Composers Datebook

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Composers Datebook is a daily two-minute program designed to inform, engage, and entertain listeners with timely information about composers of the past and present. Each program notes significant or intriguing musical events involving composers of the past and present—with appropriate and accessibl…

American Public Media

    • Sep 28, 2023 LATEST EPISODE
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    Herrmann and Daugherty look to the skies

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 28, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1951, the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still was playing in theaters across America. The film's opening sequence depicted a UFO hovering over Washington, D.C. Back then, flying saucer sightings were increasingly common, perhaps a result of mass hysteria spawned by cold war tensions and the existential threat posed by the atomic bomb. Or maybe we WERE being visited by other planets?In any case, the movie made a big impression at the time, and countless kids—and probably a few adults as well—memorized the magic words “Gort: Klaatu barada nikto” which, in the film, prevented Washington DC's destruction by a death-ray robot.Fast forward some 50 years to 1999, when Washington DC's National Symphony premiered a new concerto for percussion and orchestra, specially composed for virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie by the American composer Michael Daugherty.Inspired by the outer-space look of Glennie's percussion gear, Daugherty titled his piece UFO and asked that the soloist arrive unexpectedly and dressed as a space alien! In performance, Glennie moves through the audience and around the stage while performing sleight-of-hand improvisations on a variety of flying saucer-like percussive instruments.Music Played in Today's ProgramBernard Herrmann (1911 - 1975) The Day the Earth Stood Still filmscore National Philharmonic; Bernard Herrmann, cond. London 443 899Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) UFO Evelyn Glennie, percussion; North Texas Wind Symphony; Eugene Migliaro Corporon, cond. Klavier 11121

    Carter's Cello Concerto

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 27, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisIn September 2001, American composer Elliott Carter was just a few months shy of his 93rd birthday, but still busy composing new works both large and small.On today's date that year, Carter's Cello Concerto received its premiere in Chicago with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony.Now, Carter's music is technically challenging for performers, and its complexity can make it equally challenging for audiences, especially at first hearing. Despite all that, Carter's comments on his music were usually quite straightforward:“In this score I have tried to find meaningful, personal ways of revealing the cello's vast array of wonderful possibilities,” he wrote. “My Concerto is introduced by the soloist alone, playing a frequently interrupted cantilena that presents ideas later to be expanded into movements.”A month after its premiere, Ma, Barenboim, and the Chicago Symphony brought the new work to Carnegie Hall, and the New York Times reviewer Anthony Tommasini wrote:“For all its complexities … the cello part has a rhapsodic, improvisatory quality …. At its conclusion, when Mr. Carter, who is 92, climbed the steps to the stage with a cane to steady him, he received a prolonged standing ovation.”Music Played in Today's ProgramElliott Carter (1908 – 2012) Cello Concerto Alisa Weilerstein; Staatskapelle Berlin; Daniel Barenboim cond. Decca 478 2735

    Dawson's "Negro Folk Symphony"

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 26, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisToday's date in 1899 marks the birthday of the famous African-American composer, choir director, and teacher, William L. Dawson, in Anniston, Alabama. After musical studies in Kansas City and Chicago, from 1931 to 1956 Dawson taught at the Tuskegee Institute, where he developed the Institute's Choir into an internationally-renowned ensemble.Dawson's arrangements of African-American spirituals, which he preferred to call folksongs, are justly famous, but in 1934 he produced his masterwork, a Negro Folk Symphony, modeled on Dvorak's New World Symphony, but exhibiting Dawson's own distinctive mastery and development of his themes. His goal, he said, was for audiences to know that it was "unmistakably not the work of a white man.""The themes,” wrote Dawson, “are taken from what are popularly known as Negro Spirituals. In this composition, the composer has employed themes … over which he has brooded since childhood, having learned them at his mother's knee."Dawson's symphony was successfully premiered by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, who took the new work to Carnegie Hall, where its 35-year old composer was repeatedly called to the stage. The symphony was revised in 1952 with added African rhythms inspired by the composer's trip to West Africa.Music Played in Today's ProgramWilliam L. Dawson (1899 – 1990) Negro Folk Symphony Symphony of the Air; Leopold Stokowski, cond DG 477 6502

    An Italian western (for English horn)

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 25, 2023 2:00

    Synopsis“Spaghetti western” is a nickname given to a genre of Italian films from the 1960s, most famously directed by Sergio Leone, and often starring Clint Eastwood as the taciturn, gun-toting anti-hero.Spaghetti Western also is the title of a Concerto for English horn written by American composer Michael Daugherty that received its premiere performance on today's date in 1998 at a Pittsburgh Symphony concert conducted by Mariss Jansons.“Just as Leone's films redefined the Western genre from an Italian perspective,” writes Michael Daugherty, “I redefine the European concerto … within an American context. In my ‘Spaghetti Western,' the English horn soloist is the ‘Man with no Name,' moving through a series of sun-drenched panoramas, barren deserts, and desolate towns of the Wild West, … [one of ] the gun-slinging characters who haunt the landscape.”Daugherty gave Italian titles to his three-movement concerto: “Strade Vuote” (“Empty Streets”), “Assalto all'Oro” (“Gold Rush”) and “Mezzogiorno di Fuoco” (“Noon of Fire”). And since Eastwood was unable to play the English horn for the Pittsburgh Symphony premiere, Harold Smoliar removed the cigar from his parched, suntanned lips, adjusted his poncho and took up his English horn for the performance.Music Played in Today's ProgramMichael Daugherty (b. 1954) Spaghetti Western Harold Smoliar; University of Michigan Symphony; Kenneth Kiesler, cond. Equilibrium 63

    Adolphus Hailstork's 'Amazing Grace'

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 24, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1875, one of the greatest musical match-makers of all time died in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His name was William Walker, an American Baptist shape-note-singing master who published several collections of traditional shape note tunes.Now, “shape note” refers to a simple musical notation designed for communal singing. In his 1835 collection, Southern Harmony, Walker married a shape-note tune known as “New Britain” to a hymn text titled “Amazing Grace,” written by an Anglican clergyman and abolitionist named John Newton.Walker's collection was a bestseller in the 19th century, and two centuries later, “Amazing Grace” has become one of the best-known and best-loved hymns of our time.In 2011, a new orchestral fanfare based on “Amazing Grace,” by African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork, was published and subsequently recorded by the Virginia Symphony — appropriately enough, since Hailstork has served as professor of music and composer-in-residence at Virginia's Norfolk State and Old Dominion universities, and in 1992 was named a cultural laureate of Virginia. In addition to this Fanfare, Hailstork's works range from choral and chamber pieces to symphonies and operas.Music Played in Today's ProgramAdolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) Fanfare on “Amazing Grace” Virginia Symphony; JoAnne Faletta, cond. Naxos 8559722

