Thank you to Miranda Cuckson for this remembrance of composer Henri Dutilleux.
My visit to Henri Dutilleux was part of one of the most beautiful summers I’ve had. I stayed for several weeks in Paris just before beginning my doctoral degree. I was determined to pass out of the language-course requirement, so I rented a little apartment on the Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine and immersed myself in French, reading twenty pages a day, chatting with storepeople and watching French talk shows on TV. Besides exploring the city and making day trips to Chartres and Auvers-sur-Oise, I visited many museums, including the small ones (Bourdelle, Zadkine), and heard music at the Salle Pleyel (Krystian Zimerman), Cité de la Musique (Ensemble Intercontemporain in Carter, Kurtag and Dalbavie), Théâtre du Chatelet (Bluebeard’s Castle) and Bastille Opera (Renée Fleming in Manon). Meanwhile I practiced every day, and sometime in the middle of my stay, I called up Henri Dutilleux.
I had been working on his violin concerto L’arbre des songes (The Tree of Dreams, which I fondly thought of as L’arbre des singes, The Tree of Monkeys) in my lessons at Juilliard with Robert Mann. I was becoming increasingly interested in contemporary music and working with composers, and Mr. Mann’s involvement in that kind of thing was very inspiring to me. Mr. Mann and the Juilliard Quartet had commissioned Dutilleux in 1976 to write the string quartet Ainsi la nuit. Having listened to me play the concerto, he contacted Dutilleux and asked him to hear me. I was of course thrilled that the composer agreed. When I called Monsieur Dutilleux, he asked if I had a pianist to play with. I said no, so he arranged for a young Japanese woman from the Paris Conservatoire to come and play the orchestra part.
One morning, I walked along a traffic-less, narrow street on the Île Saint-Louis, where pinkish-grey buildings glowed softly in the sun. The air was warm and stirred only by the sound of children’s playful shrieks, emanating from somewhere. Dutilleux greeted me at his studio – a rather small-framed man wearing a jacket with his trousers pulled high on his waist. He was entirely elegant and welcoming. His cozy studio was neat, with piles of scores and manuscript paper, and sunny. The children’s voices were louder now through his open window- closing them, he said that there was a school in the back and he enjoyed hearing their shouts. We talked a while, then I played his piece through. He made only a few comments – details of articulation, phrasing – then he signed my music and we talked a while more. We had tea and he gave me a copy of his CD, The Shadows of Time with the Boston Symphony, and talked about his use of children’s voices in the music. Then I went on my way.
I recently saw Dutilleux’s short posthumous homage to Elliott Carter, in which he said that they did not meet much and that he had few specific memories besides of “a nice and strong character, a very charming man, and though we were far from each other – the Atlantic Ocean between us – I remain close to him and his music.” That June day was my only meeting with Dutilleux, but it was very meaningful for me to meet the creator of this music, and to play his substantial work under his curious and attentive gaze. He reminded me of certain great artists I’ve known, who share a simplicity and contentedness in their way of living that comes, I feel, from their satisfaction in their work and their love for what they do. Listening to recordings, I again relish his music’s generous ardor and stimulating clarity, luscious warmth, sweeping ebb and flow, big-band homophonic blocks of harmonies, and sense of spaciousness between the deep low register and the radiant highs. I respect his fastidiousness in composing but I dearly wish he had been more prolific in writing chamber and solo works that we could play and program. Having few pieces of his to play, I feel about his music much as I do about my meeting with him – truly delighted and wanting more chances to engage directly. He definitely left us wishing for more.
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
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.
What is Violin Futura? In the words of Santa Fe New Music, it is an “enthralling program [that] shows off the diversity and range of the contemporary violin.” As Piotr says, “I created the Violin Futura project because I wanted to expand the contemporary violin repertoire with pieces that are exciting to play and listen to while bringing something new and unique to the repertoire. Violin Futura is currently in its 3rd edition and I have over 40 pieces written for me by composers from United States, Germany, England, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Australia.”
The version he will be playing at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall includes works by Kari Henrik Juusela, John Kennedy, Marc Mellits, Gary Smart, Adam Schoenberg, Richard Belcastro, Sydney Hodkinson, Clifton Callender (World Premiere), Moritz Eggert, Piotr Szewczyk, Ethan Wickman, and Lawrence Dillon (World Premiere).
