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Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007

070226 Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, WJFF,
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 26 February 2007
Today’s Selections:
1. Elliott Carter Eight Etudes and a Fantasy 19’28
2. Stefan Wolpe Excerpts from Dr. Einstein’s Address about Peace in the Atomic Era 06’14
3. Olivier Messiaen Le Merle noir 05’56
4. Toru Takemitsu Rain Tree Sketch II 04’28
5. George Crumb The River of Life 43’02
6. Terry Riley G Song 11’11
7. Igor Stravinsky Pastorale 02’49
Total time: 92’58
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) Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for woodwind quartet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon) (1949-50): Michael Faust, flute; Christian Hommel, oboe; David Smeyers, clarinet; Dag Jenson, bassoon: Elliott Carter – Chamber Music for Winds CPO999 453-2
David Schiff (The Music of Elliott Carter, 97) tells us that "[the] Eight Etudes began as blackboard exercises at Columbia University in 1949. . . . Disappointed in his students’ efforts, Carter began to sketch small woodwind pieces on the blackboard, each one exploiting a different aspect of the ensembles. The Etudes became studies for Carter as well as his students. By isolating compositional problems, he discovered many of the techniques that would become the basis of his mature style."
Carter wrote the Fantasy after he had finished the Etudes. "[The Fantasy] combines [all the Etudes], giving the illusion that the Etudes are warm-up exercises for the episodes of an elaborate fugue. " (100)
Time: 4. Maestoso 01’29
5. Quitely [sic] 01’06
6. Adagio possible 01’36
7. Vivace 01’43
8. Andante 02’18
9. Allegretto 02’37
10.Intensely 01’16
11.Presto 01’36
12.Fantasy: tempo giusto 05’47
Total time: 19’28
CD 2: Band 1: Stefan Wolpe (1902, Berlin – 1972, NY): Excerpts from Dr. Einstein’s Address about Peace in the Atomic Era (1950): Patrick Mason, baritone; Robert Shannon, piano. Bridge 9209
Bridge Records has just come out with a superb CD containing works by the German born composer Stefan Wolpe. Austin Clarkson and Larson Powell provide these fascinating liner notes.
In January of 1950, President Harry Truman announced that the U.S.A would build the hydrogen bomb, and on February 12, Albert Einstein responded by speaking out against the bomb on a television program hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt. The next day his speech was printed in the New York Times, and two days later, Stefan Wolpe write in his diary, ". . . it is time that all men should be freed and the perpetually besieged, exploited, and defiled earth with them. It is time to precisely define the concept of mankind’s freedom." Wolpe was about to have a Composer’s Forum concert in March in the McMillin Theater (now the Miller Theater) at Columbia University. As if [his] song on Isaiah, the Battle Piece for piano, and the Quartet for trumpet were not a sufficient call for freedom (and enough music for half a concert that he would be sharing with Dane Rudhyar), Wolpe poured his outrage into setting nearly one-half of Einstein’s speech for voice and piano and adding it to the concert program. It was courageous enough for a world-renowned scientist and pacifist to oppose the H-bomb during the McCarthy era, but for a free-lance German-Jewish composer with a history of communist associations it was reckless defiance. The marching pules and grim C-minor of the opening recall the Kampfmusik (music of the struggle against fascism) that Wolpe had composed copiously during the early 1930s. the repeated exclamations of "the H-bomb" and "general annihilation" give way to mainly triple meter for the appeal to the Cold War powers to find a way out of the impasse, to do away with mutual fear, and to renounce violence. The lone voice closes by insisting time and again that "the basis of trust is loyal give and take." (Liner Notes)
Time: 1. Excerpts from Dr. Einstein’s Address 06’14
Running time: 25’42
CD 3: 2nd CD; Band 11: Olivier Messiaen (1908, Avignon – 1992, Clichy): Le Merle noir (1951): Karlheinz Zoller, flute; Aloys Kontarsky, piano. EMI Classics 7243 5 86525 2 9
The last offering on a 2005 release by EMI of works by Olivier Messiaen is a short 1951 piece for flute and piano entitle Le Merle noir, which James Harding tells us, in his liner notes, is "a test piece for flute which evoked the blackbird. It foreshadows the full-scale birdsong works he was subsequently to composer." Slightly shorter than 6 minutes long, Le Merle noir is a delightful piece in its own right, making clear the joy the great Messiaen took in composing his later bird songs. Also on this two disc set is Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, which, although almost 80 minutes long, definitely deserves a hearing, which I will perhaps provide us with next week.
Time: CD 1, Band 11. Le Merle noir 05’56
Running time: 31’38
CD 4: Band 11: Toru Takemitsu (1930, Tokyo – 1996, Tokyo): Rain Tree Sketch II, in memory of Olivier Messiaen (1992): Peter Serkin, piano. RCA Victor Red Seal CD 09026-68595-2.
