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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Five Years Ago

On a crisp September morning five years ago tomorrow, the unthinkable happened. I will never forget that day nor its events. Just like the day in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded before our very eyes, the television media, with their every 20 second replay of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, the images of September 11 are never too far from my mind's eye. It doesn't help much that Youtube has thousands of videos of the event posted for us to see whenever we get the urge.

I can't help but think about where we were on September 10, 2001, where we ended up on the 12th and where we are today. On the tenth of September, a minority of Americans and the Supreme Court had only recently handed the presidency to a failed businessman from Connecticut by way of Texas, who, much to his own hapless good luck, was born the son of a former not so hot president. Many of us were outraged at the outcome of the 2000 election, wondering just what the hell we were thinking to let this happen.

But the horrific events of September 11th gave the new president a chance to shine, a chance to unite the country behind a common cause, a chance to be a healer. Even I, the biggest Bush detractor on the planet, was willing to see what the guy could do in the face of disaster. After all, we didn't have the choice of replacing him with the far more competent Rudolph Giuliani.

What is striking now in hindsight is just how badly George W. Bush blew his chance at greatness. It started with the slackjawed empty looks on his face that we saw from all kinds of television images in the days immediately following the attack. His total disengagement at the National Cathedral memorial service was telling. Here was the leader of the free world, clueless as to how to handle the biggest disaster on American soil since Pearl Harbor.

"Wanted Dead or Alive!" he said. How fucking original. War on turr. Or was that tourists? Oh, yes, terror. Interesting. We have declared war on a tactic, spent gazillions of dollars on the cause and the man who masterminded the attacks on New York and Washington is still hopping around the caves of Pakistan sticking out his bare ass for the Al Jazeera cameras five years on. We have been duped into a needless war with Iraq, having been sold a bill of goods about non-existent weapons of mass deception, er, destruction and a completely fabricated connection between Sadaam Hussein and Al-Quaeda.

All the while, the White House Puppet and his thugs in the cabinet usurp the constitution every hour on the hour while we stand idly by and let it happen. Compared to Bush, Dick Nixon and his boys look like Pope Benedict and the College of Cardinals. And we impeached Clinton for a blow job.

The best news that I can think of on this September 11 eve is that Dubbya has fewer days to serve in office, and each passing sunset lessens his grip. In a meagre eight years, we have become one of the most despised nations on earth through some of the worst foreign policy in history. We have destroyed two countries and seem to be hell bent on starting yet another war, this time with Iran, when our military is already taxed to the breaking point, and we have yet to demand Donald Rumsfeld's incompetent, arrogant head to be served in soup kitchens.

On this fifth marking of the September 11 attacks, let's all take a moment to ponder that in just a couple of weeks, there's an election coming upon us that can change the course of this disaster that was bred from tragedy. Let's all take a positive step to undo the damage that Bush and his criminals have done to our country.

Vote. Do it! Before it's too late.

Some Exquisite New Chamber Music for You to Enjoy

Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Quintet for Piano and Strings in g minor, Op. 57 (1940) [31:14]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Quintet for Piano and Strings in d minor, Op. 89 (1906) [30:41]

James Dick (piano)
Eusia Quartet
Kazuhiro Takagi and Janne Tateno (violins); Yukiko Ogura (viola); Adrien Zitoun (cello)

Recorded 11-12 march 2005 (Shostakovich) and 6-7 April 2006 (Fauré) in the Festival Concert Hall at Festival Hill, Round Top, Texas.

ROUND TOP RTR 013 [61:55]

Since 1971, pianist James Dick has led the annual International Festival-Institute for Music at historic Round Top, Texas. Each year the festival produces a number of chamber music recordings and this disc is from the most recent batch.

Dmitry Shostakovich, whose centennial we celebrate this year was born in the year that Fauré composed his Piano Quintet. No two worlds could have been further apart than the early twentieth century France known to the mature Fauré, and the waning Romanov dynasty under which Shostakovich first saw the light of day.

