The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Saturday, June 25, 2011

JUST OPENED, Friday June 24, 2011

A week before July 4th weekend, we made our theme "Americana," airing music that might brighten up your holiday weekend. We aired this a week early to give you time to purchase music for your holiday weekend, and for our give-away CDs to arrive in time for the weekend, too.

Mannheim Steamroller
C.W. McCall
American Gramaphone 1776-2
WSCL was sent some promotional CDs of this item, and we were happy to pass it along to our listeners as a give away. Manheim Steamroller is definitely not within our usual music parameters on WSCL. It is not classical music, and even the most traditional works are highly synthesized. But the American "classics" on this CD were an easy pick for us, esp. as The Chicago Symphony Chorus provide the magnificent vocals on "America The Beautiful" "Home on the Range" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Manheim Steamroller has proven its popularity over the years with a mix of traditionally beloved piece, new age sounds, and a touch of country. The mix is a crowd pleaser, and we hope our listeners who won the free CDs will get enjoyment out of them!

Get On Board
Am. Music for Woodwinds by
William Grant Still
Sierra Winds
William Grant Still is an American Composer whose skill and worth are still gaining momentum in recognition. This CD is definitely a marker on that road to his works being better known, and enjoied. Living in the years of "modern" composer, Still has his feet firmly planted in romanticism. This includes the movement - of Chopin, Schumann, Balakirev, Bartok, Canteloube, and many others - to explore folk music in orchestral idioms. This CD is a pleasure-packed tribute to that exploration, with the always excellent Sierra Winds joined by many other musical friends to limb out the varied mix of instrument groupings that ebb and flow through these chamber works. The Minatures and Vignettes are sweet bon-bons, and the Folk song suites add depth. It is rare to listen to a CD and enjoy every single track, but here it is! This is my delight of the week.

Classics for all to Hear
Jeff Bradetich, Double Bass
Judy Rockey Bradetich, piano
Music for all to Hear 9101
This small label release is still available in various online music sites. The double bass is often relegated to keeping the beat, or the groud notes of the accompaniment, but here Jeff Bradetich gives it voice as a solo instrument. Much like a chamber recital, the pieces have a wide range of time periods and styles; from Stephen Foster and Danny Boy, to Kreisler's Liebesleid and Sibelius's Romance, with Chopin and Gershwin, it is a rounded roster of easily accessible works. This is a good example of a well-planned, well-performed recital/showcase CD. Especially a good gift for a pianist who wants to hear varied accompaniment, and for those who love the bass. (A caller called in to say how much he loved the Chopin from this CD, and "thanks for the beautiful music.")

At the Symphony
Razumovsky Symph. Orch.
Keith Brion, cond.
NAXOS 559013
We often think of Sousa as only a great band composer, but this CD gives magnificent life to his lesser known orchestral works. His "Reverie" and "Songs from Grace and Songs from Glory" are filled with lyricism. His "Dwellers of the Western World," perhaps his largest orchestral work, is a revelation of his variety (once you get past the late 1800s view of the world). Of course, there are plenty of marches, works filled with grandeur, emotion, and joie de vivre. Very few composers knew how to raise an audience to their feet like Sousa. We received several calls saying how much they liked these works. I've been at WSCL more than a year now, and I've never seen positive resonse like this. This was a definite audience favorite. If you want a sure-fire July 4th house-warming gift, this is it.

Spirituals, Art Songs,
and Chamber Music
This little-known african-american, female composer, was championed and supported in her youth personally by Eleanor Roosevelt. This was merely the start of an accomplished life in the arts, performance, and education. This CD represents the culmination of a state-wide tour of her works in Ohio during her 95th year. The variety of the works represented here are testiment to her flexibility as an artist. Settings of spirituals that are reminiscent of Faure, hymn settings that are quiet and unobtrusive, two works for solo piano that are both progressive and accessible like Satie, and larger chamber works that are directly in keeping with the concert hall fare of challenging atonality. There is something here for everyone, but mostly, a great tribute, and a great introduction, to a composer's work and achievement.

Women in Ragtime
Virginia Eskin, piano
The Ragtime Project
KOCH 3-7457-2
A brief of the interesting history of this CD: while ragtime was mostly the work of black males, there is a growing body of work being discovered that was written by white women of the day. Trained in the "feminine skill" of piano playing, these women, mostly young, applied their classical skill to the precision required for ragtime, and began composing. The place of women during this time makes the research difficult. Marriage not only changed the name, but often ended the compositional career of these women... others published under assumed names. But, enough of the research; it's ragtime! Bob your hair, roll down your stockings, and dance 'til you drop! Sheer energy and joy, played with precision, musicality and a rolicking verve by Virginia Eskin.

and other film scores by
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
William Stromberg, cond.
From the 1930s to the 1950s some of the largest full time orchestras were at the Film Studios. Each major studio had its own major orchestra. One has only to think of the musical extravaganzas, and the sweeping dramatic scores to be reminded of the greatness of the musicians and the composers. Adolph Deutsch was one of them, and this CD displays a wide variety of the styles of his work. The noir Maltese Falcon can be difficult to listen to: long passages of eerie unsettling tone intended to creat tension until the next door opens or the next gunshot. Some film scores do not lend themselves to listening precisely because they did their job well - they set the tone for the action. The score for adventure film Mask of Demitrios is similarly subliminal. But others, like the wacky fun of "George Washington Slept Here", or the unexpected whistful delicacy of "High Sierra" stand beautifully on their own as musical suites for orchestra. All of it a testiment to the skill of the composer, and the mastery of these great studio orchestras - here, the Moscow Symphony bringing us the old grandeur.

I hope you enjoied our early preview of AMERICANA for your 4th of July listening. Tune in next week for a special toe-tapping, gotta get out of your chair, "Just Opened."
Kara Dahl Russell

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