    Mackey's “Stumble to Grace"

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 23, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 2011, the Saint Louis Symphony under David Robertson premiered a new piano concerto by the American composer Steven Mackey. The soloist was Orli Shaham, Robertson's wife, to whom the new work was dedicated.The new concerto had an odd title, “Stumble to Grace,” which Mackey explained:“There is a narrative running through the piece … the piano is all thumbs … as it stumbles in its first entrance, playing naïve and awkward plinks and plunks. By [the end], the piano plays sophisticated, virtuosic and, at times, graceful contrapuntal music—a fugue, in fact …“The inspiration … came from observing my now two-and-a-half year old toddler learning to become human … I wanted to open my compositional process to incorporate some of the whimsy and exuberance that he brings to his exploration of the world.”Mackey concludes, “A preoccupation with one's children is common among most new parents but this seemed particularly appropriate … for a piece written for Orli Shaham. She and her conductor husband, David Robertson, have twins less than a year older than my son and we've had play dates and shared narrations about new parenthood.”Music Played in Today's ProgramStephen Mackey (b. 1956) Stumble to Grace Orli Shaham, p; Los Angeles Philharmonic; David Robertson, cond. Canary Classics CC-11

    Garcia's Requiem

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisIn the 1970s, the Afro-American Music Opportunities Association collaborated with Columbia Records to create an audio anthology of works by underrepresented Afro-American composers.  Dubbed The Black Composer Series, this became a famous series of LPs devoted to recent works by then-contemporary composers as well as notable works from the 18th and 19th centuries.One of the earliest composers represented in Columbia's Black Composer Series was José Maurício Nunes Garcia, who was born in Brazil on today's date in 1767. His grandparents had been African slaves, but his parents were Brazilians of mixed race. Since their young son showed great musical abilities, he was encouraged to pursue musical studies, and eventually secured a prestigious position as master of music at the Royal Chapel in Rio. By that time, he also had become a Roman Catholic priest.Sacred music in 18th-century Brazil was heavily influenced by the symphonic mass settings of Haydn and Mozart. Garcia, in fact, had conducted the first performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass in Rio de Janeiro.  Garcia's own Requiem Mass proved to be one of his most famous and often-performed works, and the one selected for inclusion in Columbia's Black Composer Series.Music Played in Today's ProgramJosé Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767 - 1830) – Sanctus, fr Requiem Mass (Morgan State College Chor; Helsinki Philharmonic; Paul Freeman, cond.) Columbia Masterworks LP S33431/Sony CD G010003978687N

    Stravinsky goes home

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 21, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1962, Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky returned to his homeland for the first time in nearly half a century. When he left in 1914, Czar Nicholas was still on the throne. By 1962, a lot had changed. For starters, Stravinsky's music had been severely criticized in the Soviet Union. Tikhon Khrennikov, first secretary of the Soviet Composers' Union, branded Stravinsky “the apostle of reactionary forces in bourgeois music.” Dimtri Shostakovich had condemned “the unwholesome influence of Stravinsky” and his “complete divorce from the true demands of our time.” Whether Khrennikov or Shostakovich really believed this, or merely parroted the official party line, is debatable. But Stravinsky's return to Russia proved a profoundly emotional experience for all concerned. The 80-year-old composer reconnected with old friends he had not seen in 50 years and relatives he had never met. And, yes, Stravinsky even met with Khrennikov and Shostakovich.Stravinsky led the Moscow Symphony in his Symphonic Ode and Orpheus Ballet.  Robert Craft, Stravinsky's American assistant, then led the orchestra in Stravinsky's revolutionary Rite of Spring — all to thunderous applause.  For an encore, Stravinsky returned to conduct a quintessentially Russian score: his own 1917 arrangement of the Volga Boatmen's Song.Music Played in Today's ProgramIgor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971) — Ode (Cleveland Orchestra; Oliver Knussen, cond.) DG 4843064

    Captain Jinks

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 20, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1975, the Kansas City Lyric Theater opened its 18th season with the world premiere of a new opera by Jack Beeson, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. As if to prove that everything is “up-to-date” in Kansas City, even before this world premiere, this Missouri company could boast a long tradition of staging contemporary operas by American composers. Captain Jinks was the sixth of some 10 operas composed by Jack Beeson, who was born in Muncie, Indiana, in 1921.  Beeson blames the radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera for his catching the opera bug. “When I was about 12,” Beeson says, “the Met started regularly broadcasting on Saturday afternoons, and I was seduced. With what spending money I had, I bought scores, and I would place the score up on the piano, and with a little radio on the piano and a big radio across the room, I would accompany the Met.”Some of Beeson's other operas include The Sweet Bye and Bye from 1957, Lizzie Borden from 1965 and Sorry, Wrong Number from 1999. He also taught for many years at Columbia University in New York City, mentoring hundreds of his composition students.Music Played in Today's ProgramJack Beeson (1921 – 2010) — Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (Kansas City Lyric Theatre; Russell Patterson, cond.) TROY 1149/50

    Vaughan Williams at Westminster

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 19, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1958, just nine days after his death, a funeral service was held for the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at Westminster Abbey, where his ashes were laid to rest. Now, many famous people are buried at Westminster Abbey, but an actual funeral service there, especially for someone not of the royal family, is pretty rare. In fact, Vaughan Williams was the first commoner to be buried there for almost 300 years.The previous such event had been for the 17th English composer and sometime organist of the Abbey, Henry Purcell–whose grave, like Vaughan Williams, is in the Abbey's north choir aisle, should you wish to pay your respects.Vaughan Williams had left instructions for which music was to be played: his anthem O taste and see and also his setting of the hymn, All people that on earth do dwell, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which had taken place at Westminster Abbey just five years earlier, in 1953.The service was broadcast live by the BBC, and the announcer noted that if all the submitted requests to attend had have been honored, the Abbey would have been filled twice over.Music Played in Today's ProgramRalph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) "O Taste and See" and "All People that on Earth do Dwell" (arr. of "Old 100th") The Cambridge Singers; John Rutter, cond. Collegium 107Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr.) All People That on Earth Do Dwell" (Old 100th) Christ Church Cathedral Choir; English Orch; Stephen Darlington, cond. Nimbus 5166

