Sunday January 2: Preempted for University of
Hartford Womens basketball game broadcast.
Sunday January 9: Programming for the beginning of the new year,
the new century and the new millennium picks up with what has been preempted on Sunday,
December 19 of last year: Der Stein der Weisen ("The Philosophers
Stone," 1790). Four years ago American musicologist David Buch came upon a complete
copy of the long-lost score of a remarkable German-language fairytale opera. The headings
to the musical numbers, in collaboration with four other Viennese musicians. The composite
work was a huge success in its premiere staging, as produced by Emmanuel Schickaneder, who
was one of the five who had a hand in its composition. All the others involved in turn had
a hand in Schickaneders subsequent production, which was Mozarts immortal
"Magic Flute." Buch has pointed out the numerous parallels between Der Stein
der Weisen and Die Zauberflote. As a result of his collaborative effort in Der
Stein Mozart learned exactly what he needed to write into his own singspiel
masterpiece. The world premiere recording of Der Stein der Weisen came out last
year through Telarc, with Martin Pearlman directing the Boston Baroque, Americas
oldest period-instrument orchestra. The radio station promo copy of Der Stein comes
with a third bonus disc in the jewel box. On that CD is Pearlmans half-hour long
informative talk about the music to this enchanting prototype of "The Magic
Flute." Youll hear Pearlmans remarks following broadcast of the opera
Sunday January 16: Again the opera is preempted for University
of Hartford Womens basketball game broadcast.
Sunday January 23: After reading Cuthbert Girdlestones
definitive biography of Rameau, I became convinced that he is one of the underrated
geniuses of baroque music, one who should rightly be ranked alongside Bach and Handel.
Jean Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764) was the greatest composer of French opera in an era when
French music was quintessentially French. Rameaus operas are the culmination
of a century of development of the operatic model established by Lully. Ive
broadcast many recent and historically-informed interpretations on disc of Rameaus
lyric stageworks. One of the least known but most beautiful of them is Nais (1749),
commissioned to celebrate the peace treaty concluding the War of the Austrian Succession.
The orchestral music of the prologue to this work is a particularly powerful stroke of
dramatic genius. The choruses, sung dialog, vocal airs and instrumental dances are
excellent throughout , even though the story of the opera concerning the sea god
Neptunes infatuation with the water nymph Neis, is pretty slight. Nais was
revived on stage for the 1980 English Bach Festival. Nicholas McGregan conducts the
English Bach Festival Singers and Baroque Orchestra. The Erato Records release of Nais
was last presented on this program in LP format back on Sunday, December 8, 1991. This
Sunday you hear Nais again in CD upgrade.
Sunday January 30: Within the 210 minute confines of this
timeslot Im planning to fit four (count em!) little operas with a certain
German connection. Three of them sprang from the brain of that renegade German lyric
theater composer Kurt Weill (1900-50). Der Kuhhandel or "Shady Dealing"
is the German language reconstruction of a theater work that premiered in London in 1935
in English language under the title "A Kingdom for a Cow," a musical parable
about the evils of the international arms trade. Revisions to the score of the
German-language version remained incomplete at the time of Weills death. In 1990,
almost sixty years after Weill had broken off work on the piece, the first performance of Der
Kuhhandel was given in concert form at Dusseldorf as part of the North-Rhine
Westphalian Weill festival. Cappriccio Records made the world premiere recording of
excerpts from Der Kuhhandel with the Dusseldorf cast, in co-production with West
German Radio of Cologne. Jan Latham-Koenig conducts the Cologne Radio Orchestra and
Not long before he fled his homeland to escape the Nazi takeover, Weill
and his longtime collaborator librettist Bertolt Brecht concocted a little opera for
school age children to perform. The politically progressive school music movement was big
in Germany in the pre-Hitler period. Der Jasager ("The Yes-Sayer")was
scheduled to premiere at the Berlin New Music Festival of 1930 but was canceled at the
last moment due to concerns about its provocative political content. Within the next
couple of years it saw more than two hundred productions in schools all over Germany and
Austria. Weill counted it among his finest creations, although the Nazis reviled it as
"degenerate art." Weill ended up in New York City, where he set to work writing
a series of small-scale American operas, of which Down in the Valley (1945) was the
most popular and successful. Intended at first solely for radio performance, it became an
American school opera in short order. It premiered at Indiana University, Bloomington, and
was eventually broadcast by NBC from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and went on to
productions at many colleges. Student workshops and amateur groups alike took it up with
great enthusiasm. In Down in the Valley Weill had crafted a ballad opera with the
familiar Appalachian folk tune "Down in the valley, valley so low..." as its
opening an closing chorus. The story of love gone murderously wrong at the village
hoe-down was also familiar to American audiences. Capriccio Records issued Der Jasager
and Down in the Valley together on a single silver disc. In both operas Willi
Gundlach leads the orchestra of Campus Cantat, the annual music festival at the University
of Dortmund, Germany, with participating student singers and players from Fredonia and the
University of Buffalo in the US. Gundlach also directs his own group, the Chamber Choir of
the University of Dortmund.
