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 November 17-24, 2003
John Harbison 
On 'Reconciliation'
Photo by Katrin Talbot
John Harbison has been commissioned to compose a sacred motet, Abraham, to be premiered on January 17, 2004 at a concert at the Vatican on the theme of "Reconciliation Between Jews, Christians, and Muslims." Gilbert Levine, who conceived the event, will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony and singers from the London Philharmonic, Krakow Philharmonic, and Ankara Polyphonic Choir in the presence of Pope John Paul II. The concert will also include Mahler's Symphony No. 2. 
"The concept for a concert in the Vatican built around the ideas of reconciliation and resurrection, as expressed in Mahler's Second Symohony, came from Gilbert Levine, " explains Harbison. "As it took shape and gained the support of Pope John Paul II, with whom Maestro Levine has a long association, I was honored to be invited by Maestro Levine to compose a piece as Prologue, speaking directly in contemporary terms to the themes of the concert." 

"The text from Genesis which I suggested presents Abraham as 'father of many nations.' In these difficult times, the music centers on the name and spirit of Abraham as a bridge, a mode of communication, a point of commonality." 

The stated purpose of the concert is "to promote the commitment to a peaceful coexistence among all the children of Abraham," according to a statement of its sponsors: the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. "In a certain sense, the concert next January 17 enlarges the horizon of that multitude of peoples who today more than ever must find in themselves and radiate the strength of fraternity, from which peace arises." 

The invited audience will include representatives of international Jewish organizations, of the Churches and ecclesial communities, and of Islam. The Pittsburgh Symphony, which commissioned "Abraham," is the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican. The concert has been funded by the Knights of Columbus, based in Hartford, Connecticut. Levine has previously conducted several leading European orchestras at the Vatican, but chose an American orchestra for this event because he believes no country better represents the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths and embodies a society of tolerance. 

The official Vatican invitation issued via Sir Gilbert Levine to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra read, "This initiative has assumed a special significance in view of the current world context. The event entrusts to the powerful efficacy of music the commitment to reconciliation that all the children of Abraham — Jews, Christians and Muslims — must embrace with conviction." 

John Harbison is among America's most distinguished artistic figures. He has received numerous awards and distinctions including two of the most prestigious, the MacArthur Foundation's so-called "genius" award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Harbison has composed music for most of America's premiere musical institutions, including most recently the Boston Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera. He has also served as Composer-in-Residence for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His commitment to liturgical music spans his entire career, and encompasses major works, e.g. Requiem and The Flight into Egypt. Harbison currently occupies an Institute Professorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the highest academic distinction MIT offers to resident faculty. He also serves as president of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. More than 40 of his compositions are recorded commercially. His music is exclusively published by Associated Music Publishers/G. Schirmer, Inc. 

Advertising and Sponsorship Information

New Composers' Prize Created In Evanston Suburban Chicago-based Northwestern University has established a new $100,000 prize for composers, instantly making it one of the most lucrative awards in the industry. "The winner of the biennial Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, one of the world's largest awards for composers, will also be given a four-week residency at the School of Music and a performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in addition to the cash prize." The Daily Northwestern 11/13/03 

Disney As Hard Rock Cafe? Alex Ross goes to Disney Hall: "Gehry’s building is enjoying a mammoth wave of publicity, the like of which has not been seen in classical parts since Lenny partied with the Panthers on Park Avenue. My first reaction was of slightly disappointed déjà vu; if more of these silver-winged creations touch down in cities around the world, they will begin to resemble quarter-of-a-billion-dollar Hard Rock Cafés." The New Yorker 11/10/03 

Director Moons Booing Audience (Now He Pays The Price) When a Rio audience booed Gerald Thomas' reworking of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," he went up on stage and dropped his pants, mooning the crowd. "Now Mr. Thomas, the eternal enfant terrible of Brazilian theater, is paying the price. Acting on a complaint filed by the local chief of police, prosecutors have charged him with public indecency, and on Nov. 11 he is scheduled to appear before a judge who will decide whether there are grounds to proceed with the case." The New York Times 11/11/03 

