A 20th Century Tower of Babel
This lecture by Seen & Heard's founder and Emeritus Editor, given as part of the International Composers Master Class and Music Week at Bilbao, is a reflection not only of Dr Peter Woolf's personal interest in contemporary music but of his international standing as a critic on the subject. Through many years of music going, both in the UK and abroad, PGW has been at the forefront of introducing UK audiences to new and unfamiliar composers, most notably by conceiving and launching Seen & Heard in summer 1999. At a time when many music journalists both in the mainstream press and in the newer forum of Internet journalism have been hardened against contemporary composers PGW fought hard to give these new composers the recognition they deserved. Under his editorship, Seen & Heard covered festivals ignored by all but the most radical print sources - and in many cases the international festivals reviewed by him remain the only English language reviews available. Many of those festivals are referred to below with specific links to the composers he talks about in this lecture (the URLs are retained in full for the interest of readers unused to using the resource of internet links).
Seen & Heard was one of the first review sites to focus primarily on live classical music on the Internet. PGW's determination that Seen & Heard should focus largely, but not exclusively, on new composers and new musicians has always been part of its unique selling point. It has a broader range of readers from across the globe than any other site of its kind and appreciation for his efforts has been universally positive - from both readers and the promoters of the festivals he has reviewed. His editorship of Seen & Heard, a remarkable two years legacy which I have now taken over, is testament to a passion few music journalists are able to comprehend yet alone equal. For younger readers interested in a career in the thankless world of music criticism his example is one to learn from and follow.
I am pleased that PGW has agreed to continue to contribute reviews to Seen & Heard under my editorship. I am also pleased that he will be writing regular features for the site - which I am sure will be both controversial and stimulating. The burden of responsibility now falls on me to maintain the high standards PGW has set during his own editorship of Seen & Heard. It follows equally that editors elsewhere owe him a debt of gratitude. His selfless vision, always at the service of music, set the agenda for music criticism at a time when its influence was perhaps decreasing. We all have to be grateful for his work.
Meanwhile, enjoy his lecture…and learn.
Editor, Seen & Heard, August 2001.
A 20th Century Tower of Babel
Lecture to International Composers Master Class and Music Week
Bilbao July 2001 (PGW)
Luis de Pablo Notturtino ADDA 581260
"Prima la musica - dopo le parole"
You will be familiar with the debate about the primacy of words or of music, which raged in the 18th Century and was rehearsed in Strauss's Capriccio http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2000/sept00/CapriccioAmsterdam.htm I played this little piece before starting to talk, for several reasons. First, as a compliment to Luis de Pablo, http://musicweb-international.com/pablo/index.htm and happiness that he has recovered so well from a very recent serious operation. Second, because music in sound will be the focus of today's Conference, and third because I love this particular piece of music. Notturtino was written in 1987 to use all the musicians required for other works in a recording session for the first of de Pablo's CDs, released in 1991. Since then they have multiplied and I now have a shelf-full. Notturtino epitomises his sense of fun and his enviable craftsmanship; with it I have regularly delighted friends in England who had never heard of Luis.
My presentation is addressed especially to young composers who have come to Bilbao to study their craft with Luis de Pablo, and dedicated to music lovers of any age. It is designed to stimulate thought and raise questions about composing today. My musical illustrations are mostly short, and when possible of complete pieces of music. I hope this kaleidoscope of music will at least encourage you to take note of some unfamiliar composers' names.
My modern Tower of Babel reflects the exciting but daunting situation diversity of composing idioms and methods during the second half of the 20th Century, greater than at any time before. Everything, absolutely everything, is now up for challenge. The notion of a 'canon' of accepted and well-known great composers, and a limited group of their masterworks, has become tarnished. Regrettably, these 'canons' still dominate the productions of major concert promoters, and music performed by most of those artists who seek to command the highest fees. Falling sales of their CDs released by the larger record companies may drive a new approach to the whole classical music business, which is in a sensitive transitional phase.
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Every composer on the threshold of a career has to find a way which feels comfortable. You will each need to decide whether to write for your own satisfaction alone or also to try to serve the real music world as it is. There have always been composers who followed their own star, taking a chance on whether people may become interested sooner or later. Others work within the competitive music business to try to make a living, in close contact with performers and always ready to give what is wanted, whether for concerts, or for the very different worlds of TV, film and theatre. In the theatre, ballet and modern dance are very fruitful areas in which to find audiences receptive to new music. More English people will have heard music by Giacinto Scelsi by going to see our Rambert Dance Company http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2001/Jan01/rambert.htm than at all the concerts with his music that have been given in UK.
