SYMPHONY NO. 2(42).  Prerequiem, Elegy, Passage, Ressurection
Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra - Katowice
Polish Radio Choir of Kraków
Delta David Gier, conductor
New Albion Records (NAR081)


TOP CLASSICAL CDs OF 1996 - Sunday, ***KIEVMAN, Symphony No. 2(42), New Albion.
" endearing tendacy to go off the deep end.... original in its outrageous flights of fancy." Mark Swed


"A truly original and artistically sensitive work"

This orchestral work was commissioned by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra to honor the 200th anniversary of the death of Mozart. In the radition of such visionary pieces as R. Strauss's "Tod und Verklärung" (Death and Transfiguration), H. Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," Toshiro Mayazumi's "Mandala Symphony," etc., the program of this four-movement work is transcendent and epic in scope, depicting "a metaphorical journey from youth through death, and beyond." In the first movement, "Prerequiem," youthfulness is depicted not with the usual cliché of footloose and fancy free joy, but is shown as a struggle to create and maintain some independent existence in a relatively hostile world. A main theme, built of modal and chromatic steps, perfectly describes this unsettled, restless soul (unusually orchestrated with strings in unison with a melodic (!) tympani line). The melody goes through many variations (psychological modes perhaps), sometimes collapsing into chaos and despair. Eventually a matured tone is attained in a Maestoso section. The initial energy is still heard in recapitulations of the main theme with underlying rushing figures, but that is shaded with the timbres of funereal bells, and the violins and violas played with guitar picks, a sound depicting the mastering of opposing forces. The first movement then slips into its last few minutes as a richly orchestrated elegy including deep bells, church chimes and low horns reminiscent of Russian Orthodox chant or Buddhist ceremony. The second movement begins with a slow, steady melody that alternately evokes despairing, dissonant lines surrounding it, or moves into the rich harmonies of an enlightened understanding achieved toward life's conclusion. The movement concludes with gentle chimes and strings. The third movement, "Passage," begins with a phantasmagoria of chromatically whirling strings and winds, punctuated with percussion, with laughing slides from the brass. This gradually works itself into a flowing landscape of heavenly and hallucinatory imagery, an amazingly original sound. The music settles into a profound and universal peacefulness. The fourth movement suggests a passageway into a new dimension, equally heaven's periphery, the Egyptian (or Greek, etc.) underworld, or another non-earthly transcendent state. The original theme is heard accompanied by quiet drones and gentle undulations, and a flowing, profound and serious peacefulness reigns. The soul however still seems to be pushed on toward ascension to further realms with occasional rushing modulations, by heavenly visions announced by widely spaced bell sounds, and by choral voices urging the soul ever upward. Gamelan-like pulses are heard, and suddenly the Lachrymosa from Mozart's Requiem is quoted. It's chromatic undulations are then sequenced continuously into a massive extension both historical (hints of Mahler, Ives, Ligeti and further 20th-century moderns) and cosmological in its poetry. Then the music just ceases, eternally silent. A truly original and artistically sensitive work. -- "Blue" Gene Tyranny


"a visionary movement"

    The Florida Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned this symphony to observe the 200th Anniversary of the death of Mozart. The first movement concerns youthful ambitions, bravado, and achivement. The opening theme is daring, with timpani taking part in the melodic line. This sound seems to the writer to foreshadow death. Another theme tries to rise to the heights, but is consistently shot down by opposing sounds from the orchestra. The daring youthful themes undertake a battle with the forces of reaction. It gains seriousness and maturity, even though the upper strings all attack in a flurry caused by having them played with guitar picks. The sounds of creativity win out, but there is an elegiac shadow amidst the triumph. Might the cost have been too high?
    The second movement is a sad and beautiful one, pondering death and loss. For a while the texture suggests the richly polyphonic texture of the Renaissance composers such as Palestrina or Tallis, but the large number of independent parts joins in the unison of the Classical era. Bells suggest a death knell. But the strings rebuild to a life-asserting theme resulting from acceptance of loss, which gives the artist power. The movement ends peacefully.
    The third movement is a scherzo, a bitter, mocking dance of death, with various layers of music proceding in juxtaposed layers in the manner of Ives. Strong chords end this whirling music. These open into the fourth movement, a visionary movement. An English horn theme wanders into a new spiritual realm, where freely moving strings form wave-like textures. This is a vision of the afterlife, calling with seductive power in three glockenspiels and harp. The final movement is the journey towards that realm, a gradual approaching of Mozart's sublime Lacrymosa (from his unfinished Requiem) which emerges from echoes of itself. In the end a multitude of voices coalesce into Oneness. -- Joseph Stevenson


