Friday, March 31, 2006

Midori to perform Goehr, Yun and Weir

World-renowned violinist to appear at UB as part of first U.S. tour devoted to new music

By Kevin Fryling
From the University at Buffalo Reporter - Thursday, March 30, 2006

World-renowned violinist Midori will perform at UB April 19 as part of her first U.S. tour completely devoted to a new music repertoire.

Midori will be accompanied by her long-time collaborator Robert McDonald on piano.
Other highlights of the Department of Music's concert schedule for April are performances by the New Century Saxophone Quartet; the Tokyo String Quartet; the Slee Sinfonietta, UB's professional chamber orchestra; HEARD, the university's resident faculty chamber ensemble; and the Baird Trio.
The performance by Midori, set to begin at 8 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall, North Campus, will wrap up this season's Slee/Visiting Artist Series. Midori will give an informal talk from the stage at 7 p.m.
The all-contemporary program is described as a musical journey of discovery. It will feature the work of Alexander Goehr, Isang Yun and Judith Weir.
"I felt the time was right to create a program of new music for public performance," Midori said recently. "After a great deal of research and fascinating listening, I have chosen five compositions which I believe work particularly well together musically...I think audiences will be enthralled with the variety of sounds, textures and voices they will hear in this program."
The Visiting Artist Series also will feature an appearance by the New Century Saxophone Quartet at 8 p.m. April 7 in Lippes hall. The quartet's performance of "The Art of the Fugue" will present Bach with a twist—a classic work arranged for saxophone with projected visuals that interpret and complement the music.
The members of the award-winning New Century Saxophone Quartet are pioneers whose repertoire includes classical and contemporary works. The quartet has performed major concerts in the United States, Europe and Central America.
One of the world's leading quartets, the Tokyo String Quartet will present the final two concerts of the Slee Beethoven String Quartet Cycle at 8 p.m. April 21 and 7:30 p.m. April 23.
UB is the only concert presenter in the world that annually programs the complete string quartets of Beethoven. This season marks the golden anniversary of the landmark series. To celebrate, UB presented three distinguished string quartets performing the six concerts that comprise the cycle. Previous concerts were presented by the Guarneri String Quartet in October and the Muir String Quartet in September.
There will be a pre-concert lecture by James Currie, UB assistant professor of musicology, at 7:15 p.m. April 21. Following the performance, audience members are invited to a reception in the Slee Hall lobby to meet the artists. Members of the quartet also will present an informal pre-concert discussion at 6:45 p.m. April 23.
In addition, they will teach a master class to UB music students at 1 p.m. April 22 in Baird Recital Hall, 250 Baird Hall, North Campus. The class will be free of charge and open to the public.
The Slee Sinfonietta, led by music director Magnus MŒrtensson, will present a concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday featuring the works of Arvo PŠrt, Gustav Mahler and Gunther Schuller.
Schuller will be in attendance to hear his composition, "A Bouquet for Collage," and will take part in a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. with Marc McAneny, adjunct instructor in the Department of Music.
The Slee Sinfonietta also will present a Composers' Informal Performance Day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 18 in Lippes hall, during which works by UB graduate composition students will be performed in informal reading sessions that are free and open to the public.
Formed in 1997 by composer David Felder and MŒrtensson, the Slee Sinfonietta features advanced students in performance, along with faculty artists, soloists and regional professionals, in the production of concerts designed to contribute new possibilities for concertgoers within the UB community and Western New York.
HEARD, UB's new resident faculty chamber ensemble, will continue its exploration of unusual concert themes with a presentation of "Of Love and Money: A Taxing Program" at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Lippes hall.
The performance will feature three works by Mozart in honor of his 250th birthday, as well as others from composers including Beethoven, Bach and Hanns Eisler. The works are connected by themes of love and money and Mozart.
McAneny will give a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m.
HEARD includes faculty performers Tony Arnold, soprano; Cheryl Gobbetti-Hoffman, flute; Jonathan Golove, cello; Jacob Greenberg, piano; Alexander Hurd, baritone; and Stephen Manes, piano.
Mozart again will be on the bill when the Baird Trio honors the composer with "Mozart and the Art of Transcription" at 8 p.m. April 28 in Lippes hall.
The performance, which will feature guest flutist Cheryl Gobbetti-Hoffman, will offer a program of transcribed works originally composed by Mozart.
In residence at UB, the Baird Trio performs a wide range of repertoire, devoting particular attention to recent and rarely heard works for the medium, and actively seeks new music in an effort to extend the vitality of the genre for the future.
UB faculty members Jonathan Golove, cello; Stephen Manes, piano; and Movses Pogossian, violin, make up the Baird Trio.

Tickets for the Tokyo String Quartet are $15 for the general public; $12 for UB faculty/staff/alumni, senior citizens and WNED members with card; and $5 for students. Tickets for Midori, the New Century Saxophone Quartet and the Slee Sinfonietta are $12 for the general public; $9 for UB faculty/staff/alumni, senior citizens and WNED members with card; and $5 for students. Tickets for the faculty recitals—HEARD and the Baird Trio—are $5; students are admitted free with ID.
All tickets can be obtained at the Slee Hall box office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, at the UB Center for the Arts box office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and at all Ticketmaster outlets including Ticketmaster.com.

Thomas Adès to conduct his Tempest at the ROH

Royal Opera House new season announced

From London Theatre Guide - March 30, 2006

Four new ballets by British choreographers and a quartet of new productions of French operas grace the stage at the Royal Opera House in the 2006/07 season.
Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor each choreograph a new work to form part of a triple bill with Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, in November this year. Alastair Marriott, whose first ROH main stage work Tanglewood was produced at the end of last year, creates a second new ballet as part of a triple bill in March 2007, while Will Tuckett choreographs a new version to Weill and Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins, which was first choreographed by Balanchine, to be staged in April 2007.
The ballet season also includes six full length works, beginning with Coppélia in October, a staging of Bournonville’s Napoli Divertissements along with a revival of the popular La Sylphide, and a mixed bill of works by Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and Ninette De Valois to end the 75th anniversary season this autumn.
Meanwhile, with Wagner’s Ring Cycle scheduled for the 2007/08 season, the Royal Opera this season focuses on French opera, with new productions of Bizet’s Carmen, which has not been seen at the ROH for 12 years, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Donizetti’s La Fille Du Régiment and Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole. The season opens in September with the second revival of David McVicar’s production of Faust, conducted by Maurizio Benini. Piotr Beczala and Angela Gheorghiu reprise their 2004 roles as Faust and Marguerite respectively, though American soprano Katie Van Kooten replaces Gheorghiu as Marguerite for two performances, making her debut on the role.
The Mozart celebrations continue with La Finta Giardiniera, which will be the first new production of the season in September. The piece is directed by Christof Loy with John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists in its first appearance at the ROH. Royal Opera productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Così Fan Tutte are both revived in the summer of 2007.
The 2006/07 season also sees the revival of two recent productions – The Tempest, with 2006 Laurence Olivier Award winner Simon Keenlyside, conducted by Thomas Adès, and Richard Jones’ 2005 Laurence Olivier Award-winning production of Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk, conducted by Antonio Pappano.

Saariaho's new opera - Premiere cancelled!

Paris Opera premieres tale of motherhood

By Angela Doland
From SeattlePi.com - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kaija Saariaho says her tale of motherhood in wartime, "Adriana Mater," premiering at Paris' Bastille Opera on Thursday, is the most dramatic work of her career - and one of her most emotional.
While she was composing it and reflecting on what it means to bear children, her own mother died.
Just as she began work on the score, the United States invaded Iraq. While "Adriana Mater" is a timeless fable, it's also grounded in modern realities. It was important to Saariaho to use her art to confront the world's problems, not to escape.
"Many painful things were happening, and I'm sure they are somehow found in the music," the Finnish composer told The Associated Press. "When the subject is around us all the time and is very dark, I think the music needs to reflect this atmosphere."
"Adriana Mater" is Saariaho's second opera. Her first, "L'Amour de Loin," a story of love across borders, debuted at the Salzburg Festival in 2000 and was one of the most acclaimed premieres of recent years.
Generally, 53-year-old Saariaho dislikes opera. Her orchestral and chamber music - shimmering, dreamlike and haunting, with exotic textures and electronic touches - often has an intimate feel. She is unimpressed by the bombast and diva-worship of the opera world.
"What is interesting in opera? Certainly not the high notes and the glamour surrounding the star singers," she said. "I would just like to concentrate on the music, and then define opera as a fantastic ... meeting point with different arts."
Like "L'Amour de Loin," "Adriana Mater" is directed by American Peter Sellars and has a libretto by Lebanese-born Amin Maalouf, a novelist and longtime war correspondent. The conductor is Esa-Pekka Salonen, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who first worked with Saariaho when they were music students in Finland in the 1970s.
One challenge of the production was filling up the vast space of the modern Bastille Opera with a story that has only four characters, including Adriana (Patricia Bardon) and her son Yonas (Gordon Gietz). The choir is offstage, and their sound is relayed with amplifiers that transform the hall into a reverberation chamber.
"I think that having a small number of characters helps me concentrate feeling, and intrigue," Maalouf said. "You can find conflict in anyone's heart. You don't need a crowd."
In the opera, when Adriana's son is a young man, his father - and her rapist - returns to town once the war is over. The son's dilemma is whether to avenge the rape.
The starting points for the story came from Saariaho's experience of pregnancy, and Maalouf's memories of war, abroad and in his homeland. Though it has no specific location, Maalouf said he may have had the former Yugoslavia at the back of his mind.
It is crucial to the story's message that Adriana and her rapist come from the same side of the war.
"For me, it was important to say that the enemy is not necessarily on the other side," Maalouf said. "The line that divides humane behavior and barbaric behavior splits through each civilization, and maybe every person.
"I didn't want to give the impression that all evil comes from `the other,'" he said. "That is an idea that spreads fear."


