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Jerry Bowles
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Latest Posts

Love and Cow Bells
Sorceress of the New Piano
Well, That Was Fun
Naxos Dreaming
Reich@70: Let the Celebrations Begin
The Bi-Coastal Jefferson Friedman
Violins Invade Indianapolis
John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992).
The People United Will Never Be Divided
Attention Sequenza21 Shoppers


Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for review. Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Saturday, May 07, 2005
Derby Day

Sequenza21 readers have voted Philip Glass�s Einstein on the Beach as the most influential piece of the 1970s, and John Adams�s Harmonielehre as the most influential piece of the 1980s. How about the 1990s? Lawrence Dillon wants to know...Jeffrey Biegel has commissioned a new piano concerto for himself from Daniel Dorff. This is a follow up to the success of his commissioned millenium piece by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich which he managed to get more than 25 orchestras to program.
More Gratuitous Wuorinen Bashing

Tom Strini of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Charles Wuorinen's latest:
"Symphony Seven" might sound more convincing as the orchestra gets it under its belt. Or subsequent performances might confirm my suspicion that a composer can be highly intelligent, lofty in his ideals and incompetent at the same time.
Musical Anarchy

Want to be a musical anarchist? Elodie Lauten has some "dos" and "don'ts." She also has a list of her 13 favorite Western classics.

Elsewhere...At first glance, Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison are an odd couple. At second glance, too. A New Yorker of Persian-Jewish stock and the reining diva of African-American literature teaming up to create a new $6 million opera about a runaway slave who kills her two children rather than let them be captured and sent back to slavery is an unlikely combination.

By Sunday, we�ll know if it works. Margaret Garner debuts tomorrow night at the Detroit Opera House with Denyce Graves singing the title role. This is the first opera for both Danielpour and Morrison and it is backed by Michigan Opera Theatre, the Philadelphia Opera and the Cincinnati Opera.

Jessye Norman was originally scheduled to play a leading role but withdrew a few weeks ago because of �rehearsal scheduling� problems which I interpret, perhaps unkindly, to mean that she�s too fat and rich to want to rehearse all that much these days. In any event, I�m sure the production is better for the absence with Cilla Brown as her replacement.

There is nothing in Danielpour�s output that I�ve heard that would suggest he has the kind of ear for American vernacular�black or white--that this story would seem to require but, as we learned from Dvorak, sometimes being from out of town is a plus.
Mo' Money Mo' Negative Media Attention

Much has been made of The Royal Opera Houses's staging of New York Philharmonic conductor Lorin Maazel's new opera "1984," largely because Maazel himself has financed about �400,000, ($760,000) or just under half of the production cost, himself. The Guardian says there have been "accusations that Covent Garden is staging a vanity project.;" Anthony Tommasini at the New York Times pauses in his review to ask "Did the Royal Opera sign on to a vanity project? Is the company setting a worrisome precedent by presenting the work of a wealthy and renowned conductor who at 75 has a thin r�sum� as a composer? " Yes, the surface level facts smell bad, but this really should not be a big deal. Let's talk finance.

Maazel didn't approach Covent Garden and say "hey, I want to write an opera and I can put up half of the production cost myself, whadday say?" According to the same Guardian article mentioned above, the opera was initially commissioned by a "German opera administrator" who subsequently died. Maazel then approached the Royal Opera to try to get the project revived, and the Royal Opera teamed up with the Tokyo Opera and agreed, sharing the costs between the two houses. But Tokyo pulled out, leaving the Royal Opera in the lurch, and leaving Maazel in the lurch for a second time. Only then did Maazel propose salvaging the project, and his best shot at the compositional big-time, with his own money. To call it a vanity project knowing the facts seems unfair. Whether or not the opera is any good is irrelevant. (Tommasini makes a compelling case for his claim that the music is "undistinguished" while "never less than thoroughly professional," but I would want to hear it myself before passing judgement.) Plenty of bad music has been commissioned and premiered with no financial assistance from the composer.

As I may have mentioned, my day job is in Development (in Medicine rather than in Music, though) and I think the $760,000 needs to be brought into perspective too. According to the Guardian, when Maazel led the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra he was supposedly making $1 Million per year, and the New York Phil presumably pays even better. And given that the leadership of major non-profits often give substantially, and are in fact expected to do so, to support the organizations that write their paychecks, we can hardly expect Maazel to be tight-fisted about supporting an organization that is putting on his own work. I was only able to get numbers for 3 of the "Big 5" orchestras, but here is a small survey of the financial support that the three major conductors at those three orchestras have provided to their own orchestras in recent years. Bear in mind that these are individual samplings, and contribution sizes can fluctuate widely from year to year.

