Dutilleux In Memoriam

The NY Times obituary is here. I like Esa-Pekka Salonen’s comments here.

My own point of contact with Dutilleux’s music was at Marlboro Music where I had the privilege of rehearsing Les Citations, a work for oboe, harpsichord, double bass, and percussion. Oboist Rudy Vrbsky wanted to try the piece, and no keyboard player was available. Although I was there as a composer, I was asked to play the harpsichord part. It’s not his most profound piece, but the composer’s exquisite craft was still very much present.



Easter Friday Miscellany

– David Patrick Stearns offer a substantial interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen.

– The inimitable Jeremy Denk writes about the Goldberg Variations on Deceptive Cadence.


Here are some pictures from last week’s New York New Music Ensemble concert at Penn. The performance was superb, at times astounding. All the pieces had merit – I was especially struck by On That Swirl of Ending Dust by master of electronic media Eric Chasalow. The piece combined Eric’s exquisitely crafted electronic sounds with the live ensemble in tight synchrony. There were hints of jazz in the second movement, while the third movement was a quiet ritual, with bits of spoken text in the electronic component that made me think of a sober family gathering. Rand Steiger’s exuberant tribute to Elliott Carter, Elliott’s Instruments, enfolds fragments from an array of Carter’s own pieces. It was interesting how one could still recognize references to essentially athematic music. Yiorgos Vassilandonakis’s Quatuor pour la fin d’une ère evocatively explored liminal sounds, a dreamscape not quite in focus.  Cloud Earth by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long was less densely worked than some of the other music on the program. There were imaginative textures here, as well as a little too much wood block for me.

Here are (l to r) Linda Quan, Steve Gosling, Chris Finckel and half of Jean Kopperud in rehearsal:

James Baker, Steve Gosling, Jean Kopperud, Jayn Rosenfeld, and guest artist Dave Shively (regular NYNME percussionist Daniel Druckman couldn’t make it):

and the band bowing after the show:

New Music at Philadelphia Orchestra 2011-2012

The season announcement for the Philadelphia Orchestra has come out. There are plenty of appealing concerts, but it is rather slim pickings for new music. From what I can see, next season includes:

-Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Higdon Concerto for Orchestra, Dec. 8 through 11. This is the piece that helped rocket Jennifer to fame thanks not only to its intrinsic qualities, but to the fact that it was premiered by the Philadelphia the week what was then called the American Symphony Orchestra League was having its convention in Philadelphia.

Michael Torke’s Ash, with David Zinman conducting January 6 – 8. I think this is the first time Michael’s music is being played by the Orchestra.

Esa-Pekka Salonen presenting his own Violin Concerto, with Leila Josefowicz soloist, March 29-31.

And that is about it as far as living composers. This is another transitional year for the orchestra, of course, and I would guess there will be a little more new music as Yannick settles in – I certainly hope so.

Bartok in NYC and Philadelphia

Thanks to Alex Ross, and via Opera Chic, I checked out the video where Esa-Pekka explains the story of Bluebeard’s Castle to the L.A. Phil. But I want to call your attention to one of the videos that came up when the Bluebeard one was over – Esa-Pekka on Bartok in NYC. Very moving. He visits Columbia U. to check out Bartok’s papers which they have thanks to his ethnomusicological work there.

I recall there being a bust of Bartok in the Columbia Music Library on the top floor of Dodge Hall. My understanding is that Jack Beeson was a pupil of Bartok – the only American to study with him. I wish I had talked to Jack about this.

There are more Bartok papers here in Philly. The U of PA library has the papers of the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, and Bartok’s 3rd Quartet won a composition contest the Society sponsored. Consequently, Penn has an autograph of the Bartok 3rd. Bartok shared the prize with… Alfredo Casella.

French but not French

If you buy Ned Rorem’s suggestion that the world is divided into the French and the German, Gloria Cheng’s Telarc album of piano pieces by Lutoslawski, Stucky, and Salonen is an album of French music composed by a Pole, an American, and a Finn. As Stucky writes in his booklet notes for the album, both he and Salonen look to Lutoslawski as a musical father, while all three composers share “the whole Debussy/Stravinsky outlook”.

The Stucky pieces on the disc are miniatures, a set of Four Album Leaves, and a even briefer set of variations in honor of David Zinman. Throughout, Stucky’s exquisite ear for harmony is in evidence, along with a touch of Ligeti’s influential piano etudes in the faster movements. The Salonen pieces are bigger: YTA II,  Three Preludes, and Dichotomie, the last sonata-like in its dimensions. Lutoslawski’s influence is heard in the emphasis on harmony and texture rather than melody. But there are also traces of Berio and minimalism. When Salonen gets the whole piano resounding, he manages to engage the sound of the romantic, heroic 19th century piano, but without nostalgia. The Lutoslawski Sonata on the disc is a very early work from 1934; it is good to hear this piece, but would that we had a second big solo piano piece from this composer, one in his mature style. We do have his powerful piano concerto – recently recorded by Leif Ove Andsnes and the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Welser-Möst to spendid effect.

Gloria Cheng’s playing throughout the disc is exemplary, commanding fine details, brilliant passage work, and grand gestures. The beautiful piano sound – neither too close nor too distant,  neither too dry nor too reverberant, was captured by Grammy-winning producer and engineer Judith Sherman.