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Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006

Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf 060327
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 27 March 2006

Today’s Selections:

1. Lucius Weathersby Spiritual Fantasy 04’16
2. Lucius Weathersby The Martyrs of Torrington 06’31
3. Aulis Sallinen Winter Was Hard 01’40
4. John Wyre Marubatoo 13’05
5. Jan Rokus van Roosendael Saul and David 20’18
6. Tigran Mansurian String Quartet No. 1 22’34
7. Benjamin Britten Lachrymae 16’28
8. Karel Husa Deux Preludes 09’03

Total time: 93’55

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.

I want to thank Edie Downs for stepping in and taking over this program last Monday so that I could travel to Springfield, MA, and deliver a eulogy at a memorial service for Lucius Weathersby, who died on St. Patrick’s Day after suffering a massive stroke. If you are interested in learning more about this incredible composer, organist, musician, and teacher. You are invited to go to the WJFF website and then to my blog.

CD 1: Band 8: Lucius Weathersby (1968, Houston – 2006, Springfield, MA): Spiritual Fantasy (1997): Lucius Weathersby, 1864 "Father" Willis organ. Albany Records. CD Troy 440.

Band 10: Lucius Weathersby: The Martyrs of Torrington (?) (Toccata spiritoso): Lucius Weathersby, 1864 "Father" Willis organ. Albany Records. CD Troy 440.

Let’s begin our program with two pieces Lucius Weathersby composed and performed on the "Father" Willis organ, which was built in 1864 and which resides in St. Michael & All Angels Church in Great Torrington, Devon, England. Lucius, who graduated from Dillard University with a B.A. in both music and German in 1990, earned his Masters in Music with honors at The University of Northern Iowa in 1992. He was a professor at Dillard for many years; he became Artist-in-Residence at Amherst College last fall after the hurricane all but destroyed the campus of Dillard University, in New Orleans. He leaves a son, Lucius Curtis Weathersby, who was born in 1999. He also leaves an enormous number of utterly bereft friends.

I do not know the date of composition of The Martyrs of Torrington, but the liner notes tell us that the piece "was inspired by the history of the church in which this recording was made. On February 16, 1646, during the English Civil War, the town was taken over by the Parliamentary New Model Army led by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell. The church was blown up and 200 Royalists inside perished. This work is in memoriam to those people." As you listen to both these pieces, Spiritual fantasy and The Martyrs Torrington, you will hear one of Luc’s many, many talents: his incredible ability to play the organ.

Time: 8. Spiritual Fantasy 04’16
10. The Martyrs of Torrington 06’31

Total time: 10’47

CD 2: Band 1: Aulis Sallinen (1935, Salmi, Finland): Winter Was Hard (1969) (Arr. by Kronos): Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. San Francisco Girls Chorus, Elizabeth Appling, director; Earl L. Miller, reed organ; original text by Bo Carpelan. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79181-2.

This past Saturday, The Delaware Valley Arts Alliance hosted the opening of a photography exhibit by freelance photographer Erik Freeland, whose works include scenes from Sullivan and Wayne Counties and New York City. Erik revealed that the inspiration for the name of the exhibit, Winter Was Hard, was a very short piece by the Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen, which was recorded by the Kronos Quartet on its eponymous CD produced in 1988. I thought it might be nice to broadcast this piece, which runs for under 2 minutes, and to remind our listeners that the exhibit at the DVAA does not end until April 14.

We’ll hear Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. San Francisco Girls Chorus, Elizabeth Appling, director; Earl L. Miller, reed organ; original text by Bo Carpelan. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79181-2.

Time: 1. Winter Was Hard 01’40

Running time: 12’27

CD 3: Band 3: John Wyre (?) Marubatoo (1989?): Nexus: Bob Becker, solo marimba; William Cahn, marimba, Robin Engelman, crotales and songbells; Russell Hartenberger, vibraphone; John Wyre, solo bass marimba. Music and the Arts CD R1296.
John Wyre, who plays the solo bass marimba in his composition, Marubatoo, was a member of the percussion group Nexus for 30 years until he resigned in 2002 in order "to devote more time to composing and exploring new horizons. The piece appears on a Music the Arts CD, a production company I’m not sure exists any more. Nevertheless, I thought that it might be fun to listen to a kind of moderate minimalist piece by a composer who must be at least as old as I am by now. Steve Reich’s Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ also appears on this CD.

