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Articles by Jean Ballard Terepka

Jean Ballard Terepka
About Jean Ballard Terepka (128 Articles)
Jean Ballard Terepka, a native and life-long New Yorker, has been writing about music for twenty years. In addition to her continuing career as an independent educational consultant, Terepka also works as an archivist and historian with specialties in American cultural, intellectual and religious history. Terepka serves on the Executive Committee of the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force and on the Board of National Episcopal Historians and Archivists; she is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America.

Experiments in Opera: Modularias

December 7, 2018

Though vastly different from each other, all four operas dealt either directly or indirectly with time, with the ways in which the past -- personal, historical, mythic -- influences the present. Each work, though short, provided a compelling immersion in a very particular and individual moment. [more]

Dada at the Movies: Guy Livingston, piano

November 12, 2018

The whole evening was an experience of two interconnected worlds. The first was the historical world of Dadaism, exhibited in music, words and visual images. The second was Livingston’s dexterous and inspiring explication of that first world’s coherence. For both experts in Dadaism and newcomers to that important moment between the two world wars, Livingston’s presentation captured the essence of Dadaist artists’ experiments and assertions. [more]

Aynur, with special guest Kinan Azmeh (September 30, 2018)

October 14, 2018

Each song – some traditional folk ballads and some national calls to history and identity – became, in Aynur’s hands, an individual work of art, intricately structured and elegantly paced. Aynur combined subtle artistry with intimate, fresh connection to both her colleague musicians and her audience. Singing in Kurdish and seamlessly incorporating Western contemporary motifs, Aynur conveyed accounts of human events – hope and fear, joy and grief, wisdom, innocence, experiment and embrace – that were clear and compelling, even for audience members who couldn’t understand her words. [more]

The Crossing: Of Arms and the Man

October 14, 2018

Nally’s extensive program notes provided insights on the program, whose title comes from the opening line of Virgil’s "Aeneid," “Arma virumque cano” … “I sing of arms and the man.” Nally juxtaposes the Roman epic with Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 1976 “call to poets” and notes the presence of rage as a human impulse that links Aeneas’ war stories with the contemporary United States. Various choral pieces in the program by contemporary composers as diverse as David Lang, Gabriel Jackson, Suzanne Giraud and Sebastian Currier addressed themes such as grief, awe, reverence, hope and anger. The pieces were typically a cappella, but three marvelous cellists – Alexander Hersh, Arlen Hlusko and Thomas Mesa – provided linking music between works. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Inspirations and Purposes

August 31, 2018

The Festival’s sole lecture-presentation proved useful in revealing how one composer viewed the intersections of science and art in his own composing: trumpeter Skye van Duuren, now a trumpeter and PhD candidate in Composition in the College-Conservatory at the University of Cincinnati spoke on “Bridging Worlds: Creating Fixed Media Microtonal Music with Acoustic Instruments” and then presented the third movement of his Manifestations. Emphasizing the development of his “microtonal language … with traditional chromatic scale as a baseline … and gradations of 5 cents in octaves that each have 240 ‘notes,’ van Duuren discussed the use of Melodyne software to increase the microtones of acoustic instruments. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Excellence

August 31, 2018

In the very first concert, one of the finest – and also longest – pieces of the Festival was Marie-Helene Bernard’s BOA Sr (1.5, i.e. Concert 1, piece 5). In 2010, Bernard read the obituary of an old woman living in the Andaman Archipelago in the Bay of Bengal; she was the last person alive to speak the Bo language, and at the end of her life, with no one left to talk to, she spoke to the birds. This fixed media requiem piece uses fragments of an anthropologist’s recordings of the old woman’s voice with electronic musical sounds. From its beginning, this work evokes the past by preserving the voices of its ghosts; humanness is stretched out into something cosmically airy. It is a mysterious and gorgeous work, a modern anthropological moment turned into a myth of simultaneous loss and eternity. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Overview

