Thursday, December 10, 2009

In his operas The Horseman and Kullervo, and in his music for the television epic The Iron Age, Aulis Sallinen has penetrated deep into the mists of Finnish prehistoric myth. Similar mists veil the events his The Red Line, although they are set in our own century and can indeed be timed to the day. The most shattering moments in all these works are those in which Death suddenly and shockingly reaps its harvest. Sallinen movingly examines the pain of life under the shadow of death also in his song cycle Four Dream Songs (1973) based on his opera The Horseman. Hear a gorgeous performance of the third and fourth "Dream Song" by soprano Soile Isokoski . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

For this week's Composer Portrait we turn to pianist Gwendolyn Mok. She specializes in the music of Maurice Ravel, and has recorded Ravel's complete solo piano works on a restored Erard concert grand piano, dating from 1875, similar to Ravel' s own piano . . . it's this week's COMPOSER PORTRAIT.

Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Trapèze is a circus-themed one-acter which was written in 1924 for Boris Romanov, a modernist Russian choreographer who had emigrated to Germany in 1921. His Berlin-based company was so hard up it couldn’t afford an orchestra, so Prokofiev duly scored his commission for a quintet of clarinet, oboe, violin, viola and double-bass. Watch an excerpt of Trapèze brought to us by Video Artists International (VAI), an independent record label of Classical, Jazz, Broadway, Ballet, and Opera DVD's and CD's whose catalogue includes performances by such luminaries as Leopold Stokowski, David Oistrakh, Fritz Reiner, Van Cliburn, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price, Renata Scotto, Franco Corelli, and Maria Callas among others . . . this week's DANSES PYTHEUSES.

The first five pieces of Arnold Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19 (1911) were composed in a single day, February 19, 1911; the sixth followed on June 17. These very brief and compact pieces are a sort of musical equivalent of aphorisms: the longest of the set (No. 1) encompasses no more than 18 measures. Schoenberg here experiments with the construction of ideas that are complete from the outset and require no development. Watch a performance of these classics of 20th century music by pianist Michel Beroff . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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

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