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2 minutes | a day ago
Synopsis Today’s date in 1913 marks the birthday of the American composer and musicologist George Perle, who won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1986. In a 1985 interview, Perle vividly recalled his first musical experience, an encounter with Chopin’s Étude in F minor, played by an aunt. “It literally paralyzed me,” said Perle, “I was extraordinarily moved and acutely embarrassed at the same time, because there were other people in the room, and I could tell that nobody else was having the same sort of reaction I was.” In his own lyrical and well-crafted music, Perle employed what he called “12-tone tonality,” a middle path between rigorous atonality and traditional, tonal-based music. Whether tonal or not, for Perle music was both a logical and an emotional language. Perle once made this telling distinction between the English language and the language of music: “Reading a novel is altogether different from reading a newspaper, but it's all language. If you go to a concert, you have some kind of reaction to it. If the newspaper is Chinese, you can't understand it. But if you hear something by a Chinese composer, if it's playful, for instance, you understand.” Music Played in Today's Program George Perle (1915 - 2009) Serenade No. 3 for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1983) Richard Goode, p; Music Today Ensemble; Gerard Schwarz, cond. Nonesuch 79108 On This Day Births 1915 - American composer George Perle, in Bayonne, N.J.; 1918 - Canadian composer Godfrey Ridout, in Toronto; Deaths 1667 - (on May 6 or 7) German composer and keyboard player Johann Jakob Froberger, age 50, in Hericourt, nearr Montbeliard , France; Premieres 1897 - Leoncavallo: opera "La Boheme" in Venice; 1981 - Rautavaara: Double-bass Concerto ("Angel of Dusk"),in Helsinki, with bassist Olli Kosonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony, Leif Segerstam conducting; 1985 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: "Concerto for Trumpet and Five Players," by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble; 1992 - Libby Larsen: Symphony No. 3 ("Lyric"), by the Albany Symphony (NY), Joel Revzen conducting; 1999 - Magnus Lindberg: Cello Concerto, by the Orchestre de Paris, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and Anssi Karttunen the soloist; 1999 - Christopher Rouse: "Seeing" (Piano Concerto), at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Slatkin, with Emanuel Ax the soloist; Others 1872 - Theodore Thomas conducts the first concert of the Cincinnati Music Festival ("May Festival"); His program includes Beethoven's Fifth, Handel's "Dettingen Te Deum," a Mozart aria, and a chorus from Haydn's "Creation." Links and Resources On George Perle More on Perle (NY Times obit)
2 minutes | 2 days ago
Tchaikovsky at Carnegie Hall
Synopsis “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Well, the usual reply is, “By practicing!” But back in 1891, Peter Tchaikovsky would have probably answered, “by ship”–since he had, in fact, sailed from Europe to conduct several of his pieces at the hall’s gala opening concerts. The first concert in Carnegie Hall, or as they called it back then, “The Music Hall,” occurred on today’s date in 1891, and included a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Coronation March,” conducted by the composer. The review in the New York Herald offered these comments: “Tchaikovsky’s March... is simple, strong and sober, but not surprisingly original. The leading theme recalls the Hallelujah chorus, and the treatment of the first part is Handelian… Of the deep passion, the complexity and poetry which mark other works of Tchaikovsky, there is no sign in this march.” Oh well, in the days that followed, Tchaikovsky would conduct other works of “complexity and poetry,” including his First Piano Concerto. Tchaikovsky kept a travel diary and recorded these impressions of New York: "It is a huge city, not beautiful, but very original. In Chicago, I’m told, they have gone even further–one of the houses there has 21 floors!" Music Played in Today's Program Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Coronation March Boston Pops; John Williams, cond. Philips 420 804 Orchestral Suite No. 3, Op. 55 New Philharmonia; Antal Dorati, cond. Philips 464 747 On This Day Births 1819 - Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, in Ubiel, province of Minsk, Russia; 1869 - German composer and conductor Hans Pfitzner, in Moscow, of German parents (Julian date: April 23); Premieres 1726 - Handel: opera "Alessandro," in London at King's Theater in the Haymarket, with the Italian soprano Faustina Bordini marking her London debut in a work by Handel (Gregorian date: May 16); 1917 - Debussy: Violin Sonata, in Paris, by violinist Gaston Poulet with the composer at the piano (his last public appearance); 1926 - Copland: Two Pieces ("Nocturne" and "Ukelele Serenade"), in Paris by violinist Samuel Dushkin with the composer at the piano; 1930 - Milhaud: opera "Christophe Colomb" (Christopher Columbus),at the Berlin State Opera; 1941 - Britten: "Paul Bunyan" (text by W.H. Auden) at Columbia University in New York City; 1945 - Barber: "I Hear an Army," "Monks and Raisins," "Nocturne,""Sure On This Shining Night," during a CBS radio broadcast, with mezzo Jennie Tourel and the CBS Symphony, composer conducting; 1946 - Douglas Moore: Symphony in A, in Paris; 1977 - George Crumb: oratorio "Star Child," by the New York Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez conducting; 1982 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Symphony No. 1, at Alice Tully Hall in New York, by the American Composers Orchestra, Gunther Schuller conducting; This work won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983; 1987 - John Williams: "A Hymn to New England," by the Boston Pops conducted by the composer (recorded by the Pops and Keith Lockhardt ); 1991 - Joan Tower: "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" No. 3(dedicated to Frances Richard of ASCAP), at Carnegie Hall, by members of the Empire Brass and the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducting; 2000 - Christopher Rouse: "Rapture" for orchestra, by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Mariss Jansons conducting; 2001 - Christopher Rouse: "Rapturedux" cello ensemble, by the Royal Northern College of Music Cellists in Manchester (U.K.); Others 1891 - Carnegie Hall opens in New York City with a concert that included Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 conducted by Walter Damrosch, and Tchaikovsky's "Marche Solennelle" (Coronation March) conducted by its composer. Links and Resources On Carnegie Hall On Tchaikovsky
2 minutes | 3 days ago
Vaughan Williams' "London Symphony"