The admission price is $10. Anyone interested in an introduction to what the 21st-century violin is about can have it all at an excellent price.
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.
Kevin Noe performing Kieren MacMillan’s Drunken Moon with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Last Tuesday, April 16, I trekked to Snyder Hall on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI to see a performance by the Musique 21 ensemble, an immersive ‘Theatre of Music’ Production entitled Drunken Moon. The piece was conceived and created by conductor Kevin Noe and composer Kieren MacMillan, and features the merger of MacMillan’s eponymous monodrama for two voices with an English version of Arnold Schoenberg’s legendary Pierrot Lunaire.
Drunken Moon is more than a concert performance, it is a theatrical unfolding where the music and storyline are deeply intertwined and overlap on many occasions. I chose the descriptor ‘immersive’ deliberately, because Drunken Moon is more inviting to its audience than standard chamber operas. This is the touch of Kevin Noe, who has become renowned for his innovative programming with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. In fact, Drunken Moon began as a PNME production, one of that group’s many fully staged programs, which push the boundaries of traditional concert presentation to create an audience experience that is undeniably memorable and powerfully meaningful.
Even though he was armed with students from MSU’s College of Music, Maestro Noe’s designs hit their mark Tuesday night. The show began immediately as the audience entered the theatre, in that the performers and actors were dancing, drinking and chitchatting in an imagined bar, ‘La fin bleu’, set up on the stage. Walking in on the onstage commotion like this set a refreshing and relaxing tone, at least compared to the prescribed ceremony of most Classical or Contemporary music concerts. Although the ‘Fourth Wall’ was not manipulated to any extreme, the attitude of the performance made observing Drunken Moon feel like being a part of it in some small way.
The intimate audience experience I enjoyed Tuesday night was not only a product of the small theater, sets, costumes, lighting and music. My compatriots in the audience and I were drawn into the performance by the stellar acting and singing of soprano Lindsay Kesselman and baritone Robert Peavler who brilliantly portray the main characters in Drunken Moon – dubbed only “she” and “he”. The couple’s interaction is the focal point of the performance’s narrative and the link that connects MacMillan’s Drunken Moon with Pierrot Lunaire.
American composer Steven Bryant has recently contributed a beautiful new piece to the piano-and-winds repertoire. Commissioned by pianist Pamela Mia Paul, Bryant’s Concerto for Piano was recorded for the GIA Wind Works label, as part of a new disc entitled Audibles. The performers are Paul and the North Texas Wind Symphony, conducted by Eugene Migliaro Corporon.
Concertos for piano and wind instruments are a rare breed. The twentieth century produced only a handful of them, the most famous being Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments (1923-24, revised 1950). Shortly after Stravinsky, Colin McPhee wrote Concerto for Piano and Wind Octet in 1928. In 1943 Henry Cowell composed Little Concerto, for piano and band, and George Perle contributed Concertino for Piano, Winds, and Timpani in 1979. More recently additions to the genre include the Norwegian composer Mark Adderly’s Triptych for Solo Piano, Orchestra of Winds and Percussion (1988), and Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments by Kevin Volans (1995). Bryant’s compelling work is likely to become a well known member of this lesser known genre.
Composer Steven Bryant
Bryant explains that the two contrasting movements of the concerto are constructed from the same set of descending dyads. The first movement begins in wistful, contemplative simplicity, slowly unfolds, reaches towards its triumphant and spirited zenith, and then recedes again. The arc structure of the movement is elegantly punctuated by a shift from descending to ascending motion at the halfway point. The second movement, with its running sixteenth notes and playful syncopated rhythms, is a display of virtuosity for soloist and ensemble alike. In both movements Bryant uses the concise material to develop music that is thematically cohesive, rhythmically compelling, and filled with timbral beauty. Paul’s performance is clear, powerful, and supportive of the compositional structure.
Also included on the disc are compositions by Brett William Dietz, Donald White, Jess Turner, Francisco Jose Martinez Gallego, Carter Pann, and Justin Freer. Audibles is available on Amazon and also at www.giamusic.com.
