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  April 12-19, 2004
Paul Moravec Awarded
2004 Pulitizer for Music
The 2004 Pulitzer Prize for “distinguished musical composition of significant dimension by an American that has had its first performance in the United States during the year” has been awarded to TEMPEST FANTASY by Paul Moravec, premiered on May 2, 2003 at the Morgan Library, New York City. The five-movement work (each titled Ariel, Prospero, Caliban, Sweet Airs, and Fantasia) is a musical meditation on aspects of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Moravec is the composer of over seventy published orchestral, chamber, choral, and lyric compositions as well as several film scores and electro-acoustic pieces. His music has earned numerous distinctions, including the Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, a Fellowship in Music Composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, a Camargo Foundation Residency Fellowship, a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship and Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters as well as many commissions. 

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University, he has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Hunter College and currently heads the Music Department at Adelphi University. Recent world premieres include THE TIME GALLERY with Eighth Blackbird at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MONTSERRAT: CELLO CONCERTO with the Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola (NYC), A CROWD OF STARS with Robert White & Brian Zeger at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, QUINTESSENCE at the International Trumpet Guild conference, VITA BREVIS, a song cycle for tenor Paul Sperry, SPIRIT, a cantata commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the flight of the Spirit of St. Louis, TEMPEST FANTASY with David Krakauer and the Trio Solisti at the Morgan Library (NYC), NO WORDS, commissioned by Concert Artists Guild for pianist James Lent and the Gay Gotham Chorus, ZU-ZU'S PETALS! for the Kreston/Gordon violin/marimba duo, two works for the Elements String Quartet, EVERYONE SANG with baritone Troy Cook, commissioned by the Marilyn Horne Foundation, and CHAMBER SYMPHONY, commissioned by the Bridgehampton Festival for its 20th anniversary season in August, 2003. 

On compact disc: SONGS OF LOVE AND WAR for SATB Chorus/Orchestra on a CD featuring The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra, SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO on BMG/RCA Classics, SPIRITDANCE, an orchestral work on the Vienna Modern Masters label, and an album of chamber compositions titled CIRCULAR DREAMS on CRI. 

A CD of TEMPEST FANTASY, MOOD SWINGS, B.A.S.S. VARIATIONS, SCHERZO, performed by the Trio Solisti and clarinetist David Krakauer, is coming soon from Arabesque Records.

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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, New York, NY 10019
Send announcements to the Editors
Moravec Wins Music Pulitzer American composer Paul Moravec has won this year's Pulitzer Prize for music for his "Tempest Fantasy." Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Piano Concerto No. 3 by Peter Lieberson, and Cello Counterpoint by Steve Reich. NewMusicBox` 04/05/04  (See feature)
Musical Greatness - All About The Personality? Why do some musicians capture the imagination of the public, while others, perhaps just as gifted, do not? "Nathan Milstein, popular though he was, never became as big a celebrity as Heifetz, and the reason for this can be found in his personality. Unlike Heifetz, an introverted man with few passions outside of music, Milstein was both outgoing and wide-ranging in his cultural interests, and he embraced the act of public performance with an enthusiasm alien to Heifetz’s tightly wound nature." Commentary 04/0/04 

The Royal Opera's £10 Revolution Royal Opera House boss Tony Hall says a sponsorship that will reduce some of the best seats in the house to £10 is revolutionary. "The adjectives are extreme, but it is hard to argue. Best seats in the house to see some of the biggest opera and ballet stars in the world - including Plácido Domingo, Cecilia Bartoli, Bryn Terfel, Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta - for less than the price of a West End cinema ticket. In some cases, that represents a saving of £165. Hall can scarcely contain his enthusiasm. 'This is really opening up the opera house'." Financial Times 04/07/04 

