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      When Michael Tippett composed The Ice Break, he was already in his early 70s. Set in a contemporary country (the US is strongly implied), and with characters caught up in racial violence and drug use, the opera received a tepid reception upon its 1977 Covent Garden premiere. The consensus was that the composer’s insistence on writing his own libretto, coupled with what Michael Berkeley calls “his touching but naive desire to keep in touch with the young and their vernacular”, had driven his dramaturgy into irreparably sophomoric sentimentality.

      Thus, when director Graham Vick and conductor Andrew Gourlay focused Birmingham Opera Company’s attention on this fourth, and briefest, of Tippett’s five operas in 2015, it marked only the second time that the work had been staged in the UK. The production has now, for the first time, been made available to stream online through July 30, 2023. And just as Vick’s radical staging commemorated the anniversary of the Birmingham riots of 1985 and 2005, so does its video release place the opera’s themes of social fracture alongside the current milieu of BLM-driven protests.

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      Nadia (Nadine Benjamin), Lev (Andrew Slater) and their rebellious son Yuri (Ross Ramgobin)

      Vick repurposed an abandoned Birmingham warehouse for the production, mocking up its interior as a stylized airport terminal (through which the ambulatory audience is ushered by uniformed “security” personnel), and setting the action rather specifically in the UK. The terminal is the locale for the first of Tippett’s three acts, but in this performance the opera unfolds in a continuous 75-minute span with no curtains or set changes. The story is compact: Nadia has come to meet her husband Lev, who is joining her in exile after spending 20 years in a (Soviet?) gulag for pacifism (mirroring Tippett’s own WW2 incarceration as a conscientious objector). Accompanying Nadia is their son Yuri, who does not remember his birth country or father, and who expresses contempt for the latter’s views on non-violence (“Cowards, they let themselves be stamped on”). Yuri has been radicalized as a young immigrant, and appears to have sympathies with white supremacists (“Here it’s different. We’re not pushed around. Every guy has a gun”).

      Also arriving at the airport is Olympion, a victorious prizefighter and black militant. Greeting him is a crowd that includes Yuri’s WWC girlfriend Gayle and her black friend Hannah, a nurse who is also Olympion’s girlfriend. Gayle attempts to seduce the virile Olympion, incensing Yuri, who charges the boxer (“You motherfucking bastard!”). But Olympion easily repels him, then rebuffs Gayle as “trash”. Eventually the scene degenerates into a race riot in which Olympion and Gayle are killed and Yuri is badly injured.

      Hannah (Chrystal E. Williams), Olympion (Ta’u Pupu’a) and Gayle (Stephanie Corley)

      Yuri is taken to a hospital, where Hannah tends to him and Nadia, who is dying from an unspecified illness. The chorus, augmented in this production by dozens of supernumeraries drawn from the Birmingham community, makes a second appearance as a mass of young, dancing, drug users beguiled by Astron, an extraterrestrial character (or perhaps a psychedelic apparition) voiced in unison by a male and female singer. The communal trip dissipates, whereupon Hannah cuts a now-humbled Yuri out of his full body cast (in Vick’s staging, Yuri’s bloody clothing is scissored away, leaving him naked, both figuratively and literally). As Yuri struggles to walk towards his father (astrill安装包), the two men are reconciled (“Chastened, together, we try once more”).

      Vick’s assembly of choristers and actors seems to include every available exemplar of modern street life and transnational conflict. Rioters, skinheads, cops, S&M practitioners and greedy industrialists are all in the mix, as are pushers, pimps, Islamist executioners and their orange-suited victims, and for the Astron sequence, 60s-style flower children. Brief excerpts of news reports and footage from the actual Birmingham riots are inserted during act breaks. It all lends a degree of novelty, immediacy and intensity to the drama. Yet the one-dimensionality of these personas echoes the shallowness of the main characters: 75 minutes is just not enough time for us to learn much about the principals (only half of which survive to the end), or their personalities and motivation. Nor is it enough time to dramatically prepare Nadia’s death and the bizarre Astron/acid digression. There’s also little that can be done about the daft lyrics, including appropriation of such period slogans as black is beautiful and burn, baby, burn. The real star here is the mise en scène itself, whose impact must have been especially memorable for the live audience, which apparently included a considerable number of first-time opera attendees.