By 1940, Shostakovich had begun to recover from the stern official rebuke that his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District had brought down upon him. His fifth symphony was a populist hit, and he was even awarded the very first Stalin Prize for the Quintet recorded here. It is work much patterned after the keyboard partitas of Bach, cast in five movements, rich in tonal harmony and interesting folk melodies. To put it simply, this is hauntingly beautiful music, infused with thick textures stacked layer upon layer, with contrasting fast movements full of rhythmic interest and vitality. At times this music is downright sunny in nature, and the bouncing scherzo is vigorous and dancing.

Our ensemble is of one mind about this music, and play off each other in a most collegial manner. James Dick plays with precise rhythmic clarity and a warm rich tone, which never becomes brittle in the upper registers. The Eusia quartet, while still fairly young, play with a strong sense of ensemble, and provide some beautiful amber tones. Although the ensemble’s playing is incredibly atmospheric, I sometimes wondered if a slightly faster tempo would have benefited the music here and there, particularly in the last movement which seemed to me to lack forward motion. The highlight of this performance is the splendid Fugue, which is masterful in its structure and played to perfection.

Gabriel Fauré’s Quintet, composed 34 years before Shostakovich’s is a horse of a completely different color. Dreamy and sunny, this work lay on the composer’s desk for some time as a sketch for a third piano quartet, before it was expanded in its instrumentation. The only work of Fauré’s to be published in the United States; it was first performed from hand written parts due to the state of flux with publishers in which the composer found himself when the work was finished. That it saw print at all is due in large part to Charles Martin Loeffler, who, while living in Boston, arranged to have the work published by the American firm of G. Schirmer. This American publication is most likely the reason that the work went underperformed for so long. Early twentieth century Americans were less enthusiastic about fine chamber music that their European counterparts and it took some time for the parts to become available in the Old World.

This is a work of sublime serenity, opening with a rhapsodic movement that is awash in melody, lush proto-Ravellian harmonies, and robust sweeping textures. In spite of the small ensemble, the sound plate is all but orchestral in nature. The second movement is quite romantic and is rife with one gorgeous melody after another. The final movement is peaceful and sunny, rolling along like the view from a carriage on a country ride.

There is practically nothing to fault in this performance. Balance and ensemble are dead on; tempi are carefully chosen and fit the music like a glove. The string playing is warm and spacious and Mr. Dick piano shines in a glow of silvery elegance. This is some of the most cooperative chamber music playing that I have ever heard, totally devoid of needless show and pretense. It is what fine music making should be: playing in service to the music for the purpose of edifying the listener.

Program notes are concise and contain just the right balance of anecdotal interest and scholoarship. Sound quality is rich and warm and always beautifully balanced, and there is thankfully no extraneous performer noise (read grunting and sniffing) that mar so many chamber music recording. This is a recording worthy of pride of place in any collection.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ten Books that You Might Enjoy

Kent Haruf: Plainsong

This is a lovely story about the adventures of the good folk of Holt, Colorado. Haruf paints a vivid portrait of rural life, and is amazingly able to turn everyday life dramas into arresting reading. The sequel is called Eventide and I look forward to reading it soon. With titles like those, Haruf must either be a musician or an Episcopalian or both.

John Irving: A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is undoubtedly the most poignant book I have ever read. A true tale of selfless love and friendship, told as only the American Dickens can tell it. A must read for all literate people

Armisted Maupin: The Night Listener

Maupin is one of the only authors I know who can be equal parts sad, funny and mystery writer. The master of the plot twist, this book is a total mind fuck, but it is also one of the most memorable books I have every read.

Sheri Reynolds: The Rapture of Canaan

Though I am utterly loathe to admit that I loved one of Oprah's book selections, this is a real winner of a tale, especially if you're a liberal in the conservative dungeon of the south like I am! A wonderful tale of a young girl who overcomes the brainwashing of her near cult-like religious community to find true redemption and salvation. Fabulous.

