The demise of the New York City Opera is a tragedy for American composers, singers and fans of new opera. With rare exceptions, it has been, since its founding in 1943, the only game in town for large-scale productions of major works by composers who were still breathing at the time. From now established oldies like Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, and Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land to newer masterpieces like Mark Adano’s Little Women, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, andTobias Picker’s Emmeline, the NYCO has been an invaluable platform for American-style grand opera.
The NYCO was instrumental in launching the careers of many great singers like the people’s diva, Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Maralin Niska, Carol Vaness,José Carreras, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey, Lauren Flanigan and Elizabeth Futral.
Many of the happiest nights of my life I have spent sitting quietly in the dark were spent in the upper reaches of what will always be called by me the New York State Theater. I feel like I’ve lost an old friend.
It’s September, the beginning of a new season, and time for our annual below half-price one-year Sequenza21 sponsorship/advertising sale. You can change your ad monthly if you like so basically, you get up to 12 ads for the price of 5 at the standard rate.
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If there were a contest for hardest working man in New Music, my choice for a winner would be Sean Hickey. The personable 43-year-old Detroit native is not only a husband and father and a top classical music industry executive with a serious day job, he is a prolific composer of eloquent, stately music that manages to engage (or, at minimum, not enrage) the post-modern crowd through the sheer originality and persuasiveness of its musical ideas–without sending the blue hairs scurrying for the exits. Like his original inspiration, Igor Stravinsky, and well-known contemporaries like Daniel Asia, Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, Libby Larsen, Lowell Liebermann,Paul Moravec, and Osvaldo Golijov (Have we forgiven him yet?), Hickey writes music that is enjoyable to listen to. Not easy. Enjoyable.
He also arranges music, writes travel articles, helps any friend who needs it and occasionally mows lawns on big estates in Westchester.
The release of his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra and Concerto for Clarinet on Delos has solidified his reputation as a formidable new classicist whose work demonstrates where American music might have gone had the heirs of neoclassic Stravinsky, Ravel, Hindemith, Milhaud, Martinu, Honneger and their tuneful ilk taken over music academia in the 50s and 60s instead of the mathematicians.
Hickey’s route to a music career is a familiar one for talented kids of his generation –he got himself a guitar and learned how to make it talk. Read the rest of this entry »
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Berkeley Symphony, in cooperation with EarShot, invites applications for the 2014Under Construction Reading Series. Three emerging composers will be selected to participate from a national candidate pool. Each will compose a new 10-minute work for orchestra that will be workshopped, rehearsed and read under the baton of music director Joana Carneiro, in two reading sessions on February 2-3 and May 4-5, 2014 in Berkeley, CA. Composers will receive artistic and career guidance from the Symphony artistic staff, orchestra musicians, and mentor-composers, Robert Beaser and Edmund Campion. Composers will also participate in professional development workshops and feedback sessions.
Each accepted composer will write a new work, not to exceed 10 minutes duration, scored for the following instrumentation: 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 clarinets; 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones (one tenor, one bass), timpani + 1 percussion, piano, and strings: 8, 6, 5, 4, 2. (The following woodwind doubles are permitted: piccolo, English horn, and bass clarinet.) Attendance is required for both sessions, and each composer is responsible for delivering professional quality score and parts. Travel and accommodations will be provided.
Applicants must be either a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or student studying full-time in the U.S. Applicants should be composers at the early stages of their professional careers and must not have had a work performed (other than a reading) by a Bay Area professional orchestra, nor have had a substantial history of works performed by professional orchestras at large. Composers who have applied previously for an EarShot Reading are eligible to apply. Applicants must submit a signed submission form, representative work sample orchestral score, resume, works list, and letter of recommendation. Incomplete, illegible, or late applications will not be considered.
What’s the most important factor in becoming a successful contemporary composer? (By successful, I mean a composer whose work gets played regularly in public venues, recorded, and written about in the music press). Talent? Sure. Determination? Of course. Hard work? Maybe. Strong relationships with musicians who inspire and play your work?
Dobrinka Tabakova, the 32-year-old Bulgarian/English composer whose debut ECM CD, String Paths, will be released in the U.S. on June 18, has all those qualities in spades but her career illustrates just how important that last social aspect of building a career are. Tabakova’s music is a textured blend of modern and ancient, familiar and unknown, tonal and modal, eastern and western, folky and formal. Her big musical gestures are bold and assertive. Among post-modern composers only John Adams and a handful of others write opening “hooks” that grab the listener as seemingly effortlessly.
When Tabakova was 11, her father, a medical physicist, took a position at Kings College Hospital and moved his family from their native city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to London. For Dobrinka, a quiet, only child with still rudimentary English skills, it was an opportunity to immerse herself even more deeply into the world of classical music.
“I had started taking piano lessons in Plovdiv when I was 7 and I continued them in London,” she says. “I was lucky enough to have teachers who didn’t seem to mind that I sometimes improvised when I came to a part I didn’t know,” she says, with a laugh. She applied and was accepted into the Junior Academy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which provides specialist training Saturday training to promising young people between the ages of 4 and 18.
“By the time I applied to Guildhall, I was improvising more and more and writing down sketches that I was pleased with. I took along a couple of those to my entrance exam and was accepted to study composition.” She ultimately graduated from regular Guildhall and then earned a doctorate in composition from King’s College, London.
Her first “big break” came at the age of 14, when she submitted a piece to the Fourth Vienna International Music Competition and won the Jean-Frederic Perrenoud Prize & Medal.