Time: 3. Marubatoo 13’05

Running time: 25’32

CD 4: Bands 6-12: Jan Rokus van Roosendael (1960, Zwijndrecht, The Netherlands - 2005, Oostzaan (The Netherlands); David and Saul for harp and orchestra (1998). Godelieve Schrama, harp; Netherlands Radio chamber Orchestra, Michael Hamel, conductor. Radio Netherlands CD NM 92077.

Our next selection is an unusual piece for harp and orchestra which, for reasons that I am not erudite enough to understand, but which have to do with its polyphonic construction, is not referred to as a "harp concerto." Jan Rokus van Roosendael, who was born in The Netherlands in 1960 and who died a young man in 2005, composed this piece, which he called David and Saul in 1998. Anthony Fiumara’s liner notes, translated by Iain Macintyre [sic] tell us that "All the voices have equal status, although the harp is accorded more solo space than the other instruments. ‘Each voice has its own individuality,’ claims Van Roosendael. ‘That actually makes polyphony the most biblical form: individuals that come together in a single harmonious entity.’ The composer refers to the seven-part David and Saul as a ‘musical drama.’ The music relates the biblical story of the first king of Israel, and his successor, David. In this programmatic work, David is, of course, represented by the harp. His pastoral string work – based by Van Roosendael on one of Bach’s Goldberg Variations – repeatedly provokes the wrath of the brass player, Saul. Woodwinds and strings form the . . . crowd, which is an integral part of every classical music drama. The strings side with David, while the woodwinds support Saul. In the first two parts, Van Roosendael introduces the rivals Saul and David in their respective themes. The third part is about their friendship: the brass is amiably muted. That changes in the fierce fourth and fifth parts, representing Saul’s jealousy and subsequent rage. Following a lament from David, Saul finally expresses his remorse." (11)

Time: 6. Saul 02’11
7. David 04’11
8. Friendship 03’01
9. Jealousy 03’00
10. Saul’s Madness 03’05
11. David’s Lament 02’57
12. Saul’s Repentance 01’46

Total time: 20’18

Running time: 45’40

CD 5: Bands 1,2,3: Tigran Mansurian (* 1939, Beirut) String Quartet No. 1 (1983/84): In Memory of David Chandschian; Rosamunde Quartett [sic]: Andreas Reiner and Simon Fordham, violin; Helmut Nicolai, viola; Anja Lechner, ‘cello. ECM New Series CD 1905 476 3052 (10)

Tigran Mansurian’s website tells us that the composer was born in 1939 in Beirut and moved, in 1947, to Armenia, where his family finally settled in 1956. "In a short time, he became one of Armenia’s leading leading composers, establishing strong creative relationships with such international composers and performers as Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, Valentin Silvestrov, and other significant 20th and 21st century names familiar to many of our listeners. Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich (translated by Richard Evidon) suggests that Mansurian’s First String Quartet "already suggests a late work, yet it dates from 1983/84, when the composer – who was born in 1939 . . . – was hardly an older man. And yet, in the daughtsmanlike clarity of the structure, in the almost ascetic, unadorned, laconic quality of the lines, one may still identify stylistic features associated with ripe age (and unmistakable echoes of the silvery, translucent art of the elderly Richard Strauss)."

I think that you will enjoy this piece, which strikes me oddly as more mid-20th century than anything else.

Time: 1. Allegretto 08’59
2. Agitato 06’39
3. Maestoso 06’56

Total time: 22’34

Running time: 68’10

CD 6: Band 2: Benjamin Britten (1913, Suffolk, England – 1976, Aldeburgh): Lachrymae (1950/1976) Op. 48a: Lars Anders Tomter, viola; Norwegian Chamber Orchestra; Iona Brown, conductor. Virgin Classics CDC 5 45121 2.

Michael Oliver (Liner Notes) tells us that Benjamin Britten’s "mastery of variation technique is . . . [apparent] in [his] Lachrymae; its orchestrated version is his last completed original composition." Britten wrote the piece in 1950 for viola and piano, rewriting it in 1976, the year he died, by changing the keyboard part into a chamber orchestra score. "The subject [of the piece is John] Dowland’s sombre If my complains could passions move. . . . There are ten short variations, the sixth quoting another Dowland song, Flow my tears. . . . Because of its brevity, its quietness and perhaps its melancholy, Britten’s Lachrymae has been seldom performed since his death, but in its eloquence as well as its breathtaking skill, it is one of his masterpieces."