Alice Walker: The Color Purple

Perhaps it's a bit of a cliche to list an Alice Walker tome, but she is one of the finest writers in print and this is masterful story telling. One of the few times when a movie is as good as the book, this series of letters to God is a profound portrait of the African-American experience in the old south.

George Orwell: 1984

Unquestionably the most terrifying book I have ever read. I can't remember when a story stuck with me for so long, or disturbed me so deeply. Not for the weak-kneed!

Liam Callanan: The Cloud Atlas

This book was one of those splendid little accidents that I found at the public library. Set in Alaska during the Second World War, it is a fictionalized account of the balloon bombing campaign, wherein the Japanese attempted to bomb the US west coast by means of bombs attached to hot air balloons. It's a great tale coupled with some rather fascinating history.

Peter Ostwald: Glenn Gould: The Ecstacy and Tragedy of Genius

Psychiatrist and long-time Gould friend has written a fascinating biography of one of the twentieth century's greatest and most controversial musicians. In spite of his profession, the book is thankfully sparing of too much psychoanalysis. Rather, Ostwald tells the story of his friendship with the Canadian pianist, relying on his profession only to add insight into one of the most eccentric personalities in music. A great read, and a sad story indeed.

Christoph Wolff: Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician

Without a doubt, this is the most readable indepth biography of the greatest of all composers ever written. Wolff approaches his subject from the point of view of Bach's amazingly well-rounded personality. From his authority in the field of organ construction to his foibles at diplomacy and church politics, Bach was a man of thorough learning and scholarship. A must read for all music lovers.

Grahame Green: The Power and the Glory

A true classic, this tale of a priest in troubled times is so real that you almost feel the need to shower after you have read a chapter. Beautifully descriptive, and powerful to the last word, this is a book that deserves a shelf life outside of high school literature classes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Fine New CD from the Dallas Symphony

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat major, Op. 83 (1881) [46:09]
Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119 (1891-93) [15:25]

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton

Recorded 12-15 January 2006 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, TX and 11 February 2006 at the Poston Hall, Suffolk, England.

HYPERION CDA 67550 [61:41]

Brahms autumnal second piano concerto stands in rather stark contrast to his tumultuous first, perhaps reflecting the life experiences of the twenty-three years that lay between their composition. The second concerto, although by no means short of virtuoso display, is much more closely related to chamber music. And yet, Brahms cannot separate himself from the orchestra, casting the work in four instead of the traditional three movements, and making both outer movements far more expansive than was common for the concerto of the period.

In a performance that is the amalgam of a weekend of concerts, Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin, no stranger to big romantic literature turns in a solid, well paced and controlled performance. This was a bit of a surprise to me I must confess, since I had attended one of the concerts in question in person and was under whelmed with Mr. Hamelin’s performances. Andrew Litton is, however a real master in the recording studio, and through some good editing on Hyperion’s part, we have a final product that is very fine indeed.

The chamber music nature of the opening movement is not lost on Mr. Hamelin. He and Maestro Litton work well together as a team, and we never get the impression that there is anything but collegial music making happening here. Litton lets the orchestra sing where it needs to, and Mr. Hamelin is careful never to just thunder through the louder passages for the sake of virtuosity. It is always a surprise to hear the burst of energy that is the second movement, and Hamelin tears into the music with abandon. The third movement is a beautifully reflective dialogue with some magnificent cello playing from Dallas symphony principal cellist Christopher Adkins in the famous solo. It all comes to a fine close in the finale, in which Hamelin keeps everything under firm control, never beating up on the piano. Instead, he is ever at one with his instrument, and with the music.

Of particular merit is the rich, singing tone that Maestro Litton gets from the Dallas symphony string section, and some nice playing as well from the horns, whose prominent part is played to perfection. It is music making of this quality that makes us grateful that Andrew Litton loves to record, and sad that he no longer heads the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. This is very satisfying music making all round, and it is particularly rewarding to hear this piece played at just the right tempo, not too fast like the old Serkin recordings of your, and thankfully not lugubrious as in later Bernstein with Krystian Zimmerman at the keyboard.

