Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

The first Saturday of each month, 5 to 6 pm

In Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, we uncover the unknown, rediscover the little-known, and take a fresh look at some of the remarkable treasures housed in the Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music in the Free Library of Philadelphia. The Fleisher Collection is the largest lending library of orchestral performance material in the world.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:58 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Mexico and Cuba in the Fleisher Collection

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Feb. 1st at 5 pm... The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music is not only the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance materials, but because of the foresight of founder Edwin Fleisher, Curator Arthur Cohn, and the adventurousness of the globe-trotting Nicolas Slonimsky, it also contains hundreds and hundreds of Latin American orchestral scores and parts.

As we’ve recounted on Discoveries before, Fleisher commissioned conductor and author Slonimsky in 1941 to travel throughout Central and South America for the purpose of adding music from these countries to the vast European and growing American repertoire already on the shelves of the Collection. Scores were shipped to the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the huge task of reproducing them began. Some of the scores were given outright as gifts; others, after photographic reproduction, were returned. Dozens of music copyists then began extracting the individual parts needed so that the works could be performed.

This would have been familiar work for Candelaria Huizar, the composer, violist, hornist, and in the 1920s, music copyist in the library of the National Conservatory in Mexico City. He had already studied music as a child with the director of the Jérez Municipal Band. At nine the band took him on as a saxhorn player. He joined other brass bands, and when one of them traveled to Mexico City, he stayed there the rest of his life. He became a music copyist at the Conservatory, then librarian, and later, Huizar was professor of composition, harmony, and orchestration there. His Imágenes (Images) is a delightful look back at his hometown.

Joining him at the Conservatory was his countryman José Rolón. He studied music in Paris from 1904 to 1907, then came back to Mexico, and founded a music school in Guadalajara. In 1927 he returned to Paris to study with composer Paul Dukas and one of the great composition teachers of the 20th century, Nadia Boulanger. Rolón came back to Mexico again, taught at the National Conservatory, wrote music criticism and a harmony textbook, and composed the Piano Concerto we’ll hear today. This brand-new recording was made from materials housed in the Fleisher Collection.

Born in Paris to a Cuban mother and Spanish father, Amadeo Roldán, after music study in Madrid, moved to Cuba at age 19. He was concertmaster of the Havana Philharmonic, founded the Havana String Quartet, and became one of Cuba’s leading composers. Roldán broke new ground with perhaps the very first percussion-only works for the concert stage, and injected new life into Western classical music with the sounds and rhythms of Afrocubanismo. His 1928 ballet La Rebambaramba, the Suite of which we’ll listen to, is a riot of percussion, soaring melody, and audacious orchestral sound.

When Mr. Cohn suggested to Mr. Fleisher that his Collection needed to look beyond the standard repertoire and acquire symphonic works from other cultures, this is what he was talking about.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
2:05 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

1914: Machines and Dreams

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Jan. 4th at 5 pm... In 1914, if you were in the market for the stuff that makes big things move—rope, sails, block and tackle gear, every kind of ship, railroad, or mill supply—you would’ve known George B. Carpenter & Co. of Chicago. Its predecessors went back to 1840. After burning down in the 1871 Great Fire it was rebuilt in a year. George Carpenter, who had been helping run the company, bought it outright in 1882.

His son John had music on his mind, not a manufacturing and wholesale business, and the family supported his evident gifts. John went to Harvard, was President of its Glee Club, and composed for Hasty Pudding larks. More seriously, he studied with John Knowles Paine, and then traveled to England and Rome, where he studied with Edward Elgar. He came back to Chicago in 1909 and composed, but also took on the day job he’d hold until his 1936 retirement, Vice President of George B. Carpenter & Co.

Perhaps machinery was in his blood after all, because in 1914 his creative breakthrough was an evocation of the baby carriage. Adventures in a Perambulator is a symphonia domestica relating a child’s point of view all the way from Envoiture! (All aboard!) to Dreams, the two sections we’ll hear (in between are a policeman, a hurdy-gurdy, a lake, and dogs). Carpenter’s skill was not lost on audiences and critics, who were charmed by his humor and light touch with a large orchestra. His precise program notes narrate the child’s inner voice, ending with: “It is pleasant to lie quite still and close my eyes, and listen to the wheels of my perambulator. How very large the world is. How many things there are!"

Across the ocean in 1914, England saw the premiere of a symphony by a composer who was already well regarded, Ralph Vaughan Williams. His 1909 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and 1910 A Sea Symphony moved him beyond his successes editing folk music, Henry Purcell, and The English Hymnal. A London Symphony remains, out of his nine symphonies, the most popular.

