from Rick Sowash: Guitar Suite: For an Old Friend at Christmas
We're counting down the days on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 20th at 9 pm. Less Than a Week Before Christmas is David Golub's work for chorus and orchestra: about the cold, about a friend. Morten Lauridsen contemplates the wonder of animals at the nativity manger in one of our time's most-sung pieces, O Magnum Mysterium.
Composer Jennifer Higdon becomes her own poet for Deep in the Night, pondering "this season of love with full brilliant lights." Daron Hagen combines two melodies we recognize with a beautiful one we don't—because he just wrote it—in a work for choir with cello, At Bethlehem Proper. Rounding out the choral works on the program is While All Things Were in Quiet Silence by Ned Rorem.
Two instrumental works find their way in, though. Advent has the same feeling that imbues Yearning, the lovely work for violin and strings by Shulamit Ran, dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin. For solo guitar is the suite of Rick Sowash, helping us count down the days, For an Old Friend at Christmas.
It's John Adams's Nativity oratorio El Niño on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 13th at 9 pm. We'll fit in as much as we can, since the concert-length work is too long for our one-hour show.
Adams says that the birth of his daughter in 1984 was like a miracle. "Four people were in the room, and then there were five," he says, and that became the inspiration for his take on the Christmas story. Along with Latin and English, much of El Niño is in Spanish. The director Peter Sellars, who worked closely with the composer to create this, says that it's like a triptych that cannot be seen all at once. Unfold a panel to see what's there, and you hide another.
Dawn Upshaw, Willard White, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sing alongside chorus and orchestra in this grand Christmas-time pageant.
from Carter Pann: The Piano’s 12 Sides, Irish Tune
Maybe Thanksgiving is making us burst at the seams on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 6th at 9 pm, but we're chock-full of music on this program. There's not even enough time to play all of Carter Pann's substantial work for solo piano, The Piano's 12 Sides. It comes in at over an hour, so we'll trim just a bit and give over the entire show to this one work.
Pann dedicated each of the movements to a separate pianist, and we hear distinct personalities throughout the work. What we hear in Carter Pann is a composer at ease with music; he breathes with music in the many styles he assembled in this piece from 2011-12. Silhouette, White Moon over Water, Classic Rock, Soirée Macabre, Grand Etude Fantasy, and Irish Tune are some of the movements. This isn't eclecticism (not that there's anything wrong with that) per se, but all the personalities are expressed by one big personality, unafraid of either plain speaking or lovely sound. Joel Hastings is the splendid performer.
We're thankful on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 29th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Film composer Victor Young (Shane, Around the World in Eighty Days) was a benefactor of the music department at Brandeis University, so when John Harbison had the opportunity to compose something for them, he wrote Thanks, Victor, echoing "When I Fall in Love" and other great tunes in this string quartet. Lawrence Dillon's Second String Quartet, "Flight," evokes flying and fugues, with, among other subjects, Daedalus and Icarus, birds, and paper airplanes.
Daedalus and Icarus also appear in William Bolcom's Inventing Flight for orchestra, as do Leonardo da Vinci and Orville and Wilbur Wright. Bolcom is grateful for the gift of flight, and we're grateful for the triumphant collaboration of this composer, his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, and librettist Arnold Weinstein in the ever-green Cabaret Songs. The program finishes with a fun, live recording of Vol. 4.
Different quartets evoke different textures on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 22nd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Geology dominates Paul Lansky's Textures. It's for two pianists and two percussionists, and movement titles use words like striations, substrates, granite, and round-wound (makes me think of bass guitar strings). Hammering keyboards and lyrical mallets comprise this unusual foursome.
Philip Glass composed a string quartet, his fourth, in memory of the artist Brian Buczak, who died in 1987, and was a friend. The lilting, pulsing music carries a smooth sadness as its predominant Glassian texture; the great quartet Kronos brings this to us to close the program.
from Carol Barnett: Z=30; Schumann’s Excellent Extension
Composers praise composers on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 15th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Randall Woolf re-forms, with a string quartet, the phrasings of another century in Franz Schubert, and for Zeitgeist's 30th Anniversary, Carol Barnett wrote Z=30; Schumann's Excellent Extension (with a tip of the hat to Terry Riley).
Stephen Hartke salutes Rochberg, Satie, Enrique Oswald, and Donald Crockett in selections from his Post-modern Homages for piano. For computerized sounds is Reginald Bain's Chaos Game (for Nancarrow), honoring the early, groundbreaking work of Conlon Nancarrow. In Serenata No. 1, Brian Banks imagines the legacies of Henry Sapoznik, Arturo Marquez, and two Harrisons, Lou and George. And cellist Maya Beiser rips into Little Wing of Jimi Hendrix, arranged by Evan Ziporyn.
We remember Stephen Paulus in this rebroadcast, from last spring, of Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 1st at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Paulus, who died on October 19th (see our remembrance here), wrote comfortably in every genre; we start the program with a short, sassy work played by pianist Lara Downes, his Prelude No. 3: Sprightly. Then guitarist David Starobin and composer William Bland go way back to their school days. Starobin loves playing Bland's music, and we'll hear six of a projected cycle of 48 Preludes.
We return to the piano for the 12 Preludes of Bernard Rands, covering a wide landscape of emotional and tonal range. Included are two movements in memoriam of composer colleagues of Rands, Luciano Berio and Donald Martino.
Let's have suites before Halloween on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 25th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. A Prelude, Sarabande, Burlesca, and Gigue make up the Partita (just another name for suite) for piano by Anthony Iannaccone. Guitarist David Starobin loves playing the music of Paul Lansky for, besides being a wonderful composer, Lansky also plays the guitar and knows the instrument very well. The recipe for his Semi-Suite includes Putative Prelude, Aimless Air, Crooked Courante, Shameless Sarabande, Awkward Allemande, and Partly Pavane.
Philadelphia composer Harold Boatrite's Lyric Suite for Piano is from his piano and harpsichord CD of a few years back, Sonatas & Suites. Andy Teirstein boils down a work for multiple strings, written for an outdoor procession, to a string quartet, for the final work on our program, simply, Suite.
It's one voice among all on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 11th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Two concertos—the ultimate one vs. many format—bookend a lone flute on this week's program. Meditation and Caprice are the two movements of the engaging, mesmerizing Violin Concerto by Kevin Puts.
Robert Baksa's Soliloquy from 1997, and from a CD of his flute music, is subtitled "Krishna's Song," as the Hindu deity is often pictured playing the flute. The energetic and moody Clarinet Concerto of Paul Moravec features soloist David Krakauer. Moravec wrote this while he was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.