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Above: From the first European recording of the complete Ives Violin Sonatas, by János Négyesy and Cornelius Cardew 

Those of us who knew him will miss his personal warmth and humor, and the joy he took in making music. This was originally posted by Rand Steiger on Facebook, and it’s so good I’m sharing here:

It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that the great violinist János Négyesy passed away today due to complications that arose during cardiac surgery. Professor Négyesy was 75 and had been a member of the UCSD faculty since 1979. He is survived by his wife, Päivikki Nykter.

János Négyesy was born in Budapest, Hungary and studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music and later at Detmold in Germany. He left Hungary in 1965 and from 1970-74 was concertmaster of the Berlin Radio Orchestra. He lived and worked in Paris, Vienna and New York before joining the UCSD faculty in 1979. Long an advocate of new music, Mr. Négyesy appeared at major festivals throughout the world. In addition to performing, recording and teaching he wrote a definitive study of contemporary violin techniques, and was an innovative visual artist working with computer graphics.

Some of Négyesy’s landmark recordings included the first European recording of the complete Violin and Piano Sonatas of Charles Ives with pianist Cornelius Cardew and recordings of works specifically dedicated to him by important contemporary composers such as Attila Bozay, Carlos Fariqas, Vinko Globokar, Hans Otte, Isang Yun and his UCSD colleague Roger Reynolds.

Négyesy had a long friendship and collaboration with John Cage, who dedicated his piece One6 to him. Négyesy gave the world premiere of Cage’s Freeman Etudes I-XVI in Torino, Italy in 1984 and XVII-XXXII in Ferrara, Italy in 1991. He then produced a double CD of the complete Etudes in 1995 on Newport Classics Records. The complete Bartôk Duos for two Violins – with Päivikki Nykter – was released by Neuma Records in June 1993. Dedications – with solo works written especially for Mr. Négyesy by current and former UCSD students was released in June ’96 and a CD with solo compositions by Bartôk, Berio and Xenakis was released in Winter 2000, on Aucourant Records and Neuma Records, respectively.

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Today is the last day you can hear Derive 2 at the BBC’s web site–they stream for one week after the concert. There was a CD released earlier this year that contains this same version (which supersedes the earlier version released by DGG in 2005). I don’t generally think of double reeds in Boulez’s music, but he really gives the oboe and bassoon some wonderful music in Derive 2. It’s conducted by Daniel Barenboim, whose Boulez performances are always colorful and invigorating. You can listen to it here.

Some wonderful recent works heard earlier on the Proms: Canon Fever by Mark-Anthony Turnage (premiere), Laterna Magica by Saariaho (the strongest work of hers that I’ve heard in some time — I’m not a fan of her recent music, preferring her work from the 80s and 90s), and a tight, expressive performance of City Noir, conducted by its composer, John Adams, leading an orchestra featuring students from Juilliard and the Royal Academy of Music.

I’m still trying to catch up to this week’s concerts, which include more Boulez, Steve Martland’s Street Songs, and a Kronos Quartet recital. The home page for the 2012 Proms on BBC is here.

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Musicians on the outskirts of Libbey Park performing Inuksuit (note the percussionist playing water gong in the upper left hand corner)

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, so consider this photo album a 26,000 word review until I file my story. Inuksuit was one of the most extraordinary pieces of music I’ve heard since–well, John Luther Adams’ orchestra and tape work, Dark Waves. (On Sunday, we’ll hear JLA’s two-piano version of Dark Waves.)

Do read Paul Muller’s account of this concert and Thursday evening’s concert.

To give you some idea of what the performance was like, here are some crude videos I made on my not-designed-for-filming camera. The mike on the camera did a reasonable job of capturing the changes in sound as you moved from one spot to another, as I did throughout the performance.

If you’re reading this before or around 11 a.m. PST June 9, hop on over to the live stream from Ojai to watch/hear Marc Andre Hamelin, Christianne Stotijn, and Martin Frost perform Alban Berg, as well as an orchestral work by Eivind Buene. Watch it here.

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Early reviews care of bloggers (one well-informed, one not so much)

Boosey and Hawkes has a perusal score available–through an inadequate interface methinks–here.

I was able to get some sense of the First Act by glancing at the score, and I wrote a preview for the LA Weekly here.

I’m attending the Sunday show and will report back here. Did anyone see the premiere last night? Your opinions are most welcome in the comments section!

Updates:
Zachary Woolfe weighs in with the first professional review I’ve found online. His verdict? Moments of power and beauty, but Adams and Sellars were unable to sustain the intensity throughout the work.

Mark Swed calls it “a masterpiece” in his review here.

Joshua Kosman writes, “much of “The Gospel” finds Adams at his most evocative and inventive.” Read his complete review here.

Performing arts journalist Charlene Baldridge gives her impressions (highly favorable) on her blog.

Timothy Mangan finds The Gospel “a rather grueling evening of music,” but much of that music is “teeming and fascinating.” His review here.

Robert D. Thomas provides the most detailed reportage, although he appears to be withholding his judgement as to the work’s success or failure. His review here.

