Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Franz Liszt - Part 2

13 hours ago

Yesterday I mentioned that it was Franz Liszt who invented the solo piano recital, and that the frenzied reactions of Liszt’s audiences became known as “Lisztomania,” or “Liszt fever.” But I don’t want you have the impression that Liszt’s recitals were all virtuoso flash and little substance. Liszt had an enormous repertoire—he certainly played his own showpieces, but he also played pieces by all the great composers of the day and by those he called the “classics,” including many works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.


Terence Blanchard
Nitin Vadukul

Multiple Grammy winner, trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard carries the torch of New Orleans jazz in the tradition of the great Louis Armstrong, who shares his hometown. This spring Blanchard comes to Charleston, South Carolina, with his quintet, The E-Collective, to perform at the Spoleto Festival. In 2004 he was McPartland's guest on Piano Jazz. McPartland and Blanchard are joined by bassist Gary Mazzaroppi for a trio set of standards such as "I Thought about You" and "Now's the Time."

News Stations: Sat, May 27, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, May 28, 7 pm

Franz Liszt - Part 1

May 22, 2017

In 1841 Franz Liszt played three concerts in Paris, and afterward he wrote, “My…solo recitals…are unrivaled concerts, such as I alone can give in Europe at the present moment… Without vanity or self-deception, I think I may say that an effect so striking, so complete, so irresistible had never before been produced by an instrumentalist in Paris.” Well, if it’s true it ain’t braggin’, and by all accounts it was true.


Dee Dee Bridgewater
Mark Higashino

Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater began her career as the lead vocalist of a jazz band. She honed her talent and headed to Broadway in 1975, where her performance in The Wiz was honored with a Tony Award. She has been a featured performer at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. On this Piano Jazz from 2003, Bridgewater exhibits her knowledge and enthusiasm when she sings “September Song” and "Beginning to See the Light."

News Stations: Sat, May 20, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, May 21, 7 pm

Debussy the Pianist

May 19, 2017

Many great composers have also been great pianists, genuine virtuosos who in addition to composing led successful careers as performers. One gifted composer/pianist who did NOT have a big performing career was Claude Debussy. He did often perform his own works, but he tended to get nervous, and he didn’t enjoy playing in public. And yet by all accounts Debussy was a wonderful pianist, especially noted for his remarkable “touch” at the keyboard.


Mozart's Optimism

May 18, 2017

It’s hard to find a classical music lover who doesn’t love the music of Mozart. It’s when we try to describe why we love Mozart that things can get complicated. We’re describing something indisputably real—our love of Mozart—but unless we stick to strictly technical analyses, we have to use words that will necessarily be both subjective and metaphorical. My own words? I keep coming back to two: humanity and optimism.


Beethoven's Shadow

May 17, 2017

For convenience sake, the 19 th century is usually known as the era of Romanticism in classical music. This is not necessarily wrong, but it certainly does lump a great number of composers of very different styles into one broad category. Another way to view the 19 th century is simply as the era of Beethoven. And that’s because after Beethoven, all composers were seen and evaluated in Beethoven’s light, or rather in his enormous shadow.


In 1838, ten years after the death of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann traveled to Vienna, and while he was there he paid a visit to the graves of Schubert and Beethoven. On a whim, Schumann decided to call on Schubert’s brother, Ferdinand, who was living in Vienna, and this turned out to be perhaps the most fortuitous social call in the history of music.


Density of Brilliance

May 15, 2017

A scientist I know was talking about great works of literature the other day, and she said that what characterized them was the “density of brilliance.” What a wonderful phrase. And how perfect, too, for great works of music. In any five minutes—or any two minutes—of a musical masterpiece, we can find a veritable parade of brilliant ideas. What’s interesting is that the brilliant ideas don’t always sound brilliant.


