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340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019

Jerry Bowles
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Managing Editor:
David Salvage

Contributing Editors:

Galen H. Brown
Evan Johnson
Ian Moss
Lanier Sammons
Deborah Kravetz
Eric C. Reda
Christian Hertzog
(San Diego)
Jerry Zinser
(Los Angeles)

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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, June 04, 2005
The News from Hungary

This is interesting. The Hungarian government is instituting a program whereby they will subsidize pop, jazz, and folk bands as they now do classical ensembles. This seems to make sense, but I wonder if, in twenty years, Hungarian pop, jazz, and folk musicians won't look on it as a mixed blessing at best.
Cr�me du Chien

Lawrence Dillon has checked in from Paris with a post that has a little bit of everything--Hemingway, ice cream, and doggy poo.
Last Night in L.A. - Manzanar

There were 1,800 people in the sold-out Royce Hall for the final program of this year�s UCLAlive series, the most adventuresome set of musical offerings west of BAM. Kent Nagano conducted the local American Youth Symphony in the Southern California performance of Manzanar: An American Story. This is a history with music of the Japanese-Americans in the United States in the twentieth century, with the forced relocation of peaceful American citizens because they happened to have been of Japanese ancestry and the forced internment of over 120,000 people, mostly citizens, for three years during World War II. Manzanar was the first of the ten internment camps to be established, in a former farming-ranching town in the Owens Valley of the Sierras, a town abandoned when the water rights were purchased to help bring water to Los Angeles through the Los Angeles aqueduct a mile away.

Manzanar was conceived--and Nagano became involved--in days when California state budgets included funds for a civil liberties education program. A major, multi-million dollar investment was planned; Robert Wilson was hired to put together the Manzanar project and Ernest Fleischmann was hired to be producer. Fleischmann recommended Naomi Sekiya as composer, and she was brought on. Sekiya had just received the award for young composers by the Ojai Music Festival and was completing her doctoral work at USC. Sekiya received her first mention in Sequenza21 a few months later when the then-weekly reported in 2003 on her upcoming Music Alive residency with the Berkeley Symphony. The budgets didn�t last; they didn�t even make it to the next year. Nagano, the son of citizens interned with their families, kept the program alive. A community college, a museum, an adult college -- began supporting the work, support with little money but a lot of involvement.

Phillip Kan Gotanda was brought on board to develop a script stemming from Wilson�s idea of combining the historical with the personal. As developed, the work is for six speakers, two who act as narrators of history and external events (we had Senator Inouye and �president� Martin Sheen in an unbilled appearance) and four who represent people (we had Pat Suzuki, Kristi Yamaguchi, Sab Shimono, and John Cho, with Suzuki and Shimono holdovers from the premiere at Berkeley). Unfortunately, the script is very pedestrian. Afterwards, I felt that the text needed images to provide the impact that the words lacked by themselves. I hope that in a future itiration of Manzanar it will be staged with a large screen projection of images from photos of the life before, during, and after the interment.

I�ve delayed speaking of the music. It would be easier if I could take an approach used in judging the sport of diving; I�d give very high marks for degree of difficulty but not quite so high for the execution. Some of the music is very good, sometimes dramatic, sometimes atmospheric. The work, however, was finished by a committee. David Benoit was brought into the project to add elements representing popular music of the time, such as late ragtime and early jazz, becoming �big band� sounds for the period of the camps. Jean-Pascal Beintus provided music for the internment section, with Sekiya�s music linking the contributions of the other two composers. Looked at another way, it�s easy to say that the music has no right to be as good as it is.

In its present form, Manzanar may not have a great future in the concert hall, but it has real value in teaching, adults and juveniles, of an important part of our history, a part which should not be forgotten. UCLA�s Design for Sharing gave a performance of Manzanar yesterday afternoon to 1200 students. (Photo by Ansel Adams)
Ur, Letters, We Get Letters...