Synopsis At Queen’s Hall in London, on today’s date in 1920, conductor Albert Coates led the premiere of the revised version of the “London” Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams. A longer version of this Symphony had premiered six years earlier, and Vaughan Williams would continue to tinker with this work, on and off, for decades. “The London Symphony is past mending,” wrote Vaughan Williams in 1951, “though with all its faults I love it still; indeed, it is my favorite.” For most music lovers, Vaughan Williams means English folk tunes or hymns woven into lush works for strings, or musical pictures of English countryside… But it was a city view that inspired his “London Symphony,” described by Vaughan Williams himself as “a good view of the river and a bridge and three great electric-light chimneys and a sunset.” In fact, you could call the Vaughan Williams Second a “sunset” symphony. Its final pages were inspired by an H. G. Wells novel describing a night passage on the Thames to the open sea: “To run down the Thames so is to run one’s hand over the pages in the book of England from end to end... The river passes... London passes… England passes…“ Music Played in Today's Program Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2) London Symphony; Richard Hickox, cond. Chanos 9902 On This Day Births 1744 - Austrian composer of Spanish descent Marianne (Anna Katharina) von Martínez, in Vienna; She studied composition with Haydn, and Haydn and Mozart attended her musical soirées; 1860 - Austrian composer Emil Nikolaus Von Reznicek, in Vienna; 1905 - Hungarian-born British composer and teacher Mátyás(György) Seiber, in Budapest; Deaths 1604 - Italian composer and publisher Claudio Merulo, age 71, in Parma; 1955 - Rumanian composer Georges Enesco, age 73, late on May 3 or early on May 4, in Paris; Premieres 1795 - Haydn: Symphony No. 104, conducted by the composer, at the King's Theater in London; This symphony is sometimes nicknamed the "Salomon" Symphony, although it (along with Haydn's Symphonies 102 and 103) was in fact commissioned for and premiered at Viotti's Opera Concerts, not as part of the earlier series of Haydn concerts arranged by the impresario Salomon; 1895 - Dvorák: cantata "The American Flag," Op. 102, in New York; 1920 - Vaughan Williams : revised version of Symphony No.2 ("A London Symphony") at Queens Hall in London, conducted by Albert Coates; The first version of this symphony had premiered at Queen's Hall in London on March 27, 1914, conducted by Geoffrey Toye; A final (twice revised) version of this symphony was published in 1936; 1924 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 6, in Moscow; 1974 - Rautavaara: Flute Concerto, in Stockholm, with flutist Gunilla von Bahr and the Swedish Radio Symphony, Stig Westerberg conducting; 1976 - Bernstein: musical "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York City, conducted by Roland Gagnon; A trial run of this show had opened in Philadelphia at the Forrest Theater on February 24, 1976; 1976 - Sondheim: revue "Side by Side by Sondheim" (compiled from various Sondheim musicals by British singer-actor David Kernan and others); This revue opened on Broadway on April 18, 1977; 1989 - Joan Tower: "Island Prelude" for oboe and strings, by soloist Peter Bowman and the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting. Links and Resources Vaughan Williams Society Web site (biography, timeline, and more)
2 minutes | 4 days ago
Pleyel and Poulenc
Synopsis Pleyel and Company was a French piano firm founded in 1807 by the composer Ignace Pleyel. The firm provided pianos for Chopin, and ran an intimate Parisian 300-seat concert hall called the Salle Pleyel–the “Pleyel room” in English, where Chopin once performed. In the 20th century, a roomier Salle Pleyel comprising some 3,000-seats was built, and it was there on today’s date in 1929 that a new concerto for an old instrument had its premiere performance. This was the “Concert champetre” or “Pastoral Concerto” for harpsichord and orchestra by the French composer Francis Poulenc, with the Paris Symphony conducted by Pierre Monteux, and with Wanda Landowska as the soloist. “A harpsichord concerto in a hall that seats thousands?” you may ask. “How could anyone hear the harpsichord?” Well, the answer is that Madame Landowska performed on a beefier, metal-framed harpsichord built in the 20th century rather than the quieter wood-framed instruments used in the 18th. Landowska’s modern harpsichord was specially-constructed for her by–who else?–Pleyel and Company. Landowska needed those extra decibels because Poulenc’s concerto was scored for harpsichord and a large modern orchestra, with winds, percussion, and a large brass section that even included a tuba! Music Played in Today's Program Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) Concert champêtre/Pastoral Concerto Aimée Van de Wiele, hc; Paris Conservatory Orchestra; Georges Prêtre, cond. EMI Classics 69446 or 95584 On This Day Births 1886 - French organist and composer Marcel Dupré, in Rouen; 1920 - American composer and jazz pianist John Lewis, in LaGrange, Ill.; Deaths 1704 - Austrian composer Heinrich Biber, age 59, in Salzburg; Premieres 1831 - Hérold: "Zampa," at the Opéra-Comique in Paris; 1893 - Horatio Parker: oratorio "Hora Novissima," in New York City; 1917 - Bloch: "Schlemo" and "Israel" Symphony at Society of the Friends of Music Concert, Artur Bodanzky conducting; 1919 - Debussy: Clarinet Rhapsody (orchestral version), in Paris, with clarinetist Gaston Hamelin, at Pasdeloup Concert; 1929 - Poulenc: "Concert champêtre" for harpsichord and orchestra, at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, by the Paris Symphony with Pierre Monteux conducting and Wanda Landowska the soloist; 1934 - Bernard Rogers: "Three Japanese Dances," in Rochester, N.Y.; 1943 - Cowell: "American Melting Pot" (Set for Chamber Orchestra), at Carnegie Hall in New York, by the Orchestrette of New York, Frédérique Petrides conducting; 1952 - Vaughan Williams: "Romance" for harmonica and orchestra, in New York City; 1958 - Walter Hartley: Concerto for 23 Winds, at the Eastman School in Rochester, N.Y., by the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell conducting; 1963 - Cowell: Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harp, at the University of Miami, by John Bitter (flute), Julien Balogh (oboe), Hermann Busch (cello), and Mary Spalding (Mrs. Fabien) Sevitzky (harp); The work is dedicated to the conductor Fabien Sevitzky "in honor of his many services to American music"; 1969 - Shostakovich: Violin Sonata, in Moscow, with David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter; 1989 - James MacMillan: "Visions of a November Spring" for string quartet, at University Concert Hall in Glasgowm Scotland, by the Bingham String Quartet; Others 1971 - Debut broadcast of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" with an electronic theme by composer Don Voegeli of the University of Wisconsin (In 1974, Voegeli composed a new electronic ATC theme, the now-familiar signature tune of the program). Links and Resources Poulenc’s “Concert champêtre” played on a 1930 Pleyel harpsichord: 1st movement 2nd movement 3rd movement Wanda Landowska plays Bach Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906 (modern Pleyel harpsichord) Gustav Leonhardt plays Bach Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906 (on a “historic” 18th century harpsichord by Christian Zell, Hamburg, 1728)
2 minutes | 5 days ago
Purcell's "really big show"
