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Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007

Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, Monday, January 15, 2007, Noon to 2:00PM.
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 15 January 2007


Today’s Selections:

1. Elliott Carter Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi 06’30
2. George Walker Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir,
And Chamber Orchestra 12’46
3. Fela Sowande Yoruba Lament 07’57
4. William Grant Still Suite for Violin and Orchestra 12’39
5. Duke Ellington Suite from ‘The River’ 26’50
6. Dumisani Maraire Mai Nozipo 06’54
7. Dumisani Maraire Kutambarara 07’10
8. Roger Dickerson Essay for Band 08’34

Total time: 88’40

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 7: Elliott Carter (*1908, NYC) Riconscenza per Goffredo Petrassi (1984): Rolf Schulte, violin. Bridge BCD 9044

David Schiff recalls in his essential book, The Music of Elliott Carter that the great composer considered the Italian composer Goffredo Petrassi (1904, Rome - ?) “to be his best musical friend. Riconoscenza [per Goffredo Petrassi] is the first of two tributes [Carter wrote in honor of Petrassi]. . . . It is an example of temporal counterpoint,” continues Schiff. “Three ideas unfold in small, interspersed episodes, creating the illusion that we are hearing three pieces, expressive, percussive, and peaceful, at once. Each mood brings out a different aspect of the violin: singing, scratching, and sustaining, and each has its own harmonic makeup and rhythmic character. Each character evolves through the piece, and the form of the piece itself grows out of the developing relation of its three moods.

We’ll hear violinist Rolf Schulte perform the 1984 Riconscenza by Elliott Carter on Bridge Records BCD 9044. The word Riconscenza, by the way, means “Gratitude.”

Time: 7. Riconscenza 06’30

CD 2: Bands 18, 19: George Walker (*1922, Washington, DC) Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir, and Chamber Orchestra (1982): Joyce Mathis, soprano; Walter Turnbull, tenor; Boys Choir of Harlem; Orchestra of St. Luke’s; Warren Wilson, conductor. Albany Records, Troy 136.

George Walker, whom I had the great privilege of interviewing a number of years ago, deserves to be much more widely known and frequently performed than he is. He writes, in his liner notes, that the “Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir, and Chamber Orchestra was commissioned by the boys Choir of Harlem. It was complete in April of 1982. The premiere of the work was given at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, on June 20th, 1982.

“The Cantata is a setting of Psalm 23 and four verses from Psalm 24 in the King James version of the New Testament. . . .

“The work is divided into two parts. An introduction suggests the pastoral ambiance of the 23rd Psalm. The initial verse is intoned by the tenor soloist. This intonation is heard several times during the unfolding of the Psalm. The occurrence of the word “water” in the text evokes special effects from the boys choir. The final verse of the Psalm offers a brief quote from the spiritual Steal Away. The second part of the Cantata revels in the exultation of the text. The recurrence of rhythmic figures that vary in duration and density is a characteristic aspect of this section. A single boy chants, “Selah,” to bring this work to a tranquil conclusion.”

Time: 18. 23rd Psalm 09’51
19. Four Verses from the 24th Psalm 02’55

Total time: 12’46
Running time: 19’16

CD 3: Band 2: Fela Sowande (1905, Oyo, Nigeria – 1987, Ravenna, OH) Yoruba Lament (?): Lucius Weathersby, organ. Albany Records, Troy 440.

20th and 21st century composers as a whole have an almost insurmountable task when they attempt to get their music recorded. African and African American Black composers have an even more difficult time. Fela Sowande, who was born in Nigeria in 1905 and died in Ohio in 1987, is an African composer whose works combine classical, church, and African music is an individual about whose music too little is known and even less is recorded. The liner notes to the piece we are about to air, Yoruba Lament, give the reader a taste of the incredible life Sowande lived in order to develop his musical talents and compose. “Western and African ideas prevail in his music, which include organ works such as Yoruba Lament . . . which shows quite a strong influence of Anglican Church music combined with Yoruba pentatonic melodies.” The fact that the liner notes indicate that “there is currently a move to set up a center to research and promote Sowande’s works as many remain unpublished or out-of-print, is proof enough of the neglect this extraordinary composer has suffered. The fact the Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Music lists the composer but only two of his works is another indictment against good taste. We’ll hear my late sweet friend Lucius Weathersby perform Fela Sowande’s Yoruba Lament on the 1864 “Father” Willis Organ.

Time: 2. Yoruba Lament 07’57

Running time: 27’13

CD 4: Bands 15 – 17: William Grant Still (1895, Woodville, MI – 1978, LA) Suite for Violin and Orchestra (ca. 1944): Louis Kaufman, violin; The Standard Hour Symphony Orchestra (1947); Henry Svedrofsky, conductor. Cambria CD –1121.

Thanks to William Grant Still’s daughter Judith Ann, we are able to hear a great deal more of this great 20th century composers music than of that of other deserving composers. Still composed the piece we are about to hear, Suite for Violin and Orchestra around 1944, when it premiered in Boston. Tony Thomas tells us in his liner notes that Stills “opted to key the suite to descriptions of works by African-American artists. The first of the three movements was inspired by Richmond Barthe’s African Dancer; the second by Sargent Johnson’s Mother and Child; and the third by Augusta Savage’s bronze Gamin. As we are going to hear the broadcast of the suite performed live on September, 1945, by violinist Louis Kaufman and The Standard Hour symphony Orchestra, listeners will no doubt notice how sound quality has changed during the past 63 years; there is a sharpness to the violin’s recorded sound, for instance, that would not be acceptable today. I must admit, I kind of like this echo-y quality; it brings me back to my youth!

