Letters to the Editor

Arts Journal Home Page

PublishingTheatreVisual ArtsArts IssuesPeople
common threadsarts watchletters
issues archive
Arts BeatSearchContact UsNews Service Home`Services
Digest Samples
Headline Samples






Letters, opinions, tips, reactions, suggestions?
Send your e-mail to mclennan@artsjournal.com




FROM: Frank J. Oteri, Editor/Publisher, NewMusicBox


Much as I enjoyed following your February 18 link to the Music story "The Meaning of Life in 80 Minutes," [The Independent] I have to take exception to the description of Ronald Stevenson's Passacaglia as the longest piece of solo piano music or the longest single-movement work of any type in the repertoire. Neither is true.

Several important chamber works by Morton Feldman last several hours and are each in single continuous movements, including his "For Philip Guston," which has been recorded four times and is widely available, which is in one continuous movement and lasts well over 4 hours, as well as his legendary, though never commercially recorded, single-movement six-hour-long String Quartet No. 2 in which the bows are never lifted off the strings.

Joan Jeanrenaud, who premiered this work when she was a member of the Kronos Quartet, had some interesting things to say about performing this work in a conversation I had which her which is featured in the latest issue of NewMusicBox.

As far as solo piano repertoire goes, two composers have him [Stevenson] beat: the British Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji who wrote the 4 1/2 hour "Opus Clavicembalisticum" in 1930 (which has been recorded twice BTW), and of course lest we not forget minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young whose "Well Tuned Piano" lasts 5 hrs, 1 minute and 49 seconds in the widely diseminated 21x81 version (a.k.a. the original 1964 conception realized on October 21, 1981 which was released on CD by Gramavision in the 1980s).

That said, I'd still love to hear Stevenson's Passacaglia, so thanks for sharing the information about it!


ENDURANCE TEST: "At 80 minutes in duration, Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson's 'Passacaglia' is not only the longest piece of music in the piano repertoire; it's the longest continuous stretch of music composed for any instrument in history. And yet it's based on a mere four notes, which also makes the work one of the most extraordinary pieces of musical architecture ever conceived." Is it any wonder only six pianists have performed it in 20 years? The Independent (London) 02/17/01