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  June 10-17, 2002

at 50

Oliver Knussen turns 50 this week and The London Sinfonietta is celebrating the occasion  with performances of more
than 10 world premieres by distinguished composers from across the globe.  Many of Knussen's closest musical friends have 
composed special musical birthday presents and will be joining the London 
Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 
12 June to pay tribute to the 
remarkable (if reclusive and bearlike) composer conductor.

Birthday commissions  include new works
by Julian Anderson, Louis 
Andriessen, Elliott Carter, Detlev Glanert, Alexander Goehr, Magnus 
Lindberg, Colin Matthews, Augusta Read Thomas, Mark-Anthony Turnage, 
Charles Wuorinen and Robert Zuidam.

New commissions, conducted by George Benjamin, are interspersed with 
Knussen conducting a selection of his own jewel-like ensemble works, 
including Two Organa, Ophelia Dances and Ocean de Terre, with soprano 
Claire Booth.

Born in Glasgow on June l2, l952, Knussen has lived most of his life near London, where his father was principal doublebass of the London Symphony Orchestra for many years. It was with the LSO that he made his conducting debut in April 1968, with his First Symphony (1966-7), substituting at short notice for the indisposed Istvan Kertesz. 

Knussen studied composition initially with John Lambert, and later in the USA at Tanglewood and in Boston with Gunther Schuller. It was during this period that he composed a series of chamber works that have subsequently been taken into the repertory of ensembles all over the world: the Second Symphony (Margaret Grant Prize, Tanglewood 1971), Hums and Songs of Winnie-the-Pooh (1970-83), Ocean de Terre (1972-3), Ophelia Dances, Book 1 (Koussevitzky centennial commission, 1975).

In 1975 he returned to the UK and during the late 1970s produced a sequence of works which placed Knussen firmly in the forefront of contemporary British music: Trumpets (1975), the Triptych (Autumnal, Cantata, Sonya's Lullaby 1975-7), Coursing (1979) and the Third Symphony (1973-9). This latter work has had a striking success since its 1979 Proms premiere under dedicatee Michael Tilson Thomas: some 70 live performances in Europe and America under such conductors as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrew Davis, Andre Previn, Sir John Pritchard, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa Pekka-Salonen, Gunther Schuller and the composer himself. 

The 1980s were largely devoted to the operatic double-bill written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak and commissioned by Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Where the Wild Things Are (l979-83) and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1984-90). Wild Things, since its London premiere in the National Theatre by Glyndebourne and the London Sinfonietta, has been seen in productions at Glyndebourne, in Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, New York City Opera, Los Angeles Music Center, Nuremburg and Munich.

What's New

Music for Chillin'

John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts

Lincoln Center Festival

Interview with Gloria Coates

Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton
Frank Oteri

Henry Brant's Ice Field
Wins 2002 Pulitizer Prize

Julia Wolfe after minimalism

Philip Glass at 65
Jerry Bowles

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

A New Hall for Philadelphia
Deborah Kravetz

Interview with Poul Ruders

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots tojbowles@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note.  JB

Modern Music News
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SOUND AND MUSIC: It's certainly not a new idea, but using everyday sound as fodder for music is finding new fans. "A California group called Matmos makes pieces of music entirely out of the recorded sounds of plastic surgery being performed. A British technician called Matthew Herbert makes dance music entirely out of the sound of a McDonald's meal being unwrapped and consumed. They are both part of a trend sometimes known as 'glitch,' which is music made without any instruments, entirely of found sounds, which are then arranged into musical patterns. Glitch is primarily about what fun can be had with samplers and computer-editing programs, but it is also about bridging the gap between pop music and conceptual art." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/08/02

REMEMBERING MEET THE COMPOSER: Over 15 years, beginning in 1982, Meet the Composer commissioned more than 700 works. "Thanks in part to the MTC's efforts, the 1980s witnessed a marked increase in the commissioning and performance of new scores. By 1992, however, the initiative's funding dried up and all but six of the residencies came to an end. Some orchestras simply dropped the position when they were forced to pay for it. Others, like the Philadelphia Orchestra, maintained it for several years but eventually eliminated it for budgetary reasons." Now a festival to commemorate the program's accomplishments. Andante 06/06/02

THE NEW CHOPIN: When Chopin wrote his 24 piano preludes, he experimented with a 25th in E-flat minor, but abandoned it. Now a University of Pennsylvania professor has reconstructed the piece. It "shows a degree of experimentalism we hadn't known before. At the same time, that's why it doesn't work. You've got the experimentalism in sound, but the chord progression isn't that strange." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/08/02

THE GENDER ORCHESTRA: Are there "girl" musical instruments and "boy" musical instruments? A new study says yes. Boys consistently preferred instruments traditionally identified as male. "Using accepted British, Australian and North American classifications, 'male' instruments in this study were deemed drums, saxophone, trumpet and trombone, as opposed to the more 'feminine' apparati of flute, violin, clarinet, cello." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/08/02

