Latest Blogger Updates

What's New in the Composers Forum

CD Reviews


Latest Podcasts at

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

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

Managing Editor:
David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
Lanier Sammons
Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
Christian Hertzog
(San Diego)
Jerry Zinser
(Los Angeles)

Web & Wiki Master:
Jeff Harrington

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

Friday, March 03, 2006
Who In the World is J. D. McClatchy?

If even our most famous composers are invisible to the public at large (see Frank J. Oteri's post in the Composers Forum and the comments under it), where does that leave the poor schmoes who collaborate with them and often have as great an impact on the finished product as the composers themselves? There is a very nice fellow who has a work studio a couple of doors just down the hall from me whose name appears on virtually all of Stephen Sondheim's musicals. When he introduced himself and said he was a playwright and director, my wife and I said simultaneously "Oh, what have you done?" And, of course, we had seen them all and should have known that...reverent pause (credit to Ben Brantley)...Sondheim didn't write them by himself.

Which brings me to the question in my headline. The name J. D. McClatchy seems to be popping up on every new opera that comes along. He did the libretto for Eliott Goldenthal's Grendel, Lowell Leibermann's Miss Lonely Hearts, and Ned Rorem's Our Town. Also for Lorin Maazel's much-maligned vanity project 1984, for William Schuman's A Question of Taste, for Francis Thorne's Mario and the Magician, for Bruce Saylor's Orpheus Descending, and Tobias Picker's brilliant Emmeline.

Anybody seen J.D. on Entertainment Tonight lately?

Something to think about the next time you're feeling obscure.
A Different, Different Train

The Lincoln Center Festival is one of my favorites events because it always has the most adventuresome programming that the organization does each year. Someone must figure, hey, it's summer, it's hot, we have the Mozart crap coming up next, so let's have some fun. The intrepid Frank J. Oteri has a report on this year's event at NewMusicBox and a sighting of Steve Reich on the C train coming back from the press conference (to which we were not invited although I'm sure it was merely an oversight.)

I'm looking forward especially to seeing Elliot Goldenthal's (and his wife Julie Taymor's--you rarely get one without the other) Grendel. I saw their Juan Dari�n: A Carnival Mass collaboration at Lincoln Center a few years back and was blown away despite being stuck in the middle of a row after unwisely having four cups of coffee beforehand. It had to be terrific to kill the pain and it was.
March Madness

It must be March. We have a snowstorm scheduled for tomorrow and it'll be in the 60s again by Saturday. The Big East tournament begins at Madison Square Garden in about ten days and I'm expecting the West Virginia Mountaineers to prevail--through sheer will power and the mojo of Kevin Pittsnoggle's tattoos--over much larger, more talented teams from UConn and Villanova.

But, I digress. The really big news for March is that Capital M is staging its first ever World Premieres Extravaganza on Tuesday, March 21st at the Cutting Room. The concert, which begins at 8:30pm, will feature seven new works by seven different composers, five of which have been written specifically for this event. The program is the recipient of a Meet The Composer Creative Connections grant, and composers David Claman, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Monika Heidemann, Bradley Kemp, Ian Moss, Frank J. Oteri, and Stefan Zeniuk will be on hand for a question-and-answer session before the concert. I'm especially intrigued by the promise of Frank J. Oteri's Imagined Overtures, a multi-movement work in 36-tone equal temperament. I might have to stay up late and make a rare personal appearance. See full press release.

Couple of blasts from the past in the blogs this morning. The always amusing Lou Bunk ran into some S21 bloggers at the Spark Festival in Minneapolis and worries if he is missing out on something by not blogging more...Arnold Rosner writes that Mozart is not the worst composer in history; just the most overrated...And Jeffrey Sackmann discovers that you don't mess with an audience's intermission expectations.

Update: Speaking of West Virginia, Steve Hicken has posted a neat review of a couple of Bridge recordings of my fellow Mountain State native, George Crumb.
How Much is Too Much?

If a composer is prolific, does that necessarily mean that his or her work is uneven? The answer, I suspect, is "sometimes." Martinu, for example, wrote an incredible number of pieces, not one of which is less than an A-. Philip Glass has written a lot--much of it good to very good, but a lot of it stolen from himself. Robert Gable of aworks ponders this fun question first raised by Marc at Occam's Razor in regard to Alan Hovhaness who, at his best, is very, very good (Mount St. Helens, Symphony No. 50 is stunning) and at his worse is pretty darn tiresome.