Mr. Hamelin rounds off the program with the four shorter works from Op. 119, which he plays with depth, passion and sensitivity.

Kevin Sutton

Saturday, August 19, 2006

This Week in Seattle

Here we are in one of the most beautiful cities in the nation, Seattle! Surrounded by wonderful, talented and brilliant people, I always enjoy my time at the Academia d'amore.

Tonight was pretty fun as we went to a great Greek restaurant. John, the other John and Doug got to belly dance with the live entertainment. Quite the sight indeed.

The scenes are starting to come together, with tomorrow being a giant day for memorizing stuff. Ugh, too many words!

The weather is flawless, far superior to the nasty heat in Dallas. At any rate, stay tuned for more exciting news from Seattle, coming to a blog near you!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ten Composers Whose Music You Should Know

This is the second entry in my series of "tens." Below are ten composers who don't fall into the "standard repertoire" category that you might just find pretty interesting. Happy listening!

Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974)

Outstanding Swedish composer of symphonies, concertos and chamber music. His violin concerto is the finest 20th century work in this genre since Samuel Barber's. His symphonies are sweeping, heart stopping and sensuous.

Paul Moravec (b. 1957)

A superb craftsman and highly original voice. His Time Gallery is one of the best large chamber works that I have ever heard. Fascinating sound world, well worth your investigation.

Alvin Curran (b. 1938)

The first time I heard Alvin Curran's Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden, I nearly came unglued. His music is like a collage. He captures sounds from anything that moves and turns them into beautiful music.

Antoine Busnoys (c. 1430-1492)

Master of the Burgundian composition school, he was the leading figure of his day after Guillaume Dufay. Haunting textures coupled with some of the most complex rhythmic writing before the 20th century make his music utterly unforgettable.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)

Prolific and prodigiously talented composer who upon fleeing the Nazis, landed in Hollywood to become one of the first superstar film composers. Most modern orchestral soundtracks owe a heavy debt to Korngold's pioneering work.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Stravinsky be damned, Britten was the greatest composer of the twentieth century. No other composer was so adept in so many fields, nor was there any twentieth century musician so able to speak originally in traditional forms.

Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918)

Traditional composer in the mold of Elgar and Stanford, he is best known for his coronation anthem I was Glad, and for his setting of Blake's Jerusalem. He was also a very fine symphonist.

Peter Schickele (b. 1935)

In spite of his alter ego, P.D. Q. Bach, Peter Schickele is one of America's finest original composers. His is a unique voice, and his subtle twists on traditional harmonic practices are delicious.

Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)

Composer of immense talent, sadly overshadowed by her male contemporaries. A fine pianist and teacher, she would forever live in the shadow of Gabriel Faure. She composed a couple of outstanding symphonies and some chamber music that hearkened all the way back to Mozart.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

A master of music for voices, Howells' music is ethereal and surprising. Completely original, you will never hear anything else like it. Even imitators have not quite managed to get it right. Pay special attention to his music for the Anglican Church.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ten Songs That Everyone Should Hear

This is the start of a series of posts about some music, books, films and such that have influenced me over the years. They are not in any particular order, but after 25 years in the music and entertainment biz, I think I have collected enough wit and wisdom to publish a list or two with some authority. I hope you enjoy them.

1. Wasted Time
This tune from which appears at the end of side one of the Eagles' Hotel California is perhaps the greatest of all rock ballads. Don Henley's pain seared and sympathetic vocals and a set of lyrics that speaks to everyone who's ever lost something in life are like no others in music. A song of both heartache and hope, it has been a favorite of mine for more than 20 years.

2. The Leader of the Band
Dan Fogelberg's poignant tribute to his father (a respected colleagiate music professor) is one of the most touching ballads I have ever heard, perhaps because I can relate to it on such a personal level. I don't know of any other song that so aptly describes a life in music.

3. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
It's too easy to pan Bono for his overtly religious tendencies and his change the world outlook on life. If, however, this soul-searching and sincere quest for self doesn't relate to at least 60% of the population, then there's something wrong with all of us.

