Archive for the “Philadelphia” Category

Last Thursday evening, just before the lights dimmed at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, the audience purred in anticipation of the evening’s forthcoming concert. Tonight was to be a momentous occasion – the official inaugural concert with Yannick Nézet-Séguin being installed as Music Director.

I expected a concert full of classical music royalty highlighting the event as one of the most important in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s history. What was delivered was an all-around humble performance delivered by, as Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia introduced them, the “greatest orchestra in the world” – the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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Andrew Rudin is well known to the Philadelphia new music community, both as a composer and, for many years, as a professor at University of the Arts. One of his former students, Amanda Harberg, introduced me to Rudin some years back at a post-concert reception in New Jersey. I remember being struck by his piercing intellect and wide-ranging knowledge of music. I’ve greatly enjoyed interacting with him via Facebook in recent years. Although direct in his opinions, sometimes in irascible fashion, he’s a font of information about composers (particularly Ralph Shapey), opera, poets, and tasty baked goods.

On Tuesday, Rudin’s music is featured on a portrait concert at Symphony Space in New York (details below). The program features Celebrations, a recent piece for two pianos and percussion that’s also included on Rudin’s new CD on Centaur Records. Miranda Cuckson and Steve Beck play Rudin’s Violin Sonata, a lyrical and affecting work from 2004. Eugene Moye and Beth Levin tackle the composer’s new Sonata for Cello and Piano. For those closer to Philly, the program will be repeated on Thursday at Caplan Recital Hall (211 South Broad St.).

The aforementioned Centaur CD also features two concerti, a passionately expressive viola concerto for Brett Deubner and a rhythmically energetic and harmonically jagged piano concerto for Marcantonio Barone. Both soloists are accompanied by Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman. This ensemble has long championed Rudin’s music. In fact, they also feature Rudin’s Canto di Ritorno on To the Point, their debut for the Innova imprint. At turns rhapsodic and fiercely passionate, it’s a score that’s likely to engage both traditional and contemporary audiences alike. Appearing with the fetching curtain-raising title work by Jennifer Higdon, as well The River Within, a fantastically vibrant piece by Jay Reise, Canto di Ritorno serves as the centerpiece for one of my favorite contemporary classical albums released this Spring.

Celebrations: Music of Andrew Rudin

Tuesday June 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Symphony Space,

96th and Broadway,

New York

Tickets: $25/$15 for students & seniors

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FLUX Quartet

Tomorrow from 2-8 PM in Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, FLUX Quartet plays Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2. The concert is the last event in American Sublime, a two week long series that has spotlighted Feldman’s late music.

FLUX has been performing the piece since 1999, and their rendition runs around six hours. Feldman himself suggested that the piece could run anywhere from 3 1/2 to 5 hours. But one senses that FLUX’s more expansive time frame doesn’t contravene his intentions.

String Quartet No. 2, like many of Feldman’s late works, is about breaking past the boundaries of form and instead shaping music in terms of scale: as in, LARGE scale. Not only are these pieces long, they are often cast in a single, mammoth movement. They move slowly, often speaking quietly, unspooling fragments of subtly varied material at a gradual pace. But listening to them, and indeed playing them, is anything but a leisurely exercise.

String Quartet #2 is as demanding in its own way as a marathon. But, as I found out this week while listening to FLUX’s recording (available on the Mode imprint as either a single DVD or multiple CDs), it’s well worth the endurance test for both one’s attention and bladder to persevere.

The way that I listened to the piece changed over the course of its duration. At first, I found myself expecting the familiar signposts of formal arrival points; I became impatient with the gradualness of the proceedings. But, slowly, my vantage point shifted from one of expectation of arrival to one of acceptance of each passing moment in the work. It was as if Feldman was retuning my listening capabilities, extending my attention span, and urging me to revel in each detail rather than worry about how much time had passed.

When Feldman was crafting these late pieces, in the 1970s and 80s, people’s attention spans were already dwindling at an alarming rate. In the era of jet engines and color television, who had time to listen to a piece for six solid hours? By exhorting people to stop and listen, just by the very strength and captivating character of his music, Feldman dared to arrest our engagement with a world of ceaseless distractions. In short, he sought to change us.

