Cube Calendars articles from 2005

Janice Misurell-Mitchell: Berlin Diary II

The fall was filled with a wide variety of music, such as another Staats Oper performance, this time of Franz Schrecker’s Der ferne Klang (The Distant Sound), an unusual program by the Deutsches Sinfonie Orchester, a fall jazzfest, and several new music concerts in a variety of venues.

The new music scene is relatively healthy, though composers complained that there is a need for a major contemporary music ensemble in Berlin itself, rather than the many visiting groups that appear there. Chicago composer Guillermo Gregorio, originally from Argentina, had his works featured in a concert series, “der negative horizont” (the negative horizon), presented at Podewil, a major performance space for alternative art in Berlin. Gregorio’s pieces included the premiere of Otra Música 4 for 5 instruments and live electronics, and two works based on graphic notation. The series, which ran from September 30 to October 2, featured several visual and sound artists from Argentina and included panel discussions, conceptual and experimantal art, electroacoustic music, and film.

The Konzerthaus Berlin Musikclub is a cabaret within the concert house building, and it has a nineteenth century atmosphere. Trio Nexus (flute, percussion and piano), presented a concert there that was comprised entirely of premieres by composers in Berlin. Programmed by Gabriel Iranyi, who was originally from Rumania, the music fit a range of compositional styles. I met and spoke at length with Gabriel, flutist Erik Drescher (who had played on the Podewil concert), and Helmut Zapf, another composer on the program. All three are actively involved in the programming and production of recently written music in Berlin.

The following week I went to the Ars-nova-ensemble Berlin, directed by Peter Schwarz. The church where the concert was held had wonderful acoustics; the entire concert was a cappella, and the blend, intonation, and overall singing was a thrill to listen to. There was a sound-oriented piece, Litene by Peteris Vasks and 12 Bussverse by Alfred Schnittke. Another concert, “Music Unerhörte” (music never before heard) was in a club somewhat like the HotHouse, only smaller. It was produced by Helmut Zapf, who also directed the performing group, Ensemble Junge Musik. Most of the pieces were by composers in their twenties, and they were very impressive in their grasp of instrumental possibilities. There was a good-sized audience and a lot of networking after the concert.

The Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, directed by Kent Nagano, presented a daring program (for an established orchestra) in Philharmonic Hall. (The featured soloist was Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen.) A mix of old and new, the pieces on the concert all shared the concept of “sinfonia”. On the first half of the concert were canzoni by Gabrieli, several keyboard sinfonias by Bach, and Webern’s Symphonie opus 21. These works were played in alternation: Gabrieli, Bach, Webern, Bach, Gabrieli—all without pause. Following these was Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds; the sounds of the previous pieces resonated brilliantly in the Stravinsky. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 completed the program; for me the biggest thrill was the performance and the personnel of the wind instruments: the principal flute, oboe and bassoon were all women (as was one of the bass trombones!); and their playing and blend were superb.

The Schrecker opera contained music that was expressionist but had many twists and turns including some popular styles as well, It was directed by Peter Mussbach, who had created the version of Moses und Aron described in the previous Calendar. Taking the story of the composer-seeker and the beloved who is left behind, Mussbach added a visual subtext of sexual abuse and hysteria. The opera was thus complicated in even more interesting ways.

I also went to several jazz performances, including two full evenings (four hour concerts) of jazz/new music at the new Berliner Gallerie. These performances were dedicated to the late American performers, Steve Lacy (who died recently), and Eric Dolphy (who died in Berlin in 1964). The Dolphy concert featured bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay, who often performs in Chicago, as well as clarinetists Armand Angster and Vinny Golia. The Gallerie, which had opened three weeks earlier, was available to concert patrons the entire evening, and during intermissions many people wandered through the new museum. Most of the audience of 250 people stayed for the music until the very end.

William Brown 1938-2004

CUBE is very saddened to report the death of William Brown, tenor, the wonderful singer who performed in Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Sermon of the Middle-Aged Revolutionary Spider at Harold Washington Library in March, 2003 for our Fifteenth Anniversary Concert. Bill died suddenly of a heart attack on October 20. Professor of Voice at the University of North Florida, he had performed with leading orchestras throughout the world and made numerous recordings of contemporary music. There is a memorial fund in his name at Jackson State University. A video of his performance with CUBE, Sermon of the Spider, by Jim Kropp of Creative Spark!, will be presented in Chicago next year.

John Adams at Northwestern U.

