In 1896, after Dvorak's return from America, and from the composition of the New World Symphony, he was attracted to folk tales in the poems of the Czech writer Karel Erben. The result was four symphonic poems telling the stories of such Czech folk figures as "The Water Sprite," and "The Noonday Witch." Great Czech conductors such as Vaclav Talich and Raphael Kubelik have recorded some of these tone poems, and on we'll sample music from them.
Classics of the Phonograph with John Frayne
Bach's St. Matthew Passion is said to be that composer's ultimate masterpiece. It requires large musical forces, yet it has been recorded from the mid-1930s on to the present. Some historic recordings of this work feature such soloists as the famous contralto Kathleen Ferrier, and some recordings are conducted by such maestros as Serge Koussevitzky and such renowned composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams. I'll sample some of the older recordings of this masterpiece.
In spring, our fancy is supposed to turn to thoughts of love. Evidently, composers' fancies are aroused by the arrival of spring. I tried to think of a famous composer who has not written spring music...the results were slim and conjectural. I'll sample some of the enormous variety of music that has been written and recorded, inspired by "the sweet season."
Over the decades, many famous performers and orchestras have come to Champaign-Urbana to give concerts, and some of these concerts have been recorded. Also, some U of I ensembles have made recordings of their performances, here and in famous concert halls such as Carnegie Hall. We'll play some of these performances.
The Brahms Piano Concerto is a work of heroic proportions, and it has attracted performers of superb technique and great stamina. Superstar virtuosos such as Vladimir Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter have been challenged to leave their mark on this work's interpretation. We'lll hear some of the outstanding recordings of this famous concerto.
One Italian writer has spoken of "the fatal charm of Italy." Lured by the beauty of Italy, travelers often don't want to go home. So it is with composers, especially from Northern Europe. The sunshine and warmth of Italy released in them an outpouring of warm lyricism. Mendelssohn leads the parade, but later Richard Strauss and Edward Elgar succumbed to the peninsula's charm. As spring approaches, we will hear some of this alluring music.
Teresa Sterne, born in 1927, was a child prodigy as a pianist. Later, she worked in the record business. In 1965, she began making recording history as director of Nonesuch Records. She made memorable recordings with new young artists, and she produced recordings of the music of composers who became famous as a result. On the occasion of her death in 2000, Nonesuch issued an album with highlights of her career. We'll sample famous recordings she made.
Daniel Barenboim is a man of outstanding achievements, not the least of which is his successful attempt to carry on careers as both piano virtuoso and conductor. Barenboim always wanted to conduct, and his chance came in the 1950s to conduct from the keyboard in Mozart piano concertos. In the 1960s he began conducting full symphony concerts, and he has led some of the world's major symphony orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony. We'll hear some of his recordings.
The harp is one of the most beautiful sounding of all instruments. It has attracted composers since the times of Handel to write concertos for it. Across the centuries, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Boieldieu, and down to Joaquin Rodrigo have written alluring concerted works for it. We'll hear how great harpists of the past have played this music.
The Minnesota Orchestra is in the headlines these days. It has just emerged from a long labor dispute, during which it lost its star conductor, Osmo Vanska. Earlier called the Minneapolis Symphony, it has over the decades been led by a series of fine conductors, from Eugene Ormandy in the 1930s down to recent years. We'll hear some of the orchestra's earlier recordings.