"It provides one of the most powerful musical experiences I have had in recent times."

"The 13-minute second movement is a elegiac meditation, written shortly after the death of the composer's father. Its sustained string sonorities suggested it may have dropped from the "Sorrowful Songs" of Henryk Gorecki, so angst-ridden and sinewy their tortured harmonic cortege. The ensuing seven-minute "Passage" is a demonic scherzo, a "Totentanz" with Death as a mad jester. Its mania yields to Mahlerian visions of Elysium, with its tintinnabulous imagery of the afterlife providing a serene conclusion. The full symphony, lasting nearly an hour, was written to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. Its final movement is a choral rumination on the "Lacrymosa" from the Mozart Requiem. It provides one of the most powerful musical experiences I have had in recent times." Vincent Plush

 DENVER POST. (Summer 1996)

"Splendid new recording." "Kaleidoscopic." Jeff Bradley


"California-born Kievman is an individualist who boldly proclaims a modernized romanticism. The first movement of his 57-minute symphony, dedicated to Mozart and depicting him as a visionary, has stylistic affinities to another visionary, Matthijs Vermeulen, its youthful impetuosity, underscored by the inevitability of time's passage, gives way to an elegiac slow movement. A macabre scherzo follows as a hallucinatory Totentanz, and the 21 minute finale opens into an otherworldly realm that leads in the end to celestial transcendence. A macabre scherzo follows as a hallucinatory Totentanz, and the 21 minute finale opens into an otherworldly realm that leads in the end to celestial transcendence."

 NEW TIMES (MIAMI ). (Spring 1996)

"Kievman's symphony is not an attempt to continue or mimic Mozart's work; instead, it roughly illustrates the hypothetical journey of Mozart's soul from eighteenth - century life to eternal afterlife. Quotations from Mozart's Requiem - unfinished at the time of death - are part of this journey's baggage, and these quotations are transformed by a chorus as the symphony reaches its radiant, transcendental conclusion.... Emotional states of terror, joy, resignation and so on are readily identifiable in his music, and its drama is cinematic. In short, Kievman's music challenges adventurous listeners without alienating those with more traditional tastes. Gustav Mahler might have written music like this had he been born after World War II.... It would have been nice if the* FPO had done the honors, but the Polish performers present Kievman's Symphony No 2(42) as if it's a masterwork, which time might prove it to be." Raymond Tuttle


"If your feeling both patriotic and musical this Fourth of July, there are several recent recordings of American music worth checking out.... Here are some recommendations:" "CARSON KIEVMAN SYMPHONY NO. 2(42)...NA081. " The Florida Philharmonic commissioned this work for the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death in 1991. Local audiences heard only the last movement of this nearly hour-long score then. Its fascinating to hear the whole ambitious concept.. . " "There is no mistaking the drama... his symphony still adds up to an arresting experience suggesting in places the depth of a Shostakovich ADAGIO. After the chorus sneaks into the picture in the finale, the music gradually melts from Kievman into pure Mozart - the LACRYMOSA from the REQUIEM. Kievman then sends that sublime material into orbit, twisting it upward harmonically until it evaporates. Vivid Sense of instrumental coloring... Haunting... .... the effect of the sudden stop was like a sci-fi spaceship disappearing from view as it enters "warp-speed"....gripping...." Tim Smith

 ALL-MUSIC GUIDE (AMG) (Spring 1006)

