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  July 1-8, 2002
Charles Strouse's Concerto America
Popular composer Charlie Strouse takes a turn for the serious.
Composer Charles Strouse wasn't born on the Fourth of July but he is a true Yankee Doodle Dandy ó  a three-time Tony Award winner (Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, Applause) ó and a "serious" composer whose  second piano concerto, Concerto America, written for  pianist Jeffrey Biegel, had its world premiere with the Boston Pops last night, with Keith Lockhart conducting. The program will be repeated July 2. 

"Concerto America is a thematic evocation of my fascination with American popular music, wending its way through such diverse milieus as rumba clubs I played with, Bar Mitzvahs I attended, writing songs in summer stock and playing piano in strip clubs," says Strouse of his new work.

Concerto America is not only a musical autobiography, but also a tribute to a country recently devastated by terrorism: "I can't help feeling that my original ambition for this concerto ... was partially aborted when the terrorist planes struck the twin towers in my hometown. I could not reflect the hurt our country was now suffering. I rewrote much of the piece, yet found myself always coming back to the joy and optimism of America - the crazy quilt of music that seems to see us through, and which remains our country's trademark." 

Strouse has been composing since the 1950's. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Aaron Copland and Darius Milhaud as a three-year scholarship awardee at Tanglewood, and is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. His professional palette includes chamber and symphonic works as well as operas. His opera, Nightingale, based on a Hans Christian Anderson story, has been performed worldwide. 

Strouse is not only one of the world's most successful composers ó he is an active advocate for the development of young artists. Through the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop in New York, which he created and has directed for 15 years, countless young composers, writers and performers have found a forum for their work. In 1999 ASCAP presented Charles Strouse with their prestigious Richard Rogers Award for his achievement in musical theatre. 

In addition to his new piano concert piece, he has two musicals optioned for Broadway in 2002: a new stage version of THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY's, to be produced by the Manhattan Theater Club, while his musical adaptation of the Paddy Chayevsky film MARTY is scheduled for later this season. 

Referred to by the legendary Leonard Bernstein as "a splendid musician and a brilliant performer," pianist Jeffrey Biegel performed the American premiere of the fully restored original 1924 manuscript of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in Boston. He has subsequently performed this piece with orchestras across the U.S. and in Germany. He has also presented performances from Maine to California of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Millennium Fantasy for piano and orchestra, a work he commissioned in collaboration with 26 American orchestras and which was Premiered in September of 2000 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducting.

Future performances of the Concerto 
America will take the work to all 50 states. 

Further Details on the Web

Charles Strouse
Jeffrey Biegel


What's New

Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra Bows

Oliver Knussen at 50

Music for Chillin'

John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts

Lincoln Center Festival
Surprises

Interview with Gloria Coates

Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton
Frank Oteri

Henry Brant's Ice Field
Wins 2002 Pulitizer Prize

Julia Wolfe after minimalism

Philip Glass at 65
Jerry Bowles

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

A New Hall for Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Interview with Poul Ruders

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots tojbowles@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note.  JB



 



Modern Music News
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID. OR MUST IT? With classical music increasingly marginalized by a music industry hellbent on profit and promotion, proponents are forced to hope against hope that a snippet of Brahms, Schubert, or Strauss imbedded in a commercial or a movie might catch the interest of some listeners, and lead them into the quickly dwindling fraternity of dinosaurs who still enjoy the stuff. But is such grasping at straws anything approaching a good idea, or does such cavalier excerpting serve to further diminish an already battered art form? The New York Times 06/30/02

LOOKING PAST TOKENISM: What is it about the supposedly liberal music world that makes it totally unable to get past its aversion to female conductors? Sure, there are a few moderately well-known women on the podium these days, but no major American orchestra has ever hired a woman as music director, or, reportedly, even had one on its short list. Some claim that its a coincidence, but music insiders will tell you that there is no shortage of lingering misogyny among the management of America's professional orchestras. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/30/02