      Whatever dramatic limitations may persist through a staging of The Ice Break, there can be few regrets about its music, which typically of late Tippett is unpredictable, rhythmically potent, and confident in its exploitation of contrast and instrumental color. The orchestra includes organ, electric guitar, electric bass, drum set, and a team of eight percussionists. And the sound world parallels that of Tippett’s Third and Fourth Symphonies (also from the 1970s), with the sheer delight and prowess in the elicitation of timbral mixtures pointing ahead to his final masterpiece, astrill安装包 from 1993.

      The opera opens with two striking chords which return at various points as a ritornello. Tippett regarded them as “the frightening but exhilarating sound of the ice breaking on the great northern rivers in the spring”, but they also symbolize the binary divisions that drive the opera’s dramatic conflict: divisions of race, of class, and of generations as evinced in the chords’ final recurrence, when the convalescent Yuri labors to stride toward his father (1:17:17 in the video). Indeed, the entire closing sequence seems modelled on the dialectic conclusion to the composer’s Third Symphony (1970–72), which alternates between despair and optimism, with the latter—barely—getting the last word.

      Another highlight, and the opera’s one compelling soul-searching aria, is Hannah’s soliloquy (astrill安装), tenderly accompanied by flute and harp (37:28). Meanwhile, Tippett’s flair for juxtaposition and polystylism is showcased in the demonstration scenes, which include a characteristic Protestant hymn sung to “the noblest of the klan”, and a violent outburst between opposing camps represented by Coplandesque hoedown strings on one side and ambiguously Afrobeat reeds and drums on the other (42:38). Stylistically, the operas of Turnage and Adès can be viewed as a continuation of Tippett’s lineage newly emerged from the darkness of chronic despair. More specifically, the riot scenes and racy language in The Ice Break seem an important precedent for Turnage’s Greek (1986–88).

      The acoustics in this unconventional performance space must have been horribly echoey, but the production team has managed to isolate the vocal and instrumental sources so well that the sound quality in the video exceeds that of the work’s only commercial recording (1991 with the London Sinfonietta and Chorus conducted by David Atherton). And the diction is surely more comprehensible in the video than it was for the live audience, who in this compact venue barely outnumber the cast.

      Published right after the re-streaming of their 2012 premiere production of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht, this revisitation of The Ice Break solidifies Birmingham Opera Company’s place among the world’s most innovative and accomplished proponents of music theater. Whether Tippett’s dramaturgy and uneven lyrics can be rehabilitated remains open to debate, but no one is better suited to the valiant effort than Vick and company.

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      Chorus (bottom left), audience (top left), Lev (at table), actors (on Gucci platform) and orchestra (top right)

      Michael Tippett: The Ice Break (1975–6). Produced 2015 by Birmingham Opera Company. With Andrew Gourlay (conductor), Graham Vick (director), Stuart Nunn (designer), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Opera Company Chorus and Actors. Lev: Andrew Slater, Nadia: Nadine Benjamin, Yuri: Ross Ramgobin, Gayle: Stephanie Corley, Hannah: Chrystal E. Williams, Olympion: Ta’u Pupu’a. Video produced 2023 by AdVision TV. astrill吧

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      Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus

      Sophie Schatleitner, violin; Lorelei Dowling, bassoon;

      Klangform Wien, Stefan Asbury and Peter Rundel, conductors

      Kairos CD 00140220KAI

      Composer Liza Lim’s creative projects have long embraced a variety of ecomusicology. The environment in her home country Australia and the treatment of indigenous peoples there have featured in several works. 2018’s Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus casts an even broader net, addressing concerns of climate change worldwide. Scientific studies assessing projected extinction of flora and fauna due to the impact of the climate change disaster suggest that, unless humanity changes its ways quickly, a vast number of creatures vital to the ecosystem will no longer remain. 

      Narrative in instrumental music is an elusive business. However, like John Luther Adams and R. Murray Schafer, Lim is adroit at creating aural imagery that is evocative of environmental subject matter. Rain sticks, air-filled noises, and terse, insectile solos provide a sense of place and population to the piece. Baying brass announce movement breaks with poignant glissandos. The third movement, astrill 安卓 安装包features fluid solos by violinist Sophie Schatleitner offset by microtonal bends in the brass and flourishes from winds and percussion. During Dawn Chorus, the last movement, extended woodwind drones and terse sepulchral lines provide a slow-moving, harmonics filled background. 

