The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Opened - May 8th Bartok, Banjos, Beethoven & More

Today we take a look at the music of Bartok from Various perspectives, orchestral, chamber, and in a turn-about return to his folk roots, a rag tag collection of his works re-interpreted on banjo and folk band.  As always, we have an accomplished solo piano release, and another of a soprano who has worked closely with new composer Chris Broom focusing on his works in conjunction with great modern Italian film composers.

The Music of Bela Bartok
Jake Schepps, Banjo (with band)
ISBN# 7 00261 32636 8
Website for Schepps
I believe that we are living through the construction and growth of a new musical genre, which I think is best called "Concert Folk."   Traditional folk instruments played with skill and seriousness, in works that attempt to display both the virtuosity of the performers and the ability of the instrument to handle "legitimate" repertoire.  Schepps (taking his cue from Bela Fleck) is conscientiously working this vein.  In a very smart "about face," he takes the music of Bela Bartok back to it's roots in folk music, giving it back to trational folk instruments and arrangements.  The essential element of the discussion becomes esoteric: is folk music played on on folk instruments with a distinctly folk sound suddenly now NOT folk music, but "classical"?   I personally think it is a divide that is inseparable, for the same reason that historic traditional world music is not "classical."  It can be virtuosic, it can be great artistry, but the instrumentation itself defines it as something separate.  "Classical" and "folk" music have evolved at least in part by the development of instruments that have a particular sound, and that specific sound is an essential element of the musical style.  I think it is time we seriously reconsider our class structure of some music as good and other music as "lesser" - virtuosos exists in all genres - but being equal arts still does not make them the same thing.  Folk music has influenced great composers, but their works are distinct in form, structure and instrumentation.  You can take the banjo out of the country-folk bar, but can you take the country-folk bar out of the banjo?  Taking the music back to folk instruments and musical interpretation - in my opinion - makes it what it was in the first place, still of historic importance, still musically appealing, but no longer "classical" concert music.  Schepp's CDs could be an interesting introduction to the works of Bela Bartok for audiences who would never enter a traditional concert hall.

Michael Stern, cond.
Kansas City Symphony
ISBN# 0 30911 11322 3
Official website of Kansas City Symphony
My Delight of the Week!  Take 3 composers known for work that can be challenging and dissonant.  Take one of the most melodic and accessible works by each composer, put them in one program, and you have a program that is smart, enjoyable, and that makes people think, and remember that each of these composers can be accessible, and is worth getting to know, worth exploring.   In some sense, every music performer, every orchestra has to have music education in mind while programming, because "classical" music is becoming increasingly walled-off and marginalized.  Programs like this are a great re-introduction to composers who can often feel intimidating and rarified even to many concert goers.  This kind of programming is what shows a Symphony (and Music Director) to be thoughtful and educational in their programming, it "bumps up the game." 

Ras Vitkauskaite, piano
ISBN# 7 62738 01242 6
Official Website for Reflections
Award winning Lithuanian pianist Vitkauskaite joins our playlists again.  We have recently added two of her CD collaborations with clarinetist Jonathan Cohler, here we have her solo debut CD, which was the Cover Feature CD of Fanfare Magazine last December.  They "enthusiastically recommended" this CD.  American Record Guide hailed her for "subtle musicianship and exceptional skill" in what others called an" intelligently programmed and beautifully realized recorded debut."  The program balances better known works and composers with Liebermann's surprisingly melodic (and conceptually mesmerizing) "Gargoyles."  Thoughtful, entertaining and accessible.

Sonatas for Violin & Piano
Jade Duo: Shuai Shi, violin, and
Zhen Chen, piano
MSR 1510
ISBN# 6 81585 15102 0
Website and Info. for The Jade Duo
Individually accomplished and regarded instrumentalists, Shi & Chen formed "Jade Duo" in 2012  under the tutelage of Dr.Heasook Rhee, Pinchas Zukerman and Peter Winograd. The Jade Duo won the first prize in the 2013 Artur Balsam Competition for Duos in New York and the second prize of the 2013 J.C.Arriaga Chamber Music Competition in Stamford, Connecticut.  This is their first CD, on which their recording of the Faure has been called better than the version by Joshua Bell with Jean-Yves Thibaudet!  Clearly these artists are worth getting to know, and remembering.

Remembering Heaven
Official Webstie of Paonessa
Paonessa's recital CD finds her in that "cusp of fame" position which is always exciting and fascinating.  She is sceduled to sing the role of "Annina" in La Traviata this year in Oshawa Opera's production, is involved in CBC's Searchlight talent competition (for Canadian talent).  Here she has paired with modern composer Chris Broom to sing many of his arias, sung along with memorable and well-loved works of film composers Rota and Morricone.  Her website is remarkably free of biographical information, throwing the focus entirely on this new release.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

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