Synopsis On today’s date in 1692, London audiences were treated to a lavish theatrical entertainment entitled “The Fairy Queen.” This show was loosely based on Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a play already 100 years old in 1692. To make it more in line with contemporary taste, characters were added or cut, and scenes shifted around to such an extent that Shakespeare, were he alive to see it, would be hard put to recognize much of his original concept. Musical sequences were also expanded, and the producers hired the leading British composer of the day to write them. His name was Henry Purcell, and “The Fairy Queen” would turn out to be the biggest success of his career. In addition to writing the show’s songs and dances, Purcell provided music to entertain the audience as they entered and exited the theater or stretched their legs during the intermission. The good news is that no expense was spared in the show’s production. The bad news was the show’s producers barely recovered their expenses. Subsequent productions, they decided, would be less flashy, but, recognizing the quality of Purcell’s music, they signed him on once again for their next extravaganza. Music Played in Today's Program Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695) The Fairy Queen Le Concert des Nations; Jordi Savall, cond. Auvidis 8583 On This Day Births 1660 - Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti, in Palermo; founder of the "Neopolitan School" of music and father of the composer, Dominico Scarlatti; 1752 - Baptismal date of German oboist and composer Ludwig August Lebrun, in Mannheim; 1810 - Danish conductor and composer Hans Christian Lumbye, in Copenhagen; 1843 - Austrian conductor and operetta composer Carl Michael Ziehrer, in Vienna; 1905 - English composer Alan Rawsthorne, in Haslingden; Deaths 1864 - German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer (Jakob Liebmann Beer), age 72,in Paris; 1990 - American composer William Levi Dawson, age 90, in Montgomery, Ala.; Premieres 1692 - Purcell: opera "The Fairy Queen," in London at the Queen's Theater, Dorset Garden; 1935 - Ibert: "Concertino da Camera" for saxophone and chamber orchestra, in Paris; 1936 - Prokofiev: "Peter and the Wolf" at a children's concert by the Moscow Philharmonic, conducted by the composer; 1947 - Copland: "In the Beginning" for mezzo-soprano and chorus, at Harvard University; 1947 - Schoenberg: String Trio, Op. 45, at Harvard University; 1951 - Cage: "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" for 12 radios, in New York; 1951 - Ulysses Kay: "Sinfonia" for orchestra, in Rochester, N.Y.; 1965 - Bolcom: "Oracle" for orchestra, in Seattle; 1965 - Grofé: "Trick or Treat: Halloween," by the Philadelphia Orchestra, André Kostelanetz conducting; 1981 - David Amram: Violin Concerto, by the St. Louis Symphony, Leonard Slatkin conducting, with Charles Castleman the soloist; 1984 - Ezra Laderman: String Quartet No. 7, in New York City, by the Colorado Quartet; 1984 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Sunday in the Park with George"; 1990 - Elliott Carter: Violin Concerto, by the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Herbert Blomstedt, with Ole Böhn as soloist; Others 1855 - American premiere of Verdi's opera "Il Trovatore" (The Troubadour) at the Academy of Music in New York. 1872 - First documented American performance of Beethoven's "Missa solemnis" in D (Op. 123), at Steinway Hall in New York , by the Church Music Association, Dr. James Pech conducting; Subsequent regional premieres of this work occurred in Cincinnati (May 19, 1880) and Boston (Mar. 12, 1897). Links and Resources More on "The Fairy Queen" More on Purcell
2 minutes | 6 days ago
Synopsis Today’s date marks two anniversaries in the life of American composer, teacher, and organist Leo Sowerby, who lived from 1895 to 1968. Sowerby was born on May 1st in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and on his 32nd birthday in 1927, was hired as the permanent organist and choirmaster at St. James’ Church in Chicago, where he remained for the next 35 years. Sowerby wrote hundreds of pieces of church music for organ and chorus, plus chamber and symphonic works, which are only recently receiving proper attention. It’s not that Sowerby was neglected during his lifetime–he won many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1946–but many seemed “put off” by both his unabashedly Romantic style and his unprepossessing physical appearance. The younger American composer Ned Rorem, who took theory lessons from Sowerby, puts it this way: “Leo Sowerby was … of my parents’ generation, a bachelor, reddish-complexioned and milky skinned, chain smoker of Fatima cigarettes, unglamorous and non-mysterious, likable with a perpetual worried frown, overweight and wearing rimless glasses, earthy, practical, interested in others even when they were talentless; a stickler for basic training, Sowerby was the first composer I knew and the last thing a composer was supposed to resemble.” Music Played in Today's Program Leo Sowerby (1895 – 1968) Classic Concerto David Mulbury, organ; Fairfield Orchestra; John Welsh, cond. Naxos 8.559028 On This Day Births 1582 - Early Italian opera composer Marco da Gagliano, in Gagliano; 1602 - Baptism of English madrigal composer William Lawes, in Salisbury ; He was the younger brother of the more famous English composer Henry Lawes (1696-1662); 1872 - Swedish violinist and composer Hugo Alfvén in Stockholm; 1895 - American organist and composer Leo Sowerby, in Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1899 - Icelandic composer Jón Leifs, in Sólheimar; Deaths 1904 - Czech composer Antonin Dvorák, age 62, in Prague; 1978 - Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian, age 74, in Moscow; Premieres 1786 - Mozart: "The Marriage of Figaro" in Vienna at the Old Burgtheater; 1886 - Franck: "Symphonic Variations" for piano and orchestra, in Paris; 1909 - Rachmaninoff: "The Isle of the Dead," in Moscow, conducted by the composer (Julian date: April 18); 1925 - Piston: Three Pieces for flute, clarinet, and bassoon (his first published work), at the École Normale in Paris, by the Blanquart-Coste-Dherin trio; 1939 - Barber: "The Virgin Martyrs," with students from the Curtis Institute of Music on a CBS Radio broadcast, with the composer conducting; 1971 - Dave Brubeck: oratorio "Truth Has Fallen," at the opening of the Center for the Arts in Midland, Mich.; 1987 - Harrison Birtwistle: "Endless Parade" for trumpet, vibraphone and strings, in Zurich (Switzerland) by the Collegium Musicum conducted by Paul Sacher, with trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger; 2002 - Jennifer Higdon: "Blue Cathedral," by the Curtis Institute Symphony conducted by Robert Spano, commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music; 2003 - Lukas Foss: Concertino ("Passacaglia, Bachanalia, Passacaglia") for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, by the New York Choral Artists and the New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur conducting; Others 1761 - Franz Joseph Haydn begins his 30-year tenure as Second-Kapellmeister at Prince Esterhazy's estate in Eisenstadt; In 1766, Haydn succeeded the much older composer Gregor Joseph Werner as First-Kapellmeister; 1825 - first documented American performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 100 ("Military") at Boylston Hall in Boston, at a benefit concert for Haydn's former pupil, Johann Christian Gottlieb Graupner (1767-1836); 1837 - American premiere of Rossini's opera "Semiramide" in New Orleans; 1938 - The German Reichsmusikkammer (Imperial Ministry of Music) forbids Aryan music instructors to teach pupils of Jewish extraction. Links and Resources On Sowerby An essay "Leo Sowerby at 100"
2 minutes | 7 days ago
Operatic Intrigue and Debussy's "Pelleas"
