By MARK SWED
in scope, inspiring in ambition, thrilling in execution, it suggests
momentous metaphors. Nonesuch chose photographs of the Sierra and
redwoods in its atmospheric packaging. Marshall writes about an epic
and Sentimental Music" does not, in fact, follow the traditional symphonic
procedure of dramatically working through contrasts and conflict to
an innocent tune takes a trip and gets a life, naive and sentimental
being, for Adams, preconditions of profundity and even enlightenment.
the first movement, a pop-like song takes off and just keeps going,
the road twisting and turning, a new experience around every corner.
The gorgeous solo guitar melody (elegantly played by David Tanenbaum)
that haunts the central slow movement, "Mother of Man," has the potential
to turn saccharine but chooses a more serious and sustaining path.
The last movement, "Chain to the Rhythm," is the hair-raising symphonic
ride of your life.
extraordinary command of this rich score that Salonen and the L.A.
Philharmonic demonstrated at the premiere is captured in all its glory
is talking about Osvaldo Golijov. He is unquestionably the hottest
new voice on the scene, and his "St. Mark" Passion, which will find
its way to the Eclectic Orange Festival in the fall, positively sizzles.
(A live recording of its premiere is available from Hanssler, and
a studio recording is in the works from Nonesuch.) Golijov, who is
from Argentina, is also featured on the Kronos' exceptional recent
CD, "Nuevo." But the most substantial overview of Golijov thus far
is this marvelous new disc by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which
includes several pieces that were performed by the Philharmonic or
ensembles of its players last season when Golijov was in residence
highlight is "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," for klezmer
clarinet and string quartet. There is an excellent recording by the
Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer, but this is music so personal and
of such personality as it moves from cabalistic mystery to earthy
ecstasy that it takes on new qualities with new performers. The Kronos
emphasized its beguiling strangeness; the St. Lawrence is after sheer
passion, enhanced by Todd Palmer's virtuosity.
St. Lawrence is joined by the Ying Quartet and bassist Mark Dresser
for "Last Round," a winning tribute to new tango (the Philharmonic
performed a string orchestra version). "Lullaby and Doina" is haunting
music adapted from Golijov's score to Sally Potter's film "The Man
Who Cried." The 10-year-old "Yiddishbbuk," the earliest work on this
disc, contains short, emotional, harder- edged commemorations of children
interned in the Terezin concentration camp, Yiddish writer I.B.Singer
and Leonard Bernstein. All performances are gripping. If you want
to know what all the fuss over Golijov is about, here is an excellent
one-stop place to find out.
MAGNUS LINDBERG "Cantigas," Cello Concerto, "Parada,"
Anssi Karttunen, cello;
Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Esa-Pekka Salonen's countryman, school chum and closest musical friend,
Magnus Lindberg is a familiar figure in Los Angeles. Last season,
Salonen led a festival of Lindberg's works in London and toured Europe
with them. When Leon Kirchner did not finish his violin concerto in
time for its scheduled premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in
March, Salonen substituted two recent Lindbergscores, the Cello Concerto
new CD, which contains first recordings of both pieces, comes from
the London festival. It also includes the first recording of "Fresco,"
which was a Los Angeles Philharmonic commission in 1998.
music may not be quite so immediately accessible as Adams' or Golijov's,
but it is so sonically strong and so full of gritty invention it manages
to make a big first impression. The Cello Concerto is the standout,
in part for the unbelievably facile finger work of Anssi Karttunen.
But given a chance, all of Lindberg's music grows on a listener. Its
harmonic richness draws you deeper and deeper into a sound world that
might be likened to a cave that at first seems dark and foreboding,
but soon starts to sparkle with unimagined colors and textures.
find a greater beauty in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's playing, but
Salonen gets the Philharmonia to sound very good here, and the recording
does an impressive job in capturing the sonic breadth of this music.
California EAR Unit
and unpredictable, the California EAR Unit surprises season after
season in its series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well
as at other appearances here and there. Little of this is documented
by recording engineers. Granted, many of its performances have an
admirably ephemeral nature--as music to be experienced in the moment--but
occasionally something is worth living with. With this new disc, self-produced
for a tiny, independent label in Santa Monica, the EAR Unit has given
posterity a helping hand with five works that have proved to have
biggest news about the release is that it contains the first recording
of John Adams' "Road Movies," which was given its world premiere by
EAR Unit violinist Robin Lorenz and pianist Vicki Ray seven years
ago. Although not a major work (Adams is a reluctant composer of chamber
music), the three-movement Minimalist violin sonata has lately been
catching on--Leila Josefowicz played it last weekend at the opening
concert of the SummerFest in La Jolla; Nonesuch has a recording of
it by Gidon Kremer and Grant Gershon in the can--and this hard-edged,
dynamic performance is a good indication of why.
everything else on the disc is of interest as well. There are two
EAR Unit favorites. Frederic Rzewski's intense "Coming Together" (1971),
with its spoken text taken from a prisoner's account of the Attica
uprising, is still a striking and relevant musical polemic. John Bergamo's
"Foreign Objects" is happy-go-lucky percussion music from 1984 that
always brings the house down.
Wolfe's stunning, disturbing "Girlfriend," written for the EAR Unit
in 1998, is the largest work on the CD, with environmental crunching
and crashing sounds upsetting the balance of the atmospheric, lyrical
instrumental writing for the six-member ensemble. James Sellars' "Go,"
for which the album is titled, is quirky, jerky, sharp-witted music
on the go.
EAR Unit also makes an appearance on the first CD devoted to the brainy,
boisterous and quintessentially downtown Kitty Brazelton, with her
"Sonata for the Inner Ear," which received its first performance at
LACMA in 1999. A composer equally fond of punk, plainchant and bebop,
she has had one sort of pop band or another (such as the art-rock
Dadadah) for the past two decades, but she also knows her compositional
way around the music academy. "Sonata for the Inner Ear" is an actual
sonata with plenty of attitude. It starts with an insinuating flute
tune that bops around before exploding. A central movement includes
improvisation and samples from EAR Unit outtakes over the years. You
never know where this piece will go next, yet it all feels organic.
other works on the disc--including looming and talkative jazz brass,
goofy song and menacing dark electronics--fill in a portrait of an
original, compelling voice.
Mark Swed is The Times' music critic.
the premiere of John Adams' "Naive and Sentimental Music" in 1999,
it was clear to many in the cheering audience at the Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion that the Los Angeles Philharmonic had commissioned a masterpiece
and that Esa-Pekka Salonen and the orchestra had done it justice.
Adams' most ambitious symphonic work to date, this 45- minute score
begged to be heard again and again. Nonesuch quickly arranged for
studio time and made a recording, and I wish I had a dollar for every
time someone has asked me, or I've queried Nonesuch, about a release
the age of Internet instant gratification, three years is a very long
time. It's even a bit long by the snail-mail gait of classical record
companies (Nonesuch bumped the release a couple of times, issuing
other Adams' discs--"Century Rolls" and "El Nino"). But it is heartening
that a company can so believe in a work's prospects that it feels
no pressure to exploit its newness, that it paces the release of a
composer's major works to give us time to fully absorb them.
is also heartening that important new pieces do get made and recorded.
Some of the most significant new music heard this season and in recent
seasons by the Philharmonic and the California EAR Unit are now available.
Happily for Angelenos, they heard it here first.
title has a highfalutin source--a 1795 essay by the Romantic German
poet Heinrich Schiller--and an excellent CD booklet note by composer
Ingram Marshall investigates why Adams didn't just call this work
a symphony and be done with it. But forget the title for a moment,
and what you have is no less than a great American symphony in three