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Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2005

31 January 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM, streaming on line
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 24 January 05


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 classical 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.

CD1: Disc 2, Band 7: Isang Yun (1917, Tongyong, S. Korea – 1995, Berlin?): Gasa for violin and piano (1963): Hanscheinz Schneeberger, violin; Thomas Larcher, piano. Thomas Demenga ECM New Series 1782/1783 461862-2

Recently, I came into possession of a 2002 ECM New Series release called, simply, Thomas Demenga, after the ‘cellist who is featured on the two CD set, which contains several pieces not only by Isang Yun, but also by his sometime pupil, the Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. What an ear opener! I can hardly wait to share them with you! Oswald Beaujean (translated by Bradford J. Robinson), in a superb set of liner notes, provides us with some real insight into just what Yun is up to in the 1963 piece we are about to broadcast, Gasa: Moving out of the 12 tone tradition which he had first worked in in the early 1960s, Yun begins to examine the Sino-Korean tradition and to develop "the technique of ‘main tones’ or ‘main sonorities’ that would eventually . . . form the cornerstone of Yun’s music and a key principle of his compositional technique. . . . The significance of ‘main tones’ goes beyond compositional technique. Yun viewed them in the Taoist tradition as a symbol of the microcosm in the macrocosm, of the particular that dissolves into the immutable whole, of motion in motionlessness – as a symbol of the relation between yin and yang, the twin poles in the all-encompassing Tao.

"This precept, rather than splitting the world into opposites and contradictions, views it as a polarized entity which is, nonetheless, ultimately harmonious, holistic, and at one with itself. It is this precept that also determines the internal structure of Yun’s works, which alternate between stability and instability, calm and agitation. Gasa, a piece for violin and piano written in 1963 and premièred in Prague that same year, thrives on this polarity. Yun once referred to his music as ‘nothing but a continuous repetition of yin-yang principles.’ Gaza is a prime example of what he means." (Liner Notes) I have not yet been able to discover what, if anything, the title Gasa means.

Time: Disc 2, band 7: Gasa 12’50

CD 2: Band 1: Toshio Hosokawa (* 1955, Hiroshima),8dd9aeac3d7.html : In die Tiefe der Zeit (1994/6) for violoncello and accordion: Thomas Demenga, ‘cello; Teodoro Anzellotti, accordion. Thomas Demenga ECM New Series 1782/1783 461862-2.

As I mentioned earlier, Toshio Hosokawa studied under Isang Yun beginning in 1976, going to Berlin specifically for that purpose. Beaujean writes in his liner notes: "In no time at all, Yun became more to [Hosokawa] than just a composition teacher: Hosokawa himself, in a beautifully written obituary, depicts him as a sort of father figure. . . [I]t was with Yun that [he] began ‘to think, for the first time, about the meaning of being an Asian and the meaning of the music created by Asians.’ Most of all, the encounter with Yun deepened an extra-musical awareness in the young Japanese composer that would become of crucial importance to his music: ‘My eyes were gradually opened to the unhappy political relations between Japan and Korea and the political problems [Yun] was struggling for. It was this situation,’ continues Hosokawa, ‘that witnessed my birth as a composer.’"

Beaujean notes that in "Hosokawa’s understanding of music and art . . . ‘Nature’ is the key word." The Japanese composer's "music probes the dialectic between sound and silence. It is a stance that the composer is fond of capturing from an enigmatic haiku by his beloved poet, Basho: ‘Silence/seeps deep into the stony crag/the chirping of cicadas.’
"One work that releases just such associations of a landscape teeming with cicadas is In die Tiefe der Zeit (‘Into the Depths of Time’). It was originally written for ‘cello, accordion, and string orchestra and then in the version for ‘cello and accordion" that we are about to hear (both versions premiered in 1994). Hosokawa has referred to it as a ‘mythical soundscape’ and also as a ‘landscape painting.’ The latter description is thoroughly tongue-in-cheek, for his aim was not to paint a landscape in notes, but ‘to listen deep into each and every note and sonority and to "grope" vertically through the "landscape of the given sound" in all its shades and hues.’" A new world opens up for me with these pieces!

Time: Disc 1, Band 1: In die Tiefe der Zeit 21’08

Running time: 33’58

CD 3: Band 6: Alan Hovhaness (1911, Somerville, MA – 2000, Seattle) Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints Op. 211 (1965): Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor; Ron Johnson, marimba. Delos International DE 3168.

Having begun our program today with pieces by the Korean composer, Isang Yun, and his Japanese student, Toshio Hosokawa, I thought it might be interesting – and fun – to continue with a piece by Alan Hovhaness, a composer of Armenian descent, who was born in Somverville, MA, not far from where I grew up, in 1911. Neil Stannard writes about today’s selection, Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints: Inspired by wood-block prints from old Japan, Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints, etches musical mood pictures ranging from the most intricately delicate to the grand and ceremonial. There are, in the composer’s words, ‘touches of humorous, clown-like vignettes. A crescendo in free rhythm ushers in a wild festival scene. The modern orchestra at times imitates an orchestra of ancient instruments with microtonal slides. No folk, no traditional melodies are used. All melodies are original creations of the composer. They are evocations of his love for Japan, its extraordinary art and vitality." (Liner notes)

I think it is most interesting to juxtapose the music of two Asian composers, one of whom settled in Germany, the other who studied there, with the music of an American composer who became enamored of an Asian culture. East hears West; West hears East.

Time: 6. Fantasy on Japanese woodprints 14’18

Running time: 48’16

CD 4: Bands 5-8: Eugène Ysaÿe (1858, Liège – 1931, Brussels) Sonata No. 2, in A Minor for Jacques Thibaud (?). Thomas Zehetmair, violin. ECM New Series 1835 CD B0003038-02.