Synopsis Today we have a tale of jealousy to tell — the tale of Claude and Mary and Maurice and Georgette—related to the premiere, on today’s date in 1902, of “Pelléas et Mélisande.” This new opera by Claude Debussy was based on a play about jealousy by the Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. Debussy had worked on his opera for years with no objection from Maeterlinck until late in 1901, when Debussy announced that the Scottish soprano Mary Garden would sing the role of Mélisande. Suddenly, two weeks before the premiere, Maeterlinck began saying the opera was “alien” to him, that he had lost artistic control over his own work, that he hoped the opera would flop. Well, that accounts for Claude and Mary and Maurice, but what about Georgette? Turns out SHE was the real reason behind Maeterlinck’s objections. Georgette was a soprano–and Maeterlinck’s mistress. When Debussy refused to even consider her for the lead role in his new opera, Maeterlinck’s smear campaign began. He was not alone—the eminent French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, jealous as any character in Debussy’s opera, delayed his customary vacation abroad to stay in Paris, and, as he put it, “To speak ill of Pelléas.” Music Played in Today's Program Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918) Pelléas et Mélisande Cleveland Orchestra; Erich Leinsdorf, cond. Cleveland 9375 On This Day Births 1870 - Hungarian-born Austrian composer Franz Léhar, in Komorn; 1939 - American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, in Miami, Fla.; She was the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music (in 1983 for her Symphony No. 1); Premieres 1728 - Handel: opera "Tolomeo, re d'Egitto" (Ptolomy, King of Egypt), in London at the King's Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: May 11); 1855 - Berlioz: "Te Deum," at the church of St. Eustache in Paris; 1902 - Debussy: opera "Pelléas and Mélisande," in Paris at the Opéra-Comique; 1925 - Hindemith: "Kammermusik" No. 3, Op. 36, no. 2, in Bochum, Germany, conducted by the composer with Rudolf Hindemith the cello soloist; 1934 - Stravinsky: opera "Persephone," at the Paris Opéra, with Ida Rubinsetin in the principal role (spoken part) and the composer conducting; 1973 - Lou Harrison: Concerto for Organ, at San Jose State University, with organist Philip Simpson; 1991 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Bass Trombone Concerto, by soloist Charles Vernon with the Chicago Symphony, Daniel Barenboim conducting; 1994 - John Harbison: String Quartet No. 3, at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., by the Lydian String Quartet; Others 1932 - Opening of the first "Yaddo" Festival of Contemporary Music at Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Links and Resources On Debussy On Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande"
2 minutes | 8 days ago
Happy Birthday, Duke Ellington!
Synopsis On today’s date in 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, D.C. The son of a former White House butler, Elllington was born into a comfortable middle-class African American household. After piano lessons from the aptly named Miss Klinkscales, Ellington composed his first original piece, “The Soda Fountain Rag.” Two important mentors were a local dance band leader, Oliver “Doc” Perry and a high school music teacher named Henry Grant, who introduced Ellington to classical composers like Debussy. “From both these men I received freely and generously,” recalled Ellington. “ I repaid them as I could, by playing piano for Mr. Perry, and by learning all I could from Mr. Grant.” Always a stylish dresser, Ellington was nicknamed “The Duke” by friends, and while still in his teens, the five-piece dance band he formed was playing in New York City. That ensemble grew to 11 men by 1930 and to an orchestra of 19 by 1946. The Ellington orchestra was an ensemble of jazz virtuosos, and for them Ellington would compose some 2000 original works, a body of music extensively documented in public and private recordings, and now regarded as one of the most astonishing musical accomplishments of the 20th century. Music Played in Today's Program Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) The River Suite Detroit Symphony; Neeme Järvi, cond. Chandos 9154 On This Day Births 1879 - British conductor and occasional orchestrator-arranger of Handel scores, Sir Thomas Beecham, in St. Helens (near Liverpool); 1855 - Russian composer Anatoly Liadov (Gregorian date: May 11); 1888 - American popular song composer Irving Berlin (Isidore Balin) (Gregorian date: May 11); There are several possibilities concerning his birth city. It could be Tyumen or Tumen, any one of several villages near the city of Mogilyov, Russia (now Belarus), not the city in Siberia. 1885 - American composer Wallingford Riegger, in Albany, Ga.; 1899 - American composer and jazz band leader, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, in Washington, D.C.; 1920 - American composer Harold Shapero, in Lynn, Mass.; 1929 - Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe, in Launeceston; Deaths 1712 - Spanish composer and organist Juan Bautista José (Juan Bautista Josep; Joan) Cabanilles (Cavanilles, Cabanillas, Cavanillas), age c. 67, in Valencia; Premieres 1784 - Mozart: Violin Sonata in Bb, K. 454, at Vienna's Kärtnertor Theater in the presence of Emperor Joseph II, with the composer at the piano with Italian violinist Regina Strinasacchi; Mozart also performed one of his Piano Concertos, possibly the premiere performance of the Concerto No. 17 in G, K. 453 (see also June 13, 1784); 1798 - Haydn: oratorio "The Creation" at a private performance in Vienna at Schwarzenbgerg Palace; The first public performance occurred n March 19, 1799 (Haydn's nameday); 1927 - Vladimir Dukelsky (Vernon Duke): "Zephyr et Flore"ballet suite, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting; 1928 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 9, in Moscow; 1929 - Prokofiev: opera "The Gambler" (sung in French) in Brussels; 1962 - Stravinsky: "Eight Instrumental Miniatures" (based on his "Five Fingers" of 1921), in Toronto by the CBC Symphony conducted by the composer; 1980 - John Williams: "The Reivers " (Suite for narrator and orchestra) with a William Faulkner, as part of the first concert Williams conducted as music director of the Boston Pops, with Burgess Meredith as narrator; 1988 - Peter Maxwell Davies: "Strathclyde Concerto" No. 1 for oboe and orchestra, at Glasgow's City Hall, by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer, with soloist Robin Miller; 1990 - Philip Glass: chamber opera "Hydrogen Jukebox" (to poems by Allen Ginsberg), by the Philip Glass ensemble conducted by Martin Goldray, in a concert version presented at the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia; A staged production was presented at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C,, on May 26, 1990; 1993 - Michael Torke: "Run" for orchestra, by the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Slatkin conducting; Others 1906 - Victor Herbert conducts a benefit concert at the Hippodrome in New York City for victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; 1969 - On his 70th birthday, Duke Ellington receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from then-President Richard Nixon. Links and Resources On Ellington
2 minutes | 9 days ago
Diamond's Fifth . . . finally!