"An original and brilliantly expansive work by this Florida-based composer. Using the historica and spiritually internal life of (Mozart) as a framework, this incredible piece depicts "a metaphorical journey from youth through death, and beyond." The entry of (Mozart's) Requiem at the finale is developed by (Kievman) into universal realms, truly inspirational and elegantly composed. "Blue" Gene Tyranny

MUSIC WIRE (Internet) (Summer 1996)

"Rated 4 out of 5. A must for avid collectors of 20th-century symphonies. The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra play Kievman's opus with admirable intonation, ensemble, and attention to detail, thanks to conductor Gier (another new name at this desk), and the Polish Radio Choir of Krakow aquits itself equally well in the Symphony's dense, nebulae-ic finale. The recording, made June 29 - July 3, 1995 in Katowice is fine, with balances well negotiated. Well recommended."

THE MIAMI HERALD (Christmas 1992)

"An orchestral fantasy floating in a dream-world of sound. Hymnal strings were flecked with a tinkle of light percussion, and the flow of celestial sound was punctuated by the groans of ominous, deep-throated brasses... intriguing... appealing.... clever.... refreshing," James Roos


"Carson Kievman is a composer of extremely original music, which is rare"
- Olivier Messiaen.

"Mr. Kievman ranks Among the foremost modern composers," Joseph Papp.

"Powerful" New York Times. "Run to the National Theater if you miss this you have only yourself to blame... it is furious and phenomenal!" Mannheimer Morgen. "Kievman is a Wizard," Village Voice. "Great Art," Boston Globe. "Enthralling," The New York Times. "Vigorously innovative and uplifting," Newsday. "Arresting," The Los Angeles Times. "A Sensation," Neue Zurcher Zeitung. "Captivating," Tages-Anzeiger. "A Major New Trend," San FRANCISCO Chronicle. "The air was charged with electricity," High Fidelity/Musical America. "Phantasienstrumentarium," Melos fur Neue Musik. "Terrific," Associated Press International. "John Cage would have loved it!" The Miami Herald. "Carson Kievman has created a unique and controversial form of music experience," New York Post. "Keats...Joyce...Wagner...Ravel...Kievman," Boston Globe. "A real musical mind," Soho Weekly News. "A striking space-age concept," Gannet Newspapers. "A sensation," Village Voice. "Enchanting," Newsday. The Marx Bros meet new music," The New York Times. "A composer to watch out for!" London Composer Magazine. "A special highlight was an 'Excerpt from Orchestra Suite #4' from the opera 'Intelligent Systems.' The SunPost. "Kievman's work abstracts contemporary life and seeks to find, through a purely intuitive/associative process, an authentic mythology of modern experience," Lynn Holst, writing for ICI, The List. "Each was arresting...there were welcome touches of quirky Mr. Kievman's 'Harpo' (as in Marx)," The New York Times. "One of the best pieces was 'Harpo' (as in Marx)," The Village Voice. "Mr. Kievman's score is a brutal affair that employs both natural and amplified sound. Yet he uses the harshness of most of his sounds, often magnificently contrasted with more ethereal and haunting timbres, to conjure up an aural picture of the hard world in which we live." "...Ordinary Rhythms, choreography by Lynn Taylor-Corbett to a score by Carson Kievman, that was the evening's biggest hit." The Philadelphia Inquirer

Introdictus.  Toccatada.  Meditation.  Harpo.  Nuts & Bolts

David Arden, Piano
CRI Emergency Music (845) [DDD] (61:53)

Hosted by John Schaefer
Airs daily at 11PM on 93.9 FM
Program #1825 Sunday, September 22, 2002
"Carson Kievman's astoundingly beautiful and emotionally powerful 19-minute 1998 piano work "Meditation" is no less imaginative and far reaching"

NEWMUSICBOX - The Web Magazine from The American Music Center
88 Keys to Freedom: Segues Through the History of American Piano Music - The Perfect and Transparent Keyboard (1980-2000+)
By "Blue" Gene Tyranny
© 2003 NewMusicBox
Carson Kievman's Harpo (1986), although filled with dry humor, is written in a wistful style with plenty of silences that "define the unusual syncopations,"
according to pianist Joseph Kubera. Deliberate awkward hesitations, and stark contrasts (the innocent F-minor music-box theme interrupted by frantic, dissonant outbursts) all of which heighten the sense of spontaneity and the transparency of the momentary actions. The writing style lies between modal pattern music and the rhythmic angularity of some serial music."