Watch The Robot Conduct Beethoven Let's see - we've replaced musicians with "virtual orchestras" in theatre pits. And more and more movie scores are being synthesized. What's next? Conductors. A robot has successfully(?) conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Japan. "The 58-centimetre-tall humanoid robot led the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a unique rendition of Beethoven's 5th symphony during a concert held at the Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo on 15 March." New Scientist 04/05/04 
London's Newest Opera Company Debuts Raymond Gubbay's Savoy Opera opens. With cheap tickets, the opera attracts an audience you don't typically see at Covent Garden. "It's a myth that opera is posh; it's the most visceral of art forms, preoccupied with love, sex and death. It's just opera-goers who have given it a bad name. If Gubbay can reclaim it for coach parties who might otherwise go to Mamma Mia!, good for him." The Guardian (UK) 04/08/04 
Whither The American Sound? Nationalism can be a dangerous thing, but a love of country and all that it stands for is the only thing that can lead to the development of a serious "national sound" among composers, says Robert Jones. Individuals like Copland and Bernstein aside, America has never really had its own tradition of classical music, and even works identified as distinctly "American" are often written by European composers like Dvorak. "America always seemed nervous about nationalism in music," and Jones says that will have to change if anyone expects the U.S. to develop a compositional tradition as easily recognized as those of countries like France, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Charleston Post & Courier 04/11/04 
Emerson Quartet Wins Avery Fisher Prize This year, the administrators of the $50,000 Avery Fisher Prize for American musicians changed its rules of eligibility to include ensembles, and the first beneficiaries are the members of the Emerson String Quartet, who will be announced as the 2004 winners of the prize in a Monday ceremony. The group says it will "try to do something creative [with the money.] We won't just spend it." The New York Times 04/11/04 
Beethoven's Ninth In 24 Hours There are many recorded versions of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But a radical new interpretation by the Norwegian conceptual artist Leif Inge, which he calls "9 Beet Stretch," "digitally elongates a recording of the symphony to make it last 24 hours. The piece slows symphonic time so that movement is barely perceptible. What you hear in normal time as a happy Viennese melody lasting 5 or 10 seconds becomes minutes of slowly cascading overtones; a drumroll becomes a nightmarish avalanche. Yet the symphony remains somehow recognizable in spirit if not in form, its frozen strings fraught with tense, frowning Beethoven-ness." The New York Times 04/11/04 
Doing The Homework To Listen Should the music critic look at a score or listen to a recording before attending a performance of a new work? Tim Mangan says yes: "Virtually any piece of serious classical music that a listener is not familiar with is 'just an overwhelming event' the first time he hears it. There's so much going on that our ears can't comprehend it in one gulp. And who knows whether, that first time we hear a piece, be it Brahms' Third Symphony or Adams' 'Transmigration,' it's a good performance or bad?" Orange County Register 04/11/04 
Re-re-reconsidering Shostakovich. Again. The debate over whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a talented but limited composer in the pocket of the Soviet leadership; or a secret dissident, hiding messages of anti-Stalinist revolt in his music, is unlikely to ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. But a new book by Solomon Volkov, whose earlier book Testimony reignited the Shostakovich debate a quarter-century ago, sheds some new light on the complicated relationship between Shostakovich and his chief antagonist (and chief sponsor,) Josef Stalin. Volkov divides the composer's career into two periods: the brash, exploratory years before Shostakovich penned his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtnsk," and the cautious, paranoid period after Stalin denounced "Lady Macbeth" as an anti-Soviet muddle. The New York Times 04/10/04 

Last Week's News
Marc Neikrug's 'Through Roses' was commissioned by the 92nd Street YMHA New York. The first performance was given on 21st August 1980, as part of the South Bank Summer Music.  It has has been translated into 11 languages and received hundreds of performances in England, North and South America, Austria, Germany, Israel, Scandinavia, Australia and Japan.

The Holocaust's Horror
As Seen 'Through Roses'

by Deborah Kravetz

It is amazing that even 35 years after the events, in 1976, the Holocaust was still being commemorated.  In this case, in Through Roses, Marc Neikrug recalls a Jewish violinist who survived Auschwitz watching his own wife’s death through 
the branches of a rose bush.  The composer says he is exploring the contrast of the Nazi’s love of music with their atrocities.

