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 December 15-22, 2003
Elliott Carter 
American Master At 95
Composer: Elliott Carter, Conductor: William Purvis, Performer: David Starobin, Daniel Druckman, Speculum Musicae, Bridge - #9111
Elliott Carter is a giant of contemporary music, whose astonishing productivity over recent years has produced many critically acclaimed works, and earned him a string of awards and accolades. Carter turned 95 on December 11 and the birthday season brings salutes from performing organizations around the world. 

Speculum Musicae is performing Carter's "Au Quai"; "Triple Duo"; Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord at Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W. 67th St., at 8 pm tonight (Monday).

Carter began to be seriously interested in music in high school and was encouraged at that time by Charles Ives. He attended Harvard University where he studied with Walter Piston, and later went to Paris where for three years he studied with Nadia Boulanger. He then returned to New York to devote his time to composing and teaching. 

One of the extraordinary features of Carter’s career is his astonishing productivity and creative vitality as he reaches the midpoint of his tenth decade. Critics agree that his recent scores are among the most attractive, deeply-felt and compelling works he has ever written. 

This creative burst began in earnest during the 1980s, which brought major orchestral essays such as Oboe Concerto (1986-87), Three Occasions (completed 1989) and his enormously successful Violin Concerto (1990), which has been performed in more than a dozen countries

Carter’s crowning achievement as an orchestral composer may be his 50-minute triptych Symphonia: sum fluxae pretium spei [ "I am the prize of flowing hope"], which received its first integral performance on April 25, 1998 with Oliver Knussen conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of the ISCM World Music Days in Manchester.
Carter’s first opera, What Next? commissioned by the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, was introduced there in 1999 under Daniel Barenboim. The 45-minute work, to a libretto by Paul Griffiths, comments wryly on the human condition as its six characters, unhurt but confused,

What Next? / Asko Concerto
Composer: Elliott Carter
Conductor: Peter Eotvos
confront the aftermath of an auto accident.What Next? has been hailed by critics from around the world for its wit, assured vocal writing, and refined orchestration; it has just been issued by ECM, paired with Asko Concerto.

Elliott Carter has been recipient of the highest honors that a composer can receive: the Gold Medal for Music awarded by the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Medal of Arts, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and honorary degrees from many universities. He has received two Pulitzer Prizes and commissions from prestigious organizations. 

With his creative vitality at its height, Carter's newest work, Dialogues, receives its world premiere shortly after his 95th birthday, and will be performed in the presence of the composer by the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Oliver Knussen, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on Friday 23 January 2004.

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3, Dialogues has been written for pianist Nicolas Hodges, the London Sinfonietta and Oliver Knussen, and is described by Carter as 'a conversation between the soloist and the orchestra'.

Advertising and Sponsorship Information
Of Thee I Sing (Won't Anybody Listen?) Why is choral music such an outsider in the larger music world? Indeed, choral music has almost as much trouble gaining acceptance as new music. "Could it be that the choral world has too strong a hold on its citizenship? Are the immigration policies too stringent to allow "non-choral composers" inside, and likewise, to allow "choral composers" opportunities to sell their wares to the outside world? Certainly composers such as Arvo Pärt are becoming known in the choral world almost to the point of being appropriated into that 'community,' albeit willingly. On the other hand, many composers find it difficult to break into, but not for lack of desire." NewMusicBox 12/03 

SF Opera Posts $3.8 Million Deficit "The San Francisco Opera will close the books on the 2003 fiscal year with an operating deficit of $3.8 million, General Director Pamela Rosenberg said Friday. That deficit on an operating budget of approximately $60 million is a sizable amount, but far less than the previous year's loss of $7.6 million -- not to mention the $9.2 million shortfall that company officials had originally predicted." San Francisco Chronicle 12/08/03 

Iraq Symphony In DC The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra arrives in Washington DC to perform at the Kennedy Center. "Our objective is not (just) to come here and play music, but to play music through our point of view and the way we understand it." CNN.com 12/09/03 
Cold Weather Equals Good Violins The wood used by the old master Italian violin makers was special - the product of a mini ice age in Europe. "Trees grow slower in colder weather, producing denser wood for that season. So, narrower tree rings grow in cold weather than rings grown in warmer seasons. Narrow tree rings would not only strengthen the violin but would increase the wood's density, the researchers said. The change in climate therefore made a difference to the violins' tone and brilliance, they said." Discovery 12/10/03 

The Last Year Of Met Radio? For 64 years the Metropolitan Opera has been broadcast on radio every saturday afternoon while the company was in season. But this season may be the last. The broadcasts have "been a cultural lifeline for generations of listeners, both those who live in places far removed from any opera company and those who may live just a subway ride from Lincoln Center but can't afford to attend. They are carried by some 365 stations in the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, South America, 27 European countries, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, reaching, according to the opera company's most recent survey, an estimated total of more than 11 million. The Met has been unable to obtain a new sponsor to pick up the annual $7 million cost of the broadcasts." The New York Times 12/12/03 

