World Cup Fever: Um a Zero

In honor of today’s big tilt between Germany and Argentina, a video of the classic tune “Um a Zero” (“One to Nothing”) by the fascinating one-named Brazilian composer Pixinginuha, forever memorializing in music the 1919 futbol Finale between Brazil and Uruguay….and the first international title ever for the Brazilians. Check out this amazing trio led by clarinetist extrordinaire Paquito D’Rivera..

I first learned about Pixinguinha doing an NPR taping session with Yo-Yo Ma & Co around the “Obrigado Brazil” release.  (Talk about a “supergroup:”  Yo-Yo, Paquito, the Assad Brothers, bassist Nilson Matta, percussionist Cyro Battista, pianist Kathryn Stott, singer Rosa Passos….it was a pretty memorable session!).   There’s more about the pioneering Brazilian “instrumentalist, composer, orchestrator, and maestro” on the website choromusic.com, dedicated to the uniquely Brazilian style of music:

“If you have 15 volumes available to speak about all types of Brazilian music, you can be sure it won’t be enough. But if have room for only one word, then it’s not all doom and gloom; write quickly: Pixinguinha.”

 

Below is the link to the entire piece on NPR’s Morning Edition – and if you can still get your RealPlayer to work, you can hear the special version of “Um a Zero” we recorded as well, with Paquito again out front…

Yo-Yo Ma’s ‘Obrigado Brazil’

 

Composers On Vacation II: At The Beach

Claude Debussy's idea of beachwear

Claude Debussy’s idea of beachwear

Writing the last post suddenly reminded me of the old summertime staple that used to get a lot of spins on my classical-radio stops along the way:  American composer Virgil Thomson‘s charming little ditty “At The Beach,” recorded on a classical Nonesuch LP of “Cornet Favorites” by Gerard Schwarz in his trumpet-playing days, with William Bolcom at the piano….

 

 

Composers On Vacation

Check out the nice post on the WUOL website about Composers on Vacation, starting with a wonderful description by Edward Elgar about the Italian sojourn that inspired his symphonic poem In The South:

“Then in a flash, it all came to me – streams, flowers, hills; the distant snow mountains in one direction and the blue Mediterranean in the other; the conflict of the armies on that very spot long ago, where I now stood – the contrast of the ruin and the shepherd – and then, all of a sudden, I came back to reality. In that time I had composed the overture – the rest was merely writing it down.”

Many years ago on NPR’s Performance Today we developed an entire [summertime, natch] series around the topic, called Postcards from Composers.  Amazingly, a few are still available online, included Dvorak’s reminiscences about his summer in Spillville, Iowa

The three months spent here in Spillville will be a happy memory for the rest of our lives.  We enjoyed being here and were very happy….though we found the three months of heat rather trying!  But it was made up for us by being among our own people…our Czech countrymen.  And that caused us great joy.  If it had not been for that, we would not have come at all.

Postcard from Composers: Antonin Dvorak

…and Gustav Mahler’s yearning to get away from the bustle of Paris, in the grip of the 1900 World’s Fair, and head to the Austrian woods:

“The summer for me has been so glorious, I feel I am really and truly braced for the coming winter.  If I can keep this up in the future, managing to get mental and physical rest in summer, then I shall always be able to lead…a human sort of life.”

 

Postcards from Composers: Gustav Mahler

And, closer to home, New Hampshire native Amy Beach‘s inspirations from the bird songs she heard during her summers at the MacDowell Colony, the artists’ retreat in Peterborough, NH:

“In projecting our very selves onto paper, or canvas, or clay, we literally have to lose our life….in order to save it in the shape of any tangible result of our labors.  And to accomplish this at its highest and noblest, one thing above all is needed:  Silence….and solitude.”

 

Postcard from Composers: Amy Beach

This is one of the pieces Beach wrote at the Colony: “The Hermit Thrush at Morn:”

 

 

 

 

 

Juke Box

JukeBoxFred  First cut on the terrific Italian Cafe CD that’s been getting a lot of spins at El Rancho Roedeo. And what a nice discovery to see a c. 1958 “video” from the crooner Fred Buscaglione:

Inspired by Hollywood icons Clark Gable and Mickey Spillane, and  a devotee of American jazz and swing, Buscaglione personified the laid-back, devil-may care spirit of postwar Italy.

And can you not love these lyrics?

 

Per sentire una canzone con te
ed averti solamente per me
il mio braccio ti darò e con me ti porterò
in un piccolo e nascosto caffè

Che e la macchina dei dischi che và
tanta musica per noi suonerà
con Sinatra e Johnny Rave
Franky Lane e Doris Day
ogni cuore suonerà

Juke Box e una magica invenzion
Juke Box pochi soldi una canzon
Juke Box un gettone la felicità

 

Truth To Power I: Beethoven Egmont Overture

 

Now all of the evidence is finally out – a collection of videos from the final concert in the New England Conservatory’s ambitious season-long series of thematic presentations called Truth to Power. Some absolutely cracking performances by Hugh Wolff and the NEC Philharmonia at Symphony Hall, with Yr Hmbl Srvnt as the video director/producer struggling to catch up.

We produced – and I’ve posted – the videos in reverse order from the actual concert.  But now you can see how it began: With this blast of Beethoven.  Enjoy!

 

A Mongolian “Meditation”

Xian Angelo YuAfter the posts of about the fiery Prokofiev concerto performance from Symphony Hall, thought I’d share another side of the remarkable artistry of the young violinist Xiang “Angelo” Yu.  Last year we invited him into the Fraser Performance Studio at WGBH, where he not only shared the story of his Mongolian origins with host Cathy Fuller, he also played this breathtakingly beautiful version of the Meditation from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs…for solo violin alone.

Soon afterwards, Angelo was invited to be a Young Artist in Residence at Performance Today, a series that I’m proud to say continues after we launched it at NPR in the late ’90s with pianist Mia Chung, and has over the years featured such terrific ensembles and artists – all preparing live-for-radio recital programs – as guitarist Jason Vieaux, the Sejong Soloists, the Borromeo and Pacifica Quartets, pianist Jeremy Denk, and many, many more!