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 July 14-July 21, 2003

Libby Larsen 
Gets the Chair
Libby Larsen has been assumed the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology in the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress in Washington. 

As holder of the Papamarkou Chair, Larsen will work to connect music education organizations with artists to plan new ways for arts educators and world-class artist practitioners to work together. In addition, she will work to organize “The Global Green Room,” bringing together leading practicing artists to identify issues concerning “the soul” of America’s culture and to create ways in which artists may regularly interact with each other and with the population at large through technology. Larsen will also continue work on her book of essays on the cultural effects of music/electricity/sound and transportation.

Larsen has created more than 200 works spanning virtually every genre, from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral and opera scores. Her many commissions and recordings, prized for their dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit, are a testament to her fruitful collaborations with a long list of world-renowned artists. Her opera “Barnum’s Bird,” which was co-commissioned by the Library of Congress and the Odyssey Commissioning Program of the Plymouth Music Series in honor of the Library’s 200th anniversary, had its world premiere in the Coolidge Auditorium in February 2002. Larsen’s works are widely recorded on such labels as Angel/EMI, Nonesuch, Decca and Koch International Classics. 

Her awards and accolades include the 1994 Grammy as producer of the CD, “The Art of Arleen Augér,” a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bush Foundation, and numerous honorary doctorate degrees. Her opera “Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus” was selected as one of the eight best classical music events of 1990 by USA Today.

The first woman to serve as resident composer with a major orchestra, Larsen has served as composer-in-residence with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony and the Charlotte Symphony, and she has taught at more than 150 colleges and universities throughout the world.

In 1973, Larsen, a vigorous and articulate champion of the music and musicians of the present day, co-founded (with Stephen Paulus) the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composers Forum, which has been an invaluable advocate for American composers. Her commitment to the wider issue of music in society has led her to become active on a national level as well, serving on the boards of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Meet the Composer, the College Music Society, the American Music Center and the College Music Society.

Advertising and Sponsorship Information
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 
Reinventing Opera For The 21st Century London's Almeida Theatre is embarking on the Genesis Project, commissioning new operas with the hope of reinventing the form for the 21st Century. "Genesis is trying to kick opera into the 21st century and give it a wider appeal to people like director Jean-Frédéric Messier, founder of the Montreal theatre company Momentum, and a man who is more likely to be found listening to Frank Zappa than Puccini. 'Maybe opera does have a future if it can become a free open space where people can try anything'." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03 

The Bad Reviews Are In (Aren't They?) When Greg Sandow wrote about the declining fortunes of classical music in last month's NewMusicBox, he sparked a furious debate on the website. This month he's back to address some of his readers' comments. "When I talked about the decline and possible death of classical music, I was talking above all about classical music institutions. Classical radio stations are disappearing, classical record companies are in major trouble, media coverage of classical music is getting scarce (compared even to where it was 10 or 20 years ago). Will orchestras be next, along with opera companies, string quartets, and music schools?" NewMusicBox 07/03 

Finland - A Musical Utopia? Finland sounds like a musical Utopia. And certainly Finnish musicians are making their mark internationally. So what nurtures such a positive musical environment? The country has "30 state-funded orchestras in the country, with as much as 90% of their income coming from the public purse. This extraordinary provision is for a total population of five million, less than that of London." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03 

Are Laptops The New Accordians? Laptop jamming - it's musicians getting together in public, plugging their laptops into a sound system and creating "a kind of electronic music using new sounds and ambient textures. People can just pick up and do it just using the software. Laptop music may have an aggressive beat that sounds warped and filtered, or the atmospheric outer-space effect of ambient music; like electronica, it borrows samples from many different styles of music. When a group starts playing, the sound can be jarringly cacophonous because it takes a while for the performers to get in sync with one another." The New York Times 07/10/03 

Your Music Collection - What It Tells About You Want to know what a person is really like inside? A new study says looking at a person's music collection will give you the best idea. "Almost anything about a man or a woman - from their looks, intelligence and fitness, to politics, wealth and even conversational ability - can be gleaned from the tunes they enjoy most. In the study, psychologists from the University of Texas questioned 3500 people about their individual musical preferences and then matched them with their personality traits." The Age (Melbourne) 07/10/03 