“I had seen an advert in the corridors at Guildhall and submitted a piece as a kind of lark,” she says. “I was stunned when I learned I had won.” Other opportunities quickly followed. She received a scholarship to attend the Centre Acanthes. Xenakis was guest composer and Messiaen’s widow Yvonne Loriod was giving lectures. Heady stuff, indeed, for a 15-year-old. Read the rest of this entry »
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Statement from the Shapero Family regarding the passing of Harold Shapero (1920-2013)
Harold Shapero, an American composer, pianist and longtime Professor of Music at Brandeis University, passed peacefully in his sleep on Friday, May 17, 2013 at the age of 93, following complications with pneumonia. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts on April 29, 1920, Shapero maintained a bold presence on the music scene in greater-Boston for the last 73 years. His friend Aaron Copland identified him with the American “Stravinsky school” of neo-classical composers that included lifelong friends and colleagues Arthur Berger, Leonard Bernstein and Irving Fine. A graduate of Harvard, his teachers included Walter Piston, Paul Hindemith and Nadia Boulanger. Shapero was a mainstay at the MacDowell Colony during the 1940s, where he completed his Serenade in D. He was an early student at Tanglewood, where Copland presented a performance of Shapero’s Nine-Minute Overture. His music was recognized with accolades such as the Prix de Rome, a Naumburg Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship and a Koussevitzky Foundation Commission. Leonard Bernstein, who conducted the premiere of Shapero’s Symphony for Classical Orchestra with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1947 called the work “a marvel” in a letter to Serge Koussevitsky. In his thirty-seven years of teaching at Brandeis, Shapero was instrumental in the development of the university’s renowned electronic music studio and taught music theory and composition. He mentored countless students and was a key figure in shaping the Brandeis University Department of Music in its early decades, serving as the department’s chair in the 1960s. Shapero maintained a close relationship with the University in recent years as a Professor Emeritus of Music, frequently attending concerts and sharing his charm with students, faculty and staff. A true Renaissance man, his widespread talents and interests ranged from the study of birds to electronics. He is survived by his wife Esther of Natick, Massachusetts, an esteemed visual artist, and his daughter Pyra (Hannah) Shapero of Falls Church, Virginia. A commercial artist and electronic musician, Pyra fondly recalls working with her father on synthesizer and piano improvisations from 1968-1972. A memorial service is planned for Wednesday, May 22 in Natick and will include remembrances by Shapero’s closest friends and the playing of a recent recording of his Arioso Variations, performed by pianist Sally Pinkas. Details are forthcoming.
“With the passing of my great friend, Harold Shapero, an entire era of great American music has passed. He knew personally Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Nadia Boulanger, Koussevitsky, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Hindemith, Irving Fine, Leo Smit and hundreds of the leading people in 20th Century art. He loved hummingbirds, hated the Yankees, serialism and lawyers, loved Thai food, Scarlett Johansson and Whittier. In his music he captured beauty and hope. He could not write without the inspiration. He hated using ‘formulas’ and ‘diddling’. He wrote music for people. In spite of his passing and our sorrow, his music will live forever.” -Brian G. Ferrell, friend of Harold Shapero
Lukas Foss, Irving Fine and Harold Shapero at Tanglewood, 1946
Alex Ross’s next book, “Wagner–Art in the Shadow of Music” is still very much a work in progress but his keynote lecture at Wagner WorldWide 2013 at the University of South Carolina (now up on YouTube) demonstrates that he is on the trail of some fascinating, and little known, aspects of his subject’s world.
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Here’s something cool to mark on your calendar. The Ojai Music Festival is launching a free three-week online course next Wednesday, May 15, leading up to the 2013 Festival which runs June 6-9. The courses are designed to help audiences “listen smarter” and enable them to gain deeper insight into the music and programming that have made Ojai–now in its 67th year–one of America’s most durable and loved summer music festivals. (FYI, this year’s Festival focuses mainly on the music of Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, John Cage and John Luther Adams).
The OjaiU courses are led by Douglas McLennan, editor and founder of ArtsJournal.com and feature guest instructors including Festival Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris and 2013 Music Director Mark Morris. Other instructors are composer John Luther Adams, pianist Jeremy Denk, dean of the Juilliard School Ara Guzelimian, music and dance critic John Rockwell, filmmaker Eva Soltes, and Los Angeles Times classical music critic Mark Swed.
We’re looking for a WordPress genius to help us update Sequenza21 by cleaning out the crawl space and attic, adding some new wiring and plumbing, attaching the garage to the main house, making the family room a more fun place to hang out and talk and to bring in a new Wolf oven and SubZero fridge. Ok, my recent conversion to home mortageship has addled my brain a bit. What we want to do is make S21 more social and interactive, clean out the spam and cut down the archives, combine what is now four separate WP instances (main, forum, CD reviews, and calendar) into one unified whole, maybe reskin add a web commerce capability. We can pay you something for the initial work and a modest retainer for being on call. Also, we’ll give you masthead credit and promote the hell out of your next concert or CD. Send a us a note if you’re interested.
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Who wants a pair of tickets to coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe at Zankel Hall on Friday night? This is an ACO project described as the first and only professional research and development lab to support the creation of cutting-edge new American orchestral music through no-holds-barred experimentation. The composers participating in coLABoratory this season are selected from a national search for their willingness to experiment and stretch their own musical sensibilities, and their ability to test the limits of the orchestra. More info here.
If you’ve already liked our Facebook page, leave your name and a contact e-mail here before noon on Thursday. If you haven’t liked the Sequenza21 page, leave you name over there. If you’re from out of town, you can give me to local friends if you like. On Thursday afternoon, my trusty dog and I will choose a winner.
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