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  July 12-19, 2004

Beyond the Veil:
John Tavener
This year’s Lincoln Center Festival is a little short on serious music (unless you take Elvis Costello as seriously as he seems to take himself) but there is one sizeable exception—a seven-hour “spiritual journey” called The Veil of the Temple by Sir John Tavener which begins at 10:30 pm on Saturday July 24 inside Avery Fisher Hall and ends with a light breakfast on the plaza outside on Sunday morning.  Between those points we are promised 150-plus choristers, recitations, incense and candles, and the mesmerizing sounds of a Tibetan horn, Indian harmonium, duduk, brass choirs, and temple bowls.

Tavener conceived the piece as a way of introducing Western audiences to a different form of listening, The Veil of the Temple was commissioned for the 800-year-old Temple Church, one of London’s most beautiful and historically significant edifices.  Second only, perhaps, to Arvo Part, Tavener is a leader of the movement of contemporary composers whose spiritually soaked music sounds both ancient and modern.

Born in London on January 28, 1944, John Tavener showed his musical talents at an early age and by the time he entered Highgate School he was already an extremely proficient pianist and organist. He proceeded to the Royal Academy of Music where he won several major prizes for composition. Among his teachers were Sir Lennox Berkeley and the Australian, David Lumsdaine. In 1965 his dramatic cantata The Whale, given in the debut concert of the London Sinfonietta, took its London audience by storm. Since that time Tavener has continued to show an originality of concept and an intensely personal idiom making his a voice quite separate from those of his contemporaries. 

Major works of the 1980s and early 1990s include Orthodox Vigil Service; The Akathist of Thanksgiving ; The Protecting Veil for solo cello and strings; two large-scale choral and orchestral works, Resurrection and We Shall See Him As He Is; and an opera, Mary of Egypt, written for the 1992 Aldeburgh Festival.

Other commissions in recent years include Svyati (1995) for Steven Isserlis, Agraphon for soprano Patricia Rozario and string orchestra commissioned to form the centrepiece of a Tavener Festival in Athens, Vlepondas (1996) commissioned by the European Cultural Centre of Delphi, Hidden Face (1996) for the City of London Sinfonia, The Last Discourse (1997) premièred at St. Paul's Cathedral in March 1998, Eternity Sunrise (1997) commissioned by the Academy of Ancient Music and premiered at the City of London Festival in 1998 and the epic Fall and Resurrection, premièred at St. Paul's Cathedral in January 2000. In October 2000 London's South Bank Centre presented "Ikons of Light", a major three week festival dedicated to his music.

His Song For Athene (Alleluia. May Flights Of Angels Sing Thee To Thy Rest) was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.  Tavener received a knighthood in 2000 for services to music.

Darkness into Light 
Composer: Composer:  John Tavener 
Performer:  Anonymous 4 
Harmonia Mundi Franc 
Send announcements to the Editors
The Longest Concert - Two Notes Down, 636 Years To Go "In the abandoned Burchardi church in the German town of Halberstadt, the world's longest concert moved two notes closer to its end Monday: Three years down, 636 to go. The addition of an E and E-sharp complement the G-sharp, B and G-sharp that have been playing since February 2003 in composer John Cage's 'Organ2/ASLSP' -- or 'Organ squared/As slow as possible'.'' Chicago Sun-Times 07/06/04 

Pulitzer Music Changes And The Comfort Zone What's wrong with changes in eligibility for the Pulitzer Prize in music? "On the face of it, the changes instituted are small. The Prize will no longer be for a musical work of "significant dimension," as the Board seems to feel that such language has tended to prevent composers of shorter pieces from submitting their work. The press release also states that the changes are intended to broaden the types of works available for review to include jazz, musical theater, movie scores "and other forms of musical excellence." Never mind that such works have actually been eligible since the last overhaul of the Music Prize's rules, the real problem that I have is how this restated emphasis on broadening the scope of musical works under consideration bespeaks the essential discomfort that the Pulitzer Prize Board has with art music." NewMusicBox 07/04 

A Good Year In Philly, Mostly It was a good season for classical music in Philadelphia, but there are more than a few storm clouds on the horizon. The city's music critics go over the good ("Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia music director Ignat Solzhenitsyn went several extra miles with Shostakovich's darker-than-dark Symphony No. 14"), the bad ("the elimination of the city's arts and culture office by Mayor [John] Street"), and the profoundly worrisome ("Now that most listeners have tired of talking about the acoustics of the Kimmel... let's not forget that the city spent $265 million to build a great orchestra hall and didn't get one.") Philadelphia Inquirer 07/11/04 