Eugène Ysaÿe achieved great fame as a violinist and conductor. His compositional output was relatively small, but a recent release by ECM New Series suggests that his works are definitely worth listening to and becoming familiar with. The Belgian musician wrote a cycle of six violin sonatas during the years 1923-24. The second of these, which we’ll hear presently, he dedicated to the great French violinist, Jacques Thibaud (1880, Bordeaux – 1953, Mt. Cemet – he died in an airplane crash en route to French Indochina) who played with Alfrend Cortot and Pablo Cassals in a famous trio from 1930-35. . . " (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians, 1378) In his liner notes, Paul Griffiths suggests that Ysaÿe had the three violin sonatas and three partitas of Bach and the twenty-four caprices of Paganini in mind when he wrote his six violin sonatas. It is not difficult to discover the influence of both composers on Ysaÿe here. Thomas Zehetmair performs Ysaÿe’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor on an ECM New Series CD. Sonata No. 2 in A Minor dedicated to Jacques Thibaud.

Time: 5: Obsession ("Dies Irae") 02’28
6. Malinconia 03’04
7. Danse des ombres 04’12
8. Les furies 02’54

Total time: 12’39

Running time: 60’55

CD 5: Band 1: György Ligeti ( *1923, Târnaveni, Hungary): Requiem for soprano and mezzo-soprano solo, twomixed choirs and orchestra (1963-5): Liliana Poli, soprano; Barbro Ericson, mezzo; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Wolfgang Schubert, director; Symphony Orchestra of Hesse Radio Frankfurt,, Michael Gielen, conductor. György Ligeti Wergo CD WER 60 045-50.

György Ligeti is certainly one of the best known, and perhaps most admired composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. The piece we are gong to hear next, his Requiem, "made a powerful imporession at its Stockholm premier in 1965, and it went on to win the Bonn Beethoven Prize in 1967." (Website). It is a piece of significant mood swings, beginning with what Harold Kaufman refers to as a "gently flowing motion" which is "violently rent in the second half as the orchestral instruments suddenly bring certain supporting notes to an end in the fortissimo. . . This is the kernel of the composition: a Dies Irae of great dramatic, even theatrical movement, constructed in numerous, contrasting sections. (Liners notes) Please be prepared for some perhaps rather unexpected, at first, piercing vocalizations! One thing is for sure: Ligeti is never dull, never boring, always demanding, always interesting, always, in my opinion, fulfilling.

Time: 1. Requiem 26’41

Running time: 87’36

CD 6: Band 1: Bernadette V. Brennan (?): Lotus and Porcelain (?): Lyrics by composer. C. Chan, mezzo; D. Krohn, baritone; S. T. Hsu, harp. Recent Works Private imprint.

I am indebted to a good friend for providing me with the last piece we’ll air today, composition by Bernadette V. Brennan entitled Lotus and Porcelain. We featured several pieces today that displayed both western and eastern influences. Brennan’s piece is another example of the west looking towards the east. It is definitely reflective of contemporary Chinese "classical" music. I hope to interview Bernadette Brennan this year.

Time: Lotus and Porcelain 04’51

Total running time: 93’27

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Isang Yun’s Gasa; Toshio Hosokawa’s Into the Depths of Time; Alan Hovhaness’ Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints; Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 2; György Ligeti’s Requiem; and Bernadette Brennan’s Lotus and Porcelain. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th and 21st century "classical" music. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!

:: :: ::

Posted on Sunday, January 23, 2005

24 January 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM EST, streaming online
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 24 January 05

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 classical 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.

CD1: Band 8: Isang Yun (1917, Tongyong, S. Korea – 1995, Berlin?): Novellette for Flute (Alto Flute) and Harp with Violin (1980): Astrid Schmeling, flutes; Eva Pressl, harp; Heinrich Hörlein, violin; Karl-Hermann Jellinek, ‘cello. Isang Yun Chamber Music Lart pour L’art: CPO 999 118-2.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to begin a search for as many of Isang Yun’s recorded compositions as I could find. Last week, while on a trip to the city, I managed to get hold of several I did not previously own, acquisitions which delight me, as I will be able to share my enthusiasm for more of Yun’s works with our listeners.

With that in mind, let’s begin today’s program with a 1980 composition which Yun called Novelette, a chamber piece for flute and alto flute, harp, violin, and ‘cello. Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer’s liner notes, nicely translated by Susan Marie Praeder, tell us that the title of this piece, Novelette, "refers to a short narrative which may involve free association. Yun’s individualized . . . instrumentation . . . points to the different weighting of sound layers. The flute is the protagonist, the harp’s obbligato accompaniment links it to the flute, and the strings provide the tone-color background. . . . Novelette [alternates] action and contemplation and . . . trance and ecstasy." In addition to providing the listener with a superb piece of chamber music, written for an unusual combination of instruments, Narrative once again demonstrates the immense range and variety of Yun’s compositional interests and abilities.

Time: 8. Novelette 16’28

CD 2: Band 1: Bruce Broughton (?): Bounce for bassoon, double string quartet and bass: Allen Savedoff, bassoon; Nico Abondolo, bass; Andrew Shulman and Armen Ksajikian, ‘cellos; Roland Kato and Victoria Miskolczy, violas; Josefina Vergara, Miwako Watanabe, and Phillipa Clarke, violins; Belinda Broughton, concertmaster; Bruce Broughton, conductor. Savoir Faire Capstone Records CPS 8740.