My favorite Hovhaness recording, by the way, is Violin/Viola and Keyboard Works, Christina Fong, Arved Ashby on Ogreogress.

Lawrence Dillon has some essential advice from a furniture designer.
Fat Monday

Our Town, a new opera with music by Ned Rorem and a libretto by J. D. McClatchy, was premiered in Bloomington on Friday and Saturday evening by the Indiana University Opera Theater. S21 contributor Daniel Gilliam was there and he thinks it may just be a...shudder...masterpiece. Anne Midgette of the New York Times thought it was pretty darn good, too...Speaking of being there, Anthony Cornicello and Jay C. Batzner both attended the Spark Festival and have filed reports...Jacob Sudol reviews G�rard Grisey�s Vortex Temporum...Elodie Lauten laments the disappearance of downtown...Blackdogred on why American Olympians have turned into a bunch of whiney losers...and David Thomas write about a 4'2" Japanese conductor who is transforming the Columbus Symphony.

Call in sick.
The Sylvia Plath of new music?

The superb cellist David Finckel came to San Diego this weekend, with his wife/accompanist Wu Han. They played a program comprised of cello sonatas by Russian composers--Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Lera Auerbach--providing a circumscribed view of Russian music at the turn of the 20th century, at the middle of the century, and at the beginning of the 21st century.

There have been several posts lately about what helps make new music more palatable to the audience, and Wu Han gave the impromptu-speech-before-the-performance routine, an oldie but goodie. By relating the circumstances of how she and Finckel commissioned Auerbach's Sonata, how Auerbach ran over to their home on a snowy evening the night she completed the Sonata to give a terrifying performance of the piece hot off the page, and by explaining a little bit about each of the movements, Wu Han effectively prepped the audience. Auerbach's Cello Sonata is not feel good music, and I wonder how many walk-outs there would have been had Wu Han not talked up the piece and piqued their interest.

An excerpt from my review:

Auerbach's Sonata was intense stuff. The work began with a dramatically violent piano flourish that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the work. After the false optimism of Prokofiev's Cello Sonata, which opened the program, Auerbach's manic hyper-Romanticism washed away any trace of sunshine, drowning the listeners in a tragic flood of despair. Auerbach's musical language is not, on the surface, adventurous. Although she moved back and forth from highly chromatic, even atonal, passages into unquestionable minor key moodiness, one never lost the sense of melody and accompaniment. Where she does explore new territory is in her forms, which attempt to reconcile contrasting elements and moods, but don't quite completely convince.

I thought of Schnittke as an obvious influence here, but he had the ability to combine tonality and atonality, musical styles, to conjure up the wildest juxtapositions, and yet make them work somehow. Auerbach's success in this was more hit-and miss.

Another likeness I heard was Samuel Barber, the later Barber who wrote highly chromatic, stormy works like the Piano Concerto. Auerbach lacks Barber's craft (many don't associate his music with rigor, but behind the emotion and drama was a very meticulous composer), but there was an admirable lyricism in the Sonata, undisciplined as it seemed. Auerbach's music struck me as the sort of music Lowell Liebermann and Richard Danielpour shoot for, but Auerbach gets closer to the target, even if she hasn't found a way to hit the bull's-eye yet.

The first movement was kind of a through-composed rondo, a rondo in that one theme/idea returned again and again, through-composed in that the intervening material was either new or consisted of transformations or developments of earlier heard ideas. In her preceding comments, Wu Han expressed wonderment at the idea of a "waltz in 5/4" (the recurrent thematic material), but hel-lo-o? The second movement of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony?

The second movement of Auerbach�s Sonata opened with an impassioned cello solo erupting over low, slow ominous chords in the piano. I found this dramatic, stirring music, but it scared the hell out of a 6-year-old sitting a few rows ahead of me, pouting, whining, and holding their hands over their ears (thanks Mom, for removing the child). Over a repeated piano bass line and slowly marching chords, the cello poured out a tortured melodic line, finally concluding with the cello playing a melody, much more slowly, entirely in artificial harmonics.

