Saturday, May 30, 2009

Musica della sera ─ 2 Pachelbels and 3 Bachs

The latest Musica della sera show is now up on the Internet to enjoy on demand; see below for locating the link. This program will be available until Thursday, June 4, 2009 (Get it while it lasts!)

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

The program focused on the music of Johann Pachelbel, beginning with a delicate clavichord performance by E. Power Biggs of the chorale partita: “Werde Munter, Mein Gemüte” (00:00 on the KUSP Music Player counter).

Next, a vibrant recording of J.S. Bach's first orchestral suite, arranged for four guitars and performed by Quarteto Brasileiro de Violões (09:00), a name I did not try to pronounce on the air, going instead with Brazilian Guitar Quartet, as it was billed on the CD. I'll feature the other three suites on future shows.

Quarteto Brasileiro de Violões (Brazilian Guitar Quartet)
Their arrangement of Bach's Orchestral Suites is fantastic.
Find it on Delos.

I returned to Pachelbel with several organ compositions (32:55), played on various organs by various keyboard artists: Wolfgang Rübsam, Gustav Leonhardt, and E. Power Biggs.

Wolfgang Rübsam, German keyboardist,
who has an excellent series of Pachelbel organ recordings,
not to mention creative facial hair.

It was at this point that I learned that Johann Pachelbel had a composer son, Charles Theodore Pachelbel (baptised Carl Theodorus). The Anglicized given names reflect the fact that he was one of the first European composers to take up residence in the American colonies*, and was the most famous musical figure in early Charleston, South Carolina.

The only C.T. Pachelbel work at hand was his festive Magnificat, originally for double choir, but heard here in a performance of the Canadian Brass (60:18), followed by a brass arrangement of Johann Pachelbel's only real hit, the Canon in D (68:00).

Special thanks to the producers of Pachelbel Greatest Hits and Pachelbel: Organ Works Vol.1 without which the 2 Pachelbels portion of the show would not have been possible.

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)

Comprising the latter half of the show,a charming sinfonia by Portuguese composer Carlos Seixas (80:10), a cantata, Nun Danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God) (111:10), by J.S. Bach's idol, Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude, and two concertos by Bach's sons, Johann Christian's Harpsichord Concerto in B Flat Major (91:55) and a particularly vigorous performance by Peter Bruns, cello and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin of Carl Philipp Emanuel's Concerto for Violoncello, Strings, and Basso Continuo in A Minor (125:00).

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)
sitting for a portrait with a portrait of his rarely performed father, J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

*I have been unable to confirm rumors that Carl Theodorus Pachelbel fled Germany to escape his father's infamous Canon in D.

* * *

You can see exactly what was played and who performed it by referring to the playlist (originally broadcast 5/28/2009).

My wife, Meera Collier-Mitchell, and I take turns hosting the classical radio program Musica della sera on Thursday evenings, 7-9:30 (PT). This week I hosted. Listen at your convenience:

KUSP's brand new web feature: The KUSP Music Show Player, Classical, Jazz, Global, Eclectic, and Late Late, listen on demand, check it out, peruse the list and click the one for Musica della sera to hear our show.

Each broadcast is available for download until it is replaced by the subsequent week's program.

You can also stream KUSP live of course.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Musica della sera ─ Early English Composers

The latest Musica della sera show is now up on the Internet to enjoy on demand; see below for locating the link. This program will be available until Thursday, May 21, 2009 (Get it while it lasts!)

In my mother's day they called the kind of music I play on the show "funeral music". Well, in this case, it's literally true. A good chunk of the program was devoted to, quoting the liner notes:

The complete music for Queen Mary's funeral, newly assembled and edited, and performed in Westminster Abbey by the Abbey Choir for the first time since 1695.


Comprised of compositions by Henry Purcell, Thomas Tollet, John Paisible, Thomas Morley, Purcell's contribution is best known; his funeral march provided the theme, in a synthesized treatment by Wendy Carlos, for Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. I'm also very fond of the trumpet canzona he wrote for the occasion. Alas, Purcell himself was to die the year following the queen's funeral. Though he was only 36, his contribution to music was great.