In our current era, attention spans have dwindled exponentially further still. Multitasking, social media, cell phones, and all manner of other devices have distracted us seemingly to the limits our psyches can handle. Sometimes further, and with dangerous results – texting while driving anyone? Perhaps Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2 is an even tougher exercise for post-millenial listeners. But it might just be more necessary than ever to let this work reset our listening patterns and demand our attention.

Mode's Feldman Vol. 6: FLUX plays SQ 2

Event Details:
FLUX Quartet plays Feldman String Quartet No. 2
Sun. June 11, 2-8 PM
FREE Admission
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
3723 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Pianist Marilyn Nonken is performing Triadic Memories on June 4 in Philadelphia as part of “American Sublime,” a festival devoted to the works of Morton Feldman. Marilyn was kind enough to tell us a bit about working on Feldman’s music, as well as some of her other upcoming projects.

-What were your early encounters with Feldman’s music like?

I can’t remember my first live Feldman experience as a listener. One of the first works I remember hearing was FOR SAMUEL BECKETT. My first experience playing Feldman was with Ensemble 21, when we performed VIOLIN VIOLA CELLO PIANO, which was just a transformative experience for me, as a chamber player. After that experience, I very much wanted to find a solo work of his to perform and possibly record.

Listening to Feldman is special because there is that great luxury of time. It can take, in TRIADIC MEMORIES for example, maybe a half-an-hour or forty-five minutes to get acclimated to the environment of the work, and to become familiar with the kinds of things that happen in that special environment. In each of his pieces, I think, there’s an extended period where the materials introduce themselves, so to say.It’s not dynamic in the sense of something happening right away, or a conflict being presented, or a big question being asked — and so I feel it’s best to not aggressively try and “figure out” what is happening.

– Which pieces by Feldman have you performed?


– What do you think Feldman meant by titling a piece Triadic Memories?

Feldman’s piano music is all about decay, what he would refer to as a kind of receding landscape …. For me, that sense of resonance and the dying of the sound is perhaps the most important part of the piece. His harmonies are gorgeous, very lush and evocative — but as beautiful as they are, more of the piece is spend listening to them fade.

– When did you record Triadic Memories for Mode? Has your performance of the work changed over time?

I believe this is 2004, recorded perhaps summer 2003. I’m sure my performance has changed — although not drastically. In terms of timing and rhythmic precision, I believe it’s very consistent with the recorded version. I’m still convinced by that “magic” (for me) tempo and the specificity of the rhythms, and the way I first conceived of articulating them. But I do feel that I’ve become more sensitive to the harmonic nuances of the work, as I’ve become more familiar with it over the years —  the way I voice things, and the way I anticipate the decay, I think, has become more personal.

– While they’re not often showy, Feldman’s pieces make significant demands of their own on performers. Can you tell us a bit about those, and how you prepare to perform Triadic Memories in concert?

I feel these works are very virtuosic, despite the fact that they’re not fast and full of passagework. There’s a moment-to-moment control that Feldman requires, in terms of dynamic and timbre and attack, which requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental preparation. To be that attuned to the smallest nuances, and physically in total control, for such a significant span w/o any real “recess” requires a special kind of concentration. For me, there is no substitute for playing the work — in real time, w/o interruption, — daily for at least a week or two before the concert. There is always detail-work to be done (specificity of rhythms, defining colors, making certain that the surface of the work is somehow “flawless” and w/o rupture — but doing everything sequentially, in tempo, is always a test.

– After Triadic Memories, what are some of your upcoming projects?

I’m very excited to be working again with the fabulous pianist Sarah Rothenberg on a four-hand Kurtag program, combining (as the composer himself has done) Kurtag’s JATEKOK with his Bach transcriptions, presented as a concert program on an upright piano. Sarah and I had a fantastic time working on Messiaen’s VISIONS DE L’AMEN, touring and recording it, and this is a very different and intimate kind of project —  I’m also preparing for a recording of American spectralist composer Joshua Fineberg’s complete solo piano music, which will appear on CD with Hugues Dufourt’s recent ERLKONIG — a follow-up to my complete Murail disc. It will feature a new work written for me by Joshua, amd I am very much looking forward to touring with that, as a complete program in itself. And just after this Festival, I’m recording Elizabeth Hoffman’s “organum let open,” a beautiful work she wrote for me last year, based on texts of theatre artist George Hunka. It’s wonderful to be doing such recent music, and inspiring to be working with such talented composers.