Last in the lineup is a chamber opera by Ernst Krenek (1900-91) called
in German Vertrauenssache or "What Price Confidence" (1945), for four
singers and piano. Krenek himself came up with the story for this half-hour long lyric
comedy, which resembles nothing so much as Mozarts Cosi Fan Tutte. A CPO
compact disc release.
Sunday February 6: English composer Peter Maxwell Davies
(b.1934) has declared The Doctor of Myddfai (1996) will probably be the last opera
we will ever have from him. It was written to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the
Welsh National Opera. Davies librettist David Pountney has taken up the old Welsh
legend of the miracle-working country doctor and set it in a futuristic context. Collins
Classics has given us the world premiere live recording of Davies science fiction
opera, as broadcast over BBC Radio Three. The BBC tapings were done at the Welch National
Operas home in Cardiff, Wales. Richard Armstrong conducts the ensemble.
Sunday February 13: Everything youll hear on this
Sundays show falls into the category of "modern experimental" or
"avant garde" lyric theater. Some folks would contend these musical works are
not really theater at all. Decide for yourself by auditioning for starters Robert
Ashleys Your Money, My Life, Goodbye (1998). Although commissioned by Radio
Bavaria, the singers and electronic orchestra are all-American, and the Lovely Music
recording was made in New York City. Ashley himself lends his voice to the ensemble.
Robert Ashley (b.1934) has masterminded a string of electronic, multimedia vocal-ensemble
pieces for stage, with application to radio and TV. I have featured several of them
before. The last time I did was the broadcast on Sunday, February 22. 1998 of Atalanta
(Acts of God). Following Your Money, My Life, Goodbye comes another Lovely
Music recording of one of Ashleys earliest efforts Private Parts (1977), and
thereafter Key (1967-70), and "invisible theater" piece by experimental
vocalist Meredith Monk. This, too, is heard in its 1995 Lovely Music CD release.
Sunday February 20: Theres a Scandinavian angle linking
the two operas youll hear today. The first has music by a Flemish composer, Daniel
Sternefeld (1905-86), but its libretto is based on "The Story of A Mother" by
the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. Mater Dolorosa (1935) presents
the tale of a woman who tries to win back from Death her little invalid son. Sternefeld
ended his artistic career as director of the Belgian Radio Symphony of Brussels. In our
brand new Marco Polo CD release of Mater Dolorosa Grant Llewellyn directs the Royal
Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra and Flemish Radio Choir, with six vocal soloists.
Arnlyot (1910) by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942) is widely
regarded as the preeminent Swedish national opera. This is an ideological drama-in-music
whose story is set in eleventh-century Sweden and involves an armed struggle between
heathen and Christian noblemen. Peterson-Bergers music for Arnlyot employs
Wagnerian-style leitmotivs and it is quite grand in Wagners manner, but is lacks
that ponderous Germanic tone. Many passages are colorfully impressionistic, reminding one
of the style of Delius, especially when the music depicts nature in setting its scene in
the Scandinavian landscape. Arnlyot has never appeared in complete form on
commercial recordings, but extensive excerpts from all three acts of the operatic saga
were taped at the Stocklhom Korserthus in 1973, with Okko Kamu conducting the Stockholm
Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. EMI originally issued the excerpts LP, which has been
specially transferred to CD for todays broadcast.
Sunday February 27: Now back-to-back come two tangentially
related requiems, one German, one American. Johannes Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem
(1868) is one of the most famous, most well-beloved choral works in the repertoire. The
text of consolatory verse, which Brahms himself assembled form various Biblical passages,
has been translated into English before, but with some difficulty. The new English
adaptation of "A German Requiem," made by the well known American choral
director Robert Shaw, is only an approximate rendering of the German original. Shaw used
as his model the traditional King James version of the Bible. He died suddenly in
January 1999, less than three weeks before he was scheduled to perform and record "A
German Requiem" in his own translated version with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and
Utah Symphony. Shaws longtime friend and musical collaborator Craig Jessop was given
the opportunity to conduct in Shaws stead for the brand new Telarc recording of the
Brahms requiem. It was made in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. The recording of
"A German Requiem" I last broadcast, on Sunday October 20, 1991, was made here
in Hartford with Fritz Mahler conducting the Hartford Symphony.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is again heard in James DeMars An
American Requiem (1993), which intersperses the ancient Latin liturgical text of the
Roman Catholic mass with modern English language poetry selected or written by Michael F.
Sorda. An American Requiem was recorded live in concert in 1995 at the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. The composer himself conducted
the choir and four vocal soloists, one of whom is the renowned bass-baritone Simon Estes.
A Bonniville Worldwide Entertainment CD release.
The two requiems are recent additions to WWUHs ever-growing
library of classical music on disc. Also drawn from the stations record library are
the Lovely Music discs of Robert Ashleys music, Kreneks Vertrauenssache and
Sternefelds Mater Dolorosa. All the other featured material in this two-month
period of programming is derived from my own record collection, with the exception of the
three little operas by Kurt Weill and Peter Maxwell Davies The Doctor of Myddfai.
Those recordings come on loan from the collection of Rob Meehan, a former classical
music programmer at WWUH who is a specialist in twentieth-century alternative music.
Copyright©WWUH: January/February Program Guide, 2000