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  June 7-June 14, 2004

Unsuk Chin's
Visions of Light
Unsuk Chin, winner of the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, last night gave fans at the Ojai (California) Music Festival a taste of her opera "Alice in Wonderland,' which the Los Angeles Opera has commissioned for its 2005-06 season.  The 20-minute piece called SnapS & Snarls was performed by mezzo- soprano  Margaret Tomson, with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra led by Kent Nagano. 

Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, Korea. Following lessons in piano and music theory from a very early age, her studies continued at the National University Seoul, including composition with Sukhi Kang. She appeared as pianist at the Pan Music Festivals and in 1984 her composition Gestalten (Figures) was selected for the ISCM World Music Days in Canada and for the UNESCO 'Rostrum for Composers.' In 1985 she moved to Europe when she received the DAAD stipend for study in Germany, and took composition lessons with György Ligeti in Hamburg until 1988. Since then, Unsuk Chin has lived in Berlin, composing and working in the electronic studio of the Technical University Berlin. 

Chin's compositions have been performed at numerous festivals and concert series in Europe, the Far East and the USA. Her most widely performed work is Akrostichon- Wortspiel for solo soprano and ensemble, programmed in 15 countries to date by such leading ensembles as Ensemble Modern conducted by George Benjamin, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Simon Rattle, the Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam, Asko Ensemble, Ictus Ensemble, and the new music groups of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra. 

Other works include Fantaisie mécanique and Xi, both commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the prize-winning orchestral work santika Ekatala, which was premiered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, ParaMetaString commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, a Piano Concerto written for Rolf Hind, and Miroirs des temps, commissioned by the BBC for The Hilliard Ensemble and the London Philharmonic. Kalà for soloists, chorus and orchestra was co-commissioned by the Danish Radio Symphony, the Gothenburg Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic orchestras and premiered under the baton of Peter Eötvös in March 2001. 

"My music is a reflection of my dreams," Chin writes. "I try to render into music the visions of immense light and of an incredible magnificence of colours that I see in all my dreams, a play of light and colours floating through the room and at the same time forming a fluid sound sculpture. Its beauty is very abstract and remote, but it is for these very qualities that it addresses the emotions and can communicate joy and warmth."

Adams Wins First Nemmers Prize
John Adams is the inaugural winner of the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition given by the Northwestern University School of Music.
The biennial award honors classical music composers of outstanding achievement.

Adams was cited by the selection committee for "his fusing of a wide range of styles into a voice entirely new and distinctive, and for his connection to and reflection of the world around us." As winner of the Nemmers Prize, he receives a cash award of $100,000, a performance of one of his works by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 2005-2006 season, and will serve a residency at Northwestern University School of Music. 

"I am tremendously honored to be selected as the first composer to receive the Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition," said Adams. "It comes as both a surprise and a delight to know that my music is so highly regarded. I look forward to my residency at the Northwestern School of Music. Spending significant time with students is something I have missed very much in recent years."

"John Adams is a giant in the field of composition," said Northwestern School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery. "As one of the most performed living American composers, it is clear that he has captured the imagination of both musicians and audiences. His presence on our campus will be of great interest and benefit to students, faculty, and the Chicago community."

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Adams Wins Inaugural Northwestern Prize "The Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Adams is the first recipient of Northwestern University's Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition. The biennial award carries a cash award of $100,000 and honors living composers of widely recognized achievement. It is one of the largest in classical music." Chicago Tribune 06/02/04 

Pulitzer Music Changes Debated Changes in the criteria for the Pulitzer Prize for music to broaden it are provoking controversy. Defenders say: "The board has been concerned for many years that the full range of exellence in American music was not somehow getting through the process in such a way that it could be properly and appropriately considered. The changes in the wording are intended to make sure that the full range of excellence can be considered. The prize should not be reserved essentially for music that comes out of the European classical tradition." Boston Globe 06/01/04 

New Opera, New Tryout "Even though the operagoing public today seems more open to new works than it has in decades, the repertory in most houses remains overwhelmingly traditional. Major commissions are rare. So even composers with no prior experience are under pressure to come up with an effective work right off the bat." That's why New York City Opera's annual showcase for new operas "provides composers and librettists with an invaluable chance to assess how a work might come across." The New York Times 06/06/04 

The Ring Tone Charts A new music chart will track the popularity of phone ring tones. An estimated £70m of ringtones were sold in 2003 - up from £40m in 2002. The fortnightly chart will count down the 20 most popular tones downloaded onto mobile phones and will be published in Music Week magazine. Most current pop hits are available to buy as mobile phone rings for between £1.50 and £3.50." BBC 06/01/04 