In his first year at the New York Phil (the 2002-2003 season), Lorin Maazel himself made a $100,000 challenge pledge to the Phil. The challenge was $1 Million in new and increased contributions -- they raised $1.6 Million. As far as I can tell, he made no gift in the 2003-2004 season, but I think he deserves a year off. This is according to the two Annual Reports that the NY Phil's Development Office kindly sent me.

According to the Annual Report of the Cleveland Orchestra (available online), Franz Welser-M�st gave between $25,000 and $49,999 in Fiscal Year 2004.

According to the Annual Report of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (also available online), Daniel Berenboim gave between $100,000 and $249,999 in Fiscal Year 2003.

I was unable to get numbers for the BSO and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the remaing two of the "Big 5," and it would surely be interesting to do a much more thorough study. I would be especially interested to hear about Esa-Pekka Salonen's contributions to the LA Phil, given that they perform his compositions -- not to make Salonen look bad but rather to point out that Maazel is being unfairly judged.

Check out the snazzy new design over at the New Music Box. Nice going, Frank...D'Arcy Reynolds has posted lots of new pictures and notes from her musical trip to South Africa...Our very own fair-haired boy, David Salvage, has a string trio being performed at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on a student composers recital next Monday, the 9th, beginning at 7:30. The Grad Center is located at 365 Fifth Avenue between 34th and 35th streets. If you miss that one, David has three pieces -- the piano trio, plus a short piano solo and a song cycle based on Christina Rossetti poems --on a Harvard alumni program at the Harvard Club of New York City on May 16 at 8pm. Only catch is that men must wear a tie and women should look "nice."

UPDATE: Just noticed that Lawrence Dillon has posted a review of the new New Music Box over in the Composers Forum.
It's 1984. Do You Know if Your Opera is a Hit?

Anthony Tommasini's review of Loren Maazel's 1984 for tomorrow's New York Times is up online already. The verdict? "Undistinguished."
Wednesday Flurry

We are positively overrun with new stuff this morning. Lawrence Dillon on post-modernism, Brian Sacawa on Radiohead, Tom Myron on Kingsley Amis, Jeff Biegel on Leroy Anderson, Everette Minchew on the premiere of his most recent piece, and Rodney Lister has joined the are-orchestras-dead discussion in the Composers Forum. Better phone in sick.
Kudos and Kudzu

An e-mail from some time ago slipped our normally steeltrap memory and we failed to note a special concert last night when students of The Boston Conservatory presented a concert in honor of our own Dr. Larry Bell, celebrating his 25 years on the Composition Faculty of the Conservatory. Congratulations Dr. Larry and our apologies for the lack of advance notice.
More on Are Orchestras Dead

The "are orchestras dead" discussion has spread like kudzu across the S21 plantation. It began with Elodie Lauten and then migrated to the Composers Forum. Now, Brian Sacawa checks in with some thoughts on the role of mid-sized orchestras and Christina Fong unleashes a passionate (pissed off?) rant on braindead programming.
What's Going On

If you should find yourself in the vicinity of 74 Leonard Street tonight at 8 pm, chances are you�re hopelessly lost but don't worry, be happy. Drop in to the Knitting Factory to hear the splendid new music group Opus 21 perform seven, count �em, world premieres celebrating Motown, Frank Zappa and Holland-Dozier-Holland. (I just made that last part up although it�s actually true so maybe I didn�t.)

On tonight�s really big shoe are the world premieres of Michael Daugherty�s "Walk the Walk," Eve Beglarian�s "Machaut In The Age of Motown," and Daniel Bernard Roumain�s "I Never Meant to Hurt You," as well as new works by jazz composer (is that an oxymoron?) Fred Hersch and Motown Records' session man Joe Hunter.

Opus 21 commissioned seven composers to write instrumental concert works in their own style, drawing the Motown era of 1960s Detroit. Tickets are $18 ($8 student tickets available at the door). Call (212) 219-3132.

1 or 9 train to Franklin Street; walk one block south to Leonard A, C, or E train to Canal Street; walk four blocks south to Leonard N or R train to Canal Street; walk down Broadway four blocks to Leonard. Good luck.
Del Tredici in Chicago

The premiere of "Final Alice" by the Chicago Symphony in 1976 may have been David Del Tredici's biggest hit but Chicago remembers.
Last Night in LA--Paper

When we walked into Disney Hall for the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert, it was immediately clear that we were in for something different. Hanging from the ceiling were three large, long unrolled scrolls of paper. The front of the stage was occupied by a somewhat stacked set of cardboard boxes and some wire frames holding sheets of paper. The percussion stands, spread along the back of the orchestra, included some unusual accessories. And there were no first violins. While the orchestra was tuning, careful glances around the auditorium revealed music stands along the side seats (and presumably in back of the hall), indicating that we would be surrounded with sound.

