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Composers: April 2008 Archives

Paul Hindemith's "Lost" Piano Concerto


Local premiere, first recording of the elusive Hindemith

By David Patrick Stearns
Philadelphia Inquirer

Piano concertos by major composers don't disappear quietly and aren't easily hidden.

Though Paul Hindemith's Klaviermusik mit Orchester was silenced for more than eight decades by the illustrious Austrian family that paid for its creation, it dangled just out of reach of those who knew of its existence, locked up in a Bucks County farmhouse, with access blocked intractably and repeatedly whenever anyone – whether Hindemith's estate or Philadelphia conductor Jonathan Sternberg – came close.

Finally discovered in 2002, Klaviermusik had an acclaimed 2004 world premiere in Berlin, and will be recorded for the first time, live in concert, at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Kimmel Center with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.

Not just another Hindemith work, Klaviermusik quickly has become one of the composer's most-played concertos, performed by the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, and garnering musical satisfaction that almost justifies the exasperating Viennese intrigue surrounding it.

Read more about this at the Philadelphia Inquirer website:

Prokofieff Behind the Mask

Sergey Prokofiev - Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask

The secret diaries of Sergey Prokofiev

Russia's revolution coincided with a blossoming of musical talent. Sergey Prokofiev's extraordinary diaries, to be published next week, show the composer at the centre of both

The Independent

It's 16 December 1922. Sergey Prokofiev receives a letter informing him that the trunk of precious papers and manuscripts he had packed up for safekeeping in the vaults of a publishing company upon his rushed departure from Russia in May 1918 has been lost. In it were the score of the Second Piano Concerto, a sheaf of childhood compositions, the notebook containing his diary between September 1916 and February 1917, photographs, letters to his father and records of his beloved chess tournaments. "But most of all I mourn the loss of the Diary," writes the composer. "The loss of the Diary is a tragedy, as there was so much of interest in it: it was my last winter in Petrograd which saw the production of The Gambler and a general flowering of my talent." He goes on to recall the professional tribulations, love affairs and squabbles contained in its pages, raging against the "scoundrels" who failed to ensure its safekeeping.

As it turns out, Prokofiev's rage was misplaced and, though he would not discover it until 1927 when he returned to the USSR, the diary had been preserved. And now it is published for the first time in English translation. The diaries were seized by the Soviet government on the composer's death and hidden in the state archives for years until Prokofiev's son Sviatoslav and grandson Serge were granted permission to transcribe them – no easy task, as the thousands of pages were almost all written in the composer's vowel-less shorthand.

Read the complete extract from from Sergey Prokofiev: Diaries 1915-1923: Behind the Mask, edited by Anthony Phillips at The Independent website:

Redefining the Possibilities

Christopher O'Riley

Pianist-arranger Christopher O'Riley has redefined the possibilities of classical music

By Diane Peterson
The Press Democrat

It's been a dozen years since pianist Christopher O'Riley last performed with the Santa Rosa Symphony.

In the interim, the multitalented Midwesterner has continued to evolve, using his early experience in jazz and rock as a springboard to new heights as a classical artist.

From his high-profile role as the host of "From the Top" – a public radio show centered on young musicians – to his groundbreaking arrangements of songs by the Brit alt-rock band Radiohead, O'Riley, 51, has earned a reputation for innovation coupled with a refreshing lack of pretense.

This weekend, he will tackle Béla Bartók's Concerto No. 1 with the Santa Rosa Symphony. The concerto looks back to the Viennese School and to Brahms, whose Symphony No. 1 will round out the second half of the program conducted by Music Director Bruno Ferrandis.

O'Riley likes to perform pieces he feels passionate about. Under his nimble fingers and carefully crafted arrangements, an eclectic stream of pop music has migrated to the classical music stage over the years.

"It's really sort of a selfish enterprise," he said in a phone interview from northeast Ohio, where he spends most of his time. "It's always been about the song … a couple of Cocteau Twin songs, a Stephen Sondheim song. Things just take me over."

At the same time, the virtuoso has championed new music from within the classical world, premiering eclectic works by Richard Danielpour and Aaron Jay Kernis while recording well-known gems by Beethoven, Ravel and Scriabin.

Read more about this, including an interview, at the The Press Democrat website:

2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music

David Lang by Klaus Rudolph

David Lang Wins Music Pulitzer

By Tom Huizenga

David Lang, a New York-based composer, has won the Pulitzer Prize for music with his piece, The Little Match Girl Passion, based on the children's story by Hans Christian Andersen.

Lang's music makes a big impact with small forces. The piece is scored for only four voices and a few percussion instruments, played by the singers. They sing the sad story of a little girl who freezes to death selling matches on the street during a cold winter's night.

In notes Lang wrote to accompany the Carnegie Hall premiere last October, he says he was drawn to Andersen's story because of how opposite aspects of the plot played off each other.

"The girl's bitter present is locked together with the sweetness of her past memories," Lang says. "Her poverty is always suffused with her hopefulness. There's a kind of naïve equilibrium between suffering and hope."

Lang was also intrigued by the religious allegory he saw beneath the surface of the story, and he found inspiration in the music of his favorite composer, J.S. Bach.

Read more about this, including an audio excerpt, at the NPR website:

Modern Sources of Inspiration

Osvaldo Golijov

Osvaldo Golijov: a mission of creative anarchy

By John Lewis
Times Online

Composer Osvaldo Golijov is bent on breaking the rules

The Argentine Osvaldo Golijov is a "classical" composer whose work embraces a fascination with world music and electronica in a way that is similar to the artier end of pop. For pop, he firmly believes, is the most influential music these days.

"These are sad times for classical music," he explains. "Once classical musicians influenced popular culture. Duke Ellington learnt from Debussy, Miles Davis learnt from Stravinsky, the Beatles learnt from Stockhausen. Nowadays we learn from them. The music of Radiohead, or Björk, or OutKast – it is so much more relevant and meaningful. And often it is so much more interesting than what goes under the name of 'serious music'. It affects the culture in a way we don't."

We are in Chicago, where a recent concert performance of his flamenco-themed, Grammy-winning opera Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears), which will be performed in the UK next week, has received a ten-minute standing ovation. American critics have been breathless in their praise. And this endearingly nerdy maverick has become a cult idol to many of the world's biggest pop stars. David Bowie has described him as "the greatest living composer"; Jonny Greenwood, of Radiohead, is a fan; Paul Simon and David Byrne turn up to his concerts.

Read more about this at the Times Online website:

Have Stick, Will Travel

William Barton

A breath of fresh air for the classical tradition

By Harriet Cunningham
Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Symphony is learning a new work. The rhythms are complex, and notes fly out in all directions. Conductor Richard Gill, in his best headmaster voice, stops the musicians, points out the key underlying beats, barks out a bar number and raises his baton. And there, almost miraculously, the music starts to emerge from the morass, the opposing riffs meshing into a fascinating wall of sound.

Alongside the conductor, looking remarkably unflappable, sits soloist and joint composer William Barton. The work, Kalkadungu, was commissioned for the orchestra by Maggie Gray and Roger Allen; scored for orchestra with didgeridoo, electric guitar and vocals (all three performed by Barton).

Most significantly, Kalkadungu is a collaboration between two musicians, the Mount Isa-born Barton and the white Australian composer Matthew Hindson, bringing ancient Australian culture face to face with the Western classical tradition.

Hindson, who lectures in composition at the University of Sydney, is an old hand at writing for orchestra, which is why this project presented such a tantalising challenge.

Read more about this at the Sydney Morning Herald website: