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Love and Cow Bells
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Well, That Was Fun
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Saturday, June 11, 2005
Last Night at Ojai: Great Sax

The Cleveland Orchestra was the main course of this year�s Ojai Festival, performing last night in the band shell in the park called the Libbey Bowl. The high point of the concert was the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble (1949) by Ingolf Dahl. Joseph Lulloff was the soloist in this brilliant work, handling all of the demands of the music which was once thought to be so difficult that Dahl prepared and authorized a simplified version in 1953. What a great piece. The Cleveland winds (plus four basses and three percussionists) played superbly in support of the soloist and the conductor. You have to admire Franz Welser-Most for being willing to make a difficult modern work--with a composer whose name is regrettably now unknown to most would-be audiences--the centerpiece of a tour, but the Clevelanders were up to the task. This was an especially nice gesture to Ojai, since Dahl was director at Ojai for three years while he was a beloved teacher at USC. What wonderful composers Los Angeles was blessed with for a too-short period! (This would make an interesting cycle for the Phil some year.)

Another nice touch was beginning the concert with Stravinsky�s Dumbarton Oaks concerto for chamber orchestra, appropriate since Dahl was an assistant to Stravinsky, well-known for his course on Stravinsky�s music, and an advocate for Stravinsky during a period after WWII when he was losing popularity. Once again the Cleveland players seemed without flaw in a dry, witty, elegant performance. The Stravinsky was a great match for the saxophone concerto to follow, which more than held its own in comparison.

Unfortunately, the second half of the concert went nowhere. It was well-played and elegant, with Debussy�s Nuages, and concluding with Mozart�s Linz symphony. But after all of the energy generated in the first half of the concert, it was a letdown. The choices made it seem that the Cleveland programmers felt that spending half of a concert on things relatively modern was more than enough, thank you, so back to more comfortable works.
Support Your Fellow Blogger Day

Don't miss the world premiere of Marcus Maroney's Hudson, a five-movement work for flute, violin, viola, and cello commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Luke�s which will perform it today at 2 pm at the Chelsea Art Museum. See details...Everette Minchew checks in from his new home in Mississippi. Turns out his local radio station doesn't play Webern. Can you believe that? If it's any consolation, Everette, WQXR in New York doesn't do Webern either...Tom Myron has a terrific poem about Shostakovich...I still owe you a teenage composer story from yesterday but I probably won't get around to it until tomorrow...Oh, anybody doing any festivals this summer and like to blog about it here?
Attention: All Starving Musicians

If you're looking for a free meal and some nice music this evening, the Government of the Belearic Islands (Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Formentera) is hosting a Spanish music and dance concert (plus light comida typica and drinks) at the NY Historical Society, 170 Central Park West starting at 6 pm. The concert features soprano Isabel Rossello and Baritone Luis Sintes plus classical dancers.

A PR friend of mine is hoping to paper the house so RSVP is not necessary--just show up and check in. If anybody hassles you, ask for Arlene or Nina and tell them Sequenza21 sent you. Who says reading blogs is a waste of time?
Angst, Acne and Arpeggios

The meme of the day is teenage composers. In addition to a report on the musical progress of Josh Winiberg from his mum, we are informed that eight young classical composers, ranging in age from 10 to 25, have been named winners in the 53rd Annual BMI Student Composer Awards. Youngest on the list is Conrad Tao (age 10), who studies privately with Christopher Theofanidis in New York City. Next in youth is Preben Antonsen (age 14), who studies privately with John Adams in Berkeley, followed by the positively ancient Sebastian Chang (age 17) a student at Curtis Institute of Music.

Before you slit your wrists; the awards were presented by Milton Babbitt--the music world's equivalent of touching a frog and getting a wart instead of a prince charming--which means the unlucky young composers' work will always be considered too boring for public consumption. Sorry, dudes.

For you old folks, mark your calendars for October 1, 2005 when UCLALive will present Terry Riley's 70th birthday celebration. According to a press note sent along by Jerry Zinser: "Highlights of this monumental event honoring the 20th century titan include Japanese heavy metal band Acid Mothers Temple�s blistering version of In C, left-field electronica act Matmos� audiovisual homage, and Riley�s surround sound reprise of his classic A Rainbow in Curved Air." Like, far out, man.