William Byrd and Thomas Tallis also made great contributions to music. They had considerably more time to work on it, living to the ripe old ages of 86 and 80, respectively. Judging from these portraits they look as if maybe they were one and the same person.

I also played two lute pieces by Anonymous, though no one can be sure if they were one and the same Anonymous. I could find no definitive portrait of either one. Notable is the piece "My Lady Carey's Dompe", so charming I could not resist playing it twice, to bookend the lute set. The lutenist, Paul O'Dette, and I highly recommend this particular album of his, The Royal Lewters

The program ends with Thomas Tallis' sublime Lamentations of Jeremiah in a tight vocal arrangement sung by six choral scholars who go by the name The King's Singers.

* * *


You can see exactly what was played and who performed it by referring to the playlist (originally broadcast 5/14/2009).

My wife, Meera Collier-Mitchell, and I take turns hosting the classical radio program Musica della sera on Thursday evenings, 7-9:30 (PT). This week I hosted. Listen at your convenience:

KUSP's brand new web feature: The KUSP Music Show Player, Classical, Jazz, Global, Eclectic, and Late Late, listen on demand, check it out, peruse the list and click the one for Musica della sera to hear our show.

Each broadcast is available for download until it is replaced by the subsequent week's program.

You can also stream KUSP live of course.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ten more movies under my belt...

Also, a rare event, I finished reading two whole books...
Both books I highly recommend for entirely different reasons.

Ron Suskind, by describing the lives of various people, offers a positive approach to solving the world's most daunting and difficult problems associated with the so-called "War on Terror", and basically, his conclusion, with guarded optimism, comes down to humanity and understanding.

Stephen Fry writes with candor and wit about his early life and education, when he grappled with sexuality, infatuation, and obsession, and fell into misadventures of petty theft that led to felonious credit card fraud.

As for the movies, Norma Shearer in The Divorcée is an utter delight, part of the Forbidden Hollywood DVD series from Turner Classic Movies, highlighting some of the best films made after the silent era ended in the late 1920s and the censorship of the Hays Code began to be strictly enforced in 1934.

I never thought much of the James Bond films, but I found the 2006 Casino Royale to be utterly compelling, engaging, exciting, enjoyable.

I had never see The Front before, either. Well worth seeing.

Nausicaa
is also wonderful. I hadn't realized it was such an old movie...pre-Totoro. The brilliant imagination and vivid animation of Miyazaki is breathtaking.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Musica Della Sera: Gurdjieff, Sibelius, Pärt

The latest Musica della sera show is now up on the Internet to enjoy on demand; see below for locating the link. This program will be available until Thursday, May 7, 2009 (Get it while it lasts!)

After creating a baroque diversion with two keyboard works by Bach (played on 20th Century pianos), the show took a distinctly modern turn, beginning with the tuneful Starry Night for flute, harp, and xylophone, by Alan Hovhaness.

Next, a performance by Tashi and friends of Toru Takemitsu's Water-Ways, a captivating atonal combination of timbral textures scored for clarinet, two harps, piano, violin and two vibraphones.



Next, the Sibelius String Quartet in D Minor, Op.56, completed in 1909 and subtitled by him "Voces Intimae", a wonderful new discovery for me...my thought was, hey, why didn't anyone tell me Sibelius wrote a wonderful string quartet? He wrote much chamber music in youth, but most of it was never published. This is the only string quartet he deemed worthy to share with the world, which makes me wonder what gems he may have deprived us of.



There then followed several short piano works composed by Greek-Armenian mystic, spiritual teacher, and author of Meetings with Remarkable Men and Beelzebub's Tales to Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. These pieces were written in the 1920s in collaboration with Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, and reflect the religious hymns of Central Asia and Russian liturgical music.