Toru Takemitsu, a definite favorite of mine, composed this short piece in memory of Olivier Messiaen in 1992. Raphael Mostel calls Rain Tree Sketch II "the most accessible and immediately appealing of Takemitsu’s solo piano works. The ABA form gives it a more classical air. It is a gentle and joyful tribute bearing the seraphic indication "Celestially Light."
Time: 11. Rain Tree Sketch II 04’28
Running time: 36’06
CD 5, 1st CD: Bands 1-9: George Crumb (*1929, Charleston, WV): The River of Life- Songs of Joy and Sorrow – A Cycle of Hymns, Spirituals, and Revival Tunes for voice, percussion, Quartet and Amplified Piano [American Songbook I]: Ann Crumb, soprano, Marcantonio Barone, piano; William Kerrigan, Susan Jones, David Nelson, Angela Nelson, percussion; Orchestra 2001, James Freeman, conductor.
Bridge Records has very recently produced another gem in its recordings devoted to the great George Crumb, whom I had the great good fortune to interview several years ago after attending a concert in which his daughter, Ann, provided most of the vocal music. Ann Crumb is the soprano in this song cycle, The River of Life, which Eric Bruskin tells us that the composer has described as "my Ivesian thing." Bruskin continues:
As soon as Crumb decided to extend his original set of Appalachian songs into the much larger American Songbook, it seems inevitable in retrospect that some of the hymns and revival tunes would be associated with Charles Ives. Both composers’ fathers were bandmasters, and both grew up with the sounds of American folk music. Both composers became famous as experimenters in sound, and both have produced unique and memorable bodies of work which – unusually in twentieth-century music – people feel affection for, not just respect.
Listeners who hear The River of Life for the first time may or may not be able to identify the specific pieces without some assistance. To be sure, Crumb often alters the tunes, but his alterations, as Bruskin points out, "are both more subtle and more tightly woven into the melodic structure than is typical of Ives." In fact, in my humble opinion, Crumb manages to go beyond the obvious surface melodies of these pieces to capture their essences in ways that are startlingly incisive and even unexpected. Incidentally, the ending of "Give Me that Old Time Religion" is not the result of a flawed disc. Erik Bruskin tells us that "Crumb springs a surprise ending inspired by a childhood memory of something that went wrong one day while [he was] listening to this song on the radio."
Time: 1st CD 1. Shall We Gather at the River 07’53
2. Will there be any Stars in My Crown? 04’46
3. Amazing Grace! 04’16
4. Give Me That Old Time Religion 03’49
Time is a Drifting River: A Psalm for Daybreak
and Morning (Instrumental Interlude) 02’58
6. Were You There When They Crucifi8ed My Lord? 05’01
One More River to Cross ("Noah’s Ark" –
A Humoresque) 03’09
8. Nearer, My God, to Thee 04’36
9. Deep River 06’30
Total time: 43’02
Running time: 79’08
CD 6: Band 3: Terry Riley (*1935, Colfax, CA) G Song (1981): Kronos Quartet: David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. Hannibal HNCD 1509
The great Terry Riley, whom I also had the privilege of interviewing several years ago, was one of the founders, if that be the correct term, of what we now know as "Minimalism." Perhaps his most well known piece is his In C, which needs to be beheld as spectacle as well as heard as music. Riley wrote G Song in 1981, as nearly as I can tell. Mark Swed tells us in his liner notes that "G Song is based on a 16-bar theme comprised of G minor scales played asymmetrically over a jazz chord progression. It is based on a theme and variations for saxophone and keyboard that Riley composed in 1973 for the French film Le Secret de la Vie. The quartet version [which we area about to hear] is considerably expanded into a large variation movement, with the originally improvised saxophone melodies transferred to and developed in the viola." (Liner Notes)
Time: 2. G Song 11’11
Running time: 90’19
CD 7: 1st CD, Band 11: Igor Stravinsky (1882, Oranienbaum – 1971, NY): Pastorale (1933 version): Israel Baker, violin; Columbia Chamber Ensemble. SONY Classical SM2K 46297 (Boxed set)
Let’s end today’s program with a short piece by Igor Stravinsky, his Pastorale, which he "originally conceived as a song without words for soprano with piano accompaniment." Stravinsky composed it as such in 1907 and later created three different arrangements of it. Stravinsky created the version we’ll hear now in 1933 for violin and wind quartet.
Time: 1st CD, 11. Pastorale 02’49
Total running time: 92’58
We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Elliott Carter’s Eight Etudes and a Fantasy; Stefan Wolpe’s Excerpts from Dr. Einstein’s Address about Peace in the Atomic Era; Olivier Messiaen’s Le Merle noir; Toru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II; George Crumb’s The River of Life; Terry Riley’s G Song; and Igor Stravinsky’s Pastorale. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week when our featured Elliott Carter piece will be his 1954-5 Variations for Orchestra. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!
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Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007

