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 December 1-8, 2003
"Swales and Angels" 
The Music of Beth Anderson
by Karen Sharf

The spectacular Belgian Rubio String Quartet performed a series of beautiful single movement string quartets by Beth Anderson called "Swales and Angels" at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.  They were joined by seven musicians to create a quintet and two septets.

The New York based composer, originally from Kentucky, has written about her use of the title Swale in so many of her works, "A swale is a meadow or a marsh where there is nourishment and moisture and therefore, a rich diversity of plant life. My work, since 1984, has been made from swatches (of newly composed music, rather than found music) that are reminiscent of this diversity.  When a horse named Swale won the Kentucky derby in 1984, I discovered the word and have used it extensively: 'Minnesota Swale' for orchestra, 'May Swale' for viola solo, 'April Swale' for viola and harpsichord, 'August Swale' for woodwind quintet, 'September Swale' for guitar and mandolin duet, 'Brass Swale' and 'Saturday/ Sunday Swale' for brass quintet, 'Cleveland Swale' for two string bass and piano, 'Toledo Swale' for two violins and soprano saxophone, 'Rhode Island Swale' for harpsichord, and the most recent, 'Three Swales' (Kentucky, Bluebell, and March), 'June and July Swales',  and 'Mourning Dove Swale' all for string orchestra."

The Rubio opened the concert with "Pennyroyal Swale" which was composed in 1985 and dedicated to James Roy, past head of the concert division of B.M.I., in gratitude for his dedication to assisting women composers, a cause close to Ms. Anderson's heart.  The composer described it as combining folk-related vernacular music with 'classically' developed techniques in an open, somewhat repetitive form. 

There was such a feeling of Kentuckiana in this piece that Mark O'Connor's following might enjoy this quartet.  Like O'Connor, Anderson has absorbed many influences from a variety of musical styles  and genres and has shaped these influences into a new American classical music.

Next up was "Rosemary Swale" a piece from 1986.  This quartet was full of important inner parts, 5/4 meter, and a beautiful cello solo that contained echoes of shape-note singing. Anderson studied with John Cage and Terry Riley and their separate influences are apparent in the cutups (as in Cage's  "Radio Music") and in the bright colors of the harmony.

Next on the program was "New Mexico Swale" for flute/piccolo (Andrew Bolotowsky), percussion (David Rozenblatt), violin, viola, and cello. Anderson composed this eclectic piece  in 1995 to express a variety of styles that were descriptive of the diverse regions and people of New Mexico.  It began with string octaves under a guiro followed by a spring drum that created a sense of wind across the desert. 


Peachy Keen-O
Composer: Beth Anderson
Performer: Linda Collins , Kitty Mraw , Ana Perez , Marjorie Anderson , Wharton Tiers, Michael Blair. Beth Anderson 
Advertising and Sponsorship Information
Boosey And Hawkes Sold "Music publishers Boosey and Hawkes, home to the estates of Stravinsky, Britten, Strauss, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov, is to be bought by the venture capitalists HgCapital - meaning it will remain independent, at least for now." The Guardian (UK) 11/25/03 

Met Opera To Take A Midwinter Nap Ticket sales at the Metropolitan Opera haven't been great in recent years during the weeks following the Christmas and New Year's holidays. So the Met has announced that it will be taking a two-week break in the middle of its season, beginning in January 2004. "This will be the first midseason break since the Met began in 1883," and it may not be the only change the company makes to its schedule. Executive director Joseph Volpe says that the Met is also considering replacing its Monday night performances with Sunday matinees. Newsday (AP) 11/24/03 

Big Instruments Down Some of the bigger orchestral instruments are so unpopular with young Britons, that there's a big shortage of players opening up. "It seems that the tuba, bassoon, double bass and trombone are too ugly and expensive for a new generation of teenagers who, if they like classical music at all, prefer the charms of the flute and clarinet. The result, according to the some of the country's leading instrumentalists, is that Britain's bass line is in danger of fading out." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/03 