Time: 2. Lachrymae 16’28

Running time: 84’38

CD 8: Bands 1,2: Karel Husa (*1921, Prague) Deux Preludes (1966): Quintet of the Americas: Sato Moughalian, flute; Edward R. Gilmore, clarinet; Laura Koepke, bassoon. New World records

On August 7, 2006, the great composer Karel Husa, who was our guest on Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, several years ago, will celebrate his 85th birthday. We will try to speak with him before that. He wrote our final piece, Deux Preludes, for flute, clarinet, and bassoon in 1966 for a commission by the Kappa Gamma Psi chapter of the national music fraternity at Ithaca College, where Husa taught after retiring from Cornell. Keith Powers writes, "The composer notes that, as with many of his works, in Deux Preludes, he set out to explore sonorities that were ‘not recommended. For instance everyone says that the clarinet sounds beautiful in the high and low ranges, but that you must avoid the middle range. I also challenged the traditional hierarchy of the wind trio. In some places, I give the bassoon the high part and have the flute play below." (Liner Notes)

We’ll hear members of the Quintet of the Americas: Sato Moughalian, flute; Edward R. Gilmore, clarinet; Laura Koepke, bassoon. New World records perform Karel Husa’s Deux Preludes. The name Laura Koepke is probably familiar to those of us who attend The Weekend of Chamber Music Concerts regularly.

Time: 1. Prelude 1 04’35
2. Prelude 2 04’28
Total time: 09’03

Total running time: 93’55

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Lucius Weathersby’s Spiritual Fantasy and The Martyrs of Torrington, 1646; Aulis Sallinen, Winter Was Hard; John Wyre’s Marubatoo; Van Roosendael’s David and Saul; Tigran Mansurian’s String Quartet No. 1; Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae; and Karel Husa’s Deux Preludes. 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!
:: :: ::
Lucius Weathersby: Eulogy
On Friday, March 17, 2006, my dear friend Lucius Weathersby died of a massive stroke which he had suffered two days earlier. He was 38 years old. I travelled to Springfield, MA, on Monday, March 20, to deliver a euolgy. I am posting the euolgy in case anyone who knew Luc is interested in reading it.

Lucius Weathersby Memorial Service
South Congregational Church
45 Maple Street
Springfield, MA 01105

Reverend Peter Heinrichs, Professor Davenport, Mark McClelland, Family and Friends of Lucius Weathersby:

Perhaps Emily says it best with her patented mixture of irony, wit, despair, and hope:

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy flower,
The frost beheads it at its play
In accidental power.

The blond assassin passes on,
The sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another day
For an approving God.

Some love affairs last for an entire lifetime; some last for only a moment or so. Sixty-six years have taught me that how people live out their love for each other is at least as important as how long they live it out.

Lucius Weathersby came into my life on January 17, 2005, after I had broadcast his performance of Kevin George’s Organ Suite on my weekly program devoted to 20th and 21st century "classical" music, a feature of our local grass roots, public radio station, WJFF, in Jeffersonville, NY.

Somehow, Lucius, who was still teaching African World Studies, Piano, Humanities, and other courses at Dillard University, where he had majored in music and in German as an undergrad, discovered that I had aired his performance, and he contacted me by phone. It didn’t take long for us to establish a friendship that only his death could have divided.

The first time we spoke, I asked him if he would consider appearing on my program, by telephone, as a guest artist and composer. In what I came to know as typically thoughtful of Lucius, he asked only that I combine the visit with an appearance by his friend, composer Alberto Patron, who was living in Pordenone, Italy, near Venice.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic about the possibilities, and we arranged for a two hour three way telephone visit among the three of us. The fact that I was actually able to forget that I am technologically disabled and set up the three way call still amazes me, but right on schedule, Lucius and Alberto’s voices beamed out over the airwaves and streamed over the Internet for a solid two hour visit.

We spent much of that program discussing Alberto Patron’s music, which he calls Aporetic music, and Lucius’s performance of it on the piano, using a CD entitled My Journey to the Aporetic Music as our source of music. Lucius’s performance was, as I already knew, more than wonderful; it was compelling, and the broadcast elicited more calls from satisfied listeners than I usually get in a month.

After the broadcast, Lucius and I engaged in a regular correspondence and finally met last April in New Jersey, where I drove to pick him up in order to attend a Master’s Degree clarinet recital at Tenri Cultural Institute in lower Manhattan.

The recital featured a chamber piece by Lucius that provided more evidence that here was a young man of great energy, great talent, and great promise. Everyone in attendance knew they were listening to something special when his piece was played, and they responded with the kind of applause reserved for the very best composers.