Pre-concert lecture from the world premiere, featuring John Adams here.

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There has been plenty of eulogizing and assessment of Maurice Sendak’s remarkable career, most of it focused (rightly so) on his wonderful books. While Sendak’s work in opera and ballet has been praised, I don’t feel that enough attention has been paid to the two operas he worked on with Oliver Knussen. The first, Where the Wild Things Are, is the best children’s opera of our time; the second, Higglety Pigglety Pop!, is one of the best late 20th-century operas of any type. Higglety Pigglety Pop! is a fairy tale with great appeal to children, yet the surreal story of a selfish dog’s quest for happiness is laden with potent symbolism that speaks deeply to adults.

The efficiency of Sendak’s librettos to both works, and the ways he created new dialogue for Where the Wild Things Are, and distilled the text for Higglety Pigglety Pop!, reveal the handiwork of a shrewd man with a gift for the stage. Knussen’s music–impressionistic in Wild Things, parodic and post-modern in Higglety Pigglety Pop! is colorful and contemporary, yet highly accessible. I hope that more companies consider mounting a production of one or both operas.

I’ve posted my review of the 1990 LA Opera production of both works on my blog, and I hope it will give you a sense of the magic that Sendak and Knussen conjured for an audience full of children and adults. You can read the review here.

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Laurie Spiegel, DIY electronic music goddess

How awful is the dystopia in The Hunger Games? Well, if you listen to one cue in the movie, you might be led to believe that only pitch-drifting analog synthesizers are available, and multitrack recordings are made with the greatest of difficulties.

At least that’s what one might believe encountering Laurie Spiegel’s 1972 composition, Sediment, during the cornucopia scene in the Hollywood blockbuster. (Steve Reich’s music also makes an appearance!)

Geeta Dayal has the full story, along with an interview of Laurie Spiegel, here.

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Two American premieres of important new works by Louis Andriessen at the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella concert tomorrow evening (Feb. 28), 8 pm. Get there at 7 pm for the preconcert talk with Andriessen and conductor Reinbert de Leeuw.

Much more is revealed in my preview here. 

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We had just seen John Cage recite his mesostic/theater work, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet. My composition teacher, a tenured faculty member who had won many awards including a Pulitzer Prize, told us, “Everyone should see John Cage once.”

And then, as if to underscore the idea that one only needed to see Cage once, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer added, “But of course, his ideas are much more important than his music.” At that time (the early 1980s), there weren’t many recordings of Cage’s music available, and I rarely encountered any performances of his music, so my professor’s utterance was a reasonable statement for many.

Three decades later, there are 279 recordings featuring one or more works by John Cage available on arkivmusic.com; my old teacher has under 30 listed. It isn’t just that Cage is the most-recorded member of the postwar avant-garde—he has more recordings than plenty of conservative composers. Here’s a list of the top 10 recorded composers born in the 20th century at arkivmusic.com

1. Shostakovich 1449
2. Britten 958
3. Bernstein 632
4. Barber 541
5. Rodrigo 461 (and 103 of those are the Concierto de Aranjuez)
6. Messiaen 431
7. Walton 413
8. Khachaturian 357 (138 of those are the Sabre Dance)
9. Cage 279
10. Arvo Part 239

Clearly, Cage’s compositions, as well as his ideas, are very important in the classical music industry. This year you’ll be hearing a lot of his music, as various cities and organizations celebrate the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth. The John Cage trust is a useful web site to learn about upcoming performances, but if you live in Southern California, you’ll want to consult this list I compiled for the LA Weekly of Cage events this year.

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This has got to be a first. Luis Andrei Cobo is offering his services to compose a grand opera to the highest Ebay bidder. For $150,000 you can buy a grand opera over 2 hours in length.

Cobo estimates that he’ll need 2 years of full-time work to complete the project, so $75K/year will enable him to maintain the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed as a software programmer.

Don’t have $150K? That’s OK, he’s open to other offers. For as little as $32,000 he will write a half-hour long chamber opera for 3 to 5 singers.

The winning bidder will get to suggest subject matter for the opera, be able to produce the work royalty-free, and upon the composer’s death, the highest bidder or the heir(s) of the bidder will inherit the work.

Sounds like a deal. Then again, obtaining an actual staging of the finished work….

Complete information on this ebay item can be found here. Good luck on your bid!

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Osvaldo Golijov working hard to meet his next commission deadline

Seems like it’s been a while since we had some Golijov bashing (and defending) on our site. What do you think about this story about a Eugene Symphony premiere, with its disturbing allegations of extended theft of another composer’s work?

The reporter doesn’t mention that Golijov’s m.o. these days is to collaborate with pop/folk musicians, making the question of authorship in works such as Ayre particularly murky. Nevertheless, if nearly 50% of the work is music by another composer, shouldn’t that composer get a conspicuous co-credit on the composition? Golijov does credit his collaborators, but you usually have to dig down into the program notes or CD credits to discover who else helped write the music on which Golijov’s name is so prominently displayed.

Read Bob Keefer’s story about the controversy here.

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