Here at the ranch, Brian Sacawa is back with a report from the Berkeley Edge Festival...Elodie Lauten wonders if music should reflect the order or disorder of the universe...Lawrence Dillon suggests that "groundbreaking" is overrated as a measure of a composer's merit...and the Composers Forum has so many threads going I can't keep up.

We may have another teenage composer tale before the day is out. Stay tuned.
The Out of Towners or Marcus Does Manhattan

Here's a great looking music program coming up this weekend. The world premiere of an Orchestra of St. Luke�s commission, Hudson, a five-movement work for flute, violin, viola, and cello by 29-year-old Texas composer Marcus Karl Maroney, whose Sounds Like New just happens to be one of our favorite blogs, highlights The Out of Towners, the concluding concert of the St. Luke�s Chamber Ensemble�s 2004-2005 Second Helpings series, on Saturday, June 11, at the Chelsea Art Museum, and on Sunday, June 12, at Dia:Beacon, both at 2:00 pm. Excerpts from Evensongs, a 1994 work for string quartet by Ingram Marshall (Connecticut); Take Jazz Chords, Make Strange for clarinet and string quartet (1997) by David Rakowski (Massachusetts); and Partita for solo violin (2005) by Anna Weesner (Pennsylvania) complete the program of works by composers from across the country. Joan Tower will host the program.

The Chelsea Art Museum is sensitively located in the midtown demilitarized zone at 556 West 22nd Street at 11th Avenue, New York City. Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries is less thoughtfully located at 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, New York. Tickets are $25 on Saturday, $20 on Sunday but if you mention at the door that you are a reader of Sequenza21, they'll let you in for $10. (That's what the press release says; don't call me and complain if the cashier says "Wha?")
And Now...Video Games Live

Yesterday we received an email from the Phil announcing the addition of a new concert to this summer�s season at Hollywood Bowl. On July 6, the Bowl will offer a special concert, Video Games Live. Yes, the whole program will be music from games, including--for those of you who keep track of such things--Mario, Zelda, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Warcraft, Myst, Final Fantasy, Castlevania, Medal of Honor, Sonic, Tron, Tomb Raider, Advent Rising, Headhunter, Beyond Good & Evil, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, EverQuest II and even a classic arcade game medley featuring games from Pong to Donkey Kong.

There will also be special effects, and a laser and light show synchronized with the music. A chorale will also contribute. Of special note is that the music will be played, not by a studio band or the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, but by the Phil itself.

The producers are taking the "Video Games Live" show on tour and will be playing--with top local orchestras--such venues as Red Rocks in Denver, CO, Chastain Park in Atlanta, GA and Tweeter Center in Boston, MA, among others.

As the mailer says, this should be a great way to introduce someone to music beyond the worlds of pop and rock.
French Fries

Lawrence Dillon is back from Paris with some miscellaneous thoughts on his adventure...Meanwhile, Bob Shingleton of On an Overgrown Path is trooping around France somewhere but he left behind a prococative post called Is Recorded Classical Music Too Cheap?
Lumina String Quartet at Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia

The Lumina String Quartet recently journeyed to the city of Kazan, capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in central Russia to take part in the Europe/Asia 2005 Festival of Modern Music .

We had intended to create a "trip diary" during the trip, so that readers could follow our time there, but the busyness of the schedule, and the decided lack of reliable Internet facilities proved to be too daunting for such an idea.

Now that we've returned to New York, we'll be creating this record of our time in Kazan over the next couple of weeks, including impressions of the trip from the members of the Lumina Quartet and those who made the trip, violinists Asya Meshberg and Lynn Bechtold, violist Boris Deviatov, cellist Jennifer DeVore, guest clarinetist Philip Bashor and me, publicist Jeffrey James.

First of all, a bit about Kazan and Tatarstan.

Probably the best places to start are a couple of websites. The first is the Official Website of the Republic of Tatarstan. The English translation is pretty good and there's a lot of really good information about Tatar culture and society. If you prefer, you can also read the site in Russian or Tatar.

