Thursday, November 26, 2009

Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times writes of American composer Richard Danielpour's opera Margaret Garner (2005), "Mr. Danielpour’s undeniable craft comes through in almost every passage. He can write lyrically ruminative vocal lines and knows how to energize choristers, as in an animated ensemble of slaves awaiting auction, where the words “No, no more!” become a theme for a syncopated, patter-filled, fuguelike chorus. The orchestral writing is flecked with color and richly sonorous". Hear Gregg Baker and Denyce Graves of the Opera Company of Philadelphia sing an excerpt from Margaret Garner . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

One of the 20th-century's great symphonists, Witold Lutoslawski created an impressive, always progressing body of music in the most difficult of circumstances. As the commander of a military radio station, he was captured by the invading Germans at the beginning of World War II. He escaped, and survived the occupation by playing piano duos in Warsaw cafes, including his Variations on a Theme of Paganini. In 1949 his Symphony No. 1 was the first Polish work to be denounced as formalist by Stalinist cultural politicians. In reaction, Lutoslawski wrote public works based on folk material, while continuing to develop a more personal language privately. In the cultural thaw following Stalin's death, Lutoslawski became a major international figure, renowned for innovations in form and performing techniques and a consistently eloquent personal voice - (from the Los Angeles Philharmonic). Hear Lutoslawski speak of his life and his music in an interview with Charles Amirkhanian . . . this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Composer Karen Amrhein has now completed her project of creating an animated film based on her 2007 work "Princess Paliné, who learned the seven words that stay a dragon's hunger and cool its fires". According to the composer, "The 28-minute animated film (with musical score and narration) ... engaged much of my time over the past year and a half. Having almost no experience with film-making – and none with animation – before beginning this, I’ve learned a great deal. I created the animation by employing time-tested stop-motion techniques to altered images from old fruit and vegetable crate labels, medieval illuminations, and bits from scans of paintings by the masters. Preview audiences have been left in stunned silence by the results". Watch an excerpt from this beautiful and timeless film . . . the second of our FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for the week.

Erik Satie's Nocturnes are some of the last compositions he wrote for piano. Their harmonies rely on fourths and fifths and each shows a characteristic simplicity of texture. By this stage of his life, Satie's compositional technique had altered somewhat and the Nocturnes, like most of his works from the 1890s onwards, are made up of juxtaposed fragments of themes. Listen to and watch a unique performance of the Nocturne No. 2 (1919) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

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