OF FAMILY AND MUSIC: It's difficult to balance family and career in most professions, and music is no exception. "In 2002, it's no longer a shock to see kids at the opera house. While there have been no comprehensive surveys about women musicians and parenting, anecdotal evidence indicates that more women are juggling thriving careers and motherhood ó and succeeding at what seemed nearly impossible a generation or two ago." Andante 06/27/02

NEWS FLASH - BABIES HAVE EARS AND BRAINS: In a finding that will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever raised a bilingual child or taught Suzuki piano to a 4-year-old, a Canadian research team has announced that babies and young children are excellent listeners. In addition the "researchers say babies can remember complex classical music, even after a two week delay." CNN 06/27/02

STORYBOOK MUSIC: Does it matter what politics or lifestyle a composer had? "Like literature and the visual arts in the previous century, classical music has come under the harsh gaze of a new breed of cultural critic, whose investigations range far beyond counterpoint and sonata form. We now regularly interrogate music for its association with society's deepest, darkest and often unexamined values." Andante 06/27/02

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COMPOSERS? We have celebrity architects, celebrity artists, authors and playwrights. But where are the composers? "For one reason or other, composers in this celebrity era have fallen off the face of the globe. While paint splashers live like kings and Sunday scribblers walk out with film stars on their arms, men and (increasingly) women who spend arid days hunched over giant staves struggling to resolve a stubborn chord are no longer part of the cultured person's conversational portfolio." London Evening Standard 06/26/02

BOTH SIDES OF THE GLASS: Philip Glass's latest opera has debuted in Chicago, and will have its New York premiere this fall. So how is it? Well, if you ask the theater critic, it's "an initially static but finally moving 93-minute ode to one man's curiosity." Ask the music critic, and he'll tell you that "Galileo Galilei is another of those contemporary operas where you come out of the theater whistling the decor and staging because the music is so forgettable." Chicago Tribune 06/26/02

ORIGINAL SILENCE: British composer Mike Batt included a blank one-minute track on a recent CD and listed it as a one-minute silent piece. He playfully attributed it to Cage/Batt, his lighthearted tribute to the late John Cage. The group that collects copyright royalties duly billed Batt for rights to the Cage contribution. Says a rueful Batt: "My silence is original silence, not a quotation from his silence." Andante 06/25/02

THE PATH MOST LONELY: Chicago composer Ralph Shapey, who died last week at the age of 81, was a loner. "Someday when I'm dead and buried, some musicologist will start comparing my music with that of other composers of my generation. He will say, `Shapey was ahead of everybody - Carter, Babbitt, all the rest. They are nothing but imitations of what he did all along.' I wish I could come back to hear that, I really do." Chicago Tribune 06/25/02
 
 

 

 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, NY, NY 10019  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.
Caught in the Act
Is That a Spear in Your Toga or
Are You Just Glad to See Me?
by Deborah Kravetz
Look, look, look. See Tony-award winning actress Cherry Jones play the lead in this off-off-off (off-off) (so-far-off Broadway you canít even smell New York) frat house adaptation of the 
classic Lysistrata. I havenít seen anything so puerile and sophomoric since a bar association production of Larry Gelbartís adaptation of Sly Fox. 

And donít think Gelbart wasnít involved in this one, as well. He was! But the American Repertory Theatre producers canned him when they decided he had gone overboard. Yoo-hoo! If this isnít overboard, why are we all drowning out here?

This version ended up being adapted by Robert Brustein, with lyrics by Matty Selman and music by Galt MacDermott. Did I say some of it reminded me of Hair? And Jesus Christ Superstar, and several early rock songs. Jones has a great voice for exhortatory and impassioned speech, and even sings nicely in a Rex Harrison-sort of way. She was fineóeven better than fine, considering and allóbut this may be one sheíll want to drop from her resume.

I havenít seen the Philadelphia Inquirer review yet. Maybe the theater critic is too embarrassed to say anything about a production that could have been done more cleverly by a group of chauvinistic seventh grade boys: men wearing colored balloon penises parading around, coming on to women got up as the most demeaning caricatures of femininity.

Oh, dear, Prince Music Theater, what were you thinking to produce an item that should never have gone beyond a workshop edition. Thatís two duds in a row! (What was the name of that last one?)

