Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), quite some time ago.
It's always a special pleasure to welcome an artist we admire to our studio. This time our guest was the trail-blazing American violinist Hilary Hahn, whose forthcoming album Parisconcludes with the world-premiere recordings of the final musical thoughts of Einojuhani Rautavaara, pieces written for her that came to light only after the composer's death. Though the Finnish master knew Hilary's playing and had written music for her before, the two never met. I, on the other hand, who could never hope to play his music, had had occasion to visit him and write about his work several times (as here). The complementary perspectives made for a lively exchange (link to the audio of the talk segment above).
To open the program, we listened in on "I Will Not Remain Silent" and "Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society," the new release from the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, spinning tracks selected by the composer and polymath Bruce Adolphe, perhaps best known as the creator of the weekly Piano Puzzler on America's top classical-music show "Performance Today." To conclude, we delved once more into the recently opened archive of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under the inspirational leadership of Riccardo Muti nearly a half century ago.
Chris P. Thompson enjoys exploring color.
"I Will Not Remain Silent" and "Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society" (Milken Digital Archive)
- Berlin during the Nazi era
Sharon Roffman, IRIS Orchestra, Michael Stern
- Consider Love
University of Michigan Chamber Choir, Jerry Blackstone
This album honors the memory of Joachim Prinz, a rabbi who stood up to the Nazis in Germany and later marched with Martin Luther King, Jr in the United States. At Adolphe's suggestion, we played the visceral opening movement of the two-part violin concerto "I Will Not Remain Silent," in which the idealism of the soloist (representing Prinz) confronts the unyielding brutality of the mob (represented by the orchestra). In maximum contrast, the diaphanous choral writing of "Consider Love," from the cantata Reach Out, Raise Hope, Change Society, paints a very different picture of human potential. The words are from the Texas philanthropist Dominique de Menil, who first spoke them at the Rothko Chapel, founded by her and her husband John de Menil as an oasis for interfaith dialogue, human rights, and the arts. "In a world filled with mistrust, armed to the teeth and ready to explode," she said in 1977, "a realistic attitude might be to consider love as an imperative need." Her message may be more urgent today than ever.
True Stories & Rational Numbers (Grin Agog Music 2020)
Chris P. Thompson
- Professor H
- Professor H at Twilight
The percussionist, composer, and producer Chris P. Thompson describes his nine-movement suite as an investigation of just intonation, the tuning system based on natural whole-number ratios. Know, too, that the score is programmed entirely in modern piano-roll notation, extending the practice of Conlon Nancarrow. The Professor H encountered in our excerpts is the German scientist and philosopher Hermann von Helmholtz. Thompson's goal, we learn, is "to marry the machine with the warmth of human emotion." Don't let the intellectual gymnastics scare you off. At the level of pure sensory perception, Thompson's music has a clean, crisp clarity not unlike the jangling excitement of the Balinese gamelan, and it skips along at a polyrhythmic clip that keeps you constantly off-balance, in the most vivifying way. More, please!
Hilary Hahn: Paris (Deutsche Grammophon 2021)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mikko Franck
- Einojuhani Rautavaara, Sérénade pour mon amour
- Einojuhani Rautavaara, Sérénade pour la vie
Two serenades by the prolific Finnish master Einojuhani Rautaavara crown his life's work much as the Four Last Songs crown the life's work of Richard Strauss. In the serenades, as in the songs, we stand at a threshold between fulfilment and transition, aglow in expectation over a chasm of shadow. "Im Abendrot," invariably performed as the last of the Four Last Songs, is a song of nightfall, and so, surely not incidentally, are serenades. And there's the matter of self-reference, anchoring one's final utterance to prophetic thoughts that have gone before. No program annotator fails to note the echo of the tone poem Death and Transfiguration Strauss sounds even as he lays down his pen. In the serenades, few will pick up Rautavaara's quotations from his opera The House of the Sun, for few have heard it, but a responsive ear will not miss the inherent songfulness of the material--or the songful quality of Hahn's performance.
Philip Glass: Symphony for Solo Piano (Orange Mountain Music 2020)
- Movement III
Though the odd title suggests otherwise, this music was originally written for full orchestra as Glass's Eighth, a work that at its premiere in 2005 took knowledgeable listeners by considerable surprise. As paraphrased by Wikipedia, Allan Kozinn, of the New York Times, "described the symphony's chromaticism as more extreme, more fluid, and its themes and textures
Pawel Markowicz reflects.
Riccardo Muti/Alirio Díaz/Sviatoslav Richter – Historical Maggio Live (RMM Music 2019)
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Alirio Díaz evokes gardens in Spain.
- II. Adagio
- III. Allegro gentile
Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Manuel de Falla already had dibs on the title, but there was no monopolizing the bewitching theme. This vintage performance serves as a reminder that a great maestro's skills set must be all-encompassing. Pacing matters; so do architectonics, texture, that all-important unerring ear. And in a context like this one, perfume, to be applied with the most sensitive of hands.
A maestrissimo on his way: Riccardo Muti, 1973.