About Us
Essential Library
Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
  November 15-22, 2004

Maxwell Davies Unveils
Naxos Quartets 1 and 2
Maxwell Davies with the Maggini Quartet - Martin Outram (viola), Michael Kaznowski (cello), Max, David Angel (violin), Lawrence Jackson (violin)

In 1997, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934) announced that his Eighth Symphony would be his last and that he would concentrate much of his musical energies over the next few years to creating a series of ten string quartets.  Judy Arnold, Maxwell Davies’ manager, suggested to Naxos CEO and founder Klaus Heymann that he record the cycle.  Heymann went one better and agreed not only to produce and distribute the works but also to commission the entire set.  Maxwell Davies then suggested calling the works the Naxos Quartets to celebrate the collaboration—the first time in the history of recorded music that a composer has chosen to write and name a series of works after a record label.   The official release on Tuesday of the quartets one and two in this unique project is the first happy fruit of this creative venture.  Naxos will release the recordings of the entire series over the next five years. 

All of the quartets are being recorded by the Maggini Quartet, one of Britain’s finest chamber groups, who premiered the first Naxos Quartet at the Wigmore Hall in London on October 20th, 2002 to much acclaim and debuted the second at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music on July 11th, 2003 to equally glowing reviews. 

“What compelled us to accept was how utterly unique this project is: a formal contractual arrangement between a composer, a string quartet, and a record company for ten quartets over five years,” says David Angel, violinist for the Maggini.   “This is remarkable, and, as far as I know, unprecedented.” 

Critical reaction to the Naxos Quartets CD in the United Kingdom, where it was released in October, has been laudatory.  Gramophone editor James Jolly made the disc one of his “editor’s choice” picks for October, calling it “a magnificent start to what promises to be a rewarding project” that “sets out its stall with audacity and verve.” Anthony Holden, writing in The Observer, describes the Quartets as “elegant, accessible, full of mood swings.”  Paul Driver, in his four-star review in The Sunday Times, singled out the Maggini Quartet for having “brilliant command of the idiom.”

Maxwell Davies was named Master of the Queen’s Music in the United Kingdom in March 2004, an honor that acknowledges his unique and varied contributions to concert music over the past 40 years.  Best known for his music-theatre work Eight Songs for a Mad King (1969), which depicts the mental deterioration of King George III through unorthodox vocal writing, wildly provocative stage direction, and hallucinogenic musical allusions, Maxwell Davies has written across the widest gamut of musical genre and in many styles.  He has written numerous operas, full-length ballets, music-theatre works, and oratorios. 

His huge output of orchestral music includes eight symphonies, hailed by The Times of London as being “the most important symphonic cycle since Shostakovich,” the last of which being the Antarctic Symphony, for which he visited the Antarctic in 1997. He has written concertos for violin, trumpet, piano, horn and piccolo, and the ten 'Strathclyde Concertos' (written for the principal players of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra), as well as some lighter orchestral works, such as An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (“the most performed piece of contemporary music”) Mavis in Las Vegas and Swinton Jig. Major works for chorus, soloists and orchestra include The Three Kings, Job and The Jacobite Rising.

Maxwell Davies is also active as a conductor and has recently finished ten years as Composer/Conductor of both the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, and is Composer Laureate with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He has also conducted many orchestras in Europe and North America, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Russian National Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Naxos Quartets 1 and 2
Composer:  Peter Maxwell Davies
Performers:  Maggini Quartet

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

Wednesday,  November 17, 1:15 PM

Music from Latin America – Its 
Rhythms and Poetry

The Americas Vocal Ensemble
Queensborough Community College 
CUNY’s QPAC Center
222-05 56th Avenue, Bayside, NY
This concert is free and open to the public. For directions and other concert information, please call 718-631-6393.

November 17, 8:00PM


The legendary Italian contrabass virtuoso and composer Stefano Scodanibbio will perform the New York premiere of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIV for double-bass along with music by Jacob Druckman and Mr. Scodanibbio on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 at 8:00 PM in the Teatro of Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies.  Admission is $12 for the general public, $5 for students and seniors. Call 212 854 1623 or email rw2115@columbia.edu for reservations or information. The Italian Academy’s Teatro in Casa Italiana is located at 1161 Amsterdam Avenue between 116th and 118th Streets.

Thursday, December 9  8PM

Brian Sacawa, saxophone
Timothy Feeney, percussion

Kerrytown Concert House
415 North Fourth Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI
$10 General Admission
For reservations: 734-769-2999 or kch@kerrytown.com

Send announcements to the Editors 

The Mosaic World of
Tania Leon

By Duane Harper Grant
Tania  Leon, the focus of a Composer Portraits Series program at Miller Theatre at Columbia University last week,  is a composer who at once is vibrant, fun and 
even a bit tongue-in-cheek in style. The concert took on some of those same characteristics adding one or two variations of interest along the way.