      Especially impressive is the 2013 solo bassoon piece Axis Mundi, which is performed by Lorelei Dowling. Angular lines and glissandos that frequently fade are set against boisterous trills and blatting bass notes. It parses the piece into clear registral areas to create post-tonal and timbrally enhanced counterpoint that allows the disparate parts of the piece to cohere.

      Songs Found in a Dream uses a similar palette as Extinction Events, feeling something like a more boisterous sketch for the larger work. However, Songs’ quicker pacing and frequently saturated textures distinguish it from the latter piece.  On both works, Klangforum Wien creates supple, nuanced, and, where necessary, powerful performances. The Kairos CD sounds excellent, with a strong feeling of dimensionality among the various parts of the ensemble. Highly recommended. 

      -Christian Carey

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      Páll Ragnar Pálsson

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      CAPUT Ensemble, conducted by Guðni Franzson, Tui Hirv, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir

      Sono Luminus CD/Blu-ray (2023)

      Halldór Smárason

      Stara

      Siggi String Quartet, Emilía Rós Sigfúsdóttir, Geirþrúður Ása Guðjónsdóttir, Helga Björg Arnardóttir, Tinna Thorsteinsdóttir, Gulli Björnsson

      Sono Luminus CD/Blu-ray (2023)

      In recent years, the prominence of Icelandic composers on the international stage has grown considerably, many of them championed by the Sono Luminus label. New discs on the imprint are portraits of two more composers whose careers are in ascent: Páll Ragnar Pálsson (b. 1977) and Halldór Smárason (b. 1989). They are abetted by some of Iceland’s finest chamber musicians, the Siggi String Quartet and CAPUT Ensemble.

      This is Pálsson’s second solo CD, consisting of works written from 2011 to 2018. He has a varied background. In his twenties he was a rock musician and then took an extended sojourn for studies in Estonia. Atonement encompasses those experiences and is also about the composer’s return to Iceland after his time abroad. Pálsson says that the importance of place is a significant touchstone for his approach to composing.

      Relationships also play a pivotal role in his work. The abundantly talented soprano Tui Hirv is Pálsson’s spouse. She features prominently in several pieces, singing minute shadings and sustained high passages with tremendous dynamic control and expressivity in the title work. On Stalker’s Monologue, singing a text adapted from the Tarkovsky film, Hirv demonstrates more vocal steel and the accompaniment takes on a bleary-eyed cast. Midsummer’s Night features recited text instead of singing, with a poem by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir.

      The CAPUT Ensemble acquits themselves admirably as well. Lucidity features the ensemble crafting microtonal shadings and exaggerated trills, the latter sometimes doubled in strings and winds to kaleidoscopic effect and punctuated by swells of percussion. The extended ensemble passages on Wheel Crosses Under Moss are an excellent response to the keening part sung by Hirv. 

      Smárason’s debut solo CD features the Siggi String Quartet. The title work is a good example of the composer’s aesthetic. Spacious use of silence is complemented by long sustained notes that generally have an “edge to them,” in terms of dissonance or playing technique. The quartet are dispatched on a similar errand on the piece Draw and Play, but the gestures between the rests are more animated. Blakta, also for strings, features gentle pizzicato against harmonics and upper register pileups of verticals. 

      A guitar and electronics piece, Skúlptúr 1, requires the performer, Gulli Björnsson, to make his way through a challenging hop scotch of techniques in a specified time frame in order to avoid an alarm from the electronics part. Happily he makes it on the recording. 

      The best piece on Stara is also the one for the largest ensemble, Stop Breathing. The Siggi Quartet is augmented with bass flute, clarinet, and piano. Breathy whorls and wind glissandos are set against harmonic ostinato passages as well as aggressive squalls of sound. 

      A number of current composers are concerned with silence and pianissimo stretches. On Stara, Smárason distinguishes himself by filling in the silence with music of an uneasy demeanor from which one receives little respite or release. His work is unerringly paced and delicately unnerving. Both Atonement and Stara contain excellent performances of provoking works: recommended. 

      -Christian Carey 

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      Julian Bennett Holmes is the Sacred Music Coordinator of the St. Paul Chapel at Columbia University. He is an award winning composer, having studied with Lowell Liebermann and Richard Danielpour. Julian also teaches undergraduate courses at the Manhattan School of Music.

