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  August 19-26, 2002

Who Loves a Parade?
Neely Bruce Does

One of the great joys of New York City in the summer is walking through Central Park on any sunny Saturday and Sunday and simply letting yourself be pulled from one siren's song to another--from the samba band with the drums and the whistles to the Caribbean steel drummers to the bagpipers and the Peruvian flutists with their Andean reels to the kids with their radios permanently tuned to rap.  Every ethnic group, it seems, likes its music al fresco with the result that the park is often a magical collision of sounds that are both a tribute to the democratic nature of the city and a vibrant listening experience. 
Composer Neely Bruce recreated some of that happy feeling of musical serendipity yesterday in  the scorching hot plaza at Lincoln Center and surrounding streets by restaging his giant Millennial piece--“Convergence: Some Parades For Charlie’s Dad.”
 First staged on the New Haven Green in 2000, Convergence has become one of the American Composers Forum’s Continental Harmony program’s most legendary performances.  This time around, Convergence was performed as part of Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors concert series. 

The roughly 90-minute “experiment in musical collision” is a series of intertwining, outdoor parades in the spirit of Charles Ives that requires more than 1,000 performers to stage. It is scored for four marching bands, nine choruses, three organs, three handbell choirs, two fife and drum corps, two solo trumpets, bagpipes, a mariachi, a samba, African drummers and dancers, Native American ensemble (Algonquin), a jazz quartet, chamber orchestra and full orchestra. 

 “The whole shootin' match is inspired by George Ives, Charles's father, who marched two bands through each other in Danbury, Ct. in the 1880s,” Bruce says.  “Indeed fathers are very important in the thinking behind this work.  Remember the full title is "Convergence:  Some parades for Charlie's Dad," and it is dedicated to the memory of my father, Woodrow Wilson Bruce Sr.”
 Bruce describes the work as “…part giant symphony and part multitudinous variations on ten compositions of William Billings and eighteen spirituals collected in the mid-nineteenth century.  Inspired by an incident in the life of the major early 20th century American composer, it owes a great deal to Henry Brant, a major composer of the late 20th century, and recent Pulitzer Prize laureate who was obsessed with the role of space in music making.  So this piece uses specific pieces from the 18th century and the oral tradition of the 19th century, in a manner inspired by composers of the 20th century, and has been written down in the 21st century.  In a real way “Convergence” is an attempt to summarize at least one point of view about the history of American music.”

Long associated with the works of the late John Cage, Bruce has held many symposia about and performances of Cage's music and cheerfully admits that Convergence is related to that interest.  “There are specific ties to any number of other American composers, including Cage, who is specifically the model for three of the organ pieces I have written -- "subtractions" from Billings's remarkable anthem "Variety Without Method." in the manner of Cage's "Hymns and Variations" (also based on compositions of Billings),” he says.

Sunday’s concert began under the welcome shade trees in the  courtyard of Amsterdam Houses, a low-income housing project behind Lincoln Center, where a mind-boggling and diverse army of gamelan and steam calliope players, Native American drummers, West African drummers, marching bands, choral ensembles, steel bands, carillon, and pipe organists all gathered to begin a two-pronged march to the Lincoln Center Plaza where hundreds of other musicians awaited the final musical “convergence”. 

A composer, conductor, pianist, and scholar of American music, Bruce was the first chairman of New England Sacred Harp Singing. He is also one of only 19 living composers represented in "The Sacred Harp" songbook, and has written and arranged several volumes of shape-note music.  He has also conducted new works by more than 60 composers, including premieres of works by Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveiros, Gerald Shapiro, David Borden, Ronald Kuivila and Henry Brant. He is the founder and director of the American Music/Theatre Group, a professional ensemble of 12 singers with assisting instrumentalists and electronics. 

His creative output includes several operas, three concerti and other orchestral compositions, keyboard works, more than 250 solo songs, a series of duos for various solo instruments and piano, pieces for tape with and without live performance, and large-scale chamber works. As a pianist, Bruce is best known for his recordings of American music, including various popular piano pieces of the 19th century. Bruce is a professor of music and director of choral activities at Wesleyan University.

