Exploring Music: St. Matthew Passion

BWV_244_Nr._71

It’s only one of two surviving Passion settings by Bach (he may have written 4-5), first heard in 1727 and not heard again until over 100 years later when Felix Mendelssohn presented Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Berlin. This week Bill McGlaughlin dives into the St. Matthew Passion on Exploring Music (Weekdays at 7pm).

in 2011, the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle presented a compelling, semi-staged version of the St. Matthew Passion directed by Peter Sellars. It was also released it on DVD and Blu-ray.

2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music Winners

Congratulations to the 2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, John Luther Adams, for his orchestral work Become Ocean, premiered by the Seattle Symphony last June.

The finalists this year, two operas, are John Adams’ (not related) The Gospel According to the Other Mary and Christopher Cerrone’s Invisible Cities.

Beethoven’s Ninth

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Last week I recommended a “historically-informed performance” (HIP) recording of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Now it’s time to look at the “traditional” performances of the opus that are available.

To pick one recording out of the hundreds that are available as the greatest would be an act of folly, as any choice as “the definitive” performance would raise the hackles of almost everyone else who has an opinion on the matter. So please allow me to offer two recommendations from different eras from the history of recordings.

Herbert von Karajan recorded the entire symphonic cycle of Beethoven four (yes, 4!) times. It is generally accepted that the 1963 recordings are his best. Karajan uses spirited tempi where appropriate. Fine soloists shine in the finale of the Ninth.

Claudio Abbado’s 2000 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic stands out among others in its boxed set of the complete symphonies. Abbado had the unenviable task of taking over the reigns of the Berlin Philharmonic after decades of leadership from Karajan. But he led the group admirably during his short tenure. The Berlin musicians play sharper than before and Abbado leads them in fresh interpretations of the works.

Chamber Music Society of Louisville Announces New Season

Brooklyn Rider

The Chamber Music Society of Louisville, a presenting organization that brings in acclaimed chamber ensembles to Louisville, announced its 2014-2015 season on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. Next year’s season will bring to Comstock Hall (at U of L School of Music) the Los Angeles Piano Quartet, Johannes String Quartet, Amernet String Quartet, Emerson String Quartet playing the meatiest chamber works of Beethoven and Brahms, rarities like Respighi’s Il Tromanto, and two string quartets of Bartok.

L’œil écoute from Performing Arts Video on Vimeo.

Roughly, a third of the season is devoted to living composers. Of note are two works by Pierre Jalbert, whose music tends to shimmer and float above the audience. Speaking of shimmering Music from Copland House will present Ned Rorem‘s infectious Bright Music, and John Harbison‘s Songs America Loves to Sing and John Musto‘s Clarinet Sextet. Brooklyn Rider comes to Louisville (for the first time) for a bonus concert at Clifton Center in April of 2015.

Stanford’s pupils

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Charles Villiers Stanford is an important figure in music history. So much so, that the fifth edition of Grove’s Dictionary dedicated eight pages to the British composer. Born in Ireland, Stanford composed and played music at an early age. A prodigious composer, Stanford wrote 9 operas, 7 symphonies, 5 concerti and many other works.

But Stanford’s importance today is as a teacher as he schooled the major English composers of the early- to mid 20th century. Among his pupils were Arthur Benjamin, Arthur Bliss, Frank Bridge (who later taught Britten), Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, John Ireland and Ralph Vaughan Williams. And although most of his students strayed compositionally from his Brahmsian roots, Stanford’s influence transformed British music for the rest of the 20th century.

On the next An English Pastorale we’ll listen to works by Stanford and his pupils. Join me Sunday morning at 9 am.

Enjoy this rendition of Stanford’s “The Blue Bird” with all parts sung by the incredibly talented Matthew Curtis.