Thursday, November 12, 2009

Susan Key, writing about Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto (1940) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, notes that "Barber's romantic sensibility permeates his only concerto for violin. It was originally commissioned in 1939 by soap magnate Samuel Fels for his adopted son, Iso Briselli. The dedicatee, however, complained that the work was overbalanced: too much lyricism and not enough virtuosity. When Barber added a breakneck third movement, the complaint became that the entire work lacked unity. Eventually Barber revised it further and it was premiered by Albert Spalding and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy in 1941". Regarding the work's final movement critic Nathan Broder writes, "Here an almost willfully cultivated Mendelssohnian simplicity is suddenly interrupted by a presto perpetuum mobile full of irregular rhythms and quite un-Mendelssohnian dissonances. It is as if the composer had suddenly lost patience with certain self-imposed stylistic restrictions". Watch violinist Anne Akiko Meyers' performance of this "un-Mendelssohnian" finale from Barber's Violin Concerto . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Elliott Carter is, according to Aaron Copland "one of America's most distinguished creative artists in any field." Carter was initially encouraged to become a composer by Charles Ives who had sold insurance to his parents, later going on to study at Harvard with Walter Piston and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. With his explorations into tempo relationships and texture, Carter's consistently innovative and dynamic output of works is unmistakably American. Sometimes, in works such as the String Quartet No. 1, it is reminiscent of the vastness of the American landscapes; at other times, for example in the Concerto for Orchestra, his complex counterpoint conjures up the dense and hectic environment of the big cities. His intricate, mercurial work often mirrors human interactions and relationships. Hear and see Elliott Carter talk about his life and his music . . . as this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Zbynek Mateju's
ballet Ibbur, or a Prague Mystery (2005), with choreography by Petr Zuska, is based on motifs from Gustav Meyrink's novel Golem. Its creators Daniel Wiesner, Petr Zuska and Elia Cmiral have shaped a story that strides the boundary between dream and reality, mythical vision and legend, and mirrors the fragile world of a human being's psychic balance. On the level of dance art, this production represents an effort to express the original theme of the novel using a contemporary choreographic 'language' and expand the artistic experience for our audience to include new staging procedures and performance techniques. See an excerpt from Ibbur featuring The National Theatre Ballet, Prague . . . this week's DANSES PYTHEUSES.

George Crumb writes of his Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) (1971), "the work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale, a tape recording of which I had heard two or three years previously. Each of the three performers (flute, cello and piano - all amplified) is required to wear a black half-mask (or visor-mask). The masks, by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to represent, symbolically, the powerful impersonal forces of nature, i.e. nature dehumanized. Watch a performance of the first part of Crumb's Vox Balaenae (1971) by Pendulum New Music . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

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