Let’s turn from the stylish, European influenced Yun chamber piece to an unmistakably American piece for bassoon, double string quartet, and bass by Bruce Broughton, a composer whom I have just learned about thanks to a recently issued CD entitled Savoir Faire. Broughton, whose website bio is a bit reticent about revealing dates, is nonetheless probably somewhat familiar to all of us if only because of the extremely wide range of his compositional interests which, as his website points out, encompasses "every medium, from theater, motion pictures, television and computer games, to the concert stage, in styles ranging from large symphonic settings to contemporary electronic scores."

His film scores include Silverado, Young Sherlock Holmes, Lost in Space, Tombstone, Miracle on 34th Street (the more recent one, natch), Honey I blew up the Kid, and two Homeward Bound adventures. And I have not named all of them by any means. "His score for Heart of Darkness was the first orchestral score composed for a video game" (eat your heart out, Joseph Conrad!) (cf. website). This is a composer I have to become more familiar with, and I will.
The anonymous liner notes inform us that Bruce Broughton, who conducts the piece we are about to hear, Bounce, composed it for this CD. The notes continue, "Known for his film and television scores, Broughton shows his compositional mastery in this fast, energetic, jazzy piece. As he says, ‘'The bouncing idea is carried mostly by the string ensemble that jumps, slides, cavorts, and bounces from one string quartet to the other. The bassoon provides the primary "bounce" by a light and jaunty line that rarely rests.’ So . . . hop on, hold on, and enjoy the ride!" (Liner notes)

Time: 1. Bounce 08’04

Running time: 24’32

CD 3: Bands 2-7: Thea Musgrave (*1928, Edingurgh, Scotland) : Black Tambourine (1987): The New York Virtuoso Singers; Harold Rosenbaum, conductor; Walter Hilse, piano’ Richard Fitz and Rex Benincasa, percussion. Thea Musgrave Choral Works Bridge 9191

Thea Musgrave, who was born in Scotland, but who has been a resident of the United States since 1972, and who gained wide public attention with her opera Mary Queen of Scots (1977), wrote the song cycle we are about to hear, Black Tambourine, in 1986. Malcolm MacDonald’s superb liner notes tell us that Musgrave "composed Black Tambourine . . . in . . . 1986. . . [in a] sequence of six poems by Hart Crane, from his collection White Buildings (1926)." When I listen to these pieces, I am aware of a musical voice that in no way sounds like any other I have ever heard. Indeed, there seems to be no separation whatsoever of the vocal line from the instrumental composition. My thanks to my friends at Bridge Records for providing me with this CD!

Time: 2. I North Labrador 02’54
3. II Legend 02’47
4. III Black Tambourine 01’38
5. IV My Grandmother’s Letters 03’47
6. V Pastorale 01’56
7. VI Repose of Rivers 05’05

Total time: 18’07

Running time: 42’31

CD 4, #3: Bands 1-4: Roger Hannay (*1930, Plattsburg, NY): Symphony No. 7, The University of North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, Tonu Kalam, conductor. The Symphonies of Roger Hannay.

A couple of years ago, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Roger Hannay – and gaining a good friend in the process. Roger, who was born in Pottsdam, NY, is "Professor Emeritus of the faculty at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Here's what Roger has to say about his 7th symphony:

Composed immediately after my retirement from the University of North Carolina in 1995, I began my 7th Symphony in the fall of that year and finished it in the winter of 1996. As I composed it, it became apparent that it was evolving into an extended work in one movement containing four sections without pause. As with all sectional one-movement symphonies, the continuous flow of the orchestral textures from each section to the next presents difficult perceptive problems for the listeners some of whom may need several hearings to satisfactorily work out the structure of the successive sections within the whole work.

Much of the tone of this work is dark and brooding, and finally at the end deeply nostalgic, with quiet far-away memory of my very first composition written in the fall of 1944. The orchestration is for large ' classical’ orchestra, rather like Noah's Ark, two of everything with a few extras.

At the time of its composition it was my expressed and professed intention that it was to be my last and final work. But as has occurs to many artists now and before this the interference of an insistent muse later appeared, and in spite of my strong reluctance, other works have followed, two symphonies and an orchestral essay, just completed. Best laid plans often go awry with creative artists as will as with everybody else.

Time: 1. Largamente 03'35
2. Allegretto 04'48
3. Adagio 07'18
4. Allegro 06'41

Total time: 22'22

Running time: 63’264'53

CD 5: Bands 16-21: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872, Gloucestershire – 1958, London): Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus (1939): BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Leslie Hatfield, leader/director. BBC Music Magazine CD Vol. 13, No.6.

The minute you hear the first few measures of our next composition, you will recognize the lush sounds that herald Rafe Vaughan Williams. Today’s selection, made available by BBC Magazine, give us the opportunity to hear Williams’s ability to work with a folk tune, in this case, Dives and Lazarus, which "Williams had first come across in 1893." BBC’s liner notes, written by Malcolm Hayes, continue, "A folk tune naturally takes on new and changing shapes and moods as it wanders from one region, and one generation, to another. These continuously played ‘Variants’ are therefore not standard ‘Variations’ on the tune Dives and Lazarus . . . but, as the composer put it, ‘reminiscences of various versions in my own collection and those of others.’" The word "Dives," by the way, is pronounced "dye'vees" (accented on the first syllable), comes from Luke, and means any rich man, according to my Shorter OED.

Time: 16. Introduction and theme 03’34
17. Variant I 01’09
18. Variant II 02’03
19. Variant III 01’46
20. Variant IV 01’04
21. Variant V 02’38

Total time: 12’14

Running time: 76'67

CD 6: Bands 2,3: Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (*1947, Baku, Azerbaijan): Oasis (1998): Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Jennifer Culp, ‘cello. Nonesuch 79804-2.

