Archive for the “Premieres” Category

Composers under 30, listen up – the world famous Kronos Quartet wants you.

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Poet and Air Force veteran Lynn Hill performs in Holding It Down
Photo by Marc Millman Photography

The most recent collaboration of composer/pianist Vijay Iyer and poet Mike Ladd, entitled Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, received its world premiere last week (September 19-22) at The Harlem Stage Gatehouse. This multimedia work, epic in scope, yet poignant in its emotional nuance, is the result of three years of interviewing and collaborating with veterans of color from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Holding It Down also marks the culmination of a trilogy of multimedia works by Iyer and Ladd, the others being Still Life with Commentator (2006) and In What Language (2003). Each of the three works examines a different aspect of post-9/11 America, but all three respond to the fear and injustice brought on by what Iyer and Ladd eloquently describe as the “insidiously racialized Global War on Terror.”

Iyer’s through-composed score consisted mostly of highly sensitive and imaginative settings of the poetry of Ladd and two veterans, Maurice Decaul and Lynn Hill, punctuated by moments of virtuosic improvisation by Iyer and members of the ensemble. The poems (performed by their authors) were moving, powerfully honest artistic responses to war and the challenges of coping with trauma. Tim Brown’s video design contributed an evocative visual counterpoint, and the video interviews, conducted and edited by the project’s director, Patricia McGregor, were particularly well timed and interesting. The ensemble, which consisted of Iyer (piano, laptop), Guillermo E. Brown (vocals, electronics), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Okkyung Lee (cello), and Kassa Overall (percussion), provided an intricate, colorful, and at times surreal musical mindscape. One unforgettable moment was Overall’s gut-wrenchingly beautiful drum solo about two thirds of the way through the piece.

The presentation of a continuous 80-minute piece that brings combines music, poetry, video, and drama is no easy task. Careful attention must be given to the balance and interplay of the various media, and the dramatic flow and experiential continuity. Credit must be given to director Patricia McGregor, who forged the elements of this work into a seamless and deeply moving journey. With the exception of two moments when the balance between the ensemble and voices could have been handled better, the production was basically flawless.

With Holding It Down Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd have offered a model of how artists can present social commentary that is profound yet unsentimental; complex yet focused; provocative yet inviting. While so many multimedia projects these days hurt the genre by dilluting their own impact, Iyer and Ladd have created one in which each medium strengthens the whole. On December 1, 2012, these artists will appear again at The Harlem Stage Gatehouse for a new piece called Sleep Song, in which they will focus on the populace of nations affected by war. Collaborating artists for Sleep Song will include the Iraqi poet Ahmed Abdel Hussein, oudist Ahmet Mukhtar, and guitarist Serge Teyssot Gay.

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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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John Shiurba is a composer and guitarist based in Oakland, California whose artistry embraces improvisation, art-rock, composition and noise.  In his composer capacity, he’s headlining the second night of the 11th Annual Outsound New Music Summit, an evening entitled The Composer’s Muse.  The concert will take place on Thursday, July 19th at 8:00 p.m. at the San Francisco Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are available at the door, or online through Brown Paper Tickets.

Shiurba’s world premiere work for large ensemble, 9:9, is a suite of nine pieces written to be interpreted by nine players with a conductor.  (Any reader who is familiar with his work will recall his affinity for numbered concepts, in past works such as Triplicate and 5 x 5.)  The score will explore the demise of the print medium through nine different types of notation, all of which are derived from newspapers. The nine players will be called upon to interpret standard music notation along with graphic, textual and pictorial notation, allowing the ensemble some creative input in the interpretation. The form of the suite will be open, allowing the conductor and the players to spontaneously shape the way the music develops in real time.  Shiurba will serve as conductor of his own piece next Thursday night.  He was also kind enough to take time out to answer some of my questions.

S21:  Sequenza21 readers have read about you before in your role as a guitarist in SF Bay Area improvising ensembles.  How does your guitar playing inform (or not inform) your compositions?

