Of all the contemporary jazz artists who have crossed-over to classical orchestral music and other large-scale forms, Anthony Davis is certainly among the most prominent, with multiple compositions, performances and albums going back decades. He also is one of the most original, with a style of his very own. I consider him among a small handful of the very best jazz composers working in classical configurations.
Lee Hyla, an American composer whose work marries the formal rigor of classical music with the driving energy of rock and the improvisational abandon of jazz, died on June 6 in Chicago. He was 61.
His death, from complications of pneumonia, was announced by Northwestern University, where he held the Harry N. and Ruth F. Wyatt chair in music theory and composition.
The American composer Lewis Spratlan, born in 1940, gained wide attention in 2000 when a concert version of Act II of his opera “Life Is a Dream,” which was completed in 1978 but had never been staged, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. This welcome new recording from the impressive Boston Modern Orchestra Project offers three ingeniously written and distinctive Spratlan works. “A Summer’s Day” (2008) uses a simple, dreamy Celtic tune at the start as a jumping-off place for an elusive, complex suite that ruminates on the tensions below the surface of an inviting day.
Anthony Davis is, in my opinion, one of America’s greatest and most unique composers. His music comes at you from a number of different, intriguing and artistically important perspectives. As a jazz pianist, himself, Davis often brings a sense of the improvised and the most progressive jazz harmonies and momentum to his work. There are not only direct references to some jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, in his music; such as the captivating Notes from the Underground, but a sense of jazz orientation in a number of his works.
Irving Fine — born in East Boston a century ago this December, an anniversary celebrated by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conductor Gil Rose on Friday — was at the center of the Boston School of mid-20th-century classical composition.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project celebrated Irving Fine’s centennial at Jordan Hall Friday with performances of three of his works alongside pieces by Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger—two of Fine’s mid-20th-century “Third Boston School” colleagues. The event was part concert, part a collegiate bash for Brandeis University, and part family reunion. Eric Chasalow, the current Irving G. Fine Professor of Music at Brandeis, made some remarks and read a letter from the university’s president, Frederick Lawrence.
While 1962′s Symphony owes a clear debt to Stravinsky and Britten (especially its last movement), it sounds like nobody but Irving Fine. This is a score that orchestras ought to be lining up to play.
In his short creative life Irving Fine secured a reputation for both populist and serious music. His chamber and choral works remain in the standard repertoire, but his little-played orchestral music is remarkable and memorable for its personal charm and lyricism even when the composer employed the most dissonant of material.
With this audacious release BMOP/sound is the first to give us a modern day hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), recording devoted to one of the most off the wall works ever composed by a twentieth century American. His name was George Antheil (1900-1959, see the newsletter of 8 June 2011), and the piece is his Ballet pour instruments mécaniques et percussion more commonly known as Ballet Mécanique (1925). Written while he was living in Paris, it was to accompany a Dadaist film of the same name, and is by today's standards a sonic happening.
This is my first encounter with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and I am mightily impressed. The music on this admittedly brief disc is performed with such verve and evangelical intensity that it makes the visit to George Antheil’s sadly underrated or arguably overrated world supremely worthwhile.
Snappy new recordings of the music of Milton Babbitt and George Antheil from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, while cellist Christ Wild’s disc offers a fascinating journey through some richly diverse musical soundscapes.
This recording by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project captures several of Jacob Druckman (1928-1996)’s later works. While his Lamia, performed here by soprano Lucy Shelton, headlines the disc, the recording is structured as an all-Druckman concert that succeeds with aplomb. Mixing Druckman’s original works with arrangements of baroque pieces by Cavalli and Charpentier, the performance opens with That Quickening Pulse in its rightful place as a concert-opener.
Le Boston Modern Orchestra Project et son directeur musical Gil Rose frappent un grand coup avec cet enregistrement de la version originale (1924) du Ballet pour instruments mécaniques et percussion de l’Américain George Antheil pour seize pianos mécaniques (ici, huit Disklavier), huit percussionnistes et deux pianos réguliers (plus sirènes et moteurs d’avion!). Heavy metal avant la lettre, et pas qu’un peu!
Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s 15th annual “Boston ConNECtion” concert at Jordan Hall on March 28th was, as you can adduce by reading BMInt’s interview with composer Donald Crockett here, is a bit of a stretch programmatically, as only two of the four composers whose works were presented (the two youngest, as it happened) have or had anything like a significant association with New England Conservatory, and only one of them currently resides in the area.
During China’s Cultural Revolution, one of the world’s oldest civilizations tore itself apart. The estimated 70 million deaths that resulted have touched the lives of just about everyone in the country and many around the world.
One story from China’s remote Xiaoxiang region tells of a widow who avenges the death of her husband by tormenting his killer, a local communist official. Devoid of any legal means of seeking justice, she sat in the forest behind the official’s house every night for months and wailed like a ghost. Both went insane.
One of the challenges for the reception of music by Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) has been the difficulty the composer encountered in finding performers up to the task of recording his ensemble works with clarity and precision. While one is grateful for those brave souls who first tackled his compositions and recorded them for posterity, All Set, Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s latest recording of his works, fills in some gaps and provides clear sound and well-executed renderings of several of his pieces.
Fanfare readers have met Mathew Rosenblum in reviews by Robert Kirzinger in 23:5 and Robert Carl, who covered a New World disc of several works about a year ago, in 36:3. Both of my colleagues liked his music a great deal, and so do I. Rosenblum has forged a unique compositional voice, in part from the tuning and temperament that he employs in his music. The 21-tone and 19-tone scales that permit intervals in just intonation are among the tools in his toolbox.
George Antheil was quite a character in the music of the first half of the last century. He authored a book, Bad Boy of Music, which is still in print. He was at the noisy premiere riot of The Rite of Spring in Paris and reported that he wasn’t a bit concerned for himself because he had a loaded pistol in his pocket. After moving to Hollywood to escape the Nazi, like so many other composers in Europe, he continued his career writing scores for the movies.
As a graduate student I remember Arthur Berger's music being described in the halls as "white-note Webern." In fact, as Rodney Lister's notes clarify for me, it was Milton Babbitt, who, in a 1950 article, described the music as "diatonic Webern," a moniker that apparently stuck the same way to Berger as the notorious "Who Cares If You Listen?" stuck to Babbitt (incidentally not that composer's title).
It has become commonplace to bash the symphony orchestra. All together now: it’s impractical, old-fashioned, a relic, a museum, a bastion of canonic conservatism, a hangover from long-gone eras and aesthetics. We know the drill.