Symphony-Sur-Jumbotron Pop concerts have employed jumbo video screens at performances for years. This year the Vancouver Symphony is trying them out - "four remote-controlled video cameras strategically positioned in the hall, used to "simulcast" performances on screens measuring 2.2 by 2.7 metres, to the left and right of the stage." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/24/03 

Lloyd Webber To Buy Warner Chappell? Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is apparently going to try to buy Warner Chappell, the music publishing business of Time Warner. The company is valued at about $1 billion. "Andrew is seriously interested. He is confident he can get a consortium together." 
BBC 11/27/03 

Mao's Greatest Hits For the 110th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, Chinese officials are releasing an album of great songs by the former Communist leader. The songs have been re-recorded, one even remade as a rap. "Ten years ago, the album 'A Red Sun' brought a crimson tide of songs rushing through our music industry. This year ... the China Record Company has finished the production of the powerfully red 'Mao Zedong and us'." BBC 11/28/03 

Harlem Boys Choir In Trouble The famed Boys Choir of Harlem has declared a financial emergency after corporate and individual donations have fallen dramatically. "Everybody thinks we must be rich. Well, we're not. This is the worst time period in our 35-year history." New York Daily News 11/28/03 

NY Phil: Looking To Future Talent David Robertson conducts the New York Philharmonic. So? There is a sense that younger conductors are being given chances to work with the orchestra with an eye to the future. "To the credit of the current music director, Lorin Maazel, the orchestra has done a much better job of introducing promising younger conductors — and potential successors — to its podium, musicians like Robert Spano and Alan Gilbert, as well as Osmo Vanska and Gianandrea Noseda, who made their debuts recently." The New York Times 11/28/03 

Homeless Stage Opera An opera production produced by homeless people has been staged in Oxford. ""The charity behind the project, Streetwise Opera, helped train volunteers to sing, perform and develop theatre skills. Professional opera singers joined them for last night's production at New College, which was sold out. The show's director, Matthew Peacock, said he hoped the music boosted the confidence of the homeless people involved and would help them in life." BBC 11/29/03 

 Last Week's News

The Death of Klinghoffer
Staged concert version

Music by John Adams
Libretto by Alice Goodman
Brooklyn Philharmonic 
Conducted by Robert Spano
Directed by Bob McGrath
Produced in association with Ridge Theater

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Dec 3, 5 & 6 at 7:30pm

Adams' Klinghoffer
Returns to BAM

"It was just after 1:15." This outwardly mundane refrain, sung with great poignancy by the ship's Captain in John Adams' moving and controversial The Death of Klinghoffer, chronicles the moment in 1985 that Palestinian hijackers seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro, terrorizing its passengers and crew for two days and murdering the wheelchair-bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer. 

When the opera premiered in the United States in 1991 it generated tremendous controversy. At one extreme, it was denounced as unabashedly Pro-Palestinian - at the other, it was called a Zionist plot. 

In this staged concert version of the 1991 opera, which premiered at BAM just as the first Gulf War was ending, the tragic events come to vivid life through a prismatic mix of historical narrative, recollections, and commentary. Performed by Robert Spano and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and directed with a delicate balance of boldness and restraint by Bob McGrath of the New York-based Ridge Theater, Klinghoffer opens with a stunning prelude during which two choruses, one representing exiled Palestinians, the other, exiled Jews, establish the music's daring complexities. 

Like Adams' first opera, the politically astute and melodically luminous Nixon in China (1987/1999 Next Wave), Klinghoffer is both musically lush and rife with risky observations and symbolism. And given this singularly fraught time in our own history—as illustrated by the capture of the architect of the Achille Lauro hijacking plot this April—it continues to stand out as a prescient, even audacious, work.

