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Thursday Evening Classics
Composer Capsules for
March / April 2007
Presented by Steve Petke

Note: WWUH to broadcast 2006 Music Mountain Concert Series
(See Schedule & Info Below)


March 1

Fryderyk Chopin
Birth: March 1, 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, Poland
Death: October 17, 1849 in Paris, France

Chopin's father was French, his mother was Polish, and he was raised in Warsaw amidst intellectuals and members of the middle and upper classes. As a youth he spent two summers in the country, where he was exposed to Polish folk music. By the age 8 he was recognized as a child prodigy, writing his own pieces and performing in fashionable salons. He studied music, art and literature at the Warsaw Lyceum and later at the University of Warsaw. He gave his first recital in Vienna in 1829, and over the next few years he performed in Poland, Germany and Austria as well as in Paris. Feeling confined by Warsaw's cultural provincialism and uneasy with the publicity surrounding his performances there, he settled in Paris in 1832 and established himself as an exorbitantly paid piano teacher. There he composed extensively, but limited his performances chiefly to private salons. In 1838, he began an affair with French novelist, George Sand. The couple, along with Sand's children, spent a harsh winter in Majorca, where Chopin's health declined and he was diagnosed with consumption. Chopin composed steadily, although his increasing perfectionism slowed his output. By the mid-1840s, though, his health and personal relationship both had deteriorated. The affair ended in 1847 after, among other things, Sand had portrayed their relationship unflatteringly in her novel Lucrezia Floriani. Chopin made an extended visit to the British Isles, then returned to Paris to die in 1849.

March 8
Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach
Birth: March 8, 1714 in Weimar, Germany
Death: December 14, 1788 in Hamburg, Germany

The second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel was the most innovative and idiosyncratic member of this extremely talented musical family. By age 7, C.P.E. Bach could play his father's technically demanding keyboard pieces at sight. An exceptional student in areas other than music, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1731 to study law, then transferred to the University of Frankfurt an der Oder. He graduated in 1734, but remained in that remote town giving keyboard lessons, arranging concerts, and studying composition. By 1740, Bach had moved to Berlin to become harpsichordist to Frederick the Great of Prussia. There he was exposed to Italian opera seria, and its dramatic style would shape his instrumental music. However, at court Bach's talent was limited to accompanying the flutist-king in a seemingly never-ending series of concertos by Quantz. Bach made several attempts to find a new position, but it was not until 1768 that he was released from Frederick's service in order to succeed Telemann as cantor at the Johanneum in Hamburg. Stylistically divergent from his father's rigorous polyphony, C.P.E. Bach was an embryonic Romantic. He was the master of Empfindsamkeit, or "intimate expressiveness", with its dark, dramatic, improvisatory passages. His impulsive works for solo keyboard, which lurch into unexpected keys, change tempo and dynamics abruptly, and dash along with wide-ranging themes, are quite compelling. Many of his symphonies are as audacious as his keyboard pieces. In his chamber music, Bach moved the keyboard out of its subsidiary role and made it a full partner with, or even leader of, the other instruments. He composed in many genres, and much of his work still awaits rediscovery.

Alan Hovhaness
Birth: March 8, 1911 in Somerville, MA
Death: June 21, 2000 in Seattle, WA

