September Written All Over It
I already knew. Still, I kept glancing at the calendar, just to be sure it was September.
Labor Day had passed. So had the summer temperatures of the holiday weekend. In fact, it was Friday of the following weekend, which arrived a bit sooner. It turned out to be more of a September day than I had planned for Classic Mornings.
I’d had a warm-up the Friday before. That was September 1. I noticed that the recording of the Boccherini Cello Concerto in G major, G. 480, which I planned to play, was made during the month of September - 35 years ago. The soloist was the Dutch cellist: Anner Bylsma, who passed away four years ago. He was featured with the Toronto-based ensemble: Tafelmusik, led by its long-time music director: Jean Lamon. The Canadian violinist/conductor, who was born in New York, passed away two years ago. It’s a performance appropriate for remembering both of them. In the language of Labor Day: “It’s nice work!” That goes for the ensemble Tafelmusik and for Luigi Boccherini as well.
Back to September 8. I wanted to play Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. And I decided on the recording with Maxim Vengerov and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur, which I hadn’t played in a while. Sometimes I choose a particular CD because there’s a milestone anniversary of the recording session or the release. This time, I didn’t pay attention to any of that beforehand.
As I was enjoying the concerto, and hoping listeners were as well, I happened to leaf through the CD booklet. It was recorded in September 1983 – 40 years ago. I found that to be rather special. In whatever way “September” made its way into that session, we got to share in it on a September morning in 2023!
That same hour, I had planned to celebrate Antonin Dvorak’s birthday with a few selections from the original version of his Serenade for Strings, op. 22. It’s the octet version for clarinet, horn, bassoon, two violins, viola, double bass, and piano. The recording features members of the Czech Nonet and friends (Praga 250371). It’s a different and refreshing way of listening to the Serenade, as he originally intended to write it. Once again, I glanced at the CD notes while the music played. And I learned that the early version of the work was completed in September 1873 – 150 years ago! The recording was made 25 years ago.
I don’t take credit for all of the pleasant surprises that come with each day’s program. But I do take the opportunity to share those surprises with listeners. The works by Mendelssohn and Dvorak aren’t necessarily September works. If they helped make a September day special, they’d probably make a December or April day just as special. But the incidentals that helped make it a September work for Classic Mornings were indeed unique.
With autumn leaves about to make their arrival, a new CD made its way into the Friends of WILL Library. It features music from the leaves of a famous notebook. Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani has just recorded selections from the so-called Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook.
It’s a collection of sheet music copied by hand and consisting of short instrumental pieces and songs. They were selected by Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena. She was a professional singer. Johann Sebastian had presented her with keyboard works for practice and enjoyment. But she added many others. According to Mahan Esfahani, most of the pieces are in her handwriting. They include not only those by Johann Sebastian, but also some written by friends of the family and her teenage sons. Esfahani is joined by soprano Carolyn Sampson in the songs from the “Notebook,” which are featured on the recording (Hyperion 68387).
Esfahani calls the works precious artefacts “from a woman of whom so little is known that we lack even a representation of her very physical likeness.” He concludes: “To know her, and to know the man who was Johann Sebastian Bach, we could do worse than to try our hands and voices at the music they considered worthy enough to accompany their innermost thoughts and actions and which filled the four corners of their living spaces.”
That line made me think about Classic Mornings and the fact that so many listeners have made the program a part of their everyday lives. I’m humbled just by the thought of that. And I’m grateful that what we provide for the community has been so well-received and supported over the years. Our fall fund drive takes place from September 22-27. It’s the first major fund-raiser of the new fiscal year, which began on July 1. You may contribute by calling 217-244-9455 or going online to willgive.org. Thank you!