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Alvin Singleton 80

American composer Alvin Singleton is turning 80 on 28 December. He has worked extensively with major orchestras worldwide and has written significant works for chamber and vocal ensembles, as well for the theater, and his set of Argoru pieces have been performed across the world.

His many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, commissions from The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and American Composers, the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis by the City of Darmstadt, the Musikprotokoll Kompositionspreis by the Austrian Radio, the Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts Award by the City of Atlanta, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2014, Singleton was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

We wish him a very happy birthday!



Frank Zappa 80

We remember Frank Zappa, one of the most iconic artist of the 20th century who would have been 80 on 21 December 2020. A biopic has been released recently which is available from many streaming services. But Zappa is perhaps best described in his own words, from The Real Frank Zappa Book where he elucidates his creative process:

‘In my compositions, I employ a system of weights, balances, measured tensions and releases. The similarities are best illustrated by comparison to a Calder mobile: a multicolored whatchamacallit, dangling in space, that has big blobs of metal connected to pieces of wire, balanced ingeniously against little metal dingleberries on the other end.’

At the age of only 53, Zappa died as a consequence of a cancer desease. The performance materials of his ensemble and orchestrals works are available from Schott New York.


World Premiere: ‘ENSMO ↔ OMNES’ by Heinz Holliger

Online world premiere on 9 December: The Ensemble Modern is presenting the first performance of the ensemble work ENSMO ↔ OMNES for 16 instruments by Heinz Holliger as part of its anniversary concert.

Th e composer dedicates his technically challenging work to the Ensemble Modern on the 40th anniversary of their foundation. The first part of the title plays on the syllables of the famous ensemble whereas OMNES refers to its total of 16 members. The opening cadenza
featuring pianos, xylophone and marimbaphone is interrupted by the other instruments.
In the central section, the woodwind, brass and strings are independently superimposed above one another. Finally, the musicians depart from the piece singing softly.

‘I have written music spanning our common thread of almost 40 years of memories, culminating in a glassy C major chord.’ (Heinz Holliger)

9 December 2020 | Frankfurt am Main (D)
Alte Oper, Großer Saal
Ensemble Modern
Ingo Metzmacher, conductor



Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: No People.

On 18 October at the Donaueschingen Festival, Ensemble Musikfabrik and with conductor Mariano Chiacchiarini will give the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s No People. for 13 instruments. The work which has been commissioned by SWR, draws on Barry’s earlier work by the same name.

Please note:
After the publication of this article, the Donaueschingen Festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we would like to invite you to learn about this interesting composition.

Continue reading “Work of the Week – Gerald Barry: No People.”


Werk der Woche – Viktor Ullmann: Der Kaiser von Atlantis

Two new productions of Viktor Ullmann´s one-act chamber opera The Emperor of Atlantis or Death’s Refusal are opening in Germany this week. On 26 September the opera opens at Landestheater Neustrelitz, and on 27 September Deutsche Oper am Rhein will present a new production at Opernhaus Düsseldorf. With its compact cast of characters and instrumentation, as well as its timeless staggering subject matter, it is the piece of the hour. 

The opera is a parable of a cruel emperor, whose senseless war is claiming many lives. Death puts an end to the chaos by refusing his duty – now, everyone lives for eternity. The king becomes disempowered, but the people long for a release from the pain of life. Only the voluntary death of the emperor can restore death’s original purpose.

Ullmann wrote The Emperor of Atlantis while imprisoned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, based on a libretto by Peter Kien, a fellow prisoner. The opera was rehearsed by a chamber ensemble founded with the permission of the SS, but its performance was prohibited after the final rehearsal. Just before his deportation to Auschwitz in 1944, Ullmann handed the score and libretto to a friend who was able to save both manuscripts.