Lightly regarded by mainstream Classical music, Hovhaness, was one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. He left behind a legacy of hundreds of works, including more than 60 symphonies, numerous instrumental, chamber and choral works, ballets, and operas. Hovhaness was born of Scottish and Armenian descent and took an early interest in composition. By age 13 he had written two operas. After studying at the New England Conservatory with Frederick Converse, Hovhaness made a favorable impression with his first symphony, "Exile", when it was performed in London in 1939. Hovhaness' early works both reflect the influence of Renaissance music and utilize the harmonies of the late 19th century. During the 1930s developed an interest in Indian music, which became a pervasive influence upon his own works. In 1942 he received a scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, where he attended composition seminars led by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. The experience, however, was less than positive, since both Copland and Bernstein were highly critical of Hovhaness' music. Discouraged, Hovhaness left Tanglewood and destroyed many of his early works. After returning to Boston he met the Greek painter and psychic Herman DiGiovanno, who convinced him to study the music of his Armenian ancestry. Hovhaness' discovery of Armenian music had a direct effect upon his own works, which became more rhythmically and contrapuntally dynamic and reflected the improvisatory nature of Armenian church melodies. During the 1940s Hovhaness expanded his study of Armenian culture, playing organ at an Armenian church and learning the Armenian language. The growing success of his music in the 1950s led to several important grants and commissions. Still ignored by the mainstream musical establishment, he continued to receive recognition elsewhere. A commission from the Houston Symphony for his Symphony #2 "Mysterious Mountain" gave Hovhaness his first popular success. The work was auspiciously premiered by Stokowski, and the redoubtable Fritz Reiner made a highly regarded recording of it with the Chicago Symphony. Hovhaness toured the Far East on several occasions and was the first Western composer invited to the music festival in Madras, India. He was also received warmly in Japan and Korea. The result of the composer's immersion in Eastern culture is music instilled with a sense of mysticism and spirituality.

April 5
Louis Spohr
Birth: April 5, 1784 in Braunschweig, Germany
Death: October 22, 1859 in Kassel, Germany

While little of his music endures in the standard repertoire, Spohr is noted as one of the preeminent conductors of the first half of the 19th century and as a seminal figure in the development of modern violin playing. In addition to inventing both the violin chin-rest and rehearsal numbers/letters for printed music, he was the first major conductor to use a baton. Spohr showed early talent for the violin, and by age 15 he was a member of the ducal orchestra at Braunschweig. By 1805, the young virtuoso had become something of a sensation throughout Germany, where audiences adored his playing and compositions. During his lifetime, Spohr was the leader orchestras in Gotha and Kassel, the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, and the Frankfurt Opera. He was also a prominent figure on the international music scene, making no fewer than six tours of England. Over six and a half feet tall, Spohr was an imposing figure on the podium. His conducting repertoire was vast and he was one of the first to conduct Wagner's Der Fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser. While Spohr's operas were popular during his lifetime, they have since disappeared from opera houses. Only a few of his works, notably the 8th violin concerto and the four clarinet concertos are heard today. A generous and warm person, Spohr was active in politics and was considered a skillful painter and chess player.

Albert Roussel
Birth: April 5, 1869 in Tourcoing, Departement du Nord, France
Death: August 23, 1937 in Royan, France

Though less well known than his contemporaries Ravel and Debussy, Roussel is still regarded as one of the most important figures in early 20th century French music. Born into an affluent family, Roussel lost both his parents when he was very young, and was entrusted to the care of his grandfather. In 1880, the grandfather died, and a maternal aunt took over the responsibility of raising Albert. Although he was interested in music, Roussel decided to pursue a naval career. He graduated from the Ecole Navale in 1889 and served as an officer in Indochina. In 1894, however, Roussel resigned his commission and devoted himself entirely to music. He went to Paris, where he studied with Eugene Gigout and Vincent d'Indy. In 1902, although he had not yet completed his studies, Roussel became professor of counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum. Having already composed several significant works, Roussel married Blanche Preisach in 1908. At the outbreak of World War I Roussel applied for active duty, eventually obtaining an artillery commission. After the war, he retired to the coast of Brittany to focus on unfinished projects, which included the opera-ballet Padmåvatî. This work, which incorporates elements of traditional Indian music, marked a new period for Roussel, whose earlier compositions had been quite Impressionistic. In 1922, Roussel moved to the coast of Normandy. Despite increasingly frail health, he continued to compose. His increasing public esteem was evidenced by a 1927 Paris festival devoted entirely to his works as well as a commission from the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the BSO's 50th anniversary. Roussel's music blends expressionism with traditional musical ideas, a tension which is particularly apparent in his symphonies.

