Schwendingers on Playing it UNSafe


Laura and Leni Schwendinger, composer and lighting designer respectively, are featured this season on the American Composers Orchestra’s Playing it UNSafe program (3/4 at Zankel Hall in NYC).

Here they are in a video discussing the project.

Erkki-Sven Tüür: Strata (CD Review)

Erkki-Sven Tüür
Strata
ECM Records New Series 2040 CD

In his recent music, Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür has dispensed with some of the polystylistic juxtapositions of his earlier works in favor of a methodical, mathematically devised approach he calls “vectorial writing.” While this approach does seem to create a more unified sensibility to his harmonic language, the results never seem mechanical. Rather, Tüür’s recent music is capable of a passionate immediacy that’s often quite refreshing. Yet at the same time, he’s unafraid of employing swaths of dissonance and creating intricate formal designs.

Strata, Tüür’s Sixth Symphony, is an intense work, brimming with dynamic power. Emerging from icy verticals and bustling counterpoint are myriad swells of knotty cluster chords and fierce, angular melodies, which gradually build to explosive orchestral climaxes. Strict constructionists may quibble with calling a single-movement work a symphony; but then again, they’d have to argue with Lutoslawski on that score too! Strata certainly tends to favor the heft and developmental formal trajectory of a large-scale symphonic work rather than the episodic/programmatic elements of a tone poem. In a confident and detailed performance, the Nordic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Anu Tali, makes a strong impression here in their debut for the ECM imprint.

Strata is paired with Noesis, a double concerto for the sibling duo of violinist Carolin Widmann and clarinetist Jörg Widmann. Their solo lines emerge from a slowly evolving, prevailingly ominous orchestral backdrop, which is only occasionally brightened by shimmering chords from pitched percussion. The Widmanns are given numerous dovetailing duets and ebullient solo turns which contrast with their stark accompaniment. Eventually, the orchestra gives chase, adding propulsive countermelodies, jagged repeated string chords, sustained dissonant wind clusters, and eruptive brass and drums to the proceedings. Once again, Tüür has fashioned a labyrinthine journey in a single formidable and fascinating movement. Recommended.

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Upcoming US performances of music by Erkki-Sven Tüür:

February 24, 25, 26 & March 1 – New York, NY – NY Philharmonic with Paavo Järvi conducting NY premiere of “Aditus”
(details)

February 24 – Washington, DC – Portrait Concert with New Tallinn Trio at the Phillips Collection

Suggesting a Feminine Side to the New York Phil

Errollyn Wallen

Following up on Alex Ross’ post about the New York Philharmonic’s 2011-’12 season, which mentioned the lack of representation of American composers on the Contact! series and women composers throughout the schedule, we asked Sequenza 21 readers to share their lists of American women composers that the Philharmonic should consider programming.

Angelica Negron

Here’s my own take. I’ve compiled three chamber orchestra programs for the Contact! concerts and one for the regular subscription series: all consisting entirely of living women composers. One features American music and the other programs have a more diverse array of nationalities. I hasten to add that this just scratched the surface: one could do many, many more of these!

Amy Williams

Program 1

Jennifer Higdon – Soliloquy

Sarah Kirkland Snider – newly commissioned work

Hannah Lash – A Matter of Truth

Amy Williams – Sala Luminosa


Helen Grime

Program 2

Angélica Negrón – Fulano

Errolyn Wallen – Concerto Grosso

Du Yun – Impeccable Quake

Helen Grime – Clarinet Concerto

Program 3

Alexandra Gardner – Tamarack

Unsuk Chin – Akrostichon-wortspiel

Tansy Davies – Residuum (After Dowland)

Vivian Fung – newly commissioned work

Lera Auerbach

Subscription Series Program

Augusta Read Thomas – Ceremonial

Lera Auerbach – Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra

Kaija Saariaho – Orion

NY Phil’s Curious Omissions

Yesterday, Alex Ross wrote a short essay on The Rest is Noise about next season’s offerings at the New York Philharmonic. After discussing several highlights, including Stockhausen’s Gruppen at the Park Avenue Armory, the NYPO’s first presentation of a piece by Philip Glass (!), and a new work by John Corigliano, he pointed out some curious omissions.

Ross wrote,”The Contact! series will elicit new works from Alexandre Lunsqui, Yann Robin, and Michael Jarrell. The series has no American music this year, nor is there any music by women in the entire season.”

Like Ross, I’m very excited by some of the other programs the NY Phil has in store for audiences, but I can’t help but wish that both Contact! and the season in general were more diverse.

Let’s help them out: a list of American women composers that should appear on Contact! and subscription concerts at the NY Phil.

New Kid on the (Brooklyn) Block




Congratulations to Alan Pierson. Effective immediately, the conductor, composer, and director of Alarm Will Sound will join the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra as their new Artistic Director.

It’s no secret that the Brooklyn Phil has been facing significant challenges of late. During the recession, they’ve endured straightened finances and had to curtail their programming. Pierson is part of an effort to reboot it as a lithe unit, an “urban orchestra.”