Synopsis For the 1965-1966 season of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein planned a series of concerts titled “Symphonic Forms in the 20th Century,” programming works by Mahler, Sibelius and other great European masters. Bernstein also included American symphonies, including, on today’s date in 1966, the belated premiere performance of David Diamond’s Symphony No. 5. Diamond began work on his Fifth Symphony in 1947, and its original inspiration was two-fold: Diamond wanted to compose a symphony for Bernstein to premiere and to translate into music the vivid emotions he experienced after attending a performance of Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus the King. But Diamond found recreating the Oedipus story harder than he thought. He ended up putting his Fifth aside, and finished and premiered his Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Symphonies before coming to the realization that, “Program symphonies were just not for me.” Years later, when Bernstein asked him “What ever happened to that symphony you were going to write for me,” Diamond explained all this to Bernstein, who replied, “Well, it’s about time you did something about it—it’s silly to have one symphony that just isn’t there!” And so, Diamond set to work completing a non-programmatic Fifth, dedicated to Leonard Bernstein. Music Played in Today's Program David Diamond (1915-2005 ) Symphony No. 5 Juilliard Orchestra; Christopher Keene, cond. New World 80396 On This Day Births 1892 - American folksinger and folksong collector John Jacob Niles, in Louisville, Ky.; Premieres 1865 - Meyerbeer: opera "L'Africaine" (The African Woman), at the Paris Opéra; 1892 - Dvorák: "In Nature's Realm" Overture, Op. 91, in Prague; 1892 - Sibelius: symphonic poem/oratorio "Kullervo" for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, in Helsinki, with the composer conducting; 1928 - Cowell: "Sinfonietta," in Boston, Nicholas Slonimsky conducting; 1938 - Diamond: "Elegy in Memory of Maurice Ravel," in Rochester, N.Y. 1948 - Stravinsky: ballet "Orpheus," by the American Society in New York City; 1966 - Douglas Moore: opera "Carrie Nation," in Lawrence, Kan.; 1981 - John Williams: "Pops on the March" by the Boston Pops with the composer conducting. 2005 - Arne Nordheim: “Fonos” for trombone and orchestra, in Bergen, Norway, by the Bergen Philharmonic. Links and Resources On Diamond
2 minutes | 10 days ago
Handel with "no strings attached"
Synopsis Few of us today really know–or care–very much about the War of Austrian Succession, a conflict that troubled Europe in the 18th century. For music lovers, it’s enough to know that to celebrate the end of that war, George Frideric Handel was commissioned to compose music for a fireworks concert in London’s Green Park, an event that took place on today’s date in the year 1749. Back then there were no such things as microphones and loudspeakers, so Handel’s score called for a huge military band of 24 oboes, 9 horns, 9 trumpets, 3 sets of timpani, 12 bassoons, 2 contrabassoons—and strings. When King George II was told about it, he balked a little at the expense: “Well, at least I hope there won’t be any fiddles,” he commented, and so Handel was informed the strings were definitely off. A public rehearsal was held at the Vauxhall Gardens and a London newspaper reported that 100 musicians performed for an audience of more than 12,000, causing a 3-hour traffic jam of carriages and pedestrians on London Bridge. The official event with fireworks went off with a bang–as well as a few fires breaking out. Music Played in Today's Program George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759) — Music for the Royal Fireworks (Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond.) Argo 414596 On This Day Deaths 1951 - American composer John Alden Carpenter, age 75, in Chicago; 1991 - French-born American composer and arranger Leo (Noël) Arnaud, age 86, in Los Angeles; His tune "Bugler's Dream" (written for a Felix Slatkin LP) became used as a familiar theme for the Olympic Games; Premieres 1738 - Handel: opera "Serse," (Julian date: April 15); 1899 - first version of Sibelius: Symphony No. 1, by the Helsinki Philharmonic, with the composer conducting; A revised, final version of this symphony was performed by the same orchestra on tour in Stockholm on July 4, 1900, conducted by Robert Kajanus; 1915 - Hindemith: String Quartet No. 1 in C, Op. 2, at Dr. Hoch's Conservatory in Frankfurt; 1959 - John Cage: "Fontana Mix," in New York City; 1965 - Ives: Symphony No. 4, at Carnegie Hall by the American Symphony Orchestra, with Leopold Stokowski (assisted by David Katz and José Serebrier); 1970 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical 'Company"; A trial-run in Boston preceded the Broadway premiere; 1990 - John Harbison: Concerto for Double Brass Choir and Orchestra, in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, André Previn conducting; 2002 - Michael Hersch: Symphony No. 2, by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Mariss Jansons conducting; Others 1891 - Tchaikovsky arrives in New York to take part in the May 5, 1891, opening concert at New York's newly-constructed "Music Hall"(later known as "Carnegie Hall”). 1926 - American premiere of Monteverdi's 1642 opera "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" (The Coronation of Poppea), at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
2 minutes | 11 days ago
Serebrier assists Stokie (and Ives)
Synopsis On today’s date in 1965, the first complete performance of the Fourth Symphony of American composer Charles Ives took place in New York. 38 years earlier, in 1927, also in New York, the British conductor Eugene Goossens had performed the first two movements of Ives’ Fourth Symphony, after many a sleepless night trying to figure out how to perform certain sections of Ives’ score where the bar-lines didn’t jibe—parts where more than one rhythm pattern happened simultaneously. “I remember,” Goosens said, “that I wound up beating two with my stick, three with my left hand, something else with my head, and something else again with my coat tails.” For the 1965 premiere and first recording of Ives’ complete symphony, Leopold Stokowski solved this problem by enlisting the aid of two assistant conductors, David Katz and Jose Serebrier—all three men working simultaneously at times to cue the musicians in the trickiest passages of the score. One of conductors who assisted Stokowski in 1965, Jose Serebrier, went on to recorded Ives’ Fourth again—this time without the aid of assistant conductors, coat tails, or the surgical addition of another set of arms. Music Played in Today's Program Charles Ives (1874-1954) Symphony No. 4 Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, cond. DG 4839505 Jose Serebrier (b. 1938) Partita (Symphony No. 2) London Philharmonic; José Serebrier, cond. Reference 90 On This Day Deaths 1951 - American composer John Alden Carpenter, age 75, in Chicago; 1991 - French-born American composer and arranger Leo (Noël) Arnaud, age 86, in Los Angeles; His tune "Bugler's Dream" (written for a Felix Slatkin LP) became used as a familiar theme for the Olympic Games; Premieres 1738 - Handel: opera "Serse," (Julian date: April 15); 1899 - first version of Sibelius: Symphony No. 1, by the Helsinki Philharmonic, with the composer conducting; A revised, final version of this symphony was performed by the same orchestra on tour in Stockholm on July 4, 1900, conducted by Robert Kajanus; 1915 - Hindemith: String Quartet No. 1 in C, Op. 2, at Dr. Hoch's Conservatory in Frankfurt; 1959 - John Cage: "Fontana Mix," in New York City; 1965 - Ives: Symphony No. 4, at Carnegie Hall by the American Symphony Orchestra, with Leopold Stokowski (assisted by David Katz and José Serebrier); 1970 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical 'Company"; A trial-run in Boston preceded the Broadway premiere; 1990 - John Harbison: Concerto for Double Brass Choir and Orchestra, in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, André Previn conducting; 2002 - Michael Hersch: Symphony No. 2, by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Mariss Jansons conducting; Others 1891 - Tchaikovsky arrives in New York to take part in the May 5, 1891, opening concert at New York's newly-constructed "Music Hall"(later known as "Carnegie Hall”). 1926 - American premiere of Monteverdi's 1642 opera "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" (The Coronation of Poppea), at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. Links and Resources On Ives On Serebrier
