from Frederic Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated
It’s a monument of contemporary solo piano literature on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 23rd at 10 pm. Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated is a staggering set of 36 variations on a Chilean folk song for solo piano.
Beginning with a simple statement, Rzewski weaves a complicated scheme of penumbras of the tune. Some are complicated, some are bluntly simple. For all its interweavings, the work grows into a musical edifice that is frankly gorgeous. Nicolas Slonimsky calls Rzewski (a virtuoso pianist as well as composer) “a granitically overpowering piano technician, capable of depositing huge boulders of sonoristic material across the keyboard without actually wrecking the instrument.” This is music that must be met.
Mary Sue Welsh discusses the life and career of Edna Phillips on Crossover, June 22nd, 2013.
Harpist Edna Phillips was only 23 when she joined The Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski in 1930. The story goes that the orchestra was looking for a second chair harpist, and Phillips' teacher at Curtis, Carlos Salzedo, insisted that she audition.
She was somewhat reluctant. After all, she'd only been playing the harp for five years, coming to the instrument late in life after spending time with the piano. But sometimes all it takes is being in the right place at the right time.
After her audition, Stokowski revealed that the orchestra's principal harpist had been badly injured and would not be returning. He wanted Phillips to fill the chair. This would make her not only the first woman in The Philadelphia Orchestra, but the first woman to be a principal player in ANY American orchestra.
In Phillips' later years, she was chair of the Bach Festival of Philadelphia where she hired Mary Sue Welsh, a retired editor of children's books. The two would become close friends. At one point, Phillips suggested to Welsh that they work together on a memoir of her life as a harpist. But, when Phillips passed on in 2003, Welsh tossed it aside.
Eventually, Welsh returned to the idea, and started working on a Phillips biography, talking to the harpist's family, friends, and co-workers, and using archival material. Recently published, the book is called, One Woman in a Hundred, and is part of the University of Illinois Press' "Music in American Life" series.
Listen for Jill Pasternak's conversation with author Mary Sue Welsh on the life and times of Edna Phillips, and hear excerpts from the author's taped conversations with the harpist, along with music performed by her, on Crossover, Saturday, June 22nd at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM and the All-Classical stream at wrti.org, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical stream.
Now is the Time—contemporary American music on WRTI-HD2 and online, Saturday nights at 9—ought to have theme music, I thought in the weeks leading up to our first broadcast on June 1st, 2008. I started looking through works of mine, as I did with the theme for Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, to see if anything would fit.
I looked over everything that had survived ritual burning up to that point, and the only piece that came close was a curious Four Hymns for Four Guitars, written in, wow, 1985 for the amiable Philadelphia Guitar Quartet. Wonderful guys all, astute musicians, and very helpful when I was working on it.
It's surprising remembrance on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 16th at 10 pm. In her Cantata da Requiem, World War II Poems of Peace, Gloria Coates gathers unlikely texts—including a BBC 1942 weather report—into a haunting cry.
Philip Blackburn remixes Robert Moran's 9/11 memorial Trinity Requiem, combining the shards of that beautiful piece into something new and lovely, Requiem for a Requiem.
David Chesky's Psalm III for string orchestra hints at resurrection, and the Quartet No. 3 of Philip Glass, a memorial to the Japanese author Yukio Mishima and originally for string quartet, is made new in the liquid playing of the Oasis Saxophone Quartet.
Pianist Jeffrey Biegel speaks with Jill Pasternak on Crossover, Saturday, June 15, 2013.
There's just something about pianist Jeffrey Biegel that strikes you as, well, different. A virtuoso among those of the highest caliber, he's also incredibly modest and unassuming. In some ways, just the guy next door. You'd never know you were in the company of greatness...until he starts playing. Then you know just who and what you're dealing with.
One of Steinway and Sons' first recording artists, Mr. Biegel has just released his third CD with the label, A Grand Romance. Listening to the CD takes you back to a time when virtuoso pianists would "romance" their audiences with something other than the most serious of works. It was a time when lighthearted sentiment, charm and technical prowess came together to woo the listener with pure entertainment.
