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340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Jerry Bowles
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Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
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Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
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Jerry Zinser
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Latest Posts

Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, February 11, 2006
Mein Fuhrer, I Can Walk

Lots of great dish in the papers this morning. The Wall Street Journal (alas, not accessible online without a subscription) goes a long way toward explaining why American orchestras are broke by listing the salaries of the top 40 music/ opera/dance directors. At the top of the pile is Daniel Barenboim at $1,974,546; followed by James Levine ($1,912,000), Lorin Maazel ($1,909,155), Michael Tilson Thomas ($1,584,460), Christoph Eschenbach ($1,422,000) and Esa-Pekka Salonen, a real bargain at $1,260,639.

Meanwhile the New York Times has a piece about Peter Gelb's plans to shake up the Metropolitan Opera which generally sound a lot less radical than I had hoped although I am pleased that he plans to reduce the cheapest seats to $15 from $26. Biggest surprise in that he has commissioned works from a range of composers and playwrights, some of them outside the classical tradition. Among the offbeat choices are Jeannine Tesori and Tony Kushner, as well as Scott Wheeler, Michael Torke and--get this--Rufus Wainwright. Looks like regular contributor and resident Rufus Wainwright freak Roger Bourland has been vindicated.
Next Season in L.A. - More Modern Music

The LA Philharmonic has announced the 2006-2007 schedule, and once again it appears that the orchestra is scheduling more contemporary music than any other band in the country. Granted, there�s nothing like this season�s �Minimalist Jukebox� for a broad survey of a segment of recent music, but there are still some special treats.

The featured composers are the Australian Brett Dean and the Finnish-French Kaija Saariaho. Dean will play the viola in the U.S. premiere of his Viola Concerto, a Phil co-commission, and he will conduct a Green Umbrella concert including two more of his works, the Pastoral Symphony and Voices of Angels. He will also conduct two works by his compatriots Liza Lim and Anthony Pateras, giving first U.S. performances for those two works.

Saariaho�s La Passion de Simone, an oratorio on Simone Weil and a Phil co-commission will be performed in January. Saariaho will also be featured in a Green Umbrella concert with the performance of her Graal theater, Six Japanese Gardens, and Lonh. Dallapiccola�s Quattro liriche di Antonio Machado will complete that program. Dawn Upshaw will be featured soloist in both programs, reuniting Saariaho, Upshaw, and Salonen.

Thomas Ad�s receives the unusual recognition of being invited back for a second year�s �residency� with the Phil in which his music will be played in concert by the full orchestra and he will appear in both a chamber music concert and a Green Umbrella concert with music of his choice (his first residency begins in two weeks). The featured Ad�s work next season will be Asyla, For his Green Umbrella concert he has elected to conduct Irishman Gerald Barry�s The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit in its first U.S. performance. The program for the chamber concert has not been set; for last night�s chamber concert he was pianist in works by Beethoven and Schubert.

John Adams is once again the most-programmed American composer. Salonen and the Phil seem to have a special rapport with Adams� Na�ve and Sentimental Music, and we get to hear another reprise of that symphony. Gnarly Buttons and Grand Pianola Music will also be performed at a Green Umbrella Concert.

The Phil is trying an interesting idea in programming under the title �Shadow of Stalin� in which there will be five concerts exploring music in the Soviet Union before and after the attack on new music. This will include scenes from Shostakovich�s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and The Nose and a performance of the full Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky to accompany the Eisenstein film. Sofia Gubaidulina�s Concordanza and Alfred Schnittke�s Symphony No. 4.

Additional contemporary works being performed include John Harbison�s Bass Concerto, a Philharmonic co-commission; Osvaldo Golijov�s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, sung by Upshaw, on a program with Lukas Foss� Time Cycle; the U.S. premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen�s Helix. The Phil is also performing Steve Reich�s Triple Concerto in one of the subscription series.

Of course the most-in-demand tickets (with scalping not quite at the Super Bowl level) will be the return of the �Tristan Project�, that marvelously beautiful Salonen-conducted performance of Tristan und Isolde with video art by Bill Viola for the length of the work. Christine Brewer, who was excellent two years ago, will be returning as Isolde. Two years ago each act was performed on a separate evening, preceded by a more modern work which Salonen felt had resonance with the Wagner; there was no consolidated performance. This time around a work by Debussy will precede each act. In addition, there will be a consolidated performance, 5-plus hours.

For those of you near New York, Lincoln Center will be bringing the L.A. production to New York, creating space in the Armory for the performance. Put these dates on your calendar and begin scheming on how to get affordable tickets: April 30, May 1, and May 2 (2007) for the individual acts and April 27 and May 5 for complete performances.
Billy Bolcom Brings Home the Bacon

William Bolcom and Naxos were the big winners in the classical category at last night's Grammy Awards. Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience won Best Classical Album, Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Choral Performance. Naxos producer Tim Handley was named producer of the year for his work on Songs of Innocence and of Experience and other albums.