The Curse Of Middle-Of-The-Road Opera Is opera becoming too much the same wherever you go? "Travel to New York, Paris or London, and the similarity of the performances can make it difficult to tell one night at the opera from another. This is "international" opera - the type that could happen anywhere, any time, anyhow. Today's top singers travel around with their latest roles in their baggage just as much as their illustrious predecessors did. No, the real problem today is that singers on the lower rungs of the ladder have started to travel just as frenetically. Those companies that still want to retain a resident ensemble are finding it impossible to hang on to the singers they need." Financial Times 07/04/03 

Did Da Ponte Steal Don Giovanni From Stoker? "An article published yesterday on the front page of one of Italy's leading national newspapers draws attention to some remarkable parallels between the story of Bram Stoker's seminal Gothic villain Dracula and that of the archetypal Latin cad Don Giovanni depicted in Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto more than 100 years earlier." The Guardian (UK) 07/07/03 

Burning With Criticism French pianist Francois-Rene Duchable plans to "destroy two pianos and set his formal recital clothes on fire in a three-concert finale to his professional life, starting at the end of this month. He'll bring the first program to a close "with a grand piano crashing into Lake Mercantour, the second with his suit in flames and the third, in August, with the explosion of a piano in mid-air." Why?... Baltimore Sun 07/08/03 

What's The Point Of Public Performance In An Age Of Recording? Charles Rosen explains: "For the modern sensibility, the public performance is the final realisation of the work of music. In spite of the rich tradition of private and semiprivate music making in the centuries before our own, it is with the presentation in public that the performance of a work comes completely into its own, attains its full existence. We must rephrase the question "for whom does one play in public?": the odd aesthetic objectivity, real or mythical, demands the form "for what does one play?" One plays for the music." Andante (Independent on Sunday) 07/10/03 

40% of CDs Are Illegal The global market for illicit copies of CDs has exploded, according to a new report from the record industry, and "the illegal music market is now worth $4.6 billion globally." New technologies have made it possible - and simple - to copy not only the contents of a traditional CD, but the cover art and liner notes as well, and the industry estimates that, for the first time, the number of illegal CDs in existence has topped a billion. According to the report, two of every five CDs sold are illegal copies, often without the knowledge of the buyer, and there is no end in sight. BBC 07/10/03 

 Last Week's News

American Music is Dead
Long Live American Music

There was a time not so long ago when it was almost impossible to find recordings by many American composers--some of them quite famous in their day and well-worth a new generation of listeners.  Now, thanks to Naxos' splendid American Classics series, the newly launched First Edition Music series, and Bridge Records' wonderful series of Recordings of for the  Preservation of the American Musical Heritage, we have a new golden age to choose from.

Bridge's latest offering is a  three disc set of American orchestral masterpieces that brings several works into the CD catalog for the first time. Recorded in the 60s by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Karl Krueger, these path-breaking recordings, originally done for the Society for the Preservation of the American Musical Heritage, have been lovingly re-mastered by Grammy winning Engineer/Producer Adam Abeshouse.

Edward MacDowell’s ‘Indian’ Suite is the composer’s most substantial orchestral composition and is accompanied by the composer’s rarely heard Suite No. 1. "Vathek" is one of Horatio Parker’s two symphonic poems. Parker based this composition on a work of fabulous excess and immorality, the early Gothic picaresque, "The History of the Caliph Vathek" by the eccentric millionaire intellectual, novelist and travel writer William Beckford (1759-1844). Victor Herbert’s orchestral masterpiece, "Hero and Leander", was fated to remain unpublished during the composer’s lifetime. It is given an opulent reading by Krueger and his British forces. Arthur Farwell’s "The Gods of the Mountain" is music of great exoticism and originality. Though a suite taken from incidental music for a play by Lord Dunsany, the work feels like a short symphony with echoes and presages of motifs from each of the movements serving to bind the work together with great unity of design. Henry Hadley’s rarely heard Second Symphony of 1901 was awarded two prizes and may justly be called one of the first successful American symphonies. "Salome" was one of 

Hadley’s favorites among his own compositions, and was written after he had seen a production of Oscar Wilde’s sensational and decadent play. 

