Yellowstone Rhythms

In anticipation of next Wednesday’s Wail of the Voice concert, here is my colleague Jay Reise‘s program note for his contribution to the concert, a work for saxophone and piano called Yellowstone Rhythms. It’s the first performance of the piece in this version.

Yellowstone Rhythms is in one movement and lasts about 15 minutes. It was inspired by the vivid and multi-faceted atmosphere of the dramatic and ever-changing landscape of Yellowstone National Park: variously hot and bright, cold and dark, filled with mysterious life and vibrant geological formations; sometimes agitated – even fomenting, and yet at other times seeming to exist in slow motion, evoking feelings of isolation and timelessness.

Yellowstone was originally composed for bassoon and piano and was premiered by Charles Ullery, principal bassoonist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming in 1995. Mr. Ullery has recorded the piece with pianist Marc-André Hamelin (Albany Records). Ullery also premiered a version for bassoon and 10 instruments with the Network for New Music in 2001. It was described at that time in the Philadelphia Inquirer as, “Nature in its most songful state.”

The version being presented this evening was written especially for this performance by Messrs. Lorber and Bengtson.

That’s a reference to Samuel Lorber, saxophone, and Matt Bengston, piano.

More about the concert in my next post.

Wail of the Voice

Lots of new music at Penn in coming weeks. Music by Penn faculty past and present will be heard on Wednesday, March 28, at a program playfully called “Wail of the Voice”, with reference to the Crumb work that will end the program, Voice of the Whale. There will be music by current faculty Anna Weesner and Jay Reise, as well as myself. The Daedalus Quartet will play Anna’s piece, Greg DeTurck will offer my Piano Variations, and there will be a piece for saxophone and piano by Jay. In addition to Greg and the Daedalus, Matt Bengtson (piano), Sam Lorber (saxophone), and Michele Kelly (flute) will also be heard. A pre-concert discussion will be at 7:00, concert at 8:00, all this in Rose Recital Hall at Fisher-Bennett Hall on the Penn campus.

One week later, April 4, same place, same time, the New York New Music Ensemble will appear. The program includes:

Rand Steigerelliott’s instruments (2010)
Eric ChasalowOn That Swirl of Ending Dust (2012) Written for NYNME
Yiorgos VassilandonakisQuatuor pour la fin d’une ère (2012)  Written for NYNME
Zhou Long Cloud Earth (2012) Written for NYNME


Hear whales wailing here.

Spring-like Miscellany

Amid the mild temperatures here In Philly, I offer a few miscellaneous links:

– Fanfare has a substantial interview with my Penn colleague Jay Reise, as well as reviews of some of his CDs.

– two views of Measha Bruggergosman: astonishing performances of  Chausson and Joni Mitchell.

– recent listening:

– Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions. Three discs encompassing the albums Miles, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones made quickly to finish out a Prestige contract as the group was switching to Columbia. Fascinating to hear so much material dating from a relatively short period of time. A fourth disc includes live recordings from the same period as well as some transcriptions of Miles’s solos.

– Sofia Gubaidulina: Offertorium (Gidon Kremer, Boston Symphony, Charles Dutoit); Hommage to T. S. Eliot (Christine Whittlesey, soprano, Music from Lockenhaus ensemble). I know there are some folks who value this music very highly, and I want to like Gubaidulina’s music. After all, the premise of passionate expression conveyed by a wide-range of musical materials is sympathetic. But in the end the thinness of the musical discourse frustrates me, particularly in the Eliot piece. I’m not saying you have to have counterpoint all the time – there are composers like Debussy and Crumb who can make the non-contrapuntal passages in their music work, but that takes finer musical ideas than are in evidence here. The performances are intense, often hyper-intense, as one would expect with Kremer. But given the poverty of the music, the intensity seems incongruous, a strenuous effort to sell what is not first-rate merchandise.


Upcoming in Philly and NYC

– March 18 – soprano Mary MacKenzie (of SongFusion) performs with Shuffle Concert this Friday, March 18 at Baruch College. It’s a nice idea – the audience picks the program on the spot!

-March 19 and 20 – Orchestra 2001 plays Hindemith, Berio and Roberto Sierra. Julianne Baird, soprano; Marcantonio Barone, piano, Lori Barnett, cello are featured. The performance on the 19th is at the Trinity Center in Center City, Philadelphia, on the 20th at Swarthmore College.

– March 22 – the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum presents a webcast interview with George Crumb at 7 PM. Audio trailer here.

– March 29 – Penn Contemporary Music presents violinist Maria Bachman and pianist Jon Klibonoff at Penn’s Amado Recital Hall in Irvine Auditorium, 34th and Spruce Street. Program includes Glass: Sonata No. 1; Paul Moravec: Three Pieces; George Rochberg: Sonata; and the first performance of a new work by Penn faculty composer Jay Reise, The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow. The Glass and Moravec works are Philadelphia premieres. The late George Rochberg was, of course, a long-time Penn faculty member, and he wrote his sonata for Bachman.

– April 12 – looking a little ahead, the Curtis Symphony Orchestra will perform Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony at the Kimmel Center, Christoph Eschenbach conducting, with Di Wu, piano and Thomas Bloch, ondes Martenot.

And More New Links

– My Penn colleague Jay Reise has a new website with the usual array of composerly info, including audio clips. Handsome design by Jonas Music Services.

– Philly trumpeter Bart Miltenberger is blogging at Outside Pants.

– Of the many worthwhile blogs at Arts Journal, I have been spending enjoyable time with Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides lately. He has a knack for finding tasty video clips.

Upcoming in Philly

Two leading new music groups in town are active soon:

– this Friday, Oct. 29th, the Network for New Music Ensemble will collaborate with composer Hyo-shin Na at the Korean Arts Festival being held at Haverford College.

– Nov. 6 at Trinity Center in Philadelphia, and Nov. 7 at Swarthmore College, Orchestra 2001 plays music by Tan DunMay T-Chi Chen, Penn alum Jennifer Barker, and Penn faculty member Jay Reise – Jay’s piece is a premiere.

Rasputin found alive outside Paris

I just learned that Rasputin, an opera by my U Penn colleague Jay Reise, will receive its French premiere this December 4 and 5. According to the press release, the piece wil be done at the Opéra de Massy, just outside Paris. The production will be that of the Helikon Opera which staged the work in Moscow in 2008-2009. It’s a striking production, involving giant Fabergé eggs as part of the set – see image at left. The director will be Dmitry Bertman and Konstantine Chudovsky will conduct. Nikolai Galin will sing the title role.

The piece was commissioned by Beverly Sills for the New York City Opera a number of years ago. I attended the original production and remember it as a powerful piece. This is the third time the work is being done, which is two more times than a lot of operas, and speaks well for the piece’s viability.

I’m not sure if the following story if true or not, but my understanding is that Jay chose the topic partly at the suggestion of George Crumb, who pointed out that since lots of opera singers keep singing after they appear to have been killed, Rasputin, who, according to legend survived multiple attempts on his life, would be the perfect character for an opera.