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  October 11-18, 2004

Catán's Tale of Love, War and
Anchovies Debuts in Houston

Salsipuedes, a tale of Love, War and Anchovies  by Daniel Catán, Latin America's pre-eminent living composer, has its world premiere at Houston Grand Opera on October  29, with additional performance on the 31st, November 6, 9, 12, 14.  The comic opera is the saga of two couples whose lives are turned upside down on their wedding day when their tiny island country declares war on Nazi Germany.

Catán was born in Mexico City in 1949. A Sephardic Jew of Russian descent, he spent his first 14 years in Mexico, relocating to England to study philosophy and music. After several years at Sussex and Southampton, Catán moved to the United States, where he earned his Ph.D. at Princeton under the tutelage of Milton Babbitt. Having spent just as many years outside of Mexico as he had growing up there, he returned to Mexico City in 1977 to rediscover his Spanish-speaking roots, serving a term as Music Administrator at the Palace of Fine Arts. In 1994, San Diego Opera premiered his work Rappaccini's Daughter, launching an opera career in the United States that was sealed by the Houston premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the most popular new work the company has produced to date. In 1998 Catán won the Placido Domingo award from the Los Angeles Opera. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Catán is currently working on a new "comic" opera for the Houston Grand Opera, Las Bodas de Salsipuedes (Caribbean Wedding).

Although Catán studied under Babbitt, his own compositional voice is radically different, and his works incorporate the twelve-tone system only as occasional structural devices. Catán's music is composed for the heart and ear, and has been frequently labeled neo-Romantic or neo-Impressionist. Puccini, Strauss, Debussy, and Ravel are all names that frequently appear when people describe Catán's music; and though these are certainly apt comparisons, they should not detract from what is a very original and expressive voice. His melodies are rich and expansive, and often take some intriguing turns; drifting along like spun gold or rising into unforced and often blissful crescendos. His command of the orchestral palette is masterful, and his music fairly shimmers with delightful phrases and painterly surprises.

Primarily a composer of operas, his subject matter is frequently derived from "magical realism" and fantastical literature, and some of his sources have included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Octavio Paz, and Gabriel García Márquez.

Rappaccini's Daughter (Highlights) / Obsidian Butterfly 
Composer:  Daniel Catan 
Performer(s):  Vazquez, Mora, Suaste, Diazmunoz 
Naxos - #8557034 


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, New York, NY 10019

Thursday, October 14,  2004  8pm
37 West 26th St. (at 6th Avenue)
www.satalla.com Admission $10
Arthur Kampela: Nosturnos (1992/2003)
"A native of Rio de Janeiro, composer/singer/guitarist ARTHUR KAMPELA has been described as a 'Brazilian Frank Zappa'. Program to include music for guitar, avant-Bossas-Novas, sambas, and his highly challenging and provocative piano solo work, Nosturnos."  SEE a video excerpt of Nosturnos on www.jennylin.net

Friday, October 15, 2004 at 8:30pm
Floating Worlds: George Crumb / Fernando Velazquez

The International Contemporary Ensemble 
featuring Tony Arnold, Soprano

Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater, Symphony Space
Broadway at 95th Street, NYC Box Office: 212-864-5400

Send announcements to the Editors 

Third Annual CRF Awards
The third annual Classical Recording Foundation Awards have been announced, and two of the five awards were granted to facilitate the release of American music. 

Paul Moravec was honored as Composer of the Year. His award will enable the recording and production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Tempest Fantasy. This world premiere recording was made with musicians for whom piece was written. Arabesque will be releasing this disc in November 2004. 

One of two Foundation Awards was presented to the Harmonie Ensemble to underwrite the recording and production of works by Aaron Copland. The disc includes two premiere recordings of Copland works—Arturo Toscanini’s piano transcription of El Salon Mexico and Two Ballads for Violin and Piano—as well as Appalachian Spring and Music for Theatre. Bridge Records released this disc in May 2004. 

Novelist/Musician Wins 
Nobel Literature Prize
The reclusive Austrian novelist, playwright and opera librettist Elfriede Jelinek has won the Nobel Prize in Literature 2004  "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices
in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power" 

Jelinek is the first Austrian to receive the honor, and only the 10th woman to do so since the literature Nobel was instituted in 1901.

Jelinek was born on 20 October 1946 in the town of Mürzzuschlag in the Austrian province of Styria. Her father, of Czech-Jewish origin, was a chemist and worked in strategically important industrial production during the Second World War, thereby escaping persecution. Her mother was from a prosperous Vienna family, and Elfriede grew up and went to school in that city. 