August 31, 2018

This year, the Festival site was the Abrons Arts Center; the three performance venues in the facility – the Experimental Theater, the  Playhouse and the Underground Theater – were all used. In the spacious Center, performers, composers and audience socialized and exchanged ideas and personal news throughout the week. Though the Festival composers came from many countries all over the world, the “community” of electroacoustic music is quite small; performers often know each other and each others’colleagues and friends, knowledgeable audiences and strong supporters … an exceptionally eclectic and vibrant group, all interested in music that both affirms and expands the core questions about music that composers, performers and listeners have been exploring for centuries. [more]

International Contemporary Ensemble: “Grand Pianola Music”

August 24, 2018

After intermission, German-born and now San Francisco based conductor Christian Reif led the International Contemporary Ensemble together with Quince Vocal Ensemble (Amanda DeBoer Bartlett/soprano, Liz Pearse/soprano and Kayleigh Butcher/mezzo-soprano – in a first-rate performance of John Adams’ 1982 "Grand Pianola Music."  This expansive, generously accessible and affirming work was conducted with comprehensive control and artistic integrity by Reif; the organic, clean connection between the conductor and the musicians elicited rich feeling and nuance from Adams’ music. [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective Presents “Water Music”

June 22, 2018

One special feature of this concert was also a mark of C4’s maturity and clout as a musical organization with a well-deserved reputation for excellence: they sponsor the IGNITE commissioning competition. In the 2017-2018 season, C4 received over 300 submissions; from these, 20 finalists were chosen, and from these, three winners were chosen. C4 member Martha Sullivan wrote about the selection process in the typically informative program notes. “Tonight, after careful rehearsal, we share the winners … They showed us works they had already created, and we responded by asking each composer to create something new, something that would be born here and now, with C4 and you are privileged to witness this birth.” [more]

Tosca Opdam

June 15, 2018

Opdam’s de Raaff playing, in contrast, was marvelous. The composer took his inspiration from Willem de Kooning’s 1977 painting, "North Atlantic Light." De Raaff and Opdam both captured the drama and movement of both white spaces and high-energy brush strokes in de Kooning’s painting. The inclusion of a tossed-about boat in the center of the painting evokes a sense of floating in simultaneous, coexisting, sea-and-sky pairings; in the middle of de Raaff’s 14-minute piece, a gentle central section of quasi-contemplative calm summoned up the feel of the boat’s suspension. [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective presents New Music with NY Composers Circle

May 31, 2018

The nine pieces on this program differed tremendously from each other in style, tone and effect. However, two important qualities unified all the performances. First, the composers all caused their music to emerge from their chosen texts: they did not impose sound arbitrarily unto the words. The organic coherence of word and musical sound resulted from both the composers’ innate gifts and their consummate skill. Competent choral composition is difficult; really successful choral compositions are very rare. Second, the music was superbly performed: not merely does C4 sing well, but because the C4 singers are all themselves composers, they inhabit each work’s intentions with particularly keen intelligence. [more]

Tanya Tagaq (World Music Institute)

May 29, 2018

Tagaq makes music with her whole body: it is an act as fundamental as consuming, excreting, orgasm and birthing. She can make any sound – whisper and howl, caress, growl and grunt – and use it to summon, condemn, invoke or bless. Tagaq’s fellow musicians stretch out their own instruments and created sounds to meet hers in developing a constantly changing, expanding music-world. [more]

Repast Baroque Ensemble: Bohemian Fantasy

May 16, 2018

The program opened and closed with pieces for all five musicians together. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704) and Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1620/23-1680) both made the quartet of stringed instruments and the harpsichord into a coherent unit, even as the harpsichord is so much less loud. It is as though the harpsichord provides a ground on which the string instruments provide alternately close and extended stitched lines. [more]

