Happily Whatever After

May 28, 2015
 

It’s not exactly a happy ending. It’s more like a happy “thus far.” Spanish pianist Javier Perianes tells the story that he had the chance to take some private lessons with the legendary Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha. In an interview with Mike Reynolds of musicalcriticism.com, Perianes recalled de Larrocha saying that because he was from Andalusia, he would have to play Spanish piano music for the rest of his life. But she advised him not to just specialize in the Spanish repertoire.  He should play the works of as wide a spectrum of composers as possible in order to develop as a musician.

It turned out to be good advice. Javier Perianes has been performing and recording the music of Spanish composers, but not exclusively. He has a new CD featuring music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (Harmonia Mundi 902205). It’s our introduction to Perianes and includes a performance of Grieg’s piano concerto recorded live in London last October. Perianes is joined by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo. Also included on the CD are selections from the “songs without words” miniatures by Grieg known collectively as Lyric Pieces. Perianes has chosen some of the best known, including those titled “At the cradle” and “Once upon a time.”

Once upon a time, there were 3 careers for a German conductor, the first of which seems to have been forgotten. From the time he was 21 years old, Otto Klemperer was conducting operas in Prague and in various cities throughout Germany.  He had the opportunity to be a part of the operatic life of Berlin in the late 1920s – a life that became caught up in the turbulent economic and political life of Germany during those years as well.

Klemperer, who was Jewish, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1933. There he began his second career as a conductor of American orchestras. He served as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted in New York and Philadelphia and assisted in reorganizing the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

An invitation to conduct and record with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London began a 3rd career for Klemperer in the mid-1950s. That seems to be the career that most hear about today, since it’s the one that’s attached to the largest part of his recorded legacy. He was made principal conductor of that orchestra for life in 1959. In 1964, the orchestra’s founder threatened to disband it. The players formed the New Philharmonia Orchestra, which Klemperer led until 1971.

Otto Klemperer was born 130 years ago on May, 14, 1885. He died in 1973. The family name may sound familiar.  Otto’s son Werner was a pianist and violinist, though best known as the comic actor who portrayed Col. Klink on the television series Hogan’s Heroes. The story is told that he accepted the role only on the condition that he portray a World War 2 German officer as a fool who never succeeds. Though many have watched the reruns of that television series, few have seen the film footage of Werner Klemperer performing in the violin section of the Philharmonia Orchestra (with his father conducting) in a 1964 performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. That might come as a surprise to so many who have come to know him as a sort of live caricature.

It’s hard to forget the little musical caricatures by the 20th century American composer/arranger/conductor Leroy Anderson. Some are like musical equivalents of the illustrations of Norman Rockwell, who was one of Anderson’s contemporaries. On May 18th, we remembered Leroy Anderson on the 40th anniversary of his passing.  He was born in 1908. On the Classic Morning Prelude, I played 4 of his best-known miniatures: The Syncopated Clock (written 70 years ago in 1945), The Typewriter (1950), The Sandpaper Ballet (1954) and Sleigh Ride (1948). The recordings with Anderson conducting seem to have more of a cartoon-like effect than other recordings (MCA 9815).  Simply said, whenever you hear them you get the picture in a most amusing way – or at least a catchy tune.

Speaking of catchy tunes – May 7th marked the 175th anniversary of the birth of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky! For all of the familiar melodies by Tchaikovsky that audiences have come to enjoy over the years (like those from the Nutcracker Suite, which I played on Classic Mornings that day), there are some that they may not know. On the Classic Morning Prelude that morning I suggested that listeners may have been introduced to Tchaikovsky’s music when they were very young, but perhaps not with the music the composer intended for little people. I played selections from the collection of piano pieces known as the Album for the Young, performed by pianist Luba Edlina (Chandos 8365)

It’s never too late to be introduced to the tunes of Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Anderson or any of the hundreds of composers whose music is featured on Classic Mornings. Join us Monday through Friday from 9 to noon – even earlier: at 8:50 for the Classic Morning Prelude – on FM 90.9 and online at will.illinois.edu.


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