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  June 21-28, 2004

Adamo's 'Little Women'
Boffo in Cleveland
         © Martin Gram
The dream of many opera composers is to direct a production of their own work.  For Mark Adamo, that deam is coming true as he made his operatic directorial debut last week
with Lyric Opera Cleveland’s production
of his own brilliant re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."  (Final performance will be Thursday night, June 24.)

“Directing is the only thing I enjoy nearly as much as composing,” Adamo says. “One can argue that the score of an opera relates to its libretto the same way a director’s choices relate to a spoken script.” 

Like most audiences and critics who have seen "Little Women," Cleveland audiences are thoroughly charmed.  Donald Rosenberg, 
Plain Dealer Music Critic, writes: "It is a brilliant, touching variation on Alcott. Adamo has shaped a libretto of dramatic truth, full of heart and humor, and his score functions deftly on many levels...Hazy Modernism dissolves into gorgeous Romanticism, and back again, according to mood and motivation." 

Since its premiere in 1998 by the Houston Grand Opera Studio, "Little Women" has had more than 25 productions. 

“I’m fortunate in that the vast majority of
productions I’ve seen have been correct to the writing," Adamo says. "But, the one major aspect of the opera that I think has been overlooked or resisted is its surrealism. This isn’t a naturalistic 19th-century piece that happens to begin with a flashback: it’s the fever-dream of a 19th-century character that happens to have a 21st-century sensibility. In my production, "Little Women" meets Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass.”

Adamo is currently developing two new operas for HGO over the next four seasons. "Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess," the first, will premiere in Houston on March 4, 2005 and play seven additional performances in Houston with subsequent performances planned by co-producer New York City Opera. Directed by Michael Kahn, Adamo's new opera features Emily Pulley in the title role, Chad Shelton as Niko, and Myrna Paris as Cleonike. Stefan Lano conducts. 

Other upcoming projects for Mark Adamo include a new Harp Concerto, commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra for NSO principal harpist Dotian Levalier, and the Carnegie Hall premiere of Cantate Domino in December with the Collegiate Chorale under the direction of Robert Bass. 

Born in Philadelphia,  Adamo began his education at New York University, where he received the Paulette Goddard Remarque Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate achievement in playwriting. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music Degree cum laude in composition in 1990 from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he was awarded the Theodore Presser prize for outstanding undergraduate achievement in composition. He is Composer-in-Residence at New York City Opera where he curates the contemporary opera workshop series VOX: Showcasing American Composers

Little Women 
Composer: Mark Adamo 
Conductor: Patrick Summers 
Performer: Catherine Ciesinski, James Maddalena, et al. 
Ondine - #988 
Send announcements to the Editors
ARTS COUNCIL PLOTTED TO KILL OFF SCOTTISH OPERA In a stunning development in the ongoing melodrama enveloping Scottish Opera, a secret document obtained by a newspaper shows that the Scottish Arts Council had a plan in place to eliminate the company completely "and replace it with a new organisation run by a skeleton staff." Under the terms of the plan, which was concocted last summer, even as the company was preparing to stage its wildly successful Ring Cycle, the entire orchestra and chorus of Scottish Opera would have been dismissed, and a new group of administrators would have commissioned future productions on an ad hoc basis. The public release of the plan may well cost some Scottish government overseers their jobs, and the fallout is already beginning in Glasgow. The Scotsman (UK) 06/16/04 

HOW DID IT COME TO THIS? It is now clear that the Scottish Opera mess was created not by simple indifference, but by a deadly combination of bureaucratic bungling, shortsighted cost-cutting, and a stubborn unwillingness from individuals on all sides even to look for a compromise. "The impression now emerging is that powerful figures in the arts council were more than willing to let the Opera die - and that the Executive, confronted by sweeping redundancies, opted for a political fudge." The Scotsman (UK) 06/16/04 

THE LONDON SYMPHONY AT 100 The London Symphony is flying at a time when other orchestras are struggling to stay alive. Why? "You never stay successful by becoming institutional. Success is the result of keeping on the move, demanding more of yourself, challenging the very rules you live by. But at the same time, you have to be clear about what you exist for and where you're going. If there's one reason the L.S.O. has been successful, it's because everything we do is for the music and without the compromise of `Oh, can we afford it?' " The New York Times 06/20/04

PHILLY ORCHESTRA EXTENDS ESCHENBACH CONTRACT, PLAYERS RESPOND UNHAPPILY The Philadelphia Orchestra announces an extension to music director Christophe Eschenbach's contract through Aug. 31, 2008. "Players of the orchestra responded yesterday with a letter to orchestra chairman Richard L. Smoot stating that they were 'deeply disappointed and disturbed to receive your announcement... that you had unilaterally determined to bypass the full Board of Directors and had failed to solicit the expertise of Orchestra members in making a decision that will impact the artistic integrity of the Philadelphia Orchestra for years to come'." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/17/04 