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, Tobias Picker

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

What's Recent
An Interview with Tobias Picker
Handmaid Tale's Debuts in English
Rautavaara Joins B&G 
Who's Afraid of Julia Wolfe
Derek Bermel's Soul Garden
 The Pianist: The Extraordinary 
True Story of Wladyslaw Szpilman
John Adams' Atomic Opera
A Bridge Not Far Enough
Turnage Signs With B&H
Sophie's Wrong Choice
Copland's Mexico
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson
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 

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots to jbowles@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
             THIS WEEK'S PICKS 

 Quattrains, My Ends are My Beginnings
Composer: Milton Babbitt
Conductor: Tony Arnold
Performer: Jeffrey Milarsky, Charles Neidich, et al.,  Cygnus Ensemble

Another remarkable gift from Bridge Records, containing  the premiere recordings of five Babbitt works that span a quarter of a century. The CD opens with a performance of Babbitt’s exquisite "Quatrains", sung by the young American soprano, Tony Arnold. Set to a text by a Babbitt favorite–John Hollander–"Quatrains" is a work of great delicacy and subtlety. "My Ends Are My Beginnings" is regarded by many as one of most difficult-to-play works for a solo woodwind instrument. The work’s dedicatee, Allen Blustine (long-time clarinetist for Speculum Musicae), gives a heroic reading of this 17 minute solo. 

World to Come
Composers:  David Lang, Osvaldo Golijov, etc.
Performer(s): Maya Beiser
Koch Int'l Classics 

As a performer and promoter of new music, Maya Beiser is  peerless--a terrific  example of how to package the work of "difficult" composers in a kind of  modern hipness without compromising the music or the performance.  Here, Beiser's taste and musicality are flawless, a short but brilliant piece by Osvaldo Golijov, familiar works by the always popular Arvo Part and John Tavener, and the centerpiece, a long and  moving meditation on 9/11 by David Lang, whose work continues to marvel as it matures and grows in stature. 


13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic
The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
pfMENTUM 2003

Jeff Kaiser's CDs always create a moral dilemma for me because they come packaged in such beautiful, Japanese-style, wrappings that I am reluctant to untie the string to get to the CD itself.  Once you get past that point, however, you discover that the music is fresh and inventive and not easily categorized.  Is it jazz, with a classical touch?  Or classical, with a touch of jazz?  Doesn't really matter, it's highly original and the packaging is second to nobody.


Various Composers

The CD reissue of a noted series of seven 10-inch vinyl eps that Cold Blue released in the early 1980s. Extraordinary music from composers Peter Garland, Rick Cox, Barney Childs, Read Miller, Michael Jon Fink, Daniel Lentz, and Chas Smith. Music for violins and percussion, electric guitar, eletronic keyboards with voices, solo and duo pianos, cello, pedal steel guitar, wind instruments of pre-Columbian design, readers, and more--all precursors of a certain genre  of "California ambiance."  Highly recommended.

String Quartets 1 & 3
Composer:  Frank Bridge
Performers:. Maggini String Quartet

Frank Bridge is a bit of a lost horse in the English stable of composers that includes such giants as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and, his student, Benjamin Britten.  But he shouldn't be. No. 1, written in 1901, is a mature, fully realized work; No. 3, composed in 1927 is one of the pilars of 20th century chamber music.  As always, the Maggini play magnificiently and the recording is first rate.

Le Villi
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Performer: Melanie Diener, Ludovic Tezier, et al. Radio France Chorus, French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Just listening to young Puccini's first opera (as opposed to seeing it staged and sung), you notice immediately that the big sweeping melodies, the ingenious "hooks" are already there. Naive has also issued a Radio France recording of Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, written five years after Le Villi.   In this more ambitious and complicated work, Puccini develops his technique using a score that merges stirring arias and ensembles. 

