— From his various blog posts about his forthcoming book on the Concord Sonata, It’s clear that Kyle Gann has written an extremely insightful, meaty book, a thorough study of this cornerstone piece. Given that, it is appalling to read about the B. S. he is having to endure at the hands of his pre-publication reviewers.

— I was happy to see three of my favorite composers – Harbison, Rochberg and Crumb – get some respect on this best-of-2014 CD list by George Grella (linked to be Alex Ross). I guess I must need more coffee, because at first I read this sentence:

I have mostly grudg­ingly admired Harbison’s com­pos­ing, appre­ci­at­ing how his music was made with­out enjoy­ing it…

as meaning John took no pleasure in it as he wrote it! (Totally my problem, not the author.) I guess some alienation from your own work – as well as some affection for it – is part of the mix for any composer. The new String Trio is fabulous, as Grella suggests, but I don’t agree that it is “surprisingly” good, as I have found John’s music similarly fine all along the way.

— Distressing news about Allan Kozinn here. Hard not to see this alongside the reduced number of classical listings in The New Yorker as a shrinking of the conversation about classical music in print.

— I got word that my Waltzing the Spheres has been selected for the New York Festival of Song program I wrote about earlier. Although I wrote about hoping for the premiere of my new Susan Orlean setting, Waltzing will be a NYC premiere, and there is another possibility developing for the premiere of the Orlean piece – so it is working out nicely.

— You can hear this past September’s Jordan Hall memorial concert for Lee Hyla on Instant Encore. Read David Rakowski’s post on Lee here.

— wonderful program by the Gamut Ensemble presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society Wednesday night. Two Bach cantatas, plus some arias, with Sarah Shafer, soprano, and Thomas Meglioranza, baritone, both sounding superb.

Here is Julia Neumann, soprano, with the J. S. Bach Foundation of St. Gallen, directed by Rudolf Lutz, doing one of the arias from BWV 57, heard at the Gamut concert.

Svetlana Sigida, musicologist on the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory, sent me some pictures from the December 3 performances of my music at the Conservatory. First, Ekaterina Kichigina (soprano) and Natasha Cherkasova (piano), who performed two of the songs from my cycle Holy the Firm:

DSCN0622

Ms. Cherkasova also played my set of piano pieces, Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift:

DSCN0626

Many thanks to both musicians, and to Professor Sigida who put in a tremendous amount of effort to make this concert happen.

(In case it is too much trouble to Google my post title, and in the unlikely event you can’t figure out what it means, click here.)

I was honored to be mentioned in David Patrick Stearns’s review of events in classical music for 2014 in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote:

Philadelphia had its own unofficial biennial. In a town sometimes accused of championing composers from far away at the expense of locals, The Crossing choir’s June/July Month of Moderns Festival featured new works by both Robert Maggio (The Women Where We Are Living) and James Primosch (Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus) at peak inspiration. In October, Kile Smith delivered The Consolation of Apollo, an ingenious melding of the writings of sixth-century Boethius and the musings of the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968. Would these works have been written were there not a choir like this to sing them?

To answer his rhetorical question – no, I think not, at least not in my own case. I wrote the piece knowing I could count on a superb performance, no matter what the challenges I set before the group. I’m happy to say The Crossing will reprise the piece next June 21.

But what do I love when I love my God? Not material beauty or beauty of temporal order; not the brilliance of earthly light, so welcome to our eyes; not the sweet melody of harmony and song; not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes and spices; not manna or honey; not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God. And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, and embrace; but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self, when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space; when it listens to sound that never dies away; when it breathes fragrance that is not borne away on the wind; when it tastes food that is never consumed by eating; when it clings to an embrace from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire. That is what I love when I love my God.

— Augustine, Confessions, X, 6
I think there is a song or motet text here. This text was pointed out to me by a friend who saw it used as an epigraph in a very fine book of poems by Allen Grossman, “And the Dew Lay All Night Upon My Branch”.

Happy to see the NY Times mention my participation in the February 10 concert by New York Festival of Song. The program will feature excerpts from Paul Moravec’s opera-in-progress on Stephen King’s novel “The Shining”, along with music by Chris Theofanidis and Paola Prestini. Not sure what they are planning to include of mine; I’m hoping it will include the little song I did on a Susan Orlean text, which would be a premiere. But I’ll be grateful for whatever they program – NYFOS concerts are consistently fine.

Yesterday I finished my little flute duet for January 18th’s Dolce Suono concert at Trinity Center here in Philadelphia. Mimi Stillman asked me and a number of colleagues to contribute short pieces inspired by Bach for a program honoring her teacher, Julius Baker. Andrea Clearfield, Richard Danielpour, Daniel Dorff, Jeremy Gill, Heidi Jacob, Jan Krzywicki, Robert Maggio and myself are all writing pieces for the occasion. My piece takes off from the Badinerie, the closing movement of Bach’s orchestral suite in B minor. (A badinerie is a scherzo in duple meter; I don’t know of any examples of the term outside of a few Baroque pieces. I suppose it is related to “badinage” or “banter”.) While the original movement features a single flute with strings and continuo, I have concocted a duet for two flutes alone – hence the name Badinerie Squared. The piece is based on motifs from the Bach but with some playful distortions of the harmony. Here is a snippet of the original:

original bach

And here is the opening of my duet:

jp opening

Other versions of the opening downward arpeggio include these:

jp bach #2

and later there is an inverted form as well.

There is a good bit of harmonic slip-sliding going on in this light-hearted piece that might bring Prokofieff to mind — or, given the character of the motifs, P.D.Q. Bach!

Mimi will be joined for my piece by Jeffrey Khaner, principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra and another Julius Baker pupil. Jeff premiered my A Flutist’s Sketchbook not that long ago.

0312 kram5

 

Here’s the poster for this week’s concert at the Moscow Conservatory featuring music by George Crumb, Jay Reise, Andrew Rudin, and myself. Details here. It is a curious thing to see one’s name and the titles of one’s pieces written in not just a foreign language, but in characters that are unintelligible to me.