GENDER-TYPING: There are more and more female classical music critics writing today. It's a field traditionally dominated by males. But "isn't it funny that her increased acceptance in the ranks of critics — that is, among the shapers rather than receivers of opinion — happens to coincide with the striking decline, purely in terms of space, of classical music coverage in news outlets across the nation?" Andante 06/06/02

SAME OLD SAME OLD: American orchestras have announced next year's seasons. So why do so many of them look alike? Same pieces, same presentation. "What makes our orchestras' schedules look so repetitive is not only that they repeat one another but also that they keep repeating a few well-tried formulas, right through their programming." The New York Times 06/02/02

SAN JOSE SYMPHONY GOES BANKRUPT: After trying to revive itself through fundraising, the San Jose Symphony calls it quits. The orchestra had already shut down operations last winter but had hoped to regroup. "The announcement concludes months of uncertainty about the future of the 123-year-old institution. With an estimated $3.4 million in debt and just $300,000 in assets, the symphony seemed increasingly likely to fold. Concert attendance had fallen off. To make ends meet, the organizers borrowed money on credit. The symphony's status has been in limbo since it was shut down last October because of mismanagement and spiraling debt." San Jose Mercury News 06/03/02

GOING HOME: Across America there is a growing movement to take classical music concerts back into private homes. Chamber music was written for smaller spaces, and a number of organizations have sprung up to stage home concerts - sometimes with big-name performers. Christian Science Monitor 06/07/02

THE ULTIMATE CROSSOVER? The Andrea Bocelli phenomenon just keeps on going. "Bocelli's success has been prodigious, and controversial. For the opera mavens in the Internet chat rooms, he's an impostor, a pop-star microphone singer who has no business singing opera. For millions of fans he is a pop star - his Romanza album sold 25 million copies worldwide, and at one point only the Spice Girls topped him on the charts; some of his fans probably wonder what all this opera stuff is about and wish he would just sing more soulful power ballads." Boston Globe 06/09/02

 Last Week's News

Free Range Accordion
Composer/Performer: Guy Klucevsek
Starkland - #209
Caught in the Act
Guy Klucevsek's Got 
a Squeeze Box

by Deborah Kravetz

Guy Klucevsek is THE composer of modern accordion pieces, with 13 scores for modern dance, as well as collaboration with many popular avant-garde composers. Here, he has provided four pieces for members of the Pennsylvania Ballet, commissioned and accompanied by the Relache Ensemble and the composer on accordion. 

On the Same Page puts dancers through their paces in a variety of styles, and the music incorporates the sane variety, from ponderous, to lively and reminiscently folkish, to Argentine tango, to high-pitched sounds of the spheres, to rhythmic piano with marimba, to Copland simplicity.

Tangocide is one of the sections of Triptych. It is not, however, really a tango, but a piece to a slow tango beat in places that matches the humor of the choreography, with hands from offstage directing, beckoning, stopping and yanking at the dancers. Talk with Morpheus, for Meredith Rainey solo with shirt, is accompanied only by solo accordion in a pulsing, jagged rhythm. The final piece, Wing/Prayer, for strings and piano has a rapid jazzy solo for fleet-footed female dancer, an ominous pas de deux of fear, and a wild finish.

Throughout, the composer takes a short six or eight-note motif and repeats with instrumental variation, providing a background for the dance.

Music by Guy Klucevsek, 
Choreography by Meredith Rainey 
May 21-23, 2002

(Reposted from Penn Sounds 6/3/02)

Classical Grammy Winners

Previous Interviews/Profiles
Simon Rattle, Michael Gordon,Benjamin Lees, Scott Lindroth, David Felder, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Erkki-Sven Tüür, John Luther Adams, Brett Dean, Judith Lang Zaimont, Meyer Kupferman, Evan Chambers, Poul Ruders, Steven R. Gerber, Gloria Coates

Previous Articles/
Busoni The Visionary
The Composer of the Moment:  Mark-Anthony Turnage
Electronic Music
Voices: Henze at 75
Henze Meets Emenim
On Finding Kurtag
Charles Ruggles:  When Men Were Men
Ballet Mécanique
The Adams Chronicles




Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for our Editor's Pick's of the month.  Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, NY, NY 10019  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.


Violin and String Quartet
Composer: Morton Feldman
Performer: Christina Fong, Karen Krummel, et al.
Ensemble: Rangzen Quartet
Listening to this epic 2-CD chamber work is like watching a large block of ice melt for nearly two hours--excruciating sameness, tantilizing variation, in equal measures. A labor of love by all involved and the kind of thing that only small, independent labels will do.  Bravo 
OgreOgress Productions

Anake & Other Works
Composer: Lyell Cresswell
Performer: Daniel Bell, William Conway, et al.
Nmc Records - #77 
Compositions for solo instruments (other than the piano) rarely get recorded which is a shame because sometimes--as in this case--the results are spectacular.  New Zealand-born British composer Cresswell's warm and passionate solo turns for the violin, cello, flute, and piano are given convincing readings by members of The Hebrides Ensemble.