Shortly after Lucius returned to Dillard University to resume his teaching duties, he and I decided that we would work on a music festival devoted entirely to African and African-American "classical" composers, an event that would probably be in the offing by now, had not the demon hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

I intend do my utmost to bring about this series in his honor , perhaps at the brand new Bethel Woods Music Festival, recently built on the grounds of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, NY, where the New York Philharmonic will perform some of its summer concerts. I welcome anyone who is interested in helping such a project become a reality.

Regardless of what the future may now bring, the winds of nature had their way and put our dream on hold, while Lucius scrambled to find a place to teach and earn a living wage. To their everlasting credit, two institutions of higher learning stepped up to the plate and hit home runs, if I may be permitted the metaphor: both Brown University, in Providence, and Amherst College, my own alma mater, offered him positions. He accepted the Amherst College offer and began his visiting Artist-in-Residence duties there during the fall semester.

I was, of course, delighted that Lucius would be living where I could get to see him occasionally; but I was even more pleased that he would become a presence among Amherst students who would discover that this talented teacher was also one of the kindest, most gentle, giving people they would ever cross paths with.

The moment I met Lucius in person, I knew that I was in the presence of the good pied piper, the musician who attracted young people and old because the music of his pen and the music of his life inevitably led all who came under his influence along paths that opened up more possibilities than they might have discovered otherwise.

Lucius was much more than a seductive personality: he was a unique individual with a song to sing to humanity; a love song that is as ageless as it is beautiful; as wise as it is compelling; as necessary as it is desirable.

Typically, the last email I received from Lucius, dated January 24th, was a mass mailing whose purpose was to inform his friends that he had just recorded a CD to benefit the musicians who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. There wasn’t a selfish bone in that man’s body. He affixed a post script to that message that read: "I want to go to Brown with you. Call me! I would also like to come up to see you soon." Alas! for the best laid plans of mortal beings!

Many of you who were fortunate enough to know Lucius Weathersby more intimately than I was able to know him will no doubt have your own memories of a talented musician, a beautiful human being, a loyal friend. I know that in the short period of time that I was privileged to be his friend, I grew to love him without reservation. When I learned that he had died, I broke down and wept – selfish tears, I admit – for the loss of a person whose life added many dimensions to my own, yet who looked for nothing special in return except for honest friendship.

Towards the beginning of the radio program that Lucius and Alberto appeared on, I asked Luc to talk about the relationship of composition to performance in his life. This is how he responded: "I feel that if you are not able to transmit to an audience to whom you are trying to get across a certain idea, then it’s dead. Why create if you cannot transmit? The purpose of creation is to share, and I make sure that whatever I can create – or the creation of others – I share with others. That’s the whole purpose." If a man’s worth can be gleaned from a gnomic statement, then "The purpose of creation is to share" can serve as Lucius Weathersby’s epithet.

Lucius, My Friend, it is true that I am gladder that you lived than I am sad that you left; but I am nonetheless sorely unhappy that I will not be able to put my arms around you once more and listen to your beautiful bass voice softly booming out songs of friendship and love to the world. As you begin your long journey back into memory, I will strive to respond to the inspiration you have given me as your gift and try to help along those ideals you cherished and lived for. Perhaps if we all live that way, the love affairs, short and long, small and great, that you entered into while you were alive will continue into the indefinite future.

Rest in peace, my beloved friend, Lucius. May your name always be for a blessing for all of us who knew and loved you.

(Immediately after I had delivered these words, I regretted not including the following sentiment: Lucius was one of the few people I have ever met about whom one could truly say, "He was never a stranger in a strange land."

I plan to rebroadcast my January, 2005, interview with Lucius Weathersby and his friend and mentor, Alberto Patron, in April, 2006.)

Bob Rosengard Amherst College ‘61
Host, Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Mondays, Noon – 2:00PM EST
President, WJFF Board of Trustees
P.O. Box 546
Jeffersonville, NY 12748
:: :: ::

Posted on Sunday, March 12, 2006

Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 13 March 2006


Today’s Selections:

1. Bright Sheng, Two Folk Songs 10’51
2. Hans Eisler, Kleine Sinfonie 10’47
3. Anton Webern, Quartet, Op. 28 07’45
4. Russell Woollen, Three Madrigals 13’00
5. Nino Rota, Cinque Pezzi Facili 08’33
(Traditional Air) 03’18
6. Peter Maxwell Davies, Violin Concerto 31’00
7. Kevin Volans, Walking Song 05’47

Total time: 90’48

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 3,4: Bright Cheng (*1955, Shanghai): Two Folk Songs from Chinhai (1990): "Morningstar Lily," "A Pair of Mules": Emblems: The John Oliver Chorale; John Oliver, Music Director): Koch International Classics CD 3-7178-2H1.

Bright Sheng, who was born in Shanghai in 1955, "started piano lessons when he was five, but his musical education was seriously interrupted by the Cultural Revolution.: Because he was the grandson of an engineer who had been educated in America, Sheng and his family were considered "politically tainted," and he had a difficult time pursuing a musical career. Eventually, he found a temporary home with a provincial band in Tibet, which was far less interested in political "purity" than those closer to his root. Steven Ledbetter continues, in his liner notes: "There he worked almost entirely on his own as a pianist and timpanist with a dance company in Chinhai, the province that borders Tibet, and collected the folks songs used as the basis of the present composition" which we will hear shortly. He moved to New York in 1982 and has since been composer in residence at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. . . . John Oliver, then head of the Tanglewood vocal program . . . commissioned Two Folk Songs from Chinhai for his chorale in Boston.

As you listen to these two short pieces, you may be able to discern Sheng’s ability to combine his native Chinese tradition with his affinity for what Ledbetter calls "the masterpieces of Western music. "He has searched for his own musical voice by melding the two very different traditions in which he has been trained, producing a brightly colored and highly evocative language that makes an immediate appeal." (Liner notes).

Time: 4. Morningstar Lily 02’49
5. A Pair of Mules 08’02

Total time: 10’51

CD 2: Bands 6 – 9: Hanns Eisler (1898, Leipzig – 1962, Berlin): Kleine Sinfonie (1932): BBC Symphony Orchestra; Ilan Volkov, conductor. BBC Music, Vol 14, No. 7: BBC SSO.
By now, many listeners are somewhat familiar with the biographical highlights of Hanns Eisler, who was born in Leipzig at the very end of the 19th century; became a Marxist at an early age; studied with Schoenberg; fled Germany when the Nazis came into power, because it was doubly dangerous for a Jewish Marxist, a "degenerate composer" to stick around the Third Reich; collaborated with Berthold Brecht; settled in the US in 1938, where he wrote film scores; and was deported as a Communist by the McCarthy Un-American Activities Committee. Eisler relocated in East Germany and died in Berlin in 1962.

The liner notes tell us that Eisler’s Kleine Sinfonie "belongs to a period when he was reacting to the concepts of ‘high art’ and [was] deeply involved in works of political theater. . . . Eisler wanted to write a parody of a symphony: an un-sentimental, jun-bombastic piece, alluding to jazz and popular styles, but carefully crafted (‘full of bite and precision’)and embracing Schoenbergian 12-note technique and the rhythmic, vigorous style he called his ‘battle music.’ The music is pervaded by irony, and burlesque, but also by a sense of lament for lost certainties."

Time: 6. Theme and Variations 04’40
7. Allegro assai 01’59
8. Invention 01’42
9. Allegro 02’26

Total time: 10’47

Running time: 21’38

CD 3: Bands 21, 22, 23: Anton Webern (1883, Vienna – 1945, Mittersill): String Quartet, op. 28: Emerson String Quartet: Philip Setzer and Eugene Drucker, violins; Lawrence Dutton, viola; David Finckel, ‘cello: Deutsche Grammophon CD 445-828-2.

Anton Webern worked on his final string chamber piece, his String Quartet, op. 28, between November 1936 and March 1938. The three movements, according to Paul Griffiths, can be regarded "as a set of variations with some elements of sonata form, a scherzo, and a fugue – though, as in all late Webern, the forms are multiplex."

Norman Lebrecht’s interesting The Book of Musical Anecdotes, reveals that Webern was interested in the development of the relatively new practice of psychoanalysis. He decided to consult with Alfred Adler in 1913 and writes, in a letter to Schoenberg, "Well then, yesterday I was for the second time with [Adler]. I just do not know what he is driving at. Yesterday, by means of a thousand questions, he tried to establish how much of the effeminate there is in me. Ah, what sense does all this make! . . .I go every day to Dr. Adler. I have to tell him everything, simply everything,. There is not much left that he does not know by now. From it all he concludes always the same thing: my spells of indisposition were a transference of the battleground from the real world into that of illness." (The Free Press, New York, 1985, 311.)
Webern, whatever his problems, exerted a significant influence on Boulez and Stockhausen.