Labor Unrest Forces Cancellation of Saariaho World Premiere at Opéra National de Paris

From OperaNewsOnline.com - March 30, 2006

The Opéra National de Paris has been forced to cancel the world premiere of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's new opera Adriana Mater, which was to debut in the Bastille opera house tonight, after company workers have walked off the job. The staffers left as a measure of support for the part-time workers currently at the center of the massive labor unrest afflicting all of France following the passing of a contentious new labor law. The opera was reportedly cancelled only hours before it was due to open this evening, "despite long negotiations'' with the unions, Bloomberg has reported. Adriana Mater, which Saariaho has called one of her most dramatic and emotional works to date, takes place in a fictional Balkan country during a civil war. It's libretto by Amin Maalouf, tells the story of the opera's protagonist Adriana, who becomes pregnant after being raped; years later, her adult son Yonas sets out to kill his recently returned father. Peter Sellars directed the production. Saariaho's previous opera, L'Amour de Loin, premiered at the Salzburg festival in 2000. The part-time entertainment industry workers, known as the "intermittents du spectacle," are normally employed by various industries for finite amounts of time and receive recurrent unemployment payments when not working. When the government previously cut their benefits in 2004, the workers incited protests throughout the country, bringing a halt to numerous summer arts festivals.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Foccroulle wants an opera from George Benjamin

Aix-en-Provence Festival's New Boss Aims to Create Opera 'Hub'

By Farah Nayeri
From Bloomberg.com - March 26, 2006 18:33 EST

Bernard Foccroulle, the 52-year-old Belgian recently named to head France's Aix-en-Provence opera festival, said he wants Aix to have international appeal and focus on Mozart as well as on baroque and contemporary music.
``I would like the Aix festival to be a global opera hub,'' Foccroulle, who for 14 years ran Brussels's La Monnaie/De Munt opera house, said in a telephone interview. ``Festivals have helped the world of opera evolve, and they must reach beyond the place where they are held.''
Foccroulle, an organist and composer by training, succeeds Stephane Lissner, who last year took over Milan's La Scala opera. Lissner oversaw the programming of the 2006 Aix festival, which runs from July 2 to 22 and opens with Wagner's ``Das Rheingold,'' conducted by Simon Rattle and staged by Stephane Braunschweig.
Next year, Aix will inaugurate its new 1,400-seat theater with a performance of Wagner's ``Die Walkure,'' again conducted by Rattle and staged by Braunschweig, Foccroulle said. Also on the schedule is Mozart's ``The Marriage of Figaro,'' with Daniel Harding conducting, he said. Two-thirds of the 2007 program has already been set, he added.
Aix-en-Provence, together with the Glyndebourne and Salzburg festivals, has helped make Mozart's operas better known and it must retain that role, Foccroulle said. The new director said he also seeks to broaden the repertoire with baroque and 20th-century works as well as new compositions.
Asked to elaborate, Foccroulle said he hoped to program works by Rameau, which he never got a chance to do in Brussels, and commission an opera by the contemporary composer George Benjamin.
Partnerships with opera houses are also high on his agenda. Foccroulle said he had received an invitation from Tokyo's Bunkamura arts complex to stage Mozart's ``The Marriage of Figaro'' there in 2008.

From Finland, Magnus Lindberg's Contemporary Music Feast

By Jeremy Eichler
From the New York Times - March 27, 2006

Magnus Lindberg, the plucky 47-year-old Finnish composer, is a major presence in Europe, though his music is heard too rarely in the United States. His best works fuse intellectual rigor with a sensual richness; he draws from the brainiest compositional techniques of the postwar decades but keeps the music's stitching on the inside. Listeners are confronted with swaths of bright primary colors, sometimes-velvety timbral detail and fast-breaking instrumental lines of great virtuosity. These essential qualities came through in the all-Lindberg program performed at Miller Theater on Friday night as the final installment of this season's excellent Composer Portraits series.
In recent years, Mr. Lindberg has been painting in more subtle strokes, but his catalog includes its fair share of aggressive music, especially from the early years. Friday's program fittingly began with "Linea d'ombra" (1981), a playfully caustic snarl of a piece that Mr. Lindberg, in comments from the stage, described as a "Here I am" work written just after he completed his studies at the Sibelius Academy. Clearly, Mr. Lindberg was eager to escape from the giant shadow cast by the namesake of his conservatory, and accordingly the piece opens with a primal yawp shouted by the players onstage and ends with whispered nonsense syllables and metal chains being dragged on a tabletop. In between, the work grabs the ears with its happy chaos of jumpy conversation among percussion, flute, clarinet and guitar. You could already sense the composer's gift for taut syntax and the mischievous twinkle in his extreme instrumental writing.
The teeming "Clarinet Quintet" (1992) uses none of the shock tactics of the earlier work but is a marvel of tightly interwoven construction and brilliant virtuoso filigree, especially for the clarinet. This is no accident. Over the years Mr. Lindberg has enjoyed a close working relationship with the outstanding clarinetist Kari Kriikku, for whom he wrote the quintet as well as the adrenaline-laced Clarinet Concerto released last year on the Ondine label. Mr. Kriikku's playing sets an impossibly high standard for Mr. Lindberg's music, but Joshua Rubin, the clarinetist on Friday night, still conveyed the liberated, open-highway feel of the solo lines, albeit with reduced tonal intensity.
"Related Rocks" (1997) and "Duo Concertante" (1992) made up the second half of the program and offered still more faces of the composer's work. The former is a voraciously eclectic piece, pooling two pianists, two percussionists and electronics, and revealing Mr. Lindberg's ear for minimalist gesture and rock-style rhythmic energy. "Duo Concertante," the largest work on the program, spotlights clarinet and cello soloists (Mr. Rubin and Katinka Kleijn), their lines finely echoed and refracted by the eight-piece orchestra. Timothy Weiss conducted the International Contemporary Ensemble, whose members also served as the versatile and exacting house band for the evening's chamber works.

Lindberg fans have more to look forward to this summer when Mostly Mozart presents the world premiere of his Violin Concerto, on Aug. 22.

Richard Rodney Bennett turns 70

Happy birthday to a composer who can do everything

Geoffrey Norris salutes the remarkable career of composer Richard Rodney Bennett
From the Telegraph - 23/03/2006

Anybody who has seen the star-studded '70s film of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express will have heard the music of Richard Rodney Bennett.
The title sequence is among the most memorable in the movies: the plush train is at the platform, the well-heeled passengers install themselves in their sumptuous berths, the guard's whistle blows and, as the train gets up steam, the soundtrack insinuates fragments of a tune that burgeons into a fabulous whirlwind waltz. That is Bennett in exuberantly inspired mood, the mood for which we perhaps know him best.
Next week, Bennett, who was knighted in 1998, turns 70, and a series of celebratory concerts testifies to the diversity of his craft. Among his other famous scores are Far from the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and, more recently, BBC2's adaptation of Gormenghast.
But it would be wrong to slot him simply into the sphere of the silver screen. Bennett composed the chilling Expressionist opera The Mines of Sulphur, which was the hit of the 1965 Sadler's Wells season in London and was triumphantly revived two years ago in upstate New York and last autumn in Manhattan itself, where he now lives.
Bennett has written symphonies, concertos and a host of other classical works, in an approachable idiom with a strong lyrical impulse and fresh, modern harmonies. But he can - and frequently does - slip just as easily into jazz and cabaret. At the drop of a hat he could sing you dozens of songs by Cole Porter or George Gershwin.
In the '50s in Paris, he went through a cerebral phase under the guidance of Pierre Boulez. But it is a more laid-back Bennett who approaches his eighth decade. "I don't really like listening to contemporary music," he admits. "At one time it was food and drink. Those earnest programmes - I can't take in so much difficult music, I really can't."
But there are exceptions. "The composers I care about are those who have flowered again. There are a handful of composers who started doing extraordinary things." He mentions the ever-youthful veteran Elliott Carter, and also Henri Dutilleux, "my favourite living composer, and about the only one - with the exception of my friends - who I rush to hear every time he writes a new piece. I hope I end up like that."
As for Bennett's own works, he "was always concerned about writing music that people want, and want to play. When I was in Paris, audiences didn't mean anything. You can't think about audiences when you're 20. But after a certain point I wanted to write, particularly, instrumental music that instrumentalists needed."
Now, though, that creative impetus seems to be less acute. "It will come back, but I'm finding it very difficult to write music at present. I was supposed to write a piece for the Barbican concert next month, and I just couldn't. I had a lovely text, but I just couldn't do it. I can write small things that require little effort, but the idea of 20 minutes for chorus and orchestra is more than I can deal with."
It was Bennett's earlier fluency that made him a film director's dream. "It's a wonderful way to hone your craft," he says. "The subject is supplied to you. You are writing within a certain format that will be acceptable to the boss, you have a specified length, and you know what you can do and what you can't. I could try out all sorts of freaky orchestral things, particularly when I started doing horror films.
"It never occurred to me that what I was doing was important as music, but gosh it was fun. I suppose I'm still living on royalties from films of the '50s being shown in Paraguay or somewhere. I came in at the tail-end of that great British tradition of using real composers - Walton, Vaughan Williams, Bax, Britten. Now it's so commercial. The music is done by somebody you've never heard of, and probably will never hear of again. There aren't really any heroes left."
For his part, he says, "I haven't got the stamina to write that much music that fast any more. I'm not complaining. I used to think it was thrilling to stay up all night, but I don't now. God knows, I've written lots of music, and now I'm doing short pieces if I feel like it. I like to paint. I can make collages all day. Or I can cook. Or I can walk around New York. It's perfectly all right. I've earned the right. I'm allowed."

'A Richard Rodney Bennett Songbook' is at Wigmore Hall, London W1 (020 7935 2141), next Tuesday.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra presents a tribute at the Barbican, London EC2 (0845 120 7500), on April 8.