Symphony 4 / Overture / Nympholept
Composer: Arnold Bax
Peformers Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish Nat'l Orch
Naxos - #8555343 
Not in Vaughn Williams or Arnold's class as a symphonist, Bax nonetheless has a highly invidual voice and offers tremendous pleasures for those who look for less traveled paths.

 Silk Road Journeys
Composer: Michio Mamiya, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, et al.
Performer: Yo-Yo Ma
Ensemble: Silk Road Ensemble
Sony - #89782 
Okay, so the guy is a one-man marketing machine, classical music's equivalent of Sting, but the music is nearly always honest and heartfelt and God knows modern classical music doesn't sell itself. 

Turandot Suite
Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
Performers:  Wong, Hong Kong Phil Orch
Naxos - #8555373 
Little-known suite that Busoni extracted from his incidental music to Gozzi's play, Turandot. Completed in 1905, and in eight descriptive sections, it is engaging late Romantic with hints of Straussian darkness. The Saraband and Cortege are from Busoni's better-known Doktor Faust.

Compositions for Piano (1920-1952)
Composer: Stefan Wolpe:  Performer: David Holzman, piano BRIDGE 9116
From the nice people at Bridge Records comes an invaluable look at an early and largely forgotten modernist just in time for the Wolpe Centenary (1902-2002)

Pianist Holzman wins the uphill battle with such Wolpe knuckle-busters as the Sonata No. 1 "Stehende Musik" (1925), the aptly named 
Battle Piece (1943-47), 
The Good Spirit of a Right Cause (1942), Adagio. Gesang, weil ich etwas Teures verlassen muss (1920), Tango (1927), 
Waltz for Merle (1952), and 
Zemach Suite (1939)


The Rheingold Curse: A Germanic Saga of Greed and Revenge from the Medieval Icelandic Edda
Ensemble: Sequentia
Marc Aurel Edition - #20016
Wagner's mother lode. Apocalyptic texts, atmospheric performances, bring to shattering life the age of the Vikings and the Valkyries when Gods and mortals jousted for the medieval soul.  Thoughtful music for an age in which evil men once more live in caves and wreak havoc upon their fellow men.

Stephen Hough's English Piano Album
Composer: Alan Rawsthorne, Stephen Reynolds, et al.
Performer: Stephen Hough
Hyperion - #67267
Stephen Hough is among the most talented pianists today and also one of the most adventuresome.  Rather than concentrating on the surefire crowd pleasers, he has followed his own tastes which have taken him  down a less traditional path. His focus on neglected works by less-known composers is never less than rewarding and particularly so in this CD which showcases virtuoso piano pieces from English composers like Alan Rawsthorne and Stephen Reynolds as well as Elgar and Bridge.  A delight from start to finish. 

Speaking Extravagantly
Composer:  David Stock
Performer(s): Cuarteto Latinoamericano 
innova 563 
Stock blends influences from Ives to minimalism, from Bartok to jazz, and from synagogue music to Schoenberg into a fresh and imaginative style of dramatic sweep and lyrical flight.  His close collaboration with Cuarteto Latinoamericano,  one of the world’s outstanding chamber ensembles,  has produced a recording of great emotional power and driving rhythm, with blazing colors and a wide dynamic and expressive range.

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor: Zdenek Kosler
Performer: Ludek Vele, Stefan Margita, et al.
Naxos - #8555138
Gilgamesh was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in what is now modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C.  Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets in the script known as cuneiform and which still survive,  providing continuing inspiration for writers and poet and musicians.  One of the most inspired of these was Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, who wrote this magnificent choral masterpiece based on the legend in 1955--only a couple of years before his death.  Like virtually everything Martinu wrote, this one is indispensible.

Concertos for Two Pianos
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu, Alfred Schnittke
Conductor: Eiji Oue
Performer: Kathrin Rabus
Cpo Records - #999804 
An inspired pairing of works for two pianos by two of modern music's real giants.  Martinu's concerto is big, sprawling and filled with musical color; Schnittke's is restrained with tensions that build into moments of momentous relief.  Taken together, a testimony to the power of the imaginative to produce different, yet equally compelling, solutions to the same problems.


Symphony No. 9
Composer: Hans Henze
Performer: NYPhilharmonic
Berlin Radio Choir 
No  record can quite capture the excitement of a live performance, but having been there the night the Henze 9th  was recorded, I can testify that this CD comes very close to capturing the epic, shattering, passionate, heartbreaking pain of this incredible work. The Philharmonic plays magnificently, and the Berlin Radio Choir sings with total commitment this setting of seven harrowing poems by Hans-Ulrich Treichel, based on Anna Seghers's wartime novel "The Seventh Cross," about the re-capture and martyrdom by crucifixion of seven concentration camp escapees. No one who listens to this work will ever forget it.

SEQUENZA21/ is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
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