    Elgar's Fifth

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 18, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1930, in Kingsway Hall in London, the British composer Sir Edward Elgar conducted the first performance of his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5, the last in this popular series.Two of the previous marches had been dedicated to organist friends of the composer, and so when organist Percy Hull asked Elgar for a new work for the 1930 Hereford Festival, the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 is dedicated to him.In 1930, Elgar was 73 years old and he liked to go for automobile rides in the country. Hull had given Elgar some driving lessons, and, appropriately enough, Elgar got the idea for the musical themes of his new march on a drive through the countryside with a friend. Elgar suddenly asked for something on which he could jot down his ideas. All the driver could produce was a road map of Worcestershire—so on its margins the first notes of Elgar's new score were scribbled.The march proved to be one of his last new orchestral works. Elgar planned to write a sixth Pomp and Circumstance March, a kind of soldier's funeral march, he said, but Elgar himself died in 1934.Music Played in Today's ProgramEdward Elgar (1857 – 1934) Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 Royal Philharmonic; André Previn, cond. Philips 454 250

    Sierra's 'La Salsa'

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 17, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisThe Milwaukee Symphony was one of the first American orchestras to offer recordings of their live performances as digital downloads – and along with Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner, occasionally offered more contemporary fare, as well.For example, on today's date in 2005, Andreas Delfs led the Milwaukee Symphony in the world premiere performance of an orchestral work they had commissioned from Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, and they offered it as a download.  Sierra's Sinfonia No. 3, subtitled La Salsa, turned to the dance music of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Sierra's native Puerto Rico for its basic materials, referencing riffs and rhythmic patterns familiar to salsa dancers for the work's outer movements, with a slow second movement in habañera form.“Puerto Rican music,” says Sierra, “especially salsa and folkloric music, has been in my compositional DNA. The vitality of the rhythms and the unique way in which melodic structure merge with the rhythms has inspired me to the present day. I always remember with nostalgia my childhood experiences in the Puerto Rican countryside, and these feelings of longing are also present in my work.”Music Played in Today's ProgramRoberto Sierra (b. 1953) – Sinfonia No. 3 (La Salsa) (Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Andreas Delfs, cond.) MSO Classics MSO11 (digital download)

    Shostakovich on Broadway?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 16, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1925, Vincent Youman's musical No, No Nanette opened on Broadway after a trial run in Detroit and additional preview stagings in Chicago and London.Tunes from No, No Nanette even reached the Soviet Union, although occasionally something was lost in the translation. For example, in Russia, the musical's popular foxtrot, Tea for Two, was called the Tahiti Trot.Late in 1927, on a dare from the conductor Nikolai Malko, a 21-year old Soviet composer named Dimtri Shostakovich orchestrated this tune in just one hour. Malko was so pleased that he performed the orchestration the following year, and Shostakovich, who had a soft spot for musicals and operettas, incorporated his Tahiti Trot into his new ballet, The Age of Gold.Just three years later, however, Soviet authorities decided that the foxtrot was just one more vestige of Western decadence, and Shostakovich quickly moved to disassociate himself from anything remotely connected to Broadway. His name even appeared on an open letter suggesting, “Only after thorough and widespread educational work on the class essence of light music will we succeed in liquidating it from Soviet society.”In other words, “Nyet, Nyet!” to “Nanette!”

    Henry Brant, 'Marxist'?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisToday marks the birthday of Henry Brant, born in Montreal in 1913 to American parents. In 1929, Brant returned to New York and studied composition with Wallingford Riegger and George Antheil, exponents of the then-current modernist trends in music.Brant came of age during the Great Depression, however, and has said back then avant-garde composers were faced with some hard choices. They could stop composing altogether, write for commercial films and radio, or simplify their cutting-edge music to make it more accessible. Satiric music was also an option, and some of Henry Brant's early works fall into that category.One 1938 chamber piece by Brant is titled Hommage aux Freres Marx, subtitled Three Faithful Portraits. The portraits in question are of Chico, Groucho, and Harpo, the wildly popular “Marx Brothers” comedy team of the 1930s.By the 1950s, Brant became fascinated with “spatial music” involving groups of performers positioned at different spots in a concert hall or performing space. Brant became famous for works exploring this option, and his Ice Fields for pipe organ and a symphonic orchestra, scattered at different spots around the concert hall, won for its 88-year old composer the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2002.Music Played in Today's ProgramHenry Brant (1913-2008) Hommage aux Frères Marx (Three Faithful Portraits) Boston Musica Viva Newport 85588

    Tan Dun and Beethoven – in (and out) of China

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 14, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn this date in 1973, Eugene Ormandy conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in music by Mozart, Brahms, and the American composer, Roy Harris. The program was nothing out of the ordinary, but the concert took place in Beijing and marked the FIRST time an American orchestra had performed in Communist China. The orchestra was invited to China following the famous visit of President and Mrs. Nixon and secretary of state Henry Kissinger.In the audience for one of these historic concerts was a young student of traditional Chinese music named Tan Dun. When Tan heard the Philadelphians perform Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a work he had never heard before, he decided then and there to become a composer himself. In 1986, Tan Dun came to New York City, and since then has managed to combine elements of East and West into his own musical works.In 1987, for example, he composed a violin concerto titled Out of Peking Opera, which draws on both Chinese and European traditions. In addition to prestigious awards and commissions from major foundations and orchestras, in March of 2001, Tan Dun won an Oscar for his film score to the Ang Lee film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.Music Played in Today's ProgramLudwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) Symphony No. 5 Royal Philharmonic; René Leibowitz, cond. Chesky 17Tan Dun (b. 1957) Out of Peking Opera Cho-Liang Lin, violin; Helsinki Philharmonic; Muhai Tang, cond. Ondine 864