Helmut Lachenmann in Huddersfield

A comment on the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

By Barbara Slaughter
From WorldSocialistWebSite.org - 22 March 2006

Pierre Boulez was once asked about the problems of presenting contemporary music to the public. He said that people have to be educated to understand new music and that it was necessary for musicians to go out and build an audience.
Just such a project was undertaken 28 years ago in Huddersfield, a small industrial town in the north of England. The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) was born in 1978, the brainchild of Richard Steinitz, professor of music at Huddersfield University, supported by an enlightened local authority and a regional arts organisation. It began as a modest weekend event, with a budget of £3,000, and has since grown to become perhaps the leading annual contemporary music festival in Europe.
From the outset, the organisers have made a point of drawing in people from the local area. Today, 50 percent of the audience comes from West Yorkshire, 45 percent from the rest of the UK and approximately 5 percent from overseas. Unlike the audiences for classical music generally, the audience at Huddersfield tends to fall between 25 and 55 years of age and includes university and college students and groups of school pupils who are involved in the festival.
Over the years, the festival has been visited by composers of international renown, such as Elliot Carter, John Cage, Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen, Steve Reich, Arvo Part, Tan Dun, and Michael Torke. Most of them had new works being premiered and almost of all gave talks about their music or did workshops with young musicians.
The most recent festival, in late 2005, put on 50 separate concerts over 10 days, involving national and international performers and composers—including concerts devoted to the music of Scandinavia and Japan—as well as talks, film shows and workshops.

One of the musicians featured in the festival was the German composer, Helmut Lachenmann. Concerts over the last weekend celebrated his 70th birthday. He was not able to be in Huddersfield because he was attending a similar celebration elsewhere, which was a pity because it would have been very interesting to hear him speak about his work.
Lachenmann was born in Stuttgart in 1935. He studied at the Stuttgart School of Music from 1955 to1958. In 1957, he attended the Darmstadt summer school in Germany, which since the end of the Second World War had become the centre of progressive and experimental musical thought. The school was dominated by people like Boulez and Stockhausen, who wanted to break from previous musical traditions and were looking for new forms of music making.
At Darmstadt Lachenmann met the Italian composer Luigi Nono, who was at that time a member of the Italian Communist Party. Nono had a great influence on Lachenmann, both politically and artistically, although Lachenmann himself never joined the CP. He has since explained that he “adhered to Luigi Nono, because whereas—so it seemed to me—the other composers were all standing there more or less detached from tradition, turning their backs on it, Nono was the only one whose path consciously involved tradition, as redefined by him.”
Richard Steinitz recently wrote of Nono, that he was a composer for whom every note had to have “a political and structural purpose.” Recalling his apprenticeship with Nono, Lachenmann wrote, “I never dared to write a trill.... If I wrote two notes together, Nono would say, ‘This is a melodic cell,’ or he would demand, ‘Where is your political standpoint?’ ”
In the 1960s, Lachenmann went on to develop his own musical ideas. He rejected the musique concrete style, practiced by composers like Pierre Schaeffer, which brought together everyday sounds and combined them in a kind of aural collage. Instead, he developed what he called musique concrete instrumentale, which sought to discover new instrumental possibilities, playing instruments in new and unorthodox ways, rather than making what he called the “conventional beautiful philharmonic sound.”
His work often provoked controversy. In 1985, members of the Southwestern Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart refused to perform the premier of his composition Staub, based on material drawn from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—that they had commissioned—claiming it was unplayable.
However, according to Steinitz, such confrontations are mostly a thing of the past, musicians’ resistance having given way to respect. Lachnemann confounds those who say his music is unplayable by taking his own violin to rehearsals to demonstrate the fingering of obscure harmonies.
And he is willing to take risks. For example, in Nun, his double concerto for flute and trombone, the conductor is given carte blanche to add or remove instrumental groups as he or she pleases, whilst the music is driven forward by the insistent rhythm of the strings.
I knew nothing of this background when I attended Lachenmann concerts in Huddersfield. But listening to his music, performed by the Ensemble Modern, was the most exciting musical experience I have had for a long time—especially two of his major works, Mouvement, written in 1984, and Concertini, which was receiving its UK premier.
It is hard to describe the impact the music made. Some of the players produced extraordinary sounds with their instruments. Aficionados of contemporary music may have wanted to know how every sound was made, but I just closed my eyes and let the music flood over me. At times, the sound was terrifying; at others, it was atmospheric and mysterious. There seemed to be no fixed time signature, rather a free-flowing rhythm, with the piano providing a kind of echo effect. My body was vibrating with the sound. It was frightening, and suddenly there was a banal tap-tap-tapping. Then there was a clamour of brass from the back of the balcony; the sound swooped and rose. It had so much energy, it seemed to present a challenge to the listener.
The young players of the Ensemble Modern performed with tremendous enthusiasm and consummate skill. The conductor was beating in 4/4, but within that there seemed to be almost total freedom for the players. It was an exhilarating musical experience.
Lachenmann’s music has been described as “pointillistic.” It is a term that he himself rejects, but it seemed to sum up my impression of the music on first hearing. There were no long phrases for any of the musicians, no opportunities for individuals to shine. But the whole orchestra shone together. They seemed to perform organically, as if, in a strange way, they were one instrument. The music was truly life-affirming.
The Lachenmann concert held on the previous night, also performed by Ensemble Modern, was much smaller in scale and very different in mood. One of the pieces was written for just two guitars. It was dedicated to Christopher Caudwell, Communist Party member, poet and author of the book Illusion and Reality, who was killed at the battle at Jarama in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. In the programme notes, Lachenmann explains that he had incorporated spoken words or thoughts, derived from the text of Illusion and Reality, into the work. I was looking forward to hearing it, but I was disappointed, partly because it seemed that to be effective it required a much smaller, more intimate space.
The Contemporary Music Review (CMR) recently devoted a whole issue to the work of Lachenmann. In an interview, he explained many of his ideas about his music. He said that he had rejected electronic music 35 years ago: “A loudspeaker is a totally sterile instrument. Even the most exciting sounds are no longer exciting when projected through a loudspeaker. There is no danger in it anymore.... With electronics, there is not ambivalence. There is no history there....
“A composer is not a missionary. A composer is not a prophet. A composer is not John the Baptist, who made critiques to the people saying, ‘You are all sinners.’ This political aspect is an illusion. If I thought music was a higher message, then I think I must give some sort of political message, of freedom, of liberty. My teacher was Luigi Nono, a communist. He always had the hope of touching people and changing their consciousness. I think art does such things, but the composer who wants to manipulate the spirit or conscience of another will always fail. It is not possible....
“Each fugue or invention of Johann Sebastian Bach was not done to make the world better, but it did make the world better...because it was one of the documents of totally concentrated, totally free human spirit. Not more, not less.”
The composer’s most profound outlook as an artist was, I think, demonstrated in an anecdote he related in the same interview. When challenged by the interviewer, Paul Steenhuisn, that there was a view that his music was “negative,” he replied:
“For me my music has as much beauty as any conventional music, maybe more. Beauty is a precious idea. I want to liberate this term from the standardised categories. I will give you an example. I used to teach children and I presented them with the music of Stockhausen, etc. They said it was not beautiful and they did not like it. I asked them what they liked, what they thought was beautiful, and they first hesitantly named some pop music. The next week, I went there and brought two pictures with me. One was an attractive photograph of the movie star Sophia Loren. The other was a drawing by Albrecht Dürer, who had drawn a picture of his mother: very old, with a long nose, a bitter-looking face. She had had a hard life and her face was full of wrinkles. I showed them the two pictures and asked, ‘Who is more beautiful?’ They were totally confused, and then came a wonderful answer I will never forget—it was the highlight of my life. A girl said, ‘I think the ugly one is more beautiful.’ This is the dialectical way. Looking at this picture, one feels the precise observation of her son. Not to make it more beautiful, not idealised, just showing it. It was full of intensity. To me, as important as beauty is the word intensity. I search for this in my music.”
The Japanese composer Jo Kondo was also featured at the festival. His music was very different from Lachenmann’s. It was spare, cool, and seemed to be devoid of emotion.
Kondo was asked about his musical influences, growing up as a young man in Japan. He said, “You may have illusions about the Japanese musical life. But I grew up [in Japan] in a totally western environment. I discovered Japanese music in my twenties. It wasn’t Beethoven who influenced me but Feldman and John Cage.... In Japan I am seen as totally western and in the west it is the opposite, but I don’t care.”
He described his style as one of “dynamic statis,” not goal-oriented, moving “from moment to moment but never organised in larger trends leading to a climax.... Eventually I find the end point so it seems that it is planned form but it is not. It is improvisation on paper, but it is completely intuitive.”
In the programme notes, he stressed the importance of each individual sound. “I believe that each sound has its own entity and life.... This may explain one of the general characteristics of my music: a relatively sparse and transparent texture in which every single tone can be to some extent be laid bare....
“In my compositions I do not try to achieve a ‘meaningful whole’ (in the traditional sense) by working on intertonal relationships.... It could be said that my compositions, rather than an integrated sound construction, are a collection of sounds, each with its own musical quality given by its intertonal relationships....”
Esemble Nomad, a group that plays an important role in promoting contemporary music in Japan, devoted a whole programme to Kondo’s music. Ilex, for violin and piano, is a contemplative piece. It begins with a violin obligato and the piano below, each instrument charting its own path, listening only to itself. At a certain point, they seem to begin moving in relation to each other, not together or even in the same direction, but in relation to each other. It ends with a beautiful sustained note.
Moments of silence and the breaking of silence are important in all music. But in each of Kondo’s pieces there were so many huge spaces—such long pauses—that one became tired of waiting for the next sound. It was like listening to someone who in conversation speaks so slowly that his or her speech loses all coherence. Kondo stressed that each sound “has its own entity and life,” and this is how he writes. Another Japanese composer gave a very interesting interview in which he likened his own music to Japanese calligraphy. He spoke about the relation between space and time, the way that silence hovers and sound goes back into silence. Bearing this in mind, I think that I, at least, still have to learn to listen to Kondo’s music.