Time: 21. Mässig 03’49
22. Gemächlich – Bewegt 01’45
23. Sehr fliessend 02’11
Total time: 07’45

Running time: 29’23

CD 4: Bands 10-12: Russell Woollen (1923, Hartford – 1994, Charlottesville, VA): Three Madrigals, Poetry by Elinor Wylie (1978): The American Camerata; John Stephens, conductor; Musikanten, Kerry Krebill, director. AmCam Recordings ACR-10311.

Russell Woollen, who was born in 1923 in Hartford, CT, was ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1947 and joined the faculty of Catholic University in Washington D.C. as a professor of Romance Languages. He "later transferred into the then fledgling music department," (Liner notes) leaving the priesthood in 1964 (Baker’s, 1516).

Woollen composed the music to quite a few poems by the American poet Elinor Wylie in 1978, including the Three Madrigals that we are about to hear: "Velvet Shoes"; "Three Wishes"; and "Beauty." He evidently found in Wylie’s poems "an attitude and imagery which he liked tremendously." We’ll hear them performed by the American Camerata, John Stephens conducting; and Musikanten, Kerry Krebil, director.

Time: 10. Velvet Shoes 04’07
11. Three Wishes 04’32
12. Beauty 04’21

Total time: 13’00

Running time: 42’23

CD 5: Bands 8-12, 15: Nino Rota (1911, Milan - 1979, Rome): Cinque Pezzi Facili (Five Easy Pieces) (?) and Danny Boy (Traditional) James Galoway, flute; Phillip Moll, piano. RCA Victor/BMG 09026-63725-2

Nino Rota (né Rinaldi) is probably best known to most people as the composer of film music, notably The godfather I and II. He was also a brilliant composer of ballets, orchestral music, chamber music, and vocal music. Sir James Galway, the noted flutist, has included Rota’s Five Easy Pieces on his CD entitled Music for My Little Friends. Galway became involved in a project undertaken by the breakaway branch of British Flute Society called "Flutewise." Through this connection Galway met a number of children who were registered as members of the group. At an event dubbed "Sticky Buns," he met some of these children who had gathered to eat Danish pastries and drink lemonade and play their flutes. Among this group were two badly handicapped children who suffered from severe manual birth defects, but, in Galway’s words, "in spite of it, were both playing flutes. I think this individual event touch me more than any other event in my life. Liz [Goodwin, who was shepherding this flock,] had raised money to buy flutes and have them specially altered by the great British flute maker Williams Simmons [who] had rebuilt the mechanism of each flute to enable these children to play." The flutist concludes, They will never be "James Galways," but the happiness glowing from these children was so touching I will never forget this Sticky Buns event.

"I think," adds Galway, "this was a turning point in my life. It was then I realized that I should dedicate my time and energy not only to helping children play the flute, but should help with other things as well. The fact that these children were here because of James Galway made me stop and think twice. It made me recognize that I should do what I could to help children around the world and also make life more comfortable for those children who are not so fortunate." I hope you will forgive me if I append to Galway’s performance of Nino Rota’s Five Easy Pieces his performance of a traditional piece that you will all recognize at once.

Time: 8. La passaggiata di Puccettino 01’35
9. Serenata 01’37
10. Pavana 02’03
11. La chiocca 01’37
12. Il Soldatino 01’36

15. Danny Boy 03’18

Total time: 11’46

Running time: 54’09

I must admit that I have trouble reading James Galway’s account of his experience without weeping, which is easy to do, because he reminds me how easy it to make children unhappy with themselves; yet how much easier it is to help them find joy in themselves. How often do those of us who are charged with the responsibility of caring for children in some fashion forget that it’s not about adults; it’s about children. What better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than to celebrate the happiness of children and to vow to help them achieve such bliss!

CD 6: Bands 4-6: Peter Maxwell Davies (1934, Manchester, England): Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1985): Isaac Stern, violin; The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, André Previn, conductor. SONY Classical CD SMK 64 506.

