Julia Holter: “In the Same Room” (Video)

On March 6th, Julia Holter is having a release party for her new release Ekstasis (out 3/8 on RVNG Intl.) at Le Poisson Rouge (show info here).

Check out the video for lead off track “In the Same Room” below.

Opening the show is Sequenza 21 friend and modern music pianist extraordinaire Sarah Cahill. Sarah’s performing a solo set entitled “The Mystical Tone,” -’exploring the work of composers who were inspired by Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, astrology, and Transcendentalism, among them Scriabin, Dane Rudhyar, Ruth Crawford, Henry Cowell, and Erik Satie.’ Indeed,that’s good curating:  its mystical tone will be an excellent complement to Julia Holter’s otherworldly out pop.

Monday: Milarsky leads Axiom in still another NEW Carter piece

Jeffrey Milarsky’s Juilliard-based ensemble Axiom generally performs “modern classics:” repertoire from the Twentieth century that the school’s other NME, the New Juilliard Ensemble, doesn’t tend to cover as frequently (filling in a hole in the new music curriculum at a conservatory? Excellent idea!).

But they’re making an exception tonight, giving the premiere of Three Explorations, a 2010 work for baritone and ensemble by everyone’s favorite 103 year-old composer Elliott Carter. It’s a setting of poems from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Also on the program: Babbitt’s All Set and Boulez’s Sur Incises. And the show’s the best price in town: free.

11/11: Melissa Fogarty’s Barber CD Release Concert

Despite and Still: Melissa Fogarty Sings Samuel Barber
Melissa Fogarty, soprano; Marc Peloquin, piano
Aureole Records CD

Soprano Melissa Fogarty has an excellent voice, well-suited to interpret the songs of Samuel Barber. Her instrument possesses both the required flexibility for melismatic writing and a sumptuous legato tone for the creamy lyricism of Barber in balladic mode. On Despite and Still, Fogarty performs some of the more famous selections from the composer’s song repertoire – including the perennial favorite “Sure on This Shining Night” and the oft-programmed cycle Hermit Songs: settings of Celtic monks’ verse and marginal annotations.

Fogarty also includes the 1969 set mentioned in the title, and Op. 45, another late group of songs. These reveal a streak of melancholy that one might ascribe to some of the frustrations Barber encountered late in life: the colossal flop of his opera Antony and Cleopatra among them. Or, one might instead just consider this to be a natural stage of autumnal growth for a composer who was a consummate craftsman, fully aware of the importance of varying his oeuvre. Either way, Fogarty sings these pieces quite beautifully, with considerable grace and poignancy.
Melissa Fogarty will celebrate the release of her second solo album, “Despite and Still – Melissa Fogarty Sings Samuel Barber,” on Friday, November 11 at St Luke in the Fields, NYC.

“A Last Song, and a Very Last, and Yet Another,” will feature an all-American song program with less known gems by Barber (such as “Despite and Still”), as well as Leonard Bernstein‘s cycle “I Hate Music!,” and Tom Cipullo‘s cycle “Another Reason I Don’t Keep A Gun in the House,” among others. Pianist Marc Peloquin will accompany Fogarty.

WHEN: Friday, November 11 at 8 P.M.

WHERE: St Luke in the Fields,

487 Hudson Street, New York City


INFORMATION: 212.633.2167 | www.melissafogarty.com

Babbitt’s 2nd Quartet w/score (video)

This video has been making the rounds, but I thought I’d share it here as well. It’s a terrific way to listen to one of Milton Babbitt’s finest early works: his 2nd Quartet presented with a scrolling score!

And here’s a late Babbitt work, “The Old Order Changeth” (1998), sans scrolling alas, but played by estimable Ursula Oppens.

Cyberbullying and Britten

When I planned to teach a course at Westminster Choir College about Benjamin Britten’s vocal music in the Fall, I knew that gender/sexuality studies would play a role in our evaluation of his works. But I certainly wasn’t planning to discuss something as topical and unsettling as the recent tragedy at Rutgers. Our campus is a half hour away from RU (my alma mater), and a number of students were understandably shaken by hearing about Tyler Clementi’s suicide.