To be continued

CSO erases Boulez's latest 'Notations'

By Wynne Delacoma
From the Chicago Sun-Times - March 22, 2006

Pierre Boulez may be one of classical music's most important composers, but he is notoriously reluctant to sign off on a finished composition.
To hardly anyone's surprise, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has postponed the world premiere of Boulez's "Notations'' for Orchestra V and VI scheduled for May 25-27. The CSO and conductor Daniel Barenboim will perform "Notations'' I-V and VII in their place.
The "Notations'' series is an orchestration of short piano pieces Boulez composed in 1945 and began orchestrating decades later. Delays have plagued their first performances by the CSO. The orchestra said "Notations'' V and VI will be "rescheduled on the CSO subscription series once they are completed.''

Cleveland will bring Kyburz and Saariaho back to Europe

Cleveland Orchestra Announces Fall Tour of Europe

By Ben Mattison
From PlaybillArts.com - 22 Mar 2006

The Cleveland Orchestra will travel to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy in August and September, the orchestra announced.The tour, which runs August 31-September 15, will include the orchestra's first-ever performances in Liechtenstein, where it will perform at the Vaduzer-Saal in Vaduz, and Italy, where the tour will end with a performance at the Teatro Filharmonico in Verona.
It will also include the orchestra's annual visit to Switzerland's Lucerne Festival, where the program will include a new work commissioned from Hanspeter Kyburz, the third of three works commissioned in collaboration with the festival, Carnegie Hall, and the Roche corporation. Also in Lucerne, the orchestra will perform a concert version of Verdi's Falstaff with Renato Bruson in the title role, Simon Keenlyside as Mr. Ford, and Twyla Robinson as Alice Ford.
The repertoire for the tour also includes Bruckner's Fifth Symphony, Debussy's La Mer, Prokofiev's Suite From Romeo and Juliet, Kaija Saariajo's Orion, and Mozart's Symphony No. 38 ("Prague").
Music director Franz Welser-Möst will lead the entire tour.

Milton Babbitt turns 90

A musical legend

By Willa J. Conrad
From the Star-Ledger - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Life does not begin at 90!," says the soon-to-be nonagenarian Milton Babbitt, who has lived in Princeton since he began teaching at Princeton University in 1938.
The composer, who is still regularly churning out commissions for the likes of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Library of Congress, is turning 90 on May 10, and a wide range of programs honoring the event are planned.
Life has taken its toll, though: Babbitt's eyesight, always plagued by disease, has dimmed, and last year he lost both his beloved wife, Sylvia, and a brother. He retired from Princeton University in 1984, but still teaches two days a week at the Juilliard School, where he has been on faculty since 1970. At Juilliard, his young students regard him as a living icon.
This status seems to both amuse and vex him. "I've had a marvelous career. I would be ungrateful to say otherwise -- I've had a heck of a personal life," says Babbitt, who has never stopped writing the rigorous, immaculately constructed scores that made him the face of the American serialist movement.
If his deep involvement with major academic institutions has unfairly cast him as a cerebral elitist, his many fans among the country's top musicians throwing musical birthday parties hope to offer another view.
"His music just sparkles with life," says pianist Robert Taub, who premiered Babbitt's second piano concerto and will appear in tributes at both Carnegie Hall and Princeton University. "I find it deeply lyrical, very exciting and profoundly communicative. He has taken the best of musical thought, from Bach through Brahms, and brought it to our time, infusing it with effervescent elements from the pop world and combining it with new technology."
Babbitt, who in the middle of the last century was the epitome of musical modernism, traces his own philosophy to a public education that included daily musical instruction, which impressed on him "that we were the last custodians of high culture." His students today, Babbitt says, "have very little sense now of what music can be, because they don't know the repertory. They don't regard it as relevant."
Babbitt, winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship, has earned his perspective. Born in Philadelphia in 1916, he was raised in Jackson, Miss., where Eudora Welty was a classmate and close friend. When he later moved north in pursuit of modern music, he was impressed by the volume of musical life in Depression-era New York -- "On any given day, you could find almost any piece of repertory being played somewhere in the city," he says -- and was quickly attracted to the music of Arnold Schoenberg, which he first heard at the New York Public Library.
He became close to the Schoenberg family, and later, Igor Stravinsky. "I was just this little American boy hanging around these Viennese sophisticates," he says of the Schoenbergs.
While Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter and Virgil Thomson were studying with pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in France, Babbitt was back home seeking his own way with Schoenberg's theory of 12 equal tones and the freedom it gave a composer.
That desire for complete control led to a natural, but unexpected place: as co-founder of the famed '60s-era Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio in New York, built by RCA. Babbitt, who became the first composer to use synthesized sound, loved the neatness of strolling in with a score and coming out with a tape completely created by himself. It was a pure pathway from thought to reality that minimized human error.
"I'm talking about precision: We could get closer to what we wanted with regard to a purely musical conception," says Babbitt. "We found out more about our limits of hearing and conceptualization with a synthesizer than we ever could with live performance."
It was a junior lab member, Robert Moog, who later evolved synthesized sound into a pre-programmed, real-time keyboard instrument that transformed pop music, the Moog synthesizer. Babbitt's work probed more deeply, a pioneering project in which he worked directly with a room-sized mainframe, programming it to create the exact timbre and rhythm as he imagined it for tape. He was, literally, creating sound from nothing.
When vandals destroyed the synthesizer, Babbitt reverted to writing for live instrumentalists, which required adjusting his ears.
"For a long time, when I would hear a string quartet, everything sounded out of tune, and if I dared to write rhythmically the way I had been doing, it couldn't be played by humans," he says.
He was offered a chance by Bell Labs to get in on the ground floor of the computer revolution, but Babbitt, who still writes music with pencil and paper and barely uses e-mail, passed on the opportunity, a decision he does not regret. "Even today, the computer still doesn't compare with what we could get out of the synthesizer," he says.
Babbitt felt pressed into "pretending I was a part-time theorist" by writing essays, since so few understood his work. The title of one 1958 article for High Fidelity magazine was changed without his consent to "Who Cares If You Listen?," which earned Babbitt a reputation as a kind of hyper-elitist, academic cerebralist, uninterested in audience reaction.
It took decades to live down. "Obviously, I care if people listen; above all, I care HOW they listen," Babbitt says.
And so, just shy of his 90th birthday, Babbitt continues to teach a new group of composers that to move forward, they must first look back.
"I'm not completely pessimistic about today's students," Babbitt says, "because I was a student at the most complex of times -- we were trying to assimilate some of the most remarkable musicians of the century.
"The music world has changed quantitatively, not qualitatively," Babbitt muses. "We were always living in a multicultural world -- it's a cliché to say music has never been as fragmented as much as society."

What: Celebrations in honor of his 90th birthday
Where and when: The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble in an all-Babbitt program, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Shea Center, William Paterson University, 300 Pompton Road, Wayne.
Juilliard community in an all-Babbitt program, 8 p.m. March 27, Paul Hall, Juilliard School, 65th Street and Broadway, New York.
James Levine leads an all-Babbitt program with the Met chamber ensemble, 7:30 p.m. May 10, Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, New York.
Princeton University Music Department presents a celebration of Babbitt's music, 3 p.m. May 21, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton University, Princeton.
How much: Free in Wayne, call (973) 720-2371 or visit www.wpunj.edu; free (reservations required) at Juilliard, call (212) 769-7406 or visit www.juilliard.edu; $68 at Carnegie, call (212) 247-7800 or visit www.carnegiehall.org; free (tickets required) in Princeton, call (609) 258-4239.

New works from Sweeney, King and Mathieson

Hebrides Ensemble, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

From Living Scotsman - 22-Mar-06 12:17 BST

IN RECENT years the new music flag has been kept flying in Edinburgh largely thanks to the sterling efforts of the Hebrides Ensemble and the Edinburgh Contemporary Music Trust (ECAT) - which commissioned three world premieres, tributes to the blues, for this event.
William Sweeney's Night Songs, for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano, was a glorious laid-back evocation of balmy summer nights, and the lively interplay between the instruments was superb. The sultry bass clarinet sent shivers up the spine, then was given a more Mediterranean feel in Geoffrey King's new piece Spanish Moods for bass clarinet and piano. Fragments of De Falla weaved their way into the music along with input from Bach, which gave it a relaxed and improvisational feel.
Twine, for viola and cello, by Iain Mathieson, brought the two instruments together, blurring their boundaries, with one constantly shadowing or echoing the other.
Other delights included John Adams's feat of endurance for violin and piano Road Movies, two quirky piano pieces by Stravinsky, three stunning trios by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Jack Body's witty Tribute to the Blues.

Choe U-zong at the TIMF

Tongyong Int'l Music Festival Opens

By Bae Keun-min
From The Korea Times - 03-21-2006 19:33

The Tongyeong (Tongyong) International Music Festival 2006 has raised its curtain with the opening of its spring season in the southern city, birthplace of the celebrated composer, Isang Yun (1917-1995).
Under the theme of ``Flux,’’ the music drama ``Rose’’ by Choe U-zong opened the six-day agenda last night at the Citizen’s Center, followed by Japanese pianist Norie Takahashi’s recital.
``Rose’’ is based on the poem ``Always a Rose’’ by Liyoung Lee of China. It portrays a man’s life and features musical actors, a 20-member ensemble and a 20-member choir.
To commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dmitrii Shostakovich, the program of 12 official concerts will feature many pieces by the two great composers as well as Yun’s musical numbers.
Celebrated performers include the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Maestro Yuri Simonov, and the 35-year-old Canadian Brass quintet. Clarinetist Martin Spangenberg & Quartet 21, Counter Tenor David DQ Lee and the Germany-based classical jazz quintet Salta Cello will also show off their artistry at the festival.
Hwang Byung-ki, kayagum (12-stringed Korean harp) player, and the AbsoluTrio from Germany will present innovative repertoires at separate concerts on the final day.
Aside from the official concerts and performances, some 750 artists of 70 teams will perform different genres of music at various venues across the city in South Kyongsang Province, including churches, the submarine tunnel and the cross-country bus terminal, during the fringe festival.
The music festival originated from a one-night concert in 1999 commemorating Yun. It was not easy to host such a tribute to the great composer as he had been found guilty of pro-Pyongyang spy activities in East Berlin in 1967. His visit to North Korea as a musician had made him part of the famous ``Tongbaengnim’’ scandal.
However, the success of the one-night commemoration was reborn as an annual festival in 2002 after a couple of more events. Last year, the festival acquired a larger physique as it started presenting a year-round program for three different seasons of spring, summer and fall.
The Tongyong city government has recently been more actively involved in the annual event shouldering more than 900 million won, three-fifths of the total 1.5 billion won estimated cost this year. The local government is also driving a plan to build a music hall complex dedicated to the South Korean composer Yun.