Amplification, electronics and multi-media figure increasingly in the search for new ways to attract audiences. There are also increasing crossover opportunities with jazz and pop, and projects for collaboration with many ethnic and Oriental traditions and their musicians.
We will end this afternoon with some music by a Japanese composer which brings together elements from her national culture and a western avant-garde language. Each of my musical examples is over-determined and chosen for more than one reason. We have enjoyed greatly in Huddersfield the fruits of a collaboration in which composers from China wrote music for the Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam. Here, to give a flavour of the possibilities for East meeting West is a movement from a work composed for the Nieuw Ensemble of by Guo Wenjing of Beijing http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/Nov99/huddersfield.htm
Guo Wenjing She Huo Zebra 001
So it is a complicated modern world of musicians and their publics in which you will need to find your ways,"speaking in tongues", as in the Biblical Tower of Babel, and not always understanding each others' languages. But for all of types of music, whether you aspire towards the older complexity or the newer simplicities, technique and practicalities are as important as imagination.
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This lecture is a self-indulgent and nostalgic autobiographical journey. I am reminding myself and sharing with you fifty years of listening to, and playing, music which has been important to me. I have remained eager to hear what is new and different. Besides contemporary music, I take an equal interest in early music, enjoying playing the clavichord as well as the piano.
My sequence of CD tracks will certainly be unusual, as is my record collection. I hope that the music we hear will speak for itself, without explanations or programme notes. In the form of this presentation, there is an implied lesson that a concert programme which is likely to be remembered as a special experience should be carefully thought out as a whole - and composers of commissioned works should play their part in that. I will highlight composers important to me for a variety of reasons, and covering many of my personal contacts with the music profession, within which young composers have to find their way. Establishing personal contacts and friendships with composers and performers should be axiomatic for younger composers trying to establish themselves in a very difficult profession.
I will also talk about the increasing importance of the Internet for music and musicians, mentioning the successes in independent music publishing by composers, and of own-label record companies established by some enterprising performers. My involvement has shown me how the World Wide Web can bring together small, isolated groups of people dispersed around the whole world. Now it has the possibility to download and listen to music that composers wish to share.
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Looking over my shoulder whilst preparing this talk were two people whom I have found very much in tune with my taste and thinking, the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich, who is still very much with us, and Yvar Mikhashoff who sadly is no longer. Yvar Mikhashoff was a flamboyant pianist and citizen of the whole musical world, responsible for programming the famous Almeida Festival in London, the most important UK new music festival in UK during the1980s. It was there that I first heard Luis de Pablo's music. The Almeida Festival in its heyday brought to London many marvellous individualist composers, notably the reclusive Giacinto Scelsi. It has recently been revived on a smaller scale as Almeida Opera and Hoxton New Music Days, with concerts under the artistic direction of John Woolrich, one of Britain's most individual composers.
Last week Almeida Opera 2001 opened with a project which featured non-professional musicians, electronic experts and disc-jockeys in a multimedia event which brought together underground pop, John Cage's collage experiments of long ago and the more recent ones of Helmut Lachenmann. For an impressive and thoroughly enjoyable demonstration of cutting edge experiments in video and music in the 1960s & '70s, there is a stimulating exhibition of the Korean musician and artist Nam June Paik at the Guggenheim Museum here in Bilbao. He studied composing in Korea and Tokyo, wrote a thesis on Schoenberg and pursued avant-garde music in Germany. At the exhibition there is film of him with John Cage and working with the cellist/performance artist Charlotte Moonman. A fascinating window onto one aspect of the sort of world in which you will need to take your pick, rejecting parts of it with which you can find no sympathy.
Yvar Mikhashoff http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/oct00/Mikhashoff.htm was open to every kind of music. He built a huge collection of more than 100 Tangos, which he persuaded all his composer friends to write for him. One of them is by Conlon Nancarrow. Nancarrow is best known for punching out his enormously complex Studies for Player Piano on piano rolls in isolation in Mexico. Only towards the end of his life did he enjoy travel and popular fame and I had the pleasure of sitting & talking with him at the Almeida Festival when he was a featured composer.
Here is Yvar Mikhashoff playing a Nancarrow tango for normal piano, written on three staves and three interchangeable rhythms and before it a tiny gift to him from John Cage.