Master-Pieces, A Chamber Opera

May 7, 2018

However, it’s not what we normally think of as an opera. And the performance, characterized by both moving strengths and disconcerting weaknesses, unfolded, awkwardly and interestingly … and then, at the end, quite powerfully … as a not-opera. Typically, operas’ drama lies in their plots; as audiences, when we’re moved, it’s because we’ve witnessed something dramatic. But in this performance of Kotik’s "Master-Pieces," the dynamic and moving intensity of the work’s conclusion lay in the fact that the work’s fundamental plotlessness – the libretto is essentially a series of poetic extractions from a 1936 lecture on aesthetics, ontology and existentialism – was transformed into a very personal drama in which the audience cannot avoid a shift from witness to participation. [more]

If Not Now …? Chamber Music of Timothy Brown

May 6, 2018

Brown called his concert, "If Not Now …?" implying, for himself and us, then, when? Removed by more than a decade from the kinds of composing in which he’s now typically engaged, the pieces presented in this concert were fondly remembered by some members of the audience – Brown’s friends and colleagues of long standing – and greeted with delight by other listeners who’d never heard them before. Whether or not Brown returns to composing either non-choral chamber music or more lengthy pieces such as those performed in this concert, the evening was a happy occasion to hear music that’s been unheard for many years. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Frederic Rzewski

April 30, 2018

As a composer, Rzewski is no doubt best known for his astonishing 1975 piano work, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated." It will take another century of listening and assessment to know for sure whether comparisons made between "The People United" on the one hand and Bach’s "Goldberg Variations" and Beethoven’s "Diabelli Variations" on the other will maintain their legitimacy. This Composer Portrait concert won’t solve the historical piano quandary: this evening excluded piano music, focusing instead on two string quartets, the first dating from the composer’s adolescence and the second from just this year. But this concert did provide an opportunity to consider important themes in Rzewski’s more than sixty years of music making. [more]

Da Capo Chamber Players: Celebrating Charles Wuorinen’s 80th Year

April 19, 2018

The Da Capo Chamber Players’ recent concert at Merkin Concert Hall, billed as a celebration for composer Charles Wuorinen’s eightieth year, was an intimate, unexpectedly informal event. The five-member Da Capo group was joined by one additional musician. The small audience consisted primarily of Da Capo players’ friends, Wuorinen’s friends, colleague musicians and composers, and friends of friends; the evening had a low-keyed New York City feel to it, a sense of purposeful and convivial gathering for the happy consideration and presentation of one remarkable composer’s music. [more]

The National Chorale: Angela Rice’s “Thy Will Be Done”

April 9, 2018

"Thy Will Be Done" retains many of the core features of an oratorio, especially in its use of alternating solo arias and choruses to develop the basic story and in its development of choral music to reflect plot, universal human response, prayer and praise. In addition, as a twenty-first century American piece, "Thy Will Be Done" benefits from some vocal strategies imported from operetta and musicals. Ultimately, however, no matter what musical genre the work derives its core ancestry from, its most important feature is its generous accessibility. [more]

C4: Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Devotion

April 7, 2018

The evening’s works were loosely organized around the theme of devotion, a big conceptual basket into which works about reverence, affection, awe and loves of all sorts could deftly and effectively be fit. Although the concert’s texts ranged from ancient to contemporary, from sacred to profane, from unknown to known authorship, the considered objects of affection included peace, nature, mystery, creativity, divinity – all love’s siblings – and love itself. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Tracing the Path of Zurbarán’s “Jacob and His Twelve Sons”

March 29, 2018

Before the concert, audience members were invited to a special showing of the Zurbarán exhibit at the Frick; the museum and the site of the concert – Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church – are just four blocks apart. The music of the concert was organized around the successful and felicitous conceit of a journey: the concert, according to Keene’s program notes, “follows the progress of the Zurbarán paintings themselves from their creation into the hands of the Bishop of Durham.” According to the ‘geography’ of the program, “the trail starts in Seville, home not only to the artist but to three of the finest composers of Spain’s Golden Age,” then moves to Lima, Peru with the music of Roque Ceruti  – because of guesses that Zurbaran’s paintings were “intended for the New World” – and then concludes with the arrival of the paintings in England. Excerpts from George Frederick Handel’s oratorio, "Joseph and His Brethren," whose manuscript is maintained in the Durham Cathedral archives, completed the journey: Jacob and his painted sons had arrived in their permanent – and, with Handel, musical – home. [more]