This led nicely, I thought, to "Cecilia, vergine romana" (2002), by Arvo Pärt, an Estonian composer also strongly influenced by Slavonic liturgical traditions.

The harp made its third appearance on the show in Debussy's "Danses sacree et profane pour harpe et orchestre", composed in 1904.

I concluded the show with a string trio dating from 1959 by Rudolf Escher (1912-1980), a Dutch composer much influenced by Debussy and Ravel.

* * *

You can see exactly what was played and who performed it by referring to the playlist (originally broadcast 4/30/2009).

My wife, Meera Collier-Mitchell, and I take turns hosting the classical radio program Musica della sera on Thursday evenings, 7-9:30 (PT). This week I hosted. Listen at your convenience:

KUSP's brand new web feature: The KUSP Music Show Player, Classical, Jazz, Global, Eclectic, and Late Late, listen on demand, check it out, peruse the list and click the one for Musica della sera to hear our show.

Each broadcast is available for download until it is replaced by the subsequent week's program.

You can also stream KUSP live of course.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bruce Springsteen's Tribute on Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday

Celebrating Pete Seeger on Democracy Now! Amy Goodman devoted today's show (May 4, 2009) to Pete Seeger and the 90th birthday tribute at Madison Square Gardens yesterday. Bruce Springsteen's opening comments were eloquent and moving. This is the transcript, but you can watch the video by clicking the link above.



BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama’s inaugural celebration, he told me the—he told me the entire story of “We Shall Overcome,” how it moved from a labor movement song and, with Pete’s inspiration, had been adopted by the civil rights movement.

And that day, as we sang “This Land Is Your Land,” I looked at Pete. The first black president of the United States was seated to his right. And I thought of—I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. You know, my own growing up in the ’60s, a town scarred by race rioting, made that moment nearly unbelievable. And Pete had thirty extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was so happy that day. It was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man. You just outlasted them. It was so nice. It was so nice.



At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing. It was like fifteen degrees. And Pete was there, he had his flannel shirt on. I said, “Man, you better wear something besides that flannel shirt!” He says, “Yeah, I’ve got my long johns on under this thing.” I said—and I asked him, I said, “How do you want to approach ‘This Land Is Your Land’?” as it’d be near the end of the show. And all he said was, “Well, I know I want to sing all the verses. You know, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, you know, about private property and the relief office.” And I thought, of course, you know, that’s what Pete’s done his whole life: he sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we’d like to leave out of our history as a people, you know?



At some point—at some point, Pete Seeger decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people.

Now, despite Pete’s somewhat benign grandfatherly appearance, you know, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism. He carries—inside him, he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade, and it won’t let him take a step back from the things he believes in.



At ninety, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself. Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures, as well as shining a light towards our better angels in the horizon, where the country we’ve imagined and hold dear, we hope, awaits us. And on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve. He’s become comfortable and casual in this immense role. He’s funny and very eccentric.

The song that—I’m going to bring Tommy out. And the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing, I wrote it in the mid-’90s, and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own moorings. And its last verse is the beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of The Grapes of Wrath. It says, “Wherever there’s a cop beating a guy, wherever a hungry newborn baby cries, wherever there’s a fight against the blood and the hatred in the air, look for me, Mom. I’ll be there.” Well, Pete has always been there.

In his interview with Amy Goodman in 2004, Pete Seeger provided a compelling image to describe the long-term change that can be brought about by the collective grassroots efforts we all can make.
PETE SEEGER: I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw, and at one end of this seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons. Now granted, we’ve got to keep putting it in, because if we don’t keep putting teaspoons in, it will leak out, and the rocks will go back again. Who knows?
The election of Obama four years later seems to me to be just such a zooop.

Also on the program, sharing their thoughts about Pete Seeger, were Joan Baez, Steve Earle, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams, Billy Bragg, Tim Robbins, Hip-hop artist Michael Franti, Sweet Honey in the Rock founder Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.