Friday, October 2, 2009

The Lark Ascending (1920) is perhaps the most perfect work Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote for a solo instrument accompanied by orchestra. Finding inspiration not only in English folk tunes but also in a poem by the English poet George Meredith (1828-1909), Vaughan Williams' orchestral romance offers an impressionistic image of a lark's song and his beloved English countryside. The composer included a portion of Meredith's poem on the flyleaf of the published score:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

Hear and watch a stunning performance of The Lark Ascending by violinist Janine Jansen . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Jugu Abraham, at Movies That Make You Think writes, "Time and again people have asked me which movie is my all time favorite. I have often said without much hesitation: King Lear (1971), by the Russian film maker Grigory Kozintsev. Even close friends wonder if I have lost my wits because they expect my favorite would be Orson Welles's Citizen Kane or a work of Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, or even Terrence Mallick, my favorite directors. I fell in love with the Ukranian-born director Kozintsev’s King Lear some 30 years ago and I continue to be enraptured by the black-and-white film shot in cinemascope each time I see it. Each time you view the film, one realizes that a creative genius can embellish another masterpiece from another medium by providing food for thought---much beyond what Shakespeare offered his audiences centuries ago". The sparce film score by Dmitri Shostakovich comes from last years of his life. Have a look ... this week's PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

American composer Christopher Rouse started out at as a rock & roll drummer. However, it was not long until his love for classical composing took over and he enrolled in the Oberlin Conservatory. Having received a degree in composition in 1971, he continued with graduate work at Cornell University. He has taught at the Eastman School of Music since 1981, began teaching composition at the Juilliard School in 1997 and became co-composer in residence at the Aspen Music Festival in 1999. In a successful career as a composer he has won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his Trombone Concerto in 1993. Rouse is best known for his large body of concertos and symphonic works. He has been described as "the Stephen King of composition," since many of his works from the late 1980s and early 1990s dealt with issues of death, horror, tragedy, and mythology. Hear Rouse's 2007 talk with Chandler Branch of Soli Deo Gloria before the world premiere performance of his Requiem (2007) ... this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Toru Takemitsu's Rain Tree Sketch II (1992) was composed in memory of Oliver Messiaen. The name was probably inspired by a quotation from Kenzaburo Oe's story Atama no ii, Ame no Ki (An Ingenious Rain Tree): "It was named the 'rain tree', for its abundant foliage continued to let fall rain drops from the previous night's shower until the following midday. Its hundreds of thousands of tiny, finger-like leaves store up moisture, whereas other trees dry out at once." The work is a dreamy, moody meditation on the flow of life, built on half a dozen well chosen notes. Hear and watch a performance by pianist Vestard Shimkus ... this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

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