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Samuel Barber

Sunday, December 11, 2016


The Boston Musical Intelligencer

October 23

Patterson Dedicates and Consecrates

The Boston Musical Intelligencer The addition of a handsome 150-seat recital hall to our local scene occasioned the notice of three BMInt writers last night, especially, opening as it did, with a tribute to our productive fellow contributor. We Lee Eiseman, Vance Koven and Mark DeVoto) can’t think of another occasion, save in the cases of opera houses, where a single living composer has inaugurated a new music theater. Thus, it seems to us quite an honor when the UMass Department of Performing Arts, through its chairman David Pruett, selected David Patterson to consecrate and dedicate this one. The Wilson Architect-designed University Hall, originally known as The General Academic Building No. 1, contains a 500-seat auditorium, a black box theater, a 150-seat recital hall, exhibition gallery, lounge, and a café that “foster user interaction and provide an academic and cultural destination on campus.” One enters through a very lofty atrium, where lead architect Samir Srouji covered one curving facade with copper panels which are already developing an unusual patina of handprints. The Recital Hall’s comfortable raked seating for 150 is surrounded by an elegant mix of materials including blond maple for flooring and seat backs. Acentech came up with a acoustics that can be adjusted by deploying or retracting absorbent draperies in cavity walls behind metal louvers. Reflective clouds, irregular diffusing panels, and skewed elliptical walls collectively contributed to a pleasant clarity of articulation for music and spoken voice. Indeed, David Patterson’s quiet speech at the piano projected with complete comprehensibility, as did the choir in the a capella opening number. For the dedication, the acoustic was at the least reverberant setting of the draperies; we would like to hear a bit more juice the next time we attend a concert there. We would also suggest some refinements (such as barn doors) to the LED stage lighting that would reduce spillage onto the projection screen. Patterson adapted his 2016 setting of Alma Mater, To UMass Boston from a text developed by a select committee. In the Far Above Cayuga’s Waters mode, with plush and exuberant harmonies, it spoke of torches being passed. The UMass Boston Chamber singers, David Giessow director, projected fine tones from the back wall of the theater, summing up with youthful optimism the introduction of the new space. Then it was on to 2004 vintage Patterson, his Thrushes in Forest Park (St. Louis). Pianist Janice Weber seemed completely at home in Patterson’s insouciantly Gallic but jazzy idiom, something like Messiaen meets Broadway. Patterson himself was at the piano to support Julia Nelson, soprano, and Jacsonn Jean, baritone, in a selection of songs from the 1995 cycle Saving Daylight Time: Songs from a Texas Border Town, with texts (she prefers to call them “lyrics”) by the composer’s wife, TenBroeck Davison, reflecting Brownsville, where she grew up. These short songs—three solo, three duet—were gracious in spirit, thoughtful, and spare in their accompaniments. Boston recognizes Patterson as an admiring disciple of polar opposites, Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen, but his own work projects a pastoral individuality that is both warm and discreet. These songs showed a wandering and uncertain tonality with careful tinges of chromaticism, and it would not be far off the mark to compare their lyric spirit with Samuel Barber’s. Patterson has listened to a lot of modern jazz harmony, too, adapting it successfully into his own. Some of this showed in four impressionistic movements under the title of And David took an harp, with an epigraph from I and II Samuel. The harp soloist was Chaerin Kim of the UMass Boston music faculty. Last came a newly-composed suite for piano in seven scenes, # FERGUSON, which was also the general heading for the whole concert. The title commemorates the Missouri town where so much racial tragedy unfolded last year, the same town where David Patterson grew up and graduated from high school. The composer discussed the titles of the seven separate movements with illustrations projected on a screen at the back of the stage. The premiere performance had taken place during the summer in Missouri; we heard the second performance, ably rendered by Janice Weber with a good sense of drama. Wilson Architects University Hall Patterson’s judiciously measured emotional journey projected through the lens of his own history, from childhood through the cataclysm that befell his hometown, to the assessment of “what next?”, seeks to heal rather than inflame. Much of it is experienced through the impact of other music: The first three movements reflect his own story, with references to early piano lessons (Hanon, Bach) and his gig as organist at Ferguson’s First Presbyterian Church. The central movement blows nostalgia away in a jumble of references, blaring discord and percussive blows that showed the composer to have been rattled to the core by events back home. The final three movements, essaying recovery and a tentatively hopeful finale, derive their force from the music of the black community, from blues to protest to Gospel. Patterson’s plea is for balm, not bombs, in Gilead; the capacity crowd rang out with a fine “Amen.” More on # Ferguson here . The post Patterson Dedicates and Consecrates appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Meeting in Music

