Monday, January 15, 2018

Margie King Barab (1932 - 2018)

Our dear friend Margie King Barab died peacefully in her home on Park Avenue in New York on January 3. Her 85 years of life began in Nebraska. Her singing voice took her to the Manhattan School of Music. She answered an announcement from someone looking for a room mate, and her "proxy landlord" (he was house-sitting) was the brilliant 50-year-old Alexander King. After a while, she fell in love with him. When she married Alex, Margie was not aware that he had an opium addiction. She helped him recover and served as his muse. Later in her life Margie wrote a book about him, and she told me a few years ago that it is being considered for publication by the University of Nebraska Press.

After Alex died, Margie married the great composer Seymour Barab, who was the kindest man in the world. You can read all the posts I have written about Seymour and Margie here.

I miss both Seymour and Margie so much. They were our true friends, and they were true friends to many other fortunate people. The world is considerably poorer now, but our memories of Margie and Seymour stay (together) in our hearts, and they continue to inspire us and give us comfort.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Did you know that "The Celebrated Chop Waltz" was written by the 16-year-old Euphemia Allen in 1877 under the pseudonym "Arthur de Lulli?"

You can see for yourself.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The March of the Women

The kind and dedicated people who volunteer their time to organize and maintain the IMSLP have created a category for women composers.

It is going to take a long time to look at the work of all the 444 (so far) composers on this list, so I am starting with composers I know. Yesterday I found a delightful Humoresque, by Ethel Barns. I went next to the listing for Barns's contemporary compatriot Ethel Smyth (who has a cello sonata that might be fun to transcribe for viola).

I was very happy to find the piece Smyth wrote in 1910 that became the anthem for the Suffrage movement, "The March of the Women." It happens to work beautifully as a solo viola piece.

You can read about The March of the Women here, and listen to a rollicking heartfelt performance (with an excellent array of images) here.

Mark the music

A certain world leader seems not to be able to sing along with his country's national anthem.

You can watch it here.

We might do well to remember the words of Lorenzo in Act 5, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Operas written since 1945: an impressive list

Vagne Thierry has created an impressive (and extensive) list of operas written since 1945. He includes the names of composers (with dates and nationalities), titles of their works, and links to their websites and to media (CDs and DVDs).

Just glancing through I learned that Beth Anderson wrote an opera about Queen Christina of Sweden (so now I don't have to), Giancarlo Aquilanti wrote an opera about Lot's women (so now I don't have to), and Hubert Bird wrote an opera about John Dee, the Astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I (so now I don't have to).

I see friends on the list: Gary Bachlund's fable operas are on the list, and a good number of Seymour Barab's operas are there (with links).

Mr. Thierry kindly sent me an email message letting me know about the list (my operas The Snow Queen, Sister Beatrice, and EMMA are listed). I imagine he sent messages to all the living composers on the list with an email address, and that other composers are looking through the list and enjoying it as much as I am. I could spend all day with this (it took an hour just to make it through from A to C), but I will have to wait until later to dip in again. There's a lot to be learned from this list.

Writing an opera is a HUGE amount of work, and is, in my case, a labor of love. That love is so often unrequited because works by "unknown" composers are so rarely produced these days. I would venture to guess that most of the operas on this list have had few performances, and that many have never been produced.

Thierry is doing a great service for the musical community. I'm hoping opera-minded people (i.e. people who like to produce and perform operas) might find material for future productions here.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Greeting the New Year With New Music

I'm greeting 2018 with a piece for two trumpets (which can also be played by two clarinets, two French horns, or two euphoniums).

Here it is played by computer-generated trumpets.

Listen to how different it sounds when played on computer-generated clarinets, French horns, and euphoniums.

You can find a PDF on this page of the IMSLP.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Concert in January: Vasilenko, Bowen, and Ravel

On the program:

Vasilenko Viola Sonata, Opus 46
Ravel Sonata Posthume
Bowen 2nd Sonata for Viola and Piano

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

Ben Miller's article about James Levine

Ben Miller's relationship with the Boston Symphony was a lot like my relationship with the Boston Symphony, although the music director during Miller's childhood (a generation after mine) was a far greater musician as well as a far greater monster. The parents of the kids in Ben Miller's cohort (we used to refer to ourselves as "orchestra brats") made sure to inform their children about Levine's pedophilia in order protect them.

This eloquent article is well worth reading.

[I'm so impressed with Ben Miller's writing that I'm sharing his webpage here.]

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sleeping Beauty Waltz

I really enjoy the way these young Californian musicians play my transcription of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Talia Trio for Oboe, Viola, and Piano

My love for granddaughter Talia just grows and grows, and, as you can see, it bursts out in sharps and flats. I finished this piece today. I don't think that I have ever written anything this happy. Having Talia in my life brings happiness to a whole new level.

You can follow the link above, or you can listen to the first movement here, and the second movement here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Roger Sessions "From My Diary"

I have enjoyed reading Roger Sessions's book The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener (the source of the "guest post" from a few days ago) a great deal. I used to be afraid of Sessions's music, but now that I have read his prose about music, I am no longer afraid.

In fact, I like Robert Helps's performance of these Sessions piano pieces so much that I'm sharing them here:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fulcrum Point New Music Project Concert Wednesday, November 15 at 6:00

I am very excited to hear Stephen Burns and Kuang-Hao Huang play my Trumpet Sonata this Wednesday in Chicago. The concert is part of Fulcrum Point's "Hear and Be Heard" series, where people play new music and then members of the audience have an open discussion with the composers.

The other composer, who wrote her Notturno for Trumpet and Piano in 2016, is Lawren Brianna Ware.

The concert begins at 6:00, and takes place in Gottlieb Hall at the Merit School of Music, 38 South Peoria in Chicago, Illinois. Admission is free.