On June 2, 2004, John Adams was named the inaugural winner of the School of Music’s Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. Joining two other prestigious Nemmers Prizes conferred by Northwestern University, the music award honors outstanding achievement in composition and significant impact in the field. In addition to receiving a $100,000 cash award, the winner spends four weeks on campus interacting with faculty, students, and members of the community. The first Nemmers campus residency will take place in February, culminating in a concert of works by Adams (see listing for February 25) — including his 1982 Grand Pianola Music. The composer’s subsequent residencies will take place during the 2005-06 academic year.

America’s most widely performed contemporary composer, John Adams has received the Pulitzer Prize, the Grawemeyer Award, and numerous other honors. His works have been presented by the world’s great orchestras and opera companies and have inspired major choreographers. Adams has brought contemporary history to the opera house with such music theater works as Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. His On the Transmigration of Souls was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.

Adams most recent work is My Father Knew Charles Ives, a musical self-portrait of the composer’s childhood in Concord, NH, where he played in marching bands with his father and first heard live jazz in the summer dance hall owned by his grandfather. The work was premiered in April of 2003 by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.

Future projects include The Dharma at Big Sur (composed for Los Angeles Philharmonic and the opening of Disney Hall in Los Angeles in October of 2003); a new opera, working title: Doctor Atomic, based on the life of Robert Oppenheimer, commissioned by the San Francisco Opera for premiere in September of 2005, and a new orchestral work for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, due in early 2006.


March and April are busy months for CUBE. We begin with two concerts of works by composers from the European Union. The first, on WFMT’s “Live from Studio One” on March 14 at 8PM, features works by composers from Spain, Lithuania, France, England, Sweden, Ireland, Hungary, and Italy. Included are composers familiar to CUBE’s audiences: Italian composer Luciano Berio, whose Sequenza for flute will be performed by Caroline Pittman; and Irish composer Jane O’Leary, whose Silenzia de la Terra for flute and percussion will have its second CUBE performance by Janice Misurell-Mitchell and Dane Richeson..

Another composer on this broadcast is Spanish composer Joan Guinjoan Gispert (b. 1931), who studied in Barcelona and Paris and is the founder of the Barcelona new music group Diabolus in Musica, Christie Vohs will perform his Tres Piezas for solo clarinet. Lithuanian composer Loreta Narvilaite (b. 1965) frequently composes with a strict, calculated formal design derived from the series of numbers or graphic shape of linear progressions. Patricia Morehead and Doug Brush will play her Nightingales in the Rain for oboe and percussion. French composer Edith Lejet (b. 1941) is a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. Lejet’s works, which are not aesthetically linked to any particular trend or school, are characterized by a concise and meticulous approach to form. Quatre mélodies sue le Poème de Cante Jondo by Federico Garcia Lorca will be sung by soprano Kimberly Jones.

British composer Anthony Gilbert (b. 1934), has recently retired as Head of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Demanding, well-crafted, yet often humorous, his music reflects the uncompromising spirit of its creator. Percussionist Dane Richeson will perform his vibraphone duo Sinfin parados. Of Swedish composer Jens Hedman (b. 1962) a reviewer wrote: “[He] lets a massive web of sounds frighten you some, as knives dance in threatening psycho-kinetics right in front of your nose, very close to your nose-tip.” Appropriately, the title of the work to be performed by CUBE pianist Lawrence Axelrod is Glitter/Splinter.

Hungarian composer Gyula Fekete was represented two years ago on a Concertante di Chicago program by his opera Roman Fever, a work written while he was studying at Roosevelt University under CUBE’s own Patricia Morehead. Caroline Pittman and Philip Morehead will play a new work by Fekete written for CUBE.

On April 8 CUBE begins its annual South Loop Festival with a second concert of European works, this time in Curtiss Hall in the Fine Arts Building, featuring the fabulous Fazioli piano. The program, which shares no works with the radio broadcast, features composers from France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, and Italy. French composer Tristan Murail, currently on the faculty at Columbia University in New York, was recently in town for concerts at Northwestern University showcasing French spectral music, of which he is an important representative. His work Le fou à pattes bleus (The Blue Booby), will be played by Caroline Pittman and Philip Morehead.

The King of France for solo piano by British composer Judith Weir (b. 1954) will be played by Lawrence Axelrod. Lawrence will also perform a new piano work (inspired by paintings of Salvador Dali) by Polish composer Johanna Bruzdowicz (b. 1943), who lives in the south of France in a spectacular mountain-side dwelling. Dutch composer/pianist Sebastian Huydts was for some years a fixture on the Chicago new music scene; he now lives in Barcelona. CUBE will perform his work On an Abandoned Theme, originally composed for the Rembrandt Chamber Players. Welsh composer Hilary Tann, who lives in upstate New York, will be represented by a colorful (and colorfully titled) composition The Walls of Morlais Castle for oboe, viola and cello. A wildly inventive work by German composer Helmut Zapf (b. 1956), Albedo VII for flutes, percussion and piano, and an ensemble work for six players by young Italian composer Valerio Sannicandro (b. 1971) round out the program.