February 19, 2007, 12 Noon to 2:00PM,
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 19 February 2007
Today’s Selections:
1. Elliott Carter Piano Sonata 26’29
2. Charles Ives An American Journey 64’46
Total time: 91’15
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) Piano Sonata (1945-6): Paul Jacobs, piano. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79248-2
Our Elliott Carter offering today is his 1945-6 Piano Sonata, a piece we have actually broadcast a number of times over the years. Most of the time, I have chosen the Charles Rosen performance which appears on a Bridge Records CD (9090); to be sure, Rosen is a superb pianist and interpreter of Carter. Today, however, I’ve decided to begin our program with a version performed by pianist Paul Jacobs. Interestingly enough, the Paul Jacobs performance is three minutes and forty-eight seconds longer than the Rosen performance, for reasons that are not immediately clear to me. Lloyd Schwartz’s liner notes quote remarks made by the pianist in 1982 as follows:
"Today, [the Piano Sonata] is recognized as the fines work of Carter’s early period and as one of the strongest pieces of American music of the forties." Schwartz continues: "In many ways, it is an excellent introduction to Carter, because although the details of rhythm, harmony, and articulation are complex . . . the basic structure is immediately graspable. And powerful.
"There are two movements, and in each movement, an initial gesture – a tempo, a color, a harmony – is interrupted by its virtual opposite. A literary analogy might be the interpenetrating gyres of Yeats’s later poetry, where both tension and, at certain points, balance are crated by the simultaneous movement in opposite directions of two opposing forces within a single personality or in the larger movements of history, as if each of these forces were striving to become its own opposite."
Time: 20. Maestoso 11’30
21. Andante 14’58
Total time: 26’29
CD 2: Entire: Charles Ives (1874, Danbury, CT – 1954, NY): An American Journey (Compilation, by Michael Tilson Thomas): San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Vance George, director; San Francisco Girlls Chorus, Sharon J. Paul, director; San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor & piano; Thomas Hampson, baritone. RCA Victor/BMG CD 09026-67703-2
Today is Presidents Day, and Hendrik Hertzberg has written a wonderfully insouciant lead piece in this week’s double issue of The New Yorker’ "The Talk of the Town, which he titles, "Too Many Chiefs" and in which he poses the question: Is today President’s Day (singular apostrophe); Presidents’ Day (plural apostrophe); or, simply, Presidents Day (no apostrophe). The surprising answer, according to Hertzberg, is "None of the above." The writer then tells us that in order to crate a three day weekend, Congress, in 1968, simply announced its own version of a papal Bulla: Henceforth, the third Monday in February will be celebrated as Washington’s Birthday. How, then, did today become "President’s/s’/s Day? Here Hertzberg is at his saucy best: "It was a local department –store promotional that went national when retailers discovered that, mysteriously, generic Presidents clear more inventory than particular one, even the Father of His Country. Now everyone things it’s official, but it’s not." Grazie mille, Hendrik!
In any case, although I looked far and wide, I was unable to discover a piece of music written to apotheosize the only U.S. President to graduate from my fair alma mater, Calvin Coolidge; instead, I discovered on my shelf a compilation of works by Charles Ives amassed by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas under the rubric An American Journey. Many, if not most of the selections, are selections from longer pieces, and, thus, partial pieces that I try hard never to broadcast. However, because Michael Tilson Thomas has arranged these quite beautifully into a singular, thematically viable collection, I think it may be a perfect piece with which to honor any or all of the presidents of the United States, whatever today’s real name is.
Here’s what Tilson Thomas has to say, and I will quote him at some length:
Nearly 100 years after it was written, Charles Ives’s music remains as visionary, defiant, tenderly evocative, and paradoxically contrary as ever…
On this CD, I have chosen music reflecting some of Ives’s most constant themes. We begin with pieces reflecting his boyhood – memories of his hometown and of the most important figure in his life, musically and personally – his father, George Ives . . . who encouraged his son to listen creative, to imagine and to experiment. The pieces From the Steeples and the Mountains and "The Pond" are both vivid examples of this kind of thinking, which makes the most visionary statements out of the simplest things.
We then turn to evocation of landscape with Three Places in New England. These pieces are richly expressive tone poems that tell of a place, an event that occurred there, and the feelings of the boy and later the man who remembers them.
Works concerning war form the next group. These have an amazing range, from the zany "They Are There!" to the utterly profound "Tom Sails Away," one of Ives’s greatest songs. In "They Are There!" (adds Thomas) I have followed the phrasing and style of Ives’s own historic piano/vocal recording.
Finally, we turn to the topic of religion. These pieces evoke variously ardent congregationalism, the carnival atmosphere of the big-time revival circuit, and truly profound mystical experience. Ives appreciated the warm fellowship of organized religion, but it is his visionary expression of spirituality in a work such as The Unanswered Question That is perhaps the most personal expression of his inner thoughts.
(Michael Tilson Thomas concludes:): Ives encourages performers to be creative participants in the shaping of his work. Many alternative suggestions are presented in the manuscripts and in his own writings about his muskc. In these performances, I have used different-sized ensembles, solo voice, and unison chorus, and editorial options from many sources based on my instincts and feelings about this music, so long familiar. It is my hope that . . . many new listeners may come to appreciate the extraoerdinary crative range of Ives’s expression and the importance of his message for today. (Liner Notes)
There are 17 separate musical sections in An Ameridcan Journey. The 10th, In Flanders Fields was orchestrated by our friend David Del Tredici; John Adams orchestrated the 15th, Serenity. Glenn Fischtall plays the trumpet solo in The Unanswered Question.
An American Journey was recorded at Davies Hall in San Francisco on 30 October 1999.
Time: 1. From the Steepels and the Mountains 04’15
2. The Things Our Fathers Loved 01’47
3. The Pond (Remembrance) 01’42
4. Memories 02’30
5. Charlie Rutlage 02’38
6. The Circus Band 03’02
7. The "St. Gaudens" in Boston Common 08’51
8. Putnam’s Camp (Redding, CT) 05’22
9. The Housatonic at Stockbridge (MA) 04’06
10.In Flanders Fields 02’41
11.They Are There 02’52
12.Tom Sails Away 02’48
13.Symphony No.4 - III: Fugue 06’38
14.Psalm 100 01’35
15.Serenity 02’00
16.Genheral William Booth Enters Heaven 05’42
17.The Unanswered Question 06’19
Total time: 64’46
Total running time: 91’15
We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Elliott Carter’s Piano Sonata and a compilation of works by Charles Ives by Michael Tilson Thomas, called An American Journey. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week when our Elliott Carter selection will be his 1949/50 composition Eight Etudes and a Fantasy. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you all the joy of New Music!
:: :: ::

Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feb. 12, 2007 Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf.
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 12 February 2007


Today’s Selections:

1. Elliott Carter Three Poems of Robert Frost 04’46
2. Mel Powell Six Love Songs 07’55
3. Jake Heggie from Natural Selection 09’07
4. Adolphus Hailstork Settings from the Song of Solomon 06’49
5. Jon Harbison Mirabai Songs 18’19
6. Gerald Finzi Six Songs by Shakespeare 17’16
7. Gadi Kaplan To My Love (two versions) 06’34
8. Gandalf (Not your host!) “Hearts in Celestial Unison” 05’03
9. Bob Ostertag All the Rage 16’15

Total time: 92'04

Good Afternoon, Lovers of Fine Music, and welcome to Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, where we will hear the best of 20th and 21st century 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) Three Poems of Robert Frost (1942/1980) Patrick Mason, baritone; Speculum Musicae, David Starobin, conductor: Bridge Records BCD 9014

Elliot Carter composed his Three Poems of Robert Frost in 1948 for piano and voice; he orchestrated them in 1980. David Schiff tells us that “Carter began his settings of American poetry with Robert Frost.. . . The three poems, ‘Dust of Snow,’ ‘The Rose Family,’ and ‘The Line Gang,’ “ . . . are now published as a group”; but, continues Schiff, “‘The Line Gang’ calls for a heavier voice than either “The Dust of Snow’ or ‘The Rose Family’ require. And is not up to the artistic level of the other two songs. The Frost songs are the closest Carter ever came to the charming vocal manner of Copland and Barber. ‘The Dust of Snow’ can be sung by a non-virtuoso . . . and have often served as encores for a song recital. ‘The Dust of Snow . . . sets off the poet’s words in the blank spaces of a winter landscape. ‘The Rose Family’ is Frost’s response to Gertrude Stein. Carter captures the poem’s tongue-in-cheek tone by setting it in a fast moving 5/8 meter, a little frantic, a bit off-center. . . . ‘The Line Gang’ portrays a noisy construction crew breaking through a forest to put up phone and telegraph lines. . . The musical punch-line, an imitation of a telegraphic key-punch, though cleverly set up early in the song, suggests a comic attitude not apparent in the text.”

Time: 1. Dust of Snow 01’22
2. The Rose Family 01’20
3. The Line Gang 02’00

Total time: 4’46

Wednesday we celebrate Valentine’s Day, traditionally, by now, the feast of love and lovers. It is a bitter-sweet holiday for me, as my wife Carol died just a few hours after it ended, on February 15, 1994. I dedicate this program to her memory, and to the memory of Naomi Kaplan, whose husband, Gadi, we interviewed on this program recently, and whose piece "To My Love" we will play during today's program.

CD 2: Bands 8-13: Mel Powell (1923 or 1933, NY – 1998,?): Six Love Songs (1950). Oregon Repertory Singers, Gilbert Seeley Artistic Director. Koch CD 3-7253-2-H1.

