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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, April 6th at 5 pm...

“Edvard Grieg,” they were saying in Germany and in Denmark. It was the name of that young pianist/composer from Norway they were noticing, for he was starting to become somebody. But then something odd happened. He discovered Norway.

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, March 9th at 5 pm...The young Englishman watched the cigar smoke dance slowly as it dissipated into the hot, thick air. He was sitting on the porch of a cottage in an orange grove called Solano on a sleepy bank of a river named the St. Johns, a long, lazy waterway born in the southern marshes and in no hurry to creep up eastern Florida to lap, finally, into the Atlantic. St. Augustine was close by to the east, but 1884 St. Augustine was not yet a city, nowhere near a city, hardly a town. In this lonely grove by the river, in the wilderness of the Florida interior, St. Augustine could have been in Yorkshire, the young Englishman’s home, for all that.

He lit another cigar. As the smoke melted, barely lifted by the St. Johns breeze, 22-year-old Fritz Delius was happy to be far from St. Augustine, far from Yorkshire, and as far from his father as he could be.

If you know Percy Grainger at all, you know Country Gardens, that simple frolic every beginning pianist, every wind band, every school orchestra has assayed at one time or another. Percy Grainger knew that you would know that, and that’s why Percy Grainger grew to detest Country Gardens.

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Jan. 12th at 5 pm... Impressionism is an imprecise, even controversial term, the first “impressionist” Debussy having none of it. Each of its elements—open form, reliance on tone color over melody, unpredictable harmonies with modal scales—is challengeable, and Debussy’s music is awash with counter-examples. But everyone agrees that impressionism, whatever it is, exists, and that it is French.

Which is why it is such a surprise that one of the leading impressionist composers lived and died in upstate New York and studied in, of all places, Germany.

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