The technological tools for communication may have gotten more sophisticated; but the people using them, if they act selfishly, can be in danger of disconnecting from their better impulses. Sadly, in this instance, the consequences were heartbreaking.

With Britten’s Michelangelo Sonnets and his opera Peter Grimes staring up at us, we began to discuss their texts. We then pondered the connection between the poems and some biographical background: Britten and Pears’ early collaboration, their trip to America, and eventual partnership. In my initial lesson notes, I’d pointed out that theirs was a relationship that was frowned upon in many corners, and would still be illegal for more than two decades after they returned to Great Britain. I asked: what resonances to Britten’s life can be found in the poetry of Michelangelo?

My plan was to then turn to a discussion of how Britten depicts these texts and alludes to personal biography in the musical details of these songs.

But in light of cyberbullying and prejudice, the continued homophobia in American society seemed an unavoidable topic: one I didn’t want to foist on the class but certainly wasn’t going to avoid if they decided to broach it. Delicately, one of the students brought up Tyler Clementi’s suicide. I was touched by how sensitively and maturely the other students in the class responded. They thoughtfully discussed the issues surrounding this terrible event, reflecting on how it affects their future work as teachers and musicians. They also reflected on how it should serve as a wake up call for their current lives, challenging them to speak out against teen suicide and try to be compassionate friends to their peers.

They pointed out that whether it is homophobia, racism, social, financial, or academic pressures that are troubling them, many young people are under duress and in need of compassion: both community support and sometimes professional help. As we saw this week, it’s far too easy for someone to be treated with prejudice and cruelty, even today. As some of the students pointed out, among young people we sadly must say, “Especially today.”

I’ll remember many of the comments made by the students on Friday. Although, to respect their privacy, I won’t share their more personal observations, there was one comment that brought us back to the music in eloquent fashion. It was the suggestion that Britten, indeed through the works we were studying that very day in class, could teach us a great deal about prejudice.

“What Britten sought, throughout his life, to portray in his music, was that if you treat someone like an outsider, we all suffer as a society: none of us can grow.”

Although we didn’t have time to find all of the musical intricacies in the songs, I’m very grateful for that lesson.

Oliver Knussen on Lukas Foss

Echoi performed by New Fromm Players at FCM. Photo: Hilary Scott

At the preconcert lecture at Tanglewood on Monday night, Oliver Knussen had this to say about Lukas Foss’ Echoi, which was featured on the 2010 Festival of Contemporary Music. “When you look at a work like Echoi, which is filled with all of this crazy improv stuff that’s very much of its time – the early ’60s – whatever strange systems Lukas used to create the music, he always chose the ‘right notes.’ There was an innate musicality there that transcended the chaos to create very affecting music. Many other composers’ works from that era haven’t worn well and sound dated, but Echoi remains a piece that really works.”

“When Lukas passed away, I took out all my old LPs of his music and put them onto my computer. I’ve really been enjoying go through and listening to them again. I’ve been sharing them with friends, and many of them, including a number of young composers, are just blown away by the music.”

Sounds like Foss deserves a revival. And, in my opinion, Knussen’s the man to do it!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear his Foss mixtape – fancy a trade, Olly?

ICE tonight on Q2

The International Contemporary Ensemble will be featured at 7 PM tonight on Q2. Hosted by John Schaefer, this live broadcast from Yamaha Piano Salon in NYC is a sneak preview of Lincoln Center Festival’s Varèse: (R)evolution.

(R)evolution will present the composer’s entire oeuvre over two concerts on July 19 &20. Performers include the New York Philharmonic, conductor Alan Gilbert, percussionist Steven Schick, and ICE.

Q2 and ICE have been kind enough to share a freebie that all the new music kids will be adding to their Droid/iPhone/Blackberrys: a Poème Électronique ringtone!

Density 21.5 (1936)
with Claire Chase, flute
Un Grand Sommeil Noir (1906)
with Samantha Malk, soprano
Ameriques (NEW YORK PREMIERE of 8-hand piano version) (1929)
with Jacob Greenberg, Amy Williams, Amy Briggs and Thomas Rosenkranz