    Copland counts to 12

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 13, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1967, Aaron Copland's final orchestra work, titled Inscape, was premiered by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.Copland said the work's title Inscape was borrowed from the 19th century English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Its compositional technique was borrowed from the serial or 12-tone models of Arnold Schoenberg and the some of the late works of one of Copland's favorite composers, Igor Stravinsky. Bernstein himself was no great fan of 12-tone music, but he exclaimed to Copland following the premiere, “Aaron, it's amazing how, even when you compose in a completely foreign idiom, the music STILL comes out sounding like you!”Beyond the technical challenge involved, Inscapes, said Copland, reflected what he called “the tenseness of the times in which we live.”Copland's experiments with 12-tone pieces like Inscape didn't impress the avant-garde composers of the day, and only baffled audiences who expected him to produce more works in the style of his popular ballet scores of the 1930s and 40s.By 1970, Copland stopped composing altogether, and claimed not to miss it very much. “I must have expressed myself sufficiently,” he said.Music Played in Today's ProgramAaron Copland (1900 - 1990) Inscape New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony 47236

    Milhaud and Bernstein in Venice

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 12, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisFor decades many of the 20th century's greatest composers routinely visited Venice's famous canals and churches during a biennial music festival that showcased brand-new works by the likes of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Britten, and others.The French composer Darius Milhaud describes sharing space with several of his composer-colleagues in a cramped Festival “green room.” “It was a normal sight to see Stravinsky's rain-coat and Constant Lambert's tweed overcoat hanging near my two walking sticks,” writes Milhaud. “Meanwhile, the Italian composer Hildebrando Pizetti would be putting up a mirror, opening a silver toilet-case, and arranging flowers, his wife's photograph and a sheaf of telegrams.”On today's date in 1937, Milhaud conducted the first performance of his Suite Provencale at the Venice Festival. This jaunty score proved to be one of his most popular orchestral works. In 1954, it was Leonard Bernstein's turn. On today's date that year, he conducted in Venice the premiere performance of his Serenade for violin and orchestra, with Isaac Stern the featured soloist.Despite its admirable track record for picking winners, the Venice Festival shut down operations in 1973, although its impact lives on in the number of modern masterworks it helped launch in its day.Music Played in Today's ProgramDarius Milhaud (1892 - 1974) Suite provençale, Op. 152b Detroit Symphony; Neeme Järvi, cond. Chandos 7031Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) Serenade (after Plato's "Symposium") Zino Francescatti, violin; NY Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. Sony 60559

    Dvorak's 'Luzany' Mass

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 11, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisIn 1886, a Czech patron of the arts named Josef Hlavka had a chapel built at his summer residence at Lužany in Bohemia and asked his composer friend Antonin Dvorak to write a mass to dedicate it.As a devout Catholic, Dvorak was happy to oblige. Since the chapel was quite small, Dvorak wrote his Mass in D Major for just a quartet of soloists, a small choir, and organ, and led the premiere performance there on today's date in 1887, with his wife Anna singing one of the solo roles.Dvorak told Hlavka he was grateful for the chance to write so intimate a piece. “Until now,” wrote Dvorak, “I had only written sacred works of larger proportions with considerable vocal and instrumental means at my disposal.”Ironically, Dvorak's intimate “Lužany Mass” became popular as just such a large-scale work. At the request of his publisher, Dvorak orchestrated his “Mass,” and in that form it received its international premiere in 1893 at the immense Crystal Palace in London, performed by a huge chorus and a large symphony orchestra.The published orchestrated version became extremely popular during Dvorak's lifetime, but his small-scale original version was not even published until 1963.Music Played in Today's ProgramAntonin Dvořák (1841 - 1904) Mass in D Christ Church Cathedral Choir;Nicholas Cleobury, o;Simon Preston, cond. London/Decca 448 089-2

    Cowell's "Hymn and Fuguing" tunes

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 10, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisThe American composer Henry Cowell lived from 1897 to 1965 and wrote thousands of musical works in a wide variety of styles. As a young boy, Cowell lived near San Francisco's Chinatown, so Asian influences are as likely to crop up in his music as European models. And among Cowell's aggressively experimental works are piano pieces that employ what he called “tone clusters”—chords played with a fist or forearm. Those pieces piqued the interest of European composers like Bartók and Janáček, but in addition to avant-garde scores, Cowell wrote dozens of conventionally tonal works, often hauntingly beautiful.In 1941, Cowell discovered a collection of evocative 19th century American hymns titled Southern Harmony. These reminded him of even earlier works by the 18th century American composer William Billings, who liked to write what he called “Fuguing Tunes.” Combining these two influences, Cowell came up with his own series of “Hymns AND Fuguing Tunes” for various combinations of instruments.Cowell's Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 10 for oboe and strings, for example, was premiered on today's date in 1955, in Santa Barbara, California, by oboist Bert Gassman and the Pacific Coast Music Festival orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.Music Played in Today's ProgramHenry Cowell (1897 - 1965) Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 10 Humbert Lucarelli, oboe; Manhattan Chamber Orchestra; Richard Auldon Clark, cond. Koch 7282

    Finzi's Clarinet Concerto

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 9, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1949, the British composer Gerald Finzi conducted the premiere performance of his Clarinet Concerto at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford.During his lifetime, Finzi never achieved the fame of some other 20th-century British composers. British tenor Mark Padmore wrote a recent appreciation titled “The Quiet Man of British Music,” which included these lines:“I want to make a case for taking the time to get to know a composer … whose plumage is discreet and whose song is quiet and subtle. Finzi might be termed one of classical music's wrens. Despite his exotic-sounding surname and mixed Italian, Sephardic and Ashkenazi heritage, Finzi was in many ways an archetypal English gentleman. ... One of his passions was the saving of old English varieties of apples. … [His] music was written slowly and often it would take many years for a piece to reach its final form.”Finzi died in 1956, at 55, from Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was concerned his music would be forgotten after his death and added this note to his catalogue of works: "The affection which an individual may retain after his departure is perhaps the only thing which guarantees an ultimate life to his work."Music Played in Today's ProgramGerald Finzi (1901 - 1956) – Clarinet Concerto (Alan Hacker; English String Orchestra; William Boughton, cond.) Nimbus 5665

    english british italian hodgkin hereford nimbus ashkenazi quiet man sephardic finzi british music music played clarinet concerto gerald finzi mark padmore three choirs festival
    Davis? Davies? Or Mavis?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisToday's date in 1934 marked the birthday of the late British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. Now, his name is spelled D-A-V-I-E-S, so most Americans tend to pronounce it “Day-VEES,” even though “Davis” is the common British pronunciation.Once, when Davies was in the U.S., a British journalist called a Las Vegas hotel where the composer was staying and asked to speak to Peter Maxwell Davis. The receptionist said there was no one there by that name. Asked to spell the name, the British journalist did. “Oh, Day-vees!” said the receptionist. “Sorry, there is no one registered by that name either.” It turned out the hotel computer had compressed Maxwell Davis into “Mavis” and that was how he was registered. He found the whole incident so amusing that he wrote an orchestral tone-poem entitled “Mavis in Las Vegas,” fantasizing that somehow he had a female alter-ego in that city, perhaps earning her living as a high-kicking Vegas showgirl.In addition to the whimsical “Mavis in Las Vegas,” Maxwell Davies often composed music often inspired by the bleak Northern land- and seascape of the Orkney Islands—an atmosphere as far removed from the Vegas Strip as you can imagine.Music Played in Today's ProgramPeter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934) Mavis in Las Vegas BBC Symphony; Peter Maxwell Davies, cond. Collins 1524