The second site to visit is "Kazan 1000 Years". August 30 will be the official celebration of the city's 1000th anniversary.

Both of these sites are well worth a look.

Secondly, a bit about The Lumina String Quartet.

The Darien, Connecticut-based Lumina String Quartet, committed to bringing the best of string quartet literature to local audiences, provides a meaningful contribution to their state's and the entire New York metro area's musical life. As the ensemble in residence at Norwalk Community College, they have maintained a concert series as well as master classes since 1992.

The Lumina Quartet's educational activities include coaching chamber groups for the summer festival called Chamber Music Institute for Young People. Repertory ranges from the baroque to contemporary, with an emphasis on Russian composers. You can find more about them at their website.

So, with the preliminaries taken care of, we'll begin posting more specific information, impressions and photos from our journey to the center of Russia very soon.
�The Dharma at Big Sur� Comes to New York

This happened to me.

Summer of 1998. Somewhere on Highway 1 just north of Big Sur. Beatles on the stereo. The top is down. She�s driving.

We see this perfect beach and decide to stop. We climb down what some would call a path and reach the white sand. Another couple�s there too, but they leave soon, and we have the place to ourselves to just wander around without talking. I watch the waves and listen to the sea. Take off my shoes and get my toes wet. The hot afternoon sun beats down. I look around. She�s down the beach a ways in her white hat, barefoot and thinking. I�m nineteen, and I�m in love with a girl from Berkeley, and we�re on our way to Big Sur for some camping.

Seven years later, she�s married and doing a Ph.D. in Santa Cruz. I�m in New York reviewing concerts. The New York premiere of John Adams�s "The Dharma at Big Sur" at Avery Fisher. Tracy Silverman on electric violin, and Esa-Pekka Salonen with the L.A. Philharmonic. Naturally. It�s a two-movement concerto and starts out chilling around like a raga. Feeling out the scale, checking out the gamakas. Portamento. The orchestra drones like a veena behind. Like a cloud. Like a long, slow sunrise. The first movement: "A New Day." Adams gets those low notes only an electric kool-aid violin can reach. Silverman walks around the stage, breaking the box classical cats stand in. Finally he reaches up way high, and we get a big moment. Adams coaxes out gamelan sounds from the percussion, gives the piano those glittery triads he�s so good at. Like in the "Chairman Dances."

We�re in the second movement saying Hi to Terry Riley. "Sri Moonshine." The heartbeat moves a little quicker. A clear pulse seems to bubble just out of sight. Adams discovers he can blend the electric violin nicely with the brass. Silverman turns a circle. The pulse that�s been lurking behind the entire piece emerges in all its cool splendor. The music gets louder and louder. The violin rushes to the stratosphere. We get arpeggios and flying fingers. We�ve taken off. Adams turns on the electricity and lets Silverman blow above the orchestra playing full blast. With a rush and a flourish it�s over. The audience loves it.

So do I. It�s his best piece in years.

Adams wanted "The Dharma at Big Sur" to reflect the experiences of those whose arrival in California "had both a spiritual and physical impact." Seven years ago I found out what he�s talking about. The wild surf. The boundless spirit of the coast and its cliffs and its highway. The horizon beyond which Asia sits. "Dharma" may not be the perfect wave, but I can�t wait to ride it again. Thanks for the sunshine.

Rochberg Memorial

George Rochberg, who died last Sunday at age 86, had planned to attend tonight's performance of his Piano Quintet at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, played by the Chiara Quartet with Simone Dinnerstein. It is being dedicated to his memory...Brian Sacawa has posted some neat samples from a recent American Voices recording session...Both Lawrence Dillon, who is in France and Tom Myron, who is not, consider the question of whether music is a universal language...Some of our long missing bloggers are in transit, so to speak. Judith Lang Zaimont is wrapping up her long teaching career and Everette Minchew is moving to Mississippi. They promise to be back soon.

On that note, we could use a few more good bloggers--composers, performers, conductors. It's free, it's fun, and it's easy. If you'd like to give it a whirl, send me an e-mail.


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