If you missed the event, don’t fret.  Try Central Park next weekend.  JB 

What's Recent

John Cage's 90th Anniversary

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Bright Sheng's Silver River 

Earle Brown Dies

Oliver Knussen at 50

John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts

Interview with Gloria Coates

Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton

Julia Wolfe after minimalism

Philip Glass at 65

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

DI-AS-OPERA: The story of Princess Di certainly has the drama of an opera. But will it work as one? TV viewers will soon find out. "I suppose this Diana piece is a kind of community opera manque. It was the response of people who turned out in Kensington Gardens which really intrigued me, its mythical possibilities. That's what I wanted to express. I realised I could write a huge lament for them to sing, and that appealed. I've always had an interest in finding the operatic in everyday occurrences. Life is operatic. Not that the death of Diana was in any sense ordinary, of course." London Evening Standard 08/15/02

THE OPERATIC MAGGIE: The new opera about Princess Di just doesn't work. But then, few operas on contemporary themes are successful. Rupert Christiansen has an idea though: "My advice to any composer who wants to tackle a subject with "contemporary relevance" would be to think big and Verdian (Rigoletto, Don Carlos). [John Adams'] Nixon in China works because the characters and situation were already larger than life, and it never tries to be ordinarily real. I have a specific suggestion to offer. A composer with Donizetti's dash and vigour should tackle my idea for a grand opera based on the fall of Margaret Thatcher." The Telegraph (UK) 08/14/02

WRESTLING FOR THE SOUL OF ENGLISH OPERA: Nicholas Payne's ousting from the directorship of the English National Opera puts into question the future of the company's adventurousness. But more than that, Payne's ouster was a boardroom putsch engineered by the company's chairman, who has more than a few ideas of his own about the artistic future. But will ENO become just a pale carbon copy of Britain's other opera companies? The Spectator 08/10/02

COMPLEAT ME: The collector's need to own a complete set of (fill-in-the-blank) is a compelling one. New multi-disk sets of the complete works of composers are on the market, even as the accessibility of even the most obscure music is made possible over the internet. "For most listeners, these (disks) will not exactly be casual investments. Still, when you consider the cost of two top tickets to the symphony or the opera nowadays, they are hardly exorbitant -- and you will be able to play the discs endlessly. Moreover, these are not cheapo performances recorded with no-name, nonunion orchestras in obscure Eastern European cities, but celebrated, albeit somewhat older, interpretations by some of the 20th century's leading artists." Washington Post 08/11/02

TOO MUCH FREEDOM? "Like no other director before him, Harry Kupfer, who turns 67 next month, dominated the Berlin opera scene for decades. (Even today, there are still 30 of his stagings in the repertoires of the Komische Oper and the Staatsoper.) But Kupfer was more than just a successful opera director. The story of his rise and fall is also the story of a changing Berlin, an example of the way repressive governments can ironically infuse art with expressive possibility, and a cautionary tale of what can happen when a director overindulges in hard-won artistic freedom." Andante 08/11/02

TOO MANY OTHER THINGS:  A survey of music consumers suggests that downloading music is not to blame for a recent downturn in music sales. "Increased competition for consumer entertainment dollars - from video games, cable television and home theatres - was more responsible for the slump." Sydney Morning Herald (AFP) 08/15/02

TEACHING YOUR OWN: Irish composer Mícheál O Súilleabháin argues that supporting local cultural traditions over global blandness pays big dividends. "I say that out of my own experience in Irish educational circles over the past 25 years, when we’ve seen that the integration of traditional music within school curricula, and particularly within higher education, has had a significant knock-on effect in terms of rebalancing cultural forces in Ireland." The Scotsman 08/14/02

CLASSIC SUCCESS STORY: In America, classical music radio stations may be a losing proposition. But in Britain, 10-year-old Classic FM is "the biggest radio success story of the decade, and their unashamedly populist approach has seen audiences soar to 6.8 million - a 360,000 increase on last year. Audiences now outstrip Radio 1, Kiss and Virgin, and with a revenue increase of 23 per cent, they are celebrating their anniversary with a clutch of new signings." The Scotsman 08/14/02

POWER PLAYS: The backstage power struggles at Bayreuth have been every bit as operatic as the drama onstage, as various members of the Wagner family grappled for control. But "more than half a century after the reopening of denazified Bayreuth, the noise - and significance - of the internecine Wagner family rows is at last beginning to fade. It is high time that the festival was now judged for what it is, rather than what it was or what it might have been. In particular, this applies to the role of the festival director Wolfgang Wagner. Admittedly this is not easy." The Guardian (UK) 08/17/02

 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.



American Music Center’s NewMusicBox web magazine has made available an audio/video webcast of Quattro Mani’s performance of American composer Haskell Small’s “A Game of Go” for two pianos that was given at Colorado College’s Packard Hall on April 17, 2002. The program can be viewed here

Quattro Mani consists of pianists Susan Grace and Alice Rybak. The group was formed 10 years ago and has gained international recognition with performances in Spain, Korea and many cities in the U.S. In January 2001, Quattro Mani made its New York debut in Carnegie Recital Hall to a sold-out house and was immediately re-engaged for the 2001-2002 season. They have recorded Haskell Small’s “A Game of Go” for Klavier Music Productions. 

