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  May 31-June 7, 2004

Daniel Kellogg's
Divinum Mysterium

The Washington Post calls Daniel Kellogg, (b.  1976, "the most generously gifted of the American under-30s." In 2002, Young Concert Artists chose him as its Composer
In addition to the commission from eighth blackbird for Divinum Mysterium, Kellogg has received commissions from eighth blackbird, the Ying Quartet, the Claremont Trio, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, 20th Century Consort, and Soli Deo Gloria. Mr. Kellogg's honors include a 2003 Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 2003 ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Award, a 2003 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and the 2000 William Schuman Prize of BMI. During 2000-2001 he served as the Sackler Master-Artist-in-Residence at the University of Connecticut. Kellogg holds two masters degrees from the Yale School of Music and a B.M. from the Curtis Institute of Music. His teachers have included Don Freund, Ned Rorem, Jennifer Higdon, Joseph Schwantner, Ezra Laderman, and Martin Bresnick. Here are his notes on Divinum Mysterium.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." — John 1:1-5 (ESV)

The opening verses of John's Gospel and the several that follow are among my favorite passages of scripture. John writes that not only was the world created through Christ, but Christ is also the light that will overcome the darkness by restoring the creation. This was the plan from before there was existence: it is circular, beautiful, and offers complete hope. We humans are not in fact a cosmic accident but are the result of the greatest work of art (the creation), by the greatest artist (Christ). We are not alone, but in fact are loved.

This piece is a personal response to the overwhelming beauty of the creation and the magnificent forces that were involved in its beginnings. I am moved to capture glimpses of this story in music. I wanted to dwell on God's terrifying presence and power, His Light that is all glorious, His compassion and love, and the response of rejoicing.

Divinum Mysterium is the name of a text by Prudentius that was translated and set as a hymn called "Of the Father's Love Begotten." Singing this hymn each Advent season in our family's church is one of the most beautiful and striking experiences in my musical memory. It was unlike any other musical experience I knew: we sang it in unison and without accompaniment except for tonic bell tones between the phrases. I felt connected to the people of ancient times who used it to express their praise, and yet it felt vibrant and contemporary. It remains my favorite hymn.

When I set out to write a piece about the creation this melody came to mind as the perfect vehicle to represent my Christian understanding of the creation. This melody is sung at the beginning of the piece, played by piano and cello at the end, and woven throughout each movement. Evermore and evermore. — Daniel Kellogg

Composers:  Daniel Kellogg, George Crumb
Performers:  eighth blackbird

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Kessler Departing American Music Center Richard Kessler is stepping down as director of the American Music Center. "Kessler is widely credited within the industry for refocusing the AMC at a crucial time in its history and securing the financial foundation needed to support the organization's mission. When he came on board in 1997, the AMC employed only three staff members and was faced with a record deficit. His first budget was approximately $1 million; this grew to almost $5 million in 2002. This year, following six straight years of surplus budgets, the Center has a staff of 14, a $300,000-plus cash reserve, and an endowment of over $3 million." NewMusicBox 05/26/04 

A Call For Elitism Classical music's audience needs to get younger, and fast, writes John Bennett, and getting the educated youth into the concert hall will require a controversial tactic. "Classical music has never been, nor should it be, a mass culture staple, but that doesn't mean its audience has to be doddering. High art has always been created to be enjoyed by those who are educated to appreciate it... So if the classical music establishment wants to lure young listeners, the real task is to reassert the absolute value of the Western art music tradition. In other words, classical music leaders must challenge today's entrenched post-counterculture relativism that sees a Schubert symphony as the equivalent of the latest White Stripes album." Boston Globe 05/27/04 

Terfel Wins Classical Brit Prize "Welsh bass baritone Bryn Terfel won the prizes for best album and male artist at this year's Classical Brit awards. Italian opera star Cecilia Bartoli was named best female artist at the event, held at London's Royal Albert Hall. British conductor Sir Simon Rattle won orchestral album of the year for his recording of Beethoven's Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic." BBC 05/26/04 

A Bad Night For Levine And The Met James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra finish up their Carnegie season on a down note. Why? "It's futile to speculate on whether any of this reflects the effects of recent public discussion of long-standing concerns about unexplained tremors in Mr. Levine's left arm and leg and whether tension was created in the orchestra by its members' willingness to voice their doubts in The New York Times in an article on May 1. The only effect one can state with certainty is the huge outpouring of love and support from the audience every time Mr. Levine conducts. The only reason to raise the issue is that one wants to find a reason for the poor quality beyond simple fatigue at the end of a long season." The New York Times 05/25/04 