The piece, a massive cantata based on William Blake's poems, took 25 years to write and incorporates every style imaginable, from classical modernism to reggae. It was was taped in Ann Arbor in April 2004.

This makes our buddy Brian Sacawa very happy. He played on the Ann Arbor gig and, thus, is now a Grammy-winning concert saxophonist.

Here at the ranch, our Naxos blogger, Mark Berry, is as pleased as punch...Jay C. Batzner is having a bad day...and Kurtag rules the Composers Forum.
Artemis Quartet plays Ligeti's First Quartet

I wasn't familiar with the Artemis String Quartet, a German/Austrian group. They previously recorded on a small European label, although Virgin Records picked them up last year; in the fall they released a Beethoven CD and a Ligeti CD, neither of which I've heard. If the Ligeti CD is anywhere near as good as their performance of his First Quartet on Saturday evening at University of California San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium, it probably would have wound up on my Best of the Year list. Here's an excerpt from my review, reposted from

The high point of the evening was the group's performance of Ligeti's String Quartet no. 1 (M�tamorphoses nocturnes). Not as well-known as his Second String Quartet (one of the supreme masterpieces of late 20th-century chamber music), the First Quartet marks a period of metamorphosis in Ligeti's career in which he began to find his unique voice.

Written in 1953-54, Ligeti has described it as a "bottom drawer" work, meaning that he expected no performance of it in Communist Hungary. He began his career writing folk-influenced music in the "Social Realist" style dictated by the Communists. He knew the authorities would not allow the First Quartet to be heard in Hungary, because it displays the influence of Bart�k. This influence is impressive since most of Bart�k's "modern" music (including the string quartets) was forbidden under the Communist regime. Ligeti knew Bart�k's Third and Fourth Quartets (Bart�k's most dissonant quartets) only through scores. On the surface, the sounds of Ligeti's quartet--the grinding discords, the vigorous folk-like rhythms, the "night music" passages (a hesitant, stuttering melody sounded over a sustained chord), and the timbral exploration--all reveal Ligeti's debt to his early compositional idol.

Yet the form of the First Quartet is most unlike Bart�k's retooling of classical structures or his innovative formal schemes built like an arch; Ligeti's quartet consists of 12 brief movements, each crashing into the next without pause, all unified by the recurrent use of a four-note motive. This type of form looks back to the "variation" forms of Sch�nberg and Berg ("variation" in quotes because they have little to do with traditional harmonic variations), yet also looks ahead to other composers such as Crumb and Kurtag who built large works out of contrasting small movements.

While the First Quartet may seem to some to have been written by a different composer than the genius who wrote the Requiem, Atmospheres, the String Quartet no. 2, or the Chamber Concerto, closer listening reveals inklings of the composer to emerge a decade later as the reluctant leader of the European avant-garde. The ostinati, while reminiscent of Bart�k and Stravinsky, also presage the crazily repetitive "clock" music of Ligeti's mature style. All four instruments participate in rapid unison passages of pitch and/or rhythm, suggestive of those marvelous scrambling figures doubled in octaves in the Chamber Concerto. A frequent climactic device is a melodic ascent culminating in sustained or repeated high notes, another device found in Ligeti's classics from the 1960s. There are sections where each part blurs into a web of sound, such as the waves of harmonics at the conclusion of the work, foreshadowing the "micropolyphony" of the Requiem, the Chamber Concerto, or Lux Aeterna, textures where the counterpoint is so dense that it creates a cloud of sound where individual lines are indiscernable. Finally, is there any contemporary composer so inventive as Ligeti? The marvelous sense of play and wonder that flourishes in his music is abundantly evident in this early transitional piece.

The String Quartet no. 1 was given a dramatic performance by the Artemis Quartet. The ensemble work was especially impressive; it sounded terribly difficult to make the abrupt shifts from one style or texture to another without pause, but that's exactly what the Artemis did. The Adagios were mysterious, eerie, and poignant. The climaxes were thrilling. Little wonder that the quartet's ending brought a large number of listeners to their feet, cheering audience members who recognized the power of this work and the mastery of the Artemis Quartet's performance.

The rest of the concert featured old stuff: Mozart and Schubert. If you'd like to read the full review, wherein I compare a string quartet to a popular 1960's TV show, click here.

