Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
"Three main ideas bind the composition together. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century, 'Ye Warriors of God and His Law,' a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation. It has been utilized by many Czech composers, including Smetana in My Country. The beginning of this religious song is announced very softly in the first movement by timpani and concludes in a strong unison Chorale. The song is never used in its entirety. The second idea is the sound of bells throughout; Prague, named also the City of Hundreds of Towers, has used its magnificently sounding church bells as calls of distress as well as of victory. The last idea is a motif of three chords first appearing very softly under the piccolo solo at the beginning of the piece, in flutes, clarinets, and horns. Later it appears at extremely strong dynamic levels, for example in the middle of the Aria movement. Much symbolism also appears: in addition to the distress calls in the first movement (Fanfares), the unbroken hope of the Hussite song, sound of bells, or the tragedy (Aria), there is also a bird call at the beginning (piccolo solo), symbol of the liberty which the city of Prague has seen only for moments during its thousand years of existence."
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Karel Husa, winner of the 1993 Grawemeyer Award and the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Music, is an internationally known composer and conductor. An American citizen since 1959, Husa was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on August 7, 1921. After completing studies at the Prague Conservatory and, later, the Academy of Music, he went to Paris where he received diplomas from the Paris National Conservatory and the Ecole normale de musique. Among his teachers were Arthur Honegger, Nadia Boulanger, Jaroslav Ridky, and conductor Andre Cluytens. In 1954, Husa was appointed to the faculty of Cornell University where he was Kappa Alpha Professor until his retirement in 1992. He was elected Associate Member of the Royal Belgian Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974 and has received honorary degrees of Doctor of Music from several institutions, including Coe College, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Ithaca College, and Baldwin Wallace College. Among numerous honors, Husa has received a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation; awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, UNESCO, and the National Endowment for the Arts; Koussevitzky Foundation commissions; the Czech Academy for the Arts and Sciences Prize; the Czech Medal of Merit, First Class, from President Vaclav Havel; and the Lili Boulanger award.
Husa's String Quartet No. 3 received the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, and his Cello Concerto the 1993 Grawemeyer Award. Music for Prague 1968, with over 7000 performances worldwide, has become part of the modern repertory. On February 13, 1990, Husa realized a long-time dream when he conducted the orchestral version of Music for Prague 1968 in Prague. Another well-known work of his, Apotheosis of This Earth, is called by Husa a "manifest" against pollution and destruction. Among other works, Husa has composed The Trojan Women, a ballet commissioned by the Louisville Ballet and Orchestra. Click here to read the full bio.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The entry discusses Debussy's Rhapsody for Saxophone and Orchestra, and the woman who persistently pressed him to write it: Ms. Elisa Hall. Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Comparing the piece to Hammersmith, we see several characteristic similarities, including unison clarinet writing, as well as the contrapuntal play between different instrumental groups. Follow the link to see a performance by The UNC-Chapel Hill Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Evan Feldman. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 21, 2011
He wrote the piece shortly after being enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. The work was completed in February 1943 and was premiered on May 23 of that year by the Army Air Force Tactical Training Command Band in Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, most likely with the composer conducting. Fredric V. Grunfeld, a music critic for High Fidelity magazine described the march as "an old-fashioned quickstep sporting a crew cut," and the work received many performances in the final years of the war. Barber made a transcription of the march for full orchestra, which was premiered by Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 29, 1943. Below is the link to the Datebook entry. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Sofia Gubaidulina's spiritually musical journey
The 79-year-old composer, scheduled to be on hand Thursday when the Los Angeles Philharmonic performs her work 'Glorious Percussion,' still espouses music's heavenly heart.
By David Mermelstein, Special to the Los Angeles Times
May 18 2011
Dressed mundanely in a teal blouse framed by a cream-colored jacket and slacks, Sofia Gubaidulina could be just another diminutive retiree, ready for a game of canasta or a lap around the mall. But in fact this unassuming senior citizen, who remains unknown to most Americans, is among the world's foremost composers. Her scores have made a deep impression on such prominent musicians as the violinists Gidon Kremer and Anne-Sophie Mutter, and, more recently, on Los Angeles Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel.
