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News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Friday, February 12, 2016

Just Opened, Feb. 12, 2016

Today we have contrasts of traditional music and contemporary works, and some food for thought about inclusion in the arts.

The African American Concert Spiritual
Seraphic Fire
Patrick Dupre Quigley, piano & cond.
SFM 642 7
ISBN# 6 143325 79642 7
When an all white choral group makes the decision to approach traditional African American material, they know it will be mentioned.  (Having only two male african american soloists featured on this Cd make the photo of the all-white choral group more noticable.)  The choice demonstrates a laudible intentionality of purpose in showcasing this music of great historic significance beyond a racial confine.  In the publicity material, Seraphic Fire has stated that this choice demonsrates their belief that this music should have a larger place in the repertoire of concert music.  Unfortunately, the choice does also highlight how segregated music making often remains - even among really fine groups like this.  Conductor James De Priest often made the point that while his outreach work playing the music of African American composers was important, that he conducted all composers from around the world, and did not want to be known for just one segment of his work.  In this day and age of "diversity," there can sometimes be a fine line between celebrating diversity and segregating the arts.  For artists of EVERY race, making choices that call attention to race can be a double edged sword.    Kudos to Seraphic Fire for not letting this disuade them.  Any lover of choral music will know that this CD audibly makes the case for the timeless and universal beauty of these works.

So - something to think about and discuss with friends - why ARE so many choral groups so often racially unmixed?

NOTE  3/7/16:  The publicist for Seraphic Fire has asked us to note that the individual members of Seraphic Fire vary as the singers are available for each performance and recording, and while the group photo on this CD is all white, this was only representative of the day the photo was taken.  They want us to know that there are regularly members of many races (including the 2 soloists featured on this CD) within their regular roster of singers.
       "It is important to Patrick and Seraphic Fire that the listeners understand Seraphic Fire is not an all-white choir.  The ensemble regularly includes Charles and Reggie, and singers of diverse ethnic backgrounds, not just on this album but for their performances and concert tours as well." -- Becca McCoy of Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Vol. 5 Complete String Quartets
Quartetto di Cremona
with Lawrence Dutton, viola
AUDITE 92.684
ISBN# 4 022143 92684 5
Beethoven's only string quintet is featured alongside his "Thanksgiving" quartet in this CD, vol. 5 in the series of Beethoven quartets recorded by Quartetto di Cremona, hailed as "Italy's most exciting string quartet."

-- In light of the comments above about the racial composition of music groups, we should, perhaps refer to this quartet as an "all male" group?

Symphony No. 4 (Tansman Episodes)
London Philharmonic Orch.
Andrey Boreyko, cond.
NONESUCH 549570-2
ISBN# 0 78597 95034 2
With the subject matter often dark, the musical influences modern (Alexander Tansman was known for breaking up musical forms), and the tonalities often non-melodic and bombastic, the music of Gorecki has been known to cause heated debates amongst our listeners, and is certainly not for those seeking musical cotton candy.  His music HAS won the regard of musicologists as a leading Polish composer of the avant garde movement, and a 1992 recording of his Symphony No. 3 sold over one million copies and reached the top of the Classical Music charts.  Certainly by any standard of recognition, when the London Philharmonic Orchestra undertakes the recording of all the Symphonies of one composer, it is a major stamp of approval.  This symphony is being released individually, as part of a 7 disc set. 

Helene Grimaud, piano
Deutsche Grammophone
Deutsche Gram. 479 3424
ISBN#  0289 479 3426 4
This CD of international piano virtuoso Grimaud is very much a collaboration with producer Nitin Sawhney, who composed transitional pieces that combine piano and electronic sound production into what they call an "acoustic stream" and a "musical ecosystem."  One performance saw the concert stage being filled with water as Grimaud played.   While many of the works are challenging (even the choice of Faure's Barcarolle No. 5 is one of the least melody driven of his Barcarolles), steeped into the foundation of this program are well loved works like Liszt's virtuoso showpiece, "The Play of Water at the Villa d'Este" and Debussy's "Sunken Cathedral" (which is often mentioned as a favorite work of many pianists).  For many years, Grimaud has been an established artist who has consciously used her visibility to highlight extra-musical causes.  With water resources and availability regularly in the international news, and now problems with tainted water here in the states, this CD has a world-wide resonance on many levels.

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

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