About Us
Essential Library
Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
  October 18-25, 2004

Bolcom's 'Songs of Innocence...' Released
Naxos will release this week the highly-anticipated début commercial CD of Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1984), the epic song cycle by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom (b. 1938) set to the mystical poems of William Blake, as part of its American Classics series. 

Recorded as part of the landmark concert at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 8, 2004, Naxos’ Songs of Innocence and of Experience captures the acclaimed performance conducted by Leonard Slatkin of over 450 performers, including the soloists Christine Brewer, Ilana Davidson, Nathan Lee Graham, and Joan Morris; the University of Michigan School of Music Symphony Orchestra, Choirs, and Contemporary Directions Ensemble; the University Musical Society Choral Union; and the Michigan State University Children’s Choir.

Wherever it has been performed, Songs of Innocence and of Experience has been almost unanimously hailed as a masterpiece.  The New York Times declared it to be “a masterpiece of our time and place” while the Boston Globe described it as “the greatest achievement of synthesis in American music since Porgy and Bess.”  The Chicago Tribune praised it as “one of the finest and most important new American works of the decade.” 

Bolcom, who composed Songs of Innocence and of Experience over a period of 25 years, employs myriad musical styles from 19th-century Romantic and 20th-century modernist concert music to rock, country, and reggae.  The composer has compared his own polystylistic approach to Blake’s own use of language in his poems, originally published in 1789.  As Bolcom noted in a program note for the U.S. premiere in April 1984, “At every point Blake used his whole culture, past and present, high-flown and vernacular as sources for his many poetic styles . . . all I did was use the same stylistic point of departure Blake did in my musical settings.” 

William Blake, whose poetry was widely disregarded during his own lifetime (1757-1827), wrote Songs of Innocence and of Experience between 1789 and 1794.  These 46 poems depict the contrary natures of childlike innocence and the “experience” of adulthood and were published with accompanying engravings by Blake himself.  Bolcom first encountered the poems as a teenager and decided at 17 that he would eventually set all of them to music, completing most of the work after joining the University of Michigan faculty in 1973. 

Born in Seattle in 1938,  Bolcom exhibited musical talent while very young, beginning private composition studies at the age of 11 at the University of Washington.  He studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College and the Paris Conservatory and earned the first Doctor of Musical Arts degree granted by Stanford University in 1964.  Recent premiers of Bolcom’s works include an overture written for the opening of the Marian McCaw Hall in Seattle, the monodrama Medusa written for Catherine Malfitano, two choral works, May-Day and The Rhodora, based on the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Inventing Flight, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first flight by the Wright brothers.  Bolcom, with Arnold Black, composed the musical score for the John Turturro film Illuminata.  His opera A View from the Bridge, with a libretto by Arthur Miller and Arnold Weinstein, premiered at the Lyric Opera of  Chicago in October 1999 and was presented at the Metropolitan Opera in March 2003.  In December 2004, the Lyric Opera of Chicago will premier his opera A Wedding, based on the movie by Robert Altman.  Bolcom continues to record and tour worldwide with his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris as Bolcom and Morris. 

Bolcom’s many awards include the Pulitzer Prize for 12 New Études for Piano in 1988, two Guggenheim Fellowships, several Rockefeller Awards and NEA Grants, and investiture in the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1992.  He has taught composition at the University of Michigan since 1973, where he is the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished Professor of Music.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience 
Composer:  William Bolcom 
Leonard Slatkin, conductor 

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

Friday, October 22 at 1 PM 

Chamber music of American composer Beth Anderson will be presented at the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium of the United Nations in New York on as part of a Concert for Peace, presented by the Positive Music Group and sponsored by the Society for Enlightenment and Transformation.

Sunday, October 24, 2004, 4 PM 

The New York Virtuoso Singers, conducted by Music Director Harold Rosenbaum, will present “American Gems,” a concert of works by American composers, including World and New York premieres. The concert continues a long tradition by the choir of performing works by established American composers alongside those of emerging composers.   Among the works to be presented is Judith Lang Zaimont’s “Parable: A Tale of Abram and Isaac”, along with several World and New York premieres. There will be a panel discussion with the composers at 3 PM, free to ticket holders.
Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (at 73rd St.)

Send announcements to the Editors 

David's View

Life After Standard Practice
by David Salvage

At the first rehearsal of Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 59 No.1, the second movement was a fiasco.  The cellist, after playing the first three measures, threw down his bow and refused to play any more; he was insulted.  The cello opens the second movement alone on a repeated low B-flat.  The rhythm evokes a banal march and is marked pianissimo.  For a cellist used to lyrical solos, these were three bars of sheer embarrassment.   Nowadays, however, cellists negotiate these measures without fuss – and so do audiences.

Why the change? 

Two reasons come to mind.  One is simply that we’re more used to Beethoven after two hundred years of listening to him.  The other reason has to do with standard practice.

Back in Beethoven’s time, to write a string quartet meant something.  A string quartet was designed for an intimate venue, amateur musicians, and pertained to a certain modesty of length and expression.  Today, string quartets get played in massive halls by professional musicians, and they can last six hours – anything goes.  To write a string quartet nowadays doesn’t presuppose a thing; Beethoven’s march represents no transgression. 

