About Us
Essential Library
Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
 October 6-13, 2003

Different Trains, one of Steve Reich’s best-known and most powerful works, will get a hearing of a different sort on Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall as the American Composers Orchestra debuts a new version for string orchestra. Scored without double basses,the piece retains the familiar electronic tape with which the composer recorded sounds of trains from the 1930’s and 40’s, as well as interviews with holocaust survivors, and a retired train Pullman porter.  As it often does in Reich’s music, the recorded speech form the basis for the recurring motives played by the strings. 

Different Trains was originally scored for string quartet and performed by the Kronos Quartet in 1988. The idea for the piece originates from Reich's childhood, several wartime years spent traveling with his governess between his estranged parents, his mother in Los Angeles and his father in New York. Exciting, romantic trips, full of adventure for the young Reich but many years later, it dawned on him that, had he been in Germany during the ethnic cleansing by the Nazis, his Jewish background would have ensured that the trains he would have been riding on would have been very 'different trains.' He set about collecting recordings to effectively recreate and document the atmosphere of his travels to contrast with those of the unfortunate refugees. 

By combining the sound of train whistles, pistons and the scream of brakes with extracts of speech by porter Lawrence Davis, who took the same rides as Reich between the Big Apple and Los Angeles, governess Virginia and three holocaust survivors (Paul, Rachel and Rachella), Reich creates music of great intensity and feeling. The rhythmic patterns and pitch of the voices establishes the phrases and course of the music heard in the quartet: 'crack train from New York,' and '1939' for example, heard in the invigorating, steam-driven opening movement, America-Before The War. The slow, middle section, Europe-During The War, finds the refugees in the midst of their nightmare, 'no more school' and being herded into the cattle wagons. 'They shaved us, They tatooed a number on our arm, Flames going up to the sky- it was smoking.' Sirens from the Kronos help to convey the despair and confusion of the Jewish plight. 

Reconciliation is achieved in part three, After The War, where Paul, Rachel and Rachella are transported to live in America. There is an incredibly poignant moment when Paul proclaims '… the war was over,' Rachella, in sheer, fragile disbelief, asks 'Are you sure?.' The New York Times hailed Different Trains as 'a work of… astonishing originality' and the piece was subsequently awarded a Grammy in1989 for Best Contemporary Compostion. The New York Times hailed Different Trains as "a work of such astonishing originality that breakthrough seems the only possible description....possesses an absolutely harrowing emotional impact."

Reich says the new version was suggested by conductor David Robertson. In an interview with Frank Oteri, the composer talks about the difficulties of having live musicians perform some of the musical gymnastics involved and sounds, frankly, a little skeptical about whether it can be performed satisfactorily.  I’ll be there and will let you know what I think.

In addition to Different Trains, the opening concert of the ACO season features  the New York premiere of Anna Weesner’s Still Things Move, works by John Adams and Charles Wuorinen, as well as Irving Fine’s rarely performed Serious Song: Lament for String Orchestra and Alan Hovhaness’ haunting The Holy City.

The concert is Wednesday, October 8, 2003 at 8pm at Carnegie Hall.

Three Tales
Composer: Steve Reich
Filmmaker: Beryl Korot Nonesuch 
CD and DVD

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 
The Portable Musician "Working on the go has become standard operating procedure in the music industry. Times have changed: Twenty years ago, a studio was the only place where professional recordings could be made; even five years ago, desktop computers were just starting to get enough horsepower to make great records. Today, a laptop offers plenty of power to make a great-sounding track - and that portability is changing the way music is made." Wired 10/02/03 

A Tale Of Two Opera Openings Two of the country's grandest and most venerable companies, the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, began their new seasons recently, and they made an instructive contrast." Both face financial challenges. The Met chose ear-pleasing fare for its opening. SF Opera, by contrast presented a challenging American work. And the grumbling at intermission?.... The New York Times 10/03/03 