Yarn/Wire: Catherine Lamb, “curvo totalitas”

March 26, 2018

After the four musicians connected by eye contact to exactly synchronize their ‘phones, the piece began; sound emanated entirely slowly – it seemed like almost a minute before a steady something audible materialized from the steel sheet. The extent to which it might be considered ‘music’ remained unclear until the sound was joined, initially almost equally imperceptibly, by definitively musical synthesizer notes. Within the context of steady sound, passages of shifting intensity -- ranging from pianissimo to mezzo forte, never louder – rose and fell in discrete, discernible rhythms. Over the course of the piece, the musicians at each corner took turns playing music; only occasionally did two musicians play at once, producing instrument overlaps of embrace, enhancement, mutual revelation and then separation. Mostly, however, the musicians floated their musical energies in each other’s directions like invisible shimmers through the audience’s fairly settled quiet. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Claudio Monteverdi’s “Vespers of 1610”

March 5, 2018

Of the twelve soloists, several were outstanding. Tenor Scott Mello’s "Nigra Sum" was a virtuosic, romantically charged reveling in sensuality. The soprano duet, "Pulchra Es," with Molly Quinn and Melanie Russell, though it began a little shakily, finished well: as the two women’s voices came together in extremely difficult passages, the modernity of Monteverdi’s “secunda prattica,” or “newer style,” shone. [more]

Lorelei Ensemble: Five Boroughs Music Festival 2017-2018 Season

February 19, 2018

Equally exciting is Lorelei’s celebration of each of the ensemble’s individual voices. Peter Gilbert’s "Tsukimi (Moon Viewing)," commissioned by Lorelei and premiered in 2013, offers each of the nine singers a solo moment within the context of a complex choral work: a subtle Heian dynasty text celebrating anthropological and mythological reverence for the moon provides a splendid vehicle for the examination of each woman’s unique voice and gifts. [more]

Voices of Ascension: Poulenc’s “Gloria” & Honegger’s “King David”

February 4, 2018

Presiding over the entire piece and working in close artistic collaboration with Keene was actor F. Murray Abraham; he read the King James Bible based narrative from Ascension’s commandingly high pulpit. He was magisterially marvelous: whether speaking the omniscient ancient story-tellers’ words or God’s own, Abraham contributed as much as Keene did to the movement, shape and coherence of the "King David" presentation. [more]

The Nubian Word for Flowers/Rainbird

December 29, 2017

The set for the opera was itself a living, organic phenomenon; it functioned as an additional character in the opera. IONE sat near the moveable stage-flats; her back was to the audience, yet she was one of us. Hovering above the stage set were great canvas triangles – mildly billowed faluka sails – on which IONE projected Victorian and Edwardian era images of the British Empire in all its beauty and its ugliness. Priestess and manager, oracle and medium, IONE was at once a participant in the visual commentaries on Kitchener’s internal dramas and their director. [more]

Composer Portraits Series: Chen Yi

December 29, 2017

Chen Yi’s music is, in the best possible sense, powerful: it affirms. Musicians and audience alike, at the end of each piece, are strengthened in the continuing determination to do one’s best. The evening’s concluding work, "Sparkle" (1992), a rugged, intricately disciplined wildness of both melody and rhythm, felt like an exposition of new ways of putting sounds together to create music, an immersion in how layering and linearity can coexist. The work’s sudden end – too soon and, simultaneously, at the only possible right moment – was gorgeously big and exciting [more]