4. A Pig's Foot and a Bottle of Beer
Blues legend Bessie Smith delivers up a rip roaring song about the finer things in life. The first time I heard this tune I backed the cd up and played it over about four times in a row. This song, more than just about any other, extols the virtures of good friends and good fun.

5. Something Cool
Chanteuse June Christy, who never really sang quite perfectly in tune, creates an unforgettable image of the sophisticated life of the 1950's in this evocative ballad. Instrumentals arranged by Pete Ruggolo are flawless.

6. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
Title track from Frank Sinatra's string of 1950's vintage masterworks for Capitol Records, this song is heartbreak in a bottle. The Charman of the Board at his finest.

7. Teo toriate (Let Us Cling Together)
In the 1970's Queen released two masterpiece LPs named after Marx Brothers movies. (A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races). This song is the last track of the latter, and is one of the most memorable love songs that I have ever experienced. Its refrain, in English and Japanese is one of the decade's most beautiful melodies, and Freddy Mercury proves why he had one of the greatest voices in Rock and Roll.

8. The Way Old Friends Do
This closing track to Abba's Super Trouper is a nostalgic look (from the vantage point of the present day) at what might have been. A couple of albums later the Swedish foursome would all be divorced, and the dance floor phenomenon of the 1970's would be no more. The harmonies along with the presence of a live audience make this a song to remember.

9. Crossroads
Don McLean is best known for Vincent and American Pie, but this hauntingly simple and beautiful song about a love gone wrong gives strong evidence as to why McLean is one of the finest song writing talents ever.

10. The Air That I Breathe
Ah for the days when songs had a hook, a tune, a melody, a chorus that we could actually sing back at the radio. Sigh. The Hollies were one of the best bands of the late 60s-early 70s and they are woefully under appreciated today. Sigh. Time for a revival. k.d. lang's cover of this song was one of the best remakes in history.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Check out a Special Radio Broadcast

Dear Friends,

Please join me on WRR Classical 101.1 or on at 8 p.m. central daylight time for "Building Castles in the Sky" a tribute to James Caldwell.

The show has turned out really quite well, and I am confident that all of Jim's many friends, colleagues and students will enjoy it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some fine Tchaikovsky from the LPO

Piotr Illych TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Manfred, Symphony in Four Scenes after Byron’s Dramatic Poem, Op. 58 (1885) [59:02]

The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor

Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 8 December 2004.

LPO 0009 [50:02]

Although he initially turned down the project, Tchaikovsky eventually accepted the challenge of composing a symphony based on Byron’s autobiographical poem Manfred, as put forth by the influential Moscow critic Vladimir Stasov. First Berlioz then Balakirev was offered the project, but it was Tchaikovsky, when encouraged by Balakirev some two years after Stasov’s proposal, that took up the task and saw it through. Perhaps it was the similarity between Byron’s own guilty situation (he fled England after an incestuous affair with his half-sister was revealed) and Tchaikovsky’s deep seated anguish over his own homosexuality that brought the music out of him. Byron’s story is a thinly veiled self portrait, a portrait in which the composer could easily see himself.

Composed between the fourth and fifth symphonies, this work is even more overtly programmatic than its numbered counterparts. The music is dripping with romantic angst, passion, pathos and drama. Tchaikovsky, who was never afraid of expressing his emotions forcefully, all but gets carried away in this substantial and colorful score. Although I may well be taken to task by a reader or two for admitting it, this recording was to my knowledge, my first experience with this music. I was aware of a number of well-received recordings such as Pletnev’s with the Russian National Orchestra and Jansons’ with the Oslo Philharmonic. It was, however, quite refreshing to sit down with this music with unbiased ears.

What I heard was most astonishing. Being familiar with Tchaikovsky’s numbered symphonies, there were certain things I was expecting, for example, a prominent use of the oboe, lush and technically challenging string writing, forceful use of timpani and cymbals. All this I got! In addition there are some splendid moments for the harp and as one might expect, all the high drama is carried out by a prominent and even forceful brass section. And yet, for all the histrionics, there is much elegant and tuneful writing too.