  Percussionist T.S. Monk was born into the world of jazz. As the son of Thelonious Monk, his home was the gathering place for musicians such as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach, who gave him his first pair of drumsticks. An accomplished musician, T.S. has charted his own course as a composer, arranger, and melodic drummer. In 1995 he and McPartland dedicated this Piano Jazz set to Thelonious, performing classics such as “‘Round Midnight,” “Mysterioso,” and “Straight, No Chaser.”

Prima Donna

May 12, 2017

Of the many musical terms that have made their way into general usage, one of the most colorful—and useful—is Prima donna.  These days the term gets applied to anyone with an oversized ego—man or woman—but in Italian it simply means “first lady,” and it’s been in use since the 1600's as the title for the singer of an opera’s principal female role. By the 1700's the term was already associated with the artistic and commercial cult of the glamorous leading lady—a cult that met with little protest from the leading ladies themselves—and some prima donnas demanded to be called prima donna assoluta, “absolute leading lady.” 


I’d like to read you part of an interesting job application letter. It was originally in French:

“My Lord, As I had the honor of playing before Your Royal Highness… and as I observed that You took some pleasure in the small talent that heaven has given me for music, and [as] You honoured me with a command to send You some pieces of my composition, I now…take the liberty of presenting [you] with the present concertos… humbly praying You not to judge their imperfections by the severity of the fine and delicate taste that every one knows You to have for music …”


Musicians' Nightmares

May 10, 2017

I can’t say for sure, but I would guess that most people have had what might be called recurring anxiety dreams… the kinds of dreams in which you find yourself in public with no clothes on, or about to take a test in a subject you’ve never studied. People’s anxiety dreams tend to be tailored to their particular personalities, circumstances, and experiences, and often to their particular professions. 


Master Classes

May 9, 2017

master class is a public lesson. A distinguished teacher—that would be the master—works with a student on a piece of music, but the teacher isn’t the student’s regular teacher, and instead of the lesson taking place in a private studio, it takes place in front of an audience. It’s a kind of double performance—the student is performing for the audience, but so is the teacher. And the idea is that whatever the teacher has to offer will be of value to both the student and the observers. 


Ron Rash
Penn State, via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Internationally renowned author and poet Ron Rash recently donated his personal archive to the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library and the University of South Carolina. Born in Chester, SC, Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena and Above the Waterfall.

Rash is joined by his brother Tom Rash and his sister Kathy Rash Brewer in conversation about the influence of family and place on his life and work.

Gabriel Faure

May 8, 2017

Gabriel Fauré is often referred to as one of the greatest  French composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But I wonder if that description goes far enough. It’s certainly true that his contributions to French music, especially in the areas of chamber music, piano music, and music for the voice -- are remarkable. But they’re remarkable because they’re wonderful music, not because they’re French. 


J.S. Bach composed his St. Matthew Passion in 1727. But for the better part of a century after that, the piece essentially disappeared, unknown to all but a few specialists. One of those specialists was the composer Carl Friedrich Zelter, who was the music teacher of a boy named Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was only about fourteen when his grandmother gave him a copy of the full score of the St. Matthew Passion – a score she had borrowed from Zelter…. 


I find it fascinating that many of the greatest composers of the 19th century—composers such as Berlioz, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Brahms, Dvorák, and Tchaikovsky—knew one another, and in many cases had very friendly personal and musical relationships. Schumann, for example, wrote his piano quintet for his wife, Clara, a great piano virtuoso…and Clara played the first public performance of the piece. 


In 1950 a musicologist named Wolfgang Schmieder published an enormous catalogue of J.S. Bach’s works, but Schmieder organized it by category, that is, by type of composition, not by date of composition. The catalogue is known in German as the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or BWV, and that’s why you often see Bach’s works listed in programs with their BWV numbers. 


