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 December 8-15, 2003
Grawemeyer Award 
Goes to Unsuk Chin
Unsuk Chin has won the 2004 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, premiered in 2002. The award, worth $200,000, is given annually by the Grawemeyer Foundation for a work that makes an outstanding contribution to the field of musical composition. 

The prize announcement describes Chin’s
Violin Concerto as “a synthesis of glittering orchestration, rarefied sonorities, volatility of expression, musical puzzles and unexpected turns”.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1961, Unsuk Chin studied piano and composition at Seoul National University. Following lessons in piano and music theory from a very early age, her studies continued at the National University Seoul, including composition with Sukhi Kang.

She appeared as pianist at the Pan Music Festivals and in 1984 her composition Gestalten (Figures) was selected for the ISCM World Music Days in Canada and for the UNESCO 'Rostrum for Composers.'

In 1985 she moved to Hamburg to study on a DAAD scholarship with György Ligeti, and settled in Berlin in 1988. Initially, her output remained relatively unknown outside electronic music circles. In 1994 she was talent-scouted by Boosey & Hawkes following successful performances of Acrostic-Wordplay, which led to the signing of an exclusive publishing agreement.

Her most widely performed work is Acrostic- Wordplay for solo soprano and ensemble, programmed by such leading ensembles as Ensemble Modern conducted by George Benjamin, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Simon Rattle, the Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam, Asko Ensemble, Ictus Ensemble, and new music groups of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra. 

In 2001 she was appointed composerin-
residence with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester; the culmination of this collaboration was the commissioning of the Violin Concerto. The work was premiered to public and critical acclaim in January 2002 with Viviane Hagner as soloist and the DSO conducted by Kent Nagano.

Chin’s Violin Concerto, one of her most distinctive works, blends a highly individual contemporary soundworld with a traditional four-movement classical symphonic form. Following its Berlin premiere last year, the
concerto has been performed by the Seoul Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. 

Chin’s future composition projects include a stagework for the Los Angeles Opera is planned for premiere in the 2005-06 season, along with a new work co-commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, St. Pölten Festival (Austria), and the Ensemble InterContemporain for premiere in 2005. The Ensemble Intercontemporain has recorded a disc of her works for future release on Deutsche Grammophon, containing Acrostic-Wordplay,  Fantaisie mécanique, Xi, and the Double Concerto.

Advertising and Sponsorship Information
Lawrence Dillon's "Wright Flight - A Symphonic Narrative" To Be Performed 
at Kitty Hawk on December 15 and 16

 As part of the centennial celebration of the Wright brothers first flight on December 17, 1903, The National Park Service will present Lawrence Dillon's "Wright Flight - A Symphonic Narrative" on Monday, December 15 and Tuesday, December 16 at the Wright Brothers National Park, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Expected among the invited guests in the audience are heroes from the history of flight, including astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

 This performance, to be given by the North Carolina School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Zehnacker, is a multimedia theatrical re-enactment of the Wright brothers historic achievement, and includes live narration and historic photographs projected on screen with an original orchestra composition by Lawrence Dillon. The script is based on actual events, and the Wright brothers' text comes directly from their letters and journals. 

Dillon developed the concept and script and wrote the music for this tribute to the events of Dec. 17, 1903. "I wanted to write this piece because I was inspired by the story of two brothers who mustered
 together the imagination, scientific study and hard physical labor to achieve their dreams," says Dillon. For more information about Lawrence Dillon.

Why Isn't Contemporary Music More Popular? Charles Rosen laments in his new book about the lack of appreciation for 20th Century music. Denis Dutton argues that Rosen is wrong to blame audiences, and might better look to the music itself. DenisDutton.com 12/01/03 

Is PR Ruining Classical Music? In pop music "stars are manufactured by TV companies in programmes such as Pop Idol and Fame Academy. But, increasingly, there’s an element of it too in classical music. Not so much from the "talent show" angle - the epitome of which, at least where raw young talent is concerned, is probably the BBC’s serious-minded and professionally engineered Young Musician of the Year competition - as the scurrying efforts by struggling record companies to mould and flog the latest classical superstar." The Scotsman 12/02/03 

Is Cold Weather The Strad Secret? A mini-ice age that gripped Europe from the 15th to the 19th century may just hold the secret to the spectacular sound of the Stradivarius violin. According to a theory being advanced by two American researchers, the cold weather yielded an unusually dense grade of spruce, which serves as a near-perfect sounding board for the instruments crafted by Italian master Antonio Stradivari. Chicago Sun-Times 12/03/03 

Met Opera Gets Major Grant For Broadcasts "The Annenberg Foundation has given $3.5 million to the Metropolitan Opera to help keep its treasured Saturday afternoon live radio broadcasts on the air next season, the opera company said yesterday. The money, it said, is the largest gift ever made to the Met's annual-giving fund. The contribution is a response to ChevronTexaco's decision in May to withdraw its support after the 2003-4 season, ending a 63-year relationship that has been the longest continuous commercial sponsorship in broadcast history... But the Annenberg gift takes the Met only halfway there, and for only one year; the broadcasts cost the Met $7 million a year, so another single corporate sponsor is still being sought to replace ChevronTexaco." The New York Times 12/04/03 