To fulfill her mission: “Making contemporary music more approachable for everyone,” Turkish Pianist/Composer Seda Röder, has tapped into internationally seismic changes of accessible entrepreneurship in the arts.
Röder brings her boundless energy and entrepreneurial instincts to all of her endeavors in her native Istanbul, Europe, and the US, giving lectures, recitals, and performance collaborations while building an interactive platform for contemporary musicians from Turkey. Her website: “Listening to Istanbul” shares its title of her 2010 CD, which pioneers piano compositions of Röder and six other contemporary composers from Istanbul, commissioned and performed by Röder herself.
Röder’s album cover quotes: “I am listening to Istanbul, intent, with my eyes closed.” This is how Orhan Veli, the great Turkish poet of the 20th century, began his most celebrated poem about Istanbul…Seda Röder listens to Istanbul once more, intently, with open ears and eyes for an emerging new era. What she hears in 2010 while the city bears the title of the ‘Cultural Capital of Europe,’ are captivating and exciting sounds of a new generation of Turkish composers. Filled with energy and innovative creative force, their music represents the vivid and quickly changing atmosphere that the melting pot of Turkey radiates into the world.”
As she shares with me, Röder considers her commitment to creating a democratic and enlightened society in Turkey, between Orient and Occident, being subtle rather than overtly political. Even though she writes a column for the Turkish Art and Music journal, “Neo Filarmonie,” engaging in themes related to national and international art politics, the content that she writes is mostly about new music programs, deficits of new music in festivals, and the support of contemporary composers today. While Röder’s website, which features biographies, CDs, an international concert schedule, and general information about composers active at the Bosporus, is supported from money arriving from Istanbul (ISGYO – Istanbul Real Estate Investment Trust), the Harvard Associate in her explores her expertise as lecturer, in her podcast series, Blackbox, on iTunes..
Röder’s original ambition was to engage within the whole world of music, whether she accomplished this by graduating from the Salzburg Mozarteum’s performance exams with distinction, intensively working with Brahms specialist Gerhad Oppitz at the Musik Hochschule in Munich, exploring the principles of performance practice of orchestral music, or working with period instruments.
Bridging cultures has become second nature for the proponent of a new music scene in Istanbul, where she often performs and engages in music-related events. Just this past March, Röder was involved with a performance undertaken by the Austrian Culture Forum at the Austrian Consulate General in Yenikö.
In 2007 she arrived in Harvard via Salzburg, and researched piano music from Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg, leaving as an Associate before finding herself again back in Salzburg. Culture and music history in Austria are clearly formative for Röder’s style, as is evident by the repertoire she chose to record for her debut album; her first album’s content descends from Mozart to Berg, three composers who were all active in Vienna. Last year, Röder performed often in the US on both the East and West coast, but this year’s performances are more concentrated in Salzburg, and Röder will be back in Istanbul to celebrate the Austrian Cultural Forum’s 50th anniversary in May.
When it comes to familiarizing audiences with the differing language of 20th-21st century composition, Röder is thoroughly inventive. By presenting atypical work by different composers, including herself, Lei Lang, Beat Furrer, Morton Feldman, Helmut Lachenmann, and John Cage, she surprises her audiences with the realization that behind the “typically” shocking and outrageously avant-garde styles of these artists, there can also lay tame, even classical elements. For example, John Cage, who is famed for his jarring experimental compositions, can also produce romantic outputs like his “In a landscape,” which recalls a strong heritage of Debussy’s images. Röder’s programmatic choices bring into focus the idea that these composers made personal decisions to take their music in the direction that they became known for, and that vivid realization can change an audience’s perspective drastically.
Röder is an all-round musician who believes in the power of bringing together different art forms such as video, dance, and music. Her musical work draws upon a sonic vocabulary that consists of sounds produced with the help of electronic, as well as acoustic devices including e-bows, mallets, and metal coins used on the keys, strings, and body of the piano. I heard her showcase performance at Munich’s “Classical: Next” in the summer of 2012, which left me with the impression that she is a fine pianist, no matter what repertoire she chooses to perform. Additionally, directly after performing, she could be found talking personably about her performance, and her entire upcoming concert schedule.