Each year we hear more hue and cry about the precarious fate of the classical music industry and we read report after report about the demise of recordings and of great orchestras. If this is the case, I am at a loss to explain the dozens of new discs that come my way each month. What is happening though is a seemingly new business model, such as the one on display here, with a major orchestra aggressively marketing its concerts as turned into recordings. The London Symphony is following suit and the results have been consistently fine discs coming out in fairly plentiful quantity.

There is a bit of crowd noise with which to contend here, but it is minimal, and the quality of the playing is first rate. One might even believe that the performances are fresher and more vibrant as they are the documents of a single event, without much aid from retakes and studio trickery. I do wish however that the kind producers would bag the applause at the end. It simply isn’t necessary and kind of destroys the mood, particularly in a work like this one that ends on a quiet note of forgiveness.

That gripe aside, Maestro Jurowski has given us an exciting and engaging reading of a work that I will now make an effort to get to know better. What more can one ask of a recording that to entice the listener to additional hearings? The production values here are of the highest order, with clear and luminous sound and consistently superb playing in the orchestra. The harpist gets special recognition for some spectacular effects. Program notes are concise and above all interesting; devoid of the blow by blow analytical drivel that plagues so many other such endeavors.

If this is the kind of music making we are going to get from this label, then long may it live. Heaven knows there is a wealth of fine concert material from this orchestra that is worth repeated hearings. High praise indeed for a superior product.

Kevin Sutton

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Great New CD for you to Check Out!

Paul MORAVEC (b. 1957)

The Time Gallery (2000) [42:15]
Protean Fantasy (1993) [9:33]
Ariel Fantasy (2002) [4:17]

eighth blackbird
Peter Sheppard-Skærved, violin
Aaron Shorr, piano

Recorded at the Chicago Recording Company (Time Gallery), November 2002, and at Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK December 2004 (Protean Fantasy and Ariel Fantasy).

NAXOS 8.559267 [56:06]

Paul Moravec is a prolific American composer with more than eighty works to his credit. He was the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in music for his five-movement TempestFantasy for violin and piano. His music is a combination of the earnest and the entertaining, never taking itself too terribly seriously, but at the same time reflecting the thoughts of a thoroughly skilled and technically virtuosic composer.

The Time Gallery is a work for chamber ensemble that takes four aspects of the concept of time into view. Its opening movement, Bells, Devotional Hours, recalls the eight portions of the monastic day. Opening with random percussion sounds meant to represent a water alarm clock, it moves into the ringing of the bells that called the monks to prayer at the appropriate times of the day in the medieval age. The music is at times contemplative, at others quite energetic, and at all times inventive, tuneful, rhythmically vital and attractive.

The second movement, Time Machine, is much more lyrical and seeks to portray the advent and development of time-keeping devices through music. Opening with a montage of ticking clocks, there are some splendid melodies here and the lovely duet between the violin and clarinet is quite captivating indeed. Of significant interest too is Moravec’s extremely skillful use of percussion instruments, not only as rhythmic devices, but as creative means to melody and color as well.

The third movement, Pulse, is the shortest of the four, depicting the ultimate time machine, the human heart. The contrasts between a steady even pulse and an arrhythmic nervous heartbeat are striking and at times even a bit unsettling.

The final movement, Overtime: Memory Sings, is a poetic and atmospheric reflection on what the composer calls the paradox of time, that is, that time is the creator and destroyer of all things. It is by far the most beautiful of all four sections of this captivating score. Atmospheric to the core, it is at times rich in tonal harmony, and at others dreamy and non-committal in its rhythmic and harmonic structure.
eighth blackbird (intentionally lower case) is one of the finest chamber groups that I have ever encountered. Their dedication and passion for this music is wholly evident in this performance. A group with virtuoso skills to burn, they make the intricacies of this music seem like child’s play. They show no effort at all as they make their way through some very difficult passage work with complete panache. In moments lyrical, they play with passion, yea even some real romanticism. Poetic is perhaps the way I could best describe their interpretations. Completely at one, this is a group that seems on this my first hearing to be the perfect blend of skill and commitment, with an obvious ideal mix of temperament and personality to add luster to an already shining collaboration.

