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Composers: March 2008 Archives

Haydn's Creation

Michelangelo's Creation

The quiet master behind the masterpiece

By Dr. David MacKenzie
The Sentinel

Franz Joseph Haydn's great oratorio The Creation is acknowledged as one of the greatest musical achievements of Western Civilization. It is certainly the crowning glory of a composer whose creative output was immense – more than 1,000 works – and who is credited as the creator of the Classical-era symphony and string quartet.

The Creation will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4 at the Fireman Center for the Performing Arts at Tabor Academy in Marion, and will feature as soloists soprano Rebecca Grimes, tenor Thomas Oesterling, and Baritone, John Murelle. There will be a pre-concert prelude for ticket holders, which will take place one hour prior to each concert. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by calling 508-999-6276, or in person at the Marion General Store, Seaport Village Ice Cream and Coffee, Sail Away Studio, and Bev Loves Books.

Haydn's life spanned a period of enormous changes in the world, in the arts, and especially in music, and most musical trends during the 18th Century were pioneered and perfected by him. Born in 1732, he was 18 years old when J. S. Bach died. He outlived Mozart and was still a revered musical figure in Vienna when Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, a work considered by many as ushering in the Romantic era, was performed in 1805. Both Mozart and Haydn owed great debts to Haydn. Indeed, Haydn was the only contemporary composer for whom Mozart held any regard, acknowledging that it was from Haydn he had learned how to write string quartets, and commenting at one point "Haydn alone has the secret both of making me smile and of touching my innermost soul."

For all of that, most concert-goers today can more readily name and recognize works by Haydn's older contemporaries Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, or his much younger colleague and friend W. A. Mozart or his student Ludwig van Beethoven. Why is this?

Read more about this at the The Sentinel website:

Stravinsky - The Second Exile

Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 by Stephen Walsh

In glorious discord over Stravinsky

Few things are more fun to savour than a good old artistic feud, says Rupert Christiansen

The fallout can take several forms, from the vitriolic spat (Vidal v Capote, Oasis v Blur) to a purely intellectual combat (Wilson v Nabokov), to the serious lawsuit (Ruskin v Whistler), to the soured friendship (Lennon v McCartney, Vargas Llosa v Márquez, Theroux v Naipaul).

But the most interesting variety is the one that pitches competing conceptions of the truth, as when Mary McCarthy denounced "every word" of Lillian Hellman's account of her communist fellow-travelling as "a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Stephen Walsh and Robert Craft haven't gone quite that far over the matter of Igor Stravinsky, but they've come pretty close.

There's something of All About Eve to the story of Craft's attachment to the great Russian composer, and something of Boswell's relationship to Dr Johnson. A brilliant American music student, Craft latched on to Stravinsky in the late 1940s, becoming his secretary, minder, gatekeeper, amanuensis, conducting assistant and surrogate son.

Read more about this at the Telegraph website:

Britain's Favorite a Big Surprise

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Williams top of Classic FM vote


Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending has been voted best classical piece of music by radio listeners for the second year running. The piece, a musical version of an English landscape, came top in the Classic FM Hall of Fame poll, which attracted more than 100,000 votes.

His Fantasies on a Theme of Thomas Tallis also came third behind Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no 2.

Pieces by Beethoven took fourth and fifth place in the survey.

The accolade comes half a century after the composer's death – he was born in Gloucestershire in 1872.

Read more about this at the BBC website:

Colin Carr

Hear how music history rolled out: Cellist, pianist play Beethoven cycle

By Celia R. Baker
Salt Lake City Tribune

Music history's march from Classicism to Romanticism followed the life story of one man: Ludwig van Beethoven. The whole journey – from innocent exuberance to heroic passion to profound introspection – unfolds in microcosm this week in Salt Lake City: English cellist Colin Carr will perform all of Beethoven's works for cello and piano with American pianist Tom Sauer during two concerts at Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

Carr, 50, is best – known in Utah for his three appearances here with the Golub–Kaplan–Carr trio, with whom he toured and recorded for more than two decades.

After 20 years of playing trios, Carr was ready for new challenges. Performing Beethoven's entire oeuvre for cello and piano, spread over two concerts, has proven to be "simply the best chamber music project that a cellist could ever wish to do," he said.

Amy Leung, director of the Virtuoso Series, studied cello with Carr at New York's Eastman School of Music and remembers him as "a phenomenal musician of the highest order." To Leung, the Beethoven sonatas are the mainstay of classical cello repertoire. She's thrilled that an agreement between her series and the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City is making it possible for Carr to give two concerts here – enough time to play all of them.

Audiences at both concerts will hear every note Beethoven wrote for cello and piano, but could trace the trajectory of Beethoven's musical development by attending either one, Carr said. Each evening includes music from the composer's early, middle and late periods, allowing listeners to make comparisons.

Although Carr has played Beethoven's cello sonatas and themes – and – variations for much of his life, juxtaposing them in this way brought fresh insights.

"When I hear all these pieces together, I see such stark contrasts that I'd never been aware of. It's fascinating," he said.

Read more about this at the Salt Lake City Tribune website:

Thunderbird Records

Cleveland label releases its first CD of classical music by an American Indian composer

by Donald Rosenberg
Cleveland Plain Dealer Music Critic

Cleveland recording producer Alan Bise stands amid boxes filled with the first compact disc on his new label, Thunderbird Records, which is devoted to music by American Indian composers. Like aspiring writers who dream of their first novel being published, composers submit music to orchestras in the hope that a performance will ensue. The usual response: silence.

But a project that Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, a native of the Chickasaw Nation and graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, proposed to the San Francisco Symphony was too intriguing to ignore.

