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 September 15-22, 2003

Stephen Hartke
Remembers 9/11
Stephen Hartke's Symphony No. 3 will have its premiere Thursday night—exactly one week after the second anniversary of 9/11--at Avery Fischer Hall, with the Hilliard Ensemble as soloists. The program will be repeated on the 19, 20 and 23.  Although it isn’t specifically “about” the horrible events of September 11, 2001, Hartke says it is connected. 

“When I was offered the commission to write a new symphony for Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic and came to know that it would be having its premiere within a week of the 2nd aniversary of the September 11th attack, I decided to do a work which, while not specific to the occasion, would nonetheless reflect on the event from what I hope is an unusual perspective,” Hartke says.

The symphony is a setting in modern English of an Old English elegy dating from the 8th or 9th century, in which the poet describes the ruins of a Roman city, perhaps without fully understanding what it is. He contrasts the fallen state and decay of the site with imaginings of how splendid it must have been in its heighday. 

“What is particularly striking about the text is that it does not moralize, as later
memento mori poems do, but rather celebrates the creative spirit of the city's vanished inhabitants, Hartke writes in his notes for the symphony. “The text is somewhat fragmentary owing to the age of the volume in which it was found and the damage it had sustained.  Thus the poem fades in and out, and the actual ending is entirely missing (though the final surviving line, "That was spacious", provides a satisfying close).”

The symphony is cast in a single movement, but clearly divided into four main sections, the slower ones (the first and the third) treat the descriptions of the ruined city, and the faster ones are the evocations of the greatness of the city at its height. 

This is Hartke’s third work for the Hilliard Ensemble with whom he has previously collaborated on two extended chamber pieces, Tituli and Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain. 

“Both of these are also about the palpable connection with the past that carved stone yields us, and as with this symphony, they partake of the spirit of sacred music though from a decidedly humanist point of view,” Hartke says.

In conjunction with their appearance with the Philharmonic, the Hilliard Ensemble will also be giving a concert at Merkin Hall on Sept. 21 which will include the New York premieres of Tituli and Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain.

Hartke was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1952, and grew up in Manhattan. His music, both orchestral and chamber, is widely performed, with major performances including those by the New York Philharmonic, Moscow State Philharmonic, Canadian National Arts Centre Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Albany, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Louisville, New Jersey, Phoenix and St. Louis. From 1988 to 1992, he was composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He holds degrees in composition from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 Clarinet Concerto • The Rose of the Winds
 Richard Stoltzman, carinet / The IRIS Chamber Orchestra / Michael Stern, conductor, Naxos
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The Censorship Of Space Kyle Gann writes that music criticism has been reduced to shorthand that renders it toothless. "We critics are told that it’s up to us to defend classical music in the public marketplace - but the newspapers have taken away our tanks, bazookas, and machine guns and left us armed with garbage can lids and pea shooters. The space crunch is everywhere, in every publication. It used to be, when I’d write for the New York Times, they’d ask me one of the sweetest questions a writer can hear: 'How many words do you need?' No longer. Articles that would have once garnered 2000 or 2500 words now get half that. And according to what editors tell me, this is true across the board." PostClassic (AJBlogs) 09/05/03 

Another London Opera Company London is getting a third opera house. The impresario Raymond Gubbay, the commercial arch-rival and a bitter critic of subsidised opera, is to mount year-round productions at the Savoy Theatre. He will begin in April with two guaranteed crowd pleasers, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Rossini's Barber of Seville." The Guardian (UK) 09/10/03 

Sorabji The Recluse Composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was a difficult artist. "Cut off from the world and supported by a private income, he composed dauntingly huge pieces which were regarded as all but unplayable. He forbade the performance of his music lest inferior musicians ruin it. He remained alone, despising the trivial productions of others, in his artistic castle of ideal, Platonic complexity, a lone voice in the wilderness until his death." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/03 

The New Carnegie - Expanding Musical Tastes Carnegie Hall's new hall allows it to expand its musical tastes. "The first thing is that when we present a series curated by musicians like Caetano Veloso or Emmylou Harris, you are not seeing those artists replacing the traditional recital or orchestral series that we do. We're not sacrificing one for the other, we're adding something new. But also, as audiences develop and change, I think you find people who love Emmylou Harris and also go to hear the Berlin Philharmonic." The New York Times 09/12/03 