LYSISTRATA 
The Prince Music Theater
Philadelphia 
June 15-30, 2002


The title of this program, City Shimmer with Urban Underbelly , is a good description of the kind of music Relache performs, and this program summarizing commissions of the 90ís with a world premiere is just the usual stuff, thank you.

Singer Anne Sciolla performs vocals in Machaut a Gogo by Eve Beglarian based on Renaissance French themes by Guillaume de Machaut that starts out classically but suddenly breaks into rap to wild percussion with hot sax, bassoon and electric bass solos. The vocal line alternates French and English lyrics to synth harpsichord.

Written for modern dance, Close by Erling Wold, highlights concepts of close and not-close, connection and distance, through repetition and rhythmic variations of recurring motifs for flute, clarinet and marimba that impart a sense of lightness and induce a Morse code-like near-hypnotic state with grounding by piano, synth and bowed string bass. The resulting atmosphere is robotic and bleakly futuristic, but objectively not unpleasant and, even, soothing.

In the world premiere on this program , Lydian Variations by Shafer Mahoney opens with English horn, clarinet, bassoon and flute; the warbling theme is almost sprightly and repeated with viola, bass, piano and marimba in varying permutations. While the tempo remains constant, rhythm may become smoothed out or more jagged. 

Extended solo for viola is mellow, for piano cooler, incorporating more harmonies. Classically structured, this piece has a staid Alec Wilder feel, but not his sense of humor; perhaps it harkens back to France in the 1920s.

Another Eve Beglarian piece, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell , is based on a quote from William Blake about the nature of opposition and knowing what is enough. This piece features opposing rhythmic patterns to spoken text, while instruments, including piano and vibraphone, reflect the varying patterns. The result is a very user-friendly, slightly Latin-tinged dance.

Astronomically speaking, dark matter is the space in between, the silence between the notes, but composer electric guitarist Tim Brady explains that what he intended as a quiet piece, Dark Matter , was suddenly hijacked by a viola solo and pounding octaves. Yes, this is primarily a lovely resonant viola melody, but, joined by rhythmic tutti in which individual instruments expand simultaneously on the theme, introduces a dissonance and divergence, occasionally returning to unison.

And so, closing the season.

RELACHE
City Shimmer with Urban Underbelly
Ethical Society Building 
Philadelphia
June 1, 2002

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 6-20-02)


Classical Grammy Winners

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

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


 



EDITOR'S PICKS - JUNE 2002

Violin and String Quartet
Composer: Morton Feldman
Performer: Christina Fong, Karen Krummel, et al.
Ensemble: Rangzen Quartet
Listening to this epic 2-CD chamber work is like watching a large block of ice melt for nearly two hours--excruciating sameness, tantilizing variation, in equal measures. A labor of love by all involved and the kind of thing that only small, independent labels will do.  Bravo 
OgreOgress Productions

Anake & Other Works
Composer: Lyell Cresswell
Performer: Daniel Bell, William Conway, et al.
Nmc Records - #77 
Compositions for solo instruments (other than the piano) rarely get recorded which is a shame because sometimes--as in this case--the results are spectacular.  New Zealand-born British composer Cresswell's warm and passionate solo turns for the violin, cello, flute, and piano are given convincing readings by members of The Hebrides Ensemble.

Symphony 4 / Overture / Nympholept
Composer: Arnold Bax
Peformers Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish Nat'l Orch
Naxos - #8555343 
Not in Vaughn Williams or Arnold's class as a symphonist, Bax nonetheless has a highly invidual voice and offers tremendous pleasures for those who look for less traveled paths.

 Silk Road Journeys
Composer: Michio Mamiya, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, et al.
Performer: Yo-Yo Ma
Ensemble: Silk Road Ensemble
Sony - #89782 
Okay, so the guy is a one-man marketing machine, classical music's equivalent of Sting, but the music is nearly always honest and heartfelt and God knows modern classical music doesn't sell itself. 

