About Us
Essential Library
Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
  December 30-January 5, 2003

John Adams to Write 
Dr. Atomic for SF Opera
John Adams has been commissioned by the San Francisco Opera to compose a work about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist largely credited with the creation of the first atomic bomb, at Los Alamos, N.M., in the 1940s.

"Doctor Atomic" is the working title of the new two-act opera, which will make its world premiere in an S.F. Opera production during the company's 2005-06 season. The commission will mark general director Pamela Rosenberg's first world premiere with S.F. Opera and will be presented as part of Rosenberg's "Animating Opera" Faust project, which was announced in January 2000.

The commission reunites the creative team of Adams, librettist Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars. The three previously collaborated on Adams' "Nixon in China," which premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 1987; and "The Death of Klinghoffer," an S.F. Opera co-commission that premiered in Brussels in 1991 and received its West Coast premiere in San Francisco in 1992.

Donald Runnicles will conduct the new production, which is being co-produced by Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The chief characters have not yet been cast. Oppenheimer will be a baritone, and other characters include Edward Teller (bass-baritone), Kitty Oppenheimer (mezzo-soprano), Mici Teller (high mezzo-soprano), Elsie McMillan (high soprano) and a triple tenor role: Sen. Hickenlooper, King Juda of the Bikini Islands and Edwin McMillan. 

Commenting on the new work, Adams said:  "I'm interested in using in part the structure of the 1950s science fiction movie. 

"These events were played out during a time when all those movies about bombs and monsters and strange genetic mutations were very popular, and they invaded the consciousness, the unconsciousness, of the country. That's why I chose the title, because it had a certain '50s, sci-fi resonance."

John Adams Web Site


What's Recent

A Bridge Not Far Enough
Turnage Signs With B&H
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
The Good Solider Schweik
Neely Bruce Loves a Parade
John Cage's 90th Anniversary
Michael Gordon's Decasia
Bright Sheng's Silver River
 Earle Brown Dies
Oliver Knussen at 50
John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts
Interview with Gloria Coates
Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton
Julia Wolfe after minimalism
Philip Glass at 65
Interview with Poul Ruders
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

Langston Hughes Opera Recovered A long lost blues opera by Lanston Hughes and James P. Johnson performed only three times in 1940 has been reconstructed and performed. "The music is a combination of jazz, swing, blues and ragtime, all set within a classical structure. At various points it recalls the work of Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin and Dvorak. Some of the numbers set spectators to tapping their fingers and toes in rhythm." The New York Times 12/28/02

Dumbing Down Music On TV Make classical music "relevant"? "Hip"? "Glamorous"? The new Classic FM TV packages classical music into three-minute MTV-style videos, but far from making it attractive, it succeeds in "creating bland 'easy listening' versions that are impossible for any serious musician to listen to." London Evening Standard 12/27/02

Anyone Can Conduct, Right? Punk Rocker Leads Royal Philharmonic A British TV show called "Faking It" picked a punk rocker out of a pub and spent four weeks teaching him how to conduct a symphony orchestra - the Royal Philharmonic. "His first hurdle was learning to read music: 'I didn't do that well at school. So at first I just saw little black dots. The experts said, 'There's no right way to conduct but there's a wrong way.' I found it incredibly confusing." London Evening Standard 12/23/02

When Violins Are Played Only As "Investment Opportunities" Owners of a 1718 Stradivarius violin have loaned it to the concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony. But only for two-and-a-half weeks. Then it's back to the vault in which it lives. Why? The instrument is for sale, and it's good publicity to get it played. But the instruments are so expensive - this one valued at about $3 million - that very few musicians could ever afford to play, let alone own one. Detroit Free Press 12/29/02

Vintage Sound On Vintage Machines Melbourne's Vintage Sound Association is into old recordings. Not CD's. Nopt even LP's. "The club, which has 20 members, meets once a month at the South Camberwell Tennis Club to play their old music on their old machines. Some use cylinders, which, before records, were the original sound source. Later examples, the gramophones, often feature the big conical horns, which in the vintage era acted as speakers. Some units have two horns as an early example of 'stereo'." The Age (Melbourne) 12/27/02