RELÂCHE MAKES BIG CHANGES "In a significant change in artistic authority, Philadelphia's cutting-edge Relâche Ensemble will now be guided by two of its longtime musicians, easing out artistic and executive director Thaddeus Squire. In an announcement yesterday, flutist Michele Kelly and oboist/English hornist Lloyd Shorter were named co-artistic directors." Squire, who has been credited with rescuing the eminent contemporary ensemble from near-collapse four years ago, had recently proposed expanding his authority, a change with which the musicians weren't comfortable. Still, the split appears to have been an amicable one. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/16/04 

250 CONCERTS HIGHLIGHTING VIOLAS AND BASSOONS? MUST WE? An unprecedented series of 250 concerts will be held by orchestras across the UK this fall, with the aim of promoting the orchestra as a still-relevant cultural force, as well as to promote certain instruments within the orchestra which have fallen out of favor with young British musicians. Among the much-maligned-or-ignored instruments to be highlighted are the tuba, the bassoon, the double bass, and of course, the butt of all orchestra jokes, the viola. The Guardian (UK) 06/16/04 

MAAZEL GETS AN EXTENSION, NEW YORK GETS A HORSE RACE The New York Philharmonic has extended the contract of music director Lorin Maazel through the 2008-09 season, but also hired three prominent conductors to lead the orchestra regularly over the next three seasons, presumably placing them at the front of the race to be the next music director. The guest conductors are Riccardo Muti, David Robertson, and Alan Gilbert. Maazel has been a frequent target of critics since his appointment, but the musicians of the orchestra have publicly supported him, going so far as to issue an open request to the Phil's board for the extension. The New York Times 06/16/04

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
Black Angels, Unto the Hills
Composer:  George Crumb
Performers, Ann Crumb, Orchestra 2001, Miro Quartet

The composer's daughter sings Crumb's settings of Appalachian hymns beautifully but it is the Miro Quartet's playing on Black Angels that makes this CD a revelation.  They blow the Kronos Quartet's reading out of the water. -JB

Quintet of the Americas Offers
Free Concert This Week at NYU
The Quintet of the Americas was formed in Bogota in 1976 by U.S. citizens who were principal wind players in the Colombian National Orchestra. The group relocated to New York City in 1979 and has since enjoyed an international career that has taken them to concert halls throughout the Americas since 1982. On Friday night, June 25, 2004, at 8 p.m, the Quintet will be performing a free concert at the Frederick Loewe Theater of New York University, 35 West 4th Street in Manhattan.

Guest artists for this concert will be Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, organic 
Brazilian percussionist, and Patti Wyss, 
narrator, in a diverse program presented as the culmination of the first annual Woodwind Institute offered by New York University. 

The  program will include Summer Music by Samuel Barber, Villa-Lobos’ Quintette en forma de Choros, Colombian Folk Tunes by Jorge Olaya Munoz, Chorinos by Ernesto Nazareth, Twilight Crane (Yuzuru) by Jack Gottlieb and C. Bryan Rulon’s Anti-Silence for Quintet and Computer Playback.

This concert is free and open to the public and is sponsored by The Steinhardt School of Education, Department of Music and Performing Arts of New York University. For more information,contact the NYU Department of Music at 212-998-5424.

Houston's OrchestraX
Names Jacoby Music Director
Peter Jacoby has been appointed Artistic Director of Houston's  OrchestraX,  beginning September 1, 2004. Jacoby is best known to Houston audiences as Music   Director and Conductor for the Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, a position he has held since 1991. He will continue in that capacity, musically supervising a nationally recognized program of fully  staged opera productions as he leads OrchestraX into an exciting new season.

Conductor and coach for numerous performances including those at the Moores School, Staatsoper Studio and the Zurich Opera, Jacoby holds a B.A, in music from the, University of Wyoming with additional study at Cleveland Institute of Music; graduate diploma, Akademie in Vienna. 

OrchestraX is Houston’s second largest orchestra. Founded in 1997 by Houstonian John Axelrod, it is a leading ensemble in the city dedicated to expanding audiences for classical music by bringing affordable concerts to music lovers through its signature format of inventive programs presented in audience-friendly concert venues. 

“The original idea Axelrod had is a compelling one,” Jacoby says, “and not simply for Houston audiences. The impact of the OrchestraX model in representing the vibrancy of classical music, will eventually reach beyond Texas.  A dedication to keep great music alive must include being fearless enough to explore even unconventional ways to attract younger audiences, somehow gain their interest, then translate their support to the longer term needs of our musical heritage. I fully intend to elaborate upon John’s model.”

Recognized for the excellence of his work by esteemed musicians worldwide, America’s preeminent composer, Pulitzer and Academy Award winner John Corigiliano, has said: "Peter Jacoby's work is deeply satisfying to me, and I have seen my   compositions done by the Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Houston is lucky to have a conductor of this caliber."

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 MONTH'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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