We can thank Kronos for making it possible for us to hear some of the music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, who was born in Baku, Aserbaijan, in 1947, and who was able to thwart the Soviet authorities’ distaste for "bourgeois, decadent" music and discover, and perform, the piano music of composers such as Messiaen, Crumb, and Cage (liner notes). The CD which contains the quartet we are about to hear, is called Mugam Sayagi. A mugam is a "sophisticated genre of Azerbaijani music that" captured Ali-Zadeh’s musical imagination and led, among other compositions, to Oasis for string quartet. Greg Dubinsky discusses Oasis as follows: "Yearning, a characteristic motif in Azerbaijani poetry, is at the heart of Ali-Zadeh’s second quartet for Kronos, Oasis. As she puts it: ‘An oasis is a quiet place of refuge, which everyone dreams about when weary from life’s tumults. It is a land of repose, beauty, and prosperity. Travelers . . . dream about oases, exhausted from the intense heat in the endless desert.’ The parched pizzicati and whistling harmonics that open the work conjure up this emotional desolation. In a gradual, painstaking detailed transition worthy of Berg, these fragments coalesce into broad melodies, evoking the lovelorn ghazels of Azerbaijani song. As the melodic material takes on an increasingly earthly cast, the music darkens. Tenebrous, somber cadences in the viola and ‘cello punctuate the center of the work. The inarticulate murmur of men’s voices complement anguished cries in the violins and ‘cello. from this pit of despondence a miracle occurs: shimmering chords glisten with the promise of luxurious repose. The this vision proves to be illusory, a fata morgana: the chords dissolve into a hollow fifth and the bone-dry pizzicati continue their futile tapping." (Liner notes). I’ve quoted this at length because my ears hear something quite different from Greg Dubinsky’s: at the beginning, pitted against the pizzicati, I hear water, evocative of an oasis. Furthermore, I hear it again at the end. Am I missing something? These pizzicati seem anything but "bone-dry" to me! What do you think?

In any case, this CD is an extraordinary find as far as I am concerned. And, I am happy to say, the remaining pieces on this CD are each more wonderful than the other. More to come!

Time: 1. Oasis 13’19
Total running time: 90'26
Well, there you have it: a sampling of the incredible variety of "classical" music written in the past 105 years. We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Isang Yun’s Novelette; Bruce Broughton’s Bounce; Thea Musgrave’s Black Tambourine; Roger Hannay’s Symphony No. 7; Rafe Vaughan Williams’s Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus; and Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Oasist. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th and 21st century "classical" music and beyond. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!

:: :: ::

Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2005

17 January 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM, streaming online
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 17 January 05

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 classical music as well as interviews with occasional guests.

There is no Arts and Culture Calendar today, so we'll go right into our program.

Today is the official birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr In fact, he was born on January 15, 1929, which means he would have been 76 years old on Saturday. I dedicate today’s program to the memory of Mr. King, whose "I have a dream" speech I had the honor of being present at on August 28, 1963.

CD 1: Bands 1,2: William Grant Still (1895, Woodville, MI – 1978, LA): Introduction by Deems Taylor; Lenox Avenue (1937?). The CBS Symphony Orchestra (1938); Howard Barlow, conductor; Juano Hernandez, reader; Verna Arvey, text. Cambria CD – 1121.

We’ll begin our tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., with a composition that is certainly one of the signature works of William Grant Still, whose daughter Judith I had the privilege of interviewing several yers ago, Lenox Avenue, introduced by the great Deems Taylor. Tony Thomas’s liner notes have this to say about the piece: "Lenox Avenue is perhaps the most remarkable of Still’s works, since it brought together so many of the elements that characterized his output. With a text by Verna Arvey, the composer’s wife, the piece required dramatic and descriptive music, along with narration, choral passages, and dances. Originally commissioned by CBS Radio in 1937, it was transformed into a stage work the following year and given its premiere by the Dance Theatre of Los Angeles. Fusing drama with spiritual-like chants and jazz idioms, Lenox Avenue is pure Americana and one that had great influence. Set in Harlem in the mid-1930s, the score is marked into [the following] sections: The Crap Game. The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law; Dance of the Boys; Dance of the Man from Down South; The Old Man (The Philosopher); The Mission; The House Rent Party; The Orator; Finale. The performance is from 1938 with the CBS Symphony Orchestra conducted by Howard Barlow.

Time: 1. Introduction by Deems Taylor 01’06
2. Lenox Avenue 23’08

Total time: 24’14

CD2: Bands 18-33: Robert Owens (*1925, Denison, TX): Borderline (1970): 16 song cycle: Langston Hughes, poet; Oral Moses, bass-baritone; George Morrison Bailey, piano. Albany Records, Troy 459

I have been able to find very little information about our next composer, Robert Owens. For some reason, even the most up-to-date books I own about Black composers do not list him, although Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., does do a brief analysis of one of his songs in The Power of Black Music (Oxford University Press, New York, 1995 (244-6). The unsigned liner notes tell us this much: "Though born in Denison, Texas, and educated in Berkeley, California, Paris, and Vienna,, concert pianist, composer, and stage and television actor Robert Owens . . . has spent most of his career in Germany. While teaching at Albany State College in Georgia, he met poet Langston Hughes [who] gave him a short volume of his poems, entitled Fields of Wonder, challenging him to "see what he could do" in setting the texts to music. Owens’ response to that challenge [resulted]. . . in Heart on the Wall, and Tearless, both written for African-American singers, and the sixteen-song cycle Border Line," which we will hear in a moment or so. Owens friendship with bass-baritone Oral Moses resulted in this recording.

