It was a fantastic concert tonight, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society: an all-Ives program with Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish. On the first half Dawn showed off the immense variety of the Ives songbook, including a number of pieces familiar from Gil’s performances and recordings of them with the late Jan DeGaetani. “Tom Sails Away” was especially touching; “Serenity” created its silver aura of stillness; “The Housatonic at Stockbridge” was visionary.  Dawn very much still has it – the beauty of sound is there, if a bit darker than it once was. She retains that transparency where there seems to be no distance between the song and the listener.

For the second half, Gil played the Concord Sonata. I can’t claim to having made a comprehensive survey, but of the five or so I have heard, Gil’s recording for Nonesuch remains my favorite, in part simply for the sheer gorgeousness of his piano sound. That sound was present tonight, as was Gil’s ability to clarify the various strata of Ives’ textures and to shape even the most rambunctious moments. A small example: the build-up to the fusillade of fast clusters in the Hawthorne movement was carefully shaded, rather than getting too loud too soon. I remember as a student at Tanglewood observing a rehearsal that Gil was coaching, hearing him exhort the pianist in the ensemble to “Phrase!” What we heard tonight was eloquent phrasing, meaningful contours springing organically from the Ives’s transcendental (and Transcendentalist) piano writing.

I will have two works performed at the Moscow Conservatory this coming December 3, and recently learned who the performers will be. Pianist Natalia Cherkassova will play Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift. This is the set of five short movements that came out of the consortium commission I have written about in earlier posts, including this one. Ms. Cherkassova will also accompany soprano Ekaterina Kichigina in two songs from the cycle Holy the Firm. On the basis of what I have seen on YouTube, I anticipate these will be excellent performances. Heartfelt thanks to scholar Svetlana Sigida who has arranged this program.

Here is Ms. Kichigina singing music of Schnittke:

and Ms. Cherkassova performing with Ivan Bushuev in the Jolivet Flute Sonata:

(Of course, my title refers to this – composed by this pianist, who later composed this.)

Some concerts of interest in various places, including 2 anniversary events:

- Dolce Suono‘s 10th anniversary concert, Sunday, October 12, 3:00 pm, Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute, Philadelphia.

- Lee Hyla Memorial Concert, Thursday, October 16, 7:30 pm, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. The late composer of uncommonly intelligent and gutsy works, is honored with a concert of his chamber music. Read about him here.

- Network for New Music celebrates its 30th anniversary, Sunday, October 26, 4:00 pm, Settlement Music School, Queen Street branch in Philadelphia. The special event here is the first performance of an “exquisite corpse” – a new work created by 30 composers (myself included), each of whom contributed 6 measures, with only a tempo marking and the last measure of the preceding composer’s segment as guidance.

- Richard Wernick and George Crumb will be honored in their 80th and 85th birthday years respectively in a Penn Contemporary Music concert in Rose Recital Hall on the Penn campus, Wednesday, November 5 at 8:00 pm. I’ll be playing Crumb’s A Little Suite for Christmas, A.D. 1979. A piano trio by Wernick, and Crumb’s Black Angels will also be heard.

 

- Network for New Music’s 30th Anniversary celebration, featuring an “exquisite corpse” created by 30 composers, will be October 26 at 4 pm, at the Queen Street branch of the Settlement Music School here in Philadelphia. More here.

- I got into a discussion (rather tangential to the post itself) in the comments section of a Joseph Horowitz post here. I probably should have bit my tongue and gone off to practice the piano, but the notion of there being no American music worthy of comparison with that of Penderecki did set me off a bit.

- Kile Smith writes for New Music Box with customary wit and insight about music and church beginning here.

Emerson copied out long passages in which Goethe talks about originality and the influence of others. Far from feeling a need to do nothing except what is completely original and novel, Goethe actually defines genius as “the faculty of seizing and turning to account every thing that strikes us.” He protested that he himself would have got nowhere “if this art of appropriation were considered as derogatory to genius.”

- from Robert D. Richardson Jr.’s Emerson: The Mind on Fire.

The words “art of appropriation” have come to refer to the post-modern approach of artists like Sherrie Levine. But I think it is closer to the spirit of the quote to understand it as characterizing the inclusive modernism of Ives, Mahler, Berg, Stravinsky, Rochberg, Harbison, etc. (as contrasted with the more tightly focussed modernism of Webern, Varèse, Feldman, and Babbitt.)

Rochberg taught Reise; Reise taught Gill. So when pianist Jeremy Gill plays a concert with violist Peter Minkler at Penn this Wednesday, October 1, at 8 pm in Rose Recital Hall, and the program includes works by Rochberg, Reise, current Penn faculty member Anna Weesner, and Gill, well, that’s what the post title is about. Rose Recital Hall is in the Fisher-Bennett building at 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia – the concert is free.

Here are some comments by Jeremy:

“I met George Rochberg in 1995 at a summer composition program in Madison, Wisconsin. I was then an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music, and Rochberg had already retired from a long teaching career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he built one of the finest composition programs in the country along with his colleagues George Crumb and Richard Wernick. I only had one private lesson with Rochberg that summer, but it was the single best lesson of my life, and I knew that he would remain a major figure in my development.

“When I came to Penn in 1996 to do a PhD in composition, I had the opportunity to continue our relationship, which soon blossomed into a true friendship (he and his wife, Gene, who is still alive and well at 94, were living in Newtown Square, a Main Line suburb of Philadelphia). Rochberg, though nearly 60 years my senior, always treated me like a colleague, introducing me to his acquaintances as his “young friend.” He continued to be a great mentor to me until his death in 2005, whereupon Gene asked me to edit a book he left unfinished for publication. A Dance of Polar Opposites came out in 2012, published by University of Rochester Press.

“The Viola Sonata that Baltimore Symphony violist Peter Minkler and I will perform on October 1 is one of the first pieces of Rochbergs that I came to love. It is full of fire, pathos, and is formidably crafted: the work of a true master and one of the most important works in the viola/piano repertoire. Peter and I gave our first performance of the work at the Mansion at Strathmore in New Bethesda, MD last spring (after a private performance for Gene) and Ive been dying to play it again since. Peter has been playing the sonata for about 30 years, and has made, in my opinion, the best commercial recording of the piece available (on the Centaur Records label, with pianist Lura Johnson). It is an honor to play this great work with him.”

UnknownThe Crossing, Philadelphia’s extraordinary new music choir, has just announced its 2014-15 season, and I am happy to say they will be reviving my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, which they premiered this past summer. The date is Sunday, June 21, 2015, as part of the group’s annual Month of Moderns festival – more info about the program here. You can see video of this past June’s performance by choosing the video link above. There are several posts about the piece below; perhaps start with this one. You can find more posts by clicking on “The Crossing” in the tag cloud found in the sidebar on the right.