Music Industry Says Study Shows Downloading Hurts Music Sales Some say music downloading helps music sales. But a new study by the big music producers says that's not the case. Some "28 per cent of the people surveyed who reported buying less music in the last 12 months said the decline was mainly due to downloading, file sharing and CD burning. Fifty-two per cent of music consumers who don't download said they paid for music in the past month. Thirty-five per cent of downloaders said they'd bought tunes in the past month. When those who'd purchased were asked how they heard about the CD, only 2 per cent cited downloading." Toronto Star 07/08/04 

NY Phil Cancels Tour The New York Philharmonic, battling deficits and deep into contract negotiations with its musicians, has canceled a tour of Europe scheduled for September, saying that the Spanish presenters couldn't guarantee the necessary fees to keep the tour in the black. This is the third time in the last calendar year that the orchestra has canceled a tour, but Philharmonic officials insist that a fall 2004 tour to Japan and South Korea is not in danger. The New York Times 07/10/04 

Pay Copyright Royalties On 300-Year-Old Music? "The director of Hyperion Records plans to appeal against this week's high court ruling that the company must pay copyright fees on its recording of a 300-year-old piece of music. The decision could have serious repercussions throughout the world of classical music." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/04 

The Orchestral Wage Gap Are conductors and executives bankrupting American orchestras? Blair Tindall sees a basic conflict between the skyrocketing salaries of those at the top, and the cries of institutional poverty which have led to stagnating musician salaries and increasingly bitter fights between labor and management. It's true that, of 20 orchestras which settled new musician contracts in the last year, 19 included wage cuts. Still, most musicians don't seem to be bothered by the high salaries of their bosses, just so long as the conductors and CEOs appear to be earning their pay. But with the industry widely perceived to be in trouble and salaries continuing to climb, those at the top may soon find themselves under fire. The New York Times 07/04/04 

Rosenberg: Money Plays Role In Leaving SF Opera Pamela Rosenberg confirms that San Francisco Opera budget cuts played a big role in her leaving the company. A smaller budget means fewer new productions. "That part of the job has always been my most creative -- being a midwife to artists and projects, and getting new productions conceived and done," Rosenberg explained Thursday in a phone call from her office in the War Memorial Opera House. It looks like I won't be able to do that in the future -- we're taking the budget down by 20 percent, and that will mean we will have the means to do a maximum of one new production a year for at least the next three seasons. At this point in my career, that's just not enough for me." Contra Costa Times 06/28/04 


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

Meet the Composer 
Commissions 13 New Works

Meet The Composer's COMMISSIONING MUSIC/USA 2004 will provide $200,000 to 17 organizations across the USA, supporting the creation of 13 new works by a diversity of composers and artists. Among the highlights:
David Lang • New York
Julia Wolfe • New York
Commissioning Organization
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Composers David Lang and Julia Wolfe, along with long-time collaborator/composer Michael Gordon, will create a new, evening length work, Shelter. This multimedia theater work will incorporate an elaborate series of structures built and rebuilt over and around the musicians - as the structures change they will become defining boundaries, projection surfaces, or temple walls.

Stephen Hartke Glendale, CA
Philip Littell • New York, NY
Commissioning Organization
Glimmerglass Opera 
Composer Stephen Hartke and librettist Philip Littell will collaborate on an operatic adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's short story Boule de Suif, or, The Good Whore, which examines the lives of several characters during the Franco-Prussian war. This full-length opera is expected to premiere at Glimmerglass Opera's 2006 Festival Season.
Anthony Davis • San Diego
Yusef Komunyakaa
Commissioning Organization
Opera Omaha
Composer Anthony Davis and librettist Yusef Komunyakaa will create Dream Horses (working title), a full-length opera based on the story of the Ponca tribe's forced relocation from its native land by the U.S. government, and the attempted return to tribal lands by the chief and several others to bury their dead. There will be two narratives, traditional and contemporary, embracing the past within the context of the present. The opera, scored for full orchestra and chorus, will premiere in the fall of 2006.
Jake Heggie 
San Francisco
Commissioning Organizations
Cal Performances Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts • Urbana, IL
The consortium is commissioning composer and pianist Jake Heggie and playwright Terrence McNally to adapt McNally's short play Some Christmas Letters into an evening-length musical theater piece. The new work, which will feature soprano Frederica von Stade as the lead vocalist, spans 20 years in the life of a small family through their conversations during the Christmas season. Due for completion in early 2005, Some Christmas Letters is scheduled to premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Roda Theatre on May 27, 2005. 

A complete list of award recipients and their projects is available at Meet the Composer.

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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