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  May 10-May 17, 2004
Charles Ives
50 Years After

Charles Ives died 50 years ago on May 19 and to mark the occasion the New York Philharmonic is presenting an ambitious five program, three-week Ives festival, which begins this week.

Born in Danbury, Connecticut on 20 October 1874, Ives pursued what is perhaps one of the most extraordinary and paradoxical careers in American music history. Businessman by day and composer by night, Ives's vast output has gradually brought him recognition as the most original and significant American composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, Ives sought a highly personalized musical expression through the most innovative and radical technical means possible. A fascination with bi-tonal forms, polyrhythms, and quotation was nurtured by his father who Ives would later acknowledge as the primary creative influence on his musical style. Studies at Yale with Horatio Parker guided an expert control overlarge-scale forms. 

Ironically, much of Ives's work would not be heard until his virtual retirement from music and business in 1930 due to severe health problems. The conductor Nicolas Slonimsky, music critic Henry Bellamann, pianist John Kirkpatrick (who performed the Concord Sonata at its triumphant premiere in New York in 1939), and the composer Lou Harrison (who conducted the premiere of the Symphony No. 3) played a key role in introducing Ives's music to a wider audience. Henry Cowell was perhaps the most significant figure in fostering public and critical attention for Ives's music, publishing several of the composer's works in his New Music Quarterly. 

In 1947, Ives was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 3, according him a much deserved modicum of international renown. Soon after, his works were taken up and championed by such leading conductors as Leonard Bernstein and, at his death in 1954, he had witnessed a rise from obscurity to a position of unsurpassed eminence among the world's leading performers and musical institutions. 

“The significance of Ives and his music is much more than his being a pioneering innovator and precursor of modernism,” writes Stephen Hartke recently received the Charles Ives Living award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a grant intended to permit him to take a three year-leave from his teaching duties at the University of Southern California to devote himself exclusively to composition. “Indeed, the encounter with his astonishing body of work, most of it composed within the span of 20 years in a blaze of white hot creativity, proved a great wake-up call in an era when new music seemed to be turning more and more inward and was in danger of becoming bloodless. Ives reminded us that truly great music is not necessarily merely serious and well constructed, but also outgoing, passionate, disturbing, comforting, visionary, and even funny sometimes.”

Symphony No. 2 & Robert Browning Overture 
Composer: Charles Ives
Conductor: Kenneth Schermerhorn
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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
Is Karl Jenkins One Of Our Most Popular Composers? Karl Jenkins is a former jingle-writer and rock musican. Now he's a popular classical composer. "The wealth of these influences make him a hard composer to define, and he wearies of critics’ insistence on putting him in boxes. So let’s say that he’s a new sort of world composer: one whose music is fêted in Kazakhstan and cherished in Japan for its healing properties." The Telegraph (UK) 04/28/04 

It's Official - Colorado Symphony Chooses Kahane The Colorado Symphony chooses Jeffrey Kahane as its new music director. "The Los Angeles native, a finalist in the 1981 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and winner of the 1983 Rubenstein Competition, remains most widely known as a virtuoso pianist. But his reputation as a conductor is quickly catching up." Denver Post 04/27/04 

Springer Opera Coming To US Jerry Springer - The Opera" is making its US debut in 2005 in San Francisco. "The show has the distinction of being the only one ever to win all four major London awards for best musical." San Francisco Chronicle 04/26/04 

Physicists In New Way To Restore Old Recordings Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have "found a way to digitally map the grooves in warped or damaged shellac records and wax cylinders, and play them back using a sort of virtual needle — all with the same powerful microscope and computer technology they use to measure particle tracks. The 'non-contact' optical scanning method could also detect any scratches, or clicks and pops due to dust, and automatically filter them, allowing a digital rendition to sound as clear as the original performance." USAToday (AP) 04/29/04 

Using Sound To Create Human Puppets Just as certain smells can make you salivate and certain visual images can inspire certain feelings, music and sound have the power to trigger specific reactions in the human brain. A biotech company is hoping to take financial advantage of that fact by "integrating neurosensory algorithms into music to create a certain mood and evoke more intense responses from listeners. The company hopes to market its compositions to the movie industry and video game companies." Wired 05/01/04 

Colorado's New Direction When the Colorado Symphony hired 47-year-old Jeffrey Kahane to succeed Marin Alsop as music director, it signaled a distinct change in the way the orchestra will present itself to the community. Alsop was a virtual unknown when she came to Denver, and as her star rose in the wider music world, the CSO's name came along for the ride. But Kahane is no up-and-coming youngster: he's an established name in the industry, a much-respected pianist, and an artist in the prime of his career. Those may seem like excellent reasons to hire a music director, but at a time when so many other orchestras are looking for the next big thing in conducting, Colorado seems to have made something of a safe choice. Denver Post 05/02/04 

Rattle Attacked By German Critic Is Simon Rattle's honeymoon as director of the Berlin Philharmonic over? He's been attacked by a leading critic. "The article, entitled "Simon von Rattle" compared the conductor to the dictatorial Herbert von Karajan, the Berlin Phil's last director but one, and described Sir Simon's music-making with the orchestra as "uninspiring", "insubstantial" and "transparent"." The Guardian (UK) 04/29/04 