Time: 18. Borderline 00’45
19. Night 00’38
20. Dustbowl 01’50
21. Burden 01’22
22. One 00’51
23. Beale street 01’07
24. Gifts 00’42
25. Circles 00’52
26. Graveyard 01’10
27. Convent 01’32
28. Poppy Flower 00’35
29. Gypsy Melodies 00’53
30. Montmartre 00’55
31. Fragments 00’38
32. Desert 01’32
33. The End 01’11

Total time: 16’33

Running time: 40’47

CD 3: Bands 11-14: George Walker (*1922, Washington, DC): String Quartet No. 2 (1968). El Paso Festival Quartet: Movses [sic] Pogossian and Serena Canin, violins; Misha amory, viola; Jan-Müller-Szeraws, ‘cello. Summit Records Lilacs: The Music of George Walker. DCD 274 Recorded live in the First Baptist Church, El Paso, TX. No date given.

George Walker, whom I had the great pleasure of interviewing several years ago, composed his String Quartet No. 2 in 1968. According to Eileen Southern’s book, The Music of Black American – A History, Walker began his professional career as a concert pianist, studying at Oberlin, "the Curtis Institute of Music . . . where he studied with Rudolf Serkin . . . ; and the American Academy at Fontainebleau, France, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger." His mature style [is] distinctive for its fusion of contemporary elements, including serialism, with a predilection for classical forms – this in combination with rhythmic complexities and concern for melodic expressiveness. His music reflects the influence of jazz and black idioms, sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly. (W.W.Norton and Co., Inc, 1997 (549-50). The piece we will hear in a moment, his String Quartet No. 2, is recognizably mid-20th century Amarican.

Time: 11. Lento 01’34
12. Allegro assai 07’07
13. Andante 04’07
14. Adagio 05’44

Total time: 18’32

Running time: 59’19

CD 4: Band 6: Kevin A. G. George (?, New Orleans): Organ Suite (?). Lucius Weathersby, organist, the 1864 "Father" Willis Organ, St. Michael & All Angels Church, Great Torrington, Devon, England. Albany Records Troy 440.
Although this Albany Records production does provide some basic liner notes about our next composer, Kevin A. G. George, it neglects to give us any dates whatsoever, an egregious fault as far as I am concerned. As I’ve said many times, in my next life, I am going to be in charge of all liner note booklets. Heads will roll! Kevin George was born in New Orleans – we learn that much! In 2001, he was on the faculty of Delgado University, New Orleans, LA. He wrote his Suite for Organ to fulfill a commission by the organist, Lucius Weathersby. Despite the lack of basic information about it, the piece is certainly an interesting piece in three movements - Prelude, Adagio, and Fantasia. The liner notes suggest that the first movement will have us all guessing where the tonality will rest. It is a cleanly written piece that appears less complex on first listening than it really is. Weathersby is a wonder at the organ.

Time: 6. Suite for Organ 13’48

Running time: 73’07

CD 5: Bands 23,24,25: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875, London – 1912, Croydon): Valse-Suite, Op. 71 (1909?). Monica Gaylord, piano. Music and Arts CD 737.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor lived out his 37 short years in England, where he was born. According to the pianist, Monica Gaylord, who provided the liner notes, Coleridge-Taylor was significantly inspired by Antonin Dvorák, "who incorporated Czech folk elements in his works. Coleridge-Taylor, in turn, utilized African and Negro themes, especially spirituals, in much of his music.

"Coleridge-Taylor’s harmonies are 19th –century romantic. His melodies are strongly individualistic with a tendency to insist on some figure or phrase, and the moods he can created range from deep tenderness to barbaric splendor. Such is the case with the piano pieces of the Valse-Suite, op. 71. From the collection of six waltzes, the three [we will hear] rep;resent a small taste of his dynamic musical personality.
He wrote these waltzes in 1909 I think.

Time: 23. Allegro molto 01’42
24. Andante 03’55
25. Allegro assai 03’10

Total time: 08’47

Running time: 81’54

CD6: Bands 16-22: Harry Thacker Burleigh (1866, Erie, PA – 1949, Stamford, CT): Saracen Songs (1914). Dina Cancryn Foy, soprano; Polly Brecht, piano. DCF Records.
Let’s finish today’s remembrance and tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., with a song cycle by Harry Thacker Burleigh called Saracen Songs, a group of songs that makes clear just why Burleigh, who was born in 1866 in Erie, PA, the grandson of a slave, was so popular as a song writer during his lifetime. The pieces in this cycle are melodically beautiful and transparent. David N. Baker ends his liner notes by discussing the final song in this seven part cycle, "Ahmed’s Song of Farewell": "The song itself," he writes, "though well-constructed, is somewhat predictable and it is to Ms. Foy’s credit that she makes it soar." I’m not so sure she comes down cleanly on that last note. What do you think? Regardless, the songs are lovely and charming in my opinion.

Time: 16: Almona 02’01
17. O, Night of dream and Wonder 01’23
18. His Helmet’s Blaze 00’30
19. I hear his footsteps, music sweet 01’35
20. Thou art weary 01’52
21. This is Nirvana 01’54
22. Ahmed’s Song of farewell 03’30

Total time: 12’45

Total running time: 94’39

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today’s program, dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., contained William Grant Still’s Lenox Avenue; Robert Owens’ Borderline; George Walker’s String Quartet No. 2; Kevin George’s Organ Suite; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Valse-Suite, Op. 71; and Harry Thacker Burleigh’s Saracen Songs. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed these selections and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th and 21st century "classical" music and beyond. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!

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Posted on Sunday, January 09, 2005

10 January 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM, streaming on line @
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 03 January 10

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 classical 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.

