About Us Essential Library Read Past Issues Resources Composer Links
  July 15-22, 2002
The Silver River, Bright Sheng’s smart, lean opera based on an ancient Chinese myth of forbidden love between a moon goddess and a mortal man, will debut this week at the Lincoln Center Festival.

 The river in this case is the Milky Way, which two lovers (one a cowherd, the other a goddess) can cross just once a year, meeting on a bridge made of the folded wings of magpies.

 With a libretto by award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, The Silver River premiered at the 1997 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
An expanded version was presented at American Spoleto Festival’s 2000
Season and it is this revised version that has found its way to Lincoln Center. 

 “The Silver River is a contemporary and multi-disciplinary work that is derived from an ancient Asian fairy tale,” says Festival Director Nigel Redden. “Sheng’s masterpiece interweaves music theater
influences with Asian genres interspersed with traditional Chinese opera. Sheng has brought the beauty and depth of an Asian fable set to music into the American mind-set.” 

 After this week’s performances, Sheng heads to Tanglewood, where he serves as director of the Festival of Contemporary Music. He then
travels to Asia in August, to conduct the Asian Youth Orchestra in its 2002 summer tour.

 Next year could be even better for the University of Michigan music professor.  The New York Philharmonic will feature his new orchestral piece for Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, and the Santa Fe Opera will premiere his new opera Madame Mao.

Bright Sheng's next opera--Madame Mao--will debut next year in Santa Fe.

What's New

Earle Brown Dies

Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra Bows

Oliver Knussen at 50

Music for Chillin'

John Eaton's "...inasmuch" Debuts

Lincoln Center Festival

Interview with Gloria Coates

Entering the 21st Century with
Kitty Brazelton
Frank Oteri

Henry Brant's Ice Field
Wins 2002 Pulitizer Prize


Julia Wolfe after minimalism

Philip Glass at 65
Jerry Bowles

An Interview with Steven R. Gerber

New Hall for Philadelphia


Deborah Kravetz

Interview with Poul Ruders

Our writers welcome your comments on their pieces.  Send your witty bon mots tojbowles@sequenza21.com and we might even publish some of them here.  And, don't forget--if you'd like to write for Sequenza21 (understanding that we have no money to pay you), send me a note.  JB

Modern Music News
THE BAD OLD DAYS? Composer/critic Greg Sandow wrestles with the historical context of atonal music. "What was atonal music about? Most important, what should it mean to us today, now that we're partly free of it? As I've been saying, here and elsewhere for quite a while, it badly needs a reassessment. We still have (just to cite one obvious example) James Levine, conscientiously conducting Schoenberg at the Met, convinced that Moses und Aron is a classic that the whole world needs to hear. I'm not going to say it isn't one (that's another conversation), but what's odd is the all but explicit subtext, that Schoenberg still is music of our time." NewMusicBox.com 07/02

NEXT ON SPRINGER: Really - if you think about it, Jerry Springer isn't far off the mark as grist for an opera. "Its subject matter may be wackier than classical opera, its language stronger, but the basic themes are all there." Operas have often used seamy everyday stories for their stories. "When you look at Titus Andronicus, the last scene of that when they are all intermarried and tearing each other apart, it really looks like a final scene of the Jerry Springer show." Glasgow Herald 07/09/02

TRIBUTE AT TANGLEWOOD: The Boston Symphony Orchestra paid tribute this weekend to the man who has been its leader for the past three decades, and the celebration, while a bit over the top at times, was apparently a hit with the crowds gathered at the orchestra's famous Tanglewood summer home in western Massachusetts. During the concert, it was announced that Ozawa had been named music director laureate of the BSO, after much apparent behind-the-scenes discussion and debate. Boston Herald 07/14/02

STORM CLOUDS GATHERING: Orchestras around the U.S. and Canada are continuing to struggle with rising deficits and slumping ticket sales. But while orchestras in Chicago, Minneapolis, and the like can count on hefty endowments and high-profile public support to assist them, North America's small, regional ensembles are increasingly finding themselves on the edge of complete fiscal insolvency. The latest examples are in Jacksonville, Florida, which is cutting staff; and Shreveport, Louisiana, where the local orchestra has barely avoided a shutdown. The Business Journal (Jacksonville) 07/10/02 & Shreveport Times 07/11/02

THINK OF THE CHILDREN: Today's society tends to take a dim view of child prodigies, assuming that children who excel at figure skating, tennis, or music are being unfairly pushed by greedy parents unable to control their insatiable desire for a superstar in the family. But where does that leave parents with a daughter who genuinely loves her violin so much that she can think of nothing else? Gwendolyn Freed meets a family walking that very tightrope, and doing so without any apparent ruination of anyone's right to a happy childhood. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 07/14/02

FACE TIME WITH AN ORCHESTRA: Young composers need to know how to work with an orchestra so they can understand and explain exactly what they want. Young conductors need face time with orchestras. The New Jersey Composition and Conducting Institute is a new program run by the New Jersey Symphony to give composers and conductors opportunities to work with one another and with a professional orchestra. The New York Times 07/12/02