Considered one of the great pianists of our time, Jeffrey Biegel has created a multi-faceted career as a pianist, recording artist, composer and arranger. His electrifying technique and mesmerizing touch have received critical acclaim and garner praise worldwide. Born a second-generation American, Mr. Biegel's roots are of Russian and Austrian heritage. Until the age of three, Mr. Biegel could neither hear nor speak, until corrected by surgery. The 'reverse Beethoven' phenomenon can explain Mr. Biegel's life in music, having heard only vibrations in his formative years.
In 1985, Leonard Bernstein said of Mr. Biegel, "He is a splendid musician and a brilliant performer." These comments helped to launch his 1986 New York recital debut, as the recipient of the coveted Juilliard William Petschek Piano Debut Award, in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Alice Tully Hall. He has been heard in recital in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Cincinnati, London, Paris, Tokyo, Oslo, Mexico City, plus a multi-city tour of Norway.
Jeffrey Biegel was the unanimous recipient of the prestigious First Grand Prize in the 1989 Marguerite Long International Piano Competition and the First Prize in the 1985 William Kapell/University of Maryland International Piano Competition. He studied at The Juilliard School with the legendary artist/teacher Adele Marcus. He made his New York orchestral debut performing Prokofiev's 'Concerto no. 2 in g minor' with the Juilliard Philharmonia, in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.
Listen for Jill's conversation with pianist Jeffrey Biegel, and music from his new Steinway and Sons' CD, A Grand Romance, on Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 on WRTI, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.
It's all movement and angles on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 9th at 10 pm. Sergio Cervetti's two harpsichord pieces Candombe and Alberada spin and dance, while Elizabeth Brown's chamber work Liguria bends deliciously (she's also the flutist).
Another composer/performer is the Philadelphia area's Steve Bowman, whose electronic Odd Angle of the Isle is mixed down from live club dates (no sequencers! no multi-tracking!). Steven Winteregg imagines an orchestral bullet train speeding through France with a brisk TGV, but David Evan Thomas's Thrum nudges the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet through layers and soft waves to close the program.
A good friend of WRTI returns this week. Acclaimed organ virtuoso Paul Jacobs stops by to tell us about the International Organ Competition at Longwood Gardens June 18th through 22nd. He'll be one of five judges deciding the fate of ten young organists who've been vetted, from hundreds of entries, to move on to the preliminaries. Only five will make it to the finals to compete for the $40,000 Pierre S. DuPont First Prize.
It’s two large works—one for piano, one for string quartet—on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 2nd at 10 pm. The Sonata for Piano Solo by Judith Lang Zaimont shows its depth through color and a confident use of materials: not afraid to echo Beethoven’s “Pathéthique” Sonata in the second movement, she carries it off beautifully. The Van Cliburn Competition used the third movement of this sonata in 2001.
As a child growing up in New York City during World War II, Steve Reich traveled East Coast to West Coast and back by train. He later learned that there were other people on other trains at the same time in Poland, in Hungary, who were being taken to their deaths. Different Trains places the Kronos string quartet against its recorded self, along with the voices of some who survived the Holocaust.
It's three views of mythology on Now Is the Time, Sunday, May 26th at 10 pm. Robert Lombardo brings the sound of the mandolin to the string orchestra with a fascinating result in Orpheus and the Maenads, and Richard Stoltzman brings his clarinet to the music of Jonathan Sacks, whose Portals re-imagines Bacchus and ancient rituals.
Maurice Wright's Mythology is a cycle of songs considering the myths of Orpheus, Lethe, Tantalus, and Medusa, the music swimming in poignant lyricism.
The cold snap is behind us and we’re feeling the warmth of spring on Now Is the Time, Sunday, May 19th at 10 pm. Ingrid Arauco’s Florescence buzzes and hums for the flute and harpsichord of Mélomanie, and Derek Bermel brings Thracian Sketches in all its Bulgarian-inspired rhythms to viola and percussion.
George Tsontakis takes us to the Mediterranean with orchestral Gymnopedies that are more Greek than French, but France infuses the sound of Avner Dorman’s Moments Musicaux for piano.
Things heat up with the computerized kicks of Thrum by John Gibson, and finally, with the two electric guitars that rock David Lang’s Warmth.