Performing Music Remotely Over Internet2 Classical music organizations are finding ways to use Internet2, the next generation of internet, "with enough broadband capacity to transmit huge quantities of data, including CD-quality sound and DVD-quality images, at as much as 250 megabytes per second (more than 4,000 times the rate of a standard dial-up modem; more than 800 times that of a cable modem). The New World Symphony is using it a lot, setting up coaching sessions, lessons and other interactions with top-flight professionals around the country." The New York T imes 05/22/04 

Jansons Exits Pittsburgh America is a tough place to be a music director, and even some of the world's greatest conductors eventually decide that the constant strain is just more work than it's worth. Case in point: Mariss Jansons, who this weekend conducted his final performances at the helm of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. "Many things didn't work out the way he would have liked or else Jansons wouldn't be leaving so soon -- after only seven years. But he is a class act, a committed servant of the music and above all a good person." Jansons leaves the PSO an ensemble transformed, but with an uncertain artistic future. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/22/04 

Is Acoustic Science Killing the Concert Hall Acoustical engineering is an especially tricky business. Just ask anyone who has been in charge of designing the sound of a major concert hall over the last half-century. "Over the last 50 years, more computing power has been applied to acoustic data than ever before, but most big halls have turned out to be dry and pale frames for music." In fact, as acoustic science has advanced, concert halls have arguably regressed, sounding more like glorified loudspeakers or hi-fi sets than chambers of orchestral sound. Perhaps the problem is the desire to build a hall that can be all things to all people, or the corruption of our ears and minds by recorded sound. But whatever the problem, one thing seems clear: they just don't build 'em like they used to. The New York Times 05/22/04 

Why Crossover Rules How is it that classical "crossover" has come to dominate the classical music business? Indeed, most of the artists and recordings that dominate the classical list these days are crossover... BBC 05/26/04 

Small Town, Big Drama Another conductor controversy has broken out in a small North American city. This time the showdown is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the board of the La Crosse Symphony has voted narrowly to dismiss conductor Amy Mills, after musicians in the orchestra complained bitterly about her musicianship. But some board members are furious at the way the vote was conducted, saying that two uncounted proxy votes in favor of Mills were not counted because they would have swung the vote in favor of retaining her past 2005. La Crosse Tribune 05/26/04 

Mimi And Rodolfo In Trafalgar Square The English National Opera will produce La Boheme this summer in the middle of Trafalgar Square. The production is expected to draw an audience of 8,000. Tens of thousands more are likely to spill over on to surrounding pavements, the steps of the National Gallery and any space near enough to catch the amplified sound. La Bohème is the first opera to be put on in the square, an event that will trump the impresario Raymond Gubbay's recent success in staging the same work in the Albert Hall." The Guardian (UK) 05/27/04 

Last Week's News

Two and a Half Cheers 
For Music Appreciation
by David Salvage

The myriad woes facing the classical music industry these days have forced musicians to become more energetic advocates for their art.  The result has been a burgeoning music appreciation industry whose “Dummies” and “101"– type books now sit in bookstores across the country.  I’ve been looking at them lately and thinking about what made me first like classical music when I was a kid growing up in central Ohio.  These books like to tell stories about the “Baroque Period,” and Beethoven’s deafness, and Debussy’s “Impressionism.”  They work on the assumption that, if you know about something, you’ll like it.  But I liked the Brandenburg Concertos before I knew when Bach lived. I thrilled to Beethoven’s Ninth before I knew he was deaf when he wrote it, and I loved La Mer before I knew  what “Impressionism” was.

Classical music requires no special knowledge; it only requires that you listen.  Simple as that may sound, people really don’t listen to music anymore.  They listen to lyrics, or dance to a beat, or get caught up in a story or attitude behind the music.  Just listening to music alone is an extremely rare activity nowadays, but this is precisely what those in the music appreciation industry must get their readers and students to do.  I don’t think lavishly illustrated books about the lives of the “great composers” or the “periods of music” are the first step to getting people to listen.

In order to understand something new, one must proceed from the familiar to the unfamiliar.  If audiences aren’t used to listening to music alone, then we should begin music appreciation courses and books with the classical music that doesn’t require them to listen to music alone, namely opera.  The course of music appreciation should then run through programmatic music (pieces with stories) to absolute music (pieces without stories) –  thus gradually removing the extra-musical devices, like stories and images, that classical music sometimes shares with other, more accessible art forms – like movies, books, and painting.  At the end, when the course reaches absolute music, audiences will be listening to pieces which are  “about” nothing else than a particular play of tones. 

Opera is the most accessible (and popular) form of classical music because it engages audiences on  levels they are more accustomed to.  One can sympathize with the characters on stage, enjoy the elaborate sets and costumes, and get swept away by a compelling story – all of which makes the music more readily intelligible.  Why is the tempo so slow?  A character is dying.  Why are the harmonies so dissonant?  Someone is angry or crazy. 




