Contemporary Classics August 13, 2019 - Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music

This is the second episode of Contemporary Classics featuring contemporary music from Tanglewood.  This first half of this show like last weeks show is contemporary music from the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music which was directed by Thomas Ades and was from August 8th through August 12th at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox MA.   Lets begin this second show with Steve Reich’s “Radio Rewrite”.  

Radio Rewrite was composed in 2012 work and was inspired by two songs by British rock band Radiohead: "Jigsaw Falling into Place" and "Everything in Its Right Place". The piece represents the first time that Reich has reworked material from western pop/rock music. It has five movements, alternating fast and slow, and is scored for clarinet, flute, two violins, viola, cello, two vibraphones, two pianos and electric bass. The three fast movements (first, third and fifth) draw from "Jigsaw Falling into Place," and the two slow from "Everything in Its Right Place. He neither sampled the Radiohead tracks nor wrote variations on them; rather, working entirely from the sheet music, he based his composition on the songs' underlying harmonies and also incorporated occasional short fragments of the melody.  With careful listening, listeners will note that a brief melody from "Jigsaw" appears repeatedly in the fast movements, especially in a clarinet phrase in the final one, while the clearest influence of "Everything" is a repeated three-chord progression in each of the slow movements.  According to Steve Reich "As to actually hearing the original songs, the truth is – sometimes you hear them and sometimes you don't ...those with sharper ears may catch harmonic similarities." The work premiered in London, UK in 2013 by the London Sinfonietta.   This work was part of the 4th concert of the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music on  August 11th.   Here is a performance of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite by Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman from the album   Steve Reich: Double Sextet & Radio Rewrite         Harmonia Mundi


Also from the 4th concert of the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music on  August 11th was Andrew Hamilton’s “Music for People Who Like Art”. Fabrice Fitch writes in Gramophone  “The Irish composer Andrew Hamilton writes what one might describe as informal process music, whereby very short musical fragments are repeated, juxtaposed and recombined in a manner reminiscent of sampling (though everything is done live). Most are tonally derived but the manner of their treatment deliberately decontextualises them, accentuating the impression of sampling. In a certain sense the materials themselves hardly matter, in that the music seems to be ‘about’ the observable processes brought to bear on them; but in another sense they matter as much as in any other music. The degree and quality of referentiality introduces an element of humour, which can be subverted when fragments are repeated to the point of obsession. This is most striking towards the end of music for people who like art, when the vocalist’s gasp (hitherto a single fragment) overwhelms the zany texture in a very disquieting way. Such moments make a piece, the following coda seeming almost superfluous except from a formal point of view – then again, one suspects that its very irrelevance is intentional.   The sound recording of music for people who like art is suggestive of electronic treatment of some kind, with the voice embedded deep in the mix and emerging only gradually. But the discipline required to suggest mechanisation at this level of rhythmic difficulty forces admiration. If only all composers were so well served.”            


Hilda Paredes is a Mexican born composer trained and presently residing in Great Britain.  Her Revelación was composed in 2010-11 and is for flute (+piccolo and bass flute), Bb clarinet (+bass clarinet), horn, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass and electronics.   It was Commissioned by "Integra - Fusing music and technology", an EU funded project led by Birmingham Conservatoire, UK and by Grup Instrumental de Valencia.   Here is a performance by Grup Instrumental de Valencia cond. Joan Cerveró, from the premiere at Sala Martín i Soler del Palau de les Arts, Valencia, Spain on  May 12, 2011


Richard Ayres - The Cricket Recovers is a one act opera. The libretto is by Rozalie Hirs and is based on the award-winning novel The Healing of the Cricket by Toon Tellegen. Eighteen short scenes tell the story of the cricket that suddenly becomes depressed and can do nothing about it, and of the elephant that has the uncontrollable compulsion to climb trees, but always falls quickly out of the trees it climbs and sixteen other very human-like animal figures appear in the opera.. In Ayres ’bustling cocktail of baroque gestures, late romantic rhetoric and Dadaistic variety, the fantastic reality of these animals is amplified by a moving, intelligent expression of the human condition.

The premiere of The Cricket Recovers - Richard Ayres was performed at the Holland Festival on June 19-21, 2011.  A performance of Richard Ayres The Cricket Recovers was on the first concert of the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music on August 8th. 