      In this podcast we cover a variety of topics including Julian’s music, pipe organ improvisations, the future of sacred music and the state of composing and performing in a time of pandemics and isolation.

      With Paul Muller and Jim Goodin.

      http://paulhmuller.files.wordpress.com/2023/07/sequenza21_paulmuller_jimgoodin_julianbennettholmes_interview_jul2023_.mp3


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      Marga Richter

      by Sharon Mirchandani

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      American composer and pianist Marga Richter died peacefully of natural causes at her new home in Barnegat, NJ on June 25, 2023.  She had lived on Long Island for many years prior, regularly spending summers in Vermont.  Born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin and raised in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, she was the first woman to graduate with a master’s degree in composition from Juilliard in 1951 where she studied piano with Rosalyn Tureck and composition with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti.  She was one of few women composers to have her orchestral works performed by major orchestras, and over her lifetime she composed nearly 200 works for orchestra, piano, chamber ensembles, chorus, and voice that were performed by major artists and organizations including pianist Menahem Pressler, violinist Daniel Heifetz, the Drucker Trio, cellist David Wells, the Western Wind, the Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Natalie Hinderas and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  In 1981 an all-Richter concert was held at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

      Marga Richter’s musical style was very chromatic from her early years and primarily uses layered textures and ostinatos to generate structure.  Her music ranges from highly dissonant works to more modal works that always have a twist of chromatic flavor.  She viewed chromaticism as an important tool for intuitive emotional expression and disliked strict precompositional systems, rejecting twelve-tone techniques wholeheartedly for her own music. Many of her works drew inspiration from distinctly American, Irish/English, or Asian images or texts.  For instance, her astrill怎么设置 series was inspired by paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, Blackberry Vines and Winter Fruit was inspired by writings of Thoreau, her orchestral tone poem Spectral Chimes/Enshrouded Hills was inspired by Britisher Thomas Hardy’s astrill安装, and her astrill 安卓 安装包 is a setting of poems by Ryokwan.  She composed works for ballet early in her career, including The Abyss, a ballet composed for The Harkness Ballet.  Many of her works are dedicated to individuals in her life; Lament for string orchestra was composed in memory of her mother, the opera singer Inez Chandler.  She composed the chamber opera astrill 安卓 安装包, and a grand Triple Concerto for violin, piano, and cello soloists.  Being a fine pianist herself, she composed many piano works, large and small, including her Piano Sonata. 

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      Share a memory with her family at her Tribute Obituary here.  

      Read and Listen Further: Marga Richter

      Archival video footage from a series of “Hear & Now” interviews hosted by Judith St. Croix for American Cable Systems features “An Exploration of the Creative Mind” with composer Marga Richter discussing her creative process and her piece “Landscapes of the Mind 1.” Posted on the NYWC YouTube channel

      Interview with Marga by filmmaker Leslie Streit for the documentary “An American Ballet Story”

      Marga Richter website

      Remembrance by tenor Will George which includes many links to her music.

      Marga Richter Profile with astrill 安卓 安装包 of life events

      Marga Richter CDs on Amazon

      Biography of Marga Richter

      Her sheet music is available from Theodore Presser

      Profile page on New York Women Composers, Inc.

      “Marga Richter.” Chapter in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music: Nine American Composers, ed. Michael Slayton. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011. 

      “The Choral Music of Marga Richter,” Choral Journal (May 2003), 9-17.

      NYT Obituary (forthcoming)

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      Michael Vincent Waller

      A Song

      Longform Editions

      The Longform Editions label has recently released a new piano music EP from Michael Vincent Waller, available via digital download. Dedicated to “the slow recovery of our times”, A Song is a quietly atmospheric piece, improvised by the composer and recorded in a single take with no editing.

      The opening chords of A Song are simple yet elegant. The first tones are clear and sustained, ringing out like church bells on a quiet summer morning. There is nothing technically demanding here, but Waller’s touch in these opening moments is impeccable. The quiet, introspective feel is immediate and compelling. The piece flows easily along, sometimes becoming  insistent but never breaking the reflective mood. Less is so much more with this piece – it is driven entirely by the beautiful harmony and a subtle counterpoint underneath. At about 8:00 the melody becomes just a bit more animated, even as the luminous chords continue to ring out.