The third movement featured frantic, devilish streams of sixteenth notes with queasily shifting meters or subdivisions. The last movement opened with an unmistakable cry as the cello's melody was articulated with quarter-tone trills, eventually taking Finckel into the stratosphere. A strange pizzicato lullaby (the 5/4 motif from the first movement?) was accompanied by clashing sweet chords in the piano. The work ended on a disquieting note, as the music fell apart into soft, quiet

As Finckel did with the rest of the program, he played this work from memory. Both he and Wu Han gave Auerbach their all, and the Sonata was well-received by the audience. I couldn't help but think of another young poetess who trafficked in torture, Sylvia Plath. If Plath could also write music, would it sound like Auerbach? I enjoy the imagery in Plath's poetry, but find the overall histrionics off-putting, and I had a similar experience listening to Auerbach. However, for fans of unfiltered emotional rawness, Auerbach may be Lady Lazarus, a musical resurrection of Plath, turning and burning, melting to a shriek.
For more on Auerbach, as well as the rest of the concert, you can read my complete review here.
Mr. Postman

I did something of a disservice to the splendid soprano Elizabeth Keusch in my last LA Phil Green Umbrella review by stating that she had previously sung the Kurtag and Castiglioni works on the program. In fact, she had not sung the Castiglioni before, which makes her performance even more impressive since she was singing it for the first time with only limited rehearsals. I would not have guessed; in her physical bearing and in voice she seemed absolutely poised and comfortable with both the Castiglioni and the Kurtag. (The picture is of Elizabeth with a composer who has lately been much discussed on this page.) Here's her note:
Thank you for your article about LA Phil's recent Green Umbrella concert, and your very kind words about my singing on the Kurtag and Castiglioni pieces. It is most appreciated!

One correction that I wanted to bring to your attention; the Castiglioni was completely new for me, all learned on the day before the concert. I had flown into LA straight from Seattle having performed two different concerts on the Seattle Chamber Players Icebreaker III festival this past weekend. For Green Umbrella, we only had two rehearsals total with the entire ensemble to put the Castiglioni together due to my late arrival. It simply was not enough time and this is why we only performed the first half and also cancelled the Ades songs. It is fortunate though in that I believe that we were still able to maintain some integrity of the original program.
It is a shame that we had to cut half of the Castiglioni. The piece is truly remarkable and beautiful (and deceptively difficult) and I hope to have another opportunity to perform it in its entirety. Despite the distressing circumstance, we were all quite pleased with what we managed to pull off. The LA Phil has lately been literally besieged with cancellations.

Thank you for your coverage of the concert and I wish you all the best,

Elizabeth Keusch


12/19/2004 - 12/25/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/08/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/15/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/22/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/29/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/05/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/12/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/19/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/26/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/05/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/12/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/19/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/26/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/02/2005 04/03/2005 - 04/09/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/16/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/23/2005 04/24/2005 - 04/30/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/07/2005 05/08/2005 - 05/14/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/21/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/28/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/04/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/11/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/18/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/25/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/02/2005 07/03/2005 - 07/09/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/16/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/23/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/30/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/06/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/13/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/20/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/27/2005 08/28/2005 - 09/03/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/10/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/17/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/24/2005 09/25/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/02/2005 - 10/08/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/15/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/22/2005 10/23/2005 - 10/29/2005 10/30/2005 - 11/05/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/12/2005 11/13/2005 - 11/19/2005 11/20/2005 - 11/26/2005 11/27/2005 - 12/03/2005 12/04/2005 - 12/10/2005 12/11/2005 - 12/17/2005 12/18/2005 - 12/24/2005 12/25/2005 - 12/31/2005 01/01/2006 - 01/07/2006 01/08/2006 - 01/14/2006 01/15/2006 - 01/21/2006 01/22/2006 - 01/28/2006 01/29/2006 - 02/04/2006 02/05/2006 - 02/11/2006 02/12/2006 - 02/18/2006 02/19/2006 - 02/25/2006 02/26/2006 - 03/04/2006 03/05/2006 - 03/11/2006 03/12/2006 - 03/18/2006 03/19/2006 - 03/25/2006 03/26/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/02/2006 - 04/08/2006 04/09/2006 - 04/15/2006 04/16/2006 - 04/22/2006 04/23/2006 - 04/29/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/06/2006 05/07/2006 - 05/13/2006 05/14/2006 - 05/20/2006 05/21/2006 - 05/27/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/03/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/10/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/17/2006 06/18/2006 - 06/24/2006 06/25/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/08/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/15/2006 07/16/2006 - 07/22/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/29/2006 07/30/2006 - 08/05/2006 08/06/2006 - 08/12/2006 08/13/2006 - 08/19/2006 08/20/2006 - 08/26/2006 08/27/2006 - 09/02/2006 09/03/2006 - 09/09/2006 09/10/2006 - 09/16/2006

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to this feed listing