Klass: Classical Music Needs To Be Hipper (Maybe A Leather Jacket?) Former pop singer Myleene Klass - now trying to make a career in classical music, says classical music has to get hipper, not dumber: "Donning a leather jacket doesn't just suddenly make you accessible, it is the whole package. I think that's what the classical world needs to give. Let's get everything to the same edgy degree that the pop world's got at, because it looks stronger on the television - none of this soft-focus classical nonsense. Let's make it edgy, let's make it current, let's make it exciting." BBC 12/04/03 

Beethoven Quartet Sells For $2 Million Beethoven's Opus 127 String Quartet has sold at auction for just over $2 million. "The scherzo manuscript of the quartet is clearly a working document, with smudges, parts crossed out and late alterations added. Prince Galitzin of Russia, who played cello, commissioned Beethoven to write three quartets in 1822, but the composer was inspired to produce five." Baltimore Sun (AP) 12/05/03 

English National Opera Director Quits Paul Daniel, who has been mujsic director of the English National Opera for eight years, is quitting. The troubled company has just come through a rocky 18 months. "Mr Daniel has been unhappy at ENO since the mid-2002 resignation of Nicholas Payne, its general director. 'It's been hard to square what's happened over the past 18 months. I've been emotionally caught up in this. The change has been pretty distressing." The Guardian (UK) 12/05/03 

Sweeney In The Opera House "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has come to rank with Wozzeck and Peter Grimes in opera's catalogue of 20th-century tragic heroes," writes Rupert Christiansen. And thus "Sweeney Todd" comes to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. The dialogue is being miked...er, make that "reinforced." Why? Audiences are lazy today, says the production's conductor. "It's very destructive. I recognise that synthesizers are useful, but they eliminate instruments like the harp or guitar, and we've lost the possibilities of creating a deep string sound. It's a joy at Covent Garden to be playing Sweeney Todd with a 50-piece orchestra." The Telegraph (UK) 12/06/03 

Fenice Rises Again In Venice "Like its namesake, the phoenix, La Fenice has finally risen from the ashes. The whole saga has resembled one of those long, tumultuous operas in which everything turns out more or less all right in the final act. Next Sunday, in the presence of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the Italian president, La Fenice reborn will open its doors. Yet even now, this is a reopening without opera." There will be an opening week of concerts, and then the doors will "close again until Nov. 12, 2004, when Lorin Maazel will conduct a new production of "La Traviata." The New York Times 12/07/03 

Why La Fenice Is So Beloved "A stunningly beautiful building La Fenice certainly is. Ingeniously wedged into a tiny space surrounded by canals just to the west of St Mark's square, it had only 814 seats, now 990 (compared with La Scala's or Covent Garden's 2,000). With its curves, its rococo decorations and its five levels of blue-and-gold boxes, galleries and its crystal lamps, it radiates a matchless theatrical warmth. But the reason the Venice opera house has a special place in the hearts of opera lovers is also the reason why it burned to the ground in January 1996." The Guardian (UK) 12/06/03 

Interpret Away...(or not) "Unlike sculpture, music is inevitably different in every manifestation," writes David Patrick Stearns. "Whether huge or minute, those differences can be charted, albeit simplistically, on a continuum between two poles: objective to subjective in some parlance, classical to romantic in another. Is the conductor a conduit of the composer? Or a prism? Not everybody falls squarely into one of these camps, and when someone does, it's not an everyday thing. Sometimes, the most freewheeling musician turns out to be anything but." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/07/03 

 Last Week's News

Grammy Nominations for Best
Contemporary Composition

Argento: Casa Guidi
      Dominick Argento (Frederica von Stade, mezzo soprano; Eiji Oue; Minnesota
      Track from: Argento: Casa Guidi; Capriccio For Clarinet And Orchestra, Etc.
      Reference Recordings

Kurtág: Signs, Games And Messages
      György Kurtág (Orlando Trio)
      Track from: Kurtág: Signs, Games And Messages; Hölderin-Gesänge, Etc.
      ECM New Series

Lees: Symphony No. 5 "Kalmar Nyckel"
      Benjamin Lees (Stephen Gunzenhauser; Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz)
      Track from: Lees: Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 & 5,   Albany Records

Rochberg: Symphony No. 5
      George Rochberg (Christopher Lyndon-Gee; Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra)
      Track from: Rochberg: Symphony No. 5; Black Sounds, Etc.

Serebrier: Symphony No. 3
      José Serebrier (Carole Farley, soprano; José Serebrier; Toulouse National
      Chamber Orchestra)
      Track from: Serebrier: Symphony No. 3; Passacaglia And Perpetuum Mobile, Etc.

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
             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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