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

Jerry Bowles
(212) 582-3791

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)

Web & Wiki Master:
Jeff Harrington

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

Friday, August 26, 2005
When the Cat�s Away, the Mice are Gonna Play

As Jerry perfects his casting form upstate, folks at S21 are gettin� down to business. The vibrato wars rage on in the Composers Forum; Larry Dillon has a measured response over on his page; Everette�s happy that Radiohead�s now blogging; the new Issue Project Room makes its debut on the Calendar; I have a few things to say to Pascal Dusapin over in CD Reviews; and Rodney Lister gives you the skinny from the Proms just below.
More Proms

On August 16 (Tuesday) Leif Ove Andsnes with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the BBC Symphony gave the first performance of Marc-Andre Dalbavie's Piano Concerto. A phrase that Donald Martino once used came to my mind: fancy French composing. The piece had all the attributes of a big bad knuckle-busting, crowd pleasing affair, which it was, but it was clear that all that had been arrived at by completely different means than would have been used by, say, Lizst or Prokofieff. In fact very fancy spectralist's-concerns means, which made it all the more interesting.

It began with a big motive in octaves that went all over the piano, like the Schumann or Greig, and the orchestra came in and a lot of the time played busy orchestral music. The piano started the second movement, playing thoughtful music and the orchestra gradually crept in, accompanying and comenting. In the third movement, the piano had lots of scurrying music, acompnying "tunes" in the orchestra. etc,etc. It was in three movements--fast, slow, very fast. Roger Thomson in the program notes went to some length to make the point that it only sounded that way, but it wasn't really (" listeners we are not so much conscious of a traditional blood-and-thunder climax as of a final and decisive interweaving of the work's spectral lines...").

Why it should be embarrasing that it works, and works really well, as a big old fashioned piano concerto is something I don't quite understand. In any case, I thought it was elegantly made and always interesting, and they played the hell out of it. It was my idea of a good time.

In a composer portrait concert that afternoon, students from the Guildhall School, I think (I don't remember and I didn't get a program), played a piece called Axiom for trumpet, clarinet, bassoon, and piano (the instrumentation of the projected and never written fifth Debussy Sonata) and a Trio for violin, horn, and piano. They showed how the same material as the beginning of the first movement (in Axiom) and of the second (in the Trio) could have gone another way. Apparently all three pieces are in turn based on the material of a Piano Sonata.

The Piano Concerto was preceeded by a performance of Fireworks by Stravinsky and the second half of the concert was the Shotakovich 11th Symphony ("The year 1905"), which sure is long, and sort of on the empty side. Like all of his symphonies it had great orchestration and wonderful things everywhere. It just would be better if it had a film with it.

The next night there was a concert by by the Royal Philharmonic, conducted by Daniele Gatti, with the Berg Lulu Suite and the Mahler Fourth Symphony. Christine Schafer was the soprano. The Berg was intense. Shafer sang Lulu's song from the middle of the orchestra and was covered up a lot of the time, and the Last movement, where she sounded glamorous, from above and behind the orchestra with no balance problems. The concern in Mahler to do (which is to say overdo) every little nuance possible, obscured any sense of a long line and ended up making it seem a little tedious, which it isn't and constitutes some sort of crime.

Shafer had a third costume change in the Mahler, showing up in a sort of tuxedo. I think she was probably supposed to be looking like some little waif chimney sweeper, which displays a really serious misconception of the piece, I think. Her singing, on the other hand was radiant and beautiful and moving.

That same night there was a late night concert by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Paul Hillier with Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, featuring music by Arvo Part, in celebration of his 70th birthday. The singing was all beautiful, and they avoided a possible pitfall for performers of Part's music. It never sounded self-consciously or ostentatiously "spritual." It was just straight forwardedly serious and always effective and sometimes really moving. I most enjoyed a new piece called Dopo la vittoria, which set a text in Italian about St. Ambrose baptising St. Augustine. It was just as cute as it could be, and irresistible.

Wednesday night, after a concert by the European Union Youth Orchestra, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting, consisting of Ravel Rhapsody Espagnole and Sheherazade and the Walton First Symphony, The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Susan Bullock, with David Atherton conducting, did the Gorecki Third Symphony. I'm probably one of the few people around who hadn't heard the piece. It struck me as it was going on, and some non-musician friends here confirmed it, that the people who like to listen to it probably listen to little bits of it at a time, and probably very rarely if ever listen to it from beginning to end.

The piece creates it aura, of course, and I don't have any problems with that (big of me, I know), but, listening to it from beginning to end, it struck me as being not as effective as it might be as a piece (although I suppose there's no need to argue with that kind of success). Anyway, if Gorecki were my composition student, I'd probably make two suggestions, that the end of the first and thrid movements be trimmed. The beginning of the first movement is a long eight part canonic affair, which, although it's maybe a little long, works fine. When the soprano comes in, it's great. I don't think there's any particular reason to take just as much time winding down the eight part texture as it takes to build it up. The end of the third movement, starting from the recapitulation of the beginning of the poem, is just aimless and long. If it were shorter it might well be more effective. Anyway....