For more information, call (055) 645-2137 or visit www.timf.org.

Dante according to Douglas Bruce Johnson

Lectura Dantis: Readings from Dante's Divine Comedy

From Stanford Continuing Studies - March 22, 2006

Lectura Dantis (EVT 122) Lectura Dantis is the ancient tradition of reading and explicating passages from Dante's Divine Comedy. (Guido da Pisa's commentary already dates from the 1330s.) In a new twist on a venerable tradition, The Ives Quartet, Dante scholar Jeffrey Schnapp, and composer Douglas Bruce Johnson will co-present two sessions, interrelating performance, reading, and dialogue about Inferno Canto XIII, the canto of the suicides. Both presentations will feature the West Coast premiere performances of Johnson's 1999 composition for string quartet, il terzodecimo canto, (Ralph Kenneth Johnson [1914-1963] in memoriam).

The two sessions present a rare opportunity for multi-layered dialogues, engaging composer, scholar, performers, and listeners. Together we will explore in detail many of the canto’s themes, and its expressive use of a variety of structural techniques. Through hearing and understanding the musical realization of this canto, these evenings offer a personal approach to the summo poeta and to his great poem.

The Ives Quartet
Established in 1998, the Ives Quartet has earned critical acclaim for the depth and diversity of its interpretations and programming. Responding to the Quartet's May 2005 American premiere of Hymn to Artemis Lochaie by Peter Maxwell Davies, The San Jose Mercury News wrote: "These four musicians are really in touch with the music, which sounded almost alarmingly alive: songful, surging, very special. One of the Bay Area's outstanding string quartets."

Tuesday, March 21 and Thursday, March 23
Location: TBD
Fee: $30.00

Tuesday March 21 and Thursday March 23 at 7:30 pm
Location: Braun Music Center, Campbell Recital Hall
$20 event fee is non-refundable. You may pay at the door.

Douglas Johnson, Composer and Professor of Music, Trinity College, New Hartford, Connecticut
Douglas Bruce Johnson was born in Oakland, California in 1949, and grew up on the North Coast. He studied in Vienna, Austria, with composer Friedrich Neumann at the Hochschule für Musik. Completing his B.A. in Music cum laude at Humboldt State University in 1974, he was active as a performer in chamber groups and orchestras. In 1980 he returned to the Bay Area, performing as a violinist in the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra under Kent Nagano, who commissioned his first large orchestral works, as well as in the Oakland Symphony under Calvin Simmons. He earned the Ph.D. in Music at the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, working with composers Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson, and with conductor Michael Senturia. He joined the music faculty at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut in 1988.

Jeffrey Schnapp, Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature
Director of the Stanford Humanities Lab since its foundation in 2000, Schnapp occupies the Pierotti Chair in Italian Literature and is professor of French & Italian, and Comparative Literature. His research interests extend from antiquity to the present, encompassing such domains as the material history of literature, the history of design and architecture, and the cultural history of engineering. He is the author or editor of fourteen books and over one hundred essays on authors such as Virgil, Dante, Hildegard of Bingen, Petrarch, and Machiavelli, and on topics such as late antique patchwork poetry, futurist and dadaist visual poetics, the cultural history of coffee consumption, glass architecture, and the iconography of the pipe in modern art.

Asteroids and Planets, Berlin Philharmonic

By Shirley Apthorp
From the Financial Times - March 21 2006 18:04

Vladimir Komarov fell from heaven cursing, the rumour goes. He was the first man to die in space. The Soyuz I mission was a rush job, thrown together for Lenin’s birthday.
Brett Dean believes that the cosmonaut burnt before he crashed. Komarov’s Fall ends like a spent firework. The lonely electronic beeps of telemetry, the mounting rage of the dying man, the grief of his wife and the spectacular combustion of the spaceship form the programmatic bones of Dean’s short orchestral work, one of four “asteroids” given their world premiere by the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle last week.
Holst’s The Planets needs a bit of ginger if it is not to smack of caricature today. Six years ago Colin Matthews added Pluto, the Renewers to the suite, bringing it closer to our time. But Rattle wanted more, and came up with the idea of asteroids.
Kaija Saariaho, Matthias Pintscher, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Brett Dean were commissioned to write six- minute works for Holst on an asteroid of their choice.
Saariaho chose Asteroid 4279: Toutatis, a potato-shaped celestial body with a peculiar orbit, for an eerie, shimmering orchestral reflection. Pintscher’s Towards Osiris, the beginnings of a larger work for Chicago, explores the Egyptian myth of dismemberment and reanimation. Delicate effects and gossamer orchestration suggest the beating of Isis’s wings.
Ceres is the asteroid most likely to collide with Earth. Turnage tackles the hypothetical catastrophe with glee. Bold sweeps of colour, a touch of melancholy from the lower strings, and the world ends with a spectacular bang.
The four new works were not a collaborative project. Three of the four composers chose to depict cataclysms, which makes for a turbulent half-hour here. But the common subjects and instrumentation bring conceptual harmony. Holst is certainly a winner. Rattle conducts the suite with uncritical gusto, letting the orchestra’s lush sheen show. The new pieces save the evening from stodginess.
This audacious project is carried by Rattle’s flair, and nurtured with the optimal conditions needed to give new works a wider orbit. Watch the musical skies near you for further sightings of these rocky bodies.

Adès, Saariaho, Adams and Reich at the Barbican

Great Performers at the Barbican Series 2006-7 Preview

By Dominic McHugh
From MusicOMH - 03/2006


Two concert series at the Barbican in the next year are making me lick my lips at the mere thought of such delicious fare.The first involves the return of at least four of the world's greatest operatic divas to the hall, as well as a handful of their male counterparts.And the second is a remarkably comprehensive overview of both well-known and seldom-heard oratorios and operas from the Baroque and Enlightenment.
After her utterly riveting lieder recital in November 2005, the American soprano Renée Fleming returns on December 2, 2006, for a concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
And on May 8, 2007, Romanian diva Angela Gheorghiu is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra in another recital. Though the programmes are yet to be announced, these two already legendary singers are in their prime, Fleming's creamy, floating tones contrasted with Gheorghiu's pathos and glamorous delivery.
It's a sign of the Barbican's prominence on the world's stage that they can attract such a lavish roster of singers in the same season. On October 31, the dream team of Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon reunite after their recording of Verdi's La traviata for a concert with Marco Armiliato. Before then, on 27 October, Magdalena Kožená sings a tasty selection of Mozart arias with the period instrument orchestra Il Giardino Armonico. The concert includes several arias from La clemenza di Tito, which Kožená sang so memorably on the marvellous recent recording by Charles Mackerras. On March 17, two great American singers join the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their new Chief Conductor, Jiri Belohlavek: baritone Thomas Hampson and mezzo soprano Susan Graham. And in a programme including Strauss songs, the American soprano Deborah Voigt returns to the hall on June 9, 2007.
Enthusiasts of Handel opera have a treat in store on October 17, when Emmanuelle Haim conducts a starry cast in Theodora; Anne Sophie von Otter is one of the many draws. Then on March 27, 2007, Christophe Rousset conducts Ariodante, reuniting Angelika Kirchschlager and Danielle de Niese after their triumph in Glyndebourne's Giulio Cesare last summer. The latter opera also figures in the Barbican's series, though with a very different cast, including Marijana Mijanovic, under René Jacobs, and there's even more Handel on May 18, with the rarely heard Amadigi di Gaula performed by Christopher Hogwood and his Academy of Ancient Music.
Meanwhile, Haydn lovers will be attracted by The Creation on October 26, performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players under Paul McCreesh, and The Seasons on March 11, 2007, with Sir John Eliot Gardiner. And for Bachians, the St John Passion on April 5, 2007 features Camilla Tilling; popular counter-tenor Andreas Scholl sings a selection of Bach cantatas on November 24.
The Barbican is unrivalled for its contemporary music programme, and 2006-7 promises to be its strongest season to date. Phases is a celebration of the music of Steve Reich for his 70th birthday. This is a typically well-planned event, involving his seminal works (such as The Cave and Tehillim), new commissions, and music from the composers that have inspired him the most (for instance, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring).
Even more exciting is the event planned to explore the young British composer Thomas Adès. Entitled Traced Overhead, and timed to coincide with the revival of Adès' opera The Tempest at the Royal Opera House, this concert series brings together many of the world's greatest artists. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic are the starriest visitors, playing the UK premiere of Adès' The Ark alongside works by Janácek and Dvorák on March 7, 2007. A particularly exciting evening at LSO St Luke's brings together Adès with his musicals friends the Labèque sisters, the Arditti Quartet and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, in a concert pairing his chamber works with those of the American composer Conlon Nancarrow. The composer turns accompanist on April 3, accompanying Ian Bostridge in a recital by a range of European composers. He also plays the piano role in a performance of Mahler's Wayfarer lieder on April 17, featuring the baritone Simon Keenlyside.
Finally, Peter Sellars is bringing a festival to the Barbican in summer 2007, which originated this year as a commission from Vienna to celebrate Mozart's 250th birthday. New Crowned Hope is remarkably diverse, and takes its theme from the supposed characteristics of Mozart's last year: 'magic and transformation, forgiveness and reconciliation, and death and dying'. A little fanciful, perhaps, but the prospect of a new opera by John Adams, a major dance piece by Mark Morris, and an oratorio by Kaija Saariaho is enough to render the exercise interesting, whatever its motivation.
More conservative concert goers will be happy about the return of the Dresden Staatskapelle under Daniel Harding in January, the Concertgebouw under Jansons in February and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Simon Rattle in May. Also up for grabs are Maxim Vengerov leading the Mozart violin concertos from the violin, Valery Gergiev completing his Shostakovich cycle in September and December, and the pianists Evgeny Kissin (March 5), Murray Perahia (April 23) and Maurizio Pollini (June 12) in solo recitals.
The season is called 'Great Performers'. It's no exaggeration.