More On Carnegie's New Hall "Described by the architects as a mining operation as well as a design project, Carnegie Hall's new performance space sits within a cavity carved out of Manhattan schist. Parts of the bedrock are exposed, actually, in backstage areas and in a public stairwell." The New York Times 09/12/03 

Music Without Flavor These days, you can walk into a WalMart and buy a CD full of classical music carefully chosen to pair perfectly with your Sunday brunch. Or your Saturday night date. Or a quiet dinner with friends. "All of this would be funny were it not for the wasting disease it represents. Call it silence deprivation. One of the reasons music tastes less good for a lot of us these days is that it increasingly lacks beginnings and ends. It is the blank spaces that surround music that give it shape — allow it to breathe. Music not framed by the absence of music really isn't music. Nor is music at dinner. Works of Brahms are not well served when they accompany pork chops. It is not fair to the pork chops either." The New York Times 09/14/03 

Musicians Have Bigger Brains "Mozart increases mental mass. Scientists revealed yesterday that members of a British symphony orchestra had more little grey cells than ordinary people in a part of the brain known as Broca's area... [A researcher] examined the brains of musicians under the age of 50 and found that they had added to their grey matter. Then she looked at non-musicians under the 50, and found an age-related decline. Where musicians still played fortissimo, non-musicians were beginning a diminuendo." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/03 

Orchestras In Uncertain Times The new orchestra season begins. But "don't be surprised if you see orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, reopening labor contracts, well before expiration dates, in search of budget savings. Such measures, once unthinkable, may soon be common as organizations struggle to get their houses on solid ground. And all the usual things, like cut-backs in performances and costly repertoire, will continue, too. But let's not get overly gloomy. At least not yet." There are some bright spots... Baltimore Sun 09/09/03 

The "Booker Prize" Of Music? The Mercury Prize was "conceived in the early 1990s by Jon Webster, then MD of Virgin Records, who envisaged it as 'the Booker Prize of the music industry'. It would be independent of both the record companies and the music retailers, but endorsed by both. Its serious image would encourage ageing music fans to explore new albums as well as buying CD copies of their old vinyl favourites. And it would promote modern music as 'art'. But it's the sheer unpredictability of the Mercury that makes it so charming. Don't ever believe anyone who says they know who is or isn't going to win. And has it achieved its original objectives?" The Guardian (UK) 09/09/03 

 Last Week's News


John Adams Leads 
Zankel Hall Opening

Zankel Hall can seat 540 to 644 spectators, depending on whether the stage is at the end or in the middle and whether an orchestra pit is needed. 
by Jerry & Suzanne Bowles

The searchlights notwithstanding, Friday’s night’s opening of Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall’s new 644-seat underground theater, was appropriately understated, as befits a non-elitist performance space designed to attract new audiences for modern and world music. 

John Adams, Carnegie’s composer in residence, put together the opening program—an multicultural musical haggis that sadly contained none of his own pieces.  He also capably handled the conducting chores and was modestly resplendent in black pants and a long-sleeved shirt of pinkish-salmon color.  Members of the “Zankel Band,” as the house orchestra is called, wore everyday clothes—as did most of the audience.  The only formal touch was supplied by the stagehands, all of whom wore dark suits and ties, thus making each stage change feel a bit like an unwelcome intrusion from John Ashcroft’s office. 

Carved into an underground space once occupied by a movie theater, the $72 million Zankel (pronounced zan-KELL, for those of you who care) is, indeed, quite user-friendly, small enough to give every paying customer a good view, and outfitted in a kind of comfortable Finnish modern a la IKEA.  The sound is fine, but close.  You don’t want to hear Mahler’s Sixth here or the Allman Brothers Band but the theater is perfect for chamber and vocal performances.  Reassuringly, for those of us accustomed to the peculiarities of New York music spaces, you can occasionally hear the rumble of the nearby N or R subway trains. 

The program was a brief, but assertive, sampler of shorter pieces, beginning with two raucous pieces by Charles Ives.  For the opening piece—From the Steeples to the Mountains—Adams stationed two trumpet players on one side of the front aisle of the mezzanine and two trombone players on the others.  A late arriving couple looked a little annoyed at finding musicians blocking the path to their seats but the effect seemed worth their temporary inconvenience.  Ives’ Scherzo:  Over the Pavements is a jolly little piece that ends abruptly on a humorous note.  I’ve always loved Lou Harrison’s Concerto in Slendro--three brief but enchanting movements in which east and west come together musically to the beat of upside-down trash cans.  Jennifer Koh handled the violin parts with aplomb. 