    A 40-voice birthday greeting from Tallis?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 7, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1573, Queen Elizabeth the First celebrated her 40th birthday.According to SOME musicologists, the music-loving monarch received as a birthday gift a Latin motet for 40 voices by Thomas Tallis titled Spem in alium, which translates as “Hope in All Things.” Elisabeth was certainly fond of Tallis, awarding him special gifts and privileges —despite his remaining a steadfast Roman Catholic throughout her reign, when being a Catholic in Protestant England was very risky business, indeed!In fact, other musicologists contend that this famous motet was ACTUALLY written for the coronation of Elizabeth's predecessor, the CATHOLIC queen Mary Tudor. Still others say: “No, no—the motet was commissioned by a patriotic British nobleman, who challenged Tallis to write a work as good as—or better—than a contemporary Italian composer's 40-voice motet.”The truth is we just don't know for sure why Tallis composed this intricate and glorious music. We do know that in a dangerous time for ANYONE with strong religious convictions, Tallis lived to the ripe old age of 80. His epitaph reads: “As he did live, so he did die—in mild and quiet sort (O happy Man!)”Music Played in Today's ProgramThomas Tallis (c.1505 - 1585) Spem in alium Huelgas Ensemble; Paul Van Nevel, cond. Sony 60992

    A "well-Krafted" concerto?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 6, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisConsider, if you will, the poor timpanist. At most symphony concerts, they sit quietly—waiting for the moment when a dramatic exclamation point is required from the kettledrums. While the violinists rarely get a break, the timpanist must sit patiently for most of the evening, biding their time, waiting for the precise moments to strike.On rare occasions, however, the timpanist is the CENTER of attention as soloist in a timpani concerto. One such concerto was written by an American composer, William Kraft, who was born on this day in 1923. Kraft was a timpanist himself. In fact, Kraft served as a percussionist and timpanist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years, from 1955-1981. He was that orchestra's first composer-in-residence, and founded the LA Philharmonic's first New Music Group.William Kraft's Timpani Concerto was written in 1983 for timpanist Thomas Akins of the Indianapolis Symphony, who premiered the work with that orchestra in 1984.Kraft's own description of his Timpani Concerto is as follows, "The first movement is very jazzy … the second movement is very beautiful, with two string orchestras and a lot of glissandi, and the third is hell-bent for leather."Music Played in Today's ProgramWilliam Kraft (b. 1923) Timpani Concerto Thomas Akins, timpani; Alabama Symphony; Paul Polivnick, cond. Albany 302

    Prokofiev's String Quartet No. 2

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 5, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisIn 1941, as the German Army was overrunning Russia, the Soviet government evacuated important artists to remote places of safety. Composer Sergei Prokofiev, for example, found himself in the little town of Nalchik, nestled in the foothills of the northern Caucasus Mountains about 1000 miles away from the front.Prokofiev was intrigued by the region's folk music, and, taking a break from a big project to turn Tolstoy's novel War and Peace into an opera, composed his String Quartet No. 2, based on local tunes. The new work was, as he put it, "a combination of virtually untouched folk material and the most classical of classical forms, the string quartet."Its three movements are all based on local songs and dances, and Prokofiev took care not to smooth out any roughness in the original material.Prokofiev's new string quartet received its premiere performance back in Moscow in April of 1942, at a concert given by The Beethoven Quartet. A later performance on today's date that same year was delayed due to a German air raid. The new music was well-received, and Prokofiev, perhaps with the air raid in mind, supposedly called the premiere "an extremely turbulent success."Music Played in Today's ProgramSergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953) String Quartet No. 2 in F, Op. 92

    Tchaikovsky and Glass at the movies

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 4, 2023 1:59

    SynopsisFor ballet lovers, the opening of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake conjures up tutus, but for old-time movie buffs, this same music triggers memories of many black-and-white films of the 1930s. Back then, the eerie opening measures of Swan Lake served as the “main title” music for dozens of old Universal Studios thrillers, including the famous 1931 film of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.“Ah, the children of the night—what music THEY make…”But on today's date in 1999 at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, Tchaikovsky got some competition from Philip Glass. For a special showing of the Bela Lugosi Dracula, Glass wrote a brand-new score. Now, beyond the opening Tchaikovsky, the original 1931 soundtrack had included very little music, and, despite the creepy charisma of Bela Lugosi, the film moved at a ponderous pace. The new Philip Glass score, performed live by the Kronos Quartet, added fresh atmosphere to the familiar old film. In fact, it proved so effective that Glass and the Kronos Quartet took it on a tour, accompanying live showings of the old film in Europe and the U.S.Music Played in Today's ProgramPeter Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) Swan Lake Ballet Montréal Symphony; Charles Dutoit, cond. London 436 212Philip Glass (b. 1937) Dracula filmscore excerpt Kronos Quartet Nonesuch 79542

    Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartets

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 3, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1806, Ludwig van Beethoven offered his publisher Breitkopf and Härtel three new string quartets—works we know today as the three Razumovsky Quartets, that were eventually issued as Beethoven's Opus 59.In Beethoven's day, Vienna was swarming with Russian, Polish, and Hungarian aristocrats with a taste for music. Among them was Count Andreas Kyrilovich Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna. The count was an amateur violinist who occasionally played in a string quartet he maintained at his own expense.The count commissioned Beethoven to write three string quartets, stipulating that they should incorporate Russian melodies, real or imitated. The most recognizable of the Russian tunes, Beethoven employed occurs in the scherzo of the second quartet: It's the same theme that was later quoted by Mussorgsky in the coronation scene of his opera “Boris Godunov.”When these Razumovsky Quartets were premiered in Vienna in 1807, one contemporary review noted, “These very long and difficult quartets… are profoundly thought-through and composed with enormous skill, but will not be intelligible to everyone.”When one Italian violinist confessed to Beethoven that he found them incomprehensible, Beethoven retorted: ‘Oh, they are not for you, but for a later age.'Music Played in Today's ProgramLudwiv van Beethoven (1770 - 1827) Razumovsky Quartet, Op. 59, no. 2 Emerson String Quartet DG 479 1432