Emerson Concerto / Symphony 1
Composer:  Charles Ives
Performers:  Alan Feinberg (piano), National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, James Sinclair (conductor)

Ives sketched the Emerson Concerto in 1907 but never fully finished it, although he used portions in other works.  David G. Porter, a noted Ives scholar, was  able to create a performing version which was premiered in 1998 by Alan Feinberg, the pianist on this premiere recording.  The piece is extremely demanding, often abrasive, and demands exceptional  virtuosity.  Symphony No. 1 is fetching, but not as charateristic, of the great American maverick that followed.

Piano Concertos 2 & 3
Composer: Einojuhani Rautavaara
Performers: Laura Mikkola (piano), Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Eri Klas (conductor)

The Finnish composer Rautavaara has enjoyed enormous success in recent years with his unique blend of northern lights impressionism and romanticism  served up in an aura of modernity. His Cantus Articus is immensely popular, conjuring up associations of Messiean, although the latter is a much more important composer.   The Third Piano Concerto from 1998 is forceful, drawings on  the Russian school of pianism, although it not technically flashy until the finale.  The Second, composed nine years earlier, is more traditional and  Laura Mikkola, already on disc with a highly regarded account of the First Concerto, again provides an outstanding performance.

Composers: King, Kline, Reynolds, Ziporen
Performers:  Ethel

New York's most daring string-quartet sensation, Ethel, makes its debut here with a menu of the kind of hard-edged downtown music that has won the group a big following in the NY new music scene.   Todd Reynolds and Mary Rowell, violins; Ralph Farris, viola; and Dorothy Lawson, cello—all began their careers in New York as freelance musicians, playing difficult music that relies heavily on non-classical sources but requires a virtuoso classical ensemble to play. Its repertoire ranges from John King's energetic blues transcriptions to  the gnarly quartets  of Julia Wolfe and on Todd Reynolds' quirky 
musical postcards.  Adventuresome and fun for the advanced music listener.

Return from a Journey
Composers:  Gurdjieff, De Hartmann,
Performer:  Kremski

Gurdjieff was a Russian Aremenian spiritual master who, in addition to the main body of his teaching created sacred dances, or Movements, as well as  200 or so musical compositions--all of which were were done  in collaboration with German composer Thomas de Hartmann at Gurdjieff's  Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, near Paris,  in the years 1925–27.  For many years, the pieces heard here were played only by De Hartmann or another of Gurdjieff's disciples but in recent years they have attracted the interest of a number of adventuresome pianists.  Kremski plays these exotic, vaguely oriental and oddly thematic pieces with great respect and warmth.

Chichester Psalms
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performers:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Marin Alsop (conductor)

Commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester, Bernstein’s colorful Chichester Psalms is one of the composer’s most successful and accessible works on religious texts, contrasting spiritual austerity with impulsive rhythms in a contemplation of peace. The composer fashioned his Oscar nominated score to the 1954 movie On the Waterfront into a symphonic suite, skillfully capturing the oppression of the New York dockyards in the ’50s. The Three Dance Episodes were extracted from the popular On The Town, Bernstein's first successful foray into musical theatre.  Bernstein protege Marin Alsop gets a robust performance from Bournemouth orchestra and chorus.

Double Concerto
Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski
Performers:  Polish National Radio Symphony, Antoni Wit

Volume 8 in Naxos' indispensible survey of Lutoslawski's orchestra work brings us into lesser known territory but there are still treasures to be found.   The  Dance Preludes from 1955 is basically a five-movement clarinet concerto, with lots of  interesting harmonies and rhythmic twists and turns. The Double Concerto for oboe and harp from 1990 rattles the ear a bit and has a  demanding oboe part, beautifully  played by Arkadiusz Krupa. The Children's Songs, gorgeously sung by the soprano, Urszula Kryger, are beguiling. 

Doña Francisquita
Composer: Amadeo Vives 
Performers: Maria Bayo,
Alfredo Kraus, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife, Antoni Ros Marba

A superb performance of Amadeo Vives' zarzuela masterpiece, sung with enormous vivacity and brio by the ravishing-voiced Maria Bayo and the sturdy Alfredo Kraus.  With its nineteenth century Madrid setting, its roots in classical Spanish drama  and its festive nocturnal amours, Doña Francisquita provides  a retrospective on the romantic zarzuela tradition and its crowning glory. The work was immediately recognized not only as Vives’ masterpiece, but as the greatest full length zarzuela of its era. If you're not into zarzuela already, this is the perfect place to start your  collection.