Mozart Mass Reconstructed A lost setting of a mass Mozart wrote for his wedding, has been reconstructed and will be performed for the first time since the ceremony. "Passages plundered for later works, after Mozart decided not to finish the piece, have been re-assembled and a final section written. The jigsaw puzzle has taken two years of research and composition, using records of Mozart's work." The Guardian (UK) 11/13/03 

Bye-Bye CD's? "The future of the album - both in its physical form and as a grouping of related songs - is being pondered by everyone from bands who refuse to provide their music to online services to technology analysts, who predict that the CD will become passé within the next five years. It's a pressing concern, given the decline of record sales since 2000 and the popularity of downloading singles by a public tired of paying $15 for an album with one hit and lots of padding." Christian Science Monitor 11/14/03 

Hogwood: Opera Amputees - Is It Really Fair? Christopher Hogwood laments the casual way opera directors edit and disfigure operas. "The great liberties taken in opera productions today are often laughable and ludicrous: think of Brünnhilde with her head in a paper bag or cleaning her teeth while Siegfried is declaiming his love, or of the chorus in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera sitting on toilets. But such silliness is, strictly speaking, cosmetic: close your eyes and the music proceeds as intended, and eventually she removes the paper bag and they pull up their trousers. But amputate an aria, remove a recitative, reallocate an interval and, even with eyes closed, the structure wobbles fatally." The Guardian (UK) 11/16/03 

Classical Music As Racist Institution Charlotte Higgins is unequivocal: Classical music is institutionally racist. The extent to which it is dominated by white faces - audiences, performers, administrators and critics alike - is overwhelming. Black taxpayers may be paying their share of the bill for an important tranche of Britain's cultural life, but few are either participating in it or enjoying it. British theatre may be witnessing a flowering of extraordinary black acting and writing talent, but classical music remains determinedly white. This lack of participation, however, does not reflect lack of appetite." The Guardian (UK) 11/14/03 

At Home With Pinchas Zukerman It's been five years since Pinchas Zukerman took over as music director of Ottawa's National Arts Center Orchestra. "Whatever the specific contributions of each of the current administrators, the National Arts Center Orchestra seems to be thriving, and this at a time when many Canadian orchestras are suffering much the same economic woes as their American counterparts. True, it operates on a relatively small scale. With 50 permanent members, it is about half the size of the largest North American orchestras." The New York Times 11/16/03 

Rattle + Berlin In America A season after he took over as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle is bringing the orchestra to America. "Today's Berlin, Rattle has found, is a lively, slightly dangerous place in which to live. The Russian Mafia, a holdover from the Cold War era, is still in evidence in this gateway to the East. In a strange way the BPO mirrors this rough-and-tumble society, he says. 'They tend to hire musicians that other orchestras reject as being too extreme - people who are chamber musicians rather than orchestra musicians. One of them said to me, `Simon, we're sick of experience. What we want is talent.' However, because the Berlin Philharmonic of 2003 is more heterogeneous in its membership than ever before in its 121-year history does not mean it has lost its distinctive character." Chicago Tribune 11/16/03 

One Of The UK's Largest-Ever Private Gifts To The Arts... A London businessman is giving £20 million to be split between the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre and form a partnership between the two. It is one of the largest single private donations ever made to the performing arts in the UK. "The gift comes with strings: as well as cooperating with one another, both will be expected to work with opera and ballet companies in South Africa" The Guardian (UK) 11/16/03 

 Last Week's News

ABSOLUTE KRONOS.  Jennifer Culp, cello; David Harrington, violin;  John Sherpa, violin; and Hank Dutt, viola

Kronos Quartet Makes
Visual Music at Zankel Hall
How do they do it?  On Friday night, the hearty souls that make up the  Kronos Quartet played in Dijon; a couple of days before that, in Paris; the previous week in Amsterdam.  But, there they were last night (Sunday) at the sold-out Zankel Hall with the New York premiere of a strange and intriguing program called Visual Music made up of a nonstop melange of  works by Steve Reich, John Zorn, Scott Johnson, Mark Grey, Bernard Herrman, Colon Nancarrow, Krzystof Penderecki, Terry Riley, and the Icelandic pop rock group, Sigur Ros.