    E. J. Moeran

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 2, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1948, at a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall, the London Symphony gave the premiere performance of the Serenade in G Major by the British composer Ernest John Moeran. Moeran was born in 1894 in London, but Ireland became his adopted home and musical inspiration during the last decades of his life.Moeran was fascinated by folksongs, and his method of collecting them was to sit in a country pub and wait until an old man started singing. He would note down the song and ask for more. In the 1920s, Moeran became drinking companion of another British composer, music critic, and fellow folk song aficionado Peter Warlock, a talented but rather notorious character who was the model for the outrageously Bohemian composer depicted in Anthony Powell's string of novels collectively titled A Dance to the Music of Time.Warlock's most famous work was his Capriol Suite, an affectionate reworking of Renaissance tunes, and Moeran's Serenade, similar in tone, was perhaps a tribute to his old boon companion. Moeran's 1948 Serenade proved to be last major work, as he died suddenly two years later, at 55, in his beloved Ireland.Music Played in Today's ProgramE. J. Moeran (1894 - 1950) Serenade in G Northern Sinfonietta of England;Richard Hickox, cond. EMI 74991-2

    Mozart 'dissed' by Dittersdorf?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 1, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1785, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dedicated six of his string quartets to his friend and older colleague, Joseph Haydn. Earlier that year, Haydn heard some of them performed in Vienna. Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, was also present, and must have been elated when Haydn said, “Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”Mozart's quartets were published by the Viennese firm Artaria and generated some much-needed income for Wolfgang. Whether they made money for their publisher as well is another matter. Three years later, one of Mozart's lesser contemporaries, Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, offered Artaria six of HIS string quartets at the same price they paid Mozart, with a note that read, “I am certain you will do better with MY quartets than you did with Mozart's, which deserve the highest praise, but which, because of their overwhelming and unrelenting artfulness, are not to EVERYONE's taste.”Apparently Mozart's quartets were deemed too “brainy” for public taste. Well, Dittersdorf may have sold better in the 1780's, but these days performers and audiences find Mozart's “unrelenting artfulness” more to their taste than Dittersdorf's sugary confections.Music Played in Today's ProgramWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) String Quartet in G, K.387 Emerson String Quartet DG 439 861Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739 - 1799) String Quartet No. 4 in C Gewandhaus Quartet Berlin Classics 9261

    Joan Tower's Angels

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 31, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisAngel Fire is a village in the New Mexico Rockies that hosts an annual chamber music festival.  To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Music from Angel Fire commissioned the American composer Joan Tower to write them a new work, which she titled Angels – a virtuosic String Quartet, her fourth, which received its premiere performance by the Miami String Quartet on today's date in 2008.“Having written three prior quartets and gotten to travel extensively around the world of quartets,” wrote Tower, “I have come to love the way [they] are so deeply creative and passionate about the music they play. They are really like four ‘composers' at work.”The title given the new piece is a nod to Angel Fire, New Mexico, of course, but Tower made it clear she had some other special angels in mind: six people who helped her younger brother George survive a major stroke. These were her sister, a former student named Erin, a doctor , a nurse, and a pair of real estate agents.All six appear on the score's front page beneath her dedication, “to the ‘Angels' who took care of my brother.”Music Played in Today's ProgramJoan Tower (b. 1938) Angels (String Quartet No. 4) Miami String Quartet Naxos 8.559795

    Barber's "scandalous" Overture

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 30, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1933, the Philadelphia Orchestra was performing at its summer home at Robin Hood Dell. Conductor Alexander Smallens led the world premiere performance of a new work by a 23-year-old composer named Samuel Barber. It was his first orchestral composition to have a major public hearing, but oddly enough, young Mr. Barber himself was not in attendance. He was in Europe that summer, and so missed the premiere of his Overture to The School for Scandal, a musical romp inspired by the 18th century English Restoration comedy of the same name by Richard Sheridan.Even before he had left the Curtis Institute of Music, where he pursued a triple major in piano, composition, and voice, Barber had begun winning prizes that enabled him to study abroad. Until the outbreak of the Second World War, Barber's musical career was quite Euro-centric. His School for Scandal Overture, in fact, was written in Italy in 1931. Barber's First Symphony premiered in Rome in 1936, and the following year was played by the Vienna Philharmonic at the 1937 Salzburg Music Festival. That led to stateside performances and commissions from conductors like Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini.Music Played in Today's ProgramSamuel Barber (1910 – 1981) School for Scandal Overture Baltimore Symphony; David Zinman, conductor. Argo 436 288

    Saariaho at the Proms

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 29, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisSay the phrase “BBC Proms” to most music lovers, and they'll conjure up a mental image of the rowdy “Last Night of the Proms” at which normally staid and reserved Britons don funny hats and make rude noises during Sir Henry Wood's arrangement of British sailor songs. But the raucous “Last Night of the Proms” is only the festive finale of several weeks of fairly serious music making: dozens of concerts covering a wide range of old and new musicFrom the very beginning of the Proms in 1895, Sir Henry, who started the whole thing, had this specific agenda: “I am going to run nightly concerts to train the public in easy stages,” he explained. “Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music.”On today's date in 1996, for example, violinist Gidon Kremer premiered a brand-new violin concerto by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho at a Proms concert. The work had an unusual title—Grail Theater. “I like the unusual combination of these two words,” explained Saariaho, “because it represents two such different things. One is the search for the Grail, and the other the theatrical aspect.” Music Played in Today's ProgramJ.S. Bach (1685 – 1750) arr. Henry Wood Toccata and Fugue in D minor BBC Symphony; Andrew Davis, conductor. Teldec 97868Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) Graal Theatre Gidon Kremer, violin; BBC Symphony; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor. Sony Classical 60817