JS:  My experience as an improvising guitarist perhaps affects my compositions mostly by way of contrast. When I seek to interject something composed into an improvising ensemble, I tend toward something that the ensemble wouldn’t otherwise do. So usually I choose pitched tight rhythmic phrases that contrast wildly with the mostly arhythmic timbral material that typifies my improvising. Whether or not my approach to the guitar actually affects the music that I write probably depends largely on what music I’m writing. In the case of one of my more rock oriented projects, where I’m writing actual guitar music, undoubtedly my own guitar language (and my limitations) will factor significantly in what I write. When I’m writing for other instruments, then probably not so much. I’m not much interested in creating ways of notating the things that I (and others) do in an improvised situation– I’m happy to just let that happen as it will, and write something to contrast it.

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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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y900SzB2UMM&feature=channel&list=UL[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgnWNqAoy9Q&feature=bf_next&list=ULy900SzB2UMM[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz6YH7z33So&feature=bf_next&list=ULPgnWNqAoy9Q[/youtube]

 

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPZU_fK4-J8[/youtube]

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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The San Francisco Bay Area’s underground music scene will come together this coming July in an annual celebration of its tremendous range of styles, its love of improvisation, and its collective obsession with new and unusual timbres and techniques.  It’s the 11th Annual Outsound New Music Summit!  All events will take place at the San Francisco Community Music Center at 544 Capp Street near 20th Street in the Mission District, and tickets can be ordered online from Brown Paper Tickets or purchased at the door.

The ever-popular Touch the Gear Expo kicks off the Summit on Sunday July 15, 7-10 pm.  It’s designed especially for anyone who’s longed for a closer look at an experimental musician’s gear on stage, and for the opportunity to mess with it.  25-30 sound artists will be there to demonstrate everything from oscillators to planks of wood with strings attached and answer questions.  Visitors of all ages have free rein to make sound and experience how these set-ups work, and best of all, it’s free.

The second Summit night is also free, and this time the composers take over.  In the Tuesday night Composers’ Symposium (July 17, 7-10 pm), John Shiurba, Christina Stanley, Benjamin Ethan Tinker, and Matthew Goodheart will all discuss how they navigate modern compositional techniques, while combining them with improvisation and their own individual forms of experimentation. The public is invited to talk freely with the composers and ask them questions.

Performances begin at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, July 18th with the first of four themed concerts – Sonic Poetry.  This night is curated by Outsound Board members Amar Chaudhary and Robert Anbian, who’ve recruited three leading poets to collaborate with Bay Area improvising musicians to create new word and sound compositions.  Words are by Ronald Sauer, rAmu Aki, and Carla Harryman, with music by Jacob Felix Heule, Jordan Glenn, Karl Evangelista, Jon Raskin, and Gino Robair.

The Tuesday night Composers’ Symposium prepares everyone for the second performance evening on Thursday, July 19th – The Composer’s Muse.  Christina Stanley, Matthew Goodheart, and John Shiurba will all premiere new works running the gamut from graphic scores for string quartet, to prepared piano with sonified metal percussion, to a major work for large ensemble celebrating the newspaper.

Thwack, Bome, Chime on Friday night, July 20th, curated by Outsound Board member Pete Martin, will feature the world of percussion in all its coloristic and dynamic glory.  David Douglas will combine percussion instruments with custom-built delays, loopers, samplers, and other effects to create The Walls Are White With Flame, a series of highly spatialized sound sculptures.  In Seems An Eternity, Benjamin Ethan Tinker will assemble three percussion trios of metal and skin percussion to explore the same musical material in canon.  And finally the San Francisco percussion ensemble Falkortet will show off its versatility combining traditional percussion, hand drums, and electronics with influences from Indonesian music, Brazilian music, Jazz, minimalism, and rock.

The final day of the Outsound Summit, July 21st, will be a big one starting with a 2-4 pm Harmolodics workshop led by Dave Bryant.  Dave will share material from his years of Harmolodic Theory performance and study with Ornette Coleman, plus his own compositional and improvisational techniques developed on his own and with his ensembles.  The 8 pm final concert, Fire and Energy, curated by Outsound founder Rent Romus, will feature Dave Bryant with his Trio, along with Jack Wright, the Vinny Golia Sextet, and Tony Passarell’s Thin Air Orchestra.