Later, on April 22. CUBE’s “Percussion Discussion” will feature CUBE percussionists Dane Richeson and Doug Brush in a program of new works composed specially for CUBE by Lawrence Axelrod, Columbia College faculty members Gustavo Leone and Tiffany Sevilla, and South African composer Bongani Ndodana, and will also include works by Janice Misurell-Mitchell and Lou Harrison.

Lawrence Axelrod’s Autumn Cycles was finished in December 2004. It is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion and piano. The seven evocative short movements are played without pause. We can’t tell you yet about the new works by Gustavo Leone and Tiffany Sevilla, except to say that Gustavo’s piece will be for two percussionists and piano, and Tiffany’s work will be for oboe and electronics.

Bongani Ndodana’s work, tentatively entitled Dis We Be: Childrun of Light promises to be an exciting dramatic work, incorporating projected images and colored neon lights. Janice’s Cantus Interruptus was last performed by CUBE in 1994. It is a work for two saxophones, percussion, and piano, and will feature Susan Cook and Shawn Tracy. Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin and Five Percussionists features virtuosi Anton Miller and Dane Richeson from Lawrence University.

American Songbook II

The final concert of CUBE’s 2005 South Loop Festival spotlights the artistry of soprano Michelle Areyzaga in works by Lee Hoiby, Libby Larsen, Ursula Mamlok, Thea Musgrave, Lita Grier, and Patricia Morehead. Miss Areyzaga, a graduate of Roosevelt University, is a much sought-after performer in opera and concert, equally at home in music of all eras. Piano works by Tania León complete the program.

The vocal works on the program could not be more different from one another in subject and in style. Lee Hoiby’s The Life of the Bee is a setting for voice, cello, and piano of poems by Jeffery Beam, whose “lyrical, metaphysical work fuses the physical and spiritual worlds, creating a conversation between the natural world, the body, and the spirit.” Libby Larsen’s Try Me, Good King takes as its text the final letter and gallows speeches of Katherine Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard — five of Henry VIII’s six wives. Ursula Mamlok sets five haiku by Basho, Jurin, Ransetsu, Rogetsu, and Boncho for voice and flute/alto flute, in turn evoking a gull, a nightingale, a leaf, a tree frog and the green hay. Thea Musgrave, using the same combination of voice and flute, produces a totally different sound in her setting of "Primavera" by Amalia Elguera, a poet, critic, and librettist who lived between London and Lima, Peru. Musgrave also collaborated with Elguera on her opera The Voice of Ariadne and Elguera’s "Moray" was the source material for Musgrave’s Mary, Queen of Scots. Lita Grier’s imaginative and colorful songs set poems by Dickinson, Millay, Lowell, de la Mare, and Christina Rossetti.

Patricia Morehead, following on her sextet of 2002 based on poems by Nina Corwin, sets Corwin’s poem "Salome Gives Seven Explanations for a Kiss" for voice, flute, oboe, clarinet, cello, marimba/percussion, and piano. Corwin’s very personal take on the Salome story is the inspiration for highly evocative music.

Tania León, born in Cuba, a vital personality on today’s music scene, is highly regarded as a composer and conductor. Philip Morehead will play two preludes and Momentum (1986).

CUBE is joined on this concert by Martine Benmann, cello, and Joshua Manchester, percussion.

Rebecca + Robert Morris and CUBE
at the Renaissance Society

Abstract painting is anything but revolutionary. Once the vanguard, it is now the rear guard, moving at a historical pace that makes it the allegory par excellence of modernism. Picking up where artists such as Hans Hoffmann, Larry Poons, and Jules Olitski left off, Rebecca Morris’s paintings are a lovingly destructive embrace of high modernist tenets as espoused by critics such as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. This exhibition will survey Morris’s work of the past five years which represents the time she has lived in Los Angeles since leaving Chicago.

Rebecca’s father, Robert Morris, is a noted composer and theorist, Chairman of the Composition Department at the Eastman School of Music. He has also taught at Yale and the University of Pittsburgh. CUBE will perform several works by Mr. Morris to accompany the exhibition of his daughter’s works, along with music by Stefan Wolpe and Ruth Lomon.