Classical Gas - Stuck In The Past? Why do people constantly dump on classical music? Justin Davidson writes that "those who are most passionate about the art are also people with a strong allegiance to the past - often stronger, in fact, than their affection for the present. Connoisseurs believe in a golden age, when composers really knew how to write, performers knew how to play and music lovers knew how to listen. To members of this cult of bygones, John Adams is a puny figure hopping alongside the colossus of Beethoven, and the violinist Maxim Vengerov a flickering shade in the brilliance of Nathan Milstein. The present is degraded precisely because it can never be the past." Chicago Tribune (Newsday) 12/24/02

"Silent Night" Restored to Original Version Think you know "Silent Night? You don't know the "real" "Silent Night." "The modern version comprises only the first two and the last of six original verses." And there has been a minor musical revision. Now "the Silent Night Association, an Austrian-based appreciation society, has now released a CD containing all the words, sung in 15 languages, in time for Christmas. The music differs subtly in two bars but the change is barely noticeable." The Telegraph (UK) 12/22/02

We Dig World Music - Just One Question...What Is It? World Music is hot. Yet the genre is so broad, defining it leads to all sorts of disagreements. "Such acute diversity can be bewildering. If you’ve ever thought that the term 'world music' is one of convenience, you are right. It was, according to Radio 3’s most sturdily-accented presenter, Andy Kershaw, coined by 'six independent record companies in a room above a pub in Islington in 1986'." The Scotsman 12/24/02

 Last Week's News

Advertising and Sponsorship Info

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  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.

Meet The Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League have announced the fourth season of their MUSIC ALIVE Composers and Orchestras Together.  Nine American composers and eight orchestras have been selected to participate in MUSIC ALIVE residencies of  two to three weeks in duration, beginning in fall 2003 and extending through spring 2004. 

Since the creation of MUSIC ALIVE in 1999, this far-reaching residency 
program has succeeded in advancing American orchestras involvement with 
living composers and fostering greater awareness and appreciation for 
contemporary music.  To date, MUSIC ALIVE has supported a total of 28 
residencies bringing 34 composers together with 25 orchestras.  The 
participating orchestras have reflected a broad geographic and budget range, 
from youth and regional orchestras to major symphony orchestras with 
international reputations.  The participating composers have ranged from established Pulitzer Prize winners to largely undiscovered emerging talents.  Their music has covered an exciting and extensive stylistic terrain.

In announcing the latest round of awards, Jesse Rosen, chief program officer of The League, and Heather Hitchens, president of Meet The Composer, reflected that "We see an encouraging trend of significantly increased programming of works by living composers by American orchestras, as well as dramatically enhanced audience receptivity to these new works.  Music Alive 
has been an important catalyst in propelling this trend, and reaffirms our 
belief that when orchestras draw upon the manifold strengths of composers and engage them as artistic collaborators, new music can thrive."

This year’s MUSIC ALIVE awards continue this trend, and demonstrate an encouraging vitality among this diverse group of American orchestras and composers.  The awardees include established composers like Chen Yi and Anthony Davis and exciting rising talents like Naomi Sekiya and Kenji Bunch, paired with orchestras that extend across the USA. 

Meet The Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League joined forces in 1999 for the first time  to launch MUSIC ALIVE.  This national residency program was created to generate ongoing support by symphony orchestras for living composers and their music.  It enables American orchestras of all 
sizes to have a composer-in-residence for periods of two to eight weeks to 
coincide with performances of their works.  Through the short but intense 
immersion approach of MUSIC ALIVE, the process of building adventurous 
audiences is accelerated.  Composers participate not only in a wide range of 
community outreach and educational activities, but they also work internally
with their host orchestras: supporting the work of the marketing and 
publications departments; advocating new music among trustees and staff; 
collaborating with the music director; and assisting in the performance of 
their own work

2003-2004 MUSIC ALIVE 

Albany Symphony Orchestra, NY • Dorothy Chang, b. 1970 • 3 weeks 

American Composers Orchestra, NY • Alvin Singleton, b. 1940 • 2 weeks 

American Composers Orchestra, NY • Anthony Davis, b. 1951 • 2 weeks 

Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, CA • Naomi Sekiya, b. 1969 • 3 weeks 

Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, IN • David Ott, b. 1947 • 3 weeks 