This contrast is expressed by confronting the audience with the khaki blankets of a prison camp cot.  High light tones with sudden punctuation, tones of fear and military percussion; a vaguely familiar anthem cuts through, and a prisoner, actor John Rubinstein, sits up, arises, and begins
recalling his career as a concert violinist and his Holocaust experience, interacting and commenting on the music in an almost-too self-conscious style.  Rubinstein acts his part convincingly and thoroughly, and during his narration focus shifts and the music becomes incidental and the action more dramatic.  This is less a spoken cantata than a play with music; with all the colors of mood, this is a moving drama, while the music is not necessarily so. 

The other piece on this program was the 2003 Piano Quintet, conceived by Neikrug as based on the tension resulting from intervallic expansion and the differing views of those intervals. The piece opens with solemn string tones in simple short phrases.  When the piano joins in, it is in chord clusters and the quartet responds energetically.  The hallmark is astringency of tone with significant solo passages and only occasional accompaniment; ensemble portions are well-coordinated duos and trios, and even unison in places.  In a section of short staccato phrases, the piano is an equal voice rather than  accompaniment. Textures and timbres varied only a little throughout the piece.  The composer served as pianist and conductor, performing with the Orion String Quartet.

Fresh Ink Series
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
      on Tour with Marc Neikrug
Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center 
Philadelphia, PA 
March 30, 2004

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 4/2/04)

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, Tobias Picker

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

Old Stuff

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
Copland's Mexico
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures

             THIS WEEK'S PICKS

Violin Concertos
Composers:  Sibelius, Khachaturian
Performers:  Sinfonia Varsovia,
Emmanuel Krivine
Naive (Naxos)

18-year-old Armenian wunderkind tosses off the Sibelius with a dazzling display of sheer virtuosity and delivers a much deeper, more sober reading of his fellow countryman's bouncy  masterpiece than we are accustomed to hearing.  Eye-opening performance and a performer to watch.


Symphony No. 10
Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich 
Kurt Sanderling (conductor)
Orchestre National de France
Naive (Naxos)

Re-issue of an inspired 1978 
performance of the symphony many consider Shostakovich's best by conductor Kurt Sanderling with the Orchestre national de France. Composed immediately following Stalin's death and premiered on 17 December 1953, this massive work seems to sum up the experience of the Soviet people under the dictator's tyranny,  especially in the terrifying Allegro which evokes a machine that grinds men down, before a more optimistic finale that the composer conceived in the spirit of Haydn.

Seven: A Suite for Orchestra
Composer:  Tony Banks
Performer:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Mike Dixon 

Tony Banks, founder of the rock band Genesis, goes "classical"  with this seven-movement suite, each of them an orchestral sound picture using its title to set the mood.  The result is an extremely well-recorded bag of ambiant musical noodles that are less frivelous than they might have been and, in any event, less painful to the ears  than listening to Phil Collins sing.

Symphony No. 3 Op. 39. 
Symphony No. 4 Op. 42
Composer: Herman D. Koppel
Conductor: Moshe Atzmon,
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra 
Da Capo [Naxos] 

During the German occupation of Denmark in World War II,  Herman D. Koppel, who was Jewish, and his family had to flee to Sweden, where they met a childhood friend of Koppel who had become a baroness. In her house Koppel could compose in peace and quiet. The Third Symphony is dedicated to her.  Despite his own safe surroundings, Koppel’s experience of the war, and of the execution of his Polish-Jewish family in German concentration camps, had a profound impact on his works from this period.  These are works of anguish that explore the depths of the composer's emotions--a final liberation from the bloodless influence of his teacher Carl Neilsen--and the birth of major, overlooked 20th century music figure.

Die Jakobsleiter
Composer: Arnold Schoenberg, Henschel, Meier, Nagano
Harmonia Mundi 

One of many important large-scale fragments left uncompleted by Schoenberg at his death, the oratorio Jacob's Ladder was finished by Winfried Zillig, once a student, at the behest of Schoenberg's widow after his death.  Schoenberg wrote the libretto between 1915 and 1917 based on the book of Genesis, overlaid with elements from Strindberg's drama Jacob Wrestles, and Balzac's novel Seraphita. He wrote a large of chunk of the music shortly after but was called to the army and never got around to finishing it.  This is a brilliant, committed performance that captures a little-known masterpiece by one of the 20th century's greatest composers at the height of his creative powers.

