Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Iva Bittová is a phenomenon in contemporary Czech music – the avant-garde violinist, singer and composer has developed a music style all her own, blending the music of many cultures into what she terms her "personal folk music" and drawing deeply on her emotions and the sounds of nature. Her vocal utterances range from traditional singing to chirping, moaning, yelps and deep throat noises that keep audiences mesmerized. Her style is not easily defined but perhaps one of the most accurate comments made about her is that she brings the human voice back to the natural world in a way that transcends barriers and touches audiences the world over. Hear and see her sing Ne nehledej/Stop Searching ... one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

American composer Benjamin Lees has traveled the world over in his 85 years. Born in Harbin, China of Russian parents, he arrived in the United States at age 2. After military service in World War II, Lees entered the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In 1954 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, enabling him to leave the U.S. and travel to Europe, where he eventually settled in a small village near Paris. His aim was to remain uninfluenced by the turbulent American scene in order to create his own style. He remained in Europe for seven years before returning to the U.S. to settle in California. The highly personal style of Lees lends his music the lofty grandeur and sardonic wit, not only of Shostakovich but also of the Cubist and Surrealist artists whom he so greatly admires. He also shares Britten’s refined sense of harmony, delighting in contrasts and surprises, enthralling the listener at every turn from the lyrical to the burlesque, the romantic to the brusque. His String Quartet No. 5 (2002) was chosen by Chamber Music America as one of its "101 Great Ensemble Works". Check out the Cypress String Quartet's Naxos recording of the String Quartet No. 5 (as well as Nos. 1 and 6) ... Pytheas' current FEATURED RECORDING.

We're all familiar (hopefully!) with Aaron Copland's great works for modern dance - Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo. Less well known are the scores he composed for the movies - perhaps most frequently heard is the music he wrote for the film The Red Pony (1948). This week at Pytheas we feature another of his film scores, namely the one written for William Wyler's 1949 classic The Heiress starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. Take a look and listen at this week's PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

In 1951 Benjamin Britten turned for inspiration to Ovid, the exiled Roman poet who died in 17 A.D. in obscurity on the northwest coast of the Black Sea. Ovid's greatest work, Metamorphoses, is a fifteen-volume treatise of the disillusionment of his generation described in terms of the instability of nature. Britten titled his Six Metamorphoses After Ovid (1951) using the names of the some of the legendary figures who appear in the great Roman poet's work. Enjoy a performance of Narcissus by oboist Nicholas Daniel ... this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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