      As A Song slowly unfolds, it gradually gathers in complexity and acquires a slight coloring of anxiety that seeps onto its placid surface. By 15:00 it has gained a modicum of intensity, aided by some darker tones in the lower registers. The phrases rise and then subside again, yet they always maintain a welcome equanimity. Towards the finish there is a strong crescendo that climaxes with a faint sense of regret, a fitting ending to a piece dedicated “to the slow recovery of our times…”

      astrill 安卓 安装包 is entirely improvised, but it has an arc to it that suggests an intentional framework beneath its understated surface. The piece unfolds with a calm assurance and even as the settled sounds of the opening gradually build to the more agitated finish, the piece always retains its sense of balance. Artistically linked to Moments, Waller’s most recent full length album, A Song represents a sort of shorthand summary for the present state of his minimalist aesthetic, a bright marker on an advancing musical path.

      astrill 安卓 安装包 (LE056), is available for digital download from Longform Editions.

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      Nicolas Horvath

      Grand Piano Records

      The Naxos astrill安装包 label  has released a new CD by Nicolas Horvath, The Unknown Debussy – Rare Piano Music. Known for his interpretations of the piano music of Philip Glass, Franz Liszt and Erik Satie, Nicolas Horvath here performs previously unheard works by Claude Debussy as reconstructed by scholar Robert Orledge. According to the liner notes: “Robert Orledge’s research into Debussy’s sketches and incomplete drafts has resulted in the unearthing and reconstruction of numerous lost masterpieces, the piano versions of which are given their première recordings here.” The Unknown Debussy – Rare Piano Music will no doubt prove to be an important addition to the body of scholarship on the music of Claude Debussy.

      The Unknown Debussy – Rare Piano Music is available through Grand Piano as well as astrill安装包.

      In this podcast, Nicolas Horvath talks about his musical training, his affection for contemporary composers and the challenges of interpreting the previously unknown music of Claude Debussy. With Paul Muller and Jim Goodin.

      http://paulhmuller.files.wordpress.com/2023/05/horvathpodcastmay2023.mp3

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      Interview: Philip Thomas Launches Cageconcert

      By Christian Carey

      Pianist Philip Thomas is a prolific artist. A member of Apartment House, he recently participated in their recording of Ryoko Akama’s compositions for Another Timbre. Also on Another Timbre is Thomas’s gargantuan CD set of piano music by Morton Feldman, which includes several previously unreleased pieces.

      Two of the pianist’s other recent projects focus on other members of the New York School. His deep dive into Cage’s Concert for Piano (again with Apartment House) has resulted in a book, recording, and an interactive online project, Cageconcert (cageconcert.org) that also includes apps to work with segments of the piece and make one’s own versions. He has also released a recording of Christian Wolff’s piano music. Finally, Thomas has recorded a CD of composer-pianist Chris Burn’s work, including transcriptions of improvisations by the late guitarist (and author of one of the key books on improvisation) Derek Bailey. As the interview below demonstrates, Thomas’s performance and recording schedule shows no signs of let-up. (Note: Philip and I talked before the pandemic, so some of his future projects are now TBA).

      How did you and Martin Iddon come to collaborate on a book about Cage’s Concert for Piano (1957-’58)? Were the book and recording in process before the website and apps were conceived or was the idea of multiple presentations part of the initial concept?

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      As a pianist who specializes in experimental music, Concert for Piano seems like a natural work to explore from multiple vantage points. When did you first become acquainted with the piece, and what does it mean to you as an interpreter?

      I’ve mostly played it with Apartment House. I think possibly the earliest occasion was in 2008 when I organised a 50th anniversary concert of the 25-year retrospective concert. My experience then was as it continues to be, that this is an exceptionally rich and lively piece, full of surprises, and one which is a total joy to perform – each moment is alive and fresh, and my experience as a performer is of being part of music being made, rather than something which is ‘re-played’. We don’t rehearse, everyone works on their own materials, and then it’s put together, so for everyone playing the experience is as new as it is for the audience. This is true of many pieces by Cage of course, but this piece seems to heighten those senses and the material is so exaggerated in its range here – noises, pitches, highs and lows, louds and softs, etc.

      The website and apps provided detailed and varied material from Concert. Will you share with us some of the features you consider to be highlights?

