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 October 27-November 3, 2003

Magnus Lindberg Wins
Wihuri Sibelius Prize

Magnus Lindberg has been awarded the Wihuri Sibelius Prize, a prestigious international award that carries with it one of the largest cash sums in the classical music sector, EUR 100,000. 

The prize was established in 1953 to recognise and support the work of "prominent composers who have become internationally known and acknowledged". It has been awarded only ten times since Jean Sibelius received the inaugural award in 1953 and Lindberg now joins the elite rank of previous winners including Dmitri Shostakovich (1958), Igor Stravinsky (1963), Benjamin Britten (1965), Olivier Messiaen (1971) and György Ligeti (2000). 

Lindberg is one of the most acclaimed European composers of his generation, particularly admired for his thrilling and virtuoso orchestral scores. His Concerto for Orchestra was premiered in London in September by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and future projects include a new orchestral work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for May 2004 and a commission for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Lindberg was born in Helsinki in 1958. Following piano studies he entered the Sibelius Academy where his composition teachers included Einojuhani Rautavaara and Paavo Heininen. The latter encouraged his pupils to look beyond the prevailing Finnish conservative and nationalist aesthetics, and to explore the works of the European avant-garde. This led around 1980 to the founding of the informal grouping known as the Ears Open Society including Lindberg and his contemporaries Hämeeniemi, Kaipainen, Saariaho and Salonen, which aimed to encourage a greater awareness of mainstream modernism. Lindberg made a decisive move in 1981, travelling to Paris for studies with Globokar and Grisey. During this time he also attended Donatoni’s classes in Siena, and made contact with Ferneyhough, Lachenmann and Höller. 

His compositional breakthrough came with two large-scale works,  Action-Situation- Signification (1982) and Kraft (1983-85), which were inextricably linked with his founding with Salonen of the experimental Toimii Ensemble. This group, in which Lindberg plays piano and percussion, has provided the composer with a laboratory for his sonic development. His works at this time combined experimentalism, complexity and primitivism, working with extremes of musical material. During the late 1980s his music transformed itself towards a new modernist classicism, in which many of the communicative ingredients of a vibrant musical language (harmony, rhythm, counterpoint, melody) were re-interpreted afresh for the post-serial era. Key scores in this stylistic evolution were the orchestral/ ensemble triptych Kinetics (1988), Marea (1989-90) and Joy (1989-90), reaching fulfilment in Aura (1993-94) and Arena (1994-95). 

Recent works, including the concert-opener Feria (1997), large-scale orchestral statements such as Fresco (1997) and Cantigas (1999), and concertos for cello (1999) and clarinet (2002), have established Lindberg as one of the most invigorating of composers working in the orchestral field. Lindberg’s music has been recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Ondine and Finlandia labels.

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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 
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
Ned Rorem, American Classic "Rorem's works have been criticized, even dismissed, for not being more memorable. More to the point, as much as he seems to occupy the creative moment 100 percent, Rorem doesn't haunt. The music is there and gone, leaving few if any footprints on your brain. As listeners, we're not used to that." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/19/03 

Ligeti At 80 Gyorgy "Ligeti has a unique place in the history of 20th-century music: an avant-gardist who is familiar to a wide public (even if he has Stanley Kubrick's use of his music in 2001 to thank for that popularity), and an uncompromising modernist whose music revels in its connections with other cultures, other art forms, and the music of earlier centuries." The Guardian (UK) 10/17/03 

La Scala Appoints a Referee...Er, "Artistic Director" La Scala has appointed a new artistic director to mediate between music director Riccardo Muti and general manager Carlo Fontana. Muti has fought against what he characterizes as Fontana's attempts to "dumb down" the famous company. "Mr Fontana had been criticised for introducing popular fare such as West Side Story to fill the 2,600 seats of the Arcimboldi theatre, built on the industrial outskirts of Milan to host La Scala's performances while its city-centre premises undergo a £40m refit. Tension between the two men burst into the open in July when Mr Muti snubbed the official presentation of the opera's new season." The Guardian (UK) 10/13/03 