Meridian Symphony Orchestra, MS • Samuel Jones, b. 1935 • 3 weeks 

Mobile Symphony, AL • Kenji Bunch, b. 1973 • 2 weeks 

Seattle Symphony Orchestra, WA • Chen Yi, b. 1953 • 2 weeks 

Vermont Symphony Orchestra, VT • David Ludwig, b. 1972 • 2 weeks

Miller Theatre: 
2002-03 Season at a Glance
Classical Grammy Winners

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

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


I Have Heard it Said That a Spirit Enters … / Music of Gavin Bryars
Composer:  Gavin Bryars
Performers:  CBC RO  Orchestra, 
Holly Cole
Gavin Bryars never failed me yet.  Nearly 75 minutes of glorious melancholy from one of the two or three truly great ones, including three wonderful songs sung by Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole, a violin concerto, a gorgeous  riff on the last fragment of music Wagner wrote before he died, and a long, haunting, extended adagio featuring the man himself on double bass.  Better, it does not get.

Rappaccini's Daughter (Highlights) / Obsidian Butterfly
Composer:  Daniel Catan
Performer(s):  Vazquez, Mora, Suaste, Diazmunoz
Naxos - #8557034 
Daniel Catán, Mexico's best living  composer, was born in Mexico City in 1949. A Sephardic Jew of Russian descent, he spend his first 14 years in Mexico, relocating to England to study philosophy and music.  After several years at Sussex and Southampton, he moved to the United States, where he earned his Ph.D. at Princeton under the tutelage of Milton Babbitt.   Catán's highly melodic style owes more to Mahler's lieder than to Babbit, however. Rappaccini's Daughter was premiered in 1994 by the San Diego Opera and established Catán as a force in "magic realist" opera.

Indian Sounds (Symphony No. 8)
Composer: Gloria Coates
Conductor: Jorgen Wirrmann
Ensemble: Musica-viva-ensemble Dresden
 New World Records - #80599 
Gloria Coates, one of the most original voices in modern music,  is best known for her symphonies but here she draws  on her experience as a singer to create a work filled with ghostly voices that hint at horrors too awful to behold. The eighth symphony for voices and orchestra draws texts from Seneca, Winnebago, and Plains Indian songs. Coates once more demonstrates that modernism and humanism are not only compatible impulses--together, they can be life-enhancing. 


Light That Fills the World
Composer: John Luther Adams
Cold Blue Label - #10 
Darkness and light are defining realities for the  people, plants and animals who live in far northern climes and the abrupt and possibly deadly boundaries that separate these two extremes  lie at the heart of Adams austure music. Brillant, crystalline waves of sound conjure a deceptively beautiful landscape in which light is life and darkness can quickly lead to extinction. Adams’ music is never less than spellbinding. 

Desire Under the Elms
Composer: Edward Thomas
Conductor: George Manahan
  Performers: Jerry Hadley, James Morris, et al.
Naxos - #8669001-02 
 Desire Under the Elms  was composed in 1978 and has been performed only rarely since.  Thomas describes it as  "a folk opera" and that is about right--the work is built of melodies that are simple and uncomplicated.  Pleasant enough--perhaps too easy to like--but the real mystery here is how the producers landed big stars like Jerry Hadley and James Morris for a vehicle that frankly isn't going anywhere.  Still, if American opera is your obsession, you've got to have it.

Composer: Heiner Goebbels
 Ecm Records - #461648 
 Goebbels pays homage to a formative influence, German composer Hanns Eisler (1898-1962).  At the heart of the work are the touching songs of exile, which Eisler wrote together with Brecht, sung by German actor Josef Bierbichler. There are also montages from an original documentation with Eisler's voice, newly arranged excerpts from Eisler's chamber music, fragments from an unpublished string quartet a newly discovered composition for solo clarinet, and Eisler-inspired improvisations 


Shulamit Ran
 Composer: Shulamit Ran
 New World Records - #80554 
Two solo works—Fantasy Variations (1979/rev.1984) for cello and Verticals (1982) for piano—and two works for trio, Excursions (1980) and Soliloquy (1997) form the basis of this splendid display of Ran's highly individual approach to atonality, which is more drama than science, more harmony than dissonant, unexpectedly lush, and filled with an exaggerated  sense of movement. 