Making The Music The Star For small, regional orchestras, the challenge of drawing a significant audience to concerts is considerable, and many resort to booking "superstar" performers like Itzhak Perlman or Yo-Yo Ma in order to sell tickets. The trouble with that strategy, of course, is that such soloists command exorbitant fees, which tend to wipe out most of the profit gained from the full hall. But not every orchestra is trapped in the star cycle. "The simple idea of giving the music itself top billing has kept the Las Vegas Philharmonic in the black for its first four seasons, without having to prop up its main-stage offerings with pops concerts or big-name guest artists." Las Vegas Review-Journal 10/03/03 

In Defense of Tough Criticism After the Akron Beacon-Journal's music critic blasted the Akron Symphony's first concert of the season, readers wrote in to protest. Why so harsh, they wanted to know, particularly when the performance got a standing ovation? The Beacon-Journal's public editor writes that the orchestra must be held to a standard: "If it wants to charge major league prices for tickets, it shouldn't expect to deliver minor league performances and not be called on it. Readers deserve honest reviews from the music critic, not flattering boosterism." Akron Beacon-Journal 09/28/03 

Taking On Ticketmaster A classic David-and-Goliath battle is shaping up over the way concert tickets are marketed and sold in the U.S., thanks to an ongoing dispute between ticketing behemoth Ticketmaster, and a wildly successful Colorado indie band known as The String Cheese Incident. The band has been doing something of an end-run around Ticketmaster, which has exclusive ticketing rights at venues across the country and often incurs the wrath of consumers with its famous "convenience fees" and handling charges which significantly boost the cost of tickets. "Ticketmaster's dominance is increasingly threatened as technology allows more [musicians] to sell tickets for low costs." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/01/03 

Taking Another Look At Khachaturian Aram Khachaturian's music was dismissed by many in the 1950s and 60s as being lightweight. But this year - the year he would have been 100 years old, "the pendulum of serious music has swung to the other extreme. The realities of Soviet life and politics are better known, and the personal histories of artists are understood as having been more complex. The time may be ripe to take another look at Khachaturian's music." The New York Times 10/05/03 

Music As A Contact Sport Conductor Keith Lockhart tore his rotator cuff last year, as a direct result of what he does for a living. Laugh if you must, but what orchestral musicians (even conductors) do onstage is a physical nightmare for the human body, and injuries are becoming increasingly common. String players contort their arms and shoulders into impossible positions to reach around their instruments, brass players spend hours with their lips frozen in a pucker, and a conductor leading a Mahler symphony might not drop his hands to his sides for more than a few seconds in a 90-minute performance. Many musicians are adapting new methods of relaxation and muscle relief in an effort to stave off career-threatening injuries. Salt Lake Tribune 10/05/03 

Elevating Elgar Edward Elgar was so revered in his home country England that his picture adorns the back of the £20 note. "Yet a recent YouGov poll found that three-quarters of British adults were unable to recognise his portrait on the back of theirs. They were more likely to say the man with the droopy moustache was the imperialist Lord Kitchener than England's greatest home-grown composer since Henry Purcell." A new initiative aims to raise Elgar's profile. The Guardian (UK) 10/06/03 

 Last Week's News

2003 Masterprize finalists, from top left: Nicolas Bacri (France, b. 1961); Robert Henderson (USA, b. 1948); Bechara El Khoury (France/ Lebanon, b. 1957); Arturs Maskats (Latvia, b. 1957);  Anton Plate (Germany, b. 1950); Christopher Theofanidis (USA, b. 1967).
Masterprize Names 
Six Composer Finalists 

The final six composers have now been chosen for Masterprize 2003 from over 1000 entries from 65 countries. An international panel of musicians and leading figures in the music world (first stage jury) first selected ten semi-finalists from all the submitted pieces. These were then broadcast on Classic FM throughout spring. Recently, an expanded panel consisting 25 well-known conductors, producers and orchestral managers (second stage jury) chose the six pieces which have proceeded to the final. 