Over all, Ms. Leon¹s works exhibit angular lines of atonal counterpoint, intersecting, joining and running headlong into each other. The works as a whole also use percussive articulations and gestures from the pitched instruments and dynamic strikes and sounds from the marimba and the non-pitched percussion instruments. This general point is both the music's strength and its limitation.

While I am talking about generalizations, the concert as a whole was to me divided into two distinct sections separated by intermission. Although the two halves did not differ that much musically, except for a stirring piece at the end of the concert which featured cello, played very nicely by Edward Arron, set against soprano voice, sung vibrantly by Susan Narucki, they differed in the life and effect of the work and by the way the instrumentalists played.

The concert began with Sin Normas Ajenas, a work for ensemble; string quartet, percussion (two marimbas, and non-pitched percussion), oboe, bassoon and flute. It was interesting in the counterpoint it presented and also for the idea that I started to test and that turned out to be one that stuck with me throughout the concert. The angular lines of counterpoint, abrupt discordant gestures and cross rhythms presented a challenging landscape on which to navigate. I started thinking of an analogy of montage and mosaic.

This analogy came more into focus in the second piece, A La Par, scored for piano and cello where in an ostinato syncopated latinesque rhythm or rhythms were percussivly interrupted, sliced and spliced together again. The outer movements were frenetic and had a fragmented urban flare to them while the middle movement was relaxed and subtle.

The first half ended the with, a montage of angular melodic bursts, bits of sound, things out of the blue coming together to form a whole, which is the idea of montage; the idea of mosaic and collage. On their own they are only random bits of color and sound. They are taken out of context and placed into another context to form the unity of a whole. One hears the bits but also hears the whole. In the first half of the concert I was looking for the whole to present itself and it proved illusive. In the second half it did come together.  One important part of Leon's music is that the players cannot be tentative about it. Part of the listening experience is the conviction that went into playing it. This is true of all music but in my opinion even more so in music which the source material is so elemental and seemingly very random at times. The music in the second half of the program had much more of a presence and effect. The compositions themselves were more cohesive which lent them to be interpreted with more conviction. The music was more together as a whole.

Interestingly, the first piece of the second half was Azulejos, which means mosaics. A piece for percussion, cello and flute, the three Azulejos face each other, accompanied by piano. This worked well for the ensemble as they were playing it with more verve. And the pieces of the piece came together to form that illusive whole I had been listening for. The second piece was kind of a deconstruction of musical events, breaking them down into elemental pieces. It was like taking a lick and taking it out of time and then extracting the musical elements and extrapolation them under a magnifying glass. This is what happened in my experience but as in abstract art different people see or hear different things sometimes and the art or music is as much about the listener as it is about the composition.

The night ended with a mother's prayer, from Ms. León's opera Scourge of Hyacinths, the vocal piece noted above. Interesting way to end the evening; plaintively, melodically and somber.

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

Different Trains
Composer:  Steve Reich
David Robertson,
Orchestre National de Lyon

This is a  new version of Reich's haunting 1988 masterpiece  (the original used four string quartets--both pre-recorded and live) prepared for 48 strings  by the composer at the suggestion of the conductor David Robertson.  The result further enhances the lyricism and emotional impact of this powerful piece, which contrasts the trains that young Reich rode across the United States to visit his divorced parents in the 1940s with  the trains of Nazi Germany during the same period.   It is  coupled with two other  major scores by Reich: Triple Quartet (1999) for 36 strings, and The Four Sections (1986), a "concerto for orchestra" that highlights each of the sections of the large symphony orchestra in turn

Symphonies 2 & 3
Composer: Philip Glass
Marin Alsop,
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Marin Alsop conducts the Bournemouth symphony orchestra in extraordinary performances of Glass' Second and Third symphonies.  The  Second was comissioned by the Brooklyn Acadamy of Music and premiered there in 1994 by Dennis Russell Davies. The Third, which arrived only three years later,  is composed for chamber orchestra.   Lots of  polyharmonies, rousing finales, and fully-formed symphonic statements. Essential listening for anyone interested in contemporary music. 

