|Odaline de la Martinez|
But she is a woman with a lively range of interests and inevitably our engaging conversation ranged widely, taking in other mutual interests such as the music of Dame Ethel Smyth and Odaline's work to promote it, as well as many delightful highways and byways, ranging from the problems of dealing with copyright (and the danger that it may increase to 90 years in the USA), to the original French libretto for Smyth's The Wreckers.
|Odaline de la Martinez - Imoinda|
Manna KnJoi Oko (soprano), Christopher Lilley (tenor)
This year's festival opens with the film of scenes from Odaline's opera Imoinda (setting a libretto by Joan Anim Addo). The opera is the first part of a trilogy (the second part was performed at the previous festival and Odaline is currently working on the third part). Selected scenes from Imoinda were filmed in 2015 with Opera Ebony in New York City.
|Alexander Calder, Red Mobile, 1956, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts|
|Inside the Rothko Chapel|
The third concert sees Odaline and Lontano return to the concert platform, but they are joined by the composer Hannah Lash who will be the harp soloist in her own Three Shades Without Angels. Lash is based at Yale University, where a huge endowment has enabled the school of music to become tuition free. Odaline describes Lash's music as rhythmic and difficult, but great to perform. Four of the composers in the concert, John Harbison, Charles Shadle, Peter Child and Elena Ruehr, are all at MIT, an institution where Lontano was in residence in 2015. In fact it was a conversation with Peter Child (UK born but USA based) which inspired Odaline to create the festival in the first place. Her comment about always hearing the same composers led to her and Child programming the first festival. Lontano performed a piece by Elena Ruhr during the International Women's Day celebrations on BBC Radio 3, and Odaline describes Charles Shadle's music as tonal yet original. The concert is preceded by a Women Composers Panel chaired by Jessica Duchen, though one of the composers, New York based Laura Kaminsky, has had to pull out because she has an opera being performed in Portland, Oregon.
|Women Composers featured in the 2016 London Festival of American Music|
The final concert of the festival, when Odaline and Lontano are joined by pianist Mary Dullea, opens with the final work by Jennifer Higdon, the UK premiere of Smash, which Odaline describes as very fast. There is music Laura Kaminsky, Augusta Read Thomas (read my interview with Augusta) who studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Barbara Jazwinski, Fred Lerdahl and Carlos R. Carillo. Jazwinski is Polish-born but based in New Orleans and includes elements of New Orleans jazz and blues in her music; Jazwinski teaches at Tulane University where Odaline studied, and she came across Jazwinski and her music when visiting the university. Odaline describes Lerdahl's music as very fine but very difficult, and the ensemble enjoys playing his pieces. The one on the programme, Give and Take for violin and cello, is very well crafted and calls for soloistic playing from the two instrumentalists. Odaline calls him a major voice. The concert, and the festival, concludes with world premiere of Carillo's de febriles formas se forma el futuro. Carillo teaches at Indiana University, and is from Puerto Rico.
|Lontano Ensemble - photo Malcolm Crowther|
Of course, reviving such relatively unknown music can have its problems, notably the ability to access the music in the first place. With living composers the music usually arrives electronically and can easily be printed, but historical composers are more difficult. Luckily Amy Beech had a connection with Harvard, through her husband, so there is a significant amount of her music in the library and the songs by Amy Beech included in the festival are very popular in the USA and the music can be bought on-line. Though it is not always the case, and sometimes work has to be done.
|Portrait of Ethel Smyth, 1901,|
John Singer Sargent
More recently Odaline and Lontano have been working on other Smyth scores to ensure that they are available The music from Smyth's Serenade is now available for purchase from the Lontano Records website, the monies coming from sales simply pay for the costs of producing the material in the first place. For this piece decisions had to be made about which version to use as the two scores Odaline had (from two different sources) had differences, owing to Smyth's habit of revising pieces after hearing them.
Odaline would like to do the same for On the Cliffs of Cornwall the overture to Act Two of The Wreckers, an atmospheric work which had some independent life during Smyth's lifetime but not much since then. Of course, such a project needs finance to create the parts. The problem with Smyth is that her music was with Universal in Vienna, and Smyth took back the scores on the Anschluss. But Smyth died in 1944, before normality was restored so that Universal only acted as agents subsequently and never had any interest in preserving the music.
Odaline recently recorded Smyth's opera The Boatswain's Mate for Retrospect Opera (see my review), and would have liked to record Smyth's 1925 opera Entente Cordiale next but the score and parts are missing, the only surviving score is the piano/vocal one. So the hope is that someone, somewhere has a full score of Entente Cordiale.
Odaline is a woman of wide-ranging interests and our fascinating conversation had many delightful highways and byways, ranging from the problems of dealing with copyright (and the danger that it may increase to 90 years in the USA), to reconstructing Sullivan's cello concerto, and the original French libretto by Henry Brewster for Smyth's The Wreckers.
The Sixth London Festival of American Music runs from 6 to 11 November 2016 at The Warehouse, Theed Street, SE1 8ST. Ticket information from EventBrite.
- FREE FILM (ticket required): Selected scenes from opera Imoinda by Odaline de la Martinez, with a talk about the opera from librettist Joan Anim Addo.
- New London Chamber Choir, Lontano, Stephen Upshaw (viola), Odaline de la Martinez (conductor)
- Works by Earle Brown, Morton Feldman
- Pre-concert talk: Darragh Morgan speaks with composers John Mcdonald and Orlando Jacinto Garcia
- Fidelio Trio: Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello), Mary Dullea (piano)
- Works by Orlando Jacinto Garcia, John McDonald, Michael Hersch, David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon, Annie Gosfield, Michael Daugherty, Zack Browning
- Female Composers’ Panel: Jessica Duchen leads panel with composers Hannah Lash, Barbara Jazwinski, Laura Kaminsky, Julia Howell, and Elena Ruehr.
- Lontano, Odaline de la Martinez (conductor), Hannah Lash (harp)
- Works by John Harbison, Hannah Lash, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Charles Shadle, Peter Child, Elena Ruehr
- Pre-concert talk: Odaline de la Martinez speaks with Nadine Benjamin and Susanna Stranders
- Nadine Benjamin (soprano), Susanna Stranders (piano)
- Songs by Amy Beach, Odaline de la Martinez, Juliana Hall, Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen
- Pre-concert talk: Annette Morreau speaks with composers Julia Howell, Carlos Carrillo, Laura Kaminsky and Barbara Jazwinski
- Lontano, Odaline de la Martinez (conductor) Works by Jennifer Higdon, Augusta Read Thomas,
- Works by Julia Howell, Carlos R. Carrillo, Laura Kaminsky, Fred Lerdahl, Barbara Jazwinski
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