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Morton Feldman. Photo credit: Barbara Monk Feldman.

Anyone who thinks that straightened circumstances of a still sluggish economy have dampened the ambitions of concert presenters need look no further than Philadelphia to see a sublime idea at work.

Bowerbird, a Philly-based non-profit, is mounting “American Sublime,” a seven concert festival devoted to the works of New York School composer Morton Feldman (1926-’87). The concerts run from June 4-12, with ticket prices ranging from free to $20.

Marilyn’s hands. Photo by Peter Schütte

Excerpt from Triadic Memories, performed by Marilyn Nonken on Mode 136
Courtesy Mode Records

A M E R I C A N   S U B L I M E   A T – A – G L A N C E

Saturday, June 4 (8 pm)

Triadic Memories (1981)
Marilyn Nonken, solo piano

Rodeph Shalom, 615 North Broad Street, Phila. | Tickets: $10 – $20
Presented with Congregation Rodeph Shalom. Reception by Café Olam to follow.

Sunday, June 5 (7 pm)

It Started on Eighth Street

JACK Quartet: John Pickford Richards, viola; Ari Streisfeld, violin
Christopher Otto, violin; Kevin McFarland, cello

John Cage, String Quartet in Four Parts
Anton Webern, Six Bagatelles, Op. 9
Earle Brown, String Quartet
Morton Feldman, Structures

ICEBox at CraneArts,1400 N American Street, Phila. | Tickets: $15 general admission
Presented with New Music at Crane Arts. Reception to follow.

Wednesday, June 8 (8 pm)

Palais de Mari (1987)
Gordon Beeferman, solo piano

plus readings of Samuel Beckett and Frank O’Hara texts

Biello Martin Studio,148 North 3rd Street, Phila.
Tickets: $20 general admission (includes food and drink)
Admission limited to only 30 people.

Friday, June 10 (5 pm – 8:45 pm)

(5:45 pm)  A tribute to Morton Feldman by Zs

(7:15 pm) Three Voices (1982)
Joan LaBarbara, voice

Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Phila.

An “Art After 5” Event
Tickets: Free with Museum Admission  |  Adults: $16; Seniors (ages 65 & over): $14;
Students (with valid ID): $12; Children ages 13–18: $12; ages 12 & under: Free

Saturday, June 11

(3 pm)  Patterns in a Chromatic Field (1981)
Amy Williams, piano; Jonathan Golove, cello

(8pm)  Crippled Symmetry (1983)
Either/Or:  Richard Carrick, piano and celeste;
David Shively, percussion; Jane Rigler, flutes

Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine Street, Phila. | Tickets: $10 – $20

Sunday, June 12 (2pm)

String Quartet No. 2 (1983)
FLUX Quartet: Tom Chiu, violin; Conrad Harris, violin;
Max Mandel, viola; Felix Fan, cello

Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 3723 Chestnut Street, Phila.
Free Admission; Audience may come and go

FLUX Quartet. Photo credit: Pauline Harris

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nextatlantiswebWe heard from Christian Carey last week that the American Composers Orchestra has brought on George Manahan as their new Music Director but that’s not until next season.  Fortunately you don’t have to wait until next season to hear the orchestra – they are performing THIS weekend in New York (Friday, January 29th – Zankel Hall. 7:30pm) and Philadelphia (Saturday, January 30th – Annenberg Center. 7:30pm) with Conductor Anne Manson.  I was able to get her on the phone for a few minutes last night to talk about the program, you can listen to our short conversation here.

The program includes two world premieres: Sebastian Currier’s Next Atlantis, inspired by New Orleans and written for string orchestra and pre-recorded sound, with video by Pawel Wojtasik; and Roger Zare’s Time Lapse, a piece for orchestra influenced by photographic techniques, commissioned by ACO as part of its Underwood Composers Readings for Emerging Composers.

