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Posted on Sunday, September 05, 2004

06 September 2004, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM, streaming online at
onday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 06 September 04

Good Afternoon, Lovers of Fine Music, and welcome to Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, where we will hear the best of 20th and 21st century music as well as interviews with occasional guests. Before we begin our program, let’s hear what Liberty Green has to tell us on her weekly Arts and Culture Calendar.

As always, Liberty, we all thank you for the time and effort you have put into producing the WJFF Arts and Culture calendar.

CD 1: Bands 1,2,3: John Adams (*1947, Worcester, MA): Violin Concerto (1993): Gidon Kremer violin; London Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano, conductor. 79360-2.

In his book Minimalists, K. Robert Schwarz
begins his section on John Adams by noting that the composer has observed that he "grew up in a household where Benny Goodman and Mozart were not separated." (Phaidon Press Limited, 1996, 170.) Schwarz’s point is that Adams has always been open "to every variety of music," and, in fact, that the very term "post-minimalism" [was] invented to describe Adams’s eclectic vocabulary." Anyone who has followed Adams’s career and listened to his compositions – knows the plain sense of Schwarz’s encomium. No matter what form Adams composes in, he surprises his listeners with his amazing ability to reach into different genres and produce music that is complete within itself and, in my opinion, invariably irresistible to the ear and the mind. In his liner notes, John Adams writes, "The Violin Concerto is clearly the product of a "post-Minimalist" epoch, one in which a simple, clearly defined language has given way to another of greater synthesis. The territory it inhabits is far more dangerous, but also more fertile, more capable of expressive depth and emotional flexibility. Although I didn’t intend it as such," adds the composer, "it strikes me now as a quintessential ‘fin du siècle’ work, one that is more retrospective and reflective rather than provocative and experimental." (Liner Notes, 3-4). It is also a piece that demonstrates the accuracy of both Schwarz’s and Adams’s reflections.

Let’s begin today’s program by listening to John Adams’s 1993 Violin Concerto, performed by Gidon Kremer with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kent Nagano.

Time: 1. [a quarter note] = 78 14’56
2. Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows 11’30
3. Toccare 07’36

Total time: 34’03

Violinist Gidon Kremer and the London Symphony Orchestra performed John Adams’s Violin Concerto under the baton of Kent Nagano.

CD 2: Bands 14-16: Elliott Carter http://www/ (*1908, NY): Sonata for flute, oboe, violoncello, and harpsichord (1952). Michael Faust, flute; Christian Hommel, oboe, Johannes Wohlmacher, ‘cello; Ilton Wjuniski, harpsichord. CPO 999 453-2.

In his indispensable book The Music of Elliott Carter, David Schiff argues that the form of Carter’s Sonata for flute, oboe, violoncello, and harpsichord (1952)"was determined by its instrumentation, quoting the composer as follows:

My idea was to stress as much as possible the vast and wonderful array of tone-colors available on the modern harpsichord . . . The three other instruments were used for the most part as a frame for the harpsichord. This aim of using the wide variety of the harpsichord involved many tone-colors which can only be produced very softly and therefore conditioned very drastically the type and range of musical expression, all the details of shape, phrasing, rhythm, texture, as well as the large form. At that time (in 1952, before the harpsichord had made its way into pop) it seemed very important to have the harpsichord speak in a new voice, expressing characters unfamiliar to its extensive Baroque repertory. (Cornell University Press, 2nd edition, 112-3. Quoted from Elliott Carter: Collected Essays and Lectures 1937-1995, edited by Jonathan Bernard (Rochester, 1997) 231).

I first came across this incredible piece at a concert given by The Weekend of Chamber Music several years ago. I was fortunate to have attended an open rehearsal/discussion of the piece the night before the performance. However, I believe that the dedicated listener will find ways of not only understanding but quite enjoying the piece, which is performed on a CPO CD by Michael Faust, flute; Christian Hommel, oboe, Johannes Wohlmacher, ‘cello; Ilton Wjuniski, harpsichord. CPO 999 453-2. The piece is written in three movements.