Nuit des Hommes
Composer:  Per Nørgård
Markus Falkbring, viola
Helene Gjerris, mezzo-soprano
Andreas Hagman, violin
Kaare Hansen, conductor
Fredrik Lindström, cello
Helge Rønning, tenor
Bodil Rørbech, violin
Gert Sørensen, percussion
First performed  in 1996,  Nørgård called this  "… an opera of sorts …"  Whatever it is,  it is both radical and powerful.  Two singers, male and female, take on three roles each, as well as chorus, over the course of 65 minutes, augmented by two violins, viola, cello and percussion doubling electronic keyboards. The text comes from Guillaume Apollinaire's surreal and emotionally-charged poetry  inspired by the atrocities of World War, which also inspired  Shostakovich in his Fourteenth Symphony.  Raw and riveting.

The Chamber Music of Aaron Copland
Performers: Music From Copland House Michael Boriskin, Paul Lustig Dunkel, ensemble co-directors, Derek Bermel, clarinet, Michael Boriskin, piano, Paul Lustig Dunkel, flute, Nicholas Kitchen, violin, Wilhelmina Smith, cello 

Music From Copland House  is the resident ensemble at Aaron Copland's longtime New York home, now restored as a unique creative center for American music. Since its triumphant New York debut at the Opening Night of Merkin Concert Hall's 1999-2000 season, Music from Copland House has emerged as one of the most exhilarating and distinctive ensembles on the American music scene.  In this beautifully played two CD set,  they return to their roots--the extraordinarily rich chamber pieces of Aaron Copland, who would have been 104 on November 14.  This disk is a real sleeper.

The Piano Concertos,
Paganini Rhapsody
Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov
Stephen Hough (piano),
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton

You may find better individual performances of each of Rachmaninov's four  piano concertos (Leif Ove Ondnes's No, 3, for example) but this 2-disk set is hard to beat as a one-stop listening experience.  Cobbled together from 11 live performances over an 18-day period, the power chord, big sound,  sweeping Rachmaninov romanticism has never sounded, well, bigger or more romantic.   Littton is a Rocky Romantic Show specialist and it shows in the orchestra's splendid melding with Hough's oversized playing.  Highly recommended, even if you already have them all.

The Concerto Project 1
Composer: Philip Glass
Cello Concerto, 
Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists
and Orchestra
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello),
Evelyn Glennie (timpani),
Jonathan Haas (timpani),
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,
Gerard Schwarz
Orange Mountain 

Every shard of Glass seems to finding its way onto a CD nowadays and it's getting harder to tell the major Glass from the--forgive me--half Glass.  This is major Glass.  The Cello Concerto is a real beauty, played with real passion by Lloyd Webber and the RLP.  The timpani concerto is great, too, once you get past the thought that maybe Phil borrowed the opening from Lalo Schifrin.  This is the first of a series of four CDs that Philip Glass and Orange
Mountain Music have planned entitled The Concerto Project, No. I-IV Each
disc contains two concerti.

Mass - A Theatre Piece for
Singers, Players & Dancers
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Jerry Hadley (tenor),
Rundfunkchor Berlin,
Paci. c Mozart Ensemble,
Staats-und Domchor Berlin,
Deutsches Symphonie-
Orchester Berlin, Kent Nagano
harmonia mundi

What's a nice Jewish boy like Leonard Bernstein doing writing a Mass?  In this case, he was invited to do so by Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of Kennedy Center in 1971.  This is Lennie at his most flamboyant, employing a big theatrical cast, mixed chorus, children’s choir, dancers and a rock band.  The libretto for Mass intersperses texts written by Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz (lyricist for Godspell) into the Roman Mass. The work explores the mass from the point of view of the Celebrant (sung by Jerry Hadley), who is experiencing a crisis of faith. The Celebrant’s faith is simple and pure at first, yet that faith gradually becomes unsustainable under the weight of human misery, corruption, and the trappings of human power. In the end, the Celebrant, on the verge of renouncing
his faith,  finds that the loneliness of his doubt is no match for the joy of gathering together with other believers
in praise. 

Composer:  Guiseppe Verdi
Michele Pertusi (bass),
Carlos Alvarez (tenor), Ana Ibarra (soprano), Marina Domashenko (mezzo-soprano), Jane Henschel (mezzo-soprano), Maria Josè Moreno (mezzo-soprano), Bülent Bezdüz (tenor),
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus,
Sir Colin Davis
LSO Live

Hot on the heels of their highly  acclaimed recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes, Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra are joined by a magnificent cast led by Michele Pertusi for a spectacular performance of Verdi’s comic masterpiece, Falstaff.
Recorded during the LSO’s centenary celebrations in 2004, this new recording of Falstaff is one of the LSO Live’s finest performance to date.  Who needs major  record labels


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. 

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