Latin jazz innovator Paquito D’Rivera’s Conversations with Cachao is the centerpiece of the program, and receives its New York City and Philadelphia premieres in these performances. A tribute to Israel “Cachao” López, the Havana bass player who made Cuban Mambo a worldwide phenomenon, the piece is a double concerto featuring D’Rivera’s clarinet and alto sax in dialogue with the double bass, played by Robert Black.

I was also able to spend some time talking with Robert Black last spring about working with composers.  It has nothing to do with the ACO concert this weekend, but if you want to listen to him talk about some of his experiences working with composers you can get the audio here.

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David Schiff

While well-known for his writings about music, including books about Elliott Carter and George Gershwin, David Schiff is also a prolific and active composer. A professor at Reed College, he’s visiting New York this week to hear the American Composer’s Orchestra premiere a revamped version of Stomp, a piece that celebrates the music of James Brown. The concert, part of the Orchestra Underground series, also includes premieres by Margaret Brouwer and Kasumi, Rand Steiger, Fang Man, and Kati Agócs.

 Carey: Stomp was written in 1990 for Marin Alsop. How did you decide to write in homage to James Brown?

Schiff: I was asked for a concert opener and somewhere in the process I realized that one of my rhythmic motives was from James Brown’s “I Feel Good” (as recorded Live at the Apollo). I then re-conceived the piece as a tribute.

Carey: Have other rock or jazz legends figured in your music?

Schiff: There’s a big Motown section in my Scenes from Adolescence (1987) and my Slow Dance for orchestra (1989), written for the Oregon Symphony, has a lot of Charles Mingus in it, but I have also had the great honor of working with two living legends in jazz, Regina Carter and Marty Ehrlich.

Carey: What’s “re-lit” about this new version for the ACO?

Schiff: ACO asked me to reduce the size of the orchestra slightly to fit in Zankel Hall. This gave me the opportunity to re-score the entire piece. The wind section now is much better suited to the style of the piece: flute, E flat clarinet, two saxes, trumpet horn, trombone and tuba. But there are also a lot of musical changes everywhere. I think that in the years since I first wrote Stomp I have become more experienced with the style. The new version is much hotter than the original–even though the orchestra is smaller.

Carey: You’re currently at work on a book about Duke Ellington. Is that research infiltrating your composing at all?

Schiff: Ellington’s music influences everything I do. I go to school with his music every day and I find his melodies, rhythms, harmonies and instrumentation endlessly inspiring.

Comments Comments Off on Short chat with David Schiff: ACO premieres Stomp (re-lit) Friday at Zankel and Sunday in Philly

galen.jpgHere’s some great news for the Sequenza21 community.  The super-hot Philadelphia-based chamber ensemble Relâche is presenting a concert of new works, including the premiere of our own Galen H. Brown’s Waiting in the Tall Grass, at the Greenwich House Music School in downtown Manhattan on November 30, followed by a repeat performance the following night at the International House in Philadelphia. The concert will also include new pieces by Duncan Neilson, Brooke Joyce and, Paul Epstein.

Says here in the press release (Galen is much too modest to make a call or send me a heads-up e-mail himself) that

…Brown’s music has been described as “bright, passionate music for a brighter, more passionate new day” by Kyle Gann, former critic for the Village Voice. With roots in both Minimalism and electronic rock, he writes rhythmically driven music where melodic riffs and fragments shift against each other, evolving an intricate counterpoint beneath a surface which is sometimes propulsive, sometimes placid.

Describing his new piece, Brown says “While this piece isn’t at all programmatic, the title Waiting in the Tall Grass is intended to evoke the sense of a sort of purposeful stasis, with perhaps a hint of foreboding. The ‘tall grass’ is, of course, where the predator lies in wait for its prey.”