Robert Adelson tells us in his excellent liner notes that Peter Maxwell Davies composed his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in fulfillment of a commission by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for their 40th anniversary celebration. Davies dedicated the piece to Isaac Stern, who premiered it on June 21, 1986. According to the composer, "[The concerto] was to be played in the awe-inspiring cathedral of St. Magnus, a building steeped in centuries of Norse and Scottish history, in an island setting between the tumults of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The music is pervaded by sounds of sea and sea-birds. Its acoustics took into account the natural resonance of the building, and its rhythms and melodies show Scottish origins, particularly in the long, hushed violin melody of the slow movement and the reel-like feel to the close of the whole work." (Liner notes)

Time: 4. Allegro moderato 16’44
5. Adagio 06’40
6. Allegro non troppo 07’36

Total time: 31’00

Running time: 85’09

CD 7: Band 2: Kevin Volans (*1949, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa): Walking Song (1984) for flute, harpsichord, and four handclappers/fingerclickers. Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Chandos CD CHAN 9563.

Kevin Volans, who was born in South Africa in 1949, moved to Northern Ireland in 1986 and settled in Dublin in 1989. As far as I know, he still resides there, an Irish citizen, although he obviously also travels and was composer-in-resident at Princeton in 1992. He wrote Walking Song in 1984 "at the request of Jill Anderson of the Durban Art Gallery for the opening of an exhibition. In the event, the chatter occasioned by the cheese and wine completely drowned out the piece. The opening material owes a debt to the music of the Ba-benzele pygmies who alternately sing and blow notes on a panpipe made from the hollow stem of a papaya leaf.

Time: 2. Walking Song 05’39

Total running time: 90’48

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Bright Sheng’s Two Folk Songs from Chinhai; Hanns Eisler’s Kleine Sinfonie; Anton Webern’s Quartet Op. 28; Russell Woollen’s Three Madrigals (based on poems by Elinor Wylie; Five Easy Pieces by Nino Rota; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Violin Concerto; and Kevin Volans’ Walking Song. 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!
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Posted on Sunday, March 05, 2006

Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 06 March 2006


Today’s Selections:

John Adams Harmonium 33’47
Witold Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra 28’26
György Ligeti Six Bagatelles 11’39
Isang Yun Rencontre für Karinette, Harfe, und Violoncello 16’42
George Rochberg Muse of Fire 17’35

Total running time: 92’41

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 3,4,5: John Adams (*1947, Worcester, MA) Harmonium (1980-1981): BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus; Grant Llewellyn, conductor. John Adams, BBC Music CD, Vol. 11, No. 2.
Paul Griffiths tells us in his liner notes to the BBC Music CD that contains today’s opening selection, that Harmonium, "was Adams’ breakthrough piece, and its title, more than [25] years ago, was a defiant boast. Harmony rules: tonal harmony, glorious and rich, brilliant and dark. But the title also honors an unpretentious instrument, the substitute organ of country churches, and thereby recognizes something hymn-like and simple in this setting of words by the visionary poets John Donne and Emily Dickinson."

The first of the triad of poems is Donne’s "Negative Love," followed by two of Dickinson’s poems, "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" and "Wild Nights ." If you are not familiar with this work by John Adams, you may be a bit surprised by the manner in which he has composed them; although you should probably not be. We’ll hear them performed by the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus; Grant Llewellyn, conductor. John Adams, BBC Music CD, Vol. 11, No. 2.

Time: 3. Negative Love 10’58

4. Because I could Not Stop for Death 12’23
5. Wild Nights 10’26

Total time: 33’47

We’ve just heard John Adams’ trilogy, Harmonium performed by the BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales and the Bernmouth Symphony Chorus under the baton of Grant Llewellyn. I find it interesting that Paul Griffiths refers to Donne and Dickinson as "visionary poets": not a phrase that would have occurred to me, I must admit.

CD 2: Bands 1,2,3: Witold Lutosławski (1913, Warsaw – 1994, Warsaw) Jeux vénitiens (1961). Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, Witold Lutosławski, conductor. EMI 7243 5 653095 2 2.

Witold Lutosławski composed his Jeux vénitiens during the last upside-down year any of us will ever experience – 1961, the year I graduated and was named "the upside-down man in our college history." The Musical Companion has some interesting observations about this piece and the context in which Lutosławski composed the piece: “From total serialism, a reaction was predictable: instead of everything being pre-determined, nothing should be pre-determined. The element of chance entered into the composer’s thinking: aleatoric music was born and even as distinguished a composer as the Pole, Witold Lutosławski embodies such episodes into a work like Jeux vénitiens. Not only was this a reaction against total serialization, but it was fostered by the ‘tyranny’ of the gramophone: the unalterable performance which can contain no surprises either of text or nuance." (The Musical Companion, Ed. By A.L. Bacharach and J. R. Pearce, A Harvest/HBJ Book, New York, 1977. 351).

We hear it performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the composer.

