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  May 5-May 12, 2003

The Ethereal Passion 
of Arvo Part
by Duane Harper Grant

Arvo Part began writing this setting of the St. John Passion aka (Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem) in the early 1980¹s after the Part family emigrated from his birthplace and homeland, Estonia to Berlin.

While living and writing music in Estonia, Part has become somewhat controversial especially after writing the piece “Credo” (1968) in which he declares, “I believe in Jesus Christ.” The piece was frowned upon by the communists and banned across the Soviet Union. But in moving to Berlin, Part was free from the constraints of the Eastern block and began to openly explore his relationship to his faith and sacred music.

Part wrote his setting of the St. John Passion using the “tintinnabuli” principal a method that he developed and employs in much of his work. As Part states in his own words, Tintnnabuli is the mathematically exact connection from one line to another. It is the rule where the melody and accompaniment (accompanying voice) are one.

"Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers - in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises - and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation." (Richard E. Rodda, liner notes for Arvo Pärt Fratres, I Fiamminghi, The Orchestra of Flanders, Rudolf Werthen, (Telarc CD-80387).

The main narrative is given to a male/female quartet accompanied by oboe, bassoon, violin and cello. Jesus¹ words are sung by a bass and mirrored by an organ. Pilate is sung by a tenor and also accompanied by the organ.

In this splendid Naxos budget CD,  Antony Pitts draws outstanding performances  from his newly founded choir, Tonus Peregrinus, as well as the soloists taking the roles of Christ and Pilate.

By design, Parts offering of this offering, premiered in 1982, is un-elaborate and ornamentally stark by comparison to other settings relying of the text of the original Latin as the basis for melody and musical sub text. But, in the text and the text driven melody, the fast and slow contrast of the three character vices, the instrumental quartet and the sonorous church organ, Passio is a texturally rich and engrossing recording with shadows and light, emotional highs and lows, reflection and exaltation.  Little wonder that it has already established itself--in a mere 20 years--as one of the all-time masterworks of religious music.

Passio The St. John Passion
Arvo Part
Tonus Peregrinus
Naxos: 8.555860
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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.
Is It By Rossini Or Anon? A debut performance of an elaborate wedding cantata billed as being composed by Rossini 171 years ago has angered some Rossini experts who dispute its authenticity. "The performance will take place in his name despite calls from some Rossini experts - who doubt the work's authenticity - for the piece to be billed as by Anon, writing in the style of the composer best known for The Barber of Seville." The Guardian (UK) 05/04/03 

Frank Gehry's "Bionic Bunny" Justin Davidson thinks Frank Gehry's new performing arts center at Bard College looks "vaguely mammalian, a mound of muscled curves - slick and powerful like a sea lion, but also armored, robotic. Gehry has built a bionic bunny crouching at the edge of a field." So how does it sound? "Fill the grape-colored stage with musicians, and they will make more sound than an audience can absorb. And yet, perhaps, that's just the sort of surplus a small, arts-oriented school like Bard should have. There's something terribly attractive about the notion of a house so full of music that notes try to bust through concrete walls." Newsday 04/28/03 

What's Wrong With Today's Young Singers? Rupert Christiansen goes to this year's Kathleen Ferrier competition and wonders: "What is it about young singers today? It's not that their techniques are uniformly bad or that the sounds they make are unattractive. It's just that they so seldom seem rigorous or engaged: there's a crucial lack of depth, feeling, imagination. They leave you with the old-fart thought that they've had it too easy." The Telegraph (UK) 04/29/03 

Why Are Pulitzers So Shortsighted? Why are jazz and popular music shut out of the annual Pulitzer Prizes? It's become an award about "serious" composers about other "seious" composers. This year's Pulitzer winner spoke out against the Pulitzers' overlooking of wide swaths of American music. So why is the focus so narrow? Village Voice 04/29/03 

English National Opera Dismisses Exec Director The Times reports that Caroline Felton, a financial expert brought in nine months ago to help turn the English National Opera's fortunes around, has been sacked. Her term as acting head was "marked by strikes and walkouts backstage and controversy on it." The Times (UK) 04/28/03 

ENO Chief Not Fired Says Company "A spokeswoman for ENO denied reports in Monday's Times newspaper that Ms Felton had been sacked, saying she had been given a new advisory role. 'Caroline Felton has been on a monthly contract and remains on a monthly contract. She will be still be working in a part-time capacity, probably until the end of the season'." BBC 04/28/03 

Opera Australia Cuts Season Opera Australia is cutting its season in response to lower funding. "The number of operas in next year's autumn season will drop from five to four, reducing its length by about three weeks. It used to do six." The Age (Melbourne) 05/01/03 