NWEAMO 2003: The Exploding Interactive Inevitable 
October 3-5, 2003: Portland, Oregon (B-Complex) October 10-12, 2003: 
(San Diego State University) 

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance

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

What's Recent
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
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jbowles@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

             EDITORS PICKS 

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Composer:  Alan Rawsthorne
Performers: Peter Donohoe, Ulster Orchestra, Takuo Yuasa

The complete package--two complex, important  and demanding piano concertos by England's most underrated modernist, played to dazzling perfection by the world-class pianist Peter Donohoe.  The chance of running into a treasure like this  is why classical music collectors get up in the morning. 

Extempore II
A modern Mass for the 
Feast of St Michael
based on the medieval melody L'homme armé 
Performers:  Orlando Consort / Perfect Houseplants
Harmonia Mundi Franc 

Jazz meets medieval and, for once, avoids a train record. This album is the second volume in a collaborative project between the Orlando Consort, a classical vocal ensemble, and British jazz quartet Perfect Houseplants . In both medieval classical music and jazz, improvisation is an essential skill and both groups exhibit lots of imagination.


Composer: David Lang
Conductor: Carlo Boccadoro
Ensemble: Sentieri Selvaggi

A major new work for seven musicians,  "Child" is a powerful meditation on childhood and memory. Sweet and simple on the surface, gentle musical fragments float by, leaving faint traces of darkness in their wake. The result is at once dramatic and personal, intensely introspective and piercingly beautiful.  This is Lang's most controlled and complete work to date, pointing the way to a new maturity filled with enormous possibilities.

Written in five separate parts for some of Europe's finest groups, "Child" is recorded here by the Italian ensemble Sentieri Selvaggi. 

In the White Silence
Composer:  John Luther Adams
Performer(s): Adams, Weiss, Oberlin Contemp Music Ens
 New World Records 

 In the White Silence (1998) is an example of Adams' concept of "sonic geography," through which he attempts to realize the notion of music as place and place as music and reveals his obsession with the "treeless, windswept expanses of the Arctic"  and specifically refers to Adams’s fascination with the color of white, a dominant feature of Arctic landscapes. As Adams explains in his preface to the score: "White is not the absence of color. It is the fullness of light. As the Inuit have known for centuries, and as painters from Malevich to Ryman have shown us more recently, whiteness embraces many hues, textures, and nuances."

Four Songs of Solitude; Variations; Twilight Music
Composer: John Harbison
Performer: Janine Jansen, Lars Wouters van den Oudenwijer, et al.

John Harbison was born in New Jersey in 1938 and is now established among the most prominent American composers, his output including symphonies, string quartets, and three operas.  I find his music generally too gnarly by half but admire his technical abilities which are on sharp display in ttese well-performed chamber pieces.

Symphony Number 5
Composer;  Roy Harris
Performers: The Louisville Orchestra. 
Robert S. Whitney, Lawrence Leighton Smith, conductors, Gregory Fulkerson, violin
First Edition - #5 

Roy Harris wrote 11 or 14 symphonies in his long career, depending on who's counting but only one of them remains treasured--the extraordinary one- movement, 18-minute Third Symphony, which is the statement the composer was born to make.  Most of his odd-numbered symphonies are worth a listen and No. 5 just may be the best, after No. 3.

Symphony No. 3; Psalm, Kaddish
 Composer: David Diamond
 Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
Performer: Janos Starker

David Diamond is thought of as an American composer although he was trained largely in Europe and has spent much of his life in Italy. The glorious Psalm, completed in 1936, was Diamond's first successful orchestral score.  The  Fourth symphony, completed in 1945, is in four movements and is characterised by its strong rhythmic character, with a breezy scherzo and brilliant finale.  Kaddish, completed in 1958, is   dedicated to Janos Starker. It is an enormously powerful cry to heaven.

