Friday, March 7, 2014 by Noel Morris
Sean Chen Recital, Friday at 8:00 PM
After a year-long competition sponsored by the American Pianists Association, five finalists remained; the final phase of the Indianapolis-based competition was broadcast on WFMT in the fall. LA-native Sean Chen took the highest award.
Friday’s edition of Music in Chicago presents a recital with Sean Chen.
Listen to Chen tear through Ravel’s La valse (below).
Ravel wrote almost everything he ever composed at the piano. La valse, which was conceived as a ballet for Sergei Diaghilev was an exception. Ravel and another pianist played a two-piano version for the impresario; Diaghilev famously told Ravel he had not written a ballet, “but a portrait of a ballet”—the conversation ended there; Diaghilev would not produce it; another company did. Ravel ended the friendship.
In the video, Sean Chen plays his own solo piano arrangement of La valse. It is pianistic feat.
Thursday, March 6, 2014 by Noel Morris
Thursday, 8:00 PM
As has so often been the case, New York City is a well-spring for so much of American culture. It is the birth place of the likes of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Stephen Sondheim, and Jerome Kern. Since its founding in 1842, the New York Philharmonic has been central to America’s musical life: they gave the first performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Mahler conducted the orchestra in the U.S. premiers of some of his symphonies. Continuing this legacy, under the direction of its home-grown music director (Alan Gilbert is the son of two Philharmonic violinists), the Philharmonic features works by three American composers on Thursday’s broadcast: Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein, and Christopher Rouse. The soloist is (not from New York, but Indiana) Joshua Bell.
See video of Christopher Rouse discussing his piece.
Lyric Opera LIVE on Wednesday, 7:15 PM
Mozart had three more months to live when La clemenza di Tito premiered in Prague in September of 1791. An opera in two acts, it was written for the coronation of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor.
Clemenza is the story of the benevolent Roman Emperor Titus. Like the Mozart character, the historical Titus struggled over whether or not to pardon a friend and traitor. The historical Titus did have a Romance with the Jewish queen Berenice who had sided with the Romans in their war against the Jews. That’s where the action of this opera begins.
Joyce DiDonato (Sesto) on the role’s challenges:
Joyce DiDonato on the 2nd act aria:
Roger Pines speaking with director Sir David McVicar:
Matthew Polenzani sings the role of Tito:
Amanda Majeski sings Vitellia:
Lyric Opera of Chicago music director Sir Andrew Davis is on the podium:
Music from “The Golden Record,” Wednesday 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
In the year 1977 NASA launched two unmanned spacecraft, space probes programmed to survey the solar system, timed to take advantage of a rare alignment of the planets. Knowing the probes would continue their trajectories indefinitely, NASA scientists elected to place time capsules within the probes should either be intercepted by intelligent life; it’s what they call the Interstellar Mission. Astronomer Carl Sagan was charged with selecting items to represent humanity.
“The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
On Wednesday between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM, Suzanne Nance will present music contained on “The Golden Record,” a 12-inch gold-plated copper disc containing Sagan’s choices, which includes Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and Stravinsky.
View images contained within Carl Sagan’s time capsule:
Bernstein, Wednesday at 2:00 PM
Leonard Bernstein and the Harlem Quartet seem to be made of the same stuff. The great conductor knew how to swing; and his compositions often had jazzy threads running through them. Likewise, the Harlem Quartet’s discography totters between the likes of Schubert and Billy Strayhorn. The Quartet won a Grammy in 2013 for Chick Corea’s Mozart Goes Dancing.
Playing music by Bernstein is a good fit for this quartet. They made a recording with the Chicago Sinfonietta and conductor Mei-Ann Chen with a world premiere arrangement of music by Bernstein. The set is called West Side Story Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra. The music comes from Bernstein’s show, and the arrangement was made by composer/conductor Randall Craig Fleischer.
The Harlem Quartet CD with Chicago Sinfonietta was issued by Chicago-based Cedille Records. Hear the West Side Story Concerto during the two o’clock hour on Wednesday.
Hear HQ play Chick Corea’s Grammy-winning piece:
Hindemith, Tuesday at 8:00 PM
“(Hindemith) is so caught up in the material, by the familiar atmosphere and the magnitude of the accusation, the parallels of that period with ours and especially by the lonely artist’s fate, that he will create with an unprecedented enthusiasm and personal involvement.”