CD1 :Entire: Pēteris Vasks (*1946, Aizpute, Latvia) String Quartet No. 4 (1999). Kronos Quartet David Harrington and John Sherba,. Violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Jennifer Culp, ‘cello. Nonesuch CD 79695-2

Pēteris Vasks is a prolific composer who was born in Latvia in 1946 and who resides there yet. Vasks is an example of the very rich musical life that helps define the Baltic countries and their close neighbors, musicians who are only just becoming more than blips on the international radar scene, and who, in my opinion, deserve to be heard much more frequently than they are. I do not mean to imply that these wonderful composers form any kind of aesthetic group; merely that many of them deserve to be heard on their own merits.

Vasks wrote his own liner notes for the 2003 Kronos CD that is dedicated entirely to his String Quartet No. 4. They are worth considering:

"When I think about contemporary life, it’s impossible not to realize that we are balanced on the edge of time’s end. It’s frighteningly close. But is there any point to composing a piece that only mirrors our being one step away from extinction? To my mind, every honest composer searches for a way out of his time’s crises. Towards affirmation, towards faith. He shows how humanity can overcome this passion for self-annihilation that flares up in a column of black smoke from time to time. And if I can find this way out, a reason for hope, the outline of a perspective, then I offer it as my model.

"While working on the score of the Fourth String Quartet, I often reflected upon the passing century. My reflections were somber ones. There has been so much bloodshed and destruction, and yet love’s power and idealism have I wanted to speak of these things in my new quartet, not from the sidelines but with direct emotion and sensitivity." helped to keep the world in balance. I wanted to speak of these things in my new quartet, not from the sidelines but with direct emotion and sensitivity." (Liner notes)

Vasks wrote his String Quartet No. 4 in five movements; it "begins in silence, through which a motive from the Latvian folk song "Kas tie tādi, kas dziedāja?” (Who were they who sang?) is gradually heard. The introductory passage was inspired by distant, half-forgotten memories, tinged occasionally by the painful realization of time’s relentless passing.” (Liner notes)

Time: 1. Elegy 07’21
2. Toccata I 02’52
3. Chorale 06’26
4. Toccata II 03’48
5. Meditation 11’35
Total time: 32’10

CD 2: Bands 2,3,4: Arnold Rosner (*1945, NY): Sonata for French Horn and Piano (1979). Heidi Garson, French horn; Yolanda Liepa, piano. Albany Records, Troy 163

It’s probably been two or three years since I had the pleasure of having Arnold Rosner as our guest on Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf; I thoroughly enjoyed his compositions then, and I find myself more and more attracted to them as I replay them. Today, I thought we might listen to his 1979 Sonata for French Horn and Piano, Op. 71, a combination of instruments that is probably not terribly common in the history of Western Music, but that works uncommonly well in this piece. Here’s what Steve Schwarz writes on the website I’ve linked above:

"The French horn sonata starts out with a passacaglia (usually, melodic variations over a ground bass). It certainly feels like a passacaglia, but I have trouble grasping the entire theme. It really doesn't matter, because again Rosner plays a much harder game than merely filling a form: he battles for a listener's soul. The fourths and fifths in Rosner's language become solemn fanfares in the horn. It conjures up in my mind the ram's horn blown from high ramparts over the desert. The second movement is heady high spirits, with double- and triple-tonguing from the horn player and a nobly singing trio. In the slow finale, the horn sings soaring and beautiful thoughts. It's the kind of piece that's probably beyond another composer's envy. One doesn't say, Damn, I wish I'd written this, but I couldn't have written this, because I couldn't have thought of it. It's not a matter of acquiring the right technique, but of changing the person you are. Heidi Garson has mastered the difficulties of her part, but the pianist, Yolanda Liepa, overshadows her with some ravishing playing."

Time: 2. Lento: passacaglia 05’15
3. Allegro 03’53
4. Andante sostenuto 06’59
Total time: 16’07
Running time: 48’17

CD 3: Band 4: Edgard Varèse (1883, Paris – 1956, NY): Ecuatorial for bass, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, piano, organ, 2 Ondes Martinot, and 5 percussion. Thomas Paul, bass (1934). The Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Arthur Weisberg, conductor. Elektra Nonesuch 9-71269-2.

Edgard Varèse composed an incredibly small number of compositions, but "profoundly [influenced] the direction of new music." (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Music. David Dubal referes to him as one of the "exciting sound explorers" of the 20th century (The Essential Canon of Classical Music, North Point Press, New York. 2001, (5).)

Later, Dubal quotes Varèse as follows:

"I have always felt the need of new mediums of expression. I refuse to submit myself to sounds that have already been heard."

"In the early 1950s, with the advent of electronic reproduction, Varèse set to work . . ., calling himself ‘a worker of intensities, frequencies and rhythms." (659)

Indeed, the piece we are about to hear, his 1934 Equatorial, proves that Varèse was already experimenting with electronic sounds. The liner notes point out that "[p]articularly interesting is the use of two Ondes Martinot;" [which the Harvard Dictionary of Music refers to as "monophonic instruments," (1972 ed., (284) Robert P. Morgan continues, "like the text itself, they seem to represent voices from another civilization. After a dramatic entrance at the first climax, they gradually assume increasing prominence until they are finally left as the only instruments sounding."

Varèse, who moved to America in 1915, was nothing if not outspoken: "Art’s function is not to prove a formula or an esthetic dogma. Our academic rules were taken out of the living works of former masters. As Debussy (whom he knew) has said, works of art make rules but rules do not make works of art. Art exists only as a medium of expression. (Composers on Music – Eight Centuries of Writings, Ed. By Josiah Fisk. Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1997 (300).