This concert wasn't an official production of the UCSD Music Dept., renowned for its ultramodern faculty members; rather, the University Events Office has had a string quartet series for years. The turnout was disappointing: maybe 75% capacity, and at least 1/3 of those were students who were comped in. The string quartet series used to routinely get 90 to 95 percent attendance. I doubt Ligeti's First scared audiences away, as it was the usual modern "filler" in between the dead white European guys. Others have commented on high ticket prices, and I think that's the culprit, not just here, but for all the classical music organizations in town. My organization, San Diego New Music, has the cheapest prices in town for general admission: $15. Just about every other group starts at least around $20 now. For the Artemis Quartet, ticket prices were $32 and 36, and if you bought them online through Ticketmaster, of course you got hit with their fees on top of that.

The classical music audience in San Diego is gray/white-haired; many of these folks are on fixed incomes, and I'm willing to believe that higher ticket prices are translating into empty seats. For younger folks saddled with student loan debts, the outrageous cost of living here (our rents may be lower than New York or San Francisco, but our wages are lower as well, making us one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. to live in) precludes them from purchasing tickets to any classical event. I know it's a tough balancing act to decide how much to charge, but I hope local performing arts groups will try lowering prices to at least see what happens. At the very least, why not have a 30-minute $10 rush?
Lights Out Alert

My building's crackerjack maintenance staff is testing the electrical lines today so I need to shut down before they fry my machine. So, quickly: what threatens western civilization most--Muslim rage or Kenny G? Alan Theisen wants to know...Meira Warshauer has completed her recordings in Slovakia...Lawrence Dillon has a wonderful story that suggests that China may be the next hotbed of contemporary music.

Elsewhere, Nemo, who lives in Salamanca, Spain has a new contemporary music site. In Spanish, of course, but you'll get the idea...Dan Locklair has launched a newly redesigned website, includinga bio, list of works, discography, sound clips and more.
Last Night in L.A. - Can Monday Be Saved?

Last year was not a good year for L.A.�s two major art institutions--the Getty and the Los Angeles County Museum--and in my mind the press coverage of the problems has not been nearly as critical as the executives and some board members deserve. One of the less noted problems with LACMA (highly noted in our local music world) was management�s decision to end the music program, canceling Wednesday concerts at the end of last season, ending the Monday Evening Concerts after this season, and discontinuing its sponsorship of residencies for two local groups, California E.A.R. Unit and Xtet, both vital factors in the performance of contemporary music.

True, the programs were not self-supporting. Attendance was low; looking at the audience it is hard to come up with a rationale for giving us a subsidy. No marketing was provided or initiated by the program. There wasn�t much creativity in programming nor in trying to link the music program to the broader activities of the museum. Organizations like PianoSpheres, Southwest Chamber, and (recently) the Jacaranda series of concerts were offering strong competition for the time and attendance of the ticket-buying audience, often offering new faces, new voices, and attractive programming. UCLAlive occasionally offers a concert worth attending, and REDCAT at Disney and Zipper Hall at Colburn School both provide better venues for serious music than does the auditorium at the museum.

It would have been quite understandable had LACMA initiated some major changes in an attempt to revitalize the program; the need for change was pretty obvious. But we never discussed that. So we waited while museum management decided to end the programs; shame on us. But more than that, shame on them for just giving up and for failing to see the value of the music program.

But, there is ray of hope. Monday Evening Concerts have been hard to kill during their sometimes bumpy existence. Alan Rich read a prepared statement to start the second half of last night�s concert, identifying himself as a member of a committee working to reconstitute the Monday Evening Concerts in a new, more hospitable venue. Four concerts are currently being planned for next season, less than half of this year�s total, but a respectable start. Now it�s up to the managing committee to come up with the approach to once again sell the series to an audience, and it�s up to us who want to be in an audience to support the new direction, to help it succeed.

The concert was by the Parisii Quartet (who said it was their tenth visit, I believe). They delivered a short tribute to the late director of the music programs, Dorrance Stalvey, and then began the program. Each half began with a slight work which was followed by a major one. The first major work was Ligeti�s Second String Quartet (1968), a piece thatincorporates all of his major concepts prior to that time. The Parisii played it well, making the whole even more interesting than the sum of the individual movements. I particularly liked their playing of the fifth movement with its clouds of color serenely riding over the busy mechanisms underneath and the third movement with its clocks ticking at different rates, gradually blending into each other.

The major work for the second half was Steve Reich�s Different Trains (1988), one of his masterworks. The Ligeti was written before he heard Reich�s music (and before he wrote his Self-Portrait with Reich and Riley), but the pairing of the two was quite apt, both with keen ears for subtle shifts in rhythm and tone, and both works with engines driving the exposition of the musical ideas. It�s probably easier to play the Reich at a minimally acceptable level, since the tape establishes the basic beat and the tonal background, but the players have to have the hearing and the flexibility to play the rhythms properly.