November 3

Barber: Complete works for Piano

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) 2 Interludes; Sonata op. 26; Fresh from West Chester;  4 Excursions op. 20; After the concert; Nocturne op. 33; 3 Sketches; Ballade op. 46 Lilia Boyadjieva, piano Solstice SOLCD 145 (1996) [flac, cue, log, scans]




The Boston Musical Intelligencer

October 12

Plano Debut Lifts Gloom

Roberto Plano (file photo) A luscious rendering of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 from the Italian virtuoso Roberto Plano and the Boston Civic Symphony lifted us out of Sunday’s gloom. Plano’s relaxed keyboard manner and the warmth of his interpretation attest to his total at ease with this music. Guest conductor Francisco Noya never lost his tight link with Plano although this was the first time they had performed together. After repeated curtain calls Plano delighted the half-empty Regis College Fine Arts Center, Weston, with Friedrich Gulda’s jazzy fantasy “Play Piano Play,” a true crowd pleaser. Plano’s exemplary playing featured note-perfect execution and subtlety of rubatos and dynamics. His strongest visual manifestations consisted of an occasional involuntary flourish with his long arms or a slight rising from the bench at moments of exaltation. Samuel Barber’s “Second Essay for Orchestra” Op. 17, and Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, Op. 88 satisfyingly bookended the Rachmaninov. The Barber opened with a charming theme for flute and woodwinds, precisely played by the Civic orchestra, moving into a second theme bolstered by timpani rumblings hinting at war (it was 1942). A fugue then leads into a weaving of previous themes, and a majestic coda. The players never lost their way. The Dvorak, loaded with melodies that emerge, submerge and reappear, is a favorite of the repertoire, notably the horn trills that conductor Noya signaled openly with a fluttering right hand. During the applause he called special attention to the horn section. When I asked Regis management why such sparse attendance, I was told, “Brady is playing today.” I needed a second to understand that Brady had not replaced Plano on the piano. He was playing something else somewhere else. It was Plano’s local debut, in a sense, as he has just arrived in Boston to assume his new role as assistant professor of piano at Boston University. He is a major catch for BU. The personable, unassuming Plano, 37, has pursued a successful career in Europe for the past 15 years since his selection as a finalist in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001. He has been active in master classes worldwide and is a much-recorded artist of a wide repertoire of classic and romantic music. Plano in under a three-year contract and for starters is providing private lessons for 18 piano majors, nearly all of them Asians, he tells me in an interview. His aim is to help his students get beyond technique and into the music. “What is often lacking today is personality,” he said. In our interview, I asked him what on earth what would attract a successful Italian pianist, living in Varese, near Milan, that most musical of environments, to become an expatriate American. Plano recalled that he toured the U.S. last year and “liked the system”. He decided to apply for a university position, and BU was his first attempt. “They offered me the job. I could not resist.” He and his wife Paola del Negro co-directed a private music academy for promising piano talent until they closed it down to move to the Boston suburbs. The system he wanted to escape was the centralized conservatory world of Italy. The level of playing is high, he said, but for the younger generation it is very hard to advance. Recruitment of teachers is based not on merit but on seniority.” He said he decided not to wait for “my time”. He felt the U.S. system offered “a better way to enter the music world.” He was also attracted by the availability of music on U.S. radio and television and especially in the school system. His two elder daughters, 10 and 8, are already in the school band in Holliston. European schools tend not to have active music programs. “Playing music during school hours just does not exist in Italy,” he said. “Coming from Italy, we like to think we have the world’s greatest music country. This is not the reality. The post Plano Debut Lifts Gloom appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

The Well-Tempered Ear

August 6

Classical music: Why aren’t America’s modernist composers as well as known as its modernist artists?