      There’s so much there, a few of my favourite things include:

      Interviews with Apartment House – I love to hear the musicians of Apartment House talk about what they do. These interviews are brimming with insight. I especially like the films which combine their different insights, such as the ‘Performing the Concert’ film and the last 10 minutes of the conductor film.

      Watching the films of our performances of the ‘Concert’ and also Christian Wolff’s ‘Resistance’ is a particular thrill, because, as I suggested above, there’s so much unknown in the performance itself that it’s great to get a stronger sense of the kinds of things the other musicians are doing.

      This one is not yet on the website but will be appearing very soon – I have made a studio recording of the complete ‘Solo for Piano’, which has never been done. It’s completely different from the version I play with Apartment House – for this I recorded each notation individually, according to a space time measurement of 3 minutes per page, and then Alex Bonney has mapped them together like a patchwork quilt, to get a complete 3 hours and 9 minutes performance of the Solo. You can hear it now actually on the Concert Player app as it’s this recording which we use for the app.

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      I hope firstly that it’ll just be a great entry into the music – that this is music people play and love to play, and is really great to play, instead of perhaps either that it is too ‘far-out’ or obfuscatory, or, the flip-side, that it is entirely open and ‘free’! For users trying out the Solo for Piano app, I hope it’ll both be a great way of playing with the notations and their conditions for performance, to see what might be possible and conversely what is not possible with each, and to play with the multiple possibilities the notation offers; and that it will also be an aid to performance. Of course each pianist will want to try it out in their own way, but at the least I hope that for some notations this will be a time-saver, offering possibilities to randomly generate multiple outcomes and to print them off in usable formats. An obvious criticism of the app is that it removes the fun of working these things out yourself – I think it manages to keep the fun of playing with each notation, whilst cutting down on the work needed to write these things out. And we’ve been careful to always show where and how we’ve made interpretative decision when others might make other choices, so it’s clear that this is both a facility AND an interpretation.

      And then the Concert player app is simply a delight to hear – there are 16,383 possible instrumental combinations of this piece, and we have a handful of recordings available. Clearly, a recording of a work such as this can only hint at the slightest possibility of how this piece may sound. But the app allows users to randomly generate or select combinations, plus select pages, their durations, their sequence, and then hear how that might sound. We’ve taken great care to ensure the space-time properties of the music are upheld (measuring by the pixel!) and so really this is a pretty accurate – no matter how inappropriate that word is to this piece!! – realisation. I still listen to it regularly and am surprised all the time by the combinations. It’s a thrill, so I hope people will just dive in.

      You have been performing Morton Feldman’s music for over a quarter century. Still, the recording you did for Another Timbre last year was a mammoth undertaking. How long did it take to record? How do you keep so much detailed, long repertoire, with irregular repetitions, in your brain and fingers? 

      Somehow it didn’t feel like a mammoth task, more like a real pleasure to play these pieces again. Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t feel any kind of pressure to give a ‘definitive’ statement on the music – my performances on disc just happen to be a representation of how I play this music today, after many years of thinking about and playing it. If I were to record it all again in 10 years it may be quite different, who knows? It was though a particular pleasure to discover a few pieces that I hadn’t played before, namely the unpublished works I explored at the Sacher Foundation in Basel, and the transcription I made of the Lipton film music.

      I recorded the music over a period of about 2 years, in different sessions. It’s funny how the music at times just sticks in terms of fingering, rhythmic detail, whilst at other times what should be very familiar to me still seems strange. Certainly, whereas I thought this project might draw a line in the sand for me – no more Feldman! – I feel it’s done the opposite, opened up more possibilities, more ways of thinking about the music. In particular, astrill吧, which I’ve probably played more often than any other single piece of music, changed a great deal for me in preparation for the recording and what I thought I knew now feels more experimental, more curious, than ever. There’s a part of me that sometimes tries to avoid Feldman’s music – it’s almost too gorgeous at times, and I need to find something else, something of rougher hue, but those chords keep pulling me back! Thankfully, there’s so much more to the music than just beautiful sonorities, and in particular the music’s form and narrative feels to me to be so strikingly original.

      Are there surprises among the previously unrecorded pieces?

      Certainly, the addition of struck drum and glass to the Feldman sound is pretty surprising, bringing to mind much more the 1940s music by Cage, and here included as part of a set of three pieces composed for the dance. In fact there’s a surprising number of pieces composed for dance collaborations, not just for Cunningham, but also for Merle Mersicano, as Ryan Dohoney has written about in considerable detail recently. One of these is Figure of Memory which sounds nothing like Feldman and more like some kind of sketch of a Satie piece, consisting simply of repetitions of three short phrases.