Composer:  Poul Rovsing Olsen
Performer(s):  Inderhaug, Byriel, Rorholm, Veto
Da Capo [Naxos]

When composing his music for Belisa, Poul Rovsing Olsen was deeply inspired by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca's drama and by the passionate and demanding character of Belisa herself. The opening scene of the opera is the wedding night of Belisa and Don Perlimplin, where the young bride takes 5 lovers in front of her decrepit groom that is sound asleep. The drama develops from stylized opera buffa into the ambiguous and surreal with an unexpected ending, and Poul Rovsing Olsen's music reflects Lorca’s drama like a sensuous kaleidoscope with French and Oriental overtones. 

Swales and Angels
Composer: Beth Anderson
Conductor: Gary M. Schneider
Performer: Rubio String Quartet, Jessica Marsten (soprano), et al.
New World Records 

Beth Anderson's unabashedly romantic "swales" are as pure as a Kentucky mountain spring,  frisky as a new-born colt rolling in bluegrass, and infectious as a third-grade measles outbreak.  They are light, without being lightweight, and conquer the ear by their deceptively easygoing charm.  If you like Paul Schoenfeld's brand of Americana, you'll like these pieces a lot.

New Music With Guitar, Volume Six
Composers:  Various
Performer:  David Starobin
Bridge Records

No one has done more to champion guitar music by contemporary composers than the brilliant guitarist and co-founder of Bridge Records, David Starobin.  This CD includes solo and chamber works written between 1992 and 2000  by Gunther Schuller, Michael Starobin, Richard Wernick, Melinda Wagner, David Liptak, and Paul Lansky--all in premiere recordings. Volume Six also contains George Crumb's "Mundus Canis"--with the composer performing (and whispering and yelling) on percussion. To conclude the disc, Elliott Carter's fantastically inventive sextet, "Luimen" is performed by Speculum Musicae, New York City's virtuoso new music band.

 11 Studies for 11 Players: Piano Concerto
Composer:  Ned Rorem
Performer(s): , Lowenthal, Mester, Louisville Orchestra
First Edition

Rorem ages well and a recent spate of re-releases of his early chamber and orchestral works demonstrate that he is a good deal more than simply a master of art songs.  Like most of Rorem's work, 11 Studies is distinctly more European than American and recall Berio's marvelous Sequenzas. 

Piano Concerto. Concerto for two pianos. Piano Sonata
Composer:  Arthur Bliss
Performers: . Peter Donohoe, Martin Roscoe (pianos), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, David Lloyd-Jones (conductor). Naxos

The piano concerto is rip-snorting, full-blooded, heavy breathing romantism of the Rachmaninov variety played with over-the-top virtuosity by the nimble Peter Donohoe.  Listening to it makes you want to invade Russia.

Symphony No.1, 'Jeremiah'. Jubilee Games
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers: Helen Medlyn (mezzo), Nathan Gunn (baritone), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Judd (conductor). Naxos 

Young Bernstein, filled with piss and vinegar and more musical ideas per page than any eight of his contemporaries.  A joy to listen to a genius in the process of finding his compositional voice.

Organ and Silence
Composer: Tom Johnson
Performer:  Wesley Roberts, organ

A collection of 28 organ pieces to be played separately or as a long recital A music concerned for, as the author writes in the disc notes, "… the importance of silence in music…". This work is conceived not "for organ" but, really, for "organ and silence", as the silence is a fundamental part of it, and it’s not possible to give it up. It’s an attempt, as the author explain " to permit as much silence as possible, without allowing the music to actually stop".

Tom Johnson is one of the masters of minimalism, but he combines this with rigorous logic. His work, free from false glitters, defines, better that any other one, the sense of a research the goes beyond the strict genre definitions, and become poetic application of original ideas.

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
Deutsche Grammophon

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
First Edition 

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.

Black Earth
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.

American Angels
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.

Violin Concerto
Composer: Khachaturian,
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. 

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