (CP) 04/11/02

 Last Week's News



 
 
 
 
 

Duane's Pick to Click

 Complete Violin Music
Composer: Arne Nordheim
Performer: Peter Herresthal 
BIS cd - 1212

I am very happy that this cd found a way to me. I have listened to it several times now and it indeed is one of those recordings that immediately go onto the essential list. 

The recording opens with Nordheim's 30-minute Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Although an extended piece for orchestra, it has the quality of clarity of say, a string quartet. The lines are lucid and the orchestrations are transparent so that every melody is heard and the thematic material breathes and is given life. The violin playing is of incredible range and has remarkable clarity and tone. The writing is not easy to execute but Herresthal is remarkable in not only being able to play it well but also make it work for its own self expressions of excitement and motion as well as passionate interludes. The harp also plays a beautiful supportive role in the piece as well.

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Henry Brant's Ice Field
Wins 2002 Pulitizer Prize
The 2002 Pulitizer Prize for Music has been awarded to Henry Brant, America's pioneer explorer and practitioner of 20th Century spatial music.  Born in Montreal in 1913 of American parents, Brant began to compose at the age of eight. In 1929 he moved to New York where for the next 20 years he composed and conducted for radio, films, ballet and jazz groups, at the same time composing experimentally for the concert hall. From 1947 to 1955 he taught orchestration and conducted ensembles at Juilliard School and Columbia University. At Bennington College, from 1957 to 1980, he taught composition; and every year he presented premieres of orchestral and choral works by living composers. Since 1981 Brant has made his home in Santa Barbara, California.
Henry Brant with Charles Amirkhanian at Davies Hall in San Francisco
Web Links
Pulitzer Bio
Charles Amirkhanian, Other Minds
Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle

Electronic Dialogue/14
An Interview with

Gloria Coates
Gloria Coastes 1986 photo by Anne Kirchbach
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?"

Interview continues



String Quartets 1, 5.6
Composer: Gloria Coates Performers: Kreutzer Quartet
Naxos - #8559091
(c) Cover art Gloria Coates

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 - APRIL 2002

Angelus; Exodus; Krzesany
Composer: Wojciech Kilar
Conductor: Antoni Wit
Performer: Hasmik Papian
Naxos - #8554788 
Not as well-known as his fellow Poles, Kilar is, nonetheless, extremely well-known in the world of film where he has written music for more than 100 movies. His music is strong, theatrical  and filled with adenture.  Nothing here is less than dramatic and much is downright unforgettable.

Cello Works
Composer: Kodaly, Veress, Kurtag Performer(s): Jean-Guihen Queyras,  Tharaud
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901735
Marvelous playing from young Queyras whose technique is so formidable that he makes Kodaly's torturous and melancholy Sonata for Solo Cello, Op.8 sound like fun, which may be the wrong idea, but is no less awesome for the performance.  Highly recommended.

Chanson D'Amour
Composer: Amy Beach
Performer: Emma Kirkby
Ensemble: The Romantic Chamber Group of London
Bis - #1245 
Amy Beach's setting of Victor Hugo's L'aube naît, et ta porte est close! may have come after settings by  Donizetti, 
Gounod, Lalo and Widor
but hers is better than any of the boys.'

 Opera Arias and Overture
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Conductor: Rinaldo Alessandrini
Performer: Maria Bayo
Ensemble: Concerto Italiano
Astree - #8853 
Mario Bayo's light soprano seems perfectly suited to these  Rossini arias, some of them rare.  A bonus is  the contribution of Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano, which plays this schmaltz with great gusto.

Thomas and Beulah
Composer: Rita Dove and Amnon Wolman
Performer(s): Ursula Oppens & Cynthia Haymon
Innova Records - #559
A theatrical song-cycle based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poems by Rita Dove,  Thomas and Beulah,  traces the lives of her grandparents. In live performance hanging scrims and theatrical lighting were used to separate and illuminate each audience section, providing a physical parallel to the music¹s changing points of view. This dramatic setting is recaptured on the multi-media portion of the disc. Wolman's perfectly-integrated music  incorporates computer-generated sounds, often combined with acoustic instruments.

Why is this night different?, Tuireadh, Visions of a November Spring
Composer: James MacMillan
Performer: Robert Plane
Ensemble: Emperor String Quartet Bis - #1269 
MacMillan's writing seems to inhabit two worlds:  modern choral works that are often dissonant and suggest elements of Messiaen; yet they also reflect  harmonies and  plainsong-influenced melodic lines that are as old as the ages.  You don't need to be a believer to appreciate the sounds of the spirits he brings to life.

 


Hardanger Suites Nos.2 & 5 
Composer: Geirr Tveitt
Peformer: Royal Scottish National Orchestra 
Bjarte Engeset, conductor 
The latest offering from Naxos from the greatly underrated Norwegian genius Geirr Tveitt. Tveitt studied in Leipzig, Vienna and Paris with teachers including Honegger, Villa-Lobos and Wellesz, but his cosmopolitan style stemmed mainly from deep roots in his familyís native Hardanger region, whose folk tradition Tveitt made his own in these richly imaginative orchestral suites. "If a leaf grows on a birch tree," he said, "It has to be a birch leaf."

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Composer:  Stojowski
 BBC Scottish Sym OrchGeorge Hyperion - #67314 
Yet another in Hyperion's endless series of romantic piano concertoes, these two glorious, high-spirited works are the product of the imagination of a Polish composer named Sigismond Stojowski who is today  a completely forgotten name to all but the most dedicated piano aficionados.  Like so many "discoveries" in this invaluable series, one wishes the programmers would give the Grieg and the Schuman a rest and play some of these gems for a change. 

Fragments
Performer(s): Theatre of Voices, Hillier
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #907276 
Not contemporary, of course, but strangely "modern" and  invaluable for those who aren't quite sure where Arvo Part, John Tavener or James MacMillan are coming from.

25 Preludes, Op. 64
Composer: César CUI
Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel
Naxos - #8555557
The lesser known of the five nationalist Russian composers of the second half of the 19th century known as the Mighty Handful or the Five, César Cui's music is notable for its melodiousness and fluency. His set of piano preludes, Opus 64, was clearly influenced by Chopinís set of preludes. Varied in mood and atmosphere this set of fastidiously crafted miniatures is one of his most attractive and successful compositions, beautifully played by Jeffrey Biegel.

Piano Sonatas Nos. 6 & 8
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Performer: Francois-Frederic Guy
Naive - #4898- 
François-Frédéric Guy sounds amazingly like a young Sviatoslav Richter as he powers his way through the climaxes of Prokofiev's demanding scores. Yet, he can also play quietly (as in  the Sixth Sonata's Allegretto).  One suspects we'll be hearing more about young Mr. Guy.

Piano Trios / Cello Sonata
Composer: Leo Brouwer
Performer: Elena Papandreou
Naxos - 
Fans of late romantic chamber music will find much to enjoy here. Gretchaninov left Russia after the Revolution, settled in Paris, and eventually moved to New York, where he died in 1956 at the age of 91.  His works are Russian, yet also reflect his French and American influences.  The performances are excellent. 
 

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