Piano Concerto No. 1
Composer: Ernst Toch
Performer: Crow, piano; NDR—Hamburg Symphony Orchestra,  Botstein, conductor
New World Records # 80609 
The Ernst Toch rediscovery marches on with an excellent performance of his Piano Concerto 1, written in Germany before the composer fled Hitler's rule and settled in Hollywood.  Severe, atonal, and not-at-all user friendly, the concerto is balanced on this CD by three lighter pieces-- Pinocchio,  Peter Pan, and Big Ben--which sound like they were written by a man getting his resume in order for Louis B. Mayer.

Frankie and Johnny
Composer: Jerome Moross
Performer(s):  Barrick, Edds, Kesling, Rosenberg
 Naxos - #8559086
"But, he was her man, nearly all the time..."  Wonderfully atmospheric rendering of the complete ballet-- Frankie and Johnny--commissioned by Ruth Page of the Chicago Ballet. To the degree that he is remembered at all,  Moross is best-known for the film score of The Big Country but even bigger things were expected of him. Born in New York on August 1, 1913, Morass began piano lessons at age five and composing by age eight. In 1924, he became the youngest child ever to graduate from a New York City Public School up to that time.

Piano Concerto Nos. 1 & 2; Rhapsody on Ukranian Themes
Composer: Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov
 Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
Performer: Hamish Milne
Hyperion - #67326 
Another terrific piano concerto by a composer you never heard of in Hyperion's huge and indispensible 
catalog of romantic piano concerti.  Continuing proof that there is piano music of worth beyond Rachmaninoff and Grieg.

Symphonies Nos. 3 & 9
Composer: Heitor Villa-Lobos
Conductor: Carl St. Clair
Cpo Records - #999712 )
Villa-Lobos has undergone a resurgence in recent years as more of his symphonic and chamber work has appeared in first-rate performances.  The result has been a much-deserved elevation in stature from composer of charming little tunes for the guitar to major composer in virtually all genre.  Fabulous and committed playing.

All Rivers at Once
Composer: Phillip Schroeder
Performer: Duo Savage
Capstone - # 8709)
Hints of Mahler and the late Romantics run through these lovely pieces performed by Duo Savage, consisting of Susan Savage (oboe and English horn) and Dylan Savage (piano and synthesiser). This is haunting, beautiful, music that transports the listener to a world that is considerably more genteel than one in which we live. 


Violin Sonatas
Composer: Sergey Prokofiev
Performer(s): Andrey Bielov
 Naxos - #8555904
Another brilliant prodigy making kid's play out of pieces that many adult players find gnarly, indeed.  This could be the start of something big.

Eric Stokes
Composer: Eric Stokes
 Performer: Michael Lowenstern, Heather Barringer, et al.
New World Records - #80596
"Music is for the people," Eric Stokes once wrote. " For all of us: the dumb,the deaf, the dogs and jays, handclappers,
dancing moon watchers, brainy puzzlers, abstracted v whistlers, finger-snapping time keepers, crazy, weak, hurt, weed keepers, the strays. The land of 
music is everyone’s nation—her tune, his beat, your drum—one song, one vote." Once mentioned in the same breath as Ives and Cage, Stokes has  fallen off  the charts in recent times. 
This is the first recording devoted entirely to his work and its shows a lively musical intelligence that deserves further listening.

Piano Music Vol. 4
Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Performer: Hakon Austbo
Naxos - #8554655
Messiaen is this year's flavor of the month as record companies continue to  turn out dozens of  versions of his works both large and small.  This Naxos series is the best bargain of the lot, with wonderful, well-recorded performances that reflect the growth of Messiaen's reputation as one of the giants of 20th century music.

Orchestra Music
Composer: Silvestre Revueltas
Conductor: Enrique Barrios
Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra
Naxos - #8555917 
All the greatest hits of Mexico's  best dead composer, performed marvelously by a sympathetic orchestra, at a bargain basement price.  If you don't know Revueltas' work, shut down the computer immediately, run to the nearest CD store, plop down your money and prepare to be amazed.

SEQUENZA21/is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editors:    Jerry & Suzanne Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
(C) Sequenza/21 LLC 2000

Search WWW Search www.sequenza21.com 
Sequenza21/The Contemporary Classical Music Weekly is part of
Classical Music Web Ring
The free linking service provided by Classical Music UK
[ Previous 5 Sites | Previous| Next | Next 5 Sites | Random Site | List Sites ]