I especially liked John Zorn's Cat o' Nine Tails (Tex Avery Directs the Marquis de Sade), which has 51 distinct "moments" (as Zorn calls his indivudal riffs) in less than 15 minutes.  It's quick-cut cinematic music that is great fun to hear.  Colon Nancarrow's "Boogie Woogie #3A" is a manic player piano piece translated for string quartet by  the composer and sound sculptor Trimpin, who designed an electronic system that could scan player piano rolls and digitize the notes, and further refined by Mark Grey through sampling so the Kronos can play it. Pendereck's wonderful "String Quartet No. 1" anchored the middle portion of the program and gave the players a chance to show what they can do without electronics.  What they can do is pretty much whatever they want.

To tell the truth, the program would have been fine if they had simply played each piece individually and skipped the film and multimedia elements but when you're trying to sell classical music to people with short attention spans, every little bit of theater helps.  (Or, maybe, the Kronos members are so talented that it doesn't distract that much.)

This is difficult, gnarly music and no group around has played it longer or better.  When it come to bringing classical music and the MTV, the Kronos Quartet rules.--Jerry Bowles

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
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

Carnegie Debut for Symphony
Orchestra of Puerto Rico

The Symphony Orchestra of Puerto Rico, under the baton of Music Director Guillermo Figueroa, will make its Carnegie Hall debut on Tuesday, November 18, 2003, 8 PM at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall.

Works to be presented will include excerpts from the Requiem by J. I. Quintón, Beyond the Silence of Sorrow, a cycle of songs by Roberto Sierra and the Symphonie Fantastique, op. 14, by Hector Berlioz.

The program will feature distinguished soloists sopranos Ana María Martínez and June Anderson, mezzo soprano Jossie Pérez and the Centennial Chorus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Tickets for this concert are from $20 to $100, and are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, online from CarnegieCharge at  or by phone at 212-247-7800, 8 AM to 8 PM, 7 days a week.

             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

 Quattrains, My Ends are My Beginnings
Composer: Milton Babbitt
Conductor: Tony Arnold
Performer: Jeffrey Milarsky, Charles Neidich, et al.,  Cygnus Ensemble

Another remarkable gift from Bridge Records, containing  the premiere recordings of five Babbitt works that span a quarter of a century. The CD opens with a performance of Babbitt’s exquisite "Quatrains", sung by the young American soprano, Tony Arnold. Set to a text by a Babbitt favorite–John Hollander–"Quatrains" is a work of great delicacy and subtlety. "My Ends Are My Beginnings" is regarded by many as one of most difficult-to-play works for a solo woodwind instrument. The work’s dedicatee, Allen Blustine (long-time clarinetist for Speculum Musicae), gives a heroic reading of this 17 minute solo. 

World to Come
Composers:  David Lang, Osvaldo Golijov, etc.
Performer(s): Maya Beiser
Koch Int'l Classics 

As a performer and promoter of new music, Maya Beiser is  peerless--a terrific  example of how to package the work of "difficult" composers in a kind of  modern hipness without compromising the music or the performance.  Here, Beiser's taste and musicality are flawless, a short but brilliant piece by Osvaldo Golijov, familiar works by the always popular Arvo Part and John Tavener, and the centerpiece, a long and  moving meditation on 9/11 by David Lang, whose work continues to marvel as it matures and grows in stature. 


13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic
The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
pfMENTUM 2003

Jeff Kaiser's CDs always create a moral dilemma for me because they come packaged in such beautiful, Japanese-style, wrappings that I am reluctant to untie the string to get to the CD itself.  Once you get past that point, however, you discover that the music is fresh and inventive and not easily categorized.  Is it jazz, with a classical touch?  Or classical, with a touch of jazz?  Doesn't really matter, it's highly original and the packaging is second to nobody.


Various Composers

The CD reissue of a noted series of seven 10-inch vinyl eps that Cold Blue released in the early 1980s. Extraordinary music from composers Peter Garland, Rick Cox, Barney Childs, Read Miller, Michael Jon Fink, Daniel Lentz, and Chas Smith. Music for violins and percussion, electric guitar, eletronic keyboards with voices, solo and duo pianos, cello, pedal steel guitar, wind instruments of pre-Columbian design, readers, and more--all precursors of a certain genre  of "California ambiance."  Highly recommended.

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. 

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