I'm writing to you to tell you about a recital I'm doing on Monday, June 6, at 8 pm at NEC in Room 118 aka St. Botolph Hall) in the St. Botolph building at the conservatory (this is not in the Jordan Hall building, but around the corner on St.Boltolph Street, across from the Northeastern Arena). The music includes two pieces of mine, Sure of You and The Angel That Troubled the Waters, the first a little old piece for piano, but the second a new, rather large piece, a setting of a short play by Thorton Wilder for countertenor, tenor, baritone, and piano. The performers will be Martin Near, Jason Sabol, Richard Giarusso, and me. But wait! There's more!: Five Little Pieces and Farewell to Stromness, by (Sir) Peter Maxwell Davies (played by me), Voice, Violin, Piano by Morton Feldman (Jennifer Ashe, Lesley Chen, and me), Composition for viola and piano by Milton Babbitt (David Fulmer and me), Sonata Aragon (transcriptions of Cuban Tangos for soprano saxophone and piano) by Dave Smith( Demetrius Spaneas and me), and Ode of Ronsard (second version) by Arthur Berger (D'Anna Fortunato, Sarah Brady, David Russell, and me). An action packed and enjoyable selection of interesting music, I think. Scheduling this was difficult, and as a result, I managed to miss every imaginable deadline for making the existence of this concert known to the world at large. If you can come, I'd be very grateful. I hope you can.

Rodney Lister
Letters, We Get Letters...


Having been a Master piano technician in NYC for 25 years I have had the pleasure of working with many of the world's foremost pianists. On May 15 I heard 10 pieces composed by Brad Mehldau, performed together with Renee Fleming in Zankel Hall and was blown away by it.

Do yourself and your readers a favor and check him out. He is going places where no one has gone before.

Thanks, Michael. I stumbled across some Mehldau recordings several months ago and was blown away. He is easily the most influential jazz pianist since Bill Evans, combining formidable technique with an ear for stunning improvisation. He is also a terrific composer, as he demonstrates on his older albums like 'Places� and �Elegiac Cycle.� His ability to cross the border between jazz and classical is similar to the crossover talents of Keith Jarrett and Wynton Marsalis although he is more talented than both. All of which is a long way of saying, I agree with you.
Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005)

Composer Dennis Eberhard (1943-2005) passed away at his home in Shaker Heights, Ohio of respiratory problems stemming from polio contracted in childhood.

Eberhard's music has been performed by The Cincinnati Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Chamber Symphony. He was the recent recipient of a Guggenheim award, and last year, his piano concerto, "Shadow of the Swan" was released on Naxos. It is performed by St Petersburg Cappella Symphony Orchestra, with Halida Dinova, piano.
The enigma of the Piano Man

ExampleThe Piano Man (see picture on right) mystery remains unsolved. Theories too numerous to mention about his identity have been put forward, and demolished, in the past weeks. There were reports he was from Sweden, Czechoslavakia, and many other places. One theory, with many supporters, was that he is someone called Philip Staufen who pulled a very similar stunt (including cutting the labels out of his clothes) in Canada in 1999, but it turns out he is the wrong height. My own theory is that this is a publicity stunt by one of the major record companies to break the next crossover pianists. Teenage violinists in wet T-shirts are passe, mysterious men in wet black suits are the way to go.

Seriously though, apart from the sad plight of the guy who is now in a psychiatric hospital, there is another disturbing aspect to this story, and that is that mysteries are more appealing than solutions. Apparently the Piano Man's keyboard skills are limited to Tchaikovsky and the Beatles, so I guess we won't be hearing too much more about him on Sequenza21 once his identity is finally revealed. It all reminds me of another great musical mystery, the five dot dedication of Elgar's Violin Concerto. I have some original letters by Mrs Richard Powell, who is Dorabella in Elgar's Enigma Variations, which I wrote about in Elgar's other enigma . Mrs Powell claims the identity of the mysterious dedicatee was revealed to her by Lady Elgar, but nobody wanted to know! Her words, which I have in her own hand in front of me as I type, most probably also apply to the enigma of the Piano Man...

What a curious fact it is that people seem to prefer a mystery to a fact. Having kept my promise to Lady Elgar for 40 years not to reveal the 'Secret of the 5 dots' - I find now that no one cares to know the truth, and I have even heard something about pricked bubble. A writer to the Times once alluded to the "excruciating boredom of pure fact....................Believe me, Yours sincerely Dorah M. Powell"

Meanwhile, if anyone can identify the pianist at the top of this post, please contact me On An Overgrown Path .
The Mystery of the Piano Man

There's a magical mystery story in here somewhere. In April, an unidentifed man was found wandering around on Sheppey Isle in Kent, southeast England. He appeared to be in his late 20s or 30s, with short, fair hair, was dressed in a black suit that was soaking wet, and all the labels in his clothing had been cut out. He has not spoken a word since but when given a pencil and paper he drew a detailed picture of a grand piano and various keyboards.