Unlike the early nineteenth century, there is at present no musical standard practice.  Composers as radically different as Steve Reich, John Corigliano, and Elliott Carter speak the same language, live in the same city, and receive prestigious commissions.  The music of these composers requires fundamentally different ways of listening – something I don’t think can be said of the first Viennese school, however unique Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven each were.  Furthermore, not only are today the offerings in contemporary composition wildly diverse, but so is the scope of available music elsewhere – on CD, in clubs, and in concert.  Most everyone listens to different genres of music regularly. 

 So what’s the point?


Minnesota Orchestra Selects
Seven Composers for Workshop
The Minnesota Orchestra has selected seven composers from across the country to participate in the fourth annual Minnesota Orchestra Reading Sessions and Composer Institute held  at Orchestra Hall, October 27 through 30, 2004. The
Aaron Jay Kernis
participants will have their works read and rehearsed by the Minnesota Orchestra and participate in workshops.

The Minnesota Orchestra has selected seven composers from across the country to participate in the fourth annual Minnesota Orchestra Reading Sessions and Composer Institute held at Orchestra Hall, October 27 through 30, 2004. The participants will have their works read and rehearsed by the Minnesota Orchestra and participate in workshops with Orchestra musicians and industry professionals. They will also take part in pre-reading discussions and receive post-reading composition mentoring with composer Aaron Jay Kernis, who serves as the Minnesota Orchestra’s New Music Advisor and Chairman of the Institute. The three reading sessions and pre-reading discussions are free and open to the public. The Composer Institute is presented in partnership with the American Composers Forum and in cooperation with the American Music Center. 

 “The Minnesota Orchestra Reading Sessions and Composer Institute is a fine example of the forward thinking initiatives that the Orchestra, American Composers Forum and American Music Center have created and supported,” remarked Aaron Jay Kernis. “Not only will the invited composers gain direct experience of their orchestral writing brought to full ‘living color’ through the Orchestra’s artistry, they will also gain insights into improving and sharpening their already professional skills through a variety of seminars with leaders in the music community. These skills are vitally important to emerging composers, and previous year’s seminars have proven both insightful and invaluable to many participants. There really is nothing quite like this Composer Institute in the nation.

 The seven composers selected range in age from 20 to 36. They are: Patrick Burke from Yale University, Fang Man from Cornell University, Andrew Norman from the University of Southern California, John Christian Orfe, formerly at Yale University, David Plylar, formerly from Duke University, Sheridan Seyfried from the Curtis Institute, and Rob Smith from the University of Houston. All participant’s travel and hotel will be provided during the four-day Institute.

 A total of 131 scores were submitted to the American Composers Forum for the October 2004 Institute. Works were not to exceed 15 minutes in length and could not have previously been performed or read by a major orchestra. The works were selected with the invaluable assistance of a judging panel including composers Michael Daugherty and Kevin Puts, as well as Minnesota Orchestra Acting Associate Principal Bass William Schrickel. Additional help was received from David Wolff of the American Composers Forum. Minnesota Orchestra Associate Conductor Mischa Santora and Assistant Conductor Daniel Alfred Wachs will lead the Orchestra in readings and rehearsals of the chosen compositions. All pre-reading discussions in the Orchestra Hall Lobby Tier Drop and reading sessions are open to the public with no advance reservation required. For more information, call (612) 371-5660.

 In addition to hearing the Minnesota Orchestra play their compositions, the guest composers have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of instrumental and career-building seminars, many of which are not offered at music schools or conservatories. Topics for discussion include arranging commission and publishing contracts, protecting intellectual property, preparing music and parts effectively, honing public speaking skills, initiating community residencies, and working with conductors, librarians, artistic and marketing staffs, as well as union orchestras. These career seminars are led by Minnesota Orchestra musicians and music industry professionals from New York and the Twin Cities. Area composers are able to attend these seminars through the American Composers Forum. 

The American Composers Forum supports composers’ artistic development and develops new markets and audiences for their music. Based in Saint Paul, the Forum has grown into one of the largest composer-service organizations in the United States with 1,700 members, nine chapters and a wide variety of innovative programs. For more information, call (651) 228-1407 or visit online  at composersforum.org.

In September of 1998, Aaron Jay Kernis began an appointment as the Minnesota Orchestra’s new music advisor. In this artistic post, he composes pieces for the Orchestra, as well as serves as an advisor in the commissioning and support of other contemporary music for the Minnesota Orchestra. Born in Philadelphia in 1960, Kernis began his musical studies on the violin; at age twelve he began teaching himself piano and, the following year, composition. He continued studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and both the Manhattan and Yale Schools of Music. One of the youngest recipients to be granted the award, Kernis won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his composition String Quartet No. 2, “musica instrumentalis.” In addition to the Pulitzer, his many awards also include the 2002 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for the cello and orchestra version of Colored Field. From 1993-96 he held the appointment as composer-in-residence with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio and the American Composers Forum. Kernis’s music is published by Associated Music Publishers and Boosey and Hawkes. 

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.

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 Editors: Deborah Kravetz, David Salvage
(C) Sequenza/21 LLC 2000