The disc is rounded out with two brief but equally fine works for violin and piano, very skillfully played by Peter Sheppard-Skærved and Aaron Shorr. The writing style here is reminiscent of Prokofiev to these ears, with somewhat disjunct melodies for the violin accompanied by percussive piano writing. Both instrument parts indulge in some extremities of range and dynamics making for interesting listening.

I have not heard new chamber music this fine since my first encounter with Peter Schickele’s wonderful quartet for clarinet, violin, piano and cello, now about 20 years old. Original and masterfully constructed, this music did what all good music should: enticed me to seek out more of this composer’s work.

Recommended without a moment’s hesitation. A real find!

Kevin Sutton

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Don't Let the Bastards...

There comes a time when one has to release the mantle of being the child or the student and embrace the authority and responsibility of adulthood. For some, that time comes fairly early on. For others, it can take quite awhile. For me, it just came today, on this July morning in my forty-second year.

After a particularly nasty experience this morning (I'll spare you the details), I have finally come to a comfort zone with the word "no."

Now some people will immediately chime in and say that I am being selfish, arrogant, that it's all about me, etc. Well, except for the arrogant part, they'd be right, and it's ok, and I don't care.

Three years ago, thanks to the prodding of my good friend Dr. Stapp, I got off my tenorish ass and set out to make my life in music. It was a long time coming, and there is still a longer stretch of road ahead of me than behind. But I am on the path, and thanks to BPI and people like Max, Penny and of course, the inimitable MME Z, there's a chance of a career ahead.

The nasty episode mentioned above came, serendipitously, just an hour before my therapy session with Dr. Betty. Seemed like a good topic to discuss and so we spent the hour on the subject of being in control of one's own destiny, and that it is perfectly ok to decline a task, job, situation etc. that interferes with that destiny.

So what is all this about? Well, to put it simply, I am saying the same thing that my father used to say to me: Never do anything that you don't enjoy, never agree to something that makes you uncomfortable, and if it comes to it, tell the other guy to go screw himself if he gets in the way of your dreams.

Ole Dad was right. Times rushes forward very quickly, and it waits for no one. Thirty years goes by very fast. If you wait around for someone to give it to you, you won't get it, and if something or someone is blocking the way, cut it down.

That's my discovery for today, and hopefully, I will continue to have the balls to stick up for it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

It Makes Me Laugh

That the last two comments to my blog have been from sites trying to sell me porn.

That Dubbya thinks that the American people still believe that he is trying to save us from terrorists.

That there are still American people who DO believe that Dubbya is trying to save us from terrorists.

That the Romans are up in arms about a third rate hack novel called The Davinci Code, fearing that their preciously held beliefs will be challened by some film that doesn't even get its own facts straight.

That people even give a rat's ass as to whether or not Jesus reproduced.

Sigh. When the fuck will people grow the balls to think for themselves?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

My New Radio Station

Many of you are probably well into the phenomenon of internet radio. I had no idea until just this week how very easy and inexpensive it is to set up a station. Thus, I have done just that. Please feel free to log onto and enjoy Helios Radio. Some of the playlists are announced and some are just music, and I try to rotate the playlist every couple of days. Sorry that it can't change daily, but uploading, announcing and editing a five hour play list can take several hours, and there is only so much time in the day. It's a fun little hobby for me, and it's free to listen to.

I hope that you all enjoy it.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sitting at the Radio Station

For the next few weeks I will be hosting the Sunday evening program on WRR Classical 101.1 in Dallas. ( for the stream over the internet). There is also some possibility that I will be hosting from 10 am to 3 pm during the weekdays, but that's a development as yet to be seen.