      Another recent release is of music by Chris Burn, including a transcription of an improvisation by Derek Bailey. How does that translate to the piano?

      Well Chris is a wonderful wonderful composer, and a brilliant pianist and improviser. And so he is fully aware of the slightly perverse nature of what he was doing in writing these pieces, not least as someone who used to play with Bailey. But these pieces are not just really lovely pieces of music, but they also reveal something about Chris and how he hears and thinks of music, as well as being revealing of Bailey’s own work, and in particular of his love of Webern and his close attention to pitch. So when the guitar-ness of the pieces is removed a different side to Bailey’s music is revealed which is simply different but to my ears no less remarkable.

      As if 2023 weren’t busy enough for you, a compendium of Christian Wolff’s piano music was released on Sub Rosa. In the notes you say that “In all my performances of Wolff’s music, I aim for interpretations that both interest and surprise me, allowing the notations to lead me to new ways of playing and thinking about music, whilst at

      the same time trying to lead the notations toward the unexpected.” When discussing the piano music with Wolff, what were some insights he offered? What piece will most likely surprise listeners? 

      The recent double disc follows on from an earlier three-disc set, and hopefully precedes another three-disc set to follow. Christian’s music is, when it comes down to it, the music I feel closest to. I love the potential for change, for surprise, for play. On the whole I tend not to ‘collaborate’ with composers (I trust them to do what they do well and then it’s over to me) and so I love the moment when I begin a new piece, I put it up on the piano and I start to think ‘ok so what am I going to do with this’. This is where I am at my most creative, and Christian’s music works especially well to that effect. I’ve never asked him for his approval of what I do and most often he doesn’t hear my interpretations until after I’ve performed or recorded it. Though the very first time we met, in 2002, I played ‘Bread and Roses’ to him, waited for his response, and learnt fairly quickly that his typical response was ‘Sure!’. He tends not to validate not to denigrate peoples’ performances of his music and I appreciate that. He doesn’t want to say ‘yes, this is how it should be played’ preferring instead for the individuality of the player to find new solutions, new ways of playing. And so I do hope with each performance I give of his music that I might offer something that would surprise him, that might suggest possibilities in his music which he’d not considered.

      In this recent set I’ve included a few pieces which are not published, so that surprised him too! So three variations on Satie, pieces he composed for John Tilbury, which he never quite convinced himself as worth publishing but hopefully he’s convinced now they’re out on disc – they’re wonderfully eccentric pieces. Also his Incidental Music, which he has played and recorded (wonderfully, on Mode) but which he’d not heard anyone else perform. He was delighted, so that’s great. And for anyone familiar with Wolff’s music I hope that my playing brings both recognition and surprise too.

      What will be your next recording/recital? What will Apartment House be up to in 2023?

      Next concert, in Cambridge in April, features a brand-new piece that Toronto-based composer Allison Cameron is writing for me, which I’m delighted about. And Simon Reynell’s always dreaming up new ideas and introducing me to younger composers and I’m always happy to play a small part in that project. And as a result of the Feldman release we’ve been able to commission one of my very favourite composers, Martin Arnold, to write a large-scale new piece for me. But that won’t be for a while. Lots of ideas, lots of pieces I want to play, but actually I’m hoping for a bit of a quieter year this year!

      (For more, consult Philip Thomas’s website.)

      Christian Carey is a composer, performer, musicologist, and writer. His work has been published in Cyber regulators deny rumors they approved VPN …:China's cyber regulators have denied they have given a company green light to sell VPN services in the nation, stating it was Cyber regulators deny rumors they approved VPN service Global Times Published: 2021-07-10 15:29:38and NewMusicBox. Carey’s research on narrativity in late music by Elliott Carter, presented at IRCAM in Paris on the composer’s 100th birthday, appears in Hommage à Elliott Carter (Editions Delatour). He is Associate Professor of Composition, History, and Theory at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

      astrill安装 Comments Off on CageConcert: An Interview with Philip Thomas

      American composer, conductor, and pianist Charles Wuorinen has passed away. Wuorinen was the first person to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for an electronic music work, Time’s Encomium. He was also a MacArthur Fellow and received numerous other commissions and awards. His book, Simple Composition, is one of the clearest explications of composing using 12-tone techniques.