By Jacob Stockinger Recently, the culture critic Terry Teachout posed an interesting question in a column he wrote for The Wall Street Journal . Why, he asked, aren’t America ’s 20th-century modernist composers as well known as its modern artists such as Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko ? Sure, you know of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, and you hear their music performed and played often. But what about Roy Harris, Peter Mennin , Elliott Carter, Walter Piston and William Schuman (below)? Or even the concert music of Leonard Bernstein ? (You can hear Bernstein conducting one of his favorite works by William Schuman, the energetic “An American Festival Overture ,” in the YouTube video at the bottom.) You rarely hear their music. And you rarely hear about them. Why is that? And how can it be fixed – if it should be fixed? Here is Teachout’s take, which involves the focus of the programs at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival . Read it and see what you think: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-forgotten-moderns-1468445756 Then let us know. The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Aaron Copland , Aspen Festival , Aspen Music Festival , Elliott Carter , Jackson Pollack , Leonard Bernstein , Mark Rothko , Peter Mennin , Roy Harris , Samuel Barber , Terry Teachout , The Wall Street Journal , United States , Wall Street Journal , Walter Piston , William Schuman



The Well-Tempered Ear

June 19

Classical music: What music would you play to honor and mourn the dead, wounded and traumatized victims of the gay night club shooting in Orlando, Florida?

By Jacob Stockinger It has been a week now. A very long, hard and emotional week. The Ear has heard some classical music dedicated to the victims — 49 killed, some 50 wounded and countless traumatized — of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Florida , that took place one week ago. (Below is a vigil in support of the LGBT community .) Others might choose a standard like the famous “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. It is undeniably moving and perfectly appropriate. But so far the piece that most moved The Ear, unexpectedly, was a familiar one that aired on Wisconsin Public Radio : the “Nimrod” variation from the “Enigma Variations ” by Sir Edward Elgar . The Ear hears tenderness, gentleness and even love in the music. But in it he also hears strength, resilience and pride as well as sorrow, acceptance and resignation. Plus, he likes the idea of enigma that is attached to it, given all the issues and questions — terrorism, Islamic radicalization and extremism, homophobia, self-hatred, hate crimes, gun control, protests, mass grieving — that still surround the incident and remain to be solved. You can listen to the piece of music in the YouTube video at the bottom that features conductor Daniel Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra . It ha more than 3 million hits. But The Ear is also sure that there is a great deal of other music that would suit the purpose. They include: The passions, oratorios and cantatas on Johann Sebastian Bach. The Requiems of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Johannes Brahms , Giuseppe Verdi and Gabriel Faure. The symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven , Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky and Antonin Dvorak . The string quartets, piano trios, duo sonatas and other chamber music by Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert as well as the solo piano music of Chopin Schumann and so many others. The masses of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The songs of Schubert and arias and choruses from all kinds of operas, but especially those of Giacomo Puccini. And on and on. Leave your personal choice, with a YouTube link if possible, and your reason for choosing it in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Adagio for Strings , arias , Arts , Bach , Barber , Baroque , Beethoven , Brahms , cantatas , Cello , Chamber music , Chicago Symphony Orchestra , Chopin , choral music , choruses , Classical music , conductor , Daniel Barenboim , Early music , Elgar , enigma , Enigma Variations , Faure , Florida , Franz Schubert , gay , Giacomo Puccini , grieving , gun , gun control , hate crime , homophobia , Islam , Islamist , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Johannes Brahms , lesbian , LGBT , Ludwig van Beethoven , mass , masses , Mozart , Music , Nimrod , opera , oratorio , Orlando , Passion , Piano , Piano Trio , protest , Quartet , radicalization , Requiem , Robert Schumann , self-hatred , shooting , Sonata , song , String quartet , Tchaikovsky , terrorism , trio , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Verdi , Viola , Violin , vocal music , wisconsin public radio , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , YouTube

Samuel Barber
(1910 – 1981)

Samuel Barber (March 9, 1910 - January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. His Adagio for Strings is his most popular composition and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music. He was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music, for his opera Vanessa and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. His Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a work for soprano and orchestra, was an acclaimed setting of prose by James Agee.



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