Nicolas Bacri’s Symphonie No 6 Opus 60 was performed by the Orchestre National de France under Leonard Slatkin in 1998. Bari’s works have been performed by many of the best French orchestras and ensembles as well as numerous prestigious international performers. His honors include the grand prize of l'Académie du disque 1993, and several awards from SACEM, the French Society of performing right and the Académie des Beaux-Arts. 

Bechara El Khoury’s Les Fleuves Engloutis was a commission by Radio France and was performed by the Orchestre National de France. A French-Lebanese composer and poet, Bechara El-Khoury received the Prix Rossini of the Academie des Beaux-Arts (Institut de France) in 2000 and in 2001 was appointed Knight of the National Order of the Cedar of Lebanon. In 2002 Naxos released a CD entirely devoted to his symphonic music with the Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Volodymyr Sirenko.

Robert Henderson’s Einstein's Violin is a commission from the Utah Arts Festival.  It was recorded and performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra at the Utah Arts Festival in 1998. Henderson has built a career that encompasses a diverse range of musical pursuits - as a conductor, composer and instrumentalist in a variety of venues including symphony, opera, ballet, film, television and popular music.

Arturs Maskets’ Tango was first performed and recorded by the Latvian National Orchestra in 2002. Maskets’ has been awarded the Latvian Grand Music Award three times, in 1996, 2001 and 2002. His work to date includes over 30 chorus works, 10 orchestral works, music for cinema as well as music for over 90 theatre productions. A CD of Arturs Maskats' music was released by the Swedish label BIS in 2002. 

Anton Plate’s You Must Finish Your Journey Alone appears on EMI Classics’ ‘Who is Afraid of 20th Century Music?’ – recorded by Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg under Ingo Metzmacher. Since 1982 Plate has taught as Professor for music theory at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover.

Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body was commissioned by Meet the Composer and the Houston Symphony, and first performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Theofanidis held the positions of composer-in-residence for the California Symphony and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He is also on the faculties of the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins' University and the Juilliard School in New York City. 

Masterprize will culminate on 30 October 2003 at London's Barbican Centre, where the London Symphony Orchestra will perform the six finalist pieces under Daniel Harding. At the end of the concert the worldwide public vote that was cast prior to the concert will be combined with that of the audience in the hall (5% of the total), a celebrity jury also present in the hall (40% of the total) and players from the London Symphony Orchestra (10% of the total). The winner will receive a cash prize of £25,000. 

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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

Composers: King, Kline, Reynolds, Ziporen
Performers:  Ethel

New York's most daring string-quartet sensation, Ethel, makes its debut here with a menu of the kind of hard-edged downtown music that has won the group a big following in the NY new music scene.   Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins; Ralph Farris, viola; and Dorothy Lawson, cello—all began their careers in New York as freelance musicians, playing difficult music that relies heavily on non-classical sources but requires a virtuoso classical ensemble to play. Its repertoire ranges from John King's energetic blues transcriptions to  the gnarly quartets  of Julia Wolfe and on Todd Reynolds' quirky 
musical postcards.  Adventuresome and fun for the advanced music listener.

Return from a Journey
Composers:  Gurdjieff, De Hartmann,
Performer:  Kremski

Gurdjieff was a Russian Aremenian spiritual master who, in addition to the main body of his teaching created sacred dances, or Movements, as well as  200 or so musical compositions--all of which were were done  in collaboration with German composer Thomas de Hartmann at Gurdjieff's  Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, near Paris,  in the years 1925–27.  For many years, the pieces heard here were played only by De Hartmann or another of Gurdjieff's disciples but in recent years they have attracted the interest of a number of adventuresome pianists.  Kremski plays these exotic, vaguely oriental and oddly thematic pieces with great respect and warmth.