Brown lives in New York City. He holds a Masters degree from New England Conservatory, where he studied with Lee Hyla; his other primary teachers were David Rakowski and Jon Appleton. A contributing editor at, he regularly reviews concerts and CDs, and writes on issues ranging from compositional techniques and history to aesthetic philosophy to the structure of the music industry. Sequenza21 won an ASCAP Deems Taylor award in 2005.

Founded in 1977, Relâche has been a significant force in new classical music for 30 years, from co-presenting the landmark New Music America festival in 1987 to annual performances of Phil Kine’s classic Unsilent Night. The new works on this concert are the latest in a rich history of commissions from composers such as John Cage, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Pauline Oliveros.

Well done, Galen.  As we say down in Appalachia where I grew up:  “We’re right proud of you.”

There’s a sample of the piece here.  The rather strange picture was taken by me in the Sequenza21 office at Starbucks on 57th between Eighth and Ninth.

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Galen’s Take a Friend to Orchestra (TAFTO) piece is up today on Drew McManus’ Adaptistration blog.  Good reading for a nasty, rainy day.

Frank J. Oteri will be interviewing Olga Neuwirth at the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage tomorrow in a special one-on-one composer discussion produced by the Philadelphia Music Project.  Details here.  If you’re in Philadelphia and want to go and write about it, let me know and I’ll get you in.

Catch Corey Dargel on this week’s episode of Steve Paul’s Puppet Music Hall.  The whole episode is ici and free.

Some good morning music for your dining and dancing pleasure.  A nice piece called “Baile” by Argentinian composer Francisco Colasanto, played by Marco Antonio Mazzini, who thinks it may be the first and only work for contrabass clarinet and electronics written in South America.



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The advantage of calling the Kimmel Center’s new music series Fresh Ink is that “fresh” is relative, combining “new” with “refreshing” on this program of music for violin, Jennifer Koh, and piano, Reiko Uchida, ranging from 1942 to the present.
“Relax, and leave the driving to us,” John Adams recommends for his 1995 Road Movies. Lively, energetic, light, the piano ground rolls along with violin commentary; repetitive, but with enough variation to be identifiably Adams. But then the ground switches to violin with percussive piano punctuation. When the piano ground returns, it’s almost an old soothing friend, and the commentary has a jazzy swing. The very slow hypnotic second movement has a motif that extends and elongates in a duet. The closing is back to a fast ride with jagged non-stop rhythms.
Gyorgy Kurtag pulled together short selections from earlier pieces Signs, Games and Messages for solo violin in 1995. Distilled and intense is how the soloist describes this Romanian composer’s work; I would add short and percussive phrases, and vastly differing moods – violence, sorrow, folk music, dance and classic Bach.
In Lou Harrison’s 1998 Grand Duo you hear long echoes of held notes in the piano, under a scalar motif with violin melody above. The “estampe” movement reminded me of the Adams in its ground and cadenza format, but not as user-friendly.  The center movement is a spare and delicate counterpoint, the slow movement is two melodies played simultaneously, and the close is a lively polka that just ate up the bow.
Poulenc’s 1942 Violin Sonata references Spanish music in this commemoration of Lorca. The first movement is a rhythmic theme and development with a surprisingly sweet and poignant melody. Poulenc quotes Lorca’s poem “the guitar makes dreams weep” for the second movement and its plucked strings, muted melody and romantic lushness. The presto tragico movement has internal contrasts, minor versus major, serious versus sweet melodies, dense notes versus open space, and a sudden ending.
And then we come to the world premiere of String Poetic by Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon – five poetic songs based on her own poems – a series of visual impressions: jagged climb, nocturne, blue hills of mist, maze mechanical and climb jagged.  Each of these is a stand-alone work, in particular the ineffably poignant “piece of night – night of peace” Nocturne. Blue Hills of Mist begins so smoothly it seems an extension of the Nocturne, but includes some of the Jagged Climb influence in its increasing drama and grandeur; the plucked string effect in both piano and violin has an Oriental effect that ends in mid-air. Amazing Mechanical explores a maze of speeds without losing its forward momentum, and Climb Jagged reprises the rhythmic opening.
Fresh Ink Series
Kimmel Center
Philadelphia, Pa
October 21, 2006
(Reposted from Penn Sounds 10/26/06)

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