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On May 15th, pianist Shai Wosner will be performing a brand new Piano Concerto by Michael Hersch. Titled along the ravines, the piece will be making its first ever concert appearance with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, Tuesday May 15th at 7:30 PM.

Shai explains how he came upon his interest for the new work. “When I was looking to commission a new work, thanks to the Borletti-Buitoni Trust of London, I was listening to all kinds of music from composers from different generations and I came across a couple of CDs with piano and chamber works by Michael Hersch. It was clear that he was pursuing his own path with a very strong, personal voice. Those pieces seemed to contain an explosive mix of wildness and melancholy”.

Wosner is another performer that likes to mix the classics with newer, contemporary works. “Programming is really one of the fun parts of being a musician, in my opinion. It’s always nice to fantasize about potential programming ideas, even if, like with any new idea, you may find yourself rejecting it wholeheartedly the next morning. When it comes to recital programs, I try to somehow look for a common thread among the pieces, which sometimes is obvious and sometimes is not. The goal is not so much to include pieces that are similar to each other, but rather a collection of works that are on one hand very different, but that may also resonate, shed light on each other and interact in the context of the program”.

I asked Shai if he would be bringing the new piece into the studio, and he had this to offer: “We hope to be able to record the concerto in the next couple of years. There are also plans for another solo CD and potentially a concerto CD as well that are being discussed. As far as programming is concerned, I am trying to find ‘organic’ ways to fit free improvisation into recital programs. There is nothing new in the concept, of course, and it used to be in fact part of tradition. But I am currently looking for a way to combine it with other repertoire in a meaningful way.”.

Click here for tickets to Shai’s concert with the Seattle Symphony at Benoroya Hall.

Shai Wosner.com

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Ear To Mind
presents
Pianist Jenny Q. Chai in Recital
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC
April 19th, 2012

Jenny Q. Chai walked out onstage for the first half of her Carnegie Hall debut in a red and black dress and performed for the first half of that first half a mix of Debussy‘s and György Ligeti‘s piano etudes (Debussy: #’s 3 & 6; Ligeti: #’s 2 & 1, Book I). Despite the huge generation gap between these two, the intertwined listing of Debussy and Ligeti had the two composers’ styles offsetting one another in such a way that an unassuming listener would have thought this was one cycle of pieces from the same composer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova Photo:Alex Fedorov

Pianists Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova are very much their own acts. But they became close partners when they debuted their Arensky CD and, in the process, founded their own record label, LP Classics, Inc. Since then, they’ve performed as a duo, as they will on May 6 at Get Classical’s inaugural concert series event at New York’s Rose Bar.But their friendship began much earlier, back in 1999, when the two pianists were freshmen at Julliard.

 

They instantly connected over their shared Russian heritage, but on top of that, their personalities just clicked. “Of course, we have had our share of fights, regular stuff that happens when two egos are involved…and we have our own lives,” volunteers Lavrova, during our animated interview over dinner with Primakov. “But we love each other.”

Photo: Alex Fedorov

 

Married to photographer Alex Fedorov, Lavrova often brings her husband on board withher projects.Fedorov is responsible for all of the photographic work featured on the Arensky CD, which Lavrova and Primakov recorded to great reviews. James Harrington of the American Record Guide wrote that the two “capture the essence of each suite, and through their considerable talents, share with us some of the most enjoyable almost unknown music I have heard in quite a while.”

 

Artistic collaboration was a natural extension of Lavrova and Primakov’s friendship, says Primakov. “We do think alike; there is a spiritual connection and a feeling for the music that just got more serious over the last two years, when we decided to get involved with recording the Arensky’s suites,” he says, reminiscent of their past years spent under teacher Jerome Lowenthal at Juilliard’s chamber music program (where they spend more time partying then practicing, they admit). “We were both excited, when we heard this music and started to perform it in concert to great reviews and decided we needed to record this interesting, yet virtually unknown program,” says Primakov. “We had two options—either pitch it to an established label or try to do it on our own. As we were thinking about this music, we both realized we wanted to have more control of the process, and it became a project that started so many things for the both of us. It also brought us even closer.”