Mel Powell, who was born Melvin Epstein, began his musical life as an American Jazz pianist and, in fact was chosen as pianist for Benny Goodman’s band, where he changed his name to, as Baker’s puts it, “the more mellifluous Mel Powell.” “At the heighth of his powers as a jazz player and composer he discovered that he had muscular dystrophy and could no longer travel with the band; whereupon, he turned to “serious composition.” He composed his Six Love Songs in 1950. Davie Preiser writes in his liner notes, “[Mel Powell’s] choral music is firmly in the American tradition, with clear part-writing and easier harmonies [than are to be found in his instrumental music]. Perhaps the sources of the text led to a simpler style. Six Love songs, while not exactly old-fashioned, has a nostalgic feel. It was modeled on Six Chansons Six Chansons by Paul Hindemith. We hear Six Love Songs (1950), by Mel Powell. Oregon Repertory Singers, Gilbert Seeley Artistic Director. The texts are anonymous 17th century works for four-part mixed voices.

Time: 8. Song 01’19
9. The contented Lover 02’00
10. What Can We Poor females Do 00’34
11. On a Lady Sleeping 01’49
12. The Bee 00’51
13. A Lover Am I 01’26

Total time: 07’55

Running time: 12’41

CD 3: Bands 11,12,13: Jake Heggie (b. 1961, West Palm Beach, FL): from Natural Selection (1997, by Gini Savage): “Animal Passion,” Alas! Alack!” “Joy Alone (Connection).” (1999). Nicolle Foland, soprano; Jake Heggie, piano. BMG Classics 09026-63484.

Jake Heggie has deservedly become quite a well known composer over the past few years. His first opera, Dead Man Walking, with a libretto by Terrence McNally took the opera world by storm in 2000; he has also written Anna Madrigal Remembers, for Chanticleer and Federica von Stade, who is certainly one of his muses. Anna Madrigal, many of you may know, is a character created by Armistead Maupin and played by Olympia Dukakis in the 6 hour TV version of Maupin’s Tales of the City. Not surprisingly, Heggie has written serious song cycles based on a variety of poets. Today, I thought it would be fun to listen to some selections from poet Gini Savage’s cycle Natural Selection (1997), for which Jake Heggie composed music especially for singer Nicolle Foland, who was one of the resident artists at the San Francisco Opera at the time. The entire cycle consists of five songs, of which three are recorded on this CD: “Animal Passion,” “Alas! Alack!” and “Joy Alone (Connection)”

Time: 11. Animal Passion 03’19
12. Alas! Alack! 02’29
13. Joy Alone (Connection) 03’19

Total time: 09’07

Running time: 21’48

CD 4: Bands 7 and 8: Adolphus Hailstork (*1941, Rochester, NY): Arise My Beloved and Set Me as a Seal Upon Thine Heart. The McCullough Chorale, Donald McCullough, conductor. Troy CD 156.

A Valentine’s Day program would not, I suppose, be complete without some choral music set to verses from The Song of Solomon. Adolphus Hailstork has kindly provided us with two such compositions, Arise My Beloved and Set Me as a Seal Upon Thine Heart. The McCullough Chorale, Donald McCullough, conductor, perform these beautiful pieces. Troy CD 156.

Time: 7. Arise My Beloved 02’30
8. Set Me as a Seal 04’19

Total time: 06’49

Running time: 28’37

CD 5: Bands 13 – 18: Jon Harbison (*1938, Orange, NJ): Mirabai Songs (1982), Translated by Robert Bly: Georgine Resick, soprano; Warren Jones, piano. Bridge Records CD 9134.

Our next song cycle is, perhaps, a bit different from the sentimental songs we expect – and perhaps demand – on Valentine’s Day. Here’s what Jon Harbison’s liner notes tell us: “Mirabai’s ecstatic religious poetry was written in sixteenth-century India. When she was twenty-seven, her husband was killed in a war. Rather than sacrifice her own life, as custom required, she left her family compound, wrote poems to the god Krishna (“the Dark One”), and sang and danced them in the street as an outcast.” Harbison continues, “My cycle Mirabai Songs, for voice and piano, includes all six poems in Robert Bly’s Red Ozier Press chapbook, which I bought by sheer chance . . . in 1980.”

Some of our listeners may recall that several years ago, I interviewed Robert Bly for another WJFF program. One of these days, I hope to get around to interviewing Jon Harbison, who has indicated he would allow me to do so.

Time: 13. It’s True, I Went to the Market 03’03
14. All I Was Doing Was Breathing 02’48
15. Why Mira Can’t Go Back to Her Old House 01’59
16. Where Did You Go? 02’36
17. The Clouds 03’16
18. Don’t Go, Don’t Go 04’37

Total time: 18’19

Running time: 46’56

CD 6: (3rd CD in set) Band 3: Gerald Finzi (1901, London – 1956, Oxford): Let Us Garlands Bring (1929-1942), Op. 18. 6 songs for baritone and piano. Dae San No, baritone; Laura Ward, piano. Boxed Set: On Wings of Song, presented by the Marilyn Horne foundation. Disc 3.

