Friday, March 28, 2014

Well, it's been a while . . . but WE ARE BACK! We know that hundreds of people each month visit the Pytheas Center's website, and we thank all our supporters and visitors, composers and performers, and the whole new music community for making the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music a reality. Now, back to the music . . .

According to composer Dmitri Tymoczko, "When I was young, my parents found a small table made from a printer's typecase, divided into a hundred little compartments meant to contain metal casts of the letters of the alphabet. Each of the little compartments had been filled with a unique mineralogical treasure—a strange crystal, a piece of iron pyrite, a shark’s tooth, or a fossilized trilobyte. I used to stare and stare at this cabinet of wonders, amazed by the sheer variety of its contents, and overjoyed that we had an actual shark’s tooth in our very own house. In thinking about how to capture these memories, I hit on the idea of a collection of little movements, each complete in itself, but producing a sense of form through their juxtaposition. Most of the seven movements are just about two minutes long, just enough to make a relatively coherent artistic statement, but not long enough to sustain much development. I tried to weave the movements together in a way that created a larger trajectory of energy and mood and texture, building structure in an intuitive and associative way, without much recourse to explicit recapitulation. "Russian Metal" reflects my sense that there is an affinity between Russian modernism and heavy metal, both of which favor a darkened ("more minor than minor") harmonic palette. Unable to shake the image of Shostakovich orchestrating Black Sabbath, I decided to exorcise my demons by writing them down". Watch a performance of Dmitri Tymoczko's Russian Metal" from his "Typecase Treasury" (2010) played by the Amernet String Quartet . . . it's one of our NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Albert Schnelzer is appreciated by musicians for his inventiveness, his personal tonal language as well as his idiomatic but at the same time deeply original way of writing. His music is outgoing and openly communicative, sometimes minimalistic, at times even dance-like. His musical influences comes from widely differing styles such as Stravinsky, Iron Maiden and Balkan music, but there is also room for fragile and lyrically expressive moments. Furthermore Schnelzer has been greatly influenced by literature. For instance his Symphony No. 1 – Azraeel, his second string quartet Emperor Akbar and the oboe concerto The Enchanter were all inspired by Salman Rushdie’s books. During the past few years Schnelzer has scored successes with his chamber as well as his orchestral music. The concert opening piece A Freak in Burbank has been especially successful and is frequently performed. It received its UK Premiere at the Proms in August 2010. The oboe concerto The Enchanter was premiered, also in 2010, to great critical acclaim with French virtuso Francois Leleux as soloist. His collaboration with The Brodsky Quartet, for which he composed Emperor Akbar, has also attracted a great deal of attention. Next in the pipeline is the world premiere of his cello concert Crazy Diamond in December 2011 composed for Claes Gunnarsson on commission by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Future commissions include a Violin Concerto for Hugo Ticciati to be premiered in London in spring 2012, and a joint commission between the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Swedish Radio SO for the season 2012/2013. Hear a performance of Albert Schnelzer's "A Freak in Burbank" (2007) . . . one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

According to Peter Bates (@ Audiophile Audition), "I have been listening to Judith Zaimont for fifteen years, when her Zones CD was released on the Arabesque label. I saw her then, as now, as a master of the chamber music form, able to pull delight out of the unexpected". Her String Quartet (subtitled “The Figure”), demonstrates this by starting in one direction and, rather than following it in an expected way, abruptly turns right or left when least expected. 'The Figure' is divided into two movements of equal length, 'In Shadow' and 'In Bright Light'. The subtitle refers to a three-part figure at the beginning of the work which gives rise to all the other material. The first movement is the more dramatic, the second the more lyrical, but otherwise both sections are fairly similar, by turn ruminative and vivacious, in both cases darker and less contrastive than the section titles indicate, but no less productive for it. Performing Zaimont's works is the Harlem Quartet, with the help of pianist Awadagin Pratt. The Harlem Quartet has advanced diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Their mission to share their passion with a wider audience has taken them around the world; from a 2009 performance at The White House for President Obama and First Lady, Michelle Obama, to a highly successful tour of South Africa in 2012, and numerous venues in between. The musically versatile ensemble has performed with such distinguished performers as Itzhak Perlman, Ida Kavafian, Carter Brey, Fred Sherry, Misha Dicter, Jeremy Denk, and Paquito D’Rivera. Their most recent recording, Hot House, with jazz master Chick Corea and percussionist Gary Burton was a 2013 multi-Grammy Award winner. Listen to the Harlem Quartet perform Judith Zaimont's "String Quartet - The Figure" (2007) . . . it's our Pytheas FEATURED NEW MUSIC RECORDING.

Jeremy Siskind (@ Miscellany from a Siskind) writes, "Miriam Gideon’s 'Of Shadows Numberless' takes its title from a phrase in John Keats’ poem, 'Ode to a Nightingale', and each of its six movements, likewise, draws inspiration from a phrase in Keats’ work. 'Ode to a Nightingale' addresses the popular Romantic trope of a bird as an idealized version of a poet, a version who – according to Shelley’s analogous work, 'To a Skylark' – 'pourest [his] full heart in profuse strains of unpremeditated art.' Keats’ poem focuses on the bird-poet dichotomy by following the fanciful journey of a depressed subject who is thrown into further despair when confronted with the unreachable beauty of the nightingale’s “plaintive anthem.” Gideon's 'Of Shadows Numberless,' like the poem, is full of shadows and mazes. Whereas Keats writes of “verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways,” and “fad[ing] away into the forest dim,” Gideon writes dense, dark music filled with half-step, major seventh, and minor ninth relationships, crowded clusters, and incessantly mumbling inner voices. Although the melodies are tuneful and usually simple, Gideon often includes some oddity in the phrasing or intervallic structure that makes the tune feel just out of reach, transported a step beyond the realm of ordinary music. Listen to a performance of Miriam Gideon's "Of Shadows Numberless" (1966) . . . it's this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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