Last week, a recording by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus of two Tate works with roots in American Indian soil became reality. The compact disc is the first release by Thunderbird Records, a Cleveland-based company founded by audio producer Alan Bise, who studied at CIM when Tate was taking baby steps as a composer.

The recording was made in June in the orchestra's home, Davies Symphony Hall, with former resident conductor Edwin Outwater on the podium. The flute soloists are Christine Bailey Davis, principal flute of New York's Buffalo Philharmonic and a CIM graduate, and Thomas Robertello, a former member of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Bise vowed to create a recording company devoted to classical music by American Indian composers in 2004 after hearing "Worth of the Soul," Tate's celebration of Indian warriors. Another year passed before circumstances leading to the first Thunderbird recording came up.

Read more about this and listen to audio samples at the Plain Dealer website:

Auto Interpretation

Bill Milbrodt

Car Parts Orchestra

The man who turned a family hatchback into a 30-piece touring band

Jasper Rees
The Telegraph

Part of the signature of a car is the sound made by its engine.

If pressed, even the most L-plated among us could probably identify a Rolls by its self-satisfied purr, or a Ferrari by its neurotic throat-clearing. But the most fanatical of petrolheads would struggle to discern, in the ambient jazzy backing to Alesha Dixon's new iTunes download, For You I Will, the snappy hatchback sound of the new Ford Focus.

The advertising industry's reverence for the tangential uses of disembodied cars is a fairly recent phenomenon. In 2003, the award-winning commercial for the Honda Accord fashioned the car's entrails into a hypnotically complicated mechanism. In 2006 a large choir of human voices imitated the clunks and whirs of a Honda Civic. The new ad for the Focus goes a step further, and puts car parts to musical use.

The Car Parts Orchestra consists, among others, of a weirdly bent flute, a bonnet recycled as a gong, a wheel-rim drum kit with gearknob for pedal stick and, the pièce de résistance, a double bass whose body takes the bulging form of a bumper, with a neck made from a roof support, which can be either plucked or bowed with a windscreen wiper.

Read more about this including video interviews with composer Craig Richey and inventor Bill Milbrodt at the Telegraph website:

Authentic Portrait Of Mozart

A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

True face of Mozart revealed

Dalya Alberge,
Arts Correspondent
A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

His image in curled wig, embroidered red tunic and lace ruff stares out from kitsch portraits, decorative porcelain and chocolate boxes without number, but nobody really knew what Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looked like – until now.

To the great excitement of musical scholars, two previously-unknown oil portraits painted from life – and which can be traced back to a close friend of the composer's father – have been discovered.

They were identified by Cliff Eisen, Professor of music history at King's College London, who has found documentary evidence that links them to letters written by Mozart and his father, Leopold.

One was painted in 1783, during the composer's early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze. Measuring about 19in by 14in (47x35cm), it is by Joseph Hickel, painter to the imperial court. It is now considered so important that it has been insured for £2 million.

Read more about this at the Times website:

Welsh Composer Alun Hoddinott

Alun Hoddinott

Tributes to "inspiring" composer Hoddinott

Karen Price

Tributes were paid last night to eminent Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott who has died at the age of 78.

Mr Hoddinott's work was commissioned by leading orchestras and was recognised throughout the world.

The night before he died, the world premiere of his last string quartet was performed at London's Wigmore Hall.

The Bargoed-born composer produced symphonies, piano sonatas, operas (including two for television and four with leading parts for Sir Geraint Evans), concertos for all instruments, and a wide range of vocal, choral, instrumental, chamber and orchestral music.

Read more about this at the icWales website:

The Mathematics of Music


Ryoji Ikeda

By Donald Eubank
Japan Times Online

So forward-looking that it's hard to categorize him - Is he an artist? A musician? A conceptualist? - Ryoji Ikeda makes the music that we'll lull the robots to sleep with when they ultimately try to take over. Or that we'll use to convince ourselves that we are the robots.

For performances, Ikeda - who says the most important aspects of his works are "ideas and results" - matches his dense electronic compositions with visuals that could come from a monitor of whatever machine would produce such sounds. The scale of his works feels immense - his last performance in Japan was of "datamatics [prototype]" at the Tokyo International Forum's cavernous Hall C, in which a screen stretched across the full stage projected digital noise. James Brown it's not.

Earlier, Ikeda worked with Hiroshi Sugimoto to produce the crunching sonic backdrop at the Mori Art Museum's exhibition of the photographer's iconic prints of ocean horizons. For his latest, the multitalented artist is revising "datamatics" as a "[ver. 2.0]" in Itami on March 13 and Tokyo March 16.

Read the interview with Ryoji Ikeda at the Japan Times Online website:

The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You

John Work III

Exhibit revives musicologist's work

By John Gerome
Associated Press

When people say John Work III had "big ears," they're not being unkind.

Work, who died in 1967 at age 65, had a gift for finding and collecting black folk music. He traveled the South recording blues singers, work songs, ballads, church choirs, dance tunes, whatever struck him as showing the evolution of black music.

And yet what might be his greatest achievement went largely unnoticed for 60 years, stashed in a file cabinet at Hunter College in New York. Now, with the opening of a new exhibit on Work's life at Fisk University and a companion CD, some say Work is finally getting his due.

"He was seeking out music that many African-American academics at the time had no use for," said Evan Hatch, a professional folklorist who helped compile the Fisk exhibit, "The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You," which runs through May 11.

A classically trained musician and composer, Work taught at Fisk University, a black college founded in 1865 to educate newly freed slaves. He also directed the school's famed Jubilee Singers and ran its music department.

Read more about this at the Louisville Courier-Journal website: