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Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005

28 November 2005, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Noon to 2:00PM, EDT, Streaming online @www.wjffradio.org
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 28 November 2005

051128

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.

CD 1: Bands 1-3: Bohuslav (Jan) Martinů (1890, Polička, Czechoslovakia, - 1959, Basel) http://www.karadar.com/Dictionary/martinu.html: Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and timpani (1938). John Alley, piano; Charles Fullbrook, timpani; City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox, conductor. Virgin Classics CD VC 7 91099-2.

Bohuslav (Jan) Martinů’s 1938 composition, Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and timpani, is considered one of the composer’s masterpieces. Jan Smaczney writes, “In every sense, the Double concerto, composed in the late summer and early autumn of 1938, is the masterpiece of this phase of [Martinů’s] composition. Although the work was begun after a particularly happy holiday in Moravia and Bohemia, when Martinů was full of thoughts of a permanent return home [from Paris], the concerto was completed as Czechoslovakia’s unhappy fate was decided at Munich. While Martinů relied on the framework of the concerto grosso, there is no mistaking the urgency and even desperation underlying the composition.” (Liner Notes)

John McCabe adds, in his chapter “The Solo Instrument” in The Musical Companion: “Martinů’s deeply moving double concerto for double string orchestra with piano and timpani gives the piano especially a genuinely concertante role, so that it is sometimes part of the ensemble and sometimes spotlit as a soloist. Written under the shadow of the Second World War, the intense slow movement leaves no doubt about the composer’s compassion.” (The Musical Companion, A.L Bacharach and J.R. Pearce, Eds. Revised Edition, 1984. Harvest/HBJ, USA).

Time: 1. Poco allegro 06’11
2. Largo 09’14
3. Allegro 06’25

Total time: 21’50

CD 2: Bands 2-7: Tobias Picker (*1954, NY) http://www.tobiaspicker.com/bio/html: The Encantadas for speaker and orchestra (1983): Sir John Gielgud, speaker; The Houston Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach, conductor. Virgin Classics CD VC 7 91162-2.


The great music critic and musicologist Andrew Porter tells us in his liner notes that the Alban Academy commissioned our next selection, Tobias Picker’s The Encantadas, “to celebrate its one hundred and seventy fifth anniversary” in 1983. The commission stipulated that the piece be based upon a work by one of its more famous students, Herman Melville. Picker decided to compose the piece to Melville’s The Encantadas, which he had written after his visit to the Galapagos Islands in 1841, six years after Darwin’s voyage there. (Liner Notes, 7)

Melville spent three months aboard the whaler the Acushnet, “cruising among the Galapagos Islands, following the great schools of whales to their calving-grounds. From this journey, he created The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles, an allegorical evocation of arid, volcanic islands.” The composer, Tobias Picker, and Renaud Charles Bruce have adapted six passages from Melville’s first three sketches, to be spoken over and between the musical movements. The sections are as follows:

Dream is an evocation of the evil enchantment of the islands remembered from the wooded mountains of home.

Desolation describes the scorched, barren volcanic land, inhabited only by reptiles.

Delusion emphasizes the evil possession of the place – the lava like dross from a furnace and perilous tides always lashing at the coasts. The debris from kinder climates which collects on the beaches – coconuts and sugar-cane – serve only to heighten the impression of a region outside nature.

In Diversity, the narrative moves to the tortoises, whose immense age and stubborn immovability appear ‘dateless…newly crawled from beneath the foundations of the world.

In Din, we see Rock Rodondo, home to millions of sea birds, graduated by species up the cliff faces, their constant shrieking adding to the infernal atmosphere.

At Dawn, peace and beauty are attained only in the magical hour before sunrise, when, with the wind light and the sea calm, there is a ‘dim investiture of wonder’ over the islands.

Melville took liberties with actual meteorological facts – the “scorched barren land,” for instance, actually had a plentiful rainy season, etc.

The piece is written in 6 sections, several of which encompass more than one prose passage.

Time: 2. I Dream 04’49
3. II Desolation 02’46
4. III Delusion 03’46
5. IV Diversity 10’39
6. V. Din 02’50
7. VI Dawn 05’30

Total time: 30’20

Running time 52’10

CD 3: Bands 16 – 20: Colin Matthews (*1946, London) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Matthews: Night’s Mask for chamber orchestra (1984): Patrizia Kwella, soprano; The Nash Ensemble. Lionel Friend, conductor; Fernando Pessoa, poet. Virgin Classics CD VC 7 91482-2.

Our next offering, Colin Matthew’s “Night’s Mask is a setting of a sonnet written in English by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935) [who] was educated in South Africa and returned to Portugal only in 1935 [the year of his death]…The music of this setting is mainly slow, with two fast instrumental interludes, in the second of which the soloist joins.” Pessoa wrote the sonnet in English. The soprano, Patrizia Kwella, commissioned this piece and first performed it in June, 1984, with members of the English Chamber Orchestra at The Maltings, Snope. (Liner Notes by Colin Matthews, 1991).

The composer has chosen to break the sonnet into three parts and to intersperse two interludes between them.

Night’s Mask

We are born at sunset and we die ere morn,
And the whole darkness of the world we know,
How can we guess its truth, to darkness born,
The obscure consequence of absent glow?
Only the stars to teach us light. We grasp
Their scattered smallnesses with thoughts that stray,
And, though their eyes look through night’s complete mask,
Yet they speak not the features of the day.
Why should these small denials of the whole
More than the black hole the pleased eyes attract?
Why what it calls ‘worth’ does the captive soul
Add to the small and from the large detract?
So out of light’s love wishing its night’s stretch,
A nightly thought of day we darkly reach.

Fernando Pessoa

Time: 16. Introduction 03’34
17. Interlude i 01’04
18. ‘Only the stars’ 02’56
19. Interlude ii 00’49
20. ‘Why what it calls “worth”’ 02’44

Total time: 10’39

Running time: 62’49

CD 4: Band 1: Toru Takemitsu (1930, Tokyo – 1996, Tokyo) http://www.soundintermedia.co.uk/treeline-online/biog.html: riverrun [sic] for piano and orchestra (1984): Paul Crossley, piano; The London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen, conductor. Virgin Classics CD VC 7 91180-2.

Certainly one of the great composers of any century, Toru Takemitsu composed in a style that uniquely blended western and eastern characteristics and certainly became one of the most influential composers of the last 50 years of the past century. In his liner notes, Takemitsu writes: “riverrun for piano and orchestra is a work inspired by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake… The music flows in the form of a musical tributary derived from a certain main current, wending its way through the scenery of night towards the sea of tonality.”

The conductor, Oliver Knussen, adds, “The real synthesis [of Japanese and western musical manners is no simple combination of the two cultural forms, but] takes place on a much deeper level: while there is hardly a moment in Takemitsu’s music which cannot be explained in western theoretical terms, there is also hardly a conjunction or phrase or gesture which would have been thought of by a composer with an exclusively western background . . . Just when one seems to be on familiar stylistic territory, a close look at the detailed dynamic inflections or fluctuations of pace makes one realize that this world is very much Takemitsu’s own.” (Liner Notes)

Time: 1. riverrun 14’15

Running time: 77’04

CD 5: Band 1: Takayoshi Yanagida (*1948, Sapporo City, Hokkaido) http://www.musicfromjapan.org/ Libretto on a Dreamy Vision for Flute and Orchestra (1993). Hiroaki Masunaga, flute; The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Kasuhiko Komatsu, conductor. North Pacific Music NPM LD 023. http://www.northpacificmusic.com/

Let’s end today’s program with a piece by Japanese composer Takayoshi Yanagida, who, I must admit, I have heard of only recently. Born in Hokkaido in 1948, Yanagida began his studies at the age of 8 and was, according to the biographical liner notes, particularly drawn to Bartok and Stravinsky. He wrote Libretto on a Dreamy Vision for flute and orchestra as the result of a commission by the Orchestra Project by flutist Hiroaki Masunaga and conductor Kazuhiko Komatsu, both of whom appear on this CD. The liner notes indicate that Yanagida’s favorite instrument is the flute. They continue, “Following no specific program, Libretto on a Dreamy Vision envisions the unrolling of a pictorial scroll, reflecting mutations of an intrinsically Japanese melodic tenor, unfolding over time, within the flux of orchestral sonorities.

Time: 1. Libretto 17’00

Total running time: 94’04

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have featured, thanks to an anonymous donor, music that appears on four Virgin Classics CDs: Bohuslav (Jan) Martinů’s Double Concerto; Tobias Picker’s The Encantadas; Colin Matthews Night’s Mask; and Toru Takemitsu’s riverrun. We concluded our program with Takayoshi Yanagida’s Libretto on a Dreamy Vision, which appears on a North Pacific Music CD. 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. 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, November 06, 2005

07 November 2005, Monday Afternoon classics with Gandalf, noon to 2:00PM, EDT, streaming online @ www.wjffradio.org
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 17 October 2005

051017

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.

CD 1: Band 1: John Corigliano (*1938, NY): Pied Piper Fantasy – Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1981): James Galway, flute; Eastman Philharmonia, David Effron, conductor. RCA Victor Red Seal 6602-20RC

John Corigliano has written quite a few pieces for reeds and wind instruments. He composed his Pied Piper Fantasy, a concerto for flute and orchestra, between 1978 and 1981 at the request of James Galway, but not until he had thought long and hard about whether he wanted to write another wind concerto. Fortunately, the lure of writing such a piece for Galway proved greater than Corigliano’s desire to explore other musical territory at the time. He writes, in his liner notes, “Galway as the Piper seemed the most natural thing in the world, for to many, myself included, he is a kind of Pied Piper . . .” and here Corigliano quotes Robert Browning, upon whose poem the composer based his piece: “…to blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled, and green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled.”