In her recent co-production with SEAD, “Same room, same time – John & Merce,” Röder pays tribute to the sonic imagery of Cage. The piece is entitled “False Memory,” and it refers to the psychological phenomenon déjà vu, recalling an event that seems to be part of a larger-than-life memory, but may have never necessarily occurred in reality.
Röder was called a “master of contemporary piano art” by classical master Alfred Brendel, who was especially impressed by her dialogues with silence. Röder’s “Beethoven Now!” program saw her creating electro-acoustic cadenzas for Beethoven’s piano concertos in improvisation, and was a transcendent example of her iconic exploration of old and new.
Röder’s work Black and White, which will have its premiere at the Tirol Festival “Klangspuren” in September 2013, exemplifies her focus on the piano. As a composer, Röder searches for new definitions within piano repertoire both connected to Austria as a land of great piano tradition, and contextualized within the piano music of today’s composers. “The Austrian Sound of the Piano” is the sub-title of her Black and White Statements, an extravaganza in search of a new piano sound that focuses in on her world of the piano, and reminisces of twelve Austrian composers. These composers find themselves vis a vis an instrument of which language seems tragically to have said everything there is to say. The urgency and drama in Black and White is palpable, smothering the air with a threat; it is almost as if the piano must learn a new way to speak, or risk eternal silence. The program understands itself as an answer to previously unasked questions, a collective reduction of the piano’s essential qualities that aims to explore its essence anew.
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.
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(Houston, TX) Houston-based soprano, writer, and impresario Misha Penton (pictured above) is back with another genre blending evening (two actually) of music for classical voice. Accompanied by pianist Kyle Evans, cellist Patrick Moore, and dancers Meg Brooker and Yelena Konetchy, Penton will present a specially staged concert of composer Elliot Cole’sSelkie, a sea tale with lyrics by Penton. Cole, a graduate of Rice University and now Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, will be in attendance for Saturday’s performance. The concerts are timed to celebrate the release of a CD recording on Selkie, a sea tale. CDs and download cards will be available for sale at the performances.
As artistic director of Divergence Vocal Theater, Penton has produced and sung in several creatively staged and intensely collaborative concert events featuring light and film projections, puppetry, stage acting, and modern dance and music from composers including Cole, George Heathco, and Dominick DiOrio. The 2010 Houston premier of Selkie featured an elaborate media and lighting design within a theatrical installation. The multimedia elements for Friday and Saturday’s performances include new choreography by Brooker and Konetchy and the screening of a video for the song “Softly Over Sounding Waves” directed by Penton.
Penton writes: “Selkies are ephemeral half-human, half-seal beings. They are transformative creatures that inhabit liminal spaces; exist at the edge of dusk and dawn; in the between-time of solstice and equinox; and where root meets earth and sea washes sand. When the moon swells to its fullest, selkies shed their seal skins, reveal their human form, and dance on our northernmost beaches, their skins ready for the taking. Selkie, a sea tale’s poetry is a dreamscape of human fragility, longing and loss, written from a sailor’s wife to her selkie love and culminates in her willingness to release him back to the sea.”
In addition to singing and mastering some truly challenging music for the voice, Penton has a gift for instilling each of her live events with a seductive, highly stylized vibe that embraces both the contemporary and the archetype. Symbols and references to fairy tales, Greek mythology, and gothic literature are all a part of her creative palette, giving each Divergence Vocal Theater event an air of magic and ritual. Penton also possesses a wicked sense of humor that compliments her very serious passion for making great collaborative art. Making magic takes a lot of work! So if you’re in Houston, don’t sleep on this unique spin on the genre of contemporary chamber opera.
Misha Penton and Divergence Vocal Theater present Elliot Cole’s Selkie, a sea tale, music by Elliot Cole, lyrics by Misha Penton, March 29 & 30 at 8:00 p.m. at 4411 Montrose Gallery, with Misha Penton (soprano), Kyle Evans (piano), Patrick Moore (cello), and Meg Brooker and Yelena Konetchy (dance). Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. CD and digital download for Selkie, a sea tale available April 1.