The lighter side of English music

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Light music is a generic term for a British musical style of “light” orchestral music, which originated in the 19th century. It reached its peak in the mid 20th century but continues until the present day.

The style is a less serious form of Western classical music, usually comprised of shorter orchestral pieces and suites designed to appeal to a wider audience than more serious compositions. The form emphasises melody and tonal harmonies.

Occasionally known as mood music or concert music, light music is often grouped with the easy listening genre, although this designation is misleading. Although mainly a British phenomenon, light music was also popular in the United States. Composers such as Leroy Anderson and George Gershwin could be considered American progenitors of light music.

We’ll hear light music from Great Britain on the next English Pastorale, Sunday at 9 am.

Summer Listening – Composers on Vacation

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Have you ever returned from a vacation reenergized and inspired to create? A trip to Italy inspired Englishman Edward Elgar to write an orchestral overture called, “In the South”.  Elgar spent time in the Italian Riviera town of Alassio where he had a “eureka” moment. He later wrote:
“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.”
Check out these other composers on vacation:
Elgar taking a nap
Respighi hanging at the beach with friends (2nd from right)
Debussy catching some rays
Esa-Pekka Salonen enjoying the outdoors

Andrew Rhinehart

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Classical 90.5′s live music program, Lunchtime Classics, is on summer hiatus. In the meantime, we’ll look back at some notable past performances.

Guitarist Andrew Rhinehart holds a Bachelors of Music Performance degree with an emphasis on classical guitar from the University of Louisville. Andrew is a guitar instructor at Indiana University Southeast. He is currently working on his Doctorate degree at the University of Kentucky. Andrew is also performing for the Kentucky Center Arts in Healing program.

Andrew has several recitals coming up in the fall including November 9th at Christ Church Cathedral. Until then enjoy this performance by Andrew Rhinehart from his appearance on WUOL’s Lunchtime Classics:

Keep Calm and Play Bach

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Many people hear classical music selections for the first time at the cinema. Some of us first heard Johann Sebastian Bach’s Keyboard concerto No. 5 in the Woody Allen film “Hannah and Her Sisters”. The second movement was featured in a scene with Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey. It was the only movement from the concerto featured on the soundtrack album. But there are three movements in all, and they’ll all spectacular.

If Top Forty radio stations existed in the 1700′s, they would have played orchestral suites. Orchestral suites were all the rage then. There are 135 suites for orchestra by Georg Philipp Telemann still in existence, and it is known that he wrote hundreds more!   Johann Sebastian Bach, however, wrote only four. But they are amazing works. The second suite features the flute as the primary instrument. Bach gives the flutist some fun virtuosic tunes to show off the musician’s talents.

If you want more Bach, check this site every Friday, when the Netherlands Bach Society will add a new recording of one of Bach’s 1,080 works.

Americans on Summer Listening

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While we take a quick break from Summer Listening today, and celebrate our Independence Day, it’s a good time to remember some of the great classical music created on our own continent. Some say “Jazz is America’s classical music,” and while jazz is certainly one of America’s native art forms, we have our own classical music tradition that goes as far back as the revolution.

William Billings (1746-1800) was trained as a tanner, but is known as one of the earliest American composers. He wrote hymns and “fuging tunes,” like this one. Centuries later, William Schuman (1910-1992) adapted three of Billings’ hymns for his New England Triptych for orchestra.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) is well-known for his Adagio for Strings, but during Summer Listening we’re listening to his Violin Concerto, composed in 1939. Barber is one of the few composers who has won the Pulitzer twice. His violin concerto begins with a lush, lyrical movement, but ends with a blistering, Olympic race for the violin and orchestra. Here is a performance with Anne Akiko Meyers.

Arnold Eagle. Appalachian Spring (1945)

If you hear any classical music that sounds “American,” there’s a good chance it was written or inspired by Aaron Copland (1900-1990). It’s hard to describe the exact qualities that make it so, but when you hear it you know it.Appalachian Spring was written for Martha Graham (and was actually called “Ballet for Martha” before she gave it its actual title). Copland was always amused that people would tell him they “heard spring and the Appalachian mountains” in his music, since he wasn’t thinking of that when writing it. Like Schuman’s New England Triptych, Copland uses an old folk song, Simple Gifts, within this music. It provides the basis for a set of variations about halfway through. Earlier this year, the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra performed Appalachian Spring with choreography, in one of the most unique performances to date.

And here’s a fun video of Aaron Copland’s Hoe-down from Rodeo!