Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection

It’s been said that Edwin Fleisher did not like vocal or choral music. Whether a few people have told me this, or one person told me a few times, I can’t recall, but it explained why, while there’s a wealth of orchestral music with voices, none of it made its way during Fleisher’s life into the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia. There are two problems with the story.

Kile Smith

Anniversaries bump into each other on this Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday from 5 to 6 pm on WRTI. It’s year 500 since the beginning of the Reformation, almost to the day, when Martin Luther posted 95 theological and ecclesiastical points he wished to debate with all comers. Nobody dared to take him up on it, but from the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517 a revolution in religion, humanism, freedom, and language swept across the world. And it was accompanied by music.

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, Oct. 7th, 5 to 6 pm. Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) is the “Father of the Symphony” in the same way that George Washington (born the same year) is the “Father of our Country.” Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he and others generated the Constitution and other central documents, but Washington’s leadership was the foundation on which the country was built. Similarly, the symphony owes its early growth to Haydn.

This Saturday at 5 pm on Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection: We heard Charles Ives by way of William Schuman last month on Discoveries, so it’s appropriate that we should hear Schuman on his own this month. You may remember that Ives had composed Variations on “America” for organ in 1891; William Schuman orchestrated it in 1964 and it’s been in the repertory ever since.

One hundred years ago, 18-year-old Francis Poulenc was looking for a composition teacher, and being recommended by the pianist Ricardo Viñes to Maurice Ravel, went to meet him, scores in hand. Ravel was already well-known, having composed much of the music for which he is famous today.

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday April 1st, 5 to 6 pm. It almost seemed as if Wilhelm Peterson-Berger was never at home. Born 150 years ago, he grew up in a small northern Swedish town, Umea, nearer to Lapland than to Stockholm. He felt hemmed in and he longed for the wider world. When he discovered Edvard Grieg’s mix of moody lyricism, myth, and folk culture, he was transfixed. He knew that he must become a composer.

Josef Holbrooke by E.O. Hoppé, 1913

Two British composers populate this month’s Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday at 5:00 p.m. on WRTI. Josef Holbrooke and Alexander Mackenzie were well known and enjoyed success, but they often struggled to gain more than a foothold in performance circles. The reasons, however, were different.

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection this Saturday, February 4th, 5 to 6 pm on WRTI...the music of Charles Koechlin is not performed much; that much is certain. We may even call it, in this, the 150th anniversary of his birth, neglected. While there are logical reasons his legacy may have suffered, we also can’t fully understand why.

Robert Ward

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday January 7th, 5 to 6 pm... Two American composers were born one hundred years ago, and while neither have household names now, ask yourself if winning a Pulitzer or being a 13-year composer-in-residence for a major orchestra counts as a sign of career success.

In January we began a survey of the history of American orchestral music with George Bristow, born in 1825. Now in December we end 2016 with two composers who lived into the 1940s, wrapping up an American century with Frederick Shepherd Converse and Carl Busch, representing American music as well as any other two.

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