After its premiere, he sent the score to Germany, to the conductor Fritz Busch, but it was lost in the turmoil of the World War. The composer then rewrote it from the orchestral parts, changing it greatly, for a 1920 performance under Albert Coates, who provided program notes to which the composer grudgingly agreed. Vaughan Williams insisted he did not have a story in mind when composing it, although he said one might perhaps call it Symphony by a Londoner.

That he composed a “symphony” at all is due to his good friend, the composer George Butterworth, who insisted he ought to. So he took sketches for a symphonic poem about London, worked them into four movements, and dedicated the music to Butterworth, who would die in that same World War, in 1916.

After the 1920 revision, Vaughan Williams reworked it again in the 1930s, and the version heard most often today is two-thirds the length of the original. The ending, Vaughan Williams suggested just before he died, was inspired by “Night and the Open Sea,” the last chapter of the 1909 novel of H. G. Wells, Tono-Bungay, where the machinery of empires and schemes, small and large, sink into dreams.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:59 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Shakespeare Via Verdi, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Edward German

Shakespeare Memorial, Free Library of Philadelphia

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, December 7th, 2013, 5-6 pm on WRTI and wrti.org. Shakespeare continues to live, and if you were to name an orchestral work based on one of his plays, we wouldn’t blame you for coming up with one of the most popular works in the repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. But it wouldn’t be Discoveries without a curve ball or three, so this month we offer another Fantasy-Overture of his, Hamlet.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
10:14 am
Sat November 2, 2013

Shakespeare, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Elgar on Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

Falstaff and His Page, Adolf Schrödter (1805–1875)

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, November 2nd, 5 to 6 pm. Since the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia is the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance materials, and since it holds more than 21,000 titles, it should be no surprise that conductors make use of its resources for almost any concert theme imaginable.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
3:41 pm
Sat October 5, 2013

1913: Popper, Butterworth, Britten, Lutosławski on Fleisher Discoveries

Witold Lutosławski

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, October 5th, 5 to 6 pm. We enjoyed our 1813 bicentennial so much last month that we thought we’d move a little closer, to the centennial of 1913. In that year, cellist/composer David Popper died, Benjamin Britten and Witold Lutosławski first saw the light of day, and George Butterworth composed The Banks of Green Willow.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
11:52 am
Sat September 7, 2013

1813: Wagner, Vanhal, Beethoven on Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, September 7th, 5 to 6 pm. The two most famous composers for whom 2013 is a bicentennial are Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. They were born in 1813, but in the spirit of Discoveries we’ll dig a little deeper to see what else happened that year.

Wagner’s Wesendonck songs and Siegfried Idyll are his only non-operatic works heard with any regularity these days. The songs are also unusual among his output because the words are by someone else (most of the time he set his own texts).

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
9:50 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

1935: Ginastera, Berg, Prokofiev on Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

Alban Berg

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, August 3rd, 5 to 6 pm. The year 1935 was a critical one for three composers at different stages of their careers. Sergei Prokofiev was just about to move back to the Soviet Union. Alban Berg (pictured) stopped work on his opera Lulu when the daughter of a friend died; he composed his astounding Violin Concerto in her memory, but would not live out the year.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
10:57 am
Sat July 6, 2013

Englishmen in Germany on Fleisher Discoveries, July 6

Hoch Conservatory Residence Hall

Joseph Hoch was an influential lawyer in 19th-century Frankfurt whose father had been mayor, and whose mother and wife both were of Swiss aristocracy. Money he had plenty of, but no children, so he decided to leave his fortune to the founding of a Frankfurt conservatory for the arts. The Hoch Conservatory began training students in 1878, almost four years to the day after Joseph’s death. With faculty luminaries such as Clara Schumann, it quickly rose to be a leading German institution, competing with Leipzig and Berlin for students from Europe and elsewhere.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
11:44 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Haydn Symphonies, First and Last, on Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

Haydn Hall, Esterházy Castle

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection broadcasts Saturday, June 1st, 2013, 5-6 pm.

We call Joseph Haydn the “Father of the Symphony,” but he didn’t invent the form. A symphony is a multi-movement work, usually for orchestra, usually including a first movement that develops a theme, and another that’s a dance. When Haydn started producing these, people had already been writing them for about 20 years. His first is from around 1758 or so; fellow Austrian Georg Matthias Monn wrote one in 1740.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
4:10 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Prokofiev Moves Back to Russia

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, May 4th at 5 pm...

Sergei Prokofiev lived in Paris in 1936 but longed for Russia. He had never relinquished his Soviet citizenship in the years he was abroad; since 1918 he lived in the U.S., Germany, and France. He toured America, Europe, and the USSR often, playing piano in and conducting his growing repertoire of increasingly popular works.

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