Gerald Finzi, who died much too young of Hodgkins disease, composed numerous vocal works and cycles, among which baritone Dae San NO sings quite beautifully on this disc from a boxed set of works called On Wings of Song, presented by the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Written between 1929 and 1942, this cycle comprises five compositions set to texts by William Shakespeare: The cycle is called Let Us Garlands Bring; it includes 1. “Come away, Come away, Death,” from Twelfth Night iv; 2. “Who Is Sylvia Silvia?” from Two Gentlemen of Verona, 3, ii”; 3. “Fear No More,” from Cymbeline, 4, ii; 4. “O Mistress Mine,” from Twelfth Night, 2, iii; and 5. “It Was a Lover and His Lass,” from As You Like It, 5, iii.

Time: 3. On Wings of Song 17’16

Running time: 64’12

CD 7: CD 2: Entire: Gadi Kaplan (Date of birth, place): “To My Love,” folk version and jazz version. Magda Fishman, soprano; Yuval Cohen, piano. Private CD.

Our next selection was composed by a new found friend, Gadi Kaplan, who was our telephone guest last December 11th. He wrote this piece in memory of his beloved wife.

Time: 1. Folk Version 03’16 03’12
2. Jazz Version 03’22 03’22

Total time: 06’34

Running time: 70’46

CD 8: Band 7: Gandalf (*?, Austria): “Hearts in Celestial Unison,” from Colors of a New Dawn (2004?): Gandalf, acoustic instruments. Real Music CD RM 3155.

About a year or so ago, our friend Sonja Hedlund presented me with a CD called Colors of a New Dawn, composed by a mysterious individual who calls himself Gandalf. Affixed to the CD was Sonja’s terse note, “This has to go to you!”

When you’ve been given a name such as “Gandalf,” I suppose it is only natural that your ears prick up when you hear that someone else also calls himself by that name. In fact, it turns out that “Gandalf” is one of the most popular names extant today. Alas, I know almost nothing about the Gandalf who composed Colors of a New Dawn except these very few liner and jewel case notes:

Gandalf was born in Austria, Exactly where or when I know not. However, the jewel box notes continue, “”Gandalf blends acoustic, electronic, and spherical sounds and weaves folk elements into a symphonic structure to create his unmistakable and unique musical style.”

Gandalf, himself, provides these thoughts about today’s selection, “Hearts in Celestial Unison”: “Imagine one of those special moments when you are with someone you really love and you both feel like your hearts are beating in perfect harmony with the whole creation.”

This is a Valentine’s Day Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf by a composer named Gandalf. Enjoy!

Time: 7. Hearts in Celestial Union 05’03

Running time: 75’49

CD 9: Entire: Bob Ostertag (*1957, Albuquerque, NM): All the Rage (1992): Sara Miles, libretto; Eric Gupton, reader; Kronos Quartet: David Harrington, John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; Joan Jeanrenaud, ‘cello. Elektra Nonesuch CD 9 79332-2.

I’m going to end today’s Valentine’s Day program with a piece composed by Bob Ostertag in 1992. Sara Miles wrote the libretto; Eric Gupton is the reader. All the Rage was written for Kronos. Its commissioning was made possible by a grant from Meet the composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, in cooperation with Lincoln Center, Wexner Center, and San Antonio Performing Arts Association. The Kronos Quartet’s royalties for the sale of this recording are dedicated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFar).

I end with this piece because I believe that William Blake’s words still provide the best overview of the subject of love: “Arise and drink your bliss, for everything that lives is holy!” (“Visions of the Daughters of Albion”)

Time: Time: 16’15

Total running time: 92’04

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf. Today we have heard Three Poems of Robert Frost, by Elliott Carter; Six Love Songs by Mel Powell; Settings from the Song of Solomon, by Adolphus Hailstork; Mirabai Songs, by Jon Harbison; Songs from Natural Selection, by Jake Heggie; Six Songs from Shakespeare, by Gerald Finzi; For My Love, by Gadi Kaplan; “Hearts in Celestial Unison,” by Gandalf (Not your host!); and All the Rage, by Bob Ostertag. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next Monday when we will feature Elliott Carter’s 1945-6 Piano Sonata. Until then, this is Gandalf thanking you for listening and wishing you a very Happy, loving Valentine’s day and the joy of New Music.
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Posted on Sunday, February 04, 2007

February 5, 2007. Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf, WJFF 90.5fm Jeffersonville, NY
Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf
Monday, 05 February 2007

Today’s Selections:

1. Elliott Carter Enchanted Preludes 06’30
2. Carlos Chávez Sextet for Piano and Strings 31’05
3. Wynton Marsalis Sweet Release 30’46
4. Olivier Messiaen Cinq Rechants 17’20
5. George Perle Bassoonmusic 05’47

Total time: 91’27

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) Enchanted Preludes (1988)Harvey Sollberger, flute; Fred Sherry, ‘cello. Elliott Carter – Eight compositions (1948-1993): Bridge Records BCD 9044

In his excellent liner notes, musicologist David Schiff tell us that Elliott Carter’s 1988 composition, “Enchanted Preludes, for flute and ‘cello, was composed in 1988 to honor the 50th birthday of Ann Santen, musical director of Cincinnati’s public radio station, and a champion of new music. Carter has compared this piece to a Mendelssohn scherzo; it is fairy-dust music full of trills and tremolos. Although both instruments play different intervals and at different speeds, they pursue the same elfin mood. The title comes from a poem by Wallace Stevens, The Pure Good of Theory, ‘All the Preludes to Felicity,’ stanza 7:

Felicity, ah! Time is the hooded enemy,
The inimical music, the enchantered space
In which the enchanted preludes have their place.