Disney-High Ambitions LA's Disney Hall opens next week. "For all the energy and playfulness of this $274 million piece of civic sculpture, Disney Hall also bears a heavy burden as an instrument of this city's heady ambition. Sixteen years in the making, it represents Los Angeles' determination to shake off its perpetual No. 2 status, to be recognized, along with New York, as an international cultural heavyweight, yet on its own highly theatrical terms." San Francisco Chronicle 10/16/03 

Why Must Music Be Transcendant? Classical music, and opera in particular, is often held up as a beacon of transcendant, other-worldly beauty, in a culture obsessed with speed and reduced to communicating through sound bites. But that perception doesn't often square with reality, says Anne Midgette, and the fact that listeners aren't being transported to a higher realm on an average night at the Met doesn't mean that the music has failed, simply that our expectations are misplaced. "Opera deals in human emotions, not divine and ethereal ones. When singing is sublime, it's partly because it amplifies those emotions with a kind of inner purity." The New York Times 10/19/03

Is Classical Music Racist? The audience for traditional classical music is overwhelmingly caucasian, whether in Europe or North America, and despite paying frequent lip service to the vague concept of "diversity," few practitioners of the art have made any serious attempts to widen the appeal of the genre. So why does classical music receive such a huge percentage of available public arts funding? "This has always been the case, but now that cultural diversity has moved to the top of the funding agenda, it's become a serious political embarrassment. There's something disquieting, in 2003, about the sight of an all-white orchestra playing to an all-white audience." The Telegraph (UK) 10/18/03 

Recordings - The Politics Of Price "As musical recordings have increasingly shed their physical form, the record industry and its customers have been at odds over what it all should cost. Music fans complain of high CD prices and copy more music illicitly than they purchase legally, while the record companies rail against the devaluation of their product and take file-sharers to court. Since legal ways to experience online music are only now becoming widely available, there is no established record of what the market will bear or how these innovations will be received. Will each song purchased online represent the loss of a whole CD sale in the store? Or will customers respond to the ease and selection of e-commerce by buying more, overall?" The New York Times 10/12/03

Detroit's New Digs: Spending Money To Make Money The Detroit Symphony Orchestra could very well have chosen to spend the last few years hiding under a pile of the Motor City's ever-present downtown rubble, and hoping that the financial roof wouldn't fall in. After all, orchestras are in terible shape just about everywhere, and Detroit is hardly a model for the type of forward-looking urban development that orchestras must embrace to make strides in an increasingly diverse entertainment universe. Instead, the DSO took a big, beautiful chance, and invested millions in a newly revitalized concert hall in one of the city's most blighted neighborhoods. No one yet knows if the plan will succeed, but thank God someone is still trying, says William Littler. Toronto Star 10/18/03 

 Last Week's News

John Luther Adams on
The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies
On November 20, Steven Schick will give the New York premiere of John Luther Adams' The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies, a concert-length work for solo percussion and computer-processed sounds, at 7 pm at World Financial Center Winter Garden  Here are some reflections by JLA on the new work.

I¹ve always envied the hands-on relationship that painters and sculptors have with the materials of their art. The real substance of music always seems just beyond our reach. Still, music is a tactile phenomenon. The musician touches the instrument, and the sound passes through time and space to touch the drums of our ears. 

I¹ve always loved percussion for its physical presence and for the rich complexity of its sounds. More than any other family of instruments, percussion embodies touch. As Steven Schick observes, the essence of percussion is: "No instruments, only sticks." 

It¹s the element of touch that makes percussion specific. Different instruments played with the same sticks can sound like a single instrument. And the same instrument played with different sticks can sound very different. Unlike pianos, clarinets and most other instruments, the sounds of individual drums, cymbals, triangles and gongs can vary greatly. When the percussionist travels, he may or may not carry his own instruments. But he always carries his sticks. In a very real sense, the sticks are the instrument.