Change Is In The Air In Pittsburgh The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is in full red alert mode. The PSO is facing enormous deficits, little community support, and its search for a new managing director appears to be dragging on a bit, even as other major orchestras begin to snatch up promising candidates. Furthermore, the orchestra's musicians have no input into the search process, which is highly unusual among major orchestras, and no one seems quite sure where the organization is headed. But everyone involved seems to agree that, whomever the PSO settles on as its new chief executive, a major change in the way the orchestra does business is a must. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/01/03 

St. Louis Symphony Digs Out The St. Louis Symphony, which earlier this season said it was in danger of collapse if a major emergency fundraising campaign wasn't successful, says it has raised three-quarters of the $40 million it needs to survive. "With $30 million pledged or in hand, the Symphony has 20 months left to bring in the remaining $10 million. But to be really healthy, the Symphony needs more than the $85 million to $90 million in endowment that it will have by the end of the campaign - somewhere more in the neighborhood of $150 million." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 05/02/03 

Looking For Mr/Ms Right The St. Lawrence String Quartet is one of chamber music's rising young stars - the group has a prestigious residency, a recording contract, and plenty of concerts. But when its founding cellist decided to quit, the search for a replacement was arduous. Now, a year after taking in a new player, the group is beginning its search all over again... The New York Times 05/04/03 

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Caught in the Act
Springtime in Philadelphia--
Music in Blossom 
by Deborah Kravetz

A springtime concert of music by Benjamin Britten neatly brackets a world premiere with a song cycle for tenor and soprano and one of my favorite pieces, Ralph Vaughn Williams' The Lark Ascending (1914). This is surely a spring metaphor in its cool and refreshing sonorities, performed with exquisite delicacy by violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn.

Britten's 1942 Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings featured tenor Stuart Neill, with Adam Lesnick on horn. A solo horn call introduces and closes the piece; Britten has set text by British poets for tenor in lightly textured accompaniment by the string ensemble with diverse textures. Day's end, echoes dying, a rose's death, and sleep are the themes, but the tone is not deadly, particularly in the joyous melody of Nocturne and whimsical perspective of Pastoral. Dirge , to a fifteenth century folk text. This becomes downright eerie, yet Hymn celebrates the sport of hunting at day's end to a rapid gallop, and Sonnet is gentle, yet hopeless.

According to composer James Matheson, the title of The Paces, Concerto for Piano and Chamber Ensemble (2003) plays on the meaning of a set of tests, as well as the rate of change, as phrases progress through their variations on the opening theme. The piece begins calmly and simply with piano, then flute, but strings bring an edginess as the piano grows more complex. Yet each phrase opens with a familiar repetitive progression. The 
composer said he wanted to give the piano soloist "as much to chew on as 
possible," and judging by the experience of Charles Abramovic, he is the right person for the challenge. 

Paces also refers to the metronomic beat of the chase in one section accompanying a march-like rhythm for the piano; the following section is a contrasting slow creep. This is really just a simple theme and variations, contrasting hot and cold, smooth and rough, loud and soft, fast and slow, in unpredictable patterns.

Britten set Les Illluminations (1939) to nine poems by Arthur Rimbaud. These are also enclosed by an opening fanfare and closing as is the Serenade earlier in the program. Quick urgency propels the descriptions of towns in their savage dances, all highlighted by the light and nimble soprano of Julianne Baird soaring above. Certain of the violin phrases here also echo themes heard in The Lark Ascending.

England in Bloom
Kimmel Center 
April 5, 2003
(Reposted from Penn Sounds 4/21/03)

Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown

There's no suspense or hope for a happy ending here, because we know there is none in this chamber musical about a couple who met, fell in love, married and, all too inevitably, are breaking up right in front of us. But, by golly, there are laughs among the tears and sorrow and memories of joyous times. The script is both ends playing toward the middle— Cathy the actress lamenting the end of the relationship, while Jamie the writer tells us how he fell in love, but they almost never actually interact with each other in the process.

The sung-through style of music with mere pauses between the scenes leads 
the ear to easy familiarity, and separate songs risk sounding too similar; the acting and singing is casual throughout. The songs are rocky, folky, bluesy, with varied textural accompaniment, and lyrics avoid those incessant rhyming couplets that can be so annoying. The singers, Nicole Van Giesen and Wayne Wilcox are both somewhat vocally weak and lack sparkle, but rely on their acting skills to interpret the lyrics, and it only serves to make 
them more realistically appealing and believable. Jamie has the more interesting and livelier songs—the humorous Shiksa Goddess and the vivid Moving Too Fast, while Cathy tells us how much she is hurts in Still Hurting and See I'm Smiling. The musical highlight is Jamie's story The Schmuel Song, sharply witty lyrics about a tailor who wants to make the most magnificent dress he can imagine, about the power of dreams. Cathy's A Summer in Ohio about an actress's weird roommates and happenings playing summer stock will become a comic cabaret staple. The ballad When You Come Home to Me could become a classic, but may become most popular as an audition piece, when it turns into an auditioner's nightmare song.