Symphony 9 Visionaria
Composer:  Kurt Atterberg
Satu Vihavainen (mezzo-soprano); Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)
NDR Choir, Prague Chamber Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic, 
Ari Rasilainen

The 9th and final symphony of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg bears a superficial relationshp to Beethoven's 9th with its big, expresssive choral sound but Atterburg's world is a good deal less joyous.  Atterberg's choice of texts reflects the lasting impact on his psyche made by World War II and the Korean War. The Poetic Edda, an Icelandic epic dating from around 1270, relates the visions of a wise prophetess (hence the Symphony's title "Sinfonia Visionaria") who foretells the creation of the world, the warring among gods, giants, and humans, the world's destruction, and finally its recreation. 

Atterberg uses mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with chorus and large orchestra, as  well as a quasi-oratorio form, to tell his epic tale. This is extraordinary symphony by a composer who is far too little-known in the musical world.

The Complete Mazurkas
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin

Marc-Andre Hamelin continues his extraordinary journey through the forgotten rivers and bayous of the modern piano repetoire with masterful performances  of Szymanowski's Twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50, composed between 1926 and 1931.  After assimilating the influence of Stravinsky, Szymanowski began looking for folk themes in Polish music to rival the Russian folk touches of the master. The Mazurka,  a traditional Polish dance in three-quarter-time with an often erratic-seeming emphasis on the second beat, (and a favorite form for Chopin) offered great possibilities . 

These highly diverse pieces are more complex  than Chopin, more modern and dissonant, yet also more muted and elusive.  Still,  Szymanowski remained too much a romantic to settle for anything less then flamboyant virtuosity--a quality that Hamelin possses by the truckload. 

Composers:  Transciptions:
Bach, Barber, Berg, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Wolf
Peformers: : Choeur De Chambre Accentus, Equilbey

Worth having for the ravishing performances of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" and Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5." 

Symphony No. 6
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: London Symphony Orchestra; Mariss Jansons
Label: LSO Live 

It is rare that you find a recording that you need listen to for only a minute to know a masterpiece is unfolding before your very ears.  This stunning live performance of Mahler's "Tragic" symphony is one of the rare ones,  From the first rhythmic thumps of the long and  stately funeral march to the final faded chords, Mariss Jansons draws a passionate and committed performance from the LSO.  Certain to be among the best of the year noninees. 

Wheel of Emptiness
Composer: Jonathan Harvey
Performers:  Actus
Cyprès CYP5604

English composer Jonathan Harvey is one of those modernists whose work is more frequently talked about then played.  This rare recording contains five representative works ranging from the lyrical to the raw, built on  instrumentations ranging from electroacoustical to the  traditional.  An excellent introduction to an unjustly neglected maverick. 

Piano Etudes 1
Composer: Philip Glass
Performer: Philip Glass 
Orange Mountain 

Glass says he wrote these "studies" as fodder for his own concert performances and as a way of challenging himself as a pianist.  But, they are much more important than that.  They provide a real insight into how Glass composes and, although billed as sketches,  sometimes are more rewarding to the ear and intellect than many of Glass's larger-scale works.  Essential recording for the Glassologist.

Music from the Thin Blue Line
Composer:  Philip Glass
Orange Mountain

 Glass's hypnotic score for  Errol Morris’ extraordinary 1988 documentary film entitled "The Thin Blue Line". Nonesuch Records released a CD of the film’s soundtrack that included the narration and interviews from the film but this  Orange Mountain release contains  the original score without the voice-over.  The music is dark and brooding, full of tension appropriately for such a chilling film, and it stands well on its own. 

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