Finally, last night there was the first performance by the BBC Symphony and Joseph Swensen (filling in on short notice for an indisposed Sir Andrew Davis) of Stip an orchestra piece by Morgan Hayes, which was a BBC Proms commission. Hayes is 32 years old, a former student of Michael Finnissy, Simon Bainbridge, and Robert Saxton. He's a composer I had heard a lot about (good stuff), but I had not before now heard any of his music. It's in a modernistic, not especially tonal style. Strip began with a grid of non-tuned percussion music, over which is eventually suspended dissonant longish chords.

Eventually the percussion rythms migrate into bass instruments and acquire pitches, and intense and active melodic lines flower, most memorable for two solo violins for a while. The building up of all that is really pretty impressive. The performance was clearly inadequate, so it's hard to tell exactly how well it works after that. In a better performance the piece might have a clearer and more convincing arc to it. Last night it seemed after a while to become static and a little inconclusive. I did enjoy the beginning alot, though, and I'd like to hear the piece again, and to hear more of Hayes's music--soon.
The Real 'Piano Man'

The identity of the real 'piano man' is revealed. And he was a ceaseless champion, and composer, of contemporary music.

John Ogdon (right) was best known as a peerless interpreter of the Russian romantic repertoire. But he also championed, and played, the work of contemporary composers. These ranged from Kaikhosru Sorabji ( whose four hour epic, Opus Clavicembalisticum, he performed and recorded) to Ronald Stevenson, Christopher Headington, David Blake, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Yardumian, and his long-time friend and supporter Gerard Schurmann. He was the dedicatee of Peter Maxwell Davies' first two published works. He was also a prolific composer, and wrote his Theme and Variations for Vladimir Ashkenazy, and recorded his own Piano Concerto for EMI.

And in an eerie resonance with the recent 'Piano Man' story Ogdon was a lifelong sufferer from mental illness, and attempted to take his own life three times. But he died, aged 52, in August 1989 of natural causes.

The real 'piano man' is the portrait both of an extraordinary musician, and of an extraordinary life. His work deserves wider recognition, On An Overgrown Path has the full story.
Pliable Wednesday

Happy Birthday to our virtual friend and sometime contributor Pliable whose blog--On an Overgrown Path--is celebrating its first birthday today. Overgrown Path is one of the very best contemporary music blogs on the web and an inspiration to us all. Here's looking at you, kid.

And while we talking about terrific blogs, Kyle Gann has taken the Composers Forum discussion about writing for voices over to his own place. Who knew that it would turn out to be such a hot button topic?

Here at the filling station, our man Rodney Lister burned lots of aviation fuel commuting from London to the Bard Festival and back over the weekend. His report is just below. Everette Minchew has a list of favorite places to listen to music on the web.

If you're a composer or performer and haven't yet created a page for yourself in the Wiki, you're missing out on a life-enhancing experience. Speaking of which, I'm going fishing up at the Beaverkill with some cronies tomorrow but check in anyway. There's always some new stuff somewhere.
Bard Copland

To quote Chester Kallman's proposed last words, "I've never done this before." That is being here in England for the month but going to Annandale-on-Hudson for the weekend, to the Bard Festival, Copland and His World, where I was doing a talk. Even though it all had a certain dream-like quality as the result of perpetual jetlag, it was all great. It both took the music (by Copland and others with various kinds of connections) seriously and it had a lot of talking about the music, which was also taken seriously, was always relevant, and was done seriously and very well. It was under the artistic direction of Leon Botstein, Christopher Gibbs, and Robert Martin, and Carol Oja and Judith Tick were the Resident Scholars.

The weekend started with a symposium on Mid-Twentieth American Culture and Politics, consisting of two sessions: Copland and the Arts with papers by Rita Barnard (Modernism, Mass Culture, and the Folk in Thirties America), Brenda Murphy (American Theater in the Thirties), and Julia L. Foulkes (Ballets for Dancers: Copland and the World of Dance), and Copland and Cultural Politics with papers by Michael Kazin ("The People! Try and Lick That!" [a quotation from the script of a Capra movie, incidentally]), Ellen Schrecker (From Popular Front to Witchhunt: Copland and the American Left from the 1930's and 1950's), and Sean Wilentz (Copland's Ambiguous Fanfare). The papers and the discussion afterwards were serious and substative and really interesting. I was there to do a talk introducing a concert entitled "The Lure of Neoclassicism" (one of my main points was that it didn't have much for Copland). Although I can't, of course, make any statement about how good my talk was (except to say that I had a good time--probably a bad sign), I can say that the other talks by Elizabeth B. Crist (South of the Border), Michael Pisani (In Search of a New National Voice) and Amy C. Beal (Tanglewood and Postwar Tensions--I missed the last concert (The Triumph of the American Symphonic Tradition, introduced by Christopher H. Gibbs)--were all interesting, informative, and entertaining. (There were also for each concert, extensive program notes by Beth E. Levy, Larry Wallach, Kyle Gann, and Jennifer DeLapp). There was a panel, mainly reminescences, with David Del Tredici, Yehudi Wyner, and Harold Faberman, on Sunday morning, and a special concert by Mike and Peggy Seeger on Saturday morning. There was also lots of informal conversation the rest of the time. Judging from that, the hot Copland musicology topics at the moment are Copland and all the various ramifications of his politics, and Copland's gayness and it's various implications and meanings.