Samuel Barber’s string quartet was written in 1935-36 although he revised the final movement in the version that is heard here in 1943. Barber arranged the middle movement for string orchestra as his well-known Adagio for Strings in 1936.   The opening movement is in sonata form, the second movement a famous adagio, and the final version of the finale, added to the second movement attacca, is shortened, lasting two-minutes, and revisits themes from the opening movement, thereby creating a cyclic form for the quartet. The opening movement has three theme areas, the first a dramatic motif stated in unison by all four instruments, the second slinky chorale like music, and the third a yearning lyrical melody. The quartet as a whole is in the key of B minor, however the central movement is in B♭ minor. The materials of the second movement consist of "a very slow and extended melody built from stepwise intervals, slightly varied in its numerous repetitions, uncoiling over (or in the midst of) sustained chords that change with note-by-note reluctance, all of it building into a powerful climax at the high end of the instruments' range and then quickly receding to the contemplative quietude that ultimately defines this musical expanse."  He knew the second movement would be the one everyone remembered as Barber wrote the cellist for the Curtis String Quartet, Orlando Cole: "I have just finished the slow movement of my quartet today—it is a knockout!


Part of the same program by the Emerson String Quartet is George Walker’s Lyric for Strings. Written in 1946, Lyric for Strings remains Walker’s best know and most-performed work. The piece was originally titled Lament and is dedicated to Walker’s grandmother who died the year prior. Walker is known for his counterpoint and has said he likes writing vertically rather than horizontally.   Lyric is driven by separate linear melody and accompaniment lines that occasionally come together for climactic moments of harmony. Walker’s Lyric was originally the middle movement of a string quartet that proved so popular that the composer repurposed into a single work. 


Charles Ives’ Fourth Violin Sonata’s subtitle “Children’s Day  at the Camp Meeting” closely links its  narrative to the Third Symphony. (There are  many such cross-references in Ives’s music.)  Dating from the end of 1916, it was originally  intended for his nephew Moss White Ives,  then eleven years old, to perform, and is  consequently lighter in mood and smaller in  scope than the other three sonatas. Ives  wrote, in a note included in the score, “The  subject matter is a kind of reflection,  remembrance, expression, etc. of the  children’s services at the outdoor summer  Camp Meetings held around Danbury and in  many of the farms in Connecticut in the 70s,  80s, and 90s….” During the outdoor  services some of the boys would get  restless, turning march-like hymns into real  marches. Ives’s father encouraged Charles  to accompany them at the melodeon in a  key distant from the one in which they  poorly sang. The second movement  combines the hymn “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”  with “out-door sounds of nature on those  summer days—the west wind in the pines  and oaks, the running brook…and maybe...  the distant voices of the farmers across the  hill….” The brief finale, Allegro, makes the  most of the hymn “Shall We Gather at the  River.” As with many old and pleasant  memories, this one is slippery, fading,  hesitating, and finally stopping altogether,  as though we find ourselves drifting off in  mid-thought.


  • 8:04pm Steve Reich: Radio Rewrite by Ensemble Signal & Brad Lubman on Steve Reich: Double Sextet & Radio Rewrite (Harmonia Mundi), 2016
  • 8:26pm Andrew Hamilton: Music for People Who Like Art by Michelle O'Rourke, Crash Ensemble & Alan Pierson on Music for People (NMC Recordings), 2018
  • 8:48pm Richard Ayres: Four Scenes from by VocaalLAB & Asko/Schönberg with Etienne Siebens, musical director on Live performance from the Holland Festival 2011 (Live recording)
  • 9:01pm Hilda Paredes: Revelación by Grup Instrumental de Valencia with conductor Joan Cerveró on Live the premiere at Sala Martín i Soler del Palau de les Arts, Valencia, Spain on May 12, 2011 (Live recording), 2011
  • 9:24pm Barber: String Quartet, Op. 11 by Endellion String Quartet on Barber: String Quartet, Serenade, Dover Beach & Songs (EMI Records), 1994
  • 9:43pm George Walker: Lyric for Strings by Cleveland Chamber Symphony & Edwin London on Walker: Orchestral Works (Albany Records), 1998
  • 9:50pm Charles Ives: Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 4 by Hilary Hahn & Valentina Lisitsa on Charles Ives: Four Sonatas (Deutsche Grammophon), 2011
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