Trailer for Experiments in Opera’s opener

Halloween week just got spookier …

Experiments in Opera’s Season Opener
Features Works by Zorn, Pavone, Cady and Welch
Saturday November 2, 8pm at Abrons Art Center Playhouse
466 Grand Street, New York.
$30 general, $20 students
One night only – will sell out!
Call Theatermania at 212-352-3101 or visit

chorus of all souls opera

Saturday: Ekmeles visits Rutgers


When I was a graduate student at Rutgers (a little over a decade ago), the composition students were fortunate to have the Helix! Ensemble, a contemporary music group in residence at Rutgers, to perform our compositions alongside other new works. I have many fond memories of working with Helix!. Apart from that, other ensembles at the school occasionally (more occasionally than we would have preferred) worked with the graduate students, and we had a department forum with guest speakers.

Of late, RU’s composition program has a lot more going on. New chair Robert Aldridge seems to have brought with him a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, which has trickled down and improved things for composers. Helix! is still there and active as ever, directed by pianist and conductor Paul Hoffmann (the group’s Fall concert is on Sunday at 2 PM). Several other campus ensembles are regularly working with student composers. The students are also active in presenting their own and each others’s music in recital. Distinguished composers Charles Fussell and Gerald Chenoweth remain on the faculty and Christopher Doll is a more recent addition.  Aldridge is teaching composers as well as chairing the department; Tarik O’Regan is also teaching at Rutgers this year.

Another welcome addition: inviting guest artists to campus to work with composers. On Saturday, New York-based vocal ensemble Ekmeles performs a program of new pieces by RU composers. Ekmeles is well known for their tremendous facility with extended techniques: I’ve written in the past about their accomplishments singing Gesualdo (in Vicentino’s tuning), Carter, and contemporary microtonal music. I’m looking forward to hearing what the students will learn from Ekmeles – and try out in Saturday evening’s concert (7:30 PM at Schare Hall – Mason Gross School of the Arts).

Where to begin …

Someone asked me where to start with recordings of the Britten song cycles. I would say always start with the source: Britten/Pears. Then anything recorded with Graham Johnson. Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Phillip Langridge, and Robert Tear are also important to hear. I go back and forth on Bostridge. Are there more? Of course, but these will keep you busy for a while.


NY Polyphony: “O Dolce nocte”


A new video (posted yesterday) of New York Polyphony live in midtown Manhattan at St. Mary’s. We have been playing the quartet’s latest BIS recording, Times go by Turns, in heavy rotation. The disc includes Renaissance masses by Tallis, Byrd, and Plummer as well as contemporary pieces by Gabriel Jackson, Andrew Smith, and one of the last works written by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. “A Colloquy with God”, gifted by Bennett to NYP, is, simply put, a knockout.



The website eClassical is sharing a bonus track from the album, Tallis’s beloved motet “If Ye Love Me,” for download here.


Monday: NYNME Features Foss


Monday at the DiMenna Center, New York New Music Ensemble presents a program of works by Lukas Foss (1922-2009). Lukas (with whom I studied in the 90s when I was at BU) was a man of many musical talents with a near-omnivorous interest in a host of musical styles. Rather than try to present a comprehensive portrait of them all (a tall order in a single evening!), NYNME will focus on pieces from the mid-sixties through the mid-eighties, the period during which he was in his most experimental phase. In Echoi (1963), Foss made use of vast swaths of serial-inspired charts – there are pictures of them taking up whole walls of his studio. However, his performance directions add a measure of postmodern theatricality and there’s more than a bit of aleatory at work too. These seemingly disparate elements come together in a piece that is a masterful melange. Paradigm (1968), is more ebulliently chaotic still. Incorporating clangorous percussion and vociferous shouts alongside quasi-rock riffs from electric guitar, it channels more than a bit of the cultural and political revolutions afoot in the year of its composition.

Rendezvous - Tashi

Solo Observed (1982), began its life as a virtuosic solo piano piece, Solo, which found Foss experimenting with minimalism and maximalism at the same time. Solo Observed (1982, in versions for both orchestra and chamber ensemble), adds additional instruments, who observe, comment on, and sometimes even obstruct the pianist’s solo. The last work on the program, Tashi (1986), written for the star-studded chamber ensemble of the same name, is one of my favorite of Foss’s chamber works. Abundantly virtuosic and sumptuously harmonically varied, it is one of the best syntheses of the various styles and varied materials that fascinated Foss. Hunt down Rendezvous, the group’s 1989 recording on which it appears. Better yet, catch it live tonight.