John Cage& Conlon Nancarrow 2 Tangos New Albion 073
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The established & recognised greats of the late 20C can look after themselves & do not need my championship. Their exclusion from this talk is not meant to suggest any disparagement, nor does the fact that this presentation includes very little music from the British Isles. Chance alone, not national preferences, has determined which of a possible 115 countries have been left out of this whistle stop survey - their omission means nothing at all, and for another presentation of my themes, I could have come up with examples from many of them.
Stravinsky has to be an exception, & with so many memories I can't leave him out. His inclusion here begins a section of my talk devoted to non-professional and children's music making. My choice is over-determined by many thoughts. On the day after Igor Stravinsky died I went to listen to some of his music. It was being played continuously for 24 hrs at St Paul's Church at Covent Garden in central London and many people came in to listen. No other composer to my knowledge has had a similar tribute paid upon his death. I also recall an association between Luis de Pablo and Stravinsky. Soon after Stravinsky's death Luis visited me in Amsterdam, whilst we were both there for premieres of his music. He arrived to be interviewed for an article I was preparing clutching an enormous box containing a memorial CD reissue of all Stravinsky's major works!
Stravinsky explored and adopted serialism towards the end of his life. In his late serial works, the last of which we will now hear, he succeeds in remaining his recognisable, essential self, a highly valued quality in composers of the present day. I am representing Stravinsky with his very last original work, a setting for voice and piano of the best-known poem by Edward Lear, a notable painter and travel writer, more famous now for his nonsense verse and limericks.
I produced two LPs in the late 1960s with my son Simon who was then around twelve. For both he was accompanied by Steuart Bedford, later to become musical director of the Aldeburgh Festival. For just the Stravinsky, the accompaniment, in unison but with subtly varied octave spacing, was by myself. We were proud to have encouragement from the great man himself. Stravinsky listened to a tape of our preparations, sent with a query about his tempo marking. He responded by telegram to tell us that he preferred our tempo, and our version of the song, to the one already released by CBC!
From our LP of Russian Children's Songs, the young treble Simon Woolf sings Stravinsky's setting of Lear's The Owl & the Pussycat .
Stravinsky The Owl and the Pussycat Turnabout TV-S 34331
As an encore, a tiny Shakespeare song by Sir Michael Tippett, who died in 1998 aged 93. I placed this little song onto the end of a sequence of English songs to complete Simon's second LP, its other side being devoted to Szymanowski in Polish.
Tippett Where the bee sucks Unicorn RHS 316
Working with Simon taught me not to underestimate the musicality of children and their capacity to absorb new music. Simon was fed from early childhood on a diet of Bartok and Britten and responded more easily to those composers than to Bach and Mozart. He learnt to sing The Owl & the Pussycat during a weekend away from home, with no piano to check the serial pitches.
Most of my illustrations are of music for instruments and orchestras, but I introduce at this point an excellent choir from the Basque, based in Pamplona, not far from Bilbao. I got to know their musical director Pello de Ruiz Huici at the international choral competition at Rhodes http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2001/May01/rhodes.htm and we have kept in touch by email.
We were vastly impressed by the professionalism of Pello's singers and the original and distinctive approach of his choir, Taller de Musica Sine Nomine, and we reported their special achievement in some detail in Seen&Heard. During the last several years they have increasingly been working on contemporary music and I would urge young composers present to consider making contributions to the very lively choral musical scene in general and for this choir in particular. They have won a number of important prizes and have performed in Bilbao.
On Sunday Pello de Ruiz, with his colleague Ignacio Itturrate as interpreter, made the journey to Bilbao and brought me their CD of the Taller's most recent concert, given in Avila in June. I am delighted to be able to include now, as an extra item in rather a long conference, their performance of Kabar Mie la Gaji by the Spanish composer Alberto Grau.
Alberto Grau Kabar Mie la Gaji Concert recording
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There is a growing movement to provide contemporary music that should be technically accessible for students and non-professional instrumentalists, and I would like to include two examples from excellent piano music collections recently published in England and Spain.
Thalia Myers is an English pianist and piano teacher concerned at the dearth of good contemporary piano music of a suitable level by British composers (and others resident in Britain). The examining Board of the Royal Schools of Music asked her to commission a book of short piano pieces from British composers that would encourage the new generation to explore new music as fearlessly as young people would have done 200 years ago.
The composers were asked to make no musical compromises with their personal styles. They all found it an interesting assignment and some found the task surprisingly difficult. Spectrum proved so successful that Spectrum 2 http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/sept99/spectrum.htm soon followed, with even easier pieces - easy to play but hard to write. Now Thalia has ventured farther afield and just launched an international collection, which shows how distinguished composers from around the world have absorbed and adapted traditions of Western classical music.