At an early age, she was instructed in piano, organ and recorder and went on to study composition at the Vienna Conservatory. After graduating from the Albertsgymnasium in 1964, she studied theatre and art history at the University of Vienna while continuing her music studies. In 1971, she passed the organist diploma examination at the Conservatory. 

Jelinek has written numerous novels, essays and theater pieces and is well-known in central Europe for her political activism, notably to combat sexual and other violence against women  and in opposition to the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party. Her best-known work in the English-speaking world is the 1988 novel The Piano Teacher, which was adapted into a 2001 film by Michael Haneke starring Isabelle Huppert. 

Jelinek  has written three opera librettos:  Robert, der Teufel (music by Hans Werner Henze, 1985), Bählamms Fest (after Leonora Carrington's Baa-Lamb's Holiday, music by Olga Neuwirth, 1999) and Lost Highway (after the film by David Lynch, music by Olga Neuwirth, 2003).

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 WEEK'S PICKS

Philadelphia Stories / UFO
Composer: Michael Daugherty
Performers: Evelyn Glennie, percussion / Colorado Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop, conductor 

Something of a coup for Naxos’ American Classics series matching world famous percussionist Evelyn Glennie with Gramophone Artist of the Year Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra with one of America's most intriquing composers.  Daugherty has the uncanny ability to be all things to all listeners without seeming to comprise either seriousness or an enjoyable listening experience. 
Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2001, Philadelphia Stories is an orchestral travelogue of the sounds and rhythms of Philadelphia past and present.  UFO, written in 1999 for Evelyn Glennie, is inspired by unidentified flying objects and sounds, beginning with Traveling Music where the percussion soloist, in the guise of an alien from outer space, mysteriously enters the concert hall playing a waterphone and mechanical siren.

Orchestral Works
Composer: Harry Partch
Performer: Johnston, Pippin, et al.
 New World Records 

These works span the first six years of what American maverick composer Harry Partch (1901–1974) called the "third period" of his creative life. They show him moving away from the obsession with "the intrinsic music of spoken words" that had characterized his earlier output (the vocal works of 1930–33 and 1941–45) and towards an instrumental idiom, predominantly percussive in nature.  The Eleven Intrusions are among the most compelling and beautiful of Partch’s works. The individual pieces were composed at various times between August 1949 and December 1950, and only later gathered together as a cycle. Nonetheless they form a unified whole, with a nucleus of eight songs framed by two instrumental preludes and an essentially instrumental postlude.

Busoni the Visionary, Volume II
Jeni Slotchiver, piano

No one plays Busoni's piano music with greater clarity or depth of understanding than Jeni Slotchiver.  As she demonstrated in Volume I of this series, this is music she clearly loves and understands both intellectually and intuitively.  There is no finer, or more committed,  advocate for this greatly underrated composer  working today.  See Slotchiver's notes on Busoni the Visionary here.

Chamber Works
Composer: Dan Locklair 
Albany Records

Dan Locklair is an organist by trade and although he has written a wide body of works--his prolific output includes symphonic works, a ballet, an opera and numerous solo, chamber, vocal and choral compositions--one may be forgiven for identifying him first with that glorious instrument.  These chamber works show that Locklair's command of musical language is  far broader and deeper than a single instrument.   These fresh and engaging works are musically challenging and yet a real treat for the ear. 



Music in Fifths/Two Pages
Composer: Phillip Glass
Performer: Bang on a Can

These are transcriptions of two early Glass works ("Fifths," originally performed and recorded by Philip Glass with Jon Gibson and Dickie Landry in the original version for saxophones and electric organ)  and ("Two Pages", originally  done by Philip Glass on electric organ and Michael Riesman on piano). 

As always the Bang on a Can All Stars do a... well... bang up job and bring a fresh perspective to  two of the seminal works of Glass' early career. 


Orchestral Works
Composer:  Herman D. Koppel 
Nina Kavtaradze (piano) 
Aalborg Symphony Orchestra/Moshe Atzmon 

This is the third volume of the symphonies of the Danish composer Herman D Koppel who lived from 1908 to 1998 and wrote seven symphonies between 1930 and 1961.  Born in Copenhagen the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, Koppel fled to Sweden during World War II and his Symphony No. 3, written there, is an intensely personal work that mirrors the fears and anxieties of that period.  No. 5 is more hopeful and steady but lacks the raw energy of the 3rd. 