Recreating Old Recordings How to preserve old vinyl and wax cylinder recordings? "Researchers using optical-scanning equipment have made exquisitely detailed maps of the grooves of such recordings. By simulating how a stylus moves along those contours, the team has reproduced the encoded sounds with high fidelity." ScienceNews Online 06/03/04 

Boston Pops' American Idol Hundreds of hopeful singers lined up Thursday to audition for a chance to sing with the Boston Pops. "In its own version of "American Idol," the orchestra is holding open auditions Thursday and Friday to find a vocalist who will sing in front of 500,000 people expected at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River. The only requirements are that applicants be over 18 and not have agents or recording contracts." The New York Times 06/04/04 

Testing The Mobile Music Companion A concert-goer takes a spin with a hand-held electronic Concert Companion at a New York Philharmonic concert. "It was amazing, in fact: to my untrained eye and ear, the text invariably arrived at exactly the right moment. And there was something exciting, or at least satisfying, about reading that the concertmaster traditionally plays the solo and glancing up to see said concertmaster sawing away." And yet, there were some problems... The New York Times 06/06/04 

Chinese Pianist Wins E-Competition "Jie Chen, an 18-year-old pianist from China who moved to the United States with her mother five years ago, won first prize in the second biennial International Piano-e-Competition in Minneapolis. She received $25,000 and a Yamaha Disklavier (an electronic keyboard) valued at $75,000, along with a recital at Alice Tully Hall in New York and a CD on the Ten Thousands Lakes label. Pianists from 12 countries, from 15 to 31 years old, competed." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 06/06/04 


Last Week's News
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

Uri Caine, Relache 
and All That Jazz
by Deborah Kravetz

Pianist and composer Uri Caine has classical training and jazz experience, and both of these are influences on his compositions. For this program, Worlds Mythic + Mercurial, the influences go even further. In Six Pieces for Relache premiering in these performances, Caine has drawn on
Webern and Elliot Carter as well as Bach, Beethoven and Mahler; Jewish folk tunes that were barely hinted at in Mahler become more obvious in Caine's Five Pieces from the Mahler/Caine Projects, expanding on his source themes.

When you have eight instruments each playing different things at the same time, at the same beat, but differing rhythms, as Caine does in Six Pieces for Relache (2004)--well, it's not always concordant. But from time to time, Caine has composed passages that suddenly coalesce, and then diverge, finally concluding together. In the second movement, there are duets and
trios, for strings, for winds, for percussion and piano, in delicate short fragments. The third movement is tutti cacophony again, also in short phrases, but here instruments are highlighted individually and there is a
staccato unison passage. Single notes feature in the fourth section, rotating among the instruments before the piano introduces a phrase that is then shared and developed. The mood is quieter and slower with more space between the phrases in the fifth section. Flute and oboe have distinctly
melodic phrases and there is clear klezmer influence in clarinet and viola parts. The most cohesive and melodic of the movements so far, but Caine changes the beat several times to keep us from getting too sure of ourselves. The final movement maintains a march-like tempo, but isn't
without its sudden shifts. Short fragments are more coherent and cohesive while portions remain fiercely independent.

Only Love and Beauty is performed with the composer on piano accompanied by the ensemble. These are notated arrangements, but the florid piano line sounds improvised and embellishes upon the almost stilted ensemble part, sort of like baroque gospel.

St. Anthony of Padua Preaches to the Fishes has a delicate jazz sound and up tempo, with bass and percussion. Bass and piano take turns, but then clarinet, flute and viola join with that klezmer flavor and entirely different alternating straight and swinging rhythms.

A solo piano composition in the Mahler vein starts with percussive chords, then takes on a jazz interpretation of Mahler themes that play hide and seek with their jazz  camouflage, speedy tempo and  syncopation--an iconoclastic combination and an acquired taste. A slow dreamy theme is slowed to a stuttering crawl with spaces for jazz embellishment to creep
in, in stark contrast and a variety of styles.

Caine's take on the Symphony No. 5 Funeral March starts with an extended
drum riff, then the funeral theme on string bass. By the time the oboe and ensemble enter, the piano is doing long chord runs and punctuating chords iin counter- rhythm--and then it is just a wild klezmer melody in theme and variations with the usual laughing clarinet and jazzy free-for-all.

The Symphony No. 1 third movement starts like a gospel hymn piano solo; piano embellishment and ornamentation continue with the melody in viola accompanied by clarinet and bass for a lush, romantic sound.

Mark Hagerty's High Octane , a 2002 Relache commission closes the program. Starting with a single phrase, each instrument enters layering on its own distinct phrase. Succeeding segments start in different instruments and layer in different order.

Future Sounds IV: Worlds Mythic + Mercurial
Prince Music Theater 
Philadelphia,  PA
May 26, 2004
Reposted from Penn Sounds 6/4/04

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

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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