With 115 countries in the world from which composers could be enlisted, there is no reason why the series should not go on and on, and it is already having a strong impact upon piano teaching and domestic music making in UK.
From Spectrum 3 http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/sept99/spectrum.htm Thalia Myers plays a short piece by Ramon Lazkano a Basque composer to whom I introduced her, following a festival in Strasbourg http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/strasbourg/strasb99.htm where he and Luis de Pablo both held teaching residencies.
Ramon Lazkano Zortziko Metronome MET 1053
Next follows a piece by Joao Oliveira, a Portuguese composer I met recently in Lisbon
Joao Oliveira bagatella from Book of Colien
The Schubert Ensemble of London's commissioning brief to composers for their Chamber Music Project 2000 was perhaps even more innovative and unusual. To encourage chamber music players to experience at first hand the works of living composers, they were invited to write short pieces pitched at the easiest technical level for which they felt able to write while still preserving the integrity and individuality of their individual musical language. Here are examples by two of my favourite composers working in the British Isles.
Gerald Barry Snow is white & John Woolrich toccata Metronome 1053
Educational work with schools has really taken off in the UK in the last few years, and its importance cannot be overemphasised if we are to build audiences of the future who will want to go to classical music concerts and listen to the music being written at the beginning of this new Millennium.
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The case of Giacinto Scelsi, an eccentric Italian Count who threatened death to anyone who attempted to photograph him, illustrates the problems of composers born at the wrong time. A major Scelsi retrospective drew us to Lisbon last month for the 25th annual Gulbenkian Encounters of Contemporary Music. http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2001/June01/Portugal.htmIts theme, devised by Harry Halbreich, was to present a musical Salon des Refusés - towards an alternative history of 20th century music, one very close to my own heart. A group of painters in France, including Courbet, Manet & Pissarro, were rejected in 1863 by the academic jury of the prestigious biennial Paris Salon. They decided to organise their own break-away Salon des Refusés. Their supporters Monet, Renoir, Sisley, & Cezanne joined in the project. They became famous and those who had rejected them were consigned to ultimate oblivion.
Lisbon's Salon des Refusés focused upon the resurrection of some undeservedly neglected composers of the recent past, headed by Giacinto Scelsi, with Maurice Ohana, Roberto Gerhard, Stepan Wolpe and Nikos Skalkottas and featured also some younger composers, such as the Spaniard Alberto Posadas and Portugal's Joao Oliveira, both represented today.
The lack of recognition of worthy composers sometimes results from their being poor, or reluctant, self-publicists. Some of those featured in Lisbon were uncompromising individualists and 'difficult' people, who even reacted to adverse reception of their ideas by suppression of the music and banning its performance! Artists who refuse to conform to current fashions risk rejection. Ohana had bravely ignored the dominance of Boulez in France (Boulez's advocacy of total serialism swept England too for a time) and quietly went his own way. Some were late developers; several of them died prematurely; we were told that Francisco Guerrero (an important teacher of Spanish composers) 'burnt himself out'.
Scelsi (1905-1988) remains controversial and hard to evaluate. I had been hooked upon first hearing a radio programme of Scelsi's 10th suite for piano and the 2nd String Quartet. I studied his sonatas and suites very intensively and wrote some of the first articles about him published in English. There is still no book in English devoted to him; he was a perverse character who deliberately made life difficult for writers and scholars, sometimes falsifying dates of his manuscripts, and at times he even opposed having his music performed.
I visited Scelsi in Rome towards the end of his life, hoping to discuss some anomalies in his scores. I found him totally disinterested to look at them, and instead he demonstrated at the piano how a nervous breakdown led to completely new thinking about music and, particularly, about sound. He showed me how he helped his own recovery in the clinic where he was being treated, by sitting at a piano day after day playing the same single note again and again, absorbing its essence and all the sounds contained within it.
Scelsi Four Pieces on One Note No 4 (1959) Accord CD 200612
Scelsi's music is still not widely known, and his larger orchestral works have still not been heard by the public in UK. It was ironical that although an excellent Flemish orchestra, conducted by Luca Pfaff (a friend of Luis de Pablo) gave fine, well prepared performances of two of them in Lisbon, only tiny audiences came to hear those concerts, put on in large concert halls.