The concerto began with the sounds of a percussionist on stage right slowly tearing a sheet of paper. A percussionist on stage left joined in, slowly tearing another sheet of paper. Then the soloist carefully lifted a square sheet of paper up to his lips and began using it as a whistle, producing a strange, keening series of tones. The work? Tan Dun�s �Paper Concerto� for orchestra and paper percussion. The instrumentation list included: �large paper screens, paper cymbals, thick paper sheets, cardboard thundersheets, thin waxed-paper bags, paper strips, tracing paper, paper spinphones, paper head drums, paper cardboard tube drum, paper thunder tube, paper umbrella, paper box drums, and Chinese folding paper fan�. Not included in this list were the members of the orchestra who were at times called upon to audibly change the pages of their music, back and forth. David Cossin was the solo percussionist, and he was admirable.

The concerto was first performed in Los Angeles 18 months ago, as part of the series of concerts for the opening of Disney Hall. At that time, people enjoyed the work, listening to the clarity of all of the unusual sounds in the Disney Hall acoustics, but it was viewed as a work that wasn�t fully serious. Dun himself said that he really didn�t know how an orchestra would sound with paper. Since then, Dun has re-worked the concerto; the first two movements were completely rewritten. The result--while it remains great fun to experience--is a fully-serious musical composition in four movements. Thirty minutes seemed very short. (Later, leaving the concert near us, were two women who appeared to be in their 80s. One said to the other �Wasn�t that a great concert! I even enjoyed the Paper Concerto!� The other couldn�t go quite that far. �Maybe I�m just too resistant to change. I�m not sure I could say I enjoyed it, [pause] but at least I could keep still and listen to it.�)

The concerto is the latest of Dun�s compositions using elements he remembers from his childhood--ceramics, water, paper. New York had the review of his Water Concerto six years ago, with Masur conducting; since the New York Philharmonic�s programs are so much more conservative than we have out West, it would have been fun to see the audience reactions; Dun�s �Water Passion� was performed in the looser surroundings of Brooklyn.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya returned for his first assignment as Guest Conductor after having served notably as Associate Conductor for the Philharmonic. It was a very good concert. After intermission, returning back to earth after Dun, the orchestra played Stravinsky�s �Song of the Nightingale� (1917), and Harth-Bedoya evoked the romantic lines as well as the color and astringency of the work. The conclusion was Tschaikovsky�s Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin as the soloist. I don�t know who�s the best violinist in the world today, but it�s hard to imagine anyone better than Repin was yesterday. It�s undoubtedly a personal flaw, but I find most of Tschaikovsky�s orchestral music to be incomplete without ballerinas; while listening to those long melodies, images of dancers on stage keep coming to mind. It�s a personal compliment to say that when hearing Repin with the Philharmonic I only twice visualized ballet dancers.
The Da Vinci Code Meets the Faenza Codex

The most adventuresome music program in Neuvo York this week looks to be pianist Blair McMillen�s solo recital in the Teatro of Columbia University�s Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, on Wednesday night at 8:00 pm. McMillen has done extensive scholarly research on the late 14th Century Faenza Codex, one of the oldest collections of keyboard music in the world, and the most significant example of Ars Nova instrumental transcription in existence. The Codex consists of keyboard transcriptions of late medieval songs, mostly originating in Italy. McMillen will play pieces from the codex itself as well as works he commissioned Matthew Greenbaum and Fabrizio De Rossi Re to write, inspired by the Faenza Codex. Tickets are only $12 ($5 for seniors and students) so get on over there.
Lorin's Vanity Opera?

Lorin Maazel has been caught putting cookies into the cookie jar. It transpires that the sort-of-average conductor put more than �400,000 of his own money into his new opera of George Orwell's 1984 which opens Tuesday at the Royal Opera House. This, of course, has led some London music lovers to wonder if Covent Garden isn't staging a vanity project and led people like me to wonder why a sort-of-average conductor has so damned much money.

Sniffs the Guardian: "Maazel has no experience as a writer of opera, and his reputation as composer is far from stellar."

The paper goes on to say that one senior member of the music staff describes the opera as "crap".

Here's a somewhat friendlier take from Reuters.


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