Chichester Psalms
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Marin Alsop (conductor)

Commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester, Bernstein’s colorful Chichester Psalms is one of the composer’s most successful and accessible works on religious texts, contrasting spiritual austerity with impulsive rhythms in a contemplation of peace. The composer fashioned his Oscar nominated score to the 1954 movie On the Waterfront into a symphonic suite, skillfully capturing the oppression of the New York dockyards in the ’50s. The Three Dance Episodes were extracted from the popular On The Town, Bernstein's first successful foray into musical theatre.  Bernstein protege Marin Alsop gets a robust performance from Bournemouth orchestra and chorus.

Double Concerto
Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski
Performers:  Polish National Radio Symphony, Antoni Wit

Volume 8 in Naxos' indispensible survey of Lutoslawski's orchestra work brings us into lesser known territory but there are still treasures to be found.   The  Dance Preludes from 1955 is basically a five-movement clarinet concerto, with lots of  interesting harmonies and rhythmic twists and turns. The Double Concerto for oboe and harp from 1990 rattles the ear a bit and has a  demanding oboe part, beautifully  played by Arkadiusz Krupa. The Children's Songs, gorgeously sung by the soprano, Urszula Kryger, are beguiling. 

Doña Francisquita
Composer: Amadeo Vives 
Performers: Maria Bayo,
Alfredo Kraus, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife, Antoni Ros Marba

A superb performance of Amadeo Vives' zarzuela masterpiece, sung with enormous vivacity and brio by the ravishing-voiced Maria Bayo and the sturdy Alfredo Kraus.  With its nineteenth century Madrid setting, its roots in classical Spanish drama  and its festive nocturnal amours, Doña Francisquita provides  a retrospective on the romantic zarzuela tradition and its crowning glory. The work was immediately recognized not only as Vives’ masterpiece, but as the greatest full length zarzuela of its era. If you're not into zarzuela already, this is the perfect place to start your  collection.

Symphony 9 Visionaria
Composer:  Kurt Atterberg
Satu Vihavainen (mezzo-soprano); Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)
NDR Choir, Prague Chamber Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic, 
Ari Rasilainen

The 9th and final symphony of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg bears a superficial relationshp to Beethoven's 9th with its big, expresssive choral sound but Atterburg's world is a good deal less joyous.  Atterberg's choice of texts reflects the lasting impact on his psyche made by World War II and the Korean War. The Poetic Edda, an Icelandic epic dating from around 1270, relates the visions of a wise prophetess (hence the Symphony's title "Sinfonia Visionaria") who foretells the creation of the world, the warring among gods, giants, and humans, the world's destruction, and finally its recreation. 

Atterberg uses mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with chorus and large orchestra, as  well as a quasi-oratorio form, to tell his epic tale. This is extraordinary symphony by a composer who is far too little-known in the musical world.

The Complete Mazurkas
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin

Marc-Andre Hamelin continues his extraordinary journey through the forgotten rivers and bayous of the modern piano repetoire with masterful performances  of Szymanowski's Twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50, composed between 1926 and 1931.  After assimilating the influence of Stravinsky, Szymanowski began looking for folk themes in Polish music to rival the Russian folk touches of the master. The Mazurka,  a traditional Polish dance in three-quarter-time with an often erratic-seeming emphasis on the second beat, (and a favorite form for Chopin) offered great possibilities . 

These highly diverse pieces are more complex  than Chopin, more modern and dissonant, yet also more muted and elusive.  Still,  Szymanowski remained too much a romantic to settle for anything less then flamboyant virtuosity--a quality that Hamelin possses by the truckload. 

Composers:  Transciptions:
Bach, Barber, Berg, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Wolf
Peformers: : Choeur De Chambre Accentus, Equilbey

Worth having for the ravishing performances of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" and Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5." 

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.



Search WWWSearch www.sequenza21.com 

Sequenza21/The Contemporary Classical Music Weekly is part of
Classical Music Web Ring
The free linking service provided by Classical Music UK
[ Previous 5 Sites | Previous| Next | Next 5 Sites | Random Site | List Sites ]
SEQUENZA21/is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editors:    Jerry & Suzanne Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
(C) Sequenza/21 LLC 2000