“A Game of Go” is based on the ancient Japanese board game, in particular game six of a famous 30-game match played between Shusaku and Yuzo in 1853. As a composer, Haskell Small has received commissions from such organizations as the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Georgetown Symphony and Paul Hill Chorale. He was the 1999 winner of the Marin Ballet Dance Score Competition. He is currently composer in residence with Virginia’s Mount Vernon Symphony. Mr. Small, who studied piano with Leon Fleisher and William Masselos, is on the faculty of the Washington Conservatory. He recently presented the London and Paris premieres of his “Symphony for Solo Piano”. Read more about him at his website.

It's Miller Time:
Preview of the New Season

Over the past few years, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University has become the most dependable outlet for contemporary composers and new music in New York.  As has become usual, this year’s schedule looks sensational. Here's a preview.

Continuing its series of “Portraits of Living Composers,” this season
focus will be on Elliott Carter, Gerard Grisey, Lee Hyla, György Kurtág, David Lang, Jeffrey Mumford, Tristan Murail, Huang Ruo,  Ezequiel Viñao and Charles Wuorinen. 

Among the scheduled highlights will be the U.S. premiere of Lang’s large-scale ambient bass clarinet concerto "The Passing Measures," the premiere of a new concerto by Argentine-born Viñao, featuring Anne Akiko Meyers and Joseph Kalichstein, and the Pacifica String Quartet performing all five string quartets of Carter.  The programs will be performed by the city’s best modern music groups, including Absolute Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, counter)induction, Ensemble Sospeso, Ensemble 21, Pacifica String Quartet, Sequitur and So Percussion Ensemble.

In other programs, violinist Jennifer Koh will tackle works by Carter, Steve Reich, Wuorinen and John Zorn, Donald Berman will play Charles Ruggles’ entire piano catalogue and little known gems by Charles Ives,  and the downtown string quartet Ethel will perform the Zorn/Julia Wolfe String Quartet Cycle in three separate concerts over the course of the season.

The brilliant young Italian pianist Emanuele Arciuli pays homage to Thelonius Monk with two programs—the first his signature arrangement of 18 variations on “Round Midnight’ by composers ranging from John Adams and Milton Babbit to Frederic Rzewski, Aaron Jay Kernis and Tobias Picker; the second, a new work by George Crumb also based on ‘Round Midnight.”

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance

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

Canticum Novum: Sacred Vocal Music From the Late 20th Century
Composer: Cary Boyce, John Eaton, Mario Lavista
Conductor: Carmen Helena Téllez
Performer: Susan Swaney , Lynne Morrow , Paul Flight , Cary Boyce , Andrew Hendricks , Curtis Cook , Alain Barker , Nicolas Del Grazia , Adriana Linares Bridget Wintermann Parker
Ensemble: Aguavá New Music Ensemble

Extraordinary new choral music by John Eaton, winner of the MacArthur "Genius" Foundation Prize for creativity; by Mario Lavista, one of the most sophisticated musical voices in Latin America today, and by Cary Boyce, conducted by Carmen Helena Téllez. 


Symphonies 4 & 5
Composer: Rued Langgaard
      Performers: Dausgaard, Danish Radio Symphony
   Da Capo [Naxos] - #8224215

Langgard is a lonely figure in Danish music primarily because he was the only Dane to go all the way with Late Romanticism and the only one to say that Carl Neilsen was pretty much an overrated windbag whose music was unnecessarily obtuse. In 1940 he was engaged for the first time in an official capacity, as the cathedral organist in Ribe, far from the music life of the capital. And there he lived, a bitter man, until his death. Nonetheless, he wrote over 400 works: sixteen symphonies and other pieces, many of them like the symphonies recorded here, plain old masterpieces. 

Symphonies 7 & 9
Composer: Roy Harris
Performer(s): Kuchar, Nat'l So of Ukraine
Naxos - #8559050 

Roy Harris's Third Symphony
was such a compact, fully-realized masterpiece that it often seems as if he  spent the rest of his career like Roman Polanski wandering around trying to remember how he made Chinatown.  This point-of-view tends to obscure the fact that he wrote many other splendid works that reflect a deep sense of "American" motifs.