2 minutes | 12 days ago
Synopsis On today’s date in 1926, Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, “Turandot,” had its belated premiere at the La Scala Opera House in Milan, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. The originally scheduled 1925 premiere had to be postponed, as Puccini had died in November of 1924, leaving “Turandot” unfinished. Another Italian composer, Franco Alfano, was brought in to complete the opera based on Puccini’s sketches. It’s said that after showing Toscanini his completion, Alfano asked, “What do you have to say, Maestro?”—to which Toscanini replied, “I say I see Puccini’s ghost coming to punch me in the nose.” On opening night, Toscanini stopped the performance at the point that Puccini had ceased composing and left the podium in tears—a touching act of homage to Puccini, perhaps, but also a vote of “no confidence” regarding Alfano’s completion of the beloved master’s score. Although well received by critics, the Puccini“ Turandot” with Alfano’s ending remained less popular than other Puccini operas for decades. After a run of performances in the late 1920s when the opera was still new, “Turandot” remained unperformed at the Metropolitan Opera until 1961, when Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli scored a huge success in a lavish Franco Zeffirelli revival production. Music Played in Today's Program Giacomo Puccini (1858 -1924) Nessun dorma, fr Turandot Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. EMI 49552 On This Day Births 1690 - Baptismal date of German composer and organist Gottlieb Muffat, in Pasau; He was the son of German composer Georg Muffat (1653-1704); 1840 - Russian composer Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (Gregorian date: May 5); Deaths 1906 - American composer John Knowles Paine, age 67, in Cambridge, Mass.; At Harvard, he created the first Music Department of any American university, and was the teacher there of a number of other American composers, including John Alden Carpenter, Arthur Foote, E.B. Hill, F.S. Converse, and D.G. Mason; Premieres 1881 - Gilbert Sullivan: operetta "Patience," in London; 1918 - Schreker: opera "Die Gezeichneten" (The Branded), in Frankfurt at the Opernhaus; 1926 - Puccini: opera "Turandot," in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala, with Arturo Toscanini conducting; The final scene of this opera, left unfinished at the time of Puccini's death, was completed by Alfano; 1929 - Roussel: "Psalm 80" for tenor, chorus and orchestra, in Paris; 1931 - Prokofiev: String Quartet No. 1 in b, Op. 50, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, by the Brosa Quartet; 1963 - Hindemith: Organ Concerto, for a jubilee concert of the New York Philharmonic, with the composer conducting and Anton Heiller the soloist; 1980 - Rochberg: "Octet - A Grand Fantasia," at Alice Tully Hall, by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; 1999 - André Previn: Bassoon Sonata, in New York, with Nancy Goeres and the composer at the piano; Others 1841 - At a fund-raising concert in Paris for the Beethoven monument to be erected in Bonn, Franz Liszt performs Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto with Berlioz conducting; Richard Wagner reviews the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung; The following day, Chopin gives one of his rare recitals at the Salle Pleyel, and Liszt writes a long and glowing review for the Parisian Gazette Musicale; 1865 - Pope Pius IX confers on composer Franz Liszt the title of "Abbé". Links and Resources On Puccini and his operas
2 minutes | 13 days ago
Seasonal music by Haydn
Synopsis Haydn’s oratorio “The Seasons” had its premiere performance on this date in Vienna in 1801. Like its predecessor, “The Creation,” Haydn’s new oratorio was a great success, and, as before, Haydn received help with the text and a lot of advice from the versatile Gottfried Bernhard Baron van Swieten, an enthusiastic admirer of Handel oratorios and the music of J. S. Bach. Swieten’s text for “The Seasons” included many opportunities for Baroque-style “tone painting”—musical representations of everything from croaking frogs and workers toiling in the fields, sections that raised a lot of smiles in 1801 and still do today. Haydn, famous for his sense of humor, in this case humored the old-fashioned tastes of the Baron as well. Speaking of the text, since Haydn was tremendous popular in England, Baron van Swieten prepared an English-language version of his text, trying to fit the English words to the rhythm of his original German. Alas, the good Baron’s command of English was, to put it diplomatically, perhaps not as firm he imagined. So these days, ensembles wishing to perform Haydn’s oratorio have a choice: they can opt for Swieten’s quaint but clunky English version, or his more graceful German original. Music Played in Today's Program Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809) Ländler, fr The Seasons Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Neville Marriner, cond. Philips 438715 On This Day Deaths 1921 - Dutch composer Alfons Diepenbrock, age 58, in Amsterdam; 1948 - Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, age 65, in Mexico City; 1998 - American composer Mel Powell, age 75, in Sherman Oaks, Calif.; He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1990; Premieres 1742 - Handel: oratorio, "Messiah" (Julian date: April 13); 1801 - Haydn: oratorio "The Seasons," in Vienna; 1950 - Bernstein: incidental music "Peter Pan" (play by J.M. Barrie) at the Imperial Theater in New York City, conducted by Ben Steinberg; 1957 - Ives: String Quartet No. 1, in New York City (This music was completed in 1896); 1988 - Anthony Davis: "Notes from the Underground" (dedicated to Ralph Ellison), at Carnegie Hall in New York by the American Composers Orchestra, Paul Lustig Dunkel conducting; 1990 - Bright Sheng: "Four Movemenets" for piano trio, at Alice Tully Hall in New York City , by The Peabody Trio; 1992 - Joan Tower: Violin Concerto, with soloist Elmar Oliveira and the Utah Symphony, Joseph Silverstein conducting; 1997 - Stephen Paulus: opera "The Three Hermits," at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minn., with Thomas Lancaster conducting; Links and Resources On Haydn
2 minutes | 14 days ago
Meeting deadlines: Tchaikovsky and Zaimont