" It's reminiscent of Arvo Part's music at its most hypnotic and personal"

    "Carson Kievman came to my attention several years ago with his Symphony No. 2(42), a weighty, transcendent and sometimes hallucinatory memorial to Mozart that rang the changes on music from the Viennese composer's Requiem, specifically the "Lacrymosa."  When New Albion Records released their recording of Kievman's Symphony No. 2(42) in 1996 (NA081CD), they indicated that a New Albion CD of the composer's complete piano music, as played by David Arden, was forthcoming.  That disc never appeared, now it's here, albeit on a different label.  The classical music recording industry is full of mysteries!
    Kievman was born in 1949 and received his Masters of FIne Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts in 1977.  He's spent most of his time in Germany and in the United States, and his music has been used by dance companies and in museums, as well as in the more traditional theaters and concert halls.  Recently, Kievman was granted a Naumberg Fellowship to Princeton University.  He's been around and received some acclaim, yet I believe that this is only the second all-Kievman CD to become available.
    This  disc's overall title is The Temporary & Tentative Extended Piano, which is the earliest work here, and the last on the CD.  It is a kind of mad music theater, one performing version of this piece requires a page-turning "Butler" and several other "Servants," and the pianist sits on aq spring-supported platform where he also has access to cowbells.  The work ends with the performer collapsing in exhaustion.  It is in this format that the work was performed for Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, and page 3 of CRI's booklet has the photograph to prove it.  The work starts like Messiaen (a Kievman mentor and becomes progressively more disheveled, as an angry shout from the pianist further suggests!  It alternates between obsessive bell-ringing (on the keyboard, more than away from it) and grimly tolling passages in the piano's lower regions.  Six minutes in, a vulnerable melody appears in the right hand, but is soon borne away by the vertiginous action that culminates in the pianist's staged breakdown.  What it all means is anyone's guess, but it is fun, even without the visual component.
    The other substancial piece on this CD is Meditation, which was begun in 1992 and completed in 1998.  It is in two sections and is 24 minutes long.  The booklet describes the first section as "a descent into Hades in slow motion,"  and Kievman requests very slow tempos from the pianist.  The juxtaposition of very loud and very soft chords (with many pregnant pauses in between) creates a frozen or marmorcal effect.  Kievman reinforces this effect with nature noises -- thunder, rain, cicadas -- another mysterious choice, but again, one that is moving rather tha New Agey.  Later, the music takes on a nostalgic -- but not sweet! -- quality.  Bells toll again, both in the piano and apart from it.  It's reminiscent of Arvo Part's music at its most hypnotic and personal.  The other four works on this CD complement the two featured pieces.  All except Harpo (1986, the composer's return to composing after a three-year hiatus) were written in the 1990s.  The booklet aptly describes Toccatada as "an almost dadistic toccata... in the spirit of Nancarrow playing Prokofiev playing Bach."  The tempo is "as fast as possible."
    David Arden, a true hero to composers of modern keyboard music, makes Kievman's quirky creations viable.  The engineers have gifted Arden and Kievman with good sound.  This unusual CD is well worth your explorations." -- Raymond Tuttle


"This is the antithesis of dentist-office music, but late at night, and with maybe a bottle of good scotch at the side, this music should get the wheels turning."

