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CARLISLE FLOYD AWARDED
NATIONAL MEDAL OF ARTS
nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. Medals also went to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, author Ray Bradbury, sculptor
Frederick Hart (deceased), poet Anthony Hecht (deceased), wildlife artist John Ruthven, architectural historian Vincent Scully, and choreographer Twyla Tharp.
eight [recipients] have significantly enriched the cultural life of our
nation through their creativity, teaching, and beneficent
Floyd is considered by many the most important American opera composer and librettist in our nation’s history. With Susannah (1955), Of Mice and Men (1970), and Cold Sassy Tree (2000), he has more titles in the standard repertoire than any other U.S.-born composer. In addition, his operas Willie Stark and The Passion of Jonathan Wade have been featured productions in companies such as the Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera, San Diego Opera, and New York City Opera among others.
Floyd's commitment to American opera spans more than 50 years, representing a dedication to new works and new singers. His operas have been performed more than any other living American composer aside from Gian Carlo Menotti. Through his 12 operas, his expressive clarity, lyricism, and realization of the value of song have ensured a dedicated following among both audiences and critics.
The element that makes Floyd stand out among his peers is his ability to write successful operas that capture what it is to live in the United States. Whether set in the Appalachian Mountains, Louisiana, a small Georgia town, or California’s central valley, Floyd gave America an operatic voice. Using hymns, spirituals, and jazz in sophisticated, lucid, and powerful ways, Floyd has helped shape the formation of an American operatic style.
As an educator, Floyd has played a crucial role in two important training programs. In 1977, he was co-founder of the Houston Opera Studio. He also accepted the M.D. Anderson Professorship at the University of Houston, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to passing on his vision of contemporary music to new generations of composers and singers.
Floyd has received honors from arts organizations, educational establishments, and governments and in 2001 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His most performed opera, Susannah, won the New York Music Critic's Circle Award and represented America at the 1958 Brussels World Fair. Andrew Porter of The New Yorker summarized the lasting value of Floyd's oeuvre saying, "He has learned the international language of successful opera in order to speak it in his own accents and to enrich it with the musical and vernacular idioms of his own country.”
Medal of Arts, established by Congress in 1984, is awarded by the President
to those who have made extraordinary contributions
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
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures
Composer: Steve Reich
Orchestre National de Lyon
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
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
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,
Composer: Sergei Rachmaninov
Stephen Hough (piano),
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton
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
Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello),
Evelyn Glennie (timpani),
Jonathan Haas (timpani),
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,
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
Mass - A Theatre Piece for
Singers, Players & Dancers
Composer: Leonard Bernstein
Jerry Hadley (tenor),
Paci. c Mozart Ensemble,
Staats-und Domchor Berlin,
Orchester Berlin, Kent Nagano
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
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
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.
Philadelphia Stories / UFO
Composer: Michael Daugherty
Performers: Evelyn Glennie, percussion / Colorado Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop, conductor
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.
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.
Composer: Dan Locklair
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.
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
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.
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