Bass Thomas Paul sings the text, which is a "Spanish translation of a prayer from the sacred book of the Maya Quiché, the Popol Vuh." (Liner notes)

Time: 4. Equatorial 11’45
Running time: 52’02

CD 4: Bands 10-14: Shulamit Ran (*1949, Tel Aviv): O The Chimneys for voice, ensemble, and tape(1969). Lucy Shelton, voice; Mary Stolper, flute; John Bruce Yeh, clarinet, bass clarinet; Loren Brown, ‘cello; Christopher Oldfather, piano; Doublas Waddell, percussion; Cliff Colnot, conductor. Nelly Sachs, poetry. Erato CD "Mirage" 0630-12787-2.

Shulamit ran, who has been on the music faculty at the University of Chicago since 1973, was born in Tel Aviv in 1949. She won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for composition. She composed O The Chimneys in 1969 for voice, ensemble, and tape to poems by Nobel Prize winner Nellie Sachs, some of whose verses we heard last week as part of Isang Yun’s Symphony V. Ran writes, in the liner notes, ". . . the work was my personal way of saying, through my own art, ‘do not forget.’ Shockingly, these words have as much relevance today as they did when the work was written. Today we find ourselves having to say, ‘do not forget, do not distort, do not deny it ever happened.’" The five poems that comprise O The Chimneys are "A dead child speaks," "Already embraced by the arm of heavenly solace," "Fleeing," "Someone comes," and "Hell is naked (from Glowing Enigmas II)." They are written in an unmistakably mid-20th century form, often reminding me of Bartók’s vocal output.

Time: 10. A dead child speaks 01’52
11. Already embraced by the arm of heavenly solace 03’43
12. Fleeing 04’36
13. Someone comes 04’16
14. Hell is naked 04’07
Total time: 19’00
Running time: 71’02

CD 5: Bands 24-29: Knudåge Riisager (1897, Port Kunda, Estonia – 1974, Copenhagen): Darduse, op. 32 Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard, conductor. Dacapo CD 8.224082

(I am unable to find a website for Riisager.)

Knudåge Riisager wrote his piece Darduse, Dances from the fairytale play by Johannes v. Jensen, between 1935 and 1936, for the play, which premiered in 1937. According to Claus Røllum-Larsen’s liner notes, the play itself "was not exactly rich in dramatic tension, so to some extent it was left to Knudåge Riisager . . . to provide [some of] the actual dynamics of the action." The play takes place in China – it was sub-titled Brylluppet i Peking (The Wedding in Peking) – and the final piece, The Dance of the Free Feet, whose title has obvious reference, "choreographically expresses the piece: the triumph of the new age over the old, rigid Chinese society, " (Liner notes) an idea that probably seems somewhat ironic to people my age or older and utterly meaningless to those who are somewhat younger. Riisager has a way of using his instruments to suggest what supposedly cannot be suggested – weather phenomena such as winds and snow; he also is not shy about bowing in the direction of other composers. Difficult not to hear some Rimsky and even some Tchaikovski in this suite, for instance. When all is said and done, however, Darduse is a thoroughly enjoyable fairy tale adventure that may provide just the perfect ending to a program whose music has been as eclectic as ours has been today – another example of the wide imaginative range of composition over the past century.

Time: 24: Slumber Symphony 03’42
25: The Cock Fight 01’52
26: The Dust Storm 04’43
27. Women’s Dance 02’12
28. The Wedding Procession 03’23
29: Dance of the Free Feet 03’01
Total time: 18’53
Total running time: 89’55

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have featured Pēteris Vasks’ String Quartet No. 4; Arnold Rosner’s Sonata for French Horn and Piano; Edgar Varèse’s Ecuatorial; Shulamit Ran’s O The Chimney’s; and Knudåge Riisager’s Darduse, all fine examples of 20th century composition, each as different from the other as one could wish, attesting to my constant argument that far from being monolithic in its musical outlook, the past 100 years have produced surprise after surprise, variety unending, music to enjoy and think about. I hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th century and beyond "classical" music. Until then, this is Gandalf, thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!
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Posted on Sunday, January 02, 2005

03 January 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, Noon to 2:00PM, Streaming online @
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 03 January 05
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 classical 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.

A Happy and a Healthy New Year to all our friends from all of us at WJFF. The older I get, the more quickly the year goes by.

CD 1: Entire: Isang Yun Symphony V (1987): Richard Salter, baritone; Filharmonia Pomorska, Takao Ukigaya, conductor; Nellie Sachs (1891-1970), poet. CPO 999 148-2.

Let’s begin 2005 with the fifth symphony in Isang Yun’s 5 symphony cycle. Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer’s excellent liner notes, translated by Susan Marie Praeder, provide us with quite a bit of interesting information about the symphony, which

"employs poems by Nelly Sachs (1891-1970)[, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966] in order to make an . . . unambiguous statement of [Yun’s] intentions. Peace is the theme of this work, and peace can be realized only by coping with the past and by involvement in the mourning process. Prior to . . . [his fifth symphony], Yun had set texts by Nelly Sachs on various other occasions . . . [including] a choral cantata with solo violin and percussion and poems from Nelly Sachs’s cycles. . . . Yun composed his Symphony V as a commissioned work for the Berlin Festival dedicated to the memory of Nelly Sachs. It was premiered on 17 September 87, the composer’s 70ty birthday, with Hans Zender conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and with the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

"The text of Symphony V brings together a total of eleven poems from different creative phases in Nelly Sachs’s life, the clearest verses of the otherwise often esoterically recondite poetry of this German Jewish poet, who was forced into Swedish exile from Berlin in 1940. The five-movement symnphony is of symmetrical design, with the third movement, an appeal for reconciliation ("Peoples of the Earth, . . . /Do not cut and stab , with the knives of hate,/The sound born at the same hour as breath") occupying its center and focus. The cantata-like even-numbered second and fourth movements supplement the symphonic structure of the odd-numbered first (Memory), third (Appeal), and fifth (Peace) movements, where the texts tower up like jagged cliffs from the pounding surf. Excerpts from the extensive poems "We the Saved" and "You who watch" from the Holocaust cycle In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Home of the Dead) written during 1944-5 . . . have been selected in order to form a montage of complementary contrasts. The composition of the orchestra takes into account the serious theme with, for Yun, an unusually large number of percussion instruments as well as with two harps."