"But is this music listenable?  Very much so.  Kievman writes with craft, humor, and imagination.  The first two brief works, Introdictus and Toccatada, are virtuoso cascades of notes, but are tautly conceived, in the manner of the Chopin Etudes. Harpo is a longer, more elastic composition that honors the remarkable combination of focus and freedom in the jazz piano work of Keith Jarrett and the late Bill Evans.
    Meditation is the most ambitious work on the program, long and full of silences.  At 24 1/2 minutes, the piece presents a serious challenge to the patience of the listener for this type of material.  Most performances of the monumental slow movement of Beethoven's Hammerklavier are shorter.  Does Kievman live up to his audacity?  Yes and no.  Beethoven is a faulty comparison, as his music is linear and ariose.  Kievman seems to be influenced, more than anything, by the primeval rhythms of nature, which do not always correspond to the man-made laws of music in the Western world.  In some sections, the pianist plays sparsely arrayed chords as cicadas chirp and streams burble on tape.  Elsewhere, the piano mimics the relentless noise of the general ambient landscape.  The contrast of the faultless logic of the natural sonic environment and the contemplative, very human exposition of Kievman's musical ideas is poignant and provocative.  The composer might disagree, but this sounds like existential music to my ears.  This is the antithesis of dentist-office music, but late at night, and with maybe a bottle of good scotch at the side, this music should get the wheels turning.
    Kievman's interest in the music of nature is overtly confirmed in the piece Nuts & Bolts,  which, like his 1995 Symphony ("Hurricane"), was inspired by the composer's own devastating experience during the 1992 hurricane disasters in South Florida, where he lives [NOTE:  Carson Kievman  now lives in Princeton, New Jersey].  The music is less abstract and intellectual than in Meditation; indeed, it is virtually programmatic.  An interesting touch is the inclusion of the "Fate" theme from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in the coda, an illusion, perhaps, to the composer that most closely resembles a force of nature in the human form.
    The title work on this CD, The Temporary & Tentative Extended Piano, arrives at the end of the program as a sort of summary of the clutch of musical ideas that Kievman presents in the preceding material.  This is a theater work, and there are, we are told, a number of visual effects that enhance the piece.  The work is enticing as a stand-alone musical piece, full of humor and surprise.  Pianist David Arden, the dedicatee for this 1977 composition, plays it with the same power and intelligence that he displays on the balance of the program." -- Peter Burwasser

"Disordered, chaotic, and messy_irresistible, moving, and sublime" says it all about Carson Kievman's THE TEMPORARY & TENTATIVE EXTENDED PIANO. An amalgam of panic-stricken tonalities, this music presents itself to the fullest degree, incorporating a complex mixture of old and new elements. Versed with a layer-upon-layer feel, at first Kievman's music doesn't seem fitting, as it represents a unique musical polyglot that is unusual and hard to grasp. Hearing obvious influences from Messiaen, Cage, Schoenberg, even Bach, the lack of symmetrical form and stylistic disorientation is at once replaced by the continual evolution and inventiveness that lies underneath. Blending music with the theatrical, visual, and the literary arts, Kievman has unveiled a transparency to his music that relates to joy, pain, and occasionally, the absurd. At times somber and meek, these works have the capacity to suddenly morph into something very powerful. Technical, linear passages progress into shrewd cluster chords that continually move in forward motion, evolving into otherworldly elements. Pianist David Arden performs this collection of Kievman's piano music with controlled reckless abandon. An extreme journey into uncharted musical territory, this fascinating performance is not for the weak of heart.

CARSON KIEVMAN (b.1949): Introdictus, Toccatada, Meditation, Harpo, Nuts & Bolts, The Temporary & Tentative Extended Piano. Paulo Pesenti's funny and illuminating booklet notes say a good deal of what need to be said about Kievman's music as presented on this disc. "Love for the extremes, fascination with nature, playful theatricality are three recurrent features. His music can be disordered, chaotic and messy. It can be irresistable, moving and sublime. It can be both sophisticated and naive, incomprehensible and transparent, frustrating and exciting. Worse, the bits that first sound like one thing become the opposite thing after repeated listening and vice versa. The proof is in the pudding." [Mr Pesenti is the second person I have known to malapropize this common expression, but the chances of his being acquainted with British electronics genius and noted eccentric Tim de Paravicini are, one would imagine, slight]. [] If one needs an (ugly) neologism to describe the essence of Kievman's music, this can only be "strato-stylistic" (I said it was ugly). Like radiccio or archaeology, the music of Kievman is about layers on layers on layers". Yeah, what he said. The music is similarly entertaining. David Arden (piano). CRI CD 845 (U.S.A.) 06B095

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