Wednesday, September 2, 2009

According to Steve Schwartz/, "In the last decade of his life Ralph Vaughan Williams took to experimenting with what could well be considered "unusual" instruments; in the 7th, 8th and 9th Symphonies he included a wind machine, tuned gongs and a flugelhorn respectively. During the same period Vaughan Williams also wrote two works for soloist and orchestra, the Romance for Harmonica (1951) and the Tuba Concerto (1954), and both works emphasize the fact that Vaughan Williams was still full of musical ideas well into his eighties. Vaughan Williams seemed to have quite liked the tuba as an instrument, and often included parts for it in his orchestral works. However, in the Tuba Concerto it gets center stage, is given two cadenzas – in the first and last movements - and proves that it can hold its own as a concerto instrument". See a performance of the first movement of Tuba Concerto by the youthful Leswi Pantoja and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra ... one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

The conceptual and multifaceted composer Tan Dun has made an indelible mark on the world's music scene with a creative repertoire that spans the boundaries of classical, multimedia, Eastern and Western musical systems. Central to his body of work, Tan Dun has composed distinct series of works which reflect his individual compositional concepts and personal ideas - among them a series which brings his childhood memories of shamanistic ritual into symphonic performances; works which incorporate elements from the natural world; and multimedia concerti. Opera has a significant role in his creative output and of his many works for film, the score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, received an Oscar for best original score. Hear Tan Dun talk about his life and music - Pytheas' current COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

William Schuman's Symphony for Strings (his Symphony No. 5) was completed on July 31, 1943, at New Rochelle, New York. The work was a Koussevitzky Foundation memorial for Natalie Koussevitzky and was premiered on November 12, 1943 by the strings of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with the dedicatee's husband, Sergei Koussevitzky conducting. The work, which clearly espresses its angst-ridden World War II era, enjoyed immediate success and has since received many performances, recordings and broadcasts. Have a listen to its first movement ... this week's PYTHEAS EARFUL.

Lousadzak (The Coming of Light) (1944) was composed during the years 1944–54, the period during which Alan Hovhaness created his greatest music. Subtitled Concerto for Piano and Strings, the work is unlike any other piano concerto in the repertoire. There is not a single chord, not a single passage of octaves in this one-movement work. The piano is employed to emulate various Armenian and Middle-Eastern instruments of the dulcimer and zither families, and the music is composed very much along the lines of what those instruments typically play, which includes striking the same key repeatedly to simulate sustained notes, and playing a melody against a drone-note, often in rapid, irregular rhythmic patterns. The strings provide a largely accompanimental backdrop like a small folk orchestra, in simple, almost improvisatory modal polyphony. The effect is truly unforgettable. The result is a highly exotic work suggesting an ancient pagan rite of unearthly, primitivistic fire and passion, as well as, at times, tender tranquility. (Walter Simmons, Fanfare) Hear and see an excerpt of this beautiful work ... this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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


  1. where can I get a copy of "Romance for Harmonica??"

  2. Hey Kevin,
    Here's a performance of the Romance on YouTube...

    Here's a listing (and first page) of the music - but it looks like it's out of print...

    And here's a listing of the US libraries that have the music. You can borrow it through your local library's Interlibrary Loan.

    Hope that helps. And thanks for reading!