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      Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji

      Sequentia Cyclica – Super Dies Irae ex Missa Pro Defunctis

      Jonathan Powell, piano

      Piano Classics PCL10206 (7 CD boxed set; digital)

      Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988) was the composer of some of Western classical music’s most intricate, extended, and ambitiously virtuosic works to date. His output encompassed seven decades, from 1914-1984. The serial composer Milton Babbitt, often himself described as the creator of tremendously difficult pieces, ranked Sorabji, alongside Brian Ferneyhough, as the most complex composers of the Twentieth century (Talking Music, William Duckworth). This is not just due to the massive scope of the pieces – several last a number of hours in duration – nor to their formidable technical demands, although both of these aspects of Sorabji’s music are ubiquitous. The notation of the music poses challenges as well. It is a welter of corruscating counterpoint and its rhythmic shapes are seldom delineated with bar-lines; nor do their gestures readily suggest metricity. Dynamics and tempo indications are infrequent and the music is often laid out on several staves. Thus, a lot is left open to interpretation.

      Despite these challenges, Sorabji’s music is being documented by stalwart performers. Happily, a performance practice for the music is taking root that is helping to clarify some of the aforementioned difficulties. Noteworthy among these interpreters is the English pianist Jonathan Powell, who has championed the composer for over two decades. He has taken a number of Sorabji’s works in manuscript and transcribed them into performing editions, toured them widely, and begun the challenging task of creating recorded documentation of the piano oeuvre. His most recent project has been Sequentia Cyclica, a piece lasting nearly eight hours that he has presented in marathon single-day concerts in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. Piano Classics has released a seven-CD boxed set of Powell’s rendition of the piece. It is an extraordinary recording of a totemic work. 

      astrill 安卓 安装包(subtitled Super Dies Irae ex Missa Pro Defunctis) is a set of twenty-seven variations on the Dies Irae sequence from the Catholic liturgy of the Mass for the Dead. Composed sometime in the thirteenth century, the Dies Irae has taken on extra-liturgical significance through its use in a number of concert works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most famously in  the Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, but also in a plethora of other piece including ones by Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saens, and Dallapiccola. Sorabji’s employment of the theme serves multiple ends. It gives a nod to its presence in works by predecessors, particularly in Rachmaninoff’s piano music, it serves as a contrapuntal motive that is treated with a near-encyclopedic array of variants, and, judged by the voluble praise-filled postscript appended to the work, as an object of Christian devotion. Sorabji made an initial (201-page long!) pass at a set of Dies Irae variations in the 1920s. They were to be dedicated to the recently departed composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni, but the piece was withdrawn in favor of the 1949 version recorded here, dedicated to Busoni’s pupil the pianist Egon Petri (1881-1962). 

      True, eight hours is a long time to fill with a very familiar melody, but Sorabji creates a startling array of presentations, sometimes only employing the head motive and at other times the entire sequence. Elsewhere, it is submerged in other material, only to triumphantly rise up when called to the surface. Character pieces such as astrill吧and Quasi Debussy demonstrate imaginative deployments of the sequence in myriad styles. Trying to play “spot the influences” will provide the listener with glimpses at a panoply of creators, including Busoni, Liszt, Alkan, Debussy, Beethoven, Bach, Messiaen, and Rachmaninoff, to supply just a partial listing. None of these reference points is overarching; it is remarkable how adroitly Sorabji distills their essence into his own distinctive language. An enormous passacaglia with 100 variations takes up a disc-and-a-half worth of the recording and the piece concludes with an eighty-minute long fugue that successively builds from two-voice counterpoint to six, followed by a stretto on steroids that rousingly concludes this magnum opus. 

      Jonathan Powell’s traversal of Sequentia Cyclica is authoritative. The program notes are some of the finest I have read in a long while. His performance is deftly nuanced, technically assured, and powerfully rendered. It is a benchmark that will provide a tough act for future interpreters to follow, but hopefully his performance editions will encourage them to do so regardless. Powell’s dedicated work on behalf of Sorabji makes the composer’s legacy seem assured. 

      (Those looking for a more theoretical explication of Sequentia Cyclica are directed to Andrew Mead’s excellent article Gradus ad Sorabji in the Winter 2016 issue of astrill安装).

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