Hospital officials showed him a piano in a hospital chapel and he immediately sat down and played "classical-sounding" pieces. He still doesn't talk but plays for hours on end, often resisting when he is taken away from the instrument.

It isn't clear from the published reports whether the authorities have brought in musical experts to identify his repertoire yet but that's where I would start. Too bad Dennis Potter is no longer with us. This would make a great mystery film.

Maybe Bob Shingleton at On an Overgrown Path knows more.
More on George Rochberg

David Patrick Stearns has a long article about George Rochberg here. You can listen free to Rochberg's Circles of Fire, nearly 70 minutes of music, at Art of the States.

In July 2003, Naxos released Rochberg�s Symphony No. 5 (8559115) performed by Christopher Lyndon-Gee and the Saarbr�cken Radio Symphony Orchestra, and followed this CD with the world premiere recording of the complete restored version of the Violin Concerto (8559129) in April 2004. A disc of various works (including Black Sounds) by Rochberg (8559120) featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra Project is also on Naxos and a recording of Symphony No. 2 is planned for release in September.
BMOP does Toru Takemitsu in Boston

Dear Rodney,

It was nice to see you at the Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert. I too enjoyed it a lot. (See Rodney Lister's review.)

The evening started with Ken Ueno's new "Kaze-No-Oka" -- written in memory of Toru Takemitsu and named after a crematorium build by architect Fumihiko Maki. The struture of the piece was inspired by this same structure. Ueno's program notes were quite illuminating, and an excellent example of the role good program notes can play. His explaination of the structure of the piece prevented me from having the difficulty that you had, Rodney, and in fact I found his structure strong and compelling, and in one sense downright brilliant: In his notes he writes "my piece begins with two bars of fast, loud music, music that never returns or relates in any structuralist way to the rest of the piece. It merely functions to introduce potential energy. In this way, I freed myself to be able to concentrate on the 'memorial' character in the rest of the piece." With this structure, the piece is one very long denuement, and so any lack of intensity during the piece is compensated by the residual intensity of the opening -- exactly what he required for the marriage of a "concert opener" and a "memorial piece." The music itself was strongly composed, and masterfully performed (I overheard the composer praising the level of the performance himself in the green room afterward), and I only lost interest at the end. As you mention, Rodney, Ueno structured the piece with an "extractable cadenza" -- the final section was for the biwa and shakuhachi alone and is designed to be playable as a piece unto itself -- and while the first third of the cadenza was enjoyable, and was still propelled by the structural energy I have mentioned, I found myself anxious for the second two thirds to end, and I suspect I would not enjoy the cadenza outside of the structure of the orchestral context.

I thought Tan Dun's "Water Concerto" stole the show, and clearly I enjoyed it more than you did, Rodney. The danger of writing a piece where the focus is a percussionist splashing water around is that if it is poorly written it could easily seem kitchy. Dun knew what he was doing, though, and he dodged the kitch bullet entirely. The performance was outstanding, with percussionist Robert Schultz putting on a spectacular show. The music itself was often humorous, but ranged from a dark, sinister humor to a light and playful one, with the audience laughing aloud on a number of occasions. The orchestral music was lush, and while somewhat fragmented always engaging -- it was clear to me that this music was composed by the same man who wrote the breathtaking score to "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" but that he was aiming for a somewhat more specialized audience in this case. BMOP was again, of course, excellent, in particular with the swoopingly affected glissando lines. I am not a string player, but I don't immagine that keeping those glissandos in unison is easy.

After the intermission it was All Takemitsu All The Time. I had never heard his work before, and was suitably impressed. (Less, I think, than you though Rodney. I would not rate Takemitsu in the same league with Ligeti -- but then not many composers are in that league.) I agree with Stravinsky that "Requiem for Strings" is a masterpiece; I enjoyed the "Three Film Scores," especially the Waltz; and I enjoyed "November Steps" overall, although I confess I found some of the Biwa/Shakuhachi duet tedious. And again, the erformance was outstanding, both from the soloists and the orchestra.