Symphony No. 4
Composer: Walter Piston 
Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
 Performer: Seattle Symphony, Therese Elder Wunrow

 Walter Piston achieved considerable success during his lifetime but his work is rarely played these days which is too bad since it is  immediate and appealing and very "American."  The Fourth Symphony dates from 1950, and incorporates  an atmosphere of American folk music, especially in the bright  finale.  The three  New England pieces are dark and brooding.  This recording was first released on Delos in 1992.  If  you don't already have it, pounce. 

Orchestral Works 6
Composer: Joaquin Rodrigo
 Conductor: Max Bragado-Darman Performer: Lucero Tena

For a guy who is basically famous for a single work, Rodrigo sure wrote a lot of sparkling, sunny, highly-listenable music.  Not sure how many more of these Naxos has in the works but I'm not tired yet. 

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Alexander Rahbari
 Performer: Masako Deguci, Jose A. Garcia-Quijada, et al.

Like a local wine consumed with good friends and good food not far from the vineyard, regional opera productions of famous operas often have a charm, passion, and character that befies their modest ambitions.  This thoroughly charming rendering of Puccini's most hummable score is one of those unexpected delights.

Pipa From a Distance
Performer:  Wu Man, Stewart Dempster, Abel Domingues

In addition to being a rightous goodlooking babe, Wu Man is probably the best pipa player alive and here she takes on some thoroughly modern pieces with results that range from the soothing to the downright eerie.  There are echos of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project (for which Wu Man served as main pipa person) as well as hints of new traditions yet to come. 

Ritter Blaubart
Composer:  Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek
Conductor: Michail Jurowski
Performer: Arutiun Kotchinian, Robert Worle, et al.
Cpo Records 

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945) is remembered for a single work, the overture to the opera Donna Diana but CPO hopes to change that with  the release of his Ritter Blaubart (Knight Bluebeard), a fairy-tale opera. 

Gretry, Offenbach and Bartok were also drawn to the story of Bluebeard, the mythical figure who kills his faithless wife and then murders the other women he marries. Reznicek's version boasts music filled with atmosphere and keen drama.  Conductor Michail Jurowski leads the Berlin Radio Orchestra and a cast of fine singers in a powerful performance.

The Shock of the Old
Composer:  Common Sense 
Composers' Collective
 Santa Fe New Music - #513 

Consider the possibility  that ancient instruments like the harpsichord, Baroque flute and so on can  be used to play  contemporary music as well and you have the idea behind this very fresh and appealing collaboration between the Common Sense Composers' Collective--an eight-member cooperative based in New York and San Francisco--and American Baroque, an early-music consort that makes its home in the Bay Area.   Remarkable stuff that should make converts on both ends of the musical spectrum.

Darkness into Light
Composer: Composer:  John Tavener
Performer:  Anonymous 4
Harmonia Mundi Franc

Four pieces by contemporary mystic composer John Tavener framed by medieval hymns illustrate the passage from darkness to light in this hypnotic collaboration between Anonymous 4 and the Chilingirian Quartet. The most substantial piece is the world premiere of Tavener's "The Bridgegroom," which is nearly 18 minutes long and spellbinding from start to finish.



Overture to the Creole 'Faust'
Ollantay, Pampeana No. 3
Dances from the Ballet, 'Estancia'
Composer: Alberto Ginastera
Performers:  Odense Symphony Orchestra, Jan Wagner, conductor

 The nice folks at Bridge Records are obviously thinking Latin America these days with their recent fabulous Villa-Lobos release and now this superb collection of music from the great Argentine composer Alberto Ginaestera--played, as was the Villa-Lobos, by the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Jan Wagner.  This is bold and flavorful music served fresh and hot--the way you like it. 

Thirteen Ways
Composers:  Tower, Perle, etc
Performer(s): Eighth Blackbird

You got to love a group that takes its name from one of Wallace Stevens' best poems but you'd love them if their name was Band X.  This  six-member ensemble mixes flutes, clarinets, violin and viola, cello, percussion and piano to create a big sound for chamber pieces.  The composers here--Joan Tower, George Perle, David Schobar, and Thomas Albert--are all given polished and enthusiastic readings.  Absolutely first-rate and highly recommended. 

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