Shouting In Four-Part Harmony The chief cultural export of the Finnish town of Oulu is "the Shouting Men's Choir, which is exactly what it sounds like: 30 men of Oulu in black suits, shouting in harmony. You don't get that sort of thing down in Geelong, or in Helsinki, for that matter. It is a product of long nights in a town with little to do, a northern sense of humor that revels in the absurd, a high city count in eccentrics, and a lot of vodka." The Age (Melbourne) 04/30/04 

Scottish Orchestra Tries To Minimize Hearing Damage To Players "The Royal Scottish National Orchestra launched two days of workshops yesterday, with a 'noise team' aiming to work out ways of playing orchestral music safely. While deafening music is usually associated with the thundering basslines and power chords of rock, the classical world has been stirred into action by European regulations limiting the noise to which musicians can be exposed. There has been rising concern in the UK over the potential damage to musicians’ health from sound and stress in the workplace." The Scotsman 04/30/04 

Online Music - Good For Music Industry, Or Not? "Online services account for just a small fraction of overall music sales, but they're growing rapidly. And the new choices they give consumers threaten to remix the recording industry's traditional revenue streams, pumping up the volume of singles and subscriptions and turning down album sales. The shift to online shopping could be lucrative for the music industry if the flexibility and convenience lead people to spend more on tunes than they do today. But some industry executives and analysts fear the opposite result, with music lovers buying a few 99-cent singles instead of $15 CDs." Chicago Tribune 04/30/04 

Wage Gap Between Soloists And Orchestra Players Causes Discord The gap between what orchestra musicians earn and what star soloists and conductors earn is wide. And causing some unhappiness in the ranks. "A typically eminent conductor earns, per concert, about a quarter as much as the typical full-time player earns all year. Given that most freelance orchestral contractors can expect as little as £75 per concert, the fees lavished on top conductors and soloists can rankle." The Independent (UK) 04/26/04

Cleveland Orch Spurns Proms Over Web Payments The Cleveland Orchestra has declined an invitation to perform at the BBC Proms because its concerts would be webcast on a BBC website with no additional payment to the Cleveland musicians. Norman Lebrecht cannot believe his ears: "Open access is what makes the Proms a magnet for the world's great orchestras who, after the formalities of their overlong seasons, feast upon its effervescent atmosphere like nomads at an oasis. The trade-off is that everyone does it on the cheap... We are not talking here of the poor and downtrodden of the musical earth. The basic wage in the Cleveland Orchestra is $97,090 per annum, twice the going rate for London musicians and for less than half the work." La Scena Musicale 04/28/04 

Last Week's News
Lauds and Lamentations
Music of Isang Yun, Elliot Carter
Performers: Heinz Holliger
Thomas Zehetmair
Ruth Killius
Thomas Demenga

by Duane Grant

It's has been out for a little while but in really listening to this CD for the first time I was amazed at how much I liked the pieces and how good they are recorded.

Composer and oboist Heinz Holliger asked two of his friends, composers Elliot Carter  (born 1908) and Isang Yun (1917-1995), to each write a piece for oboe and string trio; violin, viola and cello (oboe quartet). This two CD set features these two beautiful and very different pieces as bookends starting with Carter's "Oboe Quartet" and ending the second CD with Isang Yun's "Quartet for Oboe and String Trio". These are joined by works for solo violin, solo english horn and solo cello by Carter and a piece for solo oboe by Yun. Each one sparkling gems.

The oboe quartet has not been a widely used model in composition. There are few known examples; Mozart's is the most famous with a not so well known offering, that by all accounts is outstanding, by Benjamin Britten being the ones most cited.

Of the eight Carter pieces heard here, five are world premiere recordings, including the Oboe Quartet, a major work by any standards. 

Yun’s Quartet for Oboe and String Trio also receives its premiere recording. In this three movement quartet the outer movements are alive, energetic and seamless blends of lines and motivic development. It brings to mind a kind of circular envelopment of forward (but nonlinear) motion. The middle movement, in stark contrast, seems to make a contemplative study of individual sounds transcending notes, bending in micro tones. They eerily come into presence, alone, and then recede into the background and disappear.

Elliot Carter's Oboe Quartet is also a sonically captivating work because of its facility and dexterity of lines, ideas and technique. One the one hand Carter presents a range of ideas in compressed and catapulting time frames creating a palpable sonic density; on the other hand the ideas, lines and shapes are incredibly clear and intelligible. This is its alluring quality. Carter also uses all the possible duet combinations (6) of instruments throughout the piece.

Although it is sometimes thought that oboe and strings together present problems of clash and range, I think, and your listening might also this bear out, that the oboe's lyrical, liquid and gently piercing timbre compliments and blends well with all of the strings and the violin's especially. The over alchemy of sound is edgy, and, buoyant.

Also important in the realization of any piece is the balance and/or recording and the recordings on this CD achieve a remarkable balance and presence of the instruments and bring an overall clarity to these compositions that reaches out to the listener. The performances by all the musicians are stellar. They rock. 

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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