We’ll hear flutist Harvey Sollberger and ‘cellist Fred Sherry perform Carter’s Enchanted Preludes.

Time: 2. Enchanted Preludes 06’30

Here’s another example of my long time contention that I am proof of the amended adage that although you may be able to teach an old dog you tricks, you cannot guarantee that he will be able to perform them well. Having mastered, I thought, the nuances of the spreadsheet on the computer, and having determined to do a cycle of Elliott Carter’s works, one each week until I had broadcast every one I could get my hands on, I typed in the information and arranged them chronologically – or so I had thought. The works in question took up almost two pages. I began, of course with page one, and have continued to air them in the order they appear on that page. From time to time, I wondered why there seemed to be chronological gaps in the list. The other day, quite by accident, I happened to glimpse at page two and discovered, to my amused chagrin, that although the spread sheet did, in fact, list his works chronologically, it did so only if the date were a single number. Thus, 1939 is listed before 1942, etc. What I did not realize was that any composition for which I typed in a span of dates, such as 1939 – 1942, was arranged in its own special list at the end of page 2. So, having discovered once again that “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men/Gang aft a-gley.” I will begin to correct the chronological mistake by playing catch-up with those pieces I have missed. Next week, I’ll feature Elliott Carter’s Three Poems of Robert Frost, which he composed in 1942 and revised in 1980.

CD 2: 2nd CD: Bands 1-5: Carlos Chávez (1899, Mexico City – Mexico City, 1978): Sextet for Piano and Strings (1919): Lorenz Gamma and Tereza Stanislav, violins; Jan Karlin, viola; Sebastian Toettcher and Steve Richards, ‘cellos; Ming Tsu, piano. Carlos Chávez – Complete Chamber Music Vol. 4: Southwest Chamber Music: Cambria CD8853A/B.

Southwest Chamber Music and Cambria Master Recordings have provided 20th century classical music lovers with a lovely series of the complete chamber music of Mexican composer Carlos Chávez, who was born near Mexico City in 1899. The anonymous liner notes tell us that Chávez composed his Sextet for Piano and Strings in 1919, when he was still in his teens, and Mexico was embroiled in the relentless violence of . . . revolution.” (Liner notes, 10). The chamber piece did not receive its first recording until early in the 21st century. The notes continue: “The never-ending chronicle of loyalties and disloyalties that mark the Mexican

Revolution find a potent release in the harmonies and structural ideas in the Sextet. How the music sounds Mexican is unique. Chávez has a youthful penchant for combining and abandoning harmonies that provide a potent telescope of his entire career. . . . The dreamlike qualities of much of the Sextet, though evoking Wagner, Debussy, and early Schoenberg, come as much from Chávez’s need to be done with an overall harmnic hierarchy.” Chávez demonstrates “a predilection for doubling the string parts . . . [creating a] particular flavor [that is] reminiscent of the famous mariachi ensemble of Mexico [that is] unique to [his] early period, and the one dead giveaway of the location of the composer’s soul.”

The piano part of the fifth and final movement of the piece has been “inextricably lost, and no score has yet come to light.” Max Lifchitz reconstructed this part of the score, based on his understanding of the first four movements and the strings composition of the fifth.

Time: 1. Lento 02’34
2. Allegro con brio 07’04
3. Andante 11’18
4. Presto scherzando 04’46
5. Allegretto 05’23

Total time: 31’05

Running time: 37’35

CD 3: Bands 1-5: Wynton Marsalis (*1961, New Orleans): Sweet Release (?): Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra: Wess Anderson, alto and sopranino sacophone, clarinet; Sherman Irby, also saxophone, clarinet; Victor Goines, tenor saxophone; Geideon Feldstein, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Roger Ingram, Ryan Kisor, Russell Gunn, Jamil Sharif, trumpets; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone and tuba; Ron Westray, Wayne Goodman, Bob Trowers, trombone; Eric Reed, piano; Rodney Whitaker, bass; Herlin Riley, drums; Pernell Saturnino, conga and Latin percussion; Stanley Harris, percussion and assistant conductor; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet and conductor Sweet Release & Ghost Story Two More Ballets by Wynton Marsalis: SONY Classical/Columbia SK61690.