 

While Primakov has already catalogued a number of recordings with Bridge Records, the Arensky CD was a first for Lavrova, who spends most of her time, when not performing, managing her own music school program. As the director of Music School of New York City, she teaches pianists of all levels and ages, applying her passion for music education that she inherited from her own teacher, Zalina Gurevich, who, many years ago, recognized their shared enthusiasm for teaching and kids in a young Lavrova. “She allowed me to sit in her lessons and gradually take over teaching some of her kids,” says Lavrova. “At first she would monitor the lessons and then give me feedback. It made all the difference in my learning how to become a good teacher.”

 

A very important factor in Lavrova’s teacher selections is a teacher’s performance experience. “That inspires students in a way nothing else can,” she says. One of her favorite teachers at her school, no wonder then, is Primakov, even though, between his busy performance and recording schedules, he can only take on a limited number of students.

 

But despite both of the artists’ busy daily routines, they are committed to and infatuated with their newest project, LP Classics. From the initial excitement over finding the pianos and dealing with tuners and sound engineers, they are both planning on fully integrating the record label into their careers. “We had turned to our friend Sarah Faust of Faust-Harrison Pianos to obtain two matching pianos for the recording.

Photo: Alex Fedorov

She had a new Yamaha CFX in her vast studio, which we loved, and then put us in touch with Bonnie Barrett, the director of Yamaha Artist Services, to find another. We tried it, and it sounded great, and this developed our future relationship with Yamaha.” Primakov and Lavrova are now Yamaha artists. Their Arensky CD was the first ever recording on two Yamaha CFX model pianos, and their CD release performance was live-streamed from the Yamaha showroom. Right now, the two are working on a lot of four-hand, one-instrument repertoire—an easier and more economical setup—exploring less-played pieces such as the Czerny Sonatas and works by Milhaud and John Corigliano, which they plan to perform at Get Classical at the Rose Bar.

 

In the future, Primakov says, they want to open up their record label to young artists looking to produce resume-building and career-launching first CDs. They also want to unbury historical, undiscovered past recordings of great, established performers, introducing old, forgotten gems to the public, as they did with Vera Gornostaeva Vol. 1 Chopin, a historical recording found through archived tapes in a Moscow library. “We obtained the rights and re-mastered the tapes of this amazing recording,” explains Primakov. “Another hidden secret we are now releasing is our teacher Jerry Lowenthal’s playing, which we both grew up on, and there are so many more to come.”

 

Very important to their mission is their ability to rely on efficient and passionate

Photo: Alex Fedorov

music professionals involved in the recording process. “You are so exposed as a performer, you have to be able to trust the people you work with to make you look your best,” says Primakov. “We have built a wonderful little family that includes Charlie Post, who became sound engineer, editor and producer in one, and technician Terry Flynn, who can achieve the most amazing results in the short in-betweens of the recording process. As soon as he hears just a slight irregularity in tone voicing, he informs the sound engineer and matches up everything in the matter of minutes while we step out for a glass of water.”

 

Also important to Primakov and Lavrova’s goals is the opportunity to constantly engage with new audiences, which they will have the opportunity to do this May 6, when the two perform excerpts of their four-hand program as well as some solo repertoire at Get Classical’s music series launch at the trendy Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar in New York. Primakov and Lavrova will be two of four pianists presenting a program geared to new and old classical fans, including GetClassical.org readers, by bringing 19th-century salon-type performances to the 21st-century lounge. Hosted by the Gramercy Park Hotel and myself, your devoted GetClassical.org blogger, Get Classical at the Rose Bar hopes to bring classical music to audiences that might prefer listening in the comfort of an armchair, aperitif in hand, to the formality of the concert hall. The series will give listeners the chance to meet artists in the intimacy of the cool Rose Bar and hear them talk about their music and lives as concert artists. And it is exactly this exchange that performers like Primakov and Lavrova, as well as David Aladashvili and Marika Bournaki, the two performers featured alongside them in the evening’s program, are looking forward to—to play and relate to both staying fans and interested spectators in a personal way. “We always want to test drive our program with new audiences. It’s one of the most exciting things one can do as a performer,” Primakov says.

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