Viktor Ullmann – The Emperor of Atlantis: a theatrical memorial

I composed quite a lot of new music in Theresienstadt, mostly for satisfying the demands of conductors, directors, pianists, singers and thus for the leisure activities in the Ghetto […]. I need to emphasize that my musical work was encouraged and not inhibited by Theresienstadt. We were not merely succumbing to grief at Babylon’s streams, and our cultural will was equal to our will to live; and I am convinced that all those who have attempted to shape reluctant material in either life or art would agree with me. – Viktor Ullmann

There will be two further performances at Landestheater Neustrelitz with the last night being presented on 24 October. In Düsseldorf, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein will run for a further eight performances until 19 November. Several versions and manuscripts of the opera are available that show the work in various stages before and after its censorship. A new Eulenburg study score from Schott (ETP 8067) shows each version together in one edition.

photo: Deutsche Oper am Rhein / Hans Jörg Michel


Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: The Flood

On 16 September, Ensemble Intercontemporain directed by Matthias Pintscher presents the world premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s The Flood at the Philharmonie de Paris. The work, which has been jointly commissioned by the ensemble and the Ojai Music Festival in California, was originally scheduled to premiere at the festival in June.

Continue reading “Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: The Flood”


Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: Zeitensprünge

The Staatskappelle Berlin celebrates its impressive history as it marks its 450th anniversary this year. The earliest sources mentioning the orchestra date from 1570. On 11 September, the world premiere of a new work by Jörg Widmann commissioned specially for the occasion, Zeitensprünge (Leaps in time), will be given in a concert conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera House. 

The title Zeitensprünge is a pun about musical time-travel and stylistic escapades. Widmann explores the multiple stylistic periods through which the orchestra has lived during its long history, with the opening bars featuring an off-stage ensemble playing renaissance dances. Only when the musicians enter the stage does the idea of conducting start to take form, and a concert of today’s understanding commences. 

Jörg Widmann – Zeitensprünge: A Concerto for Orchestra in a nutshell

Though Zeitensprünge is a condensed 10-minute orchestral work of only 450 bars (one for each year of the Staatskapelle´s history), it nevertheless has everything a full-scale Concerto for Orchestra needs. There are solos from nearly every section of the orchestra, ensembles such as fanfares emerge from the texture, medieval winds and consorts play next to each other, and Widmann uses a variety of musical forms to lead to a brilliant final canon that symbolises many becoming one. 

“When I sit in front of a sheet of manuscript paper, I don’t keep thinking ‘you have to invent something new’. Not at all. My head is full of harmonies, connections and combinations that have never been heard before. My problem is to find forms for them. I am now in a stage of fighting to find these new forms.” – Jörg Widmann 

Photos:Marco Borggrve, Adobe Stock / spuno


Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Concerto noir redux

2020 is the 200th anniversary of the Berlin Konzerthaus, a concert hall that started life as a theatre. In celebration of this anniversary as part of Musikfest Berlin, Christian Tetzlaff will perform the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Christian Jost on 6 September. The concerto, entitled Concerto noir redux, will be accompanied by Konzerthausorchester Berlin and conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. 

Concerto noir redux was originally intended to bear the same title as his opera Journey of Hope – Voyage of Despair. However, after the cancellation of the original premiere in March 2020, Jost chose instead to make changes to the music in response to recent events.

Christian Jost – Concerto noir redux: music from the lockdown

The result was not only a smaller orchestra, necessitated by social distancing, but a work that expresses a darker character and soundworld. Concerto noir redux is now one of two versions of the work Concerto noir, each with the same solo part.

Usually, I compose with a clear idea of the musical structure and of the sounds, and therefore of the course of the resulting work. But this time it was different. There was an initial thought for the opening in which the solo violin gradually separates from unison with the first violins. From this starting point the work should virtually compose itself. The resulting single-movement concerto with a single tempo (quarter = 76 espressivo) is driven by rhythmic ‘cells’. I completed the composition more or less simultaneously with the end of the lockdown, and since this had given rise to a work with predominantly dark shades of colour and sound, I considered Concerto noir to be a perfect title. Christian Jost