The ongoing plan is that the Phil will reconnect with the community and widen its reach by having a presence in a number of different locales throughout the borough. This seems similar in some ways to the recent model of the New Jersey Symphony, which gives concerts throughout the Garden State and has made educational outreach and community engagement a significant part of its profile.

Let’s hope that this approach helps the Brooklyn Philharmonic to remain lively in its programming and solvent in its finances! Oh, and lest any new music devotees are concerned, fear not: Pierson will still remain in his current position with Alarm Will Sound.

Yesterday, Pierson released the following statement about his new appointment:

Dear friends, supporters, and fans of the Brooklyn Philharmonic,

It is a great honor to be given an opportunity to help build the future of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. This is an extraordinary time to be making music here, with Brooklyn’s ever-increasing cultural richness and diversity fostering a fantastically fertile artistic environment. In re-imagining the role of the Brooklyn Phil, we want the orchestra to connect with the Borough’s population through events that celebrate and reflect its diverse communities.

The Philharmonic’s 2011-12 re-launch will see us performing in communities throughout the Borough, rather than at one single venue. Each program will bring the Phil together with artists of the community in original and exciting collaborations. My hope is that this work will be stimulating not only to people living in these neighborhoods, but to the broader New York concert-going public and the larger musical community as well.

The Philharmonic has an exceptional history of groundbreaking music-making over more than 50 years, and I’m excited to help lead it into this next era. While plans for our new season are already underway, we’re always looking for new ideas — please feel free to contact us at info@brooklynphilharmonic.org if you have programming ideas you’d like to share. And keep watching this website for news and updates as plans progress for the Brooklyn Phil’s re-launch this fall.

With warm wishes,
Alan Pierson
Artistic Director
Brooklyn Philharmonic

Lindberg & Grisey featured on CONTACT! concerts this weekend

The New York Philharmonic kicks off its second season of the new music series CONTACT! this Friday and Saturday at Symphony Space and the Met Museum (tickets/details here). The theme of the concert is spectralism. The program pairs Souvenir, a new work written in memory of Gérard Grisey by NYPO composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg, with Grisey’s own Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil. Lindberg studied with Grisey, and he talks about the connections between them in the video interview below.

And more about his new piece:

And there are lots more video goodies and links over at the NY Phil’s Tumblr page.

Project 440 winners announced

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra announced the winners of the Project 440 competition tonight. The four winners will create new works for Orpheus to be premiered in 2012.

They are:


Alex Mincek


Clint Needham


Andrew Norman


Cynthia Lee Wong

It was quite  a rigorous vetting process with some very talented competition. Congratulations to all!

Site-specific “Kraftiness”

Magnus Lindberg’s important early opus Kraft received its long-belated NY premiere this past week. While the requirements for the piece itself – a large orchestra, massive percussion section, antiphonal spatializing, electronics, amplification, and several soloists – are daunting enough to make the piece a logistically challenging one to present, Lindberg goes still further to personalize its requirements. He stipulates that the percussion section use found materials from a local junkyard in their performance of the work, thereby locating each performance and making it a site-specific entity.

Here’s a video of the NYPO’s percussionists going on a scavenger hunt with Lindberg in preparation for the NY performances of Kraft.





This type of piece personalization makes each orchestra’s rendering of the work a unique experience; but it’s also curtailed the number of organizations who have, to date, presented Kraft.

Kraft, and other pieces with daunting requirements, raise certain aesthetic questions for composers. Is it important for each performance of a new piece to have a sense of personalization? Should composers strive to think big, even if it means that they’ll get less performances as a result? Or is a more portable and utilitarian view preferable?

Of course, one can make strong a case for both options and many variations in between. Lindberg himself has composed works which are far more easily programmed than Kraft!

But the piece does throw down a gauntlet. Composers: are you willing to wait years for performances of your music if that’s what making highly personal work requires? Or do you prefer getting your music out into the world right away and thus favor more practical solutions?

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UPDATE:

David Smooke has more on his blog at NMB:

The Kids are All Rite

Rite

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Deutsche Grammophon CD

True, Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps is a watershed work. It serves as many a classical listener’s jumping off point when first exploring Twentieth Century repertoire. But can a work, no matter how seminal, have too many recordings? Can it get programmed so often on concerts that it loses its zing?

I have several recordings of the piece myself, but I’d begun to wonder in the past couple years whether the Rite was in danger of being overexposed. And I’m not the only one…

Enter young conductor Gustavo Dudamel and his even younger colleagues from the Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Their version of the Rite is viscerally powerful, rhythmically muscular, and impressively wide in its dynamic range. After getting a bit burnt out by the piece and its attendant folklore, I’m refreshed by hearing Dudamel’s rendition.

In a clever programming touch, the Stravinsky is paired with Silvestre Revueltas’ La Noche de los Mayas. Originally a 1939 film score, a concert suite of the work was only fashioned some two decades after Revueltas’ death. Latin dance signatures and melodic inflections are offset by virtuosic percussion writing, including some cadenzas that help to make evident the musical kinship between Rite of Spring and La Noche de los Mayas.

The sociocultural resonances are obvious as well. It might seem gruesome to pair works based on their common interest in human sacrifice, but Rite restores the vitality and bite of early modernism’s interest in still-earlier primitivism.