Piano Sonatas 4 & 7
Composer:  Leo Ornstein
Performer(s):  Janice Weber
Naxos - #8559104 

When Russian born composer and pianist Leo Ornstein died in February at109 years old, he left behind one of the strangest legacies in music history. At the height of his career, he abruptly ceased performing and quietly faded into semi-obscurity, only to be "re-discovered" every 15 years or so. This disc reflects opposite ends of Ornstein's career--the 1924 Sonata No. 4 is from his radical "futurist" period; No. 7, from 1988, is more traditional but no less engaging. Janice Weber's reading makes it clear that when Ornstein composed, a genius was at work.

Music for 4 Stringed Instruments
Composer:  Charlies Martin Loeffler 
Performer(s): Da Vinci Quartet
Naxos - #8559077

Loeffler's brand of lush late Romanticism was still in bloom when he died in 1935 and he was regarded as one of America's best composers. Today, he is forgotten which is really a oversight because--based on the evidence of this fine recording, at least--he was an American Vaughan Williams and music this beautiful deserves to be heard even if it's a bit too easy to like. 

Orchestral Works
Composer: Elisaetta Brusa
Performer(s): Mastrangelo, Nat'l So of Ukraine
Naxos - #8555266 

Call it Neo-Tonal or Neo-Romantic, Brusa's pieces for orchestra break no new ground but they have a kind of formal academic elegance that seems more German than Italian in temperament but demonstrates a lively, intelligent mind at work. 

Orchestral Works
Composer: George Whitefield Chadwick
  Performer:  Schermerhorn, Nashville Sym Orch
Naxos - #8559117

Chadwick is considered the first composer of concert music whose works often show the snap, the wit, the independence of the American spirit. During his career, he modernized the New England Conservatory, taught several generations of American composers, and was a pioneer in making professional instruction available to women and racial minorities. Terrific performances from the first-rate Nashville Symphony.

Cello Concerto
Composer:  Ernst Toch
Mutare Ensemble, Muller-Hornbach
Cpo Records - #999688 

cpo continues to make the case for Toch as a neglected modernist master whose serious work was obscured by his success as a Hollywood film composer. Most of releases is this series have been convincing but this one is somewhat disappointing. The Cello Concerto goes off in too many directions and could have used a good editing. Plus, the sound quality on this recording is strange. Can't put my finger on it, but it's strange.


Complete Works for Violin & Piano
Composer:  Aaron Copland, Posnak, Zazofsky
Naxos - #8559102 

Copland is most known for his ballets and grand orchestral pieces but he often used small chamber works as building blocks to larger concepts. Most interesting here are the arrangements for violin and piano for well-known pieces of Rodeo and Billy the Kid.

It Takes Two
Performer(s): Bart Schneemann
Channel Classics - #18598 

 Have oboe, will travel should be Bart Schneemann motto in this delicious set of duos with some of the world's finest musicians on instruments ranging from the clarinet and the viola to the marimba and the bandoneon. The composers are brand names all--from Andriessen and Bartok to Piazzolla to Vanghan Williams. Most inventive. Our personal favorite of the month.

Cello Sonata / Cello Works
Composers: Schumann, Grieg
Performers: Marie Hallynck, Tiberghien
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #911779 
Harmonia mundi's Les Nouveaux Musiciens features the young Belgian/French cellist Marie Hallynck in stunning accounts of Schumann' s "Adagio and Allegro," "Phantasienstke," and "Funf Stucke im Volkston" for cello and piano, as well as Grieg's "Sonate Pour Violoncelle et Piano." Our kind of easy listening. 

Darkness & Light 4
ComposerPerformer(s): Weiner, Starer, Stern, Korngold, Lees, Holt
Albany Music Dist. - #518 

  The latest release from the Chamber Music Series at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is highlighted by the stunningly original "Piano Trio No. 2 "Silent Voices" (1998) by Benjamin Lees. Anguished and almost unbearably intense, Lees crams more drama, passion and empathy into this 14-minute piece than many composers muster in a lifetime.

Chamber Music
Composer: Lawrence Dillon
Cassatt String Quartet, Borromeo String Quartet, Mendelssohn String Quartet

In 1985, Lawrence Dillon became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at the Juilliard School. He studied privately with Vincent Persichetti, and in classes with Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, David Diamond and Roger Sessions. Upon graduation, he was appointed to the Juilliard faculty. He is currently Assistant Dean at the North Carolina School of the Arts where he is also Composer-in-Residence and conductor of the contemporary music ensemble. The three pieces recorded here might be considered genre-bending in that they attempt to blend elements of post-modernism and older forms like romanticism. 


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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