We’ll broadcast the entire symphony, which takes up about 55 minutes.

Time: 1. Erinnerung/Memory 10’14
2. Wir Geretteten/We the Saved 11’58
3. Aufruf/Appeal 12’02
4. Ihr Zuschauenden/You who Watch 09’06
5. Frieden/Peace 10’51
Total time: 54’36
In my opinion, this is a powerful, truly extraordinary piece. Imagine our collective unfamiliarity with Isang Yun!

CD 2: William Ferris, Chicago – 2000, place not given): Epitaph for an Artist (1999); Justin Kolb, Records , Troy 636.

Our good friend Justin Kolb, a pianist of prodigious talent, performed a number of piano solos by William Ferris on a CD that Albany Records put out in 2004. Among the pieces is a moving composition entitled Epitaph for an Artist, which Ferris wrote and whose world premiere he attended in Santa Barbara just two weeks before his own death while conducting a rehearsal of Verdi’s Requiem. The piece was commissioned by the pianist, Justin Kolb, in memory of pianist and teacher Herman Shapiro, whom both Ferris and Kolb and studied with. John Vorrasi tells us in his liner notes that Ferris "agreed, but found it difficult to get his ideas on paper. His original plan was for a slow moving introspective piece, but after several attempts he decided that such a composition would not do justice to either Shapiro’s or Kolb’s prodigious technique.
"The end result was a quicksilver distillation of the essential elements in Ferris’s musical style complete with a telling self-quotation from Corridors of Light, his setting of the Stephen spender poem: ‘I think continually of those who were truly great.’ The work concludes with a glorious peal of tone cluster. "

Time: 12. Epitaph for an Artist 08’14

Running time: 62’50

CD 3: Band 1: Joan Tower
(*1938, New Rochelle): Concerto for Violin ((1991/2). Elmar Oliveira, violin; The Louisville Orchestra, Joseph Silverstein, conductor. D’note classics DND 1016.

Last week or the week before, during an interview with Peter Schickele, the name Joan Tower came up in reference to Schickele’s son, who had studied with Joan Tower; Peter was unstinting in his praise of her, both as a person and as a composer. Several years ago, I had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Tower, who impressed me then, as she does now, as being an extraordinary composer whose works ought to be much more familiar to us than they are. Let’s listen now to her 1991/2 composition, about which David Raymond writes (liner notes): "The brusque opening of Tower’s . . . concerto for violin . . . is more a demand than an invitation. The music’s intensity was suggested by the playing of its dedicatee, the Tchaikovsky Competition-winning virtuoso, Elmar Oliveira. ‘A lot of violinists are speed freaks,’ explains Tower, ‘but Elmar can play virtuosically and with an innate singing ability.’ In her concerto for Oliviera, Tower’s customary rhythmic excitement is married to a soaring, sometimes anguished lyric line. ‘While we were working on the concerto,’ says Oliveira, ‘my older brother, who was also a violinist and a great influence on me, was dying of cancer. Joan included a section where the soloist plays with the concert-master that is a reference to our relationship.’ (‘They were very close, and they bantered a lot,’ says tower, ‘and both those elements are in the duets,’ which are highlights of the concerto.)" I think you will agree that this one movement violin concerto is well worth becoming familiar with!

Time: 1. Violin Concerto 19’02

Running time: 81’52

CD 4: Bands 1,2,3: Bill Evans "Waltz for Debby," "Very Early," and "Nardis" (Miles Davis Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello http://www/; Eddie Gomez, bass. Savoy Jazz SVY17405.

Anyone who happened to peruse my collection of CDs would know quickly that I have more Kronos Quartet titles than those of any other composer or group, with the possible exceptions of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. We are familiar with Kronos as one of the most important supporters of 20th century and contemporary composers. Often David Harrington’s group commissions works by worthy composers who would otherwise not easily find a recording company interested, in today’s market, in working with them. In 1986, the members of Kronos got together and decided that they were going to do some "cross-over" recordings, and record some Jazz. As I believe that the boundaries of contemporary "classical" music are quite elastic, I find this to have been completely commensurate with Kronos’s original mission. I offer no apology for ending today’s show with two pieces by Bill Evans and one by Miles Davis. Indeed, if you heard only the first several bars of "Waltz for Debby," you would probably assume the piece was written in a post-modern "classical" style. In 1986, in the original notes for this production of the Music of Bill Evans, Orrin Keepnews wrote, "While Monk has long been recognized as a brilliant composer (though often maligned as not much of a pianist), Evans is idolized as a performer – but sometimes undervalued as a composer." (Liner notes)
Well, whatever. Lets hear Bill Evans’s "Waltz for Debby" and "Very Early" along with Miles Davis’s "Nardis," performed by the Kronos Quartet with Eddie Gomez playing the bass in this 1986 recording.

Time: 1. Waltz for Debby 05’41
2. Very Early 03’59
3. Nardis 05’05
Total time: 19’55
Total running time: 101’47

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Isang Yun’s Symphony V; William Ferris’s Epitaph for an Artist; Joan Tower’s Violin Concerto; Bill Evans’ "Waltz for Debbie" and "Very Early" and Miles Davis’s "Nardis." I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week for more great 20th century and contemporary "classical" music.

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