I only had two real problems with this concert, and I hesitate even to call them problems. First, Tan Dun's "Water Concerto" was, to my ears, the star of the program. Structurally, then, it should perhaps have been the closing number, but in a tribute concert one must close with something by the honored composer. Second, the concert was too long. It started at about 8:00 and didn't end until around 10:30 -- my musical brain was too tired to really give Takemitsu the attention he deserved, especially by the final piece. I might well have enjoyed "November Steps" more with fresh ears (the audience certainly gave it an extraordinarily warm reception). But when you can only play 5 concerts in a season they have to be long, so I certainly would not advocate keeping future concerts shorter than this one. As I say -- hardly serious criticisms. BMOP can chalk up another success, and the audience clearly agreed, demonstrating their enthusiasm with multiple curtain calls and, from about two thirds of the audience, a standing ovation.

I hope to see you again at some future event, Rodney. It was a pleasure to meet you in person.

George Rochberg died Sunday at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia from complications following May 2 surgery. He was 86.

Congratulations to our amigo Brian Sacawa who is joining the faculty at the University of Arizona. Should be a bit of a shock after all those winters in Michigan...Lawrence "Chien Chanceux" Dillon has checked in from Paris...The intrepid David Salvage is organizing (with a little help from me) a possible New York concert of works by S21 contributors for next spring at a beautiful NYU venue. We'll be needing some performers who would like to "showcase" their talents, probably no money although we may pass the hat.

I posted a list today of all the Americans who have died so far in Iraq at Best of the Blogs.
Last Night in L.A. - Adams Revisited

When Disney Hall opened in October 2003, the feature of one of the series of opening week concerts was the premiere of a new work by John Adams, Dharma at Big Sur, given the place of honor as the first new work to be performed in Disney Hall. Dharma was given some decent-to-good reviews, but reactions were mixed. It was certainly quirky: a concerto, in effect, for electric violin (of all things), a work requiring �just intonation� so that to many ears it sounded a little out of tune, a work with loud wailings of sound.

A major problem, it turned out, was the amplification system in Disney Hall; the acoustics were great, with clear sound, for unamplified music, but using speakers created large sonic problems. It took over a year, with several changes of equipment, before the problems were solved. For the closing work of the second Philharmonic season in Disney Hall, with the electronics tamed, and perhaps with orchestra members more attuned (pun) to the sounds of the Adams composition, Dharma at Big Sur appeared as a glorious work.

Play a game with me: try to think of adjectives describing Adams� music. I doubt that you would use words like �emotional�, �free�, �ecstatic�, �relaxed�, even an occasional �vulgarity�. So much of his work has a sense, to me, of reserve, of polite intellectualism. But Dharma breaks down all the fences. Parts of Dharma even sound like a tone poem, a recreation in sound of the seen world, in this case of fog lifting along a rocky, windy coast. Adams has said that he thought of three people in composing the work: Jack Kerouac and his Big Sur, Lou Harrison and his music, and Terry Riley (who gave the name of his ranch to the second part of Dharma at Big Sur). Tracy Silverman was once again the soloist for this work, roaming the stage, circling in ecstasy with the music, gathering himself in meditation to gain force for the final set of musical heights. This is certainly not staid, conventional concert hall music, not at all what your grandparents would expect.

Not everyone in the usual sold-out audience was entranced. A loud �boo� was heard before the waves of applause began. It�s a good sign when music generates a strong reaction.

The concert began with another recall from the opening week, this time from the first concert, the one that explored the sonic properties of Disney Hall. The concert began on an empty stage. Salonen walked out to conduct. Then you could hear the sound of strings coming from outside the auditorium, establishing a background of music. Then the trumpet from the top balcony at the rear asked the famous question in five notes, from Charles Ives� The Unanswered Question (1906). The four flutes by the organ loft at the opposite end of the hall attempted to provide the answer.

After intermission, the concert concluded with the complete Daphnis and Chloe (1912) of Ravel. Salonen made the most of all of the colors of the orchestration. The closing celebration became a bacchanale.

On Sunday, June 5, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will repeat this concert in Avery Fisher Hall. I wouldn�t try to guess how things will sound in the hall (probably quite muted and rather ordinary), but those of you who think you know Adams� work should try to go and hear a different side of the composer. As part of the annual missionary trip to the heathen, the LA Phil and Salonen also appear at Fisher on Friday, June 3, in a concert of Shostakovich (the first piano concerto and the tenth symphony) with a Mussorgsky opening.


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