    Gershwin's operatic flop

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 28, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisThe life story of George Gershwin usually runs something like this: an incredible string of successes cut short by Gershwin's tragically early death. But on today's date in 1922, Gershwin suffered one of his rare flops when his one-act opera Blue Monday opened and closed on the same day.For five years, beginning in 1920, Gershwin had provided the music for an annual Broadway review entitled The George White Scandals. The impresario Mr. White provided the money and the leggy showgirls, Mr. Gershwin the catchy tunes and light-hearted dances. But in 1922, Gershwin was eager to try something different: a modern, jazz-age version of an Italian verismo opera. The plot was simple: he does her wrong, and then she shoots him. The reviews were devastatingly bad—one critic suggesting the soprano with the pistol should have shot the rest of the cast before anyone had a chance to sing.And so Mr. White pulled Blue Monday from his revue before it could have a second performance. A concert revival by the Paul Whiteman band at Carnegie Hall in 1925, and a 1953 CBS-TV production didn't fare all that much better. Even today Blue Monday is rarely staged.Music Played in Today's ProgramGeorge Gershwin (1898 – 1937) Blue Monday Cincinnati Pops; Erich Kunzel, conductor. Telarc 80434

    Rameau's "Pygmalion"

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 27, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisAround this time in 1956, the hot ticket on Broadway was for a musical based on the old Greek legend of Pygmalion, a sculptor so good that he fell in love with one of his beautiful female statues. The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, had updated the legend to modern-day London, and in 1956, the Broadway team of Lerner and Loewe had in turn transformed Shaw's stage play into the smash Broadway musical, My Fair Lady.But 208 years before all that, on today's date in the year 1748, ANOTHER very successful musical adaptation of the Pygmalion legend opened in Paris. This Pygmalion was an opera-ballet by the great French Baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau. Rameau was born in 1683, two years earlier than Bach and Handel, but unlike them, was something of a late bloomer. He was 50 before he became famous, and his opera-ballet Pygmalion opened shortly before his 65th birthday. Rameau was famous for imitating natural sounds and noises in his music. One of Rameau's contemporaries, in praising the overture to Pygmalion, even suggested the repeated notes of Rameau's theme represented the chipping of Pygmalion's chisel as he worked on his lovely creation.Music Played in Today's ProgramJean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764) Pygmalion La Petite Bande; Gustav Leonhardt, conductor. BMG/Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77143

    Martinu's "Frescoes"

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 26, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisPiero della Francesca was a 15th century Renaissance painter, whose series of frescoes entitled Legend of the True Cross inspired one of the best orchestral works of a 20th-century Czech composer named Bohuslav Martinu.In 1952, Martinu made a trip to the Tuscan hill town of Arezzo, where he saw the frescoes and got the idea for a new symphonic work that would attempt to capture in music what Piero had captured in painting.What Martinu sought to replicate was, as he put it, “a kind of solemn, frozen silence and opaque, colored atmosphere… a strange, peaceful, and moving poetry.”Martinu linked the first movement of his score to one Tuscan fresco showing the Queen of Sheba and some women kneeling by a river; and the second to another depicting the dream of the Emperor Constantine. The third movement was intended, in Martinu's words, as “a kind of general view of the frescoes.”Martinu's orchestral triptych, entitled The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca, received its premiere performance on today's date at the 1956 Salzburg Festival in Austria, with the Vienna Philharmonic led by the eminent Czech conductor, Rafael Kubelik.Music Played in Today's ProgramBohuslav Martinu (1890 – 1950) Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca Vienna Philharmonic;Rafael Kubelik, conductor. Orfeo C521-991 (recorded August 26, 1956)

    Bernstein asks a musical question in Moscow

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisOn today's date in 1959, Leonard Bernstein celebrated his 41st birthday in Moscow. The New York Philharmonic was embarked on an extensive world tour, which included three weeks in the Soviet Union.Their August 25th concert proved controversial, offering two works of Igor Stravinsky, a composer still condemned in the Soviet Union as “bourgeois” and “decadent.” Even more daring, Bernstein opened his concert with “The Unanswered Question,” a short piece by the American composer, Charles Ives.Even worse, Bernstein broke traditional Soviet protocol by talking directly to the audience through an interpreter, explaining Ives' unusual philosophy of music. The enthusiastic audience response after the Ives led to it being encored.This really upset the Soviet authorities, and the music critic of the Ministry of Culture wrote, “Before this four-minute piece Bernstein spoke for six minutes. Only the good manners of the hospitable public resulted in a ripple of cool applause. Nevertheless, the conductor, setting modesty aside, himself suggested that the piece be repeated.”Bernstein, although furious at what he called “an unforgivable lie,” was persuaded to forgo any further controversial lectures from the podium for the remainder of the Soviet tour.Music Played in Today's ProgramCharles Ives (1874 – 1954) The Unanswered Question New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, conductor. Sony Classical 46701

    Claude Goudimel, Huguenot

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 24, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisWe tend to think our time has had a monopoly on bitter religious conflicts, but on today's date in 1572, which happened to be St. Bartholomew's Day, the Catholic queen dowager of France, Catherine de Medici, and her son, King Charles IX, decided that the best way to rid their kingdom of troublesome Protestants would be simply to kill them off. A few days earlier, Catholic and Protestant nobles from across France had come to Paris to attend a noble wedding which, ironically, was intended to bring the rival religious factions closer together. Things quickly turned ugly, and on the 24th of August the infamous “Massacre of St. Bartholomew” began and quickly spread across the entire country. Among those who perished was a French Protestant composer named Claude Goudimel, who was killed when the massacre reached Lyons.Fortunately for posterity, not all Reformation era rulers were so bloodthirsty. The English Catholic composer Thomas Tallis managed to keep his head through the reigns of alternating Catholic and Protestant monarchs, and the Protestant Queen Elizabeth the First admired and supported the music of William Byrd, despite his openly Catholic sympathies.Music Played in Today's ProgramClaude Goudimel (1510 – 1572) Comfort, comfort Ye my people Cathedral Singers; Richard Proulx, conductor. GIA 290

    Hadley, Thompson, et al. in the Berkshires

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 23, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisTanglewood is one of America's most famous summer-time classical music festivals and can boast a long and impressive list of premieres and performances by famous American composers and conductors. It takes place each year around this time in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.Tanglewood has been the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home for more than 60 years, but it wasn't the symphony's first location in the Berkshires.  In August of 1936, the first in a three-concert series was performed at Holmwood, a former Vanderbilt estate. The great Russian-born conductor of the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky, moved the festival to Tanglewood and expanded the concert series into a kind of intensive summer camp for young musicians and composers. Among those who particularly benefited were two young composer-conductors named Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss.In 1940, the Berkshire Music Center (now the Tanglewood Music Center) opened, and to mark the occasion, American composer Randall Thompson's famous choral work titled Alleluia received its premiere performance. Music Played in Today's ProgramRandall Thompson (1899 – 1984) Alleluia Dale Warland Singers; Dale Warland, conductor. Minnesota Public Radio 201