Synopsis Deadlines are a fact of life for many of us—and composer are no exception. In 1875, Peter Tchaikovsky agreed to write 12, short solo pieces, one a month, for a St. Petersburg music magazine, beginning with their January 1876 issue. Tchaikovsky dashed the first piece off, but, fearing that he might forget his monthly deadline, took the wise precaution of instructing his servant to remind him: before each month’s deadline, Tchaikovsky’s dutiful servant would say: “Peter Ilytich, isn’t it about time to send something off to St. Petersburg?” Tchaikovksy would drop whatever he was working on and finish the next installment. So, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine Tchaikovsky on this date back in 1876 putting the finishing touches to this little piano piece for the May issue of the St. Petersburg magazine, a sketch he titled “Starlight Nights.” More recently, the contemporary American composer, Judith Lang Zaimont, also composed a set of 12 short piano pieces, one for each month, a suite she titled “Calendar Collection.” An accomplish pianist and composer, Zaimont taught for many years at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. This music–which we again offer ahead of schedule–is titled: “The May-fly.” Music Played in Today's Program Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) May, fr The Seasons, Op. 37b Lang Lang, piano Sony 11758 Judith Lang Zaimont (b. 1945) The May Fly, fr Calendar Collection Nanette Kaplan Solomon, piano Leonarda 334 On This Day Births 1464 - English composer Robert Fayrfax, in Deeping Gate, Lincolnshire; 1857 - Italian opera composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo, in Naples; 1869 - German composer and conductor Hans Pfitzner (see May 5); 1872 - American composer and music educator Arthur Farwell, in St. Paul, Minn.; 1891 - Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, in Sontsovka (Bakhmutsk region, Yekaterinoslav district), Ukraine (Julian date: April 11); Deaths 1691 - French composer, harpsichordist and organist Jean Henri d'Angelbert, age 62, in Paris; Premieres 1627 - Heinrich Schütz: opera "Dafne" (now lost), at Hartenfels Castle for the wedding of Princess Sophia of Saxony; This work is supposedly the first German opera; 1776 - Gluck: Alceste (2nd version), in Paris at the Académie Royale; 1881 - Gilbert Sullivan: operetta "Patience," at the Opera-Comique Theatre oinLondon; 1904 - Chadwick: "Euterpe" Overture, by the Boston Symphony; 1911 - Berg: String Quartet, Op.3, in Vienna, by the ad hoc quartet Brunner-Holzer-Buchbinder-Hasa Quartet; A later performance in Salzburg on August 2, 1923, by the Havemann Quartet at the First International Festival for Chamber Music , however, attracted wider attention and established Berg's worldwide reputation in musical circles; 1920 - Janácek: opera "The Excursions of Mr. Broucek," in Prague at the National Theater; 1922 - Varèse: "Offrandes" for voice and small orchestra, in New York City, with Carlos Salzedo conducting; 1948 - Jolivet: Concerto for Ondes Martenot and Orchestra, in Vienna; 1958 - Robert Kurka: opera "The Good Soldier Schweik" (posthumously) at the New York City Opera; 1979 - Rochberg: "The Slow Fires of Autumn," for flute and harp, at Tully Hall in New York, with flutist Carol Wincenc; 1981 - Ezra Laderman: String Quartet No. 6 ("The Audubon"), in New York City, by the Audubon Quartet; 1993 - Morten Lauridsen: "Les Chanson des Roses"(five French poems by Rilke) for mixed chorus and piano, by the Choral Cross-Ties ensemble of Portland, Ore., Bruce Brown conducting; 1994 - Broadway premiere of Sondheim: musical "Passion"; 1998 - James MacMillan: "Why is this night different?" for string quartet, at London's Wigmore Hall by the Maggini Quartet; Others 1738 - Handel is a founding subscriber to the "Fund for the Support of Decayed Musicians" (now the Royal Society of Musicians) at its first meeting at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in London; The fund was started after the widow and children of Handel's oboe soloist, John Kitch, were found impoverished on the streets of London; Other subscribers to the fund included the British composers Boyce, Arne, Green, and Pepusch (Gregorian date: May 4).
2 minutes | 15 days ago
Morton Gould rewrites history
Synopsis On this date in 1948, the ballet “Fall River Legend” was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House by the Ballet Theatre of New York. The choreography was by Agnes de Mille, and the music by Morton Gould. The previous year, de Mille and Gould had met at the Russian Tea Room to discuss their ballet, a retelling of the true story of Lizzie Borden, acquitted for the gruesome ax murders of her father and step-mother. Both de Mille and Gould thought Borden must have been guilty as charged. “Well, what shall we do about that,” asked de Mille. “Hang her!” said Gould, adding that it any case it would be easier for him to write hanging music than acquittal music. So, with that large dollop of poetic license, de Mille and Gould came up with the scenario for a ballet that opens with Lizzie standing before the gallows. Morton Gould was known for his ability to blend folk music, jazz, gospel, blues, and other elements into lively, colorful orchestral works. He was also a noted conductor, with over one hundred recordings to his credit—including a classic RCA “Living Stereo” recording of the Suite he arranged from his “Fall River Legend” ballet.
2 minutes | 16 days ago
Sean Hickey's Clarinet Concerto
Synopsis OK – say you were paid to listen to and promote hundreds of new classical recordings every month and travel the world to broker new deals for a major record company. The question is, “What would you do in your spare time?” Well, if you’re a composer, the answer is easy: write your OWN music, of course. Sean Hickey’s “day job” is being the Senior Vice-President for Sales and Business Development at Naxos of America, but who also finds time to create his own chamber and orchestral works. On today’s date in 2007, for example, his Clarinet Concerto received its premiere performance at Symphony Space in New York City, with David Gould as soloist with the Metro Chamber Orchestra. It’s gone on to be his most-performed orchestra work, and, in keeping with Hickey’s globe-trotting, has been recorded in the Russian Federation by another virtuoso clarinetist, Alexander Fiterstein with the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony. The work also incorporates fragments of folk tunes from Scotland as part of the creative mix. Why Scottish themes? “They have a timeless quality of most great folk music, “says Hickey. “In the concerto’s cadenza, a fiddle tune leads headlong into a rapturous close.” Music Played in Today's Program Sean Hickey — Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (Alexander Fiterstein, cl; St. Petersburg Academic Symphony; Vladimir Lande, cond.)Delos 3448 On This Day Births 1899 - American composer and teacher Randall Thompson, in New York; 1933 - American composer and pianist Easley Blackwood, in Indianapolis; Premieres 1845 - Lortzing: opera "Undine," in Magdeburg at the Stadttheater; 1889 - Puccini: opera "Edgar," in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala; 1917 - Debussy: Sonata No. 2 for flute,viola, and harp, at a concert of the Société Musicale Indépendante in Paris, by the trio of Manouvirier (flute), Jarecki (viola), and Jamet (harp); 1918 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 ("Classical"), in Petrograd, by the former Court Orchestra with the composer conducting; 1922 - Frederick Converse: Symphony No. 2, by the Boston Symphony, Pierre Monteux conducting; 1924 - Youmans: musical "No, No Nanette," in Detroit; After stops in Chicago and London, the musical opened on Broadway on Sept. 16, 1925; 1937 - Copland: a play-opera for high school "The Second Hurricane," at the Grand Street Playhouse in New York City, with soloists from the Professional Children's School, members of the Henry Street Settlement adult chorus, and the Seward High School student chorus, with Lehman Engle conducting and Orson Welles directing the staged production; One professional adult actor, Joseph Cotton, also participated (He was paid $10); 1939 - Leonard Bernstein's first appearance as a conductor, leading his own incidental score to "The Birds" at Harvard; 1942 - Bernstein: Clarinet Sonata, in Boston, with clarinetist David Glazer and the composer at the piano; 1948 - Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6, at Royal Albert Hall in London, by the BBC Symphony, Sir Adrian Boult conducting; 1973 - Bliss: "Variations" for orchestra, in London, with Leopold Stokowski conducting; 1985 - Morton Feldman: "For Philip Guston," for chamber ensemble, in New York; 1988 - Bernstein: "Missa brevis," in Atlanta by the Atlanta Symphony Chorus conducted by Robert Shaw; Others 1749 - Against Handel's wishes, in advance of its official premiere scheduled for April 27, a public rehearsal of Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks" at Vauxhall Gardens takes place; Reports suggest 12,000 attended, causing traffic jams on London Bridge (Gregorian date: May 2); 1829 - Mendelssohn, age 20, arrives in London for his first visit. 1863 - American premiere of J.S. Bach's Concerto for Two Claviers and Orchestra No.2 in C Major, at Dodworth's Hall in New York during a Mason-Thomas chamber music "Soiree,"with Henry C. Timm and William Mason performing on two pianos. Links and Resources More on Sean Hickey at Vox Novus