Time: 15. African Dancer 04’19
16. Mother and Child 05’51
17. Gamin 02’29

Total time: 12’39

Running time: 39’52

CD 5: Bands 5-11: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899, DC – 1974, NY) Suite from “The River” (1970): Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, conductor. CHANDOS CD CHAN 9154.

The liner notes to our next selection are interesting enough to quote most of it. Michael Fleming writes, “Duke Ellington was one of the most prolific of composers. Even The New Grove Dictionary of Music in America gives up on trying to number his compositions, settling for a figure ‘about 2000.’ Some are short, of course, written to fit on a 78-rpm record. But he always had the desire to tackle larger forms, and when the chance came to him he did so.

“His son, Mercer Ellington, recalls that ‘the idea for The River had been kicking around for several years, ever since Stanley Dance had suggested an extended work depicting the natural course of a river.’ The elder Ellington composed the music for The River in 1970, during the same period when The New Orleans Suite was taking shape. . . .

“Mercer Ellington sees the suite as a ‘religious allegory,’ noting that his father’s thoughts were then turning more to spiritual matters. This is supported by the composer’s words, prefaced to the score: ‘of birth . . . of the wellspring of life . . . of reaffirmation . . . of heavenly anticipation of rebirth,’

“That is one way of hearing The River, but there is a literal level of meaning, which Ellington himself explained in his book Music Is My Mistress. There he describes an imaginary journey down the river, beginning at the ‘Giggling Rapids,’ passing through ‘The Lake,’ and ending at ‘The Vortex,’ [also referred to by Ellington as ‘The Whirlpool]: ‘an experience in which, of course, you must really immerse yourself to appreciate the hazards.’”

The version of Duke Ellington’s Suite from ‘The River’ was orchestrated by Ron Collier.

There are 7 sections: Spring, Meaner, Giggling rapids, Lake, Vortex, Riba, and Village Virgins. We’ll hear Neeme Järvi conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in this performance of Duke Ellington’s Suite from ‘The River.’

Time: 5. Spring 03’00
6. Meander 03’57
7. Giggling Rapids 02’55
8. Lake 06’51
9. Vortex 02’13
10. Riba 03’18
11. Village Virgins 04’21

Total time: 26’50

Running time: 66’02

CD 6a: Band 1: Dumisani Maraire (*1943, Zimbabwe) Mai Nozipo (Mother Nozipo) (1990): Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. Piece of Africa. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79275-2.

Between 1989 and 1991, the Kronos Quartet recorded eight compositions by African composers entitled Pieces of Africa. The first and last pieces on the CD were written by Zimbabwean Dumisani Maraire. The first one, called Mai Nozipo, means, in Shona, “Mother Nozipo.” The composer, Dumisani Maraire, has this to say about the piece: “My aim was to portray the life of my mother, who passed away in 1989. I wrote this piece in three parts. The first portrays life with my mother on earth. It was all very loving and full of caring and happiness. The second part is sad, portraying her death. The third movement is happy again, portraying that my mother is well, cares for and looks after me and all her children still on earth, as she now lives her new life in the world of spirits or in heaven. We shall all meet her when we die.”

We’ll hear “Mother Nozipo” performed by the Kronos Quartet.

Time: 1. Mai Nozipo 06’54

Running time: 72’56

CD 6b: Band 12: Dumisani Maraire (*1943, Zimbabwe): Kutambarara (“Spreading”) (1990): Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. Piece of Africa. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79275-2.

The final piece on Kronos Quartet’s CD Pieces of Africa is another piece by Dumisani Maraire, this once entitled Kutambarara, which means “Spreading” in Shona.

Maraire writes, in 1991, “What is spreading is African concepts, perspectives, philosophies, traditions, and cultures through African music. This is now being done by Africans themselves. It is true that African traditions, cultural norms and aspects have been spread for years all over the world. However, this spreading was by non-Africans which in some ways was an interpretation of Africa by non-African scholars, writers, film makers, and so on. Africa and Africans have been suppressed for a long time. It was only around 1950 that Africans resisted and fought for their rights in their own land and started gaining the political power to rule themselves and try to determine their own future.

“The other message of the song is that not all non-Africans oppressed Africans. Actually, there were and still are non-Africans who fought and fight to free Africa from oppression financially, educationally, and politically. Music can dismantle cultural, political, and racial barriers.”

Time: 12. Kutambarara 07’10

Running time: 80’06

CD 7: Band 14: Roger Dickerson (*1934, New Orleans) Essay for Band (1962): Northern University Wind Symphony; Dr. Patricia J. Hoy, conductor. William Grant Still 100th Anniversary Celebration: Music of Afro-American Composers. NAUWS CD 003.

Carl Helmer tells us in his liner notes that “Roger Dickerson hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. He began piano studies at the age of eight through private piano instruction and continues his music education in the public schools in New Orleans. Mr. Dickerson’s advanced music studies were with Bernhard Heiden at Indiana University and Karl Schiske at the Academie für Musik and Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria. He toured with the blues artists Joe Turner and “Guitar Slim.” . . .

“After returning to the United States in 1962, Dickerson turned his attention to composition. Essay for Band, one of his best known works, which we’ll end today’s program with, was composed in this year. His music borrows elements from blues, jazz, and soul music, but he combines these with contemporary classical traditions. . . . He was the subject of a 1978 public television documentary film, New Orleans Concerto.

Time: 14. Essay for Band 08’34

Total running time: 88’40

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Elliott Carter’s Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi; George Walker’s Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir, and Chamber Orchestra; Fela Sowande’s Yoruba Lament; William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Orchestra; Duke Ellington’s Suite from ‘The River’; Dumisani Maraire’s Mother Nozipo and Kutambarara (‘Spreading’); and Roger Dickerson’s Essay for Band. 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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