April 19
Germaine Tailleferre
Birth: April 19, 1892 in Parc-St.-Maur, France
Death: November 7, 1983 in Paris, Fran
ce

The only female member of the post-World War I group of French composers known as Les Six, Germaine Tailleferre remained a prominent musician long after the disintegration of that group. She left behind an extensive body of work representing almost 70 years of active composition. Although Tailleferre's parents exposed Germaine to music from an early age, they considered music to be an inappropriate activity for a young lady, and it was not until age 12 that Tailleferre convinced them to allow her to pursue serious lessons at the Paris Conservatoire. There she studied accompaniment, harmony, and counterpoint, eventually taking first prizes in each. While a student, Tailleferre met composers Auric, Milhaud and Honegger. After graduation she also received a few informal lessons in orchestration from Maurice Ravel. Later she was invited to join the Nouveaux Jeunes, a group of young composers who identified with the aesthetic of satirical composer Erik Satie and playwright Jean Cocteau which, with the addition of Tailleferre, Durey, and Poulenc, soon became known as Les Six. Tailleferre was married twice: to American author Ralph Barton, and later to French lawyer Jean Lageat. Tailleferre's commitment to progressive musical ideas during the early 1920s earned her notoriety throughout the Parisian musical establishment. Nevertheless, her music never abandoned its allegiance to the traditional French "voice" as passed down from Fauré through Ravel. In later years, she experimented with serialism, however, these works are not regarded as highly as her earlier compositions.

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WWUH TO BROADCAST MUSIC MOUNTAIN CONCERTS

  We are pleased to announce that we have arranged once again to broadcast recordings of live chamber music performances from the 2006 summer season at Music Mountain. These will be presented on Wednesday evenings, beginning March 7, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

  Music Mountain, located in the scenic hills of northwest Connecticut (Falls Village), is the oldest continuing summer chamber music festival in the United States. It was founded in 1930 by Jacques Gordon as the permanent home of the Gordon String Quartet, a base from which it could tour and then return to teach, study, and perform in Gordon Hall. Each year, concerts present the great quartet and quintet masterpieces by leading performers before a public audience. Music Mountain's 2007 season will begin on Sunday, June 17, and chamber music concerts will continue on Sunday afternoons and occasional Saturday evenings through Sunday, September 9. The season also includes Saturday evening jazz concerts.
  For more information, visit musicmountain.org. These broadcasts are made possible by the cooperation of Music Mountain and the WFMT Radio Network, and are underwritten by Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller, Falls Village, CT.

March 7 Eugenia Zukerman, flute; The Jacques Thibaud Trio Mozart: Flute Quartet in A Major, K. 298 Mozart: Divertimento for String Trio in E-Flat Major, K. 563 Beethoven: Trio for Strings in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1 Tan Mi Zi: Flute and Drum Under the Setting Sun for Solo Flute; Mozart: Flute Quartet in D Major, K. 285

March 14 Amernet String Quartet; Toby Appel, viola Beethoven: String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4 Mozart: Viola Quintet in C Major, K. 515 Brahms: Viola Quintet in G Major, Op. 111

March 21 Amernet String Quartet; Humbert Lucarelli, oboe Beethoven: String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132 Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 Mozart: Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370

March 28 Avalon String Quartet; Pamela Mia Paul, piano Mozart: String Quartet in D Major, K. 499, Hoffmeister Debussy: String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10 Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44

April 4 Chiara String Quartet; Daniel Epstein, piano Mozart: String Quartet in C Major, K. 465, Dissonance Beethoven: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 Dohnanyi: Piano Quintet in C Minor, Op. 1

April 11 Daedalus String Quartet; Melvin Chen, piano Mozart: String Quartet in G Major, K. 387 Bartók: String Quartet No. 3; Dvorak: Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 April 18 St. Petersburg String Quartet; Alexander Mekinulov, piano Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 9 in E-Flat Major, Op. 117 Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8, Op. 110; Shostakovich: Piano Quintet, Op. 57

April 25 Zemlinsky String Quartet; Simone Dinnerstein, piano Suk: Meditations on an Old Bohemian Chorale (St. Vaclav), Op. 35; Piazzolla: Four for Tango; Haydn: String Quartet in D Major, Op 76, No. 5; Dvorak: String Quartet in A-Flat Major, Op. 105; Mozart: Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478

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WWUH: Program Guide 2007 ©

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