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  June 14-21, 2004

Krzysztof Penderecki's
Winning Ways
Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki are among the five winners of this year's Praemium Imperiale, one of the richest prizes in the arts world.  The other winners of the Japan Art Association's prestigious award are Brazilian architect Oscar Niemer, German painter Georg Baselitz, American sculptor Bruce Nauman and Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.

The artists will each receive 15 million yen ($194,000) - believed to the highest monetary prize purely for artists - a diploma and medal at a ceremony in Tokyo scheduled for October 21, the association said.

Krzysztof Penderecki was born in Debica on 23 November, 1933. He studied composition privately with Franciszek Skolyszewsk and then (1955-8) with Artur Malawski and Stanis?aw Wiechowicz at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków, where he also taught, being appointed its rector (i.e., president) in 1972 (in the 1980s the School was renamed "Academy of Music). Penderecki's career had a very auspicious beginning. In 1959 he came suddenly to prominence when three of his works won first prizes in a national competition organized by the Polish Composers' Union (he submitted them under different pseudonyms). His reputation quickly spread abroad, notably through perfomances of such works as Anaklasis (written for the 1960 Donaueschigen Festival) and Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The latter piece, as well as the Passion according to St. Luke of 1963-5, found an unusually wide audience for contemporary works, and Penderecki soon received important commissions from diverse organizations in Europe and the USA. He has also appeared widely as a lecturer and in 1972 began to conduct his own compositions. 

Penderecki has won numerous domestic and foreign prizes including the First Class State Award (1968, 1983), the Polish Composers' Union Prize (1970), the Herder Prize (1977), the Sibelius Prize (1983), the Premio Lorenzo Magnifico (1985), the Israeli Karl Wolff Foundation Prize (1987), a Grammy Award (1988), a Grawemeyer Award (1992), and a UNESCO International Music Council Award (1993). 

Penderecki's teaching career developed in Germany, the U.S. and Poland. He taught composition at the Volkwang Hochschule fur Music, Essen (from 1966 to 1968); in 1973-78 he lectured at Yale University in New Haven. In 1982-87 he was rector of the Academy of Music in Kraków, in 1987-1990 he served as the artistic director of the Cracow Philharmonic. Since his conductor's debut with the London Symphony Orchestra (1973), he has performed with prominent symphony orchestras in the United States and Europe, and he is chief guest conductor of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra in Hamburg. Apart from his own works, his conducting repertoire covers the works of composers from various epochs, with a preference for 19th-century and early 20th-century compositions. In 1997 he published a book entitled "The Labyrinth of Time. Five Lectures at the End of the Century (Warsaw, "Presspublica"). In 1996 the performance of his piece Seven Gates of Jerusalem, commissioned by the city, commemorated the celebrations of "Jerusalem - 3000 Years." in Israel. 

The best known composition by Penderecki is his St. Luke Passion, the Passio et mors domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Lucam, completed in 1965. 

St. Luke's Passion
Composer: Krzysztof Penderecki
Conductor: Antoni Wit
Performer: Warsaw Boys' Choir, 
Send announcements to the Editors
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

Ned Rorem Song Competition
Nuvovok is looking for submissions of new, unpublished songs for the Ned Rorem Award for Song Composition.  Each entry must be a setting for voice and piano of one of the following texts, selected by Rorem:

Edmund Waller:      "The Dancer" 
Christina Rossetti: "Ferry Me Across the Water" 
Walter Savage Landor: "Mother, I Cannot Mind my Wheel" 
Edmund Waller: "Song"
Christina Rossetti:     "Up-Hill"

(Complete texts are available upon request or at www.nuvovox.com.)

Questions about the competition or the conference may be directed to diana.barnhart @ verizon.net, go to www.nuvovox.com, or call (215) 886-0606 and leave a fax number (when possible) and phone number.

Contemporary Music: How Do We Know What to Make of It?
By Duane Harper Grant

Iterations of an interesting question have been milling around in my head for a quite a while and it is my belief that I am not the only one that has pondered this question at one time or another. It¹s a question that has no real or set answer and therefore is open-ended, full of diversions and theories that can relate directly or indirectly to many theories about music, art and human behavior.

The question, or at least one simple way of putting it, is: how do we know if new music, contemporary music, art music of the 2oth and now the 21st century, (what ever we shall call the genre at any given time) is, well, good or bad or of any relevance to our personal and collective sensibilities? In other words, how do we translate what we are listening to into language that we can understand and inform ourselves of how we relate and respond to a musical piece. I know that the terms good and bad are simplistic and don¹t begin to tell the whole story of an experience we might have with music that we are hearing or have heard but for a point of reference they are terms that are basic ideas of our response. The first thing that our unconscious wants to know is if we like or dislike the experience that we are having. There are things far beyond like and dislike that are very much a part of our conscious and unconscious experience and dialogue that are very important too.

Granted, the question and arguments are in a large part intellectual and vast. I asked a friend and colleague this question and told him that I was thinking of writing about it. He said it sounded like quite a large and complex subject and could easily be the subject of a doctoral dissertation but it started an interesting dialogue between us. Still this question about art music (as opposed to pop) and the implications of a relationship with new thought and ideas are as much tempting as they are perplexing.

Some implied questions here are; can we make cohesive sense out of the overall state of contemporary art music? Do we need to? If so, how do we and what are the major pitfalls in attempting this? Why would we want to do such a thing in the first place? Perhaps taking stock of the state of the art is useful, just as knowing trends in thought are, but another interesting underlying question is why are so many people not able to relate to this music at best and at worse are categorically dismissing it? In this question we seem to be asking about the effect, and result but the why question, the cause, is more illusive.

Over a period of time one thing that started to come into focus for me in reading the literature, documentation and CD notes about music written say within the last 40-50 years or so is that the conceptual language of contemporary art music; the language that composers, critics and listeners use to design and describe the music, has grown and changed astoundingly. The lexicon of musical concept, and practice; the way we describe music is ever pushing the limits and now seems as vast as individual and collective imagination. Even if one is paying close attention it is very difficult to stay up on it.

Another area, that we also have to consider firstly, is the practical and conceptual language that we have, or had, grown accustomed to that we now find, that we are in fact, not finding as much. In the world of contemporary music much of the familiar trappings are sometimes all but disappeared and in their place are often more unfamiliar elements. Take the most basic and simple of concepts; melody. Melody is an idea ingrained in our psyches. Of all the elements of music it is the one most of us consciously or unconsciously gravitate toward first. In western culture we have listened to and grown familiar with the melodies of a vast body of work spanning a wide spectrum of period and style starting with ancient Gregorian chants and early polyphonic singing. In looking at the whole of musical lineage and practice, the importance of melody to composers and listeners is a serious consideration. So what then happens when a era comes along in which the concept of melody is morphed? When the nice diatonic tunes which our ears have been trained to pick up on become atonal, or when melody becomes a faint cipher, or when (as we have known it) it is virtually nonexistent in a piece? How does one relate to and make sense of something so different and new. In careful study of this question one would have to at least admit that the answer is: maybe not so easily.

Shall we therefore, by extension, grant the other prime tenets of music; those of tonality, (which is an extension or the result of melody and harmony especially as it relates keys both major and minor), and harmony and rhythm, the same specification, as far as their having a changing presence and role in music, as we have to melody. Interestingly, the element of rhythm is often even the most strikingly changed idea and devise of musical composition and practice of all. 




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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