Our ears understand this. We rely on touch to identify sounds. It¹s primarily the first few milliseconds of a sound (the "attack") that we use to distinguish one timbre from another. But what about the rest of the sound? If the attack gives a sound its name, how do we hear its inner life?

Several years ago I composed Strange and Sacred Noise, a cycle for percussion quartet celebrating noise in music and in nature. One of the Noise pieces is scored for four tam-tams, playing waves of different periods that eventually crest together in an enormous tsunami of sound. When I first heard this piece (which was written for and premiered by the wonderful Percussion Group Cincinnati) I was startled. Amid the dense masses of broad-band noise I clearly heard voices, like a choir singing long wordless tones. I called these "angel voices". And I wanted to hear them alone. 

Working with a recording of the tam-tams I filtered out most of the noise (in essence removing the sticks) until all that was left was that choir of angel voices. This became the point of departure for a new exploration of noise. 

All noise contains pure tone. And the complex sonorities of percussion instruments conceal choirs of inner voices. In The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies my search has been to find and reveal those voices. 

I began this work by composing a new cycle of quartets. Steve Schick came to Alaska and recorded these one part at a time. I assembled the recordings and then began filtering them as I¹d previously done with the tam-tams. The result was a series of "auras" derived from the inner resonance of the instruments themselves. As the final step, I composed a series of solo parts to be performed within these sonic fields.

All the instruments in Resonant Bodies are noise instruments. They¹re also generic. Snare drums, tom-toms, bass drums, cymbals and tam-tams are mainstays of Western percussion. And although each individual instrument sounds different, in a general sense they all sound alike. So it¹s the percussionist (with his sticks and his touch) who makes them specific, who gives them their particular names and profiles. 

Like the listener, the soloist in these pieces is a solitary figure traversing enveloping landscapes of resonance.

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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

String Quartets 1 & 3
Composer:  Frank Bridge
Performers:. Maggini String Quartet

Frank Bridge is a bit of a lost horse in the English stable of composers that includes such giants as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and, his student, Benjamin Britten.  But he shouldn't be. No. 1, written in 1901, is a mature, fully realized work; No. 3, composed in 1927 is one of the pilars of 20th century chamber music.  As always, the Maggini play magnificiently and the recording is first rate.

Le Villi
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Performer: Melanie Diener, Ludovic Tezier, et al. Radio France Chorus, French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Just listening to young Puccini's first opera (as opposed to seeing it staged and sung), you notice immediately that the big sweeping melodies, the ingenious "hooks" are already there. Naive has also issued a Radio France recording of Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, written five years after Le Villi.   In this more ambitious and complicated work, Puccini develops his technique using a score that merges stirring arias and ensembles. 

Emerson Concerto / Symphony 1
Composer:  Charles Ives
Performers:  Alan Feinberg (piano), National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, James Sinclair (conductor)

Ives sketched the Emerson Concerto in 1907 but never fully finished it, although he used portions in other works.  David G. Porter, a noted Ives scholar, was  able to create a performing version which was premiered in 1998 by Alan Feinberg, the pianist on this premiere recording.  The piece is extremely demanding, often abrasive, and demands exceptional  virtuosity.  Symphony No. 1 is fetching, but not as charateristic, of the great American maverick that followed.

Piano Concertos 2 & 3
Composer: Einojuhani Rautavaara
Performers: Laura Mikkola (piano), Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eri Klas (conductor)

The Finnish composer Rautavaara has enjoyed enormous success in recent years with his unique blend of northern lights impressionism and romanticism  served up in an aura of modernity. His Cantus Articus is immensely popular, conjuring up associations of Messiean, although the latter is a much more important composer.   The Third Piano Concerto from 1998 is forceful, drawings on  the Russian school of pianism, although it not technically flashy until the finale.  The Second, composed nine years earlier, is more traditional and  Laura Mikkola, already on disc with a highly regarded account of the First Concerto, again provides an outstanding performance.

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.

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