—Ludwig Strecker, publisher
By 1933 Adolph Hitler was already consolidating power and persecuting people in German communities. Composer Paul Hindemith reacted with an original libretto based on the life and work of Renaissance artist Matthias Grünewald, focusing on the painter’s struggle for artistic freedom.
(Hindemith is an) “atonal noisemaker.”
—Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, 1934
Like most people, Hindemith underestimated the Nazis. He openly derided their ideologies, and quickly became marked as a dissident. In an attempt to keep the door open for him, Wilhelm Furtwängler commissioned a symphony; this grew directly out of the work being done on the opera, Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter). Furtwängler conducted the premiere of the Symphony in 1934; it was an immediate success, but the political message carried more bite than the Nazis could bear. They began suppressing Hindemith’s music. The opera, which came the following year, could not be premiered in Germany, but took place in Switzerland.
In the opera, Hindemith interweaves the lives of Matthias and the subjects of his paintings for the Isenheim altarpiece. Each movement of Hindemith’s Symphony corresponds with one of the paintings (view the paintings below).
- Engelkonzert (Angelic Concert)
- Grablegung (Entombment)
- Versuchung des heiligen Antonius (The Temptation of Saint Anthony)
The first movement of the Symphony became the overture to the opera. The second movement became an interlude in the last act of the opera. Material from the third movement of the symphony was expanded into a large scene in the opera.
On Tuesday at 1:00 PM WFMT presents live music from the University of Illinois at Chicago Recital Hall. Tuesday’s group features a string quintet—a jazz string quintet—actually it’s a string quartet (two violins, viola, and cello) with saxophone played by Jim Gailloreto.
Vocalist Cheryl Wilson will be sitting in with the group for Tuesday’s show. Wilson is a graduate of UIC, and has a solid career as a commercial singer, doing backups for the likes of Harry Connick, Jr., Aretha Franklin, and Josh Grobin. She’s voiced songs for Disney, and recorded America the Beautiful to be played each day at sunset at Mt. Rushmore. A little known fact about Cheryl Wilson: for fun she plays viola in a community orchestra in Park Ridge, Il.
Tune in for a live concert of the Jazz String Quintet with Cheryl Wilson on Tuesday at 1:00 PM on WFMT.
Wednesday at 7:15 PM
For Kansas native Joyce DiDonato, there was no yellow brick road. In fact her ascent to becoming one of the biggest draws at the Metropolitan Opera might have seemed more like Frodo’s trek to Mordor. There were highlights, of course, like winning a spot in the Houston Studio, the apprentice program at the Houston Grand Opera—but that was also where vocal coach Stephen Smith (who now teaches at Northwestern) told the mezzo she needed to start over. She spent three years in Houston working with Smith, first unlearning everything she knew about singing, then rebuilding.
Typically singers who are going to have big careers start picking up roles after such an apprenticeship; hers were limited to regional companies. She was then in her late twenties—but she persisted.
For Joyce DiDonato, and for her enormous fan base, persistence paid. She made her Met debut at age 35 as Cherubino (2005). In 2010 DiDonato was named Gramophone Artist of the Year; Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker that she had become “perhaps the most potent female singer of her generation”; in 2012 she picked up a Grammy Award.
Joyce DiDonato is in Chicago for La clemenza di Tito at Lyric Opera of Chicago, part of what one Lyric staffer called “a rock star cast” with Matthew Polenzani and Amanda Majeski.
WFMT’s live broadcast of opening night of La clemenza di Tito from the Civic Opera House begins on Wednesday evening at 7:15 PM. Joyce DiDonato will sing a live Impromptu at WFMT on Wednesday, March 12 at 4:00 PM.
Monday, March 3, 2014 by Noel Morris
Ryan Opera Center broadcast, Monday at 6:00 PM
One of the perks of being an ensemble member of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera is getting to learn from the best. On Monday’s Ryan Opera Center broadcast, Danish baritone Bo Skovhus makes a little cameo. He’s provided some coaching for the Ryan singers for this recital; he also steps up to the mic.
The theme for Monday’s broadcast is “evening of song,” or Liederabend, and it’s filled with some of the greatest German art songs ever composed. You’ll hear well-known songs and duets by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, and Richard Strauss, as well as rarities by Alban Berg and Joseph Marx.
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