Guernica, Symphony no 4, Zapata 
Composer: Leonardo Balada 
Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra/Salvador Mas Conde 

Balada’s Guernica, completed in 1966, during the height of the Viet Nam War, was  inspired by Picasso’s large-scale mural of 1937, which has come to represent a  protest piece against all wars.  Balada writes in a personal modern idiom, although there are traces of his apprenticeships with Dello Joio and Aaron Copland.  Neither a serialist nor neo-classisist Balada is modern in ways that are highly individual and sometimes hard to follow.  But, he's an original and a little patience from the listener is well worth the effort. 

Symphonies Nos: 4, 5, 6
Composer: Josef  Tal 
NDR RadioPhilharmonie/Israel Yinon 

German-born Israeli composer Josef Tal, whose work I had never heard from this CD, is said to have  derived his musical style from the second Viennese school and has remained an unrepentant modernist. He has also been an innovator and pioneer, one of the first to combine a live instrument with a studio-generated tape recording; he founded the Israel Center for Electronic Music and imported the first Moog Synthesizer into his adopted country. These three symphonies reveal a composer with a strong personal voice working at the height of his powers.  Very powerful. 


 Baltic Voices 2
 Performer(s): Estonian Phil Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier
Harmonia Mundi 

The second volume of Paul Hillier's exploration of the choral treasures of the Baltic Sea countries features sacred music from composers representing all three branches of Christianity that are practiced in the Baltic region: Orthodox (Schnittke, Grigorjeva), Catholic (Sisask, Tulev), and Protestant (Nørgård).  The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is in superb form and Hillier's choice of material is impeccable.

Music from The Hours
Composer:  Philip Glass 
Michael Riesman (piano)
Orange Mountain Music

Piano Transcriptions of music composed by Glass for the Virginia Wolfe-inspired film played by longtime collaborator Michael Riesman.  Glass writes great music for the piano as demonstrated by his wonderful Etudes for Piano but stripped of orchestration these pieces seem slight and unfinished.  Still, for us fanatics, no scrap of  Glass is unwelcome. 


Symphony No. 3 'Liturgique' 
Pacific 231 
Mouvement Symphonique No. 3 
Pastorale d’été 
Composer:  Arthur Honegger
 New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa 

Five of the best pieces by one of the 20th Century's most underrated composers, played handsomely by the New Zealand Symphony.  There may be better versions of all these pieces around but at this price you can't go wrong.  Essential listening for anyone who is serious about modern music.

The Sea
Composer: Frank Bridge 
Enter Spring, Summer, Two Poems , The Sea 
 New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/James Judd 

Another underrated composer represented by some of his very best work.  Young Benjamin Britten once said that upon hearing The Sea he was “knocked sideways”.  And, indeed, it is a brilliant piece, filled with the mood of crashing waves and great expanses of open water.  Indispensible.


 Peter Grimes, Op.33
Composer: Benjamin Britten
 London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Colin Davis 
LSO Live

This is Sir Colin's third recording of Peter Grimes and his experience is clearly reflected in the extraordinary performance by the London Symphony, especially in the famous Interludes that frame Britten's tragic story.  This is not the best cast Davis has ever recorded the opera with but the singing is very good, even excellent, in places.  (Hard to top Peter Pears and Jon Vickers).  But, the orchestra shines in this recording and makes it a must-have for Britten fans. 

Canticle of the Sun, Preludes for Cello Solo, In Croce
Composer:  Sofia Gubaidulina 
Pieter Wispelwey (cello),
Collegium Vocale Gent, Daniel Reuss
Channel Classics

Gubaidulina’s Christian mysticism, born of her Russian Orthodox heritage, pervades most of her work but expecially in  The Canticle of the Sun, which is based on a text by St. Francis of Assisi.  The vocal part is restrained and reverent, with the text often presented in a coloristic and fragmentary manner. Wispelway plumbs the emotional depth of the music as he navigates  music that requires not requires a staggering technique but a keen  spiritual intensity. Also featured on the disc are Gubaidulina’s solo cello Preludes and In Croce for cello and bajan (Russian chromatic button accordion).

Two American Classics
Ives:  Concord Sonata
Barber:  Piano Sonata
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)

The two best piano sonatas ever written by Americans played by the best piano player alive.  Period.  This is Hamelin's  second recording of the Ives Concord Sonata, a piece he has played for over 20 years in performances that have often been regarded as definitive. Now, we have a new definitive recording. 

Mystery System
Composer: Lukas Ligeti

With a name like Ligeti  you'd better be good and Lukas, son of  György, demonstrates that he is more than just a chip off the old block  in this clever blending of  traditional music from places as diverse as Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Florida, Egypt, and the Ivory Coast with the latest techniques in computer and electronic work from  Stanford University's computer music lab.  Haunting, original and compelling musical ideas that point toward a bright future for contemporary music.

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