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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Musica della sera ─ BWV Boogie

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 18, 2009 (Get it while it lasts!)

It was an (almost) all-Bach program, as sometimes happens. I start with Bach, and then just can't pull myself away. Must be those sunglasses.

J.S. Bach in shades, artist unknown.

Bach did not specify the instrumentation for the Art of the Fugue. The show begins with an arrangement for harpsichord, four hands, Ton Koopman and Tini Mathot sharing the bench. The last of the four selections is the famous unfinished fugue, played as it often is,in its uncompleted form, the voices dropping out one by one, until the last one stops in the middle...eerie. Evidently Bach became too ill to finish it and died some months later. It was the only piece where he used the musical letters of his name as a theme. (In German notation, B-flat A C B-natural is rendered as B A C H)

This tidbit from wikipedia:
The autograph carries a note in the handwriting of Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach saying “Über dieser Fuge, wo der Nahme B A C H im Contrasubject angebracht worden, ist der Verfasser gestorben.” (“At the point where the composer introduces the name BACH in the countersubject to this fugue, the composer died.”) However, modern scholarship disputes this version, in particular because the musical notes are indisputably in Bach's own hand, written in a time before his deteriorating vision led to erratic handwriting, probably 1748–1749
Continuing our series, we heard No.3 of the 4 Orchestral Suites as arranged and performed by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet. Listen for the famous air on a G string. Next week Meera will feature the fourth and final orchestral suite in this marvelous transcription.

Next we heard a suite for recorder and harpsichord, Heiko ter Schegget and Zvi Meniker performing, followed by three organ chorales performed by Michael Murray at two historic baroque organs of the Netherlands, the Schnitger at St. Michael's, Zwolle, and the organ at St. Bavo's Church, Haarlem. (On the show I think I may have mistakenly referred to them as German instruments.)

Zwolle - Grote Kerk, Schnitger organ (1721) Photo by pietbron.

J.S. Bach featured the trumpet in many of his cantatas, often in jubilant settings punctuated with timpani, but he wrote no concertos for the instrument. As a lover of Bach and the baroque trumpet concerto, Alison Balsom's album Bach Music for Trumpet, was an instant hit with me. None of the music was originally scored for trumpet, but all sound like they could have been.

Alison Balsom, classical trumpeter

I brought Ton Koopman back, this time at the organ, with a bench all to himself, for the Trio Sonata in C, a lively contrast to the somber organ chorales heard earlier on the show.

Two jubilant choral works bookended the trio sonata, the Grand Motet, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing to the Lord a New Song) and Bach's mighty Magnificat, Diego Fasolis conducting Solisti e Coro della Radio Svizzera, Lugano; Ensemble Vanitas, in a magnificent live performance.

Sandro Botticelli's Madonna of the Magnificat (Madonna del Magnificat) - 1480-1481

I ended the show with one more from trumpeter Alison Balsom, from her albumCaprice. Not a work by J.S. Bach, this time. Instead, I chose as my bridge to the jazz show a nocturne from a trumpet concerto by Henri Tomasi (1901-1971), a French composer of Corsican ancestry.

* * *

You can see exactly what was played and who performed it by referring to the playlist (originally broadcast 6/11/2009).

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.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Musical Migrations─Music of India, priceless gems from KUSP's LP archives

My friend and colleague Gypsy Flores asked me to fill in for her on Saturday to do her world music radio show Musical Migrations, KUSP FM, Santa Cruz. Gypsy is leaving the area, and we wish her well. She and her great show will be greatly missed.

The playlist for Saturday's show is here, and can currently be heard on demand via The KUSP Music Show Player in the Global category. It will only be available till next Saturday (June 13, 2009).

I started with a duet between Ry Cooder, playing bottleneck guitar, and V.M. Bhatt on vina, a plucked string instrument of India, from an album called A Meeting by the River.

This led me to mine KUSP's dusty LP archives in search of my old classical Indian favorites from when I hosted the world music shows, Ringing True and Sound in Time in the early 80s.

Hariprasad Chaurasia, classical bamboo flute master

In fact, Hariprasad Chaurasia's performance of "Raga Madhuvanti" was something of an epiphany for me. It was playing on the radio (KUSP, of course) once while I was sleeping and the serene heavenly sounds entered my dreams: that was the beginning of my deep appreciation of non-Western music.

I followed Raga Madhuvanti with an ethereal duet by vocalists Lakshmi Shankar and Nirmala Devi.

Lakshmi Shankar and Nirmala Devi
I found a teeny-tiny image
of their album on Odeon
titled "Sawan Beeta Jaye"


A few minutes into the song, a persistent mondegreen in the Hindi text takes shape in my brain as "I've got a gold chain." Listen for it!

More Indian flute follows, this time played by Himangshu Biswas, in duet (jugalbandhi) with Dulal Roy playing jaltrang, literally "waves of water", an instrument comprised of tuned water bowls hit with wooden sticks.

Milind Tulankar demonstrates the Jaltrang

I wanted to present Indian music on a wide variety of instruments, and I soon realized I could easily fill the whole two hours this way. My next selection was another jugalbandhi, this time for violin, played by Professor V.G. Jog, and shehnai, played by its foremost exponent, Bismillah Khan. The shehnai is a reed instrument with a sound very similar to the renaissance shawm.

Next, Pandit Kamalesh Maitra performs Raag Deen Todi on the tabla tarang, several tuned drums arranged in a circle like the jaltarang.

Pandit Kamalesh Maitra playing tabla tarang,
tuned and arranged in a rag scale.

Himangshu Biswas, whom we heard earlier playing the bamboo flute, performs an untitled dhun on the santoor, distant ancestor of the hammered dulcimer, produces a shimmering sound.

Santoor players, with stand or without

Next, South Indian saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath delivers a vigorous rendtion of "Anathudanu Ganu─Raga─Singla".

I ended the show with a few vocal selections from the 4-disc An Anthology of South Indian Classical Music, including to brief invocations to Lord Ganesha and the Goddess Saraswati.

LP's sporting the Odeon label and the Nipper the Dog logo of His Master's Voice provided much of the material for the show . Bulky and dusty, it is sad to see vinyl treasures suffer neglect and destruction these days, so kudos to KUSP to hanging on to much of its LP collection. There are many rewards for those who take the time to dig through them.

After 1945, Direct EMI—His Master's Voice exports to the USA,
where the HMV label was owned by RCA Victor Records,
bore pasted-over Odeon stickers.

His Master's Voice is a famous trademark in the music business,
and for many years was the name of a large record label.
The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting
of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone.
In the original painting, the dog was listening to a cylinder phonograph.

I hope you enjoy the show!