The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Monday, February 7, 2011

JUST OPENED Feb. 4, 2011

Our apologies to radio listeners, we were off the air for about 40 minutes during JUST OPENED this week, due to work being done on our transmitter tower. Our online streaming listeners were able to continue receiving, and were able to hear the entirety of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. However unfortunate, this was oddly appropriate for a week in which we featured works that can be downloaded, and Lang Lang’s soundtrack music for a racing simulation game.-------

We began this week with the soundtrack that brash & brilliant pianist LANG LANG created for a “video” game, Gran Turismo 5, a racing game. He is a fan of the game himself, and by scoring it with his works, he brings even more of himself to the game, and will also be introducing many of the gamer fans to classical works. In keeping with that, I should mention that this week, all of our selections (except Sky Loom) are available on the web to be downloaded to your ipod or other mp3 players; either the entire CD or individual pieces.

LANG LANG: Gran Turismo 5 Soundtrack
Sony Classical8 8697 82933 2
For those who are not gamers, Gran Turismo is a racing simulator game, and is considered by many to be the most realistic. The music of these games is usually a mixture of sound effects, rock and techno; so it is a breakthrough for classical music lovers to have these works infiltrate the sound effects of the game world. Knowing that Lang Lang chose these sections to be the soundtrack to a racing game, the choices are surprisingly conservative, but that also makes them a great introduction to classics for those gamers who may be totally unfamiliar with the music. With that in mind, the works are very diverse, composers from Bach to Prokofiev to Joplin. Of course, Lang Lang flexes his musical muscles for the mostly male world of gamers, with a good portion of very powerful pieces and a blazingly fast Minute Waltz which is a wow! BTW – if you have no intention of gaming, it’s still a solid collection of piano works by the young piano hotrod. (Special thanks to our PRD intern, Tyler Butler, for filling me in on the finer points of gaming.)

MAURICE RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe,
Pavane pour une Infante Defunte, and Bolero
LSO 8 22231 16932 1
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus,Valery Gergiev, cond.
Three of Ravel’s major works, the misty Daphnis and Chloe, the ancient dance music of the Pavanne, and the pulsating Bolero. Ravel famously said, “It is a pavanne for a dead princess, not a DEAD pavanne.” He meant for the work to be less elegiac, and more a reliving of a moment when the princess was dancing. His "Bolero" crossed over into pop chart history when it was used for the soundtrack of the film “10.” But the largest work on this CD is the poetic Daphnis et Chloe. Ravel did not mean for this to be a programmatic retelling of the mythology, but to create a sensually evocative mood. He achieved his desired effect!

SKY LOOM: Katherine Kemler, flute and Ann Benjamin, harp
Centaur CRC 2399
This CD of music for flute and harp “ain’t your Grandma’s flute and harp music.” In a collection of works almost entirely written after 1920 (some of these composers not even born until after 1950), we satisfied our listeners who crave modern works and some “dangerous” sounds. Heitzeg’s title work, Sky Loom, is one of the more challenging pieces, woven (pun intentional) with poetic titles that evoke “Mother Earth” worship and new age philosophy. Schaposchnikov’s Sonata opens the CD and it may be the most “accessible” piece, it premiered in 1925 and is reminiscent of the works from that period of Poulenc, who also wrote a beautiful Sonata for flute (and piano). Two works on this CD are very well known to harpists, Narhex for Flute and Harp ( a grouping of very short musical ideas) by Bernard Andres, and The Song of the Lark by Charles Rochester Young. Composed in 1965 based on the famous painting by Bretton, this work is especially known for its final movement, where the harpist weaves paper through the lower notes to create a percussive effect, also a bit like the sound of an electric guitar. In the painting, The Song of the Lark, the glow in the sky can be interpreted as both a lovely sunset, but also as the impeding industrial age, ending the bucholic way of life. In much the same way, this piece interweaves the pastoral and the modern. (CD is available through )

GEORGES BIZET: Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Jarvi, cong.
Virgin Classics 5 099962 861304
Symphony in C, Petit Suite d’Orchestre Op. 22 - Jeux d’enfants, and Roma
Dying at the early age of 36, these three works present Bizet’s reputation as a symphonic composer. In our last hour we had a little mini-vacation to Rome, delighting in this luscious version of Bizet’s Roma suite. Timeless works in the capable hands of one of the world’s great conductors, played by a world renowned orchestra.

OTTORINO RESPIGHI: Olli Mustonen, pianist
Ondine 0 761195 116524
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo, cond.
The popular and beautiful “Fountains of Rome” is one of the works for which Resphighi is known. It is paired on this CD with a much less known, and rarely recorded piano concerto, “Concerto in Mixolydian Mode” which is a tour de force for the pianist, Olli Mustonen. Gregorian and Medieval music used “church modes” in much the same way that instruments of the time would be tuned differently for different works. (Similarly today, to play Middle Eastern, Japanese, or Chinese instruments, you would often be using a different musical scale.) To be specific, “the Mixolydian scale is G major with the F sharp of it’s seventh note replaced by F natural.” (Liner notes in CDs are a marvelous thing and educational in themselves.) This extended piano work (almost 40 minutes) represents the intellectual & achedemic yearnings of Respighi. I kept thinking of the ocean as I listened to this work – it has a large, ancient, heroic feel to it, although it also reminded me of Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini. It is a nice contrast on this CD, of this lesser known large work, followed by the very accessible “Fountains.”

I hope you enjoy these, and I’ll be with you next Friday at 1PM on JUST OPENED.

Kara Dahl Russell

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