2 minutes | 17 days ago
Rimsky-Korsakov joins the Navy (and sees the world)
Synopsis On today’s date in 1862, an 18-year-old Russian named Nicolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov graduated as midshipman from the Russian Naval Academy and prepared for a two-year’s training cruise around the world. Nicolai’s uncle was an admiral and a close friend of the Czar, and in his autobiography Rimsky-Korsakov admits he, too, at first thought it might be a good idea—he loved reading travel books, after all. But then Rimsky-Korsakov was seduced by music. He'd made the acquaintance of the eminent Russian composers of his day, lost interest in a naval career, and dreamed of composing music himself. The young midshipman’s tour of duty did enable him to hear a lot of it and to sample opera performances in London and New York. But what made the biggest impression on the budding composer was the sky below the Equator. “Wonderful days and nights,” he wrote. “The marvelous dark-azure of the day would be replaced by a fantastic phosphorescent night. The tropical night sky over the ocean is the most amazing thing in the world.” It’s perhaps not too fanciful to believe that such impressions helped Rimsky-Korsakov develop into one of the most inventive and masterful painters of symphonic colors and instrumental effects. Music Played in Today's Program Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992) Turangalila Symphony Tristan Murail, Ondes Martenot; Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond. Sony 53473 On This Day Births 1881 - Russian composer Nikolai Miaskovsky, in the fortress of Novo-Georgiyevsk (now Modlin), Poland (Julian date: April 8); Deaths 1869 - German song composer Karl Loewe, age 72, in Kiel; Premieres 1910 - Ravel: "Ma Mère l'oye" (Mother Goose) for piano four-hands, in Paris, by two young female pianists, at the first concert of the newly-formed "Société musicale indépedante"; On the same program was the premiere of Gabriel Fauré's "Le Chanson d'Eve" with the composer at the piano; 1979 - George Perle: Concertino for Piano, Winds, and Timpani, by Morey Ritt and the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, Ralph Shapey conducting; 1983 - Thomas Oboe Lee: "Quartet on B-flat" for string quartet, at the Harvard Music Association in Beacon Hill, Mass., by the Manhattan String Quartet; 2001 - Danielpour: String Quartet, in Kansas City, Mo., by the American String Quartet; 2002 - Michael Torke: "Song of Isaiah"for voice and chamber ensemble, at the Milwaukee Art Museum by the Present Music Ensemble, with the composer conducting; Others 1759 - Burial of Handel in Westminster Abbey, London; 1928 - In Paris, the first public demonstration of an electronic instrument invented by Maurice Martenot called the "Ondes musicales"; The instrument later came to be called the "Ondes Martenot," and was included in scores by Milhaud, Messiaen, Jolivet, Ibert, Honegger, Florent Schmitt and other 20th century composers. Links and Resources On the "Ondes Martenot"
2 minutes | 18 days ago
Violin Concerto No. 2 by George Tsontakis
A concerto, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is “a piece for one or more soloists and orchestra with three contrasting movements.” And for most Classical Music fans, “concerto” means one of big Romantic ones by Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, works in which there is a kind of dramatic struggle between soloist and orchestra. But on today’s date in 2003, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and its concertmaster Stephen Copes premiered a Violin Concerto that didn’t quite fit that mold. For starters, it had FOUR movements, and this Violin Concerto No. 2 by American composer George Tsontakis was more “democratic” than Romantic–meaning the solo violinist seems to invite the other members of the orchestra to join in the fun, rather than hogging all the show. This concerto is more like a friendly, playful game than a life-and-death contest, and Tsontakis even titles his second movement “Gioco” or “Games.” The new Concerto proved a winner, being selected for the prestigious 2005 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Even so, George Tsontakis confesses to being a little shy when sitting in the audience as his music is played, knowing full well, he says, that most people came to hear the Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, and not him.
2 minutes | 19 days ago
Bernstein's Fancy Free
It was on today’s date in 1944 that the ballet “Fancy Free”–with music Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Jerome Robbins–was first staged by the Ballet Theater at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. It was a big hit. Bernstein himself conducted, and alongside Robbins took some 20 curtain calls. “The ballet is strictly wartime America, 1944,” wrote Bernstein, “The curtain rises on a street corner with a lamp post, a side-street bar, and New York skyscrapers making a dizzying backdrop. Three sailors explode onto the stage. They are on 24-hour shore leave in the city and on the prowl for girls. The tale of how they meet first one, then a second girl, and how they fight over them, lose them, and in the end take off after still a third, is the story of the ballet.” In a curious parallel to the stage action described by Bernstein, the ballet had been first pitched to composer Morton Gould, who said he was too busy, then to Vincent Persichetti, who in turn suggested Bernstein as a third, and perhaps better choice to produce a more hip, jazzy, and danceable score.
2 minutes | 20 days ago
Hugo Wolf and the Wagner-Brahms Wars
On today’s date in 1887, readers of the Wiener Salonblatt, a fashionable Viennese weekly artspaper, could enjoy the latest critical skirmish in the Brahms-Wagner wars. At the close of the 19th century, traditionalist partisans of the Symphonies, Sonatas, and String Quartets of Johannes Brahms rallied around the conservative Viennese music critic, Eduard Hanslick. In the opposing camp were equally passionate admirers of the music dramas of Richard Wagner and the symphonic tone poems of Frans Liszt, works this camp defined as “the music of the future.” The April 17, 1887 edition of the Wiener Salonblatt contained a review of a chamber music program presented by the Rosé Quartet, Vienna’s premiere chamber ensemble in those days. Here’s what the critic had to say: “What was provided on this occasion was not to our taste: Brahms–no small dose of sleeping powder for weak nerves. Such programming reeks of lethal intent and should really be forbidden by the police!” That review was penned by Hugo Wolf, these days more famous as a composer than as a music critic, and regarded one of the greatest song composers of the 19th century after Schubert, Schumann—and Brahms!
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