Time: 4. Jeux vénitiens 12’58

Running time: 46’45

CD 3: Bands 4-9: György Ligeti (*1923, Transylvania, Romania): Six Bagatelles (1953) Aulos Wind Quintet, Koch Schwann Mundi CD 3-6737-2.

When György Ligeti’s Bagatelles premiered in Budapest in 1953, the sixth was not performed because, according to Bärbel Siefert, "the state-controlled Composers’ Association . . . ‘advised’ against the inclusion of the sixth piece because they considered it too full of dissonances and, therefore, dangerous for the general public. Ligeti," continues Siefert, "was tolerated as a composer of music suitable for schools, but his desire to go his own way was frowned upon. . . . The Six Bagatelles were given their first complete performance thirteen years later by the Stockholm Philharmonic." (Liner Notes, transl. by Celia Skrine)
I invite you to buckle your seatbelts while you listen to these superb miniatures, as I do not want to be responsible for any damage you may be moved to inflict upon yourselves while you are listening to them.

Time: 1. Allegro con spirito 01’10
2. Rubato. Lamentoso 02’56
3. Allegro grazioso 02’36
4. Vivace ruvido 00’57
5. Adagio. Mesto 02’26
6. Molto vivace. Capriccioso 01’23

Total time: 11’39

Running time: 58’24

CD 4: Band 5: Isang Yun (991917, Tongyong, S. Korea – 1995, Berlin) Rencontre for Clarinet, Harp, and Violoncello (1986): Eduard Brunner, clarinet; Marion Hofmann, harp; Walter Grimmer, ‘cello: Aurophon AU 31808 CD.

Isang Yun wrote his Rencontre for Clarinet, Harp, and ‘Cello in 1986 for the Summer Music Festival in Hitzakker/Elbe and dedicated it "’in friendship’ to Eduard Brunner, Marion Hofmann, and Walter Grimmer, who interpreted [it] at its world premiere." As nearly as I can tell, the term Rencontre is not a musical term, but simply means "encounter" in French. Wolfgang Sparrer writes: "Beyond its immanent musical subject, the title wishes to bear witness to the meeting of the musicians to whom the piece is dedicated during the Isang Yun Musical Festival in North Korea" in 1985. Sparrer continues, "The flowing development [of the piece] is greatly indebted to the peculiarities of the instruments. Conceived as a duo with harp obligato (the part of the harp can also be played on the pianoforte), the basic gesture of the ‘cello part resembles that of a song, whereas the clarinet tends to be an outcry." (Liner Notes)
As always, Yun fascinates, indeed, rivets me, even as he delights my ears and my very being. We hear a performance by the three dedicatees: Eduard Brunner, clarinet; Marion Hofmann, harp; Walter Grimmer, ‘cello on an Aurophon AU 31808 CD.

Time: 5. Rencontre 16’42
Running time: 75’06

CD 5: Band 2: George Rochberg (1918, Paterson, NJ – 12005, Bryn Mawr, PA) : Muse of Fire (1990): Eliot Fisk, guitar; Paula Robison, flute: Arabesque Recordings Z6745 CD.

Here’s what guitarist Eliot Fisk has to say about Muse of Fire, which we will hear him perform in the company of flutist Paula Robison in a few moments: "Muse [of Fire] takes its point of departure from the opening line of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Shakespeare has his Chorus open the play by trying with mere words to evoke the sounds of war and carnage for his Elizabethan public. Today this would be handled by a big "special effects" budget, but these sources were unavailable to Shakespeare, and so he has his chorus proclaim, "O for a muse of fire/That would ascend the/highest heaven of invention." As it happened George [Rochberg] was composition this and a companion piece, Ora pro nobis (Pray for Us), just as the Gulf War was being waged. So, at the time, these titles seemed eerily prophetic. Among works for flute and guitar, the Muse is absolutely unique in its seriousness of purpose and scope," continues Fisk. "Formally, it is an extended fantasy with all the variety of character and dramatic sweep of a Shakespearean drama. From its percussive opening, through to its various scenes of romance, action, and even existential doubt, the work builds to a screaming finale with the flute at the upper end of its register supported by pounding chords in the guitar."

This seems a good piece to end our program with today.

Time: 2: Muse of Fire 17’35
Total running time: 92’41

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard John Adams’ Harmonium; Witold Lutosławski’s Jeux vénitiens; György Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles; Isang Yun’s Rencontre for Clarinet, Harp, and ‘Cello; and George Rochberg’s Muse of Fire. 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!
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