Four Songs for a Brahms Birthday

A somewhat off-the-beaten track selection to share for Johannes’ 181st….

Ever since I played these pieces in college i’ve adored the Four Songs for Women’s Choir, Two Horns, and Harp, Op. 17, dating from the time Brahms founded, and subsequently wrote a lot of pieces for, The Women’s Chorus of Hamburg. Brahms’ father was a horn player, which adds a poignant touch to this gorgeous – and I believe unique – combination of voices and instruments.

And Brahms picked some pretty interesting texts, too…who knew that he set Shakespeare?

The Four Songs are, in order:

1. .Es tönt ein voller Harfenklang (Harp Notes Ring)
2. Lied von Shakespeare (Song of Shakespeare)
3. Der Gärtner (The Gardener)
4. Gesang aus Fingal (Song from “Fingal”)

Texts and translations can be found here.   The video features the Choir of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s storied opera house, led by the Italo-Argentinian conductor José Luis Basso.  Not bad for a live performance, but if you want to dig deeper there are a number of excellent recordings.  Used to be that this piece was hard to find on disc — my original copy was an LP on the long-forgotten Onyx label.  No, not this recent startup, I’m talking about the old staple of the cutout bins.   But today, it’s a different story: Classical Archives lists no fewer than eight recent albums containing this work.  I think my favorite is a domestic product: a shimmering performance by the Kansas City Chorale, led by former Robert Shaw disciple Charles Bruffy.

Brahms Kansas City Chorale

 

 

The Arts in Atlanta

Another travel day for the RoeDeo, today passing through (as any Delta passenger inevitably must) the well-worn corridors of Atlanta-Hartsfield airport. And, being early to the gate, the lucky lottery winner of the Highly Coveted Electrical Outlet – incurring of course the Wrath and Envy of My Fellow Passengers. But, hey, I’m not being selfish, it’s not like I’ve got both the laptop AND the cellphone plugged in…as I’ve witnessed on previous journeys. A violation of the Unwritten Code of Airport Travelers Connectivity, in my book. Such is the life of modern-day travel for the biz-nizperson. On the plus side, your choice of three different Wi-Fi providers here, but the fact remains, is there an airport in the country that doesn’t have a pathetic paucity of kilo-juice in its waiting areas? Crown, Club, and Champagne rooms don’t count.

But I digress. I do that a lot. Logged a lot of Deltamiles to and from here during the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation years @ NPR, a remarkable decade-plus of support for cultural programming from a remarkable organization. (A few years ago in a big investigative piece on the administrative and accounting practices of charitable orgs, the Washington Post found that the RWW Foundation had one of the very lowest administrative and overhead costs [read: executive salaries!] of any major non-profit.) Anyway, from the Woodruff fund folks help to underwrite a whole slew of activities – live broadcasts, CD recordings, Olympic shows, choral masterworks conducted by the late Robert Shaw, the “King Celebration” concerts, just to name a few. And in return, they got the inevitable underwriting tagline that was a staple of NPR programming in the nineties: “…the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, for coverage of the Arts in Atlanta.”

Needless to say, I still keep eyes and ears cocked as to whazzup with the Arts in Atlanta, which are in many respects flourishing: In the wee hours of this morning the Alliance Theatre Company was named a Tony winner for “Outstanding Regional Theatre Company;” The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has a terrific and adventurous Music Director in Robert Spano – and they’re building a brand-new Santiago Calatrava-designed Symphony Center; the chamber music and jazz concerts at Spivey Hall are as terrific as ever, (old friend Pierre Ruhe of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently called it “the No. 1 attracter of musicians at the peak of their artistry, even if they’re not yet well-known names. ) and, in the NW Atlanta suburbs, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, boasting a 2,750 seat theatre, opens Sept. 15.

Witness, then, the strange story splashed across the front page of today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “State of the Art Kennesaw Arts Center Closes:

“Less than a year after opening to great fanfare, the stage has gone dark at the privately owned $35 million Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts in Kennesaw.

Its state-of-the-art recording studios, video-editing facilities, dance studios and classrooms are empty, and about 530 performing arts students have been told there will be no more classes. Its resident theater company, the 5-year-old Big Top Theatre, has folded. And the Cobb Symphony Orchestra — which was thrilled to have a home after 56 years with no fixed address — has been given one year’s notice to leave.

On Saturday, the Dozier Centre will officially become a church.”

Huh? Whazzat? How can you design, develop, build, an arts center – and they really spend $35 million on a modest regional arts center? – and then fold it in LESS THAN A YEAR? HELLO??

“The journey from symphony to Psalms is a confusing story, made all the more mysterious because many key people involved — from multimillionaire founder Don Dozier to public officials — aren’t talking publicly.”

I’ll bet it’s confusing. And the article makes it even more so. You have to read down a bit, but you do eventually discover that this church they’re talking about is also being run by the self-same millionaire Mister Dozier, who was “inspired by the musical artistry of his daughter, Emma,” to build the 85,000 square foot facility (including a 614-seat concert hall) in the first place. Until, I guess, zoning rules and politics interceded. Or maybe just bad acoustics were to blame? Pierre Ruhe also labled the Dozier as a doozy of a “Disappointment” for 2006:

The Dozier Centre for the Performing Arts, which opened in August in Kennesaw, should have been a fine new music hall for the northern suburbs. A music and education center, the facility looks great, but clogged acoustics mean it’s yet another of metro Atlanta’s mediocre spaces for music.”

Ouch. Still, a passing strange story from the Southland today….