You may wonder why I have chosen a ballet by Wynton Marsalis for our third selection today. The answer is simple: although Marsalis is considered a jazz composer usually, he composes his jazz in styles that, in my opinion, are in their own way post-modern and fit neatly into what I consider contemporary classical music. Here’s what Stanley Crouch has to say about Marsalis’s ballet, Sweet Release: “At just under thirty-four minutes, Sweet Release is an extraordinarily concise extended work. Everything introduced in the first and second sections, melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically – is recast throughout the remainder of the piece, with the brief third section a contrapuntal combining of the core materials from the previous two parts, both set within the Afro-Hispanic frame that will dominate parts four and five. In all, we hear dissonance and consonance, a polyphony that rises from the New Orleans front line of traditional jazz, dramatic tempo changes, an angularity we have rarely heard utilized so successfully, and a grip on swing that will shake the blues away.

“Marsalis knows well how to develop his themes with reiterations or sustained melodic variations, how to bring harmony we hve heard earlier into another position. All these qualities are evident in the way that Sweet Release, beginning with section four, builds up into the next part, creating an ever more complex narrative of contrasting rhythmic, metric, harmonic, and contrapuntal intricacy, all the while giving extension, elaboration, and searing refinement to the writing that featured the trumpet and the trumbone in the [first three] sections. The ways in which Marsalis musically makes his way back to his initial proposition in the last three pares are precise but illusively magical examples of the brilliance.”

The piece is written in five sections: Home: Beyond This Rage; Church: Renewing Vows; Church Basement: Party; Street: Make room for Me; Home: Give Me Your Hand.

Time: 1. Home 07’51
2. Church 07’19
3. Church 05’28
4. Street 04’24
5. Home 05’44

Total time: 30’46

Running time: 68’21

CD 4: Band 9: Olivier Messiaen (1908, Avignon – 1992, Clichy): Cinq Rechants pour 12 parties vocales réelles (1948): Soloists of the choruses of L’O.R.T.F.: Nicole Robin, Gisèle Prevert, Marcelle Legendre, sopranos; Arlette Friedmann, Josette Pudleitner, Antoinette Kerguelin, contraltos; Régis Oudot, Roger Cotton, Jean-Claude Le Mee, tenors; Charley Guigui, René Chauvaut, Mario Haniotis, basses; Colette Brullebaut, choral director; Marcel Couraud, conductor. ERATO CD 4509-91708-2.

Olivier Messiaen composed his Cinq Rechants for 12 unaccompanied vocalists in 1948, just before his wife Claire underwent severe surgery that left her mentally compromised and behaviorally erratic. In their essential book, Messiaen, Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone write: “Significantly, the score of Cinq Rechants . . . has no explanatory introduction, apart from brief notes for the performers. The last of these reads: ‘The work is a song of love. This word alone is sufficient to guide the singers in the interpretation of the poem and the music.’ The title is a homage to Claude Le Jeune’s Le Printemps, a work repeatedly used by Messiaen in his class.” The authors then quote the liner notes of the recording we are about to air by Marcel Douraud:

‘In Le Printemps the couplets are called chants, the refrains rechants. Melodically, [Cinq Rechants] derives from two sources: the harawi or yaravi, a love song from the folk music of Peru and Ecuador; and the alba, a medieval song of the dawn, in which an unearthly voice warns the lovers that the night of love will finish.’

The comments that Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone make concerning this incredible piece and it likely relation to what had become an increasingly strained, if not estranged relationship between Olivier Messiaen and his wife Claire are too numerous to summarize gracefully. If Messiaen moves you as he moves me – like few other composers of any time and place – I highly recommend getting hold of a copy of this book and using it as a guide to Messiaen’s works.

Time: 9. 12 Rechants 17’20

Running time: 85’41

CD 5: Band 17: George Perle (*1915, Bayonne, NJ): Bassoonmusic (2004): Steven Dibner, bassoon. George Perle – A Retrospective Bridge records CD 9214A/B.

Let’s end today’s program with a short piece by the great composer George Perle called, simply, Bassoonmusic. David Starobin, who wrote the liner notes for this Bridge Records double CD, tells us that Bassoonmusic . . . [was commissioned] by Steven Dibner, [our soloist and] the San Francisco Symphony’s associate principal bassoonist. Bassoon Music is Perle’s second work for solo bassoon, the first being the Three Inventions of 1962. From the outset of this six minute long work, Perle delights in the juxtaposition of highly contrasting musical ideas. Initially, a jocular staccato figure is followed by a lyrical and tender melody, both of which are immediately repeated. What follows is a masterful expansion of these materials into a work that uses the bassoon’s different registral ‘personalities’ to create music that is at once playful, nostalgic, and referential.”

Time: CD 2, 17: Bassoon Music 05’47

Total running time: 91’27

We have come to the end of another Monday Afternoon Classics. Today we have heard Elliott Carter’s Enchanted Preludes; Carlos Chávez’s Sextet for Piano and Strings; Wynton Marsalis’s Sweet Release; Olivier Messiaen’s Cinq Recherches; and George Perle’s Bassoonmusic. I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed today’s selections and that you will tune in next week when our featured Elliott Carter piece will Three Poems of Robert Frost as well as other 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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