All of the programming of the concerts was provocative or, in one or two cases, a little puzzling, but great. There were many, many performances, all of them good, but for me the most memorable included, from the first concert, Alessios Bax's elegant performance of Nancarrow's Prelude and Blues (1935) and equally elegant playing, accompanying Lauren Skuce in Cinco canciones populare Argentinas of Ginestera, a take no prisoners performance by Blanca Uribe of Danzas Argentinas (which ended with a sort of high tension Cowboy Mambo), also by Ginestera, the Revueltas Third Quartet, played by the Daedalus String Quartet, which had a sensational first movement, and then got increasingly less interesting; from the Neoclassicism one the Fine and Carter Quintets and a very beautiful performance of the Copland Violin Sonata by Ani Kavafian and Diane Walsh; a majesterial performance of the Piano Fantasy of Copland (with a little too much talk about it) by Michael Boriskin on Saturday afternoon; from the orchestral concert which I heard, by Leon Botstein and the American Symphony, Copland's Statements (the first time I'd heard them live), Chavez's Sinfonia India, and Billy the Kid (which, golly gee, is just really great in every way, but is especially wonderfully orchestrated), just about everything about the Seegers, and from Tanglewood/Postwar concert Del Tredici's I Hear An Army, the Boulez Flute Sonatine, and, the last music I heard before I had to leave, The Copland Piano Quartet, which is a solemn and wonderful piece, I think. (If I had been able to stay, I would have heard the Sessions Second Symphony and the Copland Third.)

So it was all a lot to take in, but completely successfull and completely satisfying, even if a little tiring, as a total experience.
Tuesday Will Be Our Good News Day

Maria de Alvear is one of the most intriguing figures in contemporary music. A Spanish composer/artist/sculptor of German descent, de Alvear lives in Germany where she has built a small empire around her own work and that of a handful of others. David Toub has a splendid overview of her work on the CD Reviews page.

Paul Moravec will be the guest on our buddy Marvin Rosen's "Classical Discoveries" radio program this Thursday morning, between 8:30 and 11:00. The program can be heard online at The "Classical Discoveries" website is

Also, Larry Bell (where have you been Larry?) will be Marvin's guest next Wednesday morning, August 31 between 8:30 and 11:00.

UPDATE: Marvin tells us that Paul Moravec is indisposed and will not be appearing on "Classical Discoveries" tomorrow. He's been rescheduled for September 7. Same time, same station.

SHORT SUBJECTS: The New York Miniaturist Ensemble is presenting an evening of new music by contemporary composers consisting entirely of works containing 100 notes or fewer. The concert will be at 8 pm, August 31st at Chez Bushwick in Brooklyn, NY. Visit for directions and details.
Robert Moog is Dead

Robert Moog, father of the synthesizer, passed away yesterday at the age of 71. A moment, please.
20th century Composers Benefit Remarkable Cause

Antal Dor�ti and Wilhelm Furtw�ngler are best known for their work as conductors. But they were also active composers. Musicians against nuclear weapons tells how recordings of their compositions, and the work of many living musicians, are today benefiting a remarkable non-partisan international charity dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has a catalogue of live recordings ranging from Monteverdi to Elliot Carter taken from their fund-raising concerts over the last 21 years. There are also several recordings by the Berlin Philharmonic Jazz Group. All proceeds from the sale of the CDs benefit those in dire need as a result of war, industrial and natural catastrophe, On An Overgrown Path has all the details of this Nobel Prize winning project.
Early Autumn

The dog days are winding down and there are hints of early autumn in the air. That means the new season is almost upon on. I'm especially looking forward to Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy, which premieres on December 2, and to the Ovaldo Golijov festival at Lincoln Center in January. What are you looking forward to?

Elodie Lauten's excited about the Howl Festival, which starts downtown tomorrow; Anthony Cornicello's 16-month-old daughter is just wild about Zappa and Lawrence Dillon has some advice for young, he's still hearing voices in his head over in the Composers Forum.
Piano Man mystery ends - almost

On An Overgrown Path reports the good news of a relatively happy end to the disturbing 'Piano Man' story (photo right).

The so called 'Piano Man' was found wandering in a coastal area of Kent, England in April. It has now been confirmed that the mystery man was from Bavaria. After breaking his silence the 20 year German flew home on Saturday. But the UK health service and German foreign ministry are not naming the man for confidentiality reasons.


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