FOR STRUGGLING GERMANS - SUMMER IN SPAIN: Berlin may be struggling to finance its rich cultural treasures, including three opera companies. But one of those treasures - the Berlin Staatsoper - isn't sitting around waiting for who knows what. The company and music director Daniel Barenboim have moved for the summer to Madrid, where the city is happy to have the 27 soloists, 135 orchestral players, a chorus of 90 and assorted technical staff, not to mention 25 tonnes of sets and costumes. "It is plain that he and the Staatsoper are very popular in the Spanish capital. Local audiences follow the company’s fortunes and the development of the singers as if they were their own." The Times (UK) 07/09/02

PRICE POINT: Though album sales were down modestly last year, there were some bright spots. Where? In lower-priced CDs. They sold very well. "A lot of labels are coming to terms with the fact album prices have gotten too high and that we're competing with video games, CD burning and the Internet now. So pricing is a big factor." Washington Times (Copley) 07/08/02

CHICAGO SYMPHONY'S LONG-OVERDUE HIRE: The Chicago Symphony has just hired its first-ever African American musician. "Tage Larsen, second trumpet for the St. Louis Symphony since 2000, joined the CSO as fourth utility trumpet, effective July 1." Chicago Sun-Times 07/09/02

AND ON ANOTHER FRONT... "Marin Alsop will become only the second woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia when she makes her CSO podium debut there Friday in an all-Russian program, with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as violin soloist. Indeed, there have been only a few women conductors of the CSO at Orchestra Hall." Chicago Tribune 07/09/02

 Last Week's News

Record companies, artists and publicists are invited to submit CDs to be considered for our Editor's Pick's of the month.  Send to: Jerry Bowles, Editor, Sequenza 21, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, NY, NY 10019  Also, feel free to nominate your favorite composer-- even if it's you--for Spotlight of the Week.



Yanks Lose.  Might As Well Write an 

Richard Wilson has written some 80 works in many genres but it is probably fair to say that he is the only composer inspired to write an opera by a losing 
baseball team.

“It was during a prolonged losing streak
of the New York Yankees (we New 
Yorkers love our Yankees) that, musing on the subject of failure, I decided to write an opera about Æthelred the Unready," Wilson says. "The libretto I wrote is 
mainly whimsical. But, it does draw on history, presenting three characters who 
actually existed."

Work on the libretto and then the music of the opera began in the summer of 1992. Excerpts were performed in concert by The American Symphony Chamber Orchestra in 1993 and 1994. The first complete performance is the one captured on a new release from Albany. 

Wilson was born in Cleveland in 1941. He studied piano with Roslyn Pettibone, Egbert Fischer and Leonard Shure; and cello with Robert Ripley and Ernst Silberstein. His first compositional studies were with Roslyn Pettibone and Howard Whittaker. Much of his early musical study took place at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, where he taught cello briefly in the absence of Ernst Silberstein.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard, he holds the Mary Conover Mellon Chair in Music at Vassar; he is also Composer-in-Residence with the American Symphony Orchestra. 

In retrospect, Wilson is lucky to have caught the Yankees in a down cycle since they don't lose that much any more.  These days he'd have to call his opera, Derek the Ready. 

Æthelred the Unready

Classical Grammy Winners

Previous Interviews/Profiles
Simon Rattle, Michael Gordon,Benjamin Lees, Scott Lindroth, David Felder, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Erkki-Sven Tüür, John Luther Adams, Brett Dean, Judith Lang Zaimont, Meyer Kupferman, Evan Chambers, Poul Ruders, Steven R. Gerber, Gloria Coates

Previous Articles/
Busoni The Visionary
The Composer of the Moment:  Mark-Anthony Turnage
Electronic Music
Voices: Henze at 75
Henze Meets Emenim
On Finding Kurtag
Charles Ruggles:  When Men Were Men
Ballet Mécanique
The Adams Chronicles



Sonates pour violin et piano
Composer: Gabriel Faure
Performer: Isabelle Faust, Florent Boffard
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901741 
Isabelle Faust demonstrates that the sky-high standards she set with her award-winning Bartok recordings were no fluke.  An intelligent, mature musician at the peak of her powers, Faust makes even Faure's most romantic  lollipops sound important. 

Chrysalid Requiem
Composer: Toby Twining
Performer: Michael Steinberger, Toby Twining, et al.
Cantaloupe - #21007 
Few recent CDs have irritated me more.  Too long-winded by half, too self-important by three quarters and yet there are moments of  real  inventiveness.  Whatever happened to less is more?

Faure: Requiem 
Franck: Symphony in D Minor
Composers: Gabriel Faure, Cesar Franck Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
Performer: Johannette Zomer, Stephan Genz Ensemble: Collegium Vocale, Orchestre des Champs Elysees
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901771 
Note to Toby Twining:  This is what a masterpiece Requiem sounds like.  You can't own too many copies of Faure's Requiem but if you have only one, this one will do.