Time: 14. Risoluto 03’33
15. Lento 06’38
16. Allegro 05’49

Total time: 16’00

Running time: 50’03

Michael Faust, flute; Christian Hommel, oboe, Johannes Wohlmacher, ‘cello; Ilton Wjuniski, harpsichord performed Elliott Carter’s 1952 Sonata. The piece appears on a CD that is called Elliott Carter – Chamber Music for winds CPO 999 453-2.

CD 3: Band 5: Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (*1933, Czernica, Poland): String Quartet No. 1, "Already It Is Dusk," Op. 62 (1988). The Silesian String Quartet: Marek Moś and Arkadiusz Kubica, violins; Łukasz Syrnicki, viola; Piotr Janosik, ‘cello. Olympia OCD 375.

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki is one of the musical phenomena of the 20th century. Norman Lebrecht, in his provocative book Who Killed Classical Music credits "this humble Pole from Katowice" with "turning the world’s most sophisticated merchandising machine [the recording industry] on its head and teaching it the virtue of simple things." (Carol Publishing Group, Seacaucus, NJ, 1998. 289. Lebrecht’s point is that as a result of Górecki’s religious commitment, he composed music that "defied every tenet of record industry faith" by doing in 1993 what [n]o living symphonist had" accomplished since Shostakovich, that is, selling not only tens of thousands of copies of his Third Symphony, but, in fact, nearly a million." Lebrecht continues, "For the record industry . . . it was nothing less than a revelation. In the . . . winter of 1992-3, the classical music business found God in a record store." (290). The popularity of post-modern religious music in the latter 20th century is not something I’m prepared to go into at this point, but it certainly exists to this day. We're going to broadcast a piece that Górecki composed several years before his Third Symphony, namely his first string quartet (1988), Op. 62, subtitled “Already It Is Dark.” The piece, as the Liner Notes tell us, “is based on material from a song by Wacław of Szamotuły from the first half of the 16th century . . . and closes with a quotation from this song.” (6) We’ll hear it performed by The Silesian String Quartet: Marek Moś and Arkadiusz Kubica, violins; Łukasz Syrnicki, viola; Piotr Janosik, ‘cello. Olympia OCD 375.

Time: 5. String Quartet No 1 16’45

Running time: 64’48

Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s String Quartet No. 1, Already It Is Dusk, was performed on Olympia CD 375 by The Silesian String Quartet.

CD4: Bands 1-4: David Del Tredici (*1937, Cloverdale, CA): Steps for Orchestra (1990). New York Philharmonic Zubin Mehta, conductor. New World Records 80390-2

It’s been too many years since David Del Tredici appeared on Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Perhaps we’ll be able to convince him it’s time for another visit. David composed Steps for Orchestra in 1990. Here’s what Del Tredici has to say about his piece: "Massive and grandiose, violent and raucous, Steps moves like an enormous procession across half an hour’s time. The single arching movement divides into four sections. ‘Giant Steps" begins a somber forward march. ‘The Two-Step’ is boisterous – a contrasting, clattering dance. ‘Giant Giant Steps,’ a climactic recapitulation, is full of furious activity, while ‘Stepping Down,’ the coda-finale, brings some measure of serenity. The ending itself is equivocal." Del Tredici continues by quoting a friend: "Steps is music written for the Easter Island statues, should they decide to walk." We hear it performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta, on a New World Records CD 80390-2.

Time: 1. Giant Steps 07’27
2. The Two-Step 07’20
3. Giant Giant Steps 09’33
4. Stepping Down 06’14

Total time: 30’34

Total running time: 95’22
David Del Tredici’s Steps was performed by Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic on a New World Records CD.

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard John Adams’ Violin Concerto; Elliott Carter’s Sonata for flute, oboe, violoncello, and harpsichord; Henryk Górecki’s String Quartet No. 1, "Already It Is Dark"; and David Del Tredici’s Steps. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s program and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th century and contemporary "classical" music. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!

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