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Alberto Posadas, a young a Madrid composer, completed his Apeirion for orchestra in 1993 and it caused a sensation in 1999 at Strasbourg http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/strasbourg/strasb99.htm , where I was attending a festival of Spanish Music mounted in honour of Luis de Pablo. It is uncannily close to the music of Scelsi, whose music the young composer had however never heard until a year after he wrote it.
Posadas Apeirion (private recording)
Posadas told me that when he heard some Scelsi CDs for the first time in 1994 he 'turned amazed - it was like meeting one of my ancestors'. This fits in well with what Scelsi himself told me about his mystic belief that he was not a creative composer but that his music 'passed through him' - and he attached significance to the fact that he lived overlooking the Forum of Rome 'at the exact boundary of East and West'. It is said that 'all roads lead to Rome' and good ideas and scientific advances often arise in different places and times, unbeknown to the innovators. Posadas recognises as some other 'ancestors' Varese, Xenakis and Guerrero.
Next a short piece for string trio that Francisco Guerrero wrote as a present for Irvine Arditti, an encore for the impressive seven movement Zayin, http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/apr00/zayin.htm which is recorded by the Arditti Quartet - Zayin is one of the most impressive Spanish works I know. Guerrero ZayinVIIbis Almaviva DS-0127
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Nikos Skalkottas is notable for the wit and Mediterranean warmth he brings into his individual treatment of what he learned from Schoenberg. He had no chance in his culturally isolated 'native backwater' of Greece, where he worked as the back desk violinist of the Athens Symphony Orchestra. He died in 1949, unknown, unpublished & unplayed.
Although he was championed by Lina Lalandi in her festivals in UK, his growing fame is of recent years and increasing now at the beginning of our new Millennium. Prolific in all genres, many of his works have at long last been recorded by BIS, so that we are now able to appreciate how advanced he was. Skalkottas uses a 12-note system of his own and veers between free atonality to multi-serialism, but not eschewing tonal, modal and jazz ingredients. He constructs colourful chords and his music has enormous energy and rhythmic subtlety. The cycle of 32 extraordinarily varied piano pieces of 1940 lasts 95 mins and a first recording http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/July01/Skalkottas.htm has just been released. From the 32 pieces here is one of his Greek Folk Dance arrangements, followed by a typical whirlwind, calling for transcendental pianistic skills.
Skalkottas Two Piano Pieces BIS 1133-34
Many other composers have as strong a claim for recognition as those featured in Lisbon. Around the same time that I went to see Scelsi, I also visited a Swiss pianist, Marianne Schroeder, who was one of the first to record Scelsi's piano music. I found her very excited by a new discovery, her floor covered with some strange, austere manuscript scores - rather bare pages with very few notes on them - why should they interest a virtuoso contemporary music pianist?
They transpired to be music by Galina Ustvolskaya, a reclusive, elderly Russian woman, long isolated living in the Soviet Union. Once a favourite pupil of Shostakovich, Ustvolskaya is little interested in texture and favours extreme, terraced dynamics, ppppp & fffff. Hers is hard edged, uncompromising music. Two of Ustvolskaya's sonatas framed an exemplary recital which I reviewed, given in Munich by Sigfried Mauser, http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2000/may00/munich.htm who was lecturing here earlier this week. Eventually I undertook the daunting task of reviewing all the recordings of Galina Ustvolskaya's bleak, austere and uncompromising piano music for a specialist journal, International Piano Quarterly. http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/dec99/ustvolskaya.htm
Listening to three of her Preludes of 1953, do not be deceived by their apparent simplicity into thinking that they have anything to do with the Spectrum projects or the Album de Colien. This is music of a stoic and survivor from the Soviet Republic.
Ustvolskaya 12 Preludes Triton 17 014
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I am blessed with a Swiss-born wife and I have taken an interest in music of that country and built up a CD collection of music by Swiss composers. I have also many CDs from other smaller European countries, such as Belgium and Luxembourg, each with a flourishing state-aided record company, which produces monographic CDs of their native composers, and there are many surprises to be found amongst them.
The Swiss composer Christoph Delz was taken up by the BBC. I admired him as a unique individualist with a wide ranging literary knowedge and intellectual appetite, a fine pianist and innovative composer. I was anticipating meeting him again at the premiere of his latest work, being broadcast in London. It was a shock when the radio announcer said that he had died a few days previously. I was asked to write an obituary, which is copied onto my website with a review of his 3 Grammont CDs. http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/Jan01/delz.htm
Those CDs are models of thoughtful programme building. On one of them he puts late Liszt against his own piano music, rather as Sigfried Mauser in Munich had juxtaposed some of the same Liszt pieces with Part, Ustvolskaya and Feldman, to show that the late 20th century had its origins in the 19th century. Here is the beginning of the bizarre and unpredictable second movement in memoriam Luis Bunuel of Delz's piano concerto, the first of his works which I heard in London, and for which he used a specially prepared piano and the full BBC Symphony orchestra.