For example, at the end of the first segment the voice on the tape speaks, in order, �1939�, �1940�, and �1941�. As spoken, both 1939 and 1941 are five-syllable words with highly similar rhythms, but Reich�s music caught the fact that �39� spoken and �41� spoken have slightly different beats, and the music reflects this. The players have to hear this, and they have to be able to perform it. The Parisii men, again, did well.

The slighter works for the first and second half were by Jan Klusak and Kurt Carpenter, respectively.

A postscript concerning the two ensembles that have been residents at LACMA. With their CalArts ties, California E.A.R. Unit has established a home at REDCAT; with REDCAT�s overall marketing program and their customer base interested in the cutting edge of performing arts, this should be a good match between ensemble and venue. Xtet, led by USC�s Donald Crockett, apparently does not yet have a new home. Looking at how many evenings REDCAT is still unused, I think they would fit at REDCAT as well, but perhaps the Colburn-USC associations would make use of Zipper Hall a bit easier. I hope others feel as I do that the Xtet ensemble is simply too good and too valuable to let go unperformed.
Pssst. Got a Minute?

The nice folks at Vox Novus are inviting composers to submit works 60 seconds or less in length to included in their fourth annual 60x60 project. 60 compositions will be selected to be performed continuously in a one-hour concert, in conjunction with multimedia elements and an analog clock marking the passage of time. Looks like a neat project, check it out. Details are here.

Nothing new around here. Take another look at Alan Theisen's snake.
Philadelphia Sounds: Relache Channels Hitchcock

What does a 1926 silent film have to say to modern audiences? With new music by Joby Talbot, arranged by Darin Kelly, Philadelphia�s Relache Ensemble hopes it is as meaningful as any modern thriller. Alfred Hitchcock�s The Lodger was the subject of the Relache Sonic Cinema Event at the Annenberg Center. This was the fourth in Relache�s annual series of music to accompany silent film.

The Lodger was Hitchcock�s second film and a big success. The story has a serial killer prowling foggy London and killing blondes. A mysterious man comes to lodge with the Buntings, and the detective boyfriend of the daughter becomes suspicious.
The theme of an innocent man on the run is illustrated with claustrophobic lighting and ominous camera angles.

The score fit right in, arranged for saxophone, clarinet, flute, bassoon, viola, keyboard, bass and percussion sounding appropriately old fashioned and not too obviously programmatic. Dynamics followed the arc of the story and tempi the action, with a deliciously sweet Daisy�s Theme introducing the daughter.

What was more interesting is how different film technique was then � the blatant facial hysterics made the audience laugh, and the series of short takes seemed jagged and metaphoric, rather than telling a story. (Reposted from Penn Sounds 2/5/06)
How Far Have You Come, CD Baby?

CD Baby may be the future of music but Elodie Lauten questions whether it is the future of "classical" music? There are some further pertinent comments under Blackdogred's post about CD Baby from a few days ago. The Blackdogster also mentions Marc-Andre Dalbavie, whom I know, and something called Oulipo, which I don't...Check out Alan Thiesen's snake...Steve Hicken reviews Mario Davidovsky's Synchronisms.

A reminder that our friend Richard Friedman's MUSIC FROM OTHER MINDS (Friday 11pm Pacific, KALW 91.7 San Francisco) can be now heard for a week following broadcast on an mp3 on-demand stream here.

This week's 1-hour program includes the Dutilleux Violin Concerto, three of James Tenney's violin and piano pieces, and some early Morton Feldman. Playlists are here and the stream is updated weekly. Richard also says he's open for submissions of CDs from the Sequenza community for possible broadcast. Send them to him at MFOM, Other Minds, 333 Valencia St. #303, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Desparately Seeking Lachenmann Lover

As we know from David Salvage's reports from the frontlines of the battle of the sexes, it is not that easy for nerdy composer types to find Das M�dchen mit den Schwefelholzern. The obvious solution, it seems to me, is to look for a fellow composer or performer. Mark Stryker has an article today about Aaron Jay Kernis and his wife, Evelyne Luest, who is the pianist with the Contrasts Quartet. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is performing Kernis' "Musica celestis" for string orchestra Thursday through Sunday at Orchestra Hall while Pro Musica is presenting the Contrasts Quartet performing Kernis' chamber music on Friday in the Music Box. As soon as the twins are old enough to hold fiddles, they can put them to work.

But, seriously folks, what are the upsides and downsides of living with a fellow musician?

Lawrence Dillon quotes John Berger on information overload and the end of wisdom...Jeffrey Sackmann wonders why most saxophone quartets stink (the music, not the players)...Blackdogred points to CD Baby's new classical page.

Now Playing: Cadenza on the Night Plain Terry Riley, Kronos Quartet. Hannibal. Terry Riley as the modern Dvorak. Who knew? Pure joy from start to finish.


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