Golijov: today's Ketelby? - is he a great composer or a musical magpie?

Identifying classics-to-be is critical guessing game

By Clarke Bustard
From TimesDispatch.com - Mar 19, 2006

One hundred years ago in Paris, Gabriel Fauré introduced his Piano Quintet, Maurice Ravel wrote his Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, and Paul Dukas completed his "Villanelle" for horn and piano.
In Scandinavia, Carl Nielsen's comic opera "Maskarade" premiered in Denmark, and Finland's Jean Sibelius composed "Pohjola's Daughter." In Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg completed his Chamber Symphony No. 1.
The same year saw Alban Berg, Schoenberg's protégé, begin work on his Piano Sonata and the Spaniard Isaac Albéniz begin his piano cycle "Iberia." In Germany, Richard Strauss began composing "Elektra," his most jarring opera.
Those are works still performed and recorded.
Many other products of 1906 -- Ethel Smyth's "The Wreckers," Zoltan Kodaly's "Summer Evening," Max Reger's Serenade, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's "Kubla Khan," Edvard Grieg's "Moods" -- are largely forgotten.
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Le Coq d'Or" ("The Golden Cockrell"), also begun in 1906, is still performed, but more often as an orchestral suite than in its original guise as an opera.
Flash forward to 1956, when audiences first heard Leonard Bernstein's "Candide," William Schuman's "New England Triptych," Samuel Barber's "Summer Music," William Walton's Cello Concerto, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Ninth Symphony and Olivier Messiaen's "Oiseaux exotiques" ("Exotic Birds").
The same year, some leading composers of the mid-20th century produced works that barely register today: Igor Stravinsky's "Canticum sacrum," Dmitri Shostakovich's "Katerina Ismailova," Benjamin Britten's "Prince of the Pagodas," Carl Orff's "Nanie and Dithyrambe" and Aram Khachaturian's "Ode of Joy."

Musical trivia? Maybe, but there's a point to the exercise.
A century ago, no one would have predicted that the Dukas would become a staple for horn players, that the harp would flower as a concert instrument and thereby keep the Ravel in regular circulation, or that Schoenberg and Berg would become seminal influences on modern music.
Fifty years ago, who would have guessed that Schuman's opus would outlive Stravinsky's?
There's no telling what compositions being introduced today will still be heard 50 or 100 years from now.
Music critics play this guessing game constantly. At present, you can read plenty of speculation on the potential staying power of new and recent works by Elliott Carter, the 97-year-old American master of intricately structured, intensely cerebral music, and Osvaldo Golijov, the 45-year-old composer of works echoing the tangos of his native Argentina and klezmer and other music from his Jewish heritage.
It seems reasonable to predict that if musicians are still playing Carter in 2056, they'll probably treat Golijov as a producer of musical curios -- much as we now think of Albert Ketelby, the early 20th-century English composer of pop-classical exotica such as "In a Persian Market" and "In a Chinese Temple Garden."
If musicians of the future take Golijov seriously, they'll probably view Carter as a dead-ender, representing the final flowering of 20th-century compositional techniques that complicated music into incomprehensibility.
Or maybe both will still receive respectful hearings, just as we now hear such disparate products of 1906 as the suavely lyrical Fauré quintet and Strauss' psychosis-in-sound "Elektra."
Or maybe by 2056, the piano, fiddles, double reeds, brasses and operatic voices of classical music will be considered antique curiosities, much like we now think of lyres, virginals, serpents and castrati. Solo performers may synthesize Wagner's "Ring" cycle and Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" out of microprocessors.
In such a brave new world, even Elliott Carter might sound simplistic.
Musical immortality has always been a crapshoot. And with the dice of the future likely to have 60 or 600 sides instead of six, all bets are off.


Maverick instinct in demand

Robert Sandall meets a modest Osvaldo Golijov
From TheAustralian - March 20, 2006

WHEN you're hot, you're hot, and in the rather chilly world of contemporary composition, nobody is generating more heat than the Argentinian-Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov. Ahead of a series devoted to his works at London's Barbican Centre last month, music critics lined up to debate whether he is "the first great composer of this century" (the London Observer) or "a dabbler, a stylistic magpie ... [whose] language is, for the time being, sweeping the musical marketplace" (Financial Times).
Sweeping is not too strong a word. With a month-long retrospective, The Passion of Osvaldo Golijov, recently ended at the Lincoln Centre, New York, and a number of big commissions in the pipeline -- including a film score for Francis Ford Coppola, a chamber work for Yo-Yo Ma with the Boston Symphony, and a full-length opera -- Golijov's command of the American marketplace is either impressive or worrying, depending on the height of your brow.
His embrace of traditional and classical styles, which takes in klezmer, Sephardic folk melodies, tango and J.S. Bach, among others, has proved highly attractive to audiences, as has his fondness for using computer-generated rhythm tracks through his laptop on stage.
But are these the right sort of audiences? Or, as the FT man surmised, are they fluffy song-and-dance types, world-music snackers entertained by the "pleasantly exotic" flavour of Golijov's music, but incapable of "sustained concentration"?
The man at the centre of this inquiry looks like Michael Stipe of REM crossed with Woody Allen. He is engagingly modest.
"I am the first one to be baffled by that," he says, when asked about the bandwagon rolling beneath him. "I don't know whether this is going to last two months or two weeks. My success is about a confluence of things in the wider audience. I am only doing what I feel."
As luck, and the zeitgeist, would have it, the feelings Golijov expresses in his music touch on a number of the most sensitive issues of our time, in particular those relating to religious and political tolerance.
His most celebrated work is his St Mark Passion, which was commissioned by the great Bach conductor Helmuth Rilling for the European Music Festival in 2000 and recorded on the Hanssler label. It mixes and matches Gregorian chant, samba, rumba and flamenco, and ends with a traditional Yiddish lament, a kaddish.
"My first reaction to the commission was 'no', because that story was used to perpetuate anti-semitism," Golijov says. "But then I thought, 'This is a central story of humankind and it will help me lose my fear of the other'."
The mob violence directed against Jesus -- a prime example of the evil that, now as ever, can masquerade as righteous anger -- is the central event of Golijov's Passion: "I had to get into the collective madness of the crowd, that need for blood and the sudden fear of God."
Golijov's eclectic take on music derives in large part from the accidents of his upbringing. He was born into a Jewish community in La Plata, a university town south of Buenos Aires. His father was a doctor who took him to hear the nuevo tango of the great local master Astor Piazzolla. His mother was a piano teacher who had him playing the organ in the synagogue as a child, and later initiated him in the wonders of Bach. "In tango, I could hear the same harmonic structures as in the piano music my mother played," he says. "The commonality was greater than the difference."
From Bach's Prelude in B flat major, he learned about serious artistry, "the idea that this piece was not just a melody and an accompaniment, but three separate voices that sounded beautiful simultaneously". With Piazzolla, he loved "the way he was able to distil in his music the life in the street, to make his bandoneon imitate the way people spoke, a bit cocky".
Disgusted with the military dictatorship, Golijov left Argentina after the Falklands war to study composition abroad, first in Jerusalem, then in Philadelphia and finally at the distinguished New England academy, Tanglewood. Here, under Oliver Knussen, he wrote a wild string quartet "that was like my version of punk".
This grew into 1992's Yiddishbbuk, a work that was instantly taken up and played all over the world by those tireless proselytisers for new music, the Kronos Quartet. Their leader, David Harrington, opened many doors, notably to the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, with whom Golijov recorded on Kronos's Caravan album.
His career since has depended less on the patronage of commissioning institutions and more on approaches from individuals who share his maverick instincts: people such as film director Sally Potter, who used him on The Man Who Cried, starring Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett; and the mezzo-soprano Dawn Upshaw, who engaged him to write the song cycle Ayre for her.
"I feel more comfortable like this, working with and for friends, rather than with an orchestra and conductor," Golijov says, echoing Duke Ellington's remark that he never wrote for the trumpet, only for a trumpeter.
Not that he is setting himself up as the new Duke. Golijov is as aware as any critic of his own limitations where composition is concerned. "I like the idea of a long arc, but I am not good at homogeneity and continuity," he says. "I work by juxtapositions and contrasts. It's primitive, but it works." And it all connects, I suggest, because of its pervasive mood of passionate melancholy. "Maybe that's the luck of being South American and Jewish," he says, self-effacing to the last.