Photos: Adobe Stock / lakkot, Joe Quiao


Heinrich Poos 1928–2020

Master of polyphonic choral music – an obituary

On 19 August 2020, the composer Heinrich Poos died at the age of 91. The composer, who lived in Rhineland-Palatinate and Berlin, stands in the great tradition of the polyphonic choral music of Heinrich Isaak, Heinrich Schütz and Ernst Pepping and is one of the most important German choral composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Poos was born on 25.12.1928 in the Protestant parsonage of Seibersbach (Soonwald). It was here that domestic and church music, together with his environment influenced by Protestantism, laid the foundation for his later thinking and work at an early age. After completing his amateur examination in church music in Oldenburg (1946), Poos studied at the Berliner Kirchenmusikschule [Berlin School of Church Music] with Ernst Pepping, Gottfried Grote and Herbert Schulze (state examination in church music in 1954) and completed his musical education from 1955 to 1957 with Erich Peter and Boris Blacher at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. From 1955 to 1970 he worked as a choirmaster and organist in various Berlin communities. During that time, he also studied musicology, philosophy and theology at Freie Universität Berlin. In 1964 Poos received his doctoral degree with a thesis on the vocal œuvre of Ernst Pepping. After having worked as a lecturer of music theory at both Technische Universität Berlin and the Berlin Hochschule für Musik since 1965, he became professor of music theory at the Berlin Hochschule der Künste in 1971. After his retirement in 1994, he accepted a teaching position at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main. Poos was working as a musicologist and composer until his last breath.

Poos was always in “search of new music that rather wants to be music than new”. This search was “laborious”, he admitted in his essay “Beziehungszauber”. The fact that he underwent this effort again and again bore rich fruit in the form of an extensive œuvre, especially in the area of vocal music. His main œuvre has been published by Schott Music. It is characterized by masterful polyphony, bold sonority and an intellectual musical interpretation of the texts. In addition to Bertolt Brecht, whom he had met personally, his passion was for the writers of ancient Greece. With their subtle interpretation of texts, his choral works make major works of classical literature accessible to musicians and listeners of today. His important works include the choral cycles “Pax et Bonum” (1981), “Hypostasis” (Jakobs Traum, 1992), “Epistolae” (1999) “Zeichen am Weg” (1999), the Orpheus Fantasies (2001) and the Brecht cycle “Was hast du gesehen, Wanderer?“ (2006).

The compositional and scientific literary work of Poos has achieved great national and international recognition, including, among others, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1987), the Composition Award of the Union of European Choral Federations (1991), the Peter Cornelius Medal of the Rhineland-Palatinate (1999), and the Geschwister Mendelssohn Medal (2013). With him, we have lost a fascinating artist, who saw himself as a craftsman and a fighter for music and who emphasized in every publisher’s interview how much he enjoyed his profession. To the question “Mr. Poos, how are you?” he always replied: “I have work to do.

The Schott publishing house was privileged to accompany Poos for over six decades and is grateful for the creative, fruitful and always trusting cooperation. His works have found their place in the large and extremely rich repertoire of European choral music and will continue to resound – beyond this day.


Work of the Week – Akiko Yamane: Arcade

On 26 August, Arcade, a new 20-minute orchestral work by Akiko Yamane will receive its world premiere at Suntory Hall, Tokyo. The concert, which is part of the 2020 Suntory Summer Festival will be given by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yoichi Sugiyama.

Yamane describes Arcade as drawing on the idea of drone music that programmatically expresses a consumerist society where the needs and desires of the people are seemingly under control. Below the surface, however, their internal desires and contradictions become apparent. Arcade has been commissioned by the Suntory Arts Foundation. 

Akiko Yamane – Arcade: State of uncertainty within a fragile society

I seek to depict this idea with a quality of sound that a person can feel on their skin. The sound fluctuates according to subtle changes within the listener’s body, or in accordance with a particular place or space and so on. In this piece, I stop and turn my attention to the various layers of sound and focus on their essence. Akiko Yamane 

Photos: Adobe Stock / topntp, Coco