...and the lotos rose quietly, quietly
Composer:  Klaus Ib Jørgensen
Da Capo [Naxos] - #8224201 
We are not without sympathy for those misguided individuals who believe the accordian is a musical instument and to demonstrate how large-minded we are in this regard, we recommend these most inventive works for accordion – from solo and duo through chamber music to concerto – by the young Danish composer  Klaus Ib Jørgensen.  The music is highly complex and if you try you can even forget that the noise you're hearing is coming from an instrument that launched the career of Lawrence Welk.

Sacred & Profane
Composer: Britten, Elgar, Vaughn Williams, Delius, Stanford
Performers:   Rias Kammerchor, dir. Marcus Creed
Harmonia Mundi Franc - #901734
From Elgar’s Part Songs (1904) to one of Britten’s very last works, Sacred and Profane (1975), these are some of the most beautiful and best-loved pieces in the English a capella repertory, many of them rarely recorded. Berlin's RIAS-Kammerchor has not only played a decisive part in the revival of the musical life of Berlin but has established itself as the best a capella group currently performing.  Highly recommended.

Coronation Te Deum
Composer: William Walton
  Performer:  Layton, Polyphony, Wallace Collection
Hyperion - #67330 
Hyperion has gone riffling through some dusty corners of Sir William's music drawers to come up with a treasury of goodies--large and small-- from the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of Queen Elizabeth's coronation march to simple Christmas carols, all sung  majestically performed by Polyphony conducted by Stephen Layton with the resplendent brass of THe Wallace Collection.


Deep Night, Deep Autumn
Composer/Performer:  Roger Kleier
Starkland 211
Roger Kleier, an experimental guitarist,
seduces listeners by mutating his guitar in various ways, ranging from the hallowed techniques of Jimi Hendrix and Captain Beefheart, through the extended techniques of avant-garde guitar-mangling, to the recent technological innovations of sampling, layering, and digital sound processing.
All of which can be pretty unpleasant unless the performer has musical sensitivity that goes beyond mere technique.  Fortunately, Kleier maintains a clear connection to the "real" world and the
music on this brooding, elegiac CD is grounded in associations that speak to eloquently to us all. 

L’Invitation au Voyage
Composer: Henri DuParc
MVCD 1148
Henri Duparc was something of a nut case who destroyed virtually everything he wrote, except for this remarkable  collection of sixteen songs, and a few orchestral works and piano pieces. The songs are as good as anything by Berlioz or Debussy or anyone else in the  history of French song. Mezzo soprano Catherine Robbin and baritone Gerald Finley, accompanied by Stephen Ralls, make a strong case for these overlooked masterpieces.

Pierrot lunaire • Dichterliebe 
Composers: Arnold Schoenberg,
Robert Schumann 
Performers: Christine Schäfer • Natascha Osterkorn • Ensemble Intercontemporain • Pierre Boulez 
 Two films by Oliver Herrman on DVD of musical masterpieces by Schoenberg and Schumann.  Schumann's song cycle Dichterliebe is performed in an intimate setting, placed in a low-lit night club in the centre of Berlin, much of it might have been done in the composer's day.  In Pierrot Lunaire,  Herrmann has created onscreen a surreal and grotesque modern-day metropolis through which Pierrot (Christine Schafer) wanders like a ghost, adrift in time and space. 


Choral Ikons
Composer: John Tavener
Conductor: Zdenek Kosler
Performer: The Choir
BBC - Opus Arte
The Choir sings Sir John Tavener's hauntingly beautiful unaccompanied choral music in what is said to be a  virtual reality restoration of the ancient Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople.   Unfortunately, the visual effects are not only unnecessary but somewhat amateurish and cheap looking, thus detracting a bit from the full richness of Tavener's mystic inspiration. 
 This DVD also features Manifestations of God - Sir John Tavener on his choral music and other filler material. 

Solamente Romanz
Composer/Performer: Darren Curtis Skanson
Light classical music for summer chilling, played expertly by Colorado resident Darren Curtis Skanson.  Skanson's original pieces have genuine warmth and charm. 

turquoise swans
Composer: Paul Barker
Performer: Sarah Leonard, soprano
A  remarkable collection of piano and voice songs written by UK composer Paul Barker and sung by virtuoso soprano Sarah Leonard (Michael Nyman’s ‘Prospero’s Books’ and ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’ soundtracks and numerous other 20th century operas). Some of the pieces were inspired by Silvia Plath’s writings, others by Aztec poetry--all are finely crafted miniatures of emotional insight and a perfect vehicle for Leonard’s extraordinary vocal talent. Also included are three arias from one of Barker’s many chamber operas--Dirty Tricks--about the famous British Airways/Virgin lawsuit.  Leonard played an air hostess in that one.  Don't know who played Richard Bransom.

SEQUENZA21/ is published weekly by Sequenza21/, 340 W. 57th Street, 12B, New York, NY 10019
Publisher:  Duane Harper Grant  (212) 582-4153
Editor:    Jerry Bowles   (212) 582-3791
Contributing Editor: Deborah Kravetz 
(C) Sequenza/21 LLC 2000
Sequenza21/The Contemporary Classical Music Weeklyis part of
Classical Music Web Ring
The free linking service provided by Classical Music UK
[ Previous 5 Sites | Previous| Next | Next 5 Sites | Random Site | List Sites ]