The result of Corigliano’s decision is a superb piece of program music – what the composer calls “a programmatic fantasy-concerto based on the Pied Piper legend” - that comprises seven movements and, I think you will agree, is a delightful rendering of the Browning tale. The sections are called “Sunrise and the Piper’s Song,” “The Rats,” “Battle with the Rats,” “War Cadenza,” “The Piper’s Victory,” “The Burghers’ Chorale,” and “The Children’s March.” The penultimate and final movements, “The Burghers’ Chorale” and “The Children’s March,” depict the Burghers’ pomposity in the face of the Piper’s attempts to make friends with them. Inevitably, of course, “The Piper has had enough,” as the notes tell us.” He puts his flute aside and pulls a tiny tin whistle out of his pocket and plays “”The Children’s March,” as the children “swamp” the Burghers and march off the stage, through the audience, and out of the hall. What fun this would be to behold! And please note that the fade out at the end is a couple of minutes long and becomes quieter and quieter as befits the end of the story.

Time: 1. Sunrise and The Piper’s Song 09’39
2. The Rats 01’38
3. Battle with the Rats 02’39
4. War Cadenza 04’01
5. The Piper’s Victory 05’20
6. The Burghers’ Chorale 04’22
7. The Children’s March 09’27

Total time: 37’06

What a beautiful piece. John Corigliano was a guest on this program some years ago. Do you remember?

CD 2 Band 5: Libby Larsen (*1950, Wilmington, Delaware): Schoenberg, Schenker and Schillinger (1991) for flute, oboe, violin, viola, ‘cello, and EMAX II sampler: David Shostac, flute; Allan Vogel, oboe; Patricia Mabee, EMAX !! sampler; Ralph Mnorrison, violin; Roland Kato, viola; Rowena Hammil, ‘cello.

Our second selection today features a computer driven keyboard sampler which, according to composer Stephen Hartke, who also wrote the liner notes, represents Mozart’s influence in this piece by Libby Larsen, one of four that appears on a CD entitled Für Mozart. However, Ms. Larsen honors not only Mozart, but also “three other figures who have profoundly influenced American Music in the 20th century, [Arnold] Schoenberg, [Heinrich] Schenker, and [Joseph] Schillinger.” Schenker was a well known Austrian theorist as was Schillinger, who also taught. “The linking together of [these] . . . three quite disparate musical thinkers . . . deals with a separate issue that has fascinated Larsen in recent years, . . . the gradual shift in musical emphasis in both popular and art music from pitch-dominated music (as reflected in the theories of Schoenberg and schenker) to rhythm-demonated (Schillinger’s preoccupation and subsequent profound [influence] …on composers such as Gershwin and Ellington.) The . . . result is a celebration of musical diversity” found both “in Mozart’s musical world-vies and in 20th century American music.”

Time: 5. Schoenberg, Schenker and Schillinger 11’30

Running time: 48’36

CD 3: CD 1: Bands 2-11: Tan Dun (*1957, Central Hunan): Orchestral Theatre II: Re (1992): Kalevi Olli, bass; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Muhai Tang and Kari Kropsu, conductors. Ondine ODE 864-2

Tan Dun, a favorite of mine, wrote three Orchestral Theatre pieces between 1990 and 1994. The first he called Xun; the second, which we will hear shortly, is entitled Re; and the third piece in the set is called Red. The subheading for the piece reads :”for divided orchestra, audience, bass voice, and two conductors and, according to Ken Smith’sliner notes, “lies in Tan’s ongoing musical journey. The piece, [illuminates] the inherent dramatic nature of the orchestra (the score indicates not just accented notes, but accented rests as well).” It “resulted from the 1992 Suntory Commission in Japan. . . Tan became the youngest composer awarded the prize.

The piece will jar you out of any stupor I may have put you in, and when you are least expecting it, I think. If you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of running water at the end of the composition, reminiscent, certainly, of one of Tan Dun's’ influences, Toru Takemitsu.

Time: 12. Re 18’55

Running time: 67’31

CD 4: Bands 1-4: Hans Henkemans (1913, The Hague – 1995, The Hague): Partita (1960); Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Jean Fournet, conductor. Boxed Set, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Jean Fournet 97019.

Our final selection today is the work of a Dutch composer, Hans Henkemans, with whom I am only marginally familiar. Born in The Hague, Henkemans started out to become a doctor, but soon decided to compose, as well. According to Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 2oth Century Classical Musicians, Henkemans was an active, and successful, composer until 1969, when he essentially gave up music in order to practice psychiatry and medicine. Kees Wisse tells us in the liner notes thatwe should listen for certain recurring themes throughout the four movements. He adds, that Henkemans was “a precise composer in the detail as well as the whole . . . [placing] detailed directions over every phrase,” while still allowing a certain free rubato in parts of the piece.

Time: 1. Alla marcia 06’12
2. Movimento brioso 04’18
3. Fantasia 07’50
4. Tarantella 04’58

Total time: 23’15

Total running time: 90’45

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard John Corigliano’s Pied Piper Fantasy; Libby Larsen’s Schoenberg, Schenker and Schillinger; Tan Dun’s Orchestral Theatre II: Re; and Hans Henkemans’ Partita. You may find all this by gong to www.wjffradio.org. I hope that you have enjoyed our 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!
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