LSO next season: Gubaidulina, Adams

London Symphony Announces 2006-07 Season, Launching the Gergiev Era

By Ben Mattison
From PlaybillArts.com - 16 Mar 2006

Valery Gergiev will focus on Prokofiev, Debussy, and Stravinsky in his first season as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, the LSO announced.Gergiev, who is also artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, succeeds Colin Davis as the LSO's principal conductor in January 2007; Davis, who has held the position since 1995, will become president.
In his first appearance as principal conductor, in January 2007, Gergiev will lead Sofia Gubaidulina's Offertorium as part of a BBC mini-festival celebrating the Russian composer. Subsequent appearances will include rarely heard works including Prokofiev's Seven They Are Seven, Stravinsky's King of the Stars, and Debussy's First Rhapsody for Clarinet.
The 2006-07 season also marks the debut of the young conductor Daniel Harding as one of the LSO's two principal guest conductors (Michael Tilson Thomas is the other). The orchestra will dedicate a concert series to him in spring 2007 titled "Daniel Harding: A Portrait."
Other highlights include a season-long series of Mozart piano concerts, with Evgeny Kissin, Leif Ove Andnes, Alfred Brendel, Emanuel Ax, Mitsuko Uchida, and Piotr Anderszewski as soloists; series dedicated to composers Steve Reich and John Adams (Adams will lead his own On the Transmigration of Souls); concerts marking the 25th anniversary of the Barbican Centre; and tours to Paris, New York, Spain, Belgium, and Germany, as well as a lengthy trip to Asia led by Harding.
Guest conductors include Antonio Pappano, Richard Hickox, Mark Elder, and Yan Pascal Tortelier.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Saariaho's new opera 'Adriana Mater': March 30

At ease with a darker vision of the world

By Shirley Apthorp
From the Financial Times - March 13 2006 17:56

Spot the composer. A shock of red hair, ethereal pallor, willowy fragility, fierce reticence: Kaija Saariaho is instantly identifiable amid the bustle of a busy orchestral rehearsal.
At 53, Saariaho is one of the most sought-after composers in the world. Her music speaks directly to its listeners without intellectual compromise, steeped in her own dream-like language of crystalline precision.

Eighteen years ago, Saariaho declared that she would never write an opera. She was wrong. L’amour de loin (Love from Afar) was the hit of the 2000 Salzburg Festival. When Gérard Mortier took the helm of the Paris Opera, he wasted little time in commissioning the enigmatic Finn and her Lebanese librettist Amin Maalouf to produce a second work.

Rehearsals of Adriana Mater are well under way in Paris, where Saariaho has lived for the past 20 years. Once again, Peter Sellars directs. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts; the world premiere is on March 30. But today, Saariaho has travelled to Berlin, for a performance of L’amour de loin by Berlin’s Deutsches Symphonie Orchester under Kent Nagano.

“Her voice is very individual,” says Nagano, who has known Saariaho for more than 20 years and conducted the world premiere of L’amour de loin. “It combines an immensely rich palette of colour with exotic textures, and her work with the natural overtone series gives the orchestration a brilliance that you don’t normally hear from traditional instruments. None of the techniques are new in themselves, but the way they are put together is unique.”

The rehearsal is a mesmerising affair, snatches of medieval polyphony shining like stained glass through Saariaho’s hypnotically beautiful score. Subtle electronic treatment extends the overtone range of the instruments, giving the impression of a space far more vast than Berlin’s Festival house. But the composer does not look happy.
“I cannot be relaxed about it,” she apologises. “There are all these beautiful people performing my music. Of course that is a pleasure. But to hear this opera today, when I have just come from rehearsals of my new opera, is very strange. You write music, but then you grow out of it. I know this opera so well, but I’m not there any more. Sometimes I have the feeling that I just have to get through it somehow . . . ”

Saariaho is self-critical to an almost pathological degree. Basking in success is not her style, and she struggles with the concept of curtain-calls. But it is certainly true that Adriana Mater represents a radical departure from her earlier opera. L’amour de loin was a luminous meditation on the interior landscapes of love, centred on the tale of the 12th-century troubadour Jaufré Rudel and his unconsummated love for Clémence, Countess of Tripoli. Adriana Mater is set firmly in the present, and tackles brutal themes.
Maalouf’s libretto plays in a war zone. A young woman is raped, not by an enemy, but by a man from her own community. She bears his son, Yonas, and wonders whether the child will be Abel or Cain.
“I said to Amin that if we ever did a second opera, it would be great to do something about maternity,” says Saariaho. “We also wanted to address the problem of violence; Amin has many experiences of war. It was somehow natural that the two things came together.
“The text is less lyrical, and the music is much more dramatic. It’s more rhythmic, and it’s very dark. For the first time, I am not escaping reality through my music. During the three years that I worked on this opera, I felt happy to write it, while horrible things were happening in the world. That was a new feeling for me.”
Saariaho cites the influence of Sellars, whose work she has followed for 16 years. His dogged idealism is at odds with her own dark world view, but she is intrigued by it.
“Perhaps I came somewhere with this opera where he wanted me to come. Perhaps because I wrote it for him, it deals differently with reality. And I must say it’s true that if you are a mother, you need to have some kind of positive perspective, even if you don’t have it as an artist.”
With a cast of just four, the opera preserves an air of intimacy, returning to themes of love and family despite the turbulent events that shape the action.
“The piece is also about different perceptions of the same event, about how you can live side by side with somebody and yet have a completely different sense of reality. To call it a political opera would be [to oversimplify].”

Saariaho has a natural aversion to labels. “I think that’s so boring!” she says. “People call me their favourite woman composer, you know? It’s not much of a compliment. There are not so many of us. I’ve been called the most famous Finnish woman composer. I really don’t care.
“I don’t think about being a woman, or being Finnish. Does it reflect in my music? I don’t know. I’m left-handed. How does that reflect in my music? I don’t know. These are all things which define who I am, but I don’t know if it really has anything to do with my music.”
At the same time, Saariaho sees a direct relationship between what she experiences and how she composes. She would be unhappy if she could not compose, she says; writing music is her way of coming to terms with life.
Even so, many of her best ideas come at the working table. Rigorously self-disciplined, Saariaho has never yet been late in delivering a score (“The very idea is a nightmare!”), and derives great security from a regular working routine. “Quite often I start working with a sense that nothing will come, not today, not ever. But when I force myself into the material, somehow it starts working.”

A further source of inspiration, she says, is the story itself. Linear narrative is distinctly out of fashion in European opera circles, but Saariaho finds it the only way to work.
“I also started with very abstract ideas,” she concedes. “I thought that if I ever wrote an opera, it would be about voice and light and electronics. But then I thought, what was the point of writing an opera? I wanted to touch matters which are secret. I thought I would try to use music to invade some areas of perception about love and death that we don’t consciously know about. That’s why I wanted a story. To make it meaningful.”
Is she talking about the subconscious, or about spirituality?
“Both,” she answers. “In the arts we work a lot with the subconscious. Spirituality is something we badly need today, and I think the responsibility of artists is enormous. I’m not talking about religion. I think spirituality is something vast. Music is vast. And it can be an unbelievable form of communication, because there are no limits. The essence of music is like love.”
L’amour de loin has already been staged in Paris, Santa Fe, Bern, Darmstadt, and Helsinki. There is every chance that Adriana Mater will go on to make its way around the world. Saariaho seems to be writing works that will last.
Nagano is cautious. “It’s far too early to tell,” he counters. “What makes a significant composer? It takes the perspective of time and a consensus of people to be able to judge a masterpiece. It is very rare for a piece to enter the repertoire.
“The great composers of the past were not always linked to new techniques. After two or three years you may be able to glimpse a possible future for a piece. But the strongest thing you can really say at the time is that a voice is individual. Kaija’s voice is very personal to herself, and it’s supported with tremendous craftsmanship, and a beauty within itself. This is already saying a lot.”

‘Adriana Mater’ premieres at Opéra Bastille, Paris on March 30, with performances to April 18.

Asteroids Converge on Berlin as Rattle Conducts Four New Works

By Shirley Apthorp
From Bloomberg.com - March 13

The idea enthralled Mark-Anthony Turnage, one of four composers commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra to write a new work for concerts in Berlin and Salzburg and a recording for EMI Group Plc's EMI Classics label. The premiere is on March 16.
``I grew up with a sense that everything could explode at any minute,'' says 45-year-old Turnage. ``I recently read in a book by Bill Bryson that 2,000 asteroids big enough to imperil civilized existence regularly cross our orbit. But even a small asteroid the size of a house could destroy a city.
``So my piece is about rocky objects orbiting in a loose formation. Blocks of musical material gradually mesh together, and then they explode.''
Shortly after his first concerts as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle initiated the commission of four ``asteroids,'' short pieces collectively titled ``Ad astra,'' to accompany a performance of Gustav Holst's orchestral suite ``The Planets.''
Turnage, of the U.K., selected Ceres, the first asteroid to be discovered by astronomers, as his subject. ``I had a horrid fear that all four of us would pick the same asteroid,'' he says. ``But that didn't happen, in the end.''

Potato-Shaped

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, 53, chose Toutatis, an elliptical asteroid with an immensely complex orbit that often closely approaches the earth.
``The asteroid has had so many collisions that its shape has changed so that it looks rather like a potato,'' Saariaho says. ``That means that one side moves much faster than the other. It has often been speculated that if an asteroid hits the earth, it might be Toutatis. So that makes it special.
``I have used the idea of rotations which coincide but have different lengths, so that although they repeat, they never meet,'' she says. ``It has a lot to do with rhythm.''
Matthias Pintscher, at 35 the most successful German composer of his generation, also explored the idea of destruction through the asteroid Osiris, though he was more inspired by the Egyptian myth of the god Osiris's destruction by his jealous brother Seth. The 14 parts of Osiris's body were collected by his wife Isis, who restored him to life as god of the underworld.

Beuys's Suit

``I encountered a work by the artist Joseph Beuys, part of his ``Felt Suit,'' where he took the separate parts of a tailor's suit template, glued them onto a large canvas, and called it ``Osiris,'' Pintscher said.
``My music looks at the idea of something intact which is torn into pieces, takes these pieces and presents them individually, and then recombines them in a kind of metamorphosis,'' he said.
A more literal disintegration was suffered by Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, the first person to die on a space mission, when the Soyuz 1 crashed in 1967. An asteroid was named for him in 1971 and became the inspiration for 45-year-old Australian composer Brett Dean's new piece, ``Komarov's Fall.''
``I was listening to old recordings of telemetry signals, radio communication between people in space and ground control,'' Dean says. ``And I found a recording of one of the last communications from Komarov. There are jagged rhythms in my piece that are directly inspired by garbled, nervous speech of this message. You can't really hear the individual words, but there are rumors that his last words were condemning the whole Soviet system, and that he went down screaming.