    Libby Larsen's Trio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 22, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisAngel Fire is a village in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, home to ski slopes and hiking trails, plus a summer mountain-bike park and zip line. And, since 1983, it's also the home of a late summer music festival called “Music from Angel Fire.”Early on, violinist Ida Kavafian was invited to serve as the Festival's Artistic Director, a position she maintained through 2019.   Kavafian returned on today's date in 2001  to perform in the premiere of a newly commissioned trio by Libby Larsen – along with cellist Peter Wiley And pianist Melvin Chen – this just one of over 45 premieres that have taken place at the Festival to date.Libby Larsen's Trio is a classically-proportioned work in three movements: the first movement, titled Sultry, and the third, titled Burst, are very rhythmic, fast, and hauntingly jazz-like. In between, the second movement, titled Still is quite serene, free flowing, and very quiet.Libbuy Larsen said, “I compose music for the concert hall. I chose this type of music because I love physics. Flutes, cellos, trumpets, tubas, all of the orchestral instruments emit natural sound, and they operate on the laws of physics. I can hear those laws working in the air when those instruments play.”Music Played in Today's ProgramLibby Larsen (b. 1950) – Mvt 3 (Bursts), fr Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (Curtis Macomber, vn; Norman Fischer, vcl; Jeanne Kierman, p.) Navona Records NV-6014

    Bingham's Secret Garden

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 21, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisAt the BBC Proms on today's date in 2004 Proms a new piece by the British composer Judith Bingham was premiered by the BBC Chorus. Titled The Secret Garden, it was inspired by several events: a conversation about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, a BBC TV series entitled The Private World of Plants, some rather racy descriptions of the sex life of plants by the 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, and a disturbing news story about the bombing of the so-called “Adam Tree” in Iraq at a site that locals believe was where the Garden of Eden once stood.  Bingham wrote her own text, which includes many Latin names of plants, which led to The Secret Garden's subtitle: Botanical Fantasy.“This is meant to be a magical piece,” says Bingham. “It has a Christian framework with opening and closing quotations from Genesis and Matthew … but the piece also seems to wonder whether the world is better off without humans, and that, should humans cease to exist, Paradise would very soon re-establish itself …”Music Played in Today's ProgramJudith Bingham (b. 1952) The Secret Garden BBC Symphony Chorus; Thomas Trotter, o; Stephen Jackson, conductor. Naxos 8.570346 (live Proms recording of the premiere performance)

    The prolific Mr. Holmboe

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 20, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisDetails on the lives and careers of composers born before 1700 tend to be a bit skimpy, at best. For example, we know that the Italian Baroque composer Jacopo Peri was born on today's date in 1561, but we're not sure if that was in Rome or Florence.As a point of reference, remember that William Shakespeare was born in 1564, just three years after Peri. And by the 1580s, around the same time Shakespeare was learning to be a playwright, Peri and some of his Italian contemporaries were experimenting with a new art form that we call now call “opera.”There was much discussion at the time about what the music of the ancient Greek dramas must have been like, and how dramatic stories might be told in music. Peri was instrumental in the production of two of the earliest operas for which the complete music survives: Dafne, which premiered around 1597, and Euridice from 1600.Peri outlived his English contemporary Shakespeare by 17 years. Shakespeare died in 1616 at the age of 52, while Peri died sometime in August of 1633, at 72, a ripe old age for the 17th century.Music Played in Today's ProgramVagn Holmboe (1909 – 1996) String Quartet No. 13, Op. 124 Kontra Quartet Da Capo CD 8.207001 (complete) or 8.224127 (Quartets 13-15 only)

    Edward Collins escapes to Wisconsin

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 19, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisIn the 19th century, anybody who had the means would flee the stifling heat of the cities and head for someplace green and shady and cool: a country house, a spa perhaps, or maybe just a modest cabin by a lake.In the 19th century, it was Brahms who set the fashion for composers to spend their summer months in the countryside working on their music. His Violin Concerto and Second Symphony were the products of leisurely weeks spent in the lake district of Austria's Carinthian Alps.For the American composer Edward Collins, who lived from 1886-1951, the city to be escaped was Chicago, and his country refuge was Cedar Lake, Wisconsin. In 1931, Collins composed a Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra. Like much of Collins' music, it was premiered by the Chicago Symphony under conductor Frederick Stock, who encouraged young American talent, especially from a local boy like Collins, a native of Joliet, Illinois.These days the music of Edward Collins has all but disappeared from American concert halls, but conductor Marin Alsop and the Concordia Orchestra recorded a sampling of his major orchestral works for a compact disc series funded by the late composer's family.Music Played in Today's ProgramEdward J. Collins (1889 – 1951) Concert Piece in A minor Leslie Stifelman, piano; Concordia Orchestra; Marin Alsop, conductor. Albany 267

    Monteverdi gets mugged (and a new job)

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 18, 2023 2:00

    SynopsisAugust 1613 proved to be an especially eventful month in the life and career of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. The previous summer his old employer, Duke Vincenzo of Mantua, had died, and Monteverdi was looking for a job.  Fortunately, the position of Master of Music for the Republic of Venice opened up, and, on today's date Monteverdi was probably rehearsing musicians for a trial concert of his music at St. Mark's Cathedral. The concert was a success. Monteverdi got the job, a generous salary, and even a cash advance to cover the move from his home.So much for the good news—on his trip back home, Monteverdi was robbed by highwaymen armed with muskets. In a surviving letter, Monteverdi described the incident in some detail, noting that the muskets were very long and of the flint-wheel variety, and that he lost more than a hundred Venetian ducats.Despite the trauma—and the humiliation of being strip-searched for valuables by one of the robbers—Monteverdi recovered his fortunes in Venice. In addition to his church duties at St. Mark's, he became famous writing a newfangled sort of commercial entertainment called opera, and lived to the ripe old age of 77.Music Played in Today's ProgramClaudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) Che dar piu vi poss'io, fr 5th Book of Madrigals Consort of Musicke; Anthony Rooley, conductor. L'oiseau Lyre 410 291

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