Japanese Chamber Cabaret at the Danish National Museum

By Ronnie Rocket, in Berlin-Charlottenburg and Copenhagen

This Sunday, the Danish National Museum will be the unique venue for a surprising matinee concert. The ensemble Eriko Makimura & Co. consisting of a tradtional chamber music format of piano and cello are joined by singers, actors and ballet dancers on the stage. Performing a set of compositions that are rarely played and adapted for the event, that is part of a charity concert series raising money for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The event is named after the song by the German techno band Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, who just recently performed at DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen.

Here is the list of works. Below you will find recordings and videos of the original and/or previously recorded versions of the music as a “warm up” service for the show.

Time: Sunday October 2nd, 2011, 14:00.
Place: The Danish National Museum, Ny Vestergade 10 (main entrance), 1220 Copenhagen K.
Tickets: DKK 150 at the door (door opens at 13:00).

1. D.A.F.: Der Räuber und der Prinz

2. Henry Purcell: The Cold Song (inspired by Klaus Nomi)

3. Friedlich Hollaender: Falling In Love Again (inspired by Marlene Dietrich)

4. Rodion Shchedrin: A la Albeniz

5. John Cage: A Room

6. Margo Guryan: The Chopsticks Variations

Staatsballett Berlin Season Opening Gala

By Ronnie Rocket, in Charlottenburg-Berlin.

Photo: Copyright Enrico Nawrath.

Tonight the Staatballet Berlin marks the new season opening with the traditional opening gala show. There are three German premieres supervised by maestro Vladimir Malakhov and the performance is also the return of solo dancer Shoko Nakamura to the stage after her year long maternity leave.

Here is the official introduction from the Staatsballett’s web site:

Once a year the company of Staatsballett Berlin makes his audience – and itself – a special present. With the ballet gala we are celebrating the prelude of our new season. Choreographic masterpieces, curiosities of ballet history or complete new contemporary pieces will be performed. The special nature of this event is always the programme. What the artists would like to show to the audience is co-sculpting the evening. Therefore surprises should be taken into account.

The performances includes eight pieces in two sets.

As a “warm-up” service you can listen to the music on this selection of music clips. Some of them are old recordings – some even with the sounds of vinyl scratches – and some of them includes rare video footage.

Enjoy the music and break a leg to all the dancers tonight. I look forward to the show!

1. “Araz” with music from Philip Glass: Songs & Poems, Tissue No. 6

Choreographed by: Zeynep Tanbay
Dancing: Elisa Carrillo CabreraVladimir Malakhov

2. “Barocco” with music from Georg Friedrich Händel: Serse Aria ”Ombra mai fu” HWV40

Choreographed by: Renato Zanella
Dancing: Rainer Krenstetter

3. “Carmen” with music from Georges Bizet

Choreographed by: Roland Petit
Dancing: Polina SemionovaIbrahim Önal

4. “Clear” with music from Johann Sebastian Bach: Concert for oboe, violin and strings BWV 1060 2nd movement

Choreographed by: Stanton Welch
Assistance: Dawn Scannell
Dancing: Vladimir MalakhovMikhail KaniskinMaria Boumpouli

5. “Rast der Kavallerie” with music from Johann Armsheimer

Watch a rare performance here (not embeddable): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Choreographed by: Marius Petipa
Dancing: Sebnem GülsekerMarian Walter

6. “Sonett XVIII” with music from Philip Glass: Metamorphosis No. 4 / No. 2

Choreographed by: Tim Plegge
Costumes: Judith Adam
Text by: Steven Hall
Narrator: Michael Rotschopf
Sound mix: Andreas Gockel
Dancing: Nadja SaidakovaVladislav Marinov

7. “The Sofa“ with music from Tom Waits: “Nobody”

Choreographed by: Itzik Galili
Dancing: Soraya BrunoMichael BanzhafLeonard Jakovina

8. “Die vier Jahreszeiten” with music from Giuseppe Verdi: Divertissment 3rd act “I vespri siciliani“

Choreographed by: Vladimir Malakhov
Music by: Giuseppe Verdi
Dancing: Beatrice KnopShoko Nakamura, and more.

Read the full press release (in German) here. PDF here.

Listen to the new Harold Budd album on NPR

Metaphorically speaking, Harold Budd is a soaring bird, and rock music a supersonic rocket ship. Budd may play as few as six notes in 10 seconds — I’m guessing the average rock band plays 60. It’s the space left between those few notes that makes Budd’s music so alluring, so calming and so timeless. Budd has been making music with a minimal number of notes for a long time. Sometimes his music is filled with drones, sometimes solo piano; sometimes the piano is altered physically or electronically, and sometimes there are string ensembles. But the music is always thoughtful and thought-provoking.

If you’ve never put on a record by Harold Budd, put your headphones on and watch the world change around you. I find that the visual world shifts cinematically, with clouds and people seeming to move as one big bit of choreography. (No, I’m not high.)

The constant background nature of music can deaden its impact. Budd’s music is a slow trickle, a source of appreciation for the sounds and sights around us. His collaborations with Brian Eno in the 1970s provided a counterpoint to the progressive rock of the day, much the way reggae was a counterpoint to punk. We need that — one enriches the other. The 75-year-old composer brings the landscape of the desert, where he’s often lived, right into the heart of the city.

In the Mist, out Sept. 27, is an album most Budd fans thought we’d never hear. Seven years ago, he told his friends and fans that he’d said all he wanted to say with music, and was retiring. But he had a change of heart, and now we have this rare gem. I’m glad he’s back — and I’d love to know how you feel after hearing it, especially if you’ve never heard his music before.

Listen to Harold Budd. You deserve the vacation, and the listening you do to anything else for the rest of the day will be supercharged. [Source]

Listen to the album in its entirety here. Listen to the album track by track here.