Lonely Signals

``The piece starts off with a homage to telemetry -- simple signals that sound lonely and distant,'' he says. ``I didn't want it to be too programmatic, but there is certainly a moment where you hear things falling to pieces. There is a sense of catastrophe which is cut off quite quickly, leaving a more eerie sense of dispersal.''
The four new works, each approximately six minutes long, continue the extension of Holst's famous space music that began in 2000, when U.K. composer Colin Matthews wrote ``Pluto -- the Renewer'' to complete the set, which Holst had ended with Neptune. Rattle will conduct all six pieces together in three Berlin concerts this week and at the Salzburg Festival in August. EMI will release a recording of the concert in autumn.

Wolfgang Overkill

In an age where many orchestral institutions respond to financial pressures with more conservative programming, Rattle's commitment to new music is seen by many as bold.
``It's probably the single greatest challenge facing orchestras today,'' says Dean. ``The endless marketing of popular classics makes it harder than ever to break through with new ideas. The Mozart year makes it even worse, with all due respect to Wolfgang Amadeus -- it's not his fault that he has been turned into a commercial franchise.''
Still, all four composers are busy and their music is popular. Saariaho's second opera, ``Adriana Mater,'' opens in Paris at the end of this month. Dean's ``Sparge la morte'' has just premiered at Carnegie Hall. Pintscher will be the Lucerne Festival's resident artist this summer and Turnage has just been named composer-in- residence by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
``I'm optimistic about the future,'' says Turnage. ``Unless an asteroid hits us. Can't do much about that, I guess.''

Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic playing ``Ad astra'' on March 16, 17 and 18.

Eponymous festival honors Carter, 97

Composer Elliott Carter was on hand at the opening concert of a new series to receive an honorary doctorate from the U of M.

By Larry Fuchsberg
From StarTribune.com - March 10, 2006 – 10:07 PM

When Elliott Carter was a lad of 63, critic Virgil Thomson called him "our most admired composer of learned music." The actuary-defying Carter is now 97, his preeminence long past arguing. He was an obvious choice for the first in a planned biannual series of contemporary composers festivals, mounted by the University of Minnesota School of Music and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
The festival comprises nearly 200 performers and 28 Carter scores. Thursday's concert offered seldom-heard choral and orchestral music separated by the restless "Night Fantasies" for solo piano. Ursula Oppens, who premiered "Night Fantasies" a quarter-century ago, played with unsurpassed fluency.
The evening began with the presentation of an honorary doctorate to the composer, who gracefully deflected the superlatives heaped upon him.
Carter's longevity -- he's now threatening to outgrow what scholars have dubbed his "late late style" -- makes him hard to place historically. As a speaker at Thursday's Carter symposium suggested, it's as if Chopin had lived into the 20th century, as if Brahms were still writing in the 1930s. Carter has survived not only the High Modernism that formed him but the postmodernism that followed. And new commissions are stacked on his Manhattan desk.
Carter is a poet of process. Left-brained though it is, his music has a distinctive beauty, and is far easier to follow than the academic discourse it has spawned. He has fully emancipated rhythm as a compositional element, and shows an uncanny ability to elicit complex personalities from the instruments he writes for and to work out the drama of their interaction in musical terms.
In Thursday's choral segment, Carter mingled with colleagues to whom he owes a debt: Ives, Stravinsky and Goffredo Petrassi. The orchestral segment offered the extraordinary Variations (1954-55) as entrée and the brash Holiday Overture, written to celebrate the 1944 liberation of Paris, as dessert. The University Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Singers (led, respectively, by Robert Debbaut and Kathy Saltzman Romey) had moments of insecurity, but did greater justice to these daunting scores than yesteryear's professionals could do.
Does Carter's music point to a way forward for today's younger composers? It's hard to see how. But as we search for the musical heroes we need, we do well to honor the ones we have.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

K. Huber, Holliger, Kyburz, Lehmann, Furrer, Gruber, Pintscher and Gjertsen in Lucerne

Lucerne Festival, Summer 2006: August 10th – September 17th

From e.sommer.lucernefestival.ch

«Language» is the theme of LUCERNE FESTIVAL, SOMMER 2006. Within living memory, language and music have always been associated: after all, music and language are how people convey their ideas and communicate with one another. It is said that music is a language that goes much deeper than words ever could. In this sense, music – from the Middle Ages to Romanticism and to modern times – has been said to say the “unutterable” or, to quote Beethoven, “music is a higher revelation than all our wisdom or philosophy”.

Fusions of words and sounds run like a thread through the entire festival – and are, in particular, represented by the «Language» cycle. Highly varied and many-layered examples from classical to modern music show how composers deal with language, “compose” with language and, ultimately, develop a musical language all their own. The key works of the «Language» cycle will be Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Verdi’s Falstaff in a concert version, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Erwartung, and Survivors from Warsaw, Weill’s Berlin Requiem, Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, Kaddish, as well as settings to texts from Mozart to Schubert up to the most recent examples of contemporary music. Musical styles and texts will range from the virtuoso settings of Trakl’s texts by Werb to sociocritical songs by Brecht & Weill or hits from the 1920s – in a recital with Matthias Goerne. Additional high-carat singers such as, among others, Cecilia Bartoli, Angelika Kirchschlager, and Thomas Quasthoff will transform language into music.

Eight first performances, among them works by prominent Swiss composers such as Klaus Huber, Heinz Holliger, Hanspeter Kyburz (and a new composition by Hans Ulrich Lehmann in its second performance) will show topical “strategies” applied to composing with words. Additional first performances will include contributions by Beat Furrer, this year’s composers-in-residence HK Gruber and Matthias Pintscher, and young Norwegian composer Rubben Sverre Gjertsen, with the latter writing a new work for the ensemble of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY with Pierre Boulez.

On August 10th in this Mozart Year of 2006, the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA with Claudio Abbado will open up with two arias and a motet by Mozart (sung by Cecilia Bartoli) as well as Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. In the following days the orchestra founded by maestro Abbado in 2003 will present Frank Martin’s Sechs Monologe aus Jedermann (soloist: Thomas Quasthoff), Berlioz’s Marche Funèbre from Tristia, three Mozart arias (soloist: Rachel Harnisch), Verdi’s Te Deum from Quattro pezzi sacri, Brahm’s Concerto No. 2 (soloist: Maurizio Pollini) and, finally, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. Following the first and successful residency of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA in Rome in the autumn of 2005, a second guest performance by Claudio Abbado’s orchestra will follow at Suntory Hall in Japan from October 11th till October 19th, 2006.

The other orchestras-in-residence, that will provide the Festival with three concerts, each with its special touch, will include The Philadelphia Orchestra with Christoph Eschenbach, The Cleveland Orchestra with Franz Welser-Möst, the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest with Mariss Jansons, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Valery Gergiev, and HK Gruber and, finally, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas.

The 2006 “Artistes étoiles”, flutist Emmanuel Pahud and pianist and conductor András Schiff, will show the rich variety of their art as soloists and chamber musicians: Emmanuel Pahud and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra will play a work by Matthias Pintscher for the first time, a Baroque concerto with the Berlin Baroque Soloists and a jazz Late Night concert with the Jack Terrasson Trio. András Schiff will dedicate all of his concerts to Wolfgang Amadé Mozart and his jubilee: a piano recital, a chamber-music concert with the Quatuor Mosaïques and two symphony concerts with his Cappella Andrea Barca.

Anne-Sophie Mutter, too, will exclusively focus on the genius from Salzburg. She and Lambert Orkis will play all of Mozart’s sonatas for piano and violin. This small but sophisticated “round dance” dedicated to Mozart will conclude with the Mass in C minor, whose torso Robert Levin recently completed, the three last great symphonies played by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and Mozart’s last work, the Requiem.

The two composers-in-residence, HK Gruber and Matthias Pintscher, will use very different approaches as to style and compositional procedures in dealing with language. Composer, conductor, singer, and contrabass player HK Gruber belongs among the most renowned Austrian composers. Thanks to his close co-operation with poets such as HC Artmann and his dedication to singing, language is the focus of his playing music. Works set for a large orchestra by the composer will be presented, among them the first performance of his Hidden Agenda. You will be able to hear him as a chansonnier in his frankenstein!!! – with more than 440 performances since its first performance by Simon Rattle in 1978 one of the most frequently played contemporary pieces – and as a singer of Weill’s and Eisler’s always popular and topical songs.
Young German composer Matthias Pintscher, born 1971, looks back on an impressive history of performances with interpreters such as, among others, Claudio Abbado, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and The Cleveland Orchestra. His poetic composing is especially fired by the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé and Arthur Rimbaud. Examples as well as two first performances – for Emmanuel Pahud and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Daniel Harding and for a string trio – will be presented in a show of his works.

For the first time, the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY with Pierre Boulez will also dedicate itself to singing: in addition to 75 instrumentalists, 24 voice students will rehearse works from Schoenberg and Webern to Boulez, Berio, and Pintscher.

The third Roche Commission – a co-operation with The Cleveland Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, and Roche – was given to Swiss composer Hanspeter Kyburz. Suitable to the theme of «Language», he composed a work for soprano, tenor, and orchestra and focuses – with Mozart’s duets in the background – on the conversation and communication of lovers.Jointly with Pro Helvetia and WDR / Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, three commissions for voices and instruments were given to Swiss composers Annette Schmucki, Mischa Käser, and Michel Roth.In November 2005, the CREDIT SUISSE GROUP Young Artist Award was awarded to pianist Martin Helmchen. This award – an initiative of LUCERNE FESTIVAL, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Society of Friends of Music Vienna as well as the Jubilee Foundation of the CREDIT SUISSE GROUP – is endowed with CHF 75,000 and enables a debut concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Thus, Martin Helmchen will appear as a soloist at the concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with Valery Gergiev on September 10th, 2006.