Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Carlos Chavez's Ten Preludes for Piano, composed in 1937, is quite different in treatment from Chavez's earlier piano works. Both in form and in the natural pianism of the Preludes, Chavez renounced some of his former stridency and created instead a modern counterpart (terse, linear, percussive) of Bach's preludes. The composer wrote: "My plan was to write one for each of the seven white keys. I composed, then, a Prelude in each of the Gregorian modes. Thus I started with the Dorian and followed with Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Hypodorian, Hypophrygian, and Hypolydian. These seven modes taken care of, I decided to expand the series to ten and continued with a kind of bimodality in the eighth and a mixture of modality-tonality in the ninth and tenth. In almost all of my previous works there is evidence of procedures that are classic or academic, such as imitations, progressions, sequences, etc. In these Preludes, I indeed followed some of these procedures, since I felt that at least here they were capable of going beyond traditional effects." The Ten Preludes possess a hypnotizing monotony, the kind associated with the ritual music of the Aztecs. Instead of attempting to reproduce a direct reflection of the spirit of Mexico, Chavez has created a synthesis of that spirit. Watch a performance of two of Chavez's Ten Preludes played by pianist Mauricio Garza . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.
Pierre Boulez is among the most influential contemporary musicians, as both a composer and a conductor. He is known principally for his extension of the techniques of serialism beyond the limits of the Second Viennese School of Schoenberg, under the strong influence of his teacher Messiaen, into a logical style that brings with it a paradoxical freedom. His career as a conductor has brought him engagements with the most famous orchestras in a wide repertoire, from Rameau to Wagner to the contemporary. Listen to an interview with Pierre Boulez as he discusses his life and his music . . . it's our COMPOSER PORTRAIT for the week.
. . . and watch a performance of his Le soleil des eaux (1948/65) with soprano Elizabeth Atherton, the BBC Singers and Symphony Chorus, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, Pierre Boulez.
Composer John Corigliano writes: "When Sylvia McNair asked me to write her a major song cycle for Carnegie Hall, she had only one request; to choose an American text. I have set only four poets in my adult compositional life: Stephen Spender, Richard Wilbur, Dylan Thomas and William M. Hoffman. Aside from asking William Hoffman to create a new text, I had no ideas. Except that I had always heard, by reputation, of the high regard accorded the folk-ballad singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. But I was so engaged in developing my orchestral technique during the years when Dylan was heard by the rest of the world that I had never heard his songs. So I bought a collection of his texts, and found many of them to be every bit as beautiful and as immediate as I had heard, and surprisingly well-suited to my own musical language. I then contacted Jeff Rosen, his manager, who approached Bob Dylan with the idea of re-setting his poetry to my music. I do not know of an instance in which this has been done before (which was part of what appealed to me), so I needed to explain that these would be in no way arrangements, or variations, or in any way derivations of the music of the original songs, which I decided to not hear before the cycle was complete. Just as Schumann or Brahms or Wolf had re-interpreted in their own musical styles the same Goethe text, I intended to treat the Dylan lyrics as the poems I found them to be. Nor would their settings make any attempt at pop or rock writing. I wanted to take poetry I knew to be strongly associated with popular art and readdress it in terms of concert art-crossover in the opposite direction, one might say. Dylan granted his permission, and I set to work. I chose seven poems for what became a thirty-five minute song cycle." Hear soprano Hege Monica Eskedal and pianist Eva Herheim perform Chimes of Freedom from Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man (2000) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.
The years Bohuslav Martinu spent in America between 1941 and 1953 weren't happy ones; the combination of political events in Czechoslovakia, the turmoil of World War II, and Martinu's residing in a country he found less than congenial depressed his spirits considerably. Nevertheless, he managed to keep up his usual prolific pace of composition. In his first five years in America he had produced fully 25 new pieces, and the spirit of optimism upon the end of the war brought Martinu a new burst of creativity; the Symphony No. 4, one of Martinu's most engaging and mellow orchestral works, was born of this spirit. The symphony was written between April and June 1945, mostly in New York and partly at Martinu's summer home near South Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod [from the All Music Guide]. Watch a performance of the first part of the scherzo-like second movement of Martinu's Symphony No. 4 with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.