Concert Etiquette

May 2, 2017

Concert etiquette. It’s really just a matter of common sense and good manners. If you think you may be at risk of a coughing or sneezing fit, sit on the end of a row, not in the middle. If you’re bringing a child to the concert and the child tends to fidget, sit in the back, not the front. Don’t take pictures or make videos if you’ve been asked not to or if you may be blocking somebody else’s view, and don’t use a flash even if you haven’t been asked not to. 


Do you find traveling glamorous? Sitting around in airports, waiting in lines, carrying luggage, eating in unfamiliar places, sleeping in unfamiliar beds? Well imagine doing that for about ten months a year, and imagine doing it alone, while having to prove, over and over again every single week, that you’re one of the best in the world at what you do.


Carmen Cavallaro (1913 – 1989) was known as the “Poet of the Piano,” whose tender style created an ideal atmosphere for romantics worldwide. An outstanding pianist and a versatile performer, Cavallaro played everything from beguiling ballads to swinging jazz numbers and vibrant interpretations of Latin American melodies. He was McPartland’s guest shortly before he passed away in 1989. On this Piano Jazz, Cavallaro solos on his own arrangement of “Cole Porter Melody” and joins McPartland for a piece entitled “Lover.”

Paradox of Integrity

Apr 28, 2017

Musicians, like actors, have to deal with something a drama teacher once called the “paradox of integrity.” On the one hand, you have to be completely “in character” when you’re performing—moved yourself by the music in order to make it moving for others, and merged with the music, in a way… almost submerged in it. 


Conflict

Apr 27, 2017

I won’t mention any names, but many years ago there was a great string quartet that was famous for its members not getting along. People joked that it was a tragedy for this quartet if they showed up in a town that only had three hotels. I don’t know if we can blame this particular quartet, but one theory that took hold was that the best results for chamber music groups are produced by conflict, and the resolution of conflict. 


Pronunciation

Apr 26, 2017

Classical music lovers tend to worry about correct pronunciation, so here are a few refreshers that I hope will be helpful.

In America, people who play the flute call themselves flutists, not flautists, and we who play the viola, which looks like vie-ola, are called violists.

Handel’s Messiah was written by Handel, not Hondle, and though you can say Haendel if you’re feeling German, Handel himself changed it to Handel, so I’d stick with that. 


If you’re allergic to highly technical program notes for classical music concerts, you’re not alone. Most musicians I know find such notes boring and irrelevant, and most non-musicians find them useless, not to mention seriously off-putting. Well, it turns out it’s an old problem, as I discovered when I read a wonderful essay by George Bernard Shaw from 1896. 


Walter Pater was an influential 19th-century English author and critic, and in 1870 he wrote a fascinating essay about the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli. In one passage that particularly caught my eye, Pater wrote, “If [Botticelli] painted religious incidents, [he] painted them with an undercurrent of original sentiment, which touches you as the real matter of the picture through the veil of its ostensible subject.” 


Regina Carter
Courtesy of the Artist

Jazz violinist Regina Carter is one of today’s most original and daring musicians. Classically trained, Carter grew up in Detroit, where she absorbed all the music that Motown had to offer. While in high school Carter became inspired when she discovered jazz violinists such as Noel Pointer, Ray Nance, and Eddie South. On this 2003 Piano Jazz, Carter brings her stellar technique and infectious energy to bear when she joins McPartland for "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "The Music Goes Round and Round."

News Stations: Sat, Apr 29, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Apr 30, 7 pm

J. Drew Lanham
Clemson University

“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils—of love, land, identity, family, and race—emerges The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature (2016, Milkweed Editions) a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham.

Joelle Lurie
Joelle Lurie via Twitter

Jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress Joelle Lurie is a regular at New York City venues such as the Rockwood Music Hall and the Zinc Bar, where she performs with her ensemble, The Pinehurst Trio. On this week’s episode of Song Travels, Lurie delights with a set of standards and modern songs from her album Take Me There. Host Michael Feinstein accompanies her in "Our Love Is Here to Stay."

News Stations: Sat, Apr 30, 2 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Apr 30, 6 pm

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