Do Musicians Know Best? Orchestra musicians aren't always the best judge of the conductors who make them sound best, observes John Rockwell. "Whereas critics tend to prize creative excitement, profundity of interpretation and charisma, orchestra musicians — while hardly forswearing such virtues, at least in principle — often seem to base their decisions about a conductor on his rehearsal efficiency and lack of pretension. There can be no doubt that Mr. Maazel is a fabulous technician. A lot of us agree that the orchestra has rarely if ever played better; it gleams. And no doubt his rehearsals run like clockwork. The controversy has to do with his interpretive skills, or depth, or vision. And the concern is that for all the pride orchestral players take in their music-making, efficiency trumps inspiration when they come to pick a music director." The New York Times 12/12/03 

Robertson To St. Louis David Robertson, a 45-year-old American who has been among the rising stars of the conducting world in recent years, has been appointed the new music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, beginning in fall 2005. The SLSO has been without a chief conductor since last April, when Hans Vonk was forced to step down because of severe health problems. The appointment is something of a public relations coup for the orchestra: the SLSO came close to bankruptcy last year before making a good recovery, and Robertson had been on the reported shortlist of nearly every major orchestra searching for a music director over the last few years. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/09/03 

Putting Mahler In The Right Order When Mahler wrote his almost unbearably bleak 6th symphony, he broke up the pervasive despair of the score with a beautiful, lush slow movement. Mahler originally intended the slow movement to be played just before the finale, but then switched it with the scherzo movement in the work's first rehearsals. The new order remained the standard until 1963, after Mahler's death, when the inner movements were flipped again, ostensibly because of 'new scholarship' on the work. "Now it has become clear that the transposition of movements was no mere mistake but a willful act of an editor, Erwin Ratz." The New York Times 12/14/03 

The Power Of Small-Time Orchestras Major symphony orchestras are cultural treasures, and a point of pride for the cities which have them. But for every big-budget, 95-member symphony orchestra, there are countless smaller, semi-professional orchestras performing across America, feeding the desire of ordinary concertgoers for an affordable night out listening to great music in a more casual setting than the big boys offer. "These orchestras truly live by their own rules, mixing classical and pops on the same program. They often flourish during tough economic times that bring larger orchestras down... At the very least, these orchestras offer the tactile experience of being in the same room with a masterpiece." Philadelphia Inquirer 12/14/03 

The Savior Of St. Louis? David Robertson's appointment as music director of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra seems to be solidifying the notion that the SLSO, so recently on the brink of financial collapse, is back as a major player on the national orchestral scene. "A lot was riding on the identity of the new music director. The wrong conductor could have derailed the orchestra's forward momentum, artistically and financially. But the right conductor - and there can be little doubt that Robertson's the one - will build on what his predecessors left him and then help the orchestra on to even greater things." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/14/03 

 Last Week's News

A Night at the Movies
With Music by Relache
By Deborah Kravetz

Movie music is designed to reinforce the emotion of what is seen, rather than to stand on its own. I recently attended a performance of  improvisational music with dance, and I found that I was so entranced by the movement, I had no recollection of the music. One of the musicians assured me that I would certainly have noticed if it had stopped. So it is with silent movies--they are very silent, but with the addition of musical accompaniment, they spring to full life.

With this performance in conjunction with the Film at the Prince series, Relache is reviving accompaniment to old movies.

Music written in the style of film music—the kinotek style, was not designed for any particular film, but published in Germany in the late 1920s in an index of music suitable for films. Two of these suites, by Franz Schreker (1929) and Josef Hauer (1927), have their US premiere at this concert. Listening to these suites, it is possible to imagine the visual actions they are intended to enhance. They are not as trite as some programmatic music, but more sophisticated. It would have been more interesting to see them with film.

With the ensemble, guest artist Ikue Mori played the drum machine and electronics in Relache commissions for two short films by Man Ray and Helen Levitt. The Man Ray film Le Retour a la raison (1923) was very abstract visually --flickering fragments, floating objects and confetti, and the staccato sounds were eminently congruent. In contrast, the Helen Levitt film, In the Street (1952), features people and sidewalk scenes of simple actions and emotions. Mori's music is sprightly, with an ethnic influence, mirroring the people filmed, their postures, gestures, conversations, strides and affectations.

The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra, a 1927 film by Slavko Vorkapich, is noted for its jagged visuals, stark silhouettes, surreality and noir lighting, and the music by Leroy Jenkins, Eugoloid in Color (2002), consists of structured improvisations well-suited to the rapidly escalating intensity of the visuals.

Entr'acte was originally written by Erik Satie in 1924 to go between two ballets. The short film by Rene Clair of the same year shows a dancing cannon, jumping men who discuss how to fire it, rando m city scenes, dolls, boxing gloves, and flashing lights before turning into a nightmare funeral procession with a runaway hearse and a coffin that opens to reveal a magician who disappears everything around him before disappearing himself. The humor in the visuals was appropriately highlighted in the accompaniment.

Relache's Visions Sonic + Surreal
Prince Theater
December 6, 2003

(Reposted from, Penn Sounds 12/10/03)

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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