For those of you interested in my singing escapades, I begin recording my first commercial CD this week. Madame Z is coming out to help with the proceedings, and hopefully we can knock it out in two long sessions. I hope so.

It will be available this summer, barring any unforeseen difficulties. The rep is all Roger Quilter. My next project will be a disc of songs composed especially for me by my good friend Hildegunner Runnirsdottir. (provided of course, that she writes them for me) Nudge nudge, wink wink, aHEM!

I have been busier than a one armed paper hanger this week, and it's not looking like it will be any easier next.

I need a vacation!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Together Again

I don't understand why it's always the good ones who leave us so soon. By now the nation has learned of the death of Dana Reeve, the widow of Christopher Reeve and the mother of young Will. What a untimely and incomprehensible loss her passing is to all of us.

Courageous, unflappable and a true force for good in the world, what an absolute crime it is for a Dana Reeve to die.

I hope that those people in our country who have power and influence will sit back and look at the way that Chris and Dana Reeve used their good fortunes, and ponder following suit. Wouldn't it be nice if every one of us used our talents and abilities to make the world better instead of destroying it for our own selfish purposes?

Will, my prayers are with you even though you don't know me from Adam. Dana, farewell great lady, and when you see him, tell Chris we all say hello and hope he's enjoying it up there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In case anyone out there is interested...

A whole slew of Dallas' finest musicians gave two kick ass performances of Handel's massive oratorio Samson this week. It was phenomenal, and I got acquainted with some cool new people. In particular, I got to know Will Whitmire over several beers and found him to be quite the intelligent, sensitive and talented guy. More beer drinking to come, I hope.

Banner day today. This is the 21st anniversary of my 21st birthday. Yours truly entered the world on a high C 42 years ago today in the small snowy hamlet of New Castle, Indiana. The city fathers have failed to declare the day a public holiday, but they will learn someday.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

So Where's My Song Cycle?

Greetings all. Sigh. Sittin here at the radio station and am bored out of my mind listening to the Metropolitan Opera. I know it's a great cultural institution, and we should be glad we have it, but I prefer my opera the pictures!

Anyway, Helios has a concert tonight, and by the grace of God, enough people seem to be attending it to make it pretty much pay for itself.

By the way, my confidence in organized religion has hit another all time low. God and I seem to be in good stead with each other, but those pretty buildings put up all over the place in his name...well that's another story. Sometime in the future I will reveal my reasons for being disgusted, but this isn't the time.

In the meantime, I have been checking out oak groves and pine forests. They make for very nice cathedrals, and they are seldom inhabited by the self righteous.

Thank you Fr. Blackmon, you're the best.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Fond Farewell to 2005

Greetings all,

This is your friendly ever so sporadic blogger, wishing everyone a happy New Year! Thank God 2005 is behind us. Here are the top ten great things about it being 2006 and not 2005.

1. Bush has one fewer year to be in office.
2. All the sucky things that happened in 2005 like the hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are last year's news and hopefully won't happen again in 2006.
3. There is a congressional election this year, and with every big name Republican on Capitol Hill under investigation or on his way to jail, we might just see the American people regain a few ounces of common sense and realize that crooks are crooks, and just because they appeal to the naive religiosity of southern morons, they DON'T have our best interests in mind.
4. The Democrats, despite their inability to put forth a coherent message and any decent candidates, stand a pretty good chance of regaining congress. Thank you so much Mssrs. Ambramoff and DeLay, you've helped our cause more than you can ever imagine!
5. Pat Gary has a great new party pad that is probably just about broken in for regular use now, and he has a REAL bar, not just a kitchen cabinet full of good likker.
6. Hildegunner is going to compose a song cycle for me, aren't you Hildegunner?
7. Brian and Mike will be home from Iraq "this year" not "next year.'
8. Dr. Stapp is getting older, thus making my edge at darts sharper, given that age, alcohol and arthritis are slowing the ole guy down a bit.
9. I still have more hair than Dr. Stapp.

and finally,

10. My new cd comes out this summer!

Happy New Year All!