Turandot Suite
Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
Performers:  Wong, Hong Kong Phil Orch
Naxos - #8555373 
Little-known suite that Busoni extracted from his incidental music to Gozzi's play, Turandot. Completed in 1905, and in eight descriptive sections, it is engaging late Romantic with hints of Straussian darkness. The Saraband and Cortege are from Busoni's better-known Doktor Faust.

Compositions for Piano (1920-1952)
Composer: Stefan Wolpe:  Performer: David Holzman, piano BRIDGE 9116
From the nice people at Bridge Records comes an invaluable look at an early and largely forgotten modernist just in time for the Wolpe Centenary (1902-2002)

Pianist Holzman wins the uphill battle with such Wolpe knuckle-busters as the Sonata No. 1 "Stehende Musik" (1925), the aptly named 
Battle Piece (1943-47), 
The Good Spirit of a Right Cause (1942), Adagio. Gesang, weil ich etwas Teures verlassen muss (1920), Tango (1927), 
Waltz for Merle (1952), and 
Zemach Suite (1939)

 

The Rheingold Curse: A Germanic Saga of Greed and Revenge from the Medieval Icelandic Edda
Ensemble: Sequentia
Marc Aurel Edition - #20016
Wagner's mother lode. Apocalyptic texts, atmospheric performances, bring to shattering life the age of the Vikings and the Valkyries when Gods and mortals jousted for the medieval soul.  Thoughtful music for an age in which evil men once more live in caves and wreak havoc upon their fellow men.

Stephen Hough's English Piano Album
Composer: Alan Rawsthorne, Stephen Reynolds, et al.
Performer: Stephen Hough
Hyperion - #67267
Stephen Hough is among the most talented pianists today and also one of the most adventuresome.  Rather than concentrating on the surefire crowd pleasers, he has followed his own tastes which have taken him  down a less traditional path. His focus on neglected works by less-known composers is never less than rewarding and particularly so in this CD which showcases virtuoso piano pieces from English composers like Alan Rawsthorne and Stephen Reynolds as well as Elgar and Bridge.  A delight from start to finish. 

Speaking Extravagantly
Composer:  David Stock
Performer(s): Cuarteto Latinoamericano
innova 563 
Stock blends influences from Ives to minimalism, from Bartok to jazz, and from synagogue music to Schoenberg into a fresh and imaginative style of dramatic sweep and lyrical flight.  His close collaboration with Cuarteto Latinoamericano,  one of the worldís outstanding chamber ensembles,  has produced a recording of great emotional power and driving rhythm, with blazing colors and a wide dynamic and expressive range.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor: Zdenek Kosler
Performer: Ludek Vele, Stefan Margita, et al.
Naxos - #8555138
Gilgamesh was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in what is now modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C.  Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets in the script known as cuneiform and which still survive,  providing continuing inspiration for writers and poet and musicians.  One of the most inspired of these was Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, who wrote this magnificent choral masterpiece based on the legend in 1955--only a couple of years before his death.  Like virtually everything Martinu wrote, this one is indispensible.

Concertos for Two Pianos
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu, Alfred Schnittke
Conductor: Eiji Oue
Performer: Kathrin Rabus
Cpo Records - #999804 
An inspired pairing of works for two pianos by two of modern music's real giants.  Martinu's concerto is big, sprawling and filled with musical color; Schnittke's is restrained with tensions that build into moments of momentous relief.  Taken together, a testimony to the power of the imaginative to produce different, yet equally compelling, solutions to the same problems.

 


Symphony No. 9
Composer: Hans Henze
Performer: NYPhilharmonic
Berlin Radio Choir 
No  record can quite capture the excitement of a live performance, but having been there the night the Henze 9th  was recorded, I can testify that this CD comes very close to capturing the epic, shattering, passionate, heartbreaking pain of this incredible work. The Philharmonic plays magnificently, and the Berlin Radio Choir sings with total commitment this setting of seven harrowing poems by Hans-Ulrich Treichel, based on Anna Seghers's wartime novel "The Seventh Cross," about the re-capture and martyrdom by crucifixion of seven concentration camp escapees. No one who listens to this work will ever forget it.
 

SEQUENZA21/ is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
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