The Tallis Scholars: Heinrich Isaac at 500

December 28, 2017

The Tallis Scholars’ most recent turn in the Columbia University Miller Theatre Early Music Series was billed as “Heinrich Isaac at 500.” This concert title wasn’t quite accurate: the evening was a more like a bouquet of music by Isaac (c.1450-1517) and three contemporaries, Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521), Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495-1560) and John Browne (1453-c. 1500). – What a fabulous bouquet it was! [more]

Gerald Cohen: Voyagers, for Clarinet and String Quartet

December 27, 2017

Cohen then spoke; he presented the four-movement structure of the piece about to be performed. Although various passages in "Voyagers" evoked the diversity of music offerings on the Golden Record, highlighting “both the fragility and the power of human artistic expression,” the fairly traditionally structured piece was inspired by three main Golden Record offerings – what Cohen referred to as “source material” – a late Beethoven quartet, an Indian Raga and a Renaissance dance. "Voyagers"’ four movements are entitled Cavatina, Bhairavi, Galliard, and Beyond the Heliosphere. [more]

DakhaBrakha

December 19, 2017

Playing both traditional and modern instruments, usually amplified, all four musicians supplement and expand Ukrainian folk melodies and songs with rhythmic and stylistic adaptations as well as other-culture  borrowings from music from as far away as Australia, North Africa, North America and India as well as from other former Russian Empire provinces. The result, unexpectedly, is stunningly coherent. [more]

C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective: Love and Other Stories

December 1, 2017

Like most C4 concerts, this one had a theme: it was an evening of “songs about love – both for and against.” Songs’ ideas and purposes mirrored, echoed, anticipated and challenged each other. The organization of this program, however, was unusual. Small groups of songs from a single piece – internationally acclaimed Bernard Rands’ 1991 "Canti d’Amor," settings of James Joyce poems – framed both the concert as a whole and both of its two parts: Rands’ Joyce songs opened the concert, closed the first half, opened the second half and then closed the concert. [more]

American Classical Orchestra and Chorus: Cherubini, Beethoven and Mozart

November 24, 2017

The two soprano soloists were marvelous. Hélène Brunet combines supple lyricism with technical elegance. Clara Rottsolk’s voice is at once silvery and earthy, delicate and powerful. In their individual arias, both women committed to highly ornamented interpretations; both were able to make ornament feel like a spontaneous, unplanned and experimental development of ideas. In his conducting, Crawford gives his best singers – such as Brunet and Rottsolk – considerable room to make the music their own without ever losing coherence or the appropriate tempo. When singing together, as in “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis,” these sopranos’ voices were beautifully matched. [more]

Christen Lien: Elpis and The Dark Side of Hope Tour Launch

November 6, 2017

Christen Lien is an exciting artist, playing innovative music for viola, combining formal and informal, classical and electronic elements. She brings an eclectic intelligence, alternately divergent and focused, to her work; her confident musicianship, based on both technical facility and wide-ranging experimentation, enables her to develop a performance style that is simultaneously intense, serious and seductive. Lien talks to her audience; she tells stories, developing the intellectual contexts for her music. She amplifies her viola and uses loop pedals to create complex layers of sound; in her all-out, passionate performing, she describes the constant changes of human response to the complex project of being alive. [more]

Bach + Glass, with Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry

October 8, 2017

Because the first three pieces of the program had established an intellectual across-time dialogue between Bach and Glass and an examination of Glass’ Bach ‘ancestry,’ the unabashedly Romantic quality of Glass’ new piece came as a surprise: in spite of the presence of familiar Glass rhythmic and harmonic motifs, the concerto contained new cadences and directions. In both piano-strings simultaneities and in the four piano cadenzas, explorations of uncertainty and of distances from longed-for resolutions felt like new territory for Glass. The piece as a whole moved from monumentality through moments of increasing quiet to Dinnerstein’s final poignant movement into silence. [more]
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