Delz Piano Concerto Grammont FCD 97 743
If you are interested to know how Delz's concerto begins or finishes, or to meet to discuss scores and maybe listen to some more of the music I have introduced by opening doors in my Tower of Babel (or to talk about the Internet) let me know during the evening.
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MusicWeb http://musicweb.vavo.com/ is the largest European classical music website and it carries some 100 CD reviews every month. Launching my own live music review section Seen&Heard http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/index.html and running it for two years has been an educative and stimulating experience. Mastering the technology has been tough but I consider that the Internet has now become an essential mode of communication.
To demonstrate the power of the World Wide Web and the scope of Musicweb UK the published transcript of this lecture has many links with their URLs retained fully in blue. Those may be copied, or clicking onto those words which are underlined will take you to many relevant reports and reviews.
I would urge composers who are establishing their careers to take full advantage of the easier modes of communication and sharing now expanding. Self-publishing of scores has taken off with considerable success (there are many excellent composers in every country who find it hard to get published and promoted by the main music publishers and record companies) as have own-label CDs, such as those of Joanna MacGregor http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/sept99/cage1.htm and Lowri Blake http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/july00/lowri.htm -.
We have had a gratifying response from our work for young musicians in concerts, festivals and competitions and have made friends in many countries. One of them is a young flautist Mario Caroli http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/Feb01/Caroli.htm heard in Strasbourg and due to make his UK debut at the Huddersfield Festival in November. Email correspondence with Mario has been so illuminating that I have published some of his thoughts in one of my Editorials on Seen&Heard.
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My last two music examples have strong Spanish connections. Mario Caroli plays Suspira by Jesus Rueda in his first solo CD, which is also the first release by a new Italian record company. It was premiered by Caroli 11 long years after it was composed - a cautionary thought for composers! In the middle of the piece a C note has to be played with nine different fingerings, giving variety of timbre and demanding high tuning sensitivity from the performer.
Rueda Suspira SvaNa SVN001
To finish, I have chosen music by two young Japanese women composers who have impressed me and from whom recordings have been received. (Time did not allow inclusion of au bleu bois http://musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/Mar01/Eotvos.htm by Misato Mochizuki, heard at the Stuttgart Éclat Festival in February 2000, where I talked with her and reported " - - a special high spot was a marvellous piece for unaccompanied oboe by a young Japanese composer which integrates all the advanced techniques explored in recent years so that they feel entirely natural".)
Sachiyo Tsurumi sent me from Japan her Toy, which won an Honourable mention at Amsterdam's Gaudeamus Music Week 2000 http://musicweb-international.com/SandH/2001/Mar01/Gaudeamus.htm . That success carried a commission for a new work which will be included in the 2001 festival in September. We found the Gaudeamus Music Week a splendid, friendly event, and in Holland they make English speakers very comfortable - I was immensely impressed with how Sachiyo coped, in her very limited English, with an examination of her compositional decisions at a morning seminar open to the public. I look forward to meeting her again and hearing her latest music. That week is an important one in the new music calendar, and the Gaudeamus Foundation provides a valuable service a twice yearly Bulletin which covers all the main European new music events.
Sachiyo's Toy finishes abruptly with her toys put back into their box, and this may make some of you think about the difficult problem of how to end a composition, so that the audience is not left unsure when to clap their hands. That is sometimes hard to decide in these times when a Beethoven-style peroration is no longer acceptable.
A similar problem confronts finishing a presentation like today's, when there has to be so much left unsaid and so many people left out. There were more composers active in the second half of the last century than in any previous half-century, and enthusiasts like us have more CDs to catch up with than a lifetime can allow. It is very crowded in my Tower of Babel! This talk ends as it began, with music.
Luis de Pablo is now engaged on completing his first concerto for the Spanish national instrument, Fantasies for guitar and small orchestra, to be premiered by Radio France. Here, played on the instruments which for all of us epitomise our love of Spain, is Sachiyo Tsurumi's Toy for two guitars.
Tsurumi Toy Kojima ALCD-53
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Peter Grahame Woolf
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