Read the full article
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
When Mahler took Manhattan
Peter G. Davis
New York has always held its conductors in chief close. Mahler was followed by Arturo Toscanini, who ruled the musical scene for nearly half a century. New York’s love affair with Leonard Bernstein was long and adoring, while James Levine is no less appreciated today, as we celebrate his 40 years at the Met and worry over his health.
Despite his short time among us, Mahler left as large a footprint as his successors. Already a world-famous composer and conductor, he was hired by the Met in 1907, and he arrived with a reputation as an autocrat who demanded nothing less than perfection… (Click for full story).
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Man with stick wave to and fro
May we have downbeat? they ask
Saxophone hums like hummingbird
Or perhaps like saw
Skill of player is crucial
Weather turns humid: reeds die
Woodwind players weep
Must play Mahler symphony
A Mozart development:
Changing keys, brass rest.
Graveyard for concentration
Bows go up, down, up, down, up
Sowing discord, one starts down.
Audio for Composers Datebook 5/15/2011
Stravinsky and Rochberg start trends
Today we celebrate two premieres and one three-letter prefix: "neo," meaning "new."
On today's date in 1920, Igor Stravinsky's ballet "Pulcinella" was produced for the first time in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Stravinsky incorporated into the score some instrumental pieces attributed to the 18th century Italian composer Perlogesi. For the next 30 years, Stravinsky turned again and again to 18th-century forms and styles for inspiration, and creating a style that was soon dubbed: "neo-classical."
Fifty-two years after "Pulcinella," a "neo-romantic" movement of sorts was born when, on May 15, 1972, at New York's Alice Tully Hall, the Concord Quartet gave the premiere performance of the String Quartet No. 3 written by American composer, George Rochberg.
Rochberg's new quartet took the critics by surprise. While his previous two quartets had been written in an aggressively atonal style, his new quartet contained melodies that might have come from a late Beethoven string quartet, or a lost work by Mahler.
In a kind of manifesto, Rochberg explained his use of Romantic styles: "We bear the past in us. We do not, cannot, begin all over again in each generation. I came to realize that the music of the old masters was a living presence; that its spiritual values had not been displaced or destroyed by the new music. The shock wave of the enlargement of vision was to alter my whole attitude towards what was musically possible today."
Friday, May 13, 2011
Drums, cymbals, toys all sound
Too loud and out of tempo
Second violins slumber
When they should make sound
Dreaming of concerto glory
Flutes: always inaudible
Until they play high
Then they are always too loud
Oboes turn bright red like beets
Playing a short phrase
Beautiful sound but eyes bulge
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Trombones sitting in the rear
So loudly annoy
But better than in the front
Violas why can’t you count?
We follow they say
You must cue us for safety
Sometimes even are correct
Monday, May 9, 2011
Composers Datebook Audio-5/8/2011
On today's date in 1998, a new symphony for winds and percussion had its premiere performance at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. It was the first symphony -- and first major commission -- for American composer, Andrew Boysen, Jr., who was 30 years old at the time.
"The piece was actually originally commissioned by my teacher at Northwestern, John P. Paynter," Boysen recalls. "Mr. Paynter was a very influential person for thousands of students who went through N.U., and he was also one of the most important figures in the development of wind literature in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century. It was a huge honor for me to be asked to write something for him. It was also exciting because he told me to write whatever I wanted and it was my first commission from a real top-flight ensemble. That was what prompted me to try my hand at a larger scale work.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Paynter died before I completed the piece. I stopped working on it because I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Eventually, his wife Marietta stepped in and made the commission happen. The premiere was conducted by Stephen Peterson, my other mentor at Northwestern."
Boysen's symphony is in three movements, fast-slow-fast, each movement traditional in structure, but with a hint of Indonesian gamelan music in the symphony's middle movement.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
If we remember to articulate, pulse, and respect the dynamics of the layers, this piece will be the summery send-off that I think it's intended to be. It would also be nice if everyone in attendance and performance were given complimentary tropical beverages to go with it.
-Brittney Saline, saxophone
Monday, May 2, 2011
-Matt Jones, percussion