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:”

 

 

 

 

 

Frühbeck the Magician…

My first introduction to the work of the legendary Spanish conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (1933-2014) was a scratchy old recording of Carmina Burana – which was, and remains, one of the great interpretations of the Carl Orff megahit.

CarminaBurana

The Original 1966 release of Carmina Burana from Fruhbeck de Burgos and the New Philharmonia Orchestra

Coming back to Boston decades later, I quickly came to understand – and even witness first hand – the special relationship between Frühbeck and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He guest-conducted the orchestra at both Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood every year from 2000 until just last November, and his performances tended to be Big Momentous Events – like conducting the Mahler Symphony No. 2 on Tanglewood’s Opening Night in 2002, opening the Symphony Hall season with the Verdi Requiem that same year, last summer’s All-Tchaikovsky Opening Night at Tanglewood with violinist Joshua Bell.  But if I had to pick the most memorable performance of his during my time overseeing the BSO broadcasts, it would have to be his utterly idiomatic and captivating concert performance of Manuel De Falla’s La Vida Breve, with an outstanding mostly-Spanish cast that even included cantaor (Spanish folk singer) Pedro Sanz; flamenco guitarist Antonio Reyes, and the show-stopping flamenco dancer Núria Pomares Rojas

Nuria Pomares Rojas

Flamenco dancer Nuria Pomares Rojas

Oh, and on the first half of the program?  The Suite Española by Isaac Albeniz, a piece that was originally a suite for solo piano that Frühbeck himself orchestrated half a century ago!  And to top it off, the next night he was back on the podium to close out the Tanglewood season with the traditional performance of Beethoven’s 9th.

Part of the Frühbeck de Burgos mystique with the BSO was the fact that he apparently held the record for the longest stint BETWEEN appearances with the orchestra:  He made one brief guest appearance with the orchestra in 1971, and wasn’t on the podium again until almost 30 years later!  But what a difference a few decades make: legend has it that at the traditional end-of-season poll of the BSO players at Tanglewood, Frühbeck received the highest rating ever of guest conductors after his “return engagement” in 2000.  No wonder he was asked back every year after that!

Unfortunately, no video of Frühbeck to share with the BSO, but plenty of audio, including last summer’s Tanglewood Opening Night performance with Joshua Bell, as well as another gem: the following night’s reading of Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 3, with Anne-Sofie von Otter as the shimmering soprano soloist, the PALS Children’s Chorus joining the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and BSO Principal Trumpet Thomas Rolfs “pulling out the old Posthorn” for an incredible sound on a sweltering summer night.

And thanks to YouTube, you can see a clip of Núria Pomares Rojas together with Frühbeck and the Mariinsky Orchestra in the 2nd act flamenco from La Vida Breve.  

And there’s lots of terrific video evidence of Frühbeck’s work with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he was chief conductor for the past two and a half seasons….including his own arrangement of Granada from the Suite Espanola

RIP, Frühbeck.

Mahler and “Truthiness”

mahlercolbert

From biography.com comes this missive on Mahler and Truthiness – “An uncanny face off between the fake news anchor and the 19th-century composer.

 

 
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