The stage set looks like a wall of empty picture frames, with a background 
of projected collaged snapshots changing, like flipping through photo album pages as the story progresses, and the wedding scenes are a video collage.  The only stage prop is a huge picture frame that remains folded in half except for the Central Park proposal scene when it is opened up, but that doesn't last long, and it is once again folded in half.

I enjoyed the music, liked the characters, appreciated that it was a compact ninety minutes long; I wish I could have walked out humming When You Come Home to Me, and I really wish it had more oomph and polish, remaining a little too much like a review of related songs loosely strung together and hung on a slight premise.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company 
March 14-April 13, 2003
(Reposted from Penn Sounds 4-21-03)

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

             EDITORS PICKS - May 2003 

The Shock of the Old
Composer:  Common Sense 
Composers' Collective
 Santa Fe New Music - #513 

Consider the possibility  that ancient instruments like the harpsichord, Baroque flute and so on can  be used to play  contemporary music as well and you have the idea behind this very fresh and appealing collaboration between the Common Sense Composers' Collective--an eight-member cooperative based in New York and San Francisco--and American Baroque, an early-music consort that makes its home in the Bay Area.   Remarkable stuff that should make converts on both ends of the musical spectrum.

Darkness into Light
Composer: Composer:  John Tavener
Performer:  Anonymous 4
Harmonia Mundi Franc

Four pieces by contemporary mystic composer John Tavener framed by medieval hymns illustrate the passage from darkness to light in this hypnotic collaboration between Anonymous 4 and the Chilingirian Quartet. The most substantial piece is the world premiere of Tavener's "The Bridgegroom," which is nearly 18 minutes long and spellbinding from start to finish.



Overture to the Creole 'Faust'
Ollantay, Pampeana No. 3
Dances from the Ballet, 'Estancia'
Composer: Alberto Ginastera
Performers:  Odense Symphony Orchestra, Jan Wagner, conductor

 The nice folks at Bridge Records are obviously thinking Latin America these days with their recent fabulous Villa-Lobos release and now this superb collection of music from the great Argentine composer Alberto Ginaestera--played, as was the Villa-Lobos, by the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Jan Wagner.  This is bold and flavorful music served fresh and hot--the way you like it. 

Thirteen Ways
Composers:  Tower, Perle, etc
Performer(s): Eighth Blackbird

You got to love a group that takes its name from one of Wallace Stevens' best poems but you'd love them if their name was Band X.  This  six-member ensemble mixes flutes, clarinets, violin and viola, cello, percussion and piano to create a big sound for chamber pieces.  The composers here--Joan Tower, George Perle, David Schobar, and Thomas Albert--are all given polished and enthusiastic readings.  Absolutely first-rate and highly recommended. 

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. 
Composer: Arvo Part 
Performers: Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts, director

Arvo Part’s Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John is widely regarded as one of the most significant choral works of the 20th century. Born in Estonia in 1935, Part studied at the Tallinn Conservatoire, his early compositions strongly influenced by Russian music from the Shostakovich era. Thirty years ago, he began to embrace polyphonic forms linked with Gregorian chant.  Passio echos the earliest American minimalism, with short melodic and rhythmic patterns repeated to form a more extensive narrative.   The British-based vocal ensemble, Tonus Peregrinus performs solidly.  Another great bargain from Naxos

Requiem and other Sacred Music
Composer: John Rutter:
Performers: Choir of Clare College, Cambridge / Timothy Brown, director

John Rutter's gentle Requiem, written in 1985, was composed with a special affection for choral sound. If you prefer the quiet requiem of Fauré to the bombastic requiem of  Verdi, you will love Rutter's work, created from a personal selection of texts, some from the Requiem Mass and others from the l662 Book of Common Prayer.


Uirapurú, Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, The Emperor Jones (Premiere Recording)
Composer:  Heitor Villa-Lobos
Performers: Odense Symphony Orchestra, Jan Wagner, conductor

 For years, Villa-Lobos was regarded by many as a minor composer who wrote terrific little pieces for the guitar.  Not anymore.  A veritable explosion of recordings of orchestral works shows Villa-Lobos to have been one of the 20th century’s giants.  These vibrant performances of some of the less recorded Villa-Lobos works are a jaw-dropping revelation of music at its most romantic and sublime. 

Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 17
Symphony No. 22, Op. 236, "City of Light"
Composer: Alan Hovhaness
Performers:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Starker, Davis
A premiere of Hovhaness’s 1936 Concerto for Orchestra and a return to print from a previous Delos release of the City of Light Symphony, conducted by the composer himself.  Hovhaness was a pioneer of that East/West fusion that has become part of the common currency of contemporary music and his music is neither as easy to love as detractors claim nor as profound as adherents would have it.  Like Martinu, Hovhaness wrote a lot of music and virtually all of it is of a high quality.  Nothing wrong with that. 

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Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editors:    Jerry & Suzanne Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
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