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

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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS

Infernal Violins
Performer(s): Angele Dubeau, Le Pieta

Call it Angèle meets the devil.  Call it crossover.  But resistance is futile. 
Angèle Dubeau is a remarkable violinist, and here, she and her all-woman, 12-strong group, La Pieta, tackle some of the showiest virtuoso pieces composed or transposed for solo violin and strings, in various combinations, and with an occasional piano thrown in. From Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre  to the Jagger/Richards masterpiece Paint It Black, these ladies play these violin bon bons with a warmth and flair that would warm the devil’s heart.  A bonus DVD reveals the players to be as comely as they are talented. 

Knoxville: Summer of 1915 / Essays for Orchestra
Karina Gauvin, soprano / Thomas Trotter, organ / Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Marin Alsop, conductor 

Gramophone made this its top pick of the month and it's easy to understand why.  The young Canadian soprano  Karina Gauvin delivers a drop-dead gorgeous reading of Barber's magical setting of a James Agee poem.  Marin Alsop is also excellent in the two Essays for orchestra, works written for  Bruno Walter and Eugene Ormandy, respectively.

Piano Trios 1 & 2 
Vitebsk Trio
Composers:  Shostakovich, Copland
Trio Wanderer
harmonia mundi

Two well-known  masterpieces by Dmitri Shostakovich are paired to fine effect with a less well-known ‘Russian’ work by Aaron Copland.  Copland’s infrequently heard Vitebsk Trio of 1929 is an early work, based on a Jewish theme the composer heard at a performance of Dybbuk, a play by Shalom Ansky (who was born in the town of Vitebsk). The work combines elements of the neoclassicism and folk style of Stravinsky with experiments in polytonality and microtones.  Brilliantly performed by Trio Wanderer.

Symphony No.1, Phantasmata
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, David Zinman
First Edition

First released on Nonesuch in 1989,  this all-world-premiere title, which did much to bring Rouse’s immense talent to a wider public, boasts 24-bit newly remastered sound and the complete and lively interview with the composer conducted by Glenn Watkins. Conductor David Zinman’s close collaboration with Rouse ensured that the introspective Symphony No. 1 (with its references to Bruckner and Shostakovich) and the highly surreal Phantasmata triptych received maximum voice.

Tirol Concerto, Passages
Dennis Russell Davies (piano) 
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Orange Mountain 

Philip Glass’ Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra was commissioned by the Tyrol, Austria Tourist Board and had its world premiere at the Tyrol Festival “Klangspuren” in Jenbach, in  2000. While staying in Tyrol, Glass studied sound documents and sheet music of Tyrolese folk-music.  In his Tirol Concerto, played here by conductor/pianist Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra,  This disc also features selections from Passages, Glass's collaboration with Indian Sitar master Ravi Shankar,  as arranged by  Davies.

Rachmaninov Transcriptions, Corelli Variations

Olga Kern was awarded the Gold Medal at the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001 - the first woman to garner that honor in over thirty years.  On her new release Olga Kern performs a dazzling program of Rachmaninov’s piano transcriptions of of music by Bach, Bizet, Kreisler, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, his Corelli Variations, and the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 — with Rachmaninov’s own cadenza, transcribed from his recordings. 

Belshazzar's Feast
 Composer:  William Walton
Performers:  Purves, Lindley, Daniel

Sir William Walton's  Belshazzar's Feast, composed in 1930-31, is the finest British choral work since Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, although it is far more "modern."  Scored for baritone, choir and orchestra Belshazzar is a compact work lasting just under 45 minutes. It recounts the Biblical story of the downfall of the proud Belshazzar, King of Babylon whose doom is foretold by a ghostly hand writing the chilling prophecy on the wall during a banquet. Walton's dazzling and often times startling music is gripping from the first bar to the last. 

Letter to Warsaw 
Jane Eaglen, soprano / Mina Miller, piano / Music of Remembrance / Gerard Schwarz, conductor 

 American composer Thomas Pasatieri created this powerful song cycle, setting six texts by poet/cabaret artist Pola Braun, who wrote these texts while in the Warsaw Ghetto and in the Majdanek concentration camp, where she perished in 1943.  The  poems bear poignant, painful witness to the disruption, forced disintegration and, finally, destruction of daily life of every Jew in Poland in World War II.  Pasatieri is best known for his many film orchestrations including Road to Perdition, Finding Nemo, and Angels in America.  Here,  he takes full advantage  of Jane Eaglen's glorious voice and his orchestrations reveal a composer of considerable depth.

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.

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