Charles Ives – String Quartet No. 1

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
String Quartet No.1 “From the Salvation Army” (c. 1897-1900)

I. Chorale
II. Prelude
III. Offertory
IV. Postlude

Concord String Quartet:
Mark Sokol, violin
Andrew Jennings, violin
John Kochanowski, viola
Norman Fischer, cello

The First String Quartet (c. 1897-1900) was Charlies Ives‘ first composition of extended length, written under the supervision of Horatio Parker at Yale University. Subtitled “A Revival Service,” the piece quotes traditional hymns of the United States and reveals Ives’ early polytonal experimentation. The first movement is a fugue based on the hymn “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”; Ives felt so strongly about the movement that he later rescored it for the third movement of his Fourth Symphony. The next two movements are each shaped in three-part form: the second is dance-like, the third slower but with a more active, pizzicato middle section. The opening theme of the last movement is closely related to the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”; this contrasts with recapitulated material from the second movement and is followed by a final combination of the two sections in simultaneous duple and triple meters.

The New York Philharmonic Opening Night

The New York Philharmonic are performing two compositions by Samuel Barber on opening night tomorrow:

Overture to The School for Scandal, Op. 5 (1931)

Barber was just 21 and still a student at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute when he composed this overture, “suggested by Sheridan’s comedy” of the same name. It is one of several of his works inspired by literature. The sparkling, energetic concert piece wasn’t intended for any particular production of Sheridan’s 1777 comedy of manners, but rather to capture the spirit of the play. Premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1933, the Overture earned the composer Columbia University’s Bearns Prize. The music, like the comedy itself, reflects the maneuverings and high-spirited hijinks of characters with hilarious names like Lady Sneerwell, Sir Benjamin Backbite, Mrs. Candor, and Sir Peter Teazle as they engage in spreading unfounded rumors. The moods of the music shift swiftly, from dissonant to vivacious, from lively to lyrical, finishing with a rowdy flourish. One of the most delightful curtain-raisers in the repertoire.

Andromache’s Farewell for soprano and orchestra, Op. 39 (1962)

If you haven’t read your Homer recently or seen the movie Troy (the most recent filmed attempt to tell the story stars Brad Pitt as Achilles, Saffron Burrows as Andromache) you may find a context-setting of this heart-wrenching monologue helpful. Samuel Barber himself provided it: “Scene: an open space before Troy, which has just been captured by the Greeks. All Trojan men have been killed or have fled and the women and children are held captives. Each Trojan woman has been allotted to a Greek warrior and the ships are now ready to take them into exile. Andromache, widow of Hector, Prince of Troy, has been given as a slave-wife to the son of Achilles. She has just been told that she cannot take her little son [Astyanax] with her in the ship, for it has been decreed by the Greeks that a hero’s son must not be allowed to live and that he is to be hurled over the battlements of Troy. She bids him farewell. In the background the city is burning. It is just before dawn.” This “Farewell” was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic under Thomas Schippers in honor of its first season at Lincoln Center, and for the great soprano Martina Arroyo. The compact soliloquy embodies a range of feelings—dignity, grief, anger, and desperation—in both the vocal line and the riveting orchestral accompaniment. Barber completed the piece after auditioning Arroyo, who said, “The finishing touches were tailored to my voice…the pianissimo, the crescendo, for example, in some of the phrases,” when Andromache expresses her rage over the impending murder of Astyanax. A New York Times review of the San Francisco Symphony’s performance stated that Deborah Voigt “had all the elements in the right proportions: sheer vocal power, emotional depth and range, and the ability to project the text… Her performance was wrenching and irresistible.”

Download the program notes as a PDF file here: Barber_School for Scandal_1112.

Simon Fisher Turner – I’ve Heard The Ammonite Murmur (1992)

Original soundtrack recording by SFT to the film directed by Isao Yamada (Anmonaito No Sasayaki Wo Kiita). Played by The Balanescu Quartet.


1. The First Dream (15:33)
2. The Second Dream (15:46)
3. The Last Dream (7:36)
4. I’m Afraid to Go to Sleep (8:57)

Listen to an unreleased track here:

Steve Reich – Come Out (1966)

Come Out is a 1966 piece by American composer Steve Reich. Reich was asked to write this piece to be performed at a benefit for the retrial of the Harlem Six, six black youths arrested for committing a murder during the Harlem Riot of 1964 for which only one of the six was responsible. Truman Nelson, a civil rights activist and the person who had asked Reich to compose the piece, gave him a collection of tapes with recorded voices to use as source material. Nelson, who chose Reich on the basis of his earlier work It’s Gonna Rain, agreed to give him creative freedom for the project.

Reich eventually used the voice of Daniel Hamm, one of the boys involved in the riots but not responsible for the murder; he was nineteen at the time of the recording. At the beginning of the piece, he says: “I had to, like, open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them” (alluding to how Hamm had punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police that he had been beaten). The police had not previously wanted to deal with Hamm’s injuries, since he did not appear seriously wounded.

Reich re-recorded the fragment “come out to show them” on two channels, which initially play in unison. They quickly slip out of sync to produce a phase shifting effect, characteristic of Reich’s early works. Gradually, the discrepancy widens and becomes a reverberation and, later, almost a canon. The two voices then split into four, looped continuously, then eight, until the actual words are unintelligible. The listener is left with only the rhythmic and tonal patterns of the spoken words. Reich says in the liner notes to his recording Early Works of using recorded speech as source material that “by not altering its pitch or timbre, one keeps the original emotional power that speech has while intensifying its melody and meaning through repetition and rhythm”. The piece is a prime example of process music.

In dance, this piece has been used in 1982 by the Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as part of one of her seminal works entitled Fase, which has become a cornerstone of contemporary dance.