The British bad boy Thomas Ades’ Living Toys is a raucous invocation of a rainy, childhood afternoon in the playroom that captures the quickly shifting moods and interests of the curious child.  To sum up the evening, cellist Anssi Karttunen joined Adams and the Zankel Band for Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Mania, a bright, attractive modernist piece with oddly romantic moments.  Salonen, whose regular job is conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, came onstage to take a bow at the end of the performance.

All in all, it was a fun, informal evening blessedly free of speeches and thank yous and gratuitous public relations hype.  A fine debut for a much needed midsized performance hall.

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

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
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Who's Afraid of Julia Wolfe
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 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
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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

Symphony No. 6
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: London Symphony Orchestra; Mariss Jansons
Label: LSO Live 

It is rare that you find a recording that you need listen to for only a minute to know a masterpiece is unfolding before your very ears.  This stunning live performance of Mahler's "Tragic" symphony is one of the rare ones,  From the first rhythmic thumps of the long and  stately funeral march to the final faded chords, Mariss Jansons draws a passionate and committed performance from the LSO.  Certain to be among the best of the year noninees. 

Wheel of Emptiness
Composer: Jonathan Harvey
Performers:  Actus
Cyprès CYP5604

English composer Jonathan Harvey is one of those modernists whose work is more frequently talked about then played.  This rare recording contains five representative works ranging from the lyrical to the raw, built on  instrumentations ranging from electroacoustical to the  traditional.  An excellent introduction to an unjustly neglected maverick. 


Piano Etudes 1
Composer: Philip Glass
Performer: Philip Glass 
Orange Mountain 

Glass says he wrote these "studies" as fodder for his own concert performances and as a way of challenging himself as a pianist.  But, they are much more important than that.  They provide a real insight into how Glass composes and, although billed as sketches,  sometimes are more rewarding to the ear and intellect than many of Glass's larger-scale works.  Essential recording for the Glassologist.



Music from the Thin Blue Line
Composer:  Philip Glass
Orange Mountain

 Glass's hypnotic score for  Errol Morris’ extraordinary 1988 documentary film entitled "The Thin Blue Line". 
 Nonesuch Records released a CD of the film’s soundtrack that included the narration and interviews from the film but this  Orange Mountain release contains  the original score without the voice-over.  The music is dark and brooding, full of tension appropriately for such a chilling film, and it stands well on its own. 

Sonic Vision
Composer:  Carolyn Yarnell

 Inspired by the beauty and power of nature, the music of Carolyn Yarnell straddles the borders of minimalism, romanticism and Baroque.  Sonic Vision, the first CD devoted entirely to her music, contains the powerful electronic composition Love God, a beautiful solo piece for Baroque flute, a minimalist suite for chamber ensemble and a powerful extended work for computer piano. Lyrical and mystical music that evokes volcanoes, birds and the Rocky Mountains. 

Chamber Music
Composer;  Harold Shapero
Performers:  Lydian String Quartet
 New World Records - 

 Shapero’s (b. 1920) vastly underrated portfolio is one of the great undiscovered treasure troves of American neoclassicism. The String Trio, the String Quartet, the Serenade in D offer a  broad-based introduction to Shapero’s compositional thought processes.  Beautiful, committed playing by the Lydian String Quartet.

 Composer: Steve Reich
 Performer: Ictus, Synergy Vocals

 Reich's 1971 masterpiece gets a spirited workout by the Belgian new music group Ictus.  Drumming is constructed around one single basic rhythmic-melodic pattern, for an imposing ensemble of percussion (bongos, marimbas, glockenspiel) joined by some female voices, a piccolo flute or a whistling part. The breathtaking feeling of simplicity/complexity in this work is transmitted with an amazing skill by the Belgians.

American Works for Piano Duo
Composer(s): Barber, Persichetti, Diamond, Fennimore 
 Performer (s): Georgia & Louis Mangos 
Cedille Records

  Barber's homage to the Plaza Hotel's Palm Court, Souvenirs, Op. 28, has never sounded better or more nostalgic  and Joseph Fennimore's Crystal Stairs also invokes the quintessential American city.  The real surprise here are the two pieces by Vincent Persichetti, which invoke a more dynamic and rough and tumble form of Americanism.  The Mango sisters display formidable technique and taste.


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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