Saturday, October 27, 2007

Alex Ross' Top 12

The new Alex Ross book about 20th century classical music, THE REST OF NOISE, is attracting a lot of interesting attention. The book makes the cover of the New York Times Book Review, with Geoff Dyer's review concluding, "THE REST IS NOISE is a great achievement. Rilke once wrote of how he learned to stand 'more seeingly' in front of certain paintings. Ross enables us to listen more hearingly."

At, Jason Kottke interviews Ross. The interview concludes with Ross' list of 12 top works since 1980. They are:

Steve Reich, Different Trains
John Adams, Nixon in China
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Offertorium
Gérard Grisey, Les Espaces acoustiques
Arvo Pärt, Da pacem domine
Louis Andriessen, De Stijl
Thomas Ades, Asyla
Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain
Michael Gordon, Decasia
Magnus Lindberg, Kraft
Osvaldo Golijov, St. Mark Passion

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony: Other looks

Jeffrey Quick, Cleveland area composer and blogger, has posted his own review of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's opening concert on Sunday. He liked the Michael Reese piece: "This is a piece that could grow legs, especially with world events being what they are."

Update: Review from Donald Rosenberg of the Plain Dealer. He liked the Reese piece too -- I've outvoted 2-1 so far -- but likes the Cage less well than I did. "The overall effect conveyed Cage's intriguing notion of collected sounds, but the tedium level was high," he writes.

Correction: Composer's name is Michael Leese. See posting below for link to more information.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony opens season

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony, my favorite local band, opened its season Sunday afternoon with a typically interesting concert at Kulas Hall on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

I liked three of the four pieces. The opener, "In Memoriam David Lelchook: Four the Victims of War," was, I confess, not my cup of tea. It written in memory of an American killed by a Hezbollah rocket attack in Israel, and commissioned by Lelchook's sister, Judith Lelchook, who sat in the audience while the piece was played. The composer, Michael Leese, bounded on stage to take a bow when the piece finished.

John Adams' "Chamber Symphony" was more complex than the composer's usual fare. The three-movement fast-slow-fast piece really held my attention and I'm determined to track down a recording of it.

After an intermission came a performance of John Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis."

I'd call it an unusual piece, but what would a usual piece from John Cage be? The program notes say it was written by placing a piece of paper over an astronomical map, with the notes marked to correspond with the position of the stars. Peter Laki's program notes add, "A performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1964 turned into a scandal as orchestra members openly made fun of the music and audience members walked out in droves."

The piece went over better Sunday. Although it was originally written for a full orchestra, the CCS used just seven players; two were in the balcony, two were onstage, and the rest were in other parts of the auditorium. The conductor, CCS Music Director Steven Smith, led the piece by turning his back to the audience and holding his arms straight out, using his arms to mimic the hands of stopwatch; when his arms came together at the top after several minutes, the piece was over.

Smith invited the audience members to get up and walk around if we wanted to hear how the music sounded. Quite a few people, particularly in the balcony, accepted the invitation, including your humble correspondent. Some of the musicians also briefly exited the auditorium as they played.

The finale was a piece called "Big Band" by Elizabeth Joan Kelly. The piece debuted at the CCS' annual concert devoted to the work of young composers, and the orchestra liked it so much it decided to perform it at a regular concert. Kelly, a Margaret Brouwer protege who graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music this year, was the audience and also came onstage to take a bow.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Brouwer piece to be performed

Cleveland homegirl composer Margaret Brouwer's "Century's Song," a new work composed in honor of Dover, Ohio's bicentennial, will be performed Saturday at the Tuscarawas Philharmonic's season opener Saturday at Dover High School, the Dover-New Philadelphia "Times Reporter" says.

The newspaper's piece quotes the orchestra's conductor as explaining, "I think of the piece as a kind of musical portrait of Ohio. The middle section is a sweet melody that evokes 19th century parlor music and the opening is a ringing celebration while the concluding march draws on the folk music tradition of Ohio. It's a blend of folk tradition and classical sophistication -- a fitting salute to the ongoing cultural energies in Dover and Tuscarawas County in general."
Cleveland Chamber Symphony plays Sunday

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has announced its program for the free concert it is performing at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct.7, at the Kulas Musical Arts Building, 96 Front Street in Berea, Ohio. There will be a new work by Michael Leese, "In Memoriam David Lelchook: For the Victims of War," along with "Chamber Symphony" by John Adams, "Big Band" by Elizabeth Joan Kelly and "Atlas Eclipticalis" by John Cage. As usual, it sounds like an interesting set. (Lelchook was an Israeli farmer, an emigrant from America, killed by a Hezbollah rocket fired from Lebanon.)