Howard's Day Off - February 11 2017

Feb 11, 2017


:01—Franz Liszt (1811-1886): “Mazeppa,” beginning, 1854, Zubin Mehta, Berlin Philharmonic [SK 66834]. A horse, galloping furiously, with a naked man strapped to his back. 

:03—Burrill Phillips (1907-1988): “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” from “Selections from McGuffey’s Reader,” 1933, Howard Hanson, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra [Mercury 434 319].  “The students said it was corny,” the composer wrote in his diary. “And it was. But I didn’t care, because it was a huge success.”

:09—Samuel Barber (1910-1981): “Night Flight,” Marin Alsop, Scottish National Orchestra [Naxos 559024]. Middle movement of Barber’s long-suppressed Second Symphony was written during military service and described a night flight in fog, with no way to know where one was except the beeping of a homing signal.

:19—Norman Dello Joio (1913-2006): “Alert,” “Tale Off,” “Air Battle” and “safe Return,” from “Air Power,” David Amos, Krakow Philharmonic [Koch 7020]. A composer can claim after the fact that a piece depicts something, but when he’s writing a movie soundtrack you can believe it.


:30—John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951): “Adventures in a Perambulator,” first move., 1917, John McLaughlin Williams, Ukraine National Symphony [Naxos 559065]. This suite describes a stroller ride outdoors from the viewpoint of the baby, who generously provides his own narration. He seems to think himself quite intrepid for going out and you can hear it in the music.

:34—Gustav Holst: “Hammersmith,” Howard Dunn, Dallas Wind Symphony [RR-39]. A day in the life of the industrial suburb of London where Holst lived. Hammersmith is near Wimbledon and has its own London Underground stop.

:51—Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): “Pelleas and Melissande,” symphonic poem, Op. 5, excerpt, premiered Jan. 25, 1905, Matthias Bamert, Scottish National Orchestra [Chandos 8619]. Schoenberg was in his twenties and years from serial composition when he wrote it.

:53—Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): “Melissande,” from “Pelleas and Melissande,” premiered March 17, 1905, Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic [DG 410 026].


:01—Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” from Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt,” premiered Feb. 24, 1876, Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic [DG 410 026]. Ibsen asked Grieg for the music and it was performed at the play’s premiere.

:04—Miguel del Aguila (1957- ): “Conga Line in Hell,” 1977, excerpt, Joel Sachs, Camerata de las Americas [Dorian 93230]. Colorful titles are a feature of modern classical music and especially welcome when the music seems to live up to the title. Aguila actually imagined people dancing in Hell and took it from there.

:07—Joan Tower (1938- ): “Petrushkates,” 2002, Eighth Blackbird [Cedille 067]. Tower likes Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” and she likes skating. Somehow these two things got mixed up.

:10—John Adams (1947- ): “Judah to Ocean,” Kronos Quartet [Nonesuch 78452]. Depicts a streetcar, and you can hear the snick-snick of the pantograph touching the overhead electrical wires. The title refers to the streets where the streetcar starts and finishes its run, and Judah Street is named for the man who surveyed the first transcontinental railroad route over the Sierra Nevadas.

:13—Donald Reid Womack (1966- ): “Lo’ihi,” from “’Aina,” Palisades Virtuosi [Albany 1481]. As locals we can readily imagine Womack being inspired bun underwater video of seeping lava.

:18—Charles Ives (1874-1954): “Putnam’s Camp, Redding, Conn.,” middle move. From “Three Places in New England,” 1903, Michael Tilson Thomas, Boston Symphony [DG 423 243].

:24—Bela Bartok (1881-1945): “The Miraculous Mandarin,” excerpt, Antal Dorati, Detroit Symphony [London 411 894].

:27—Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967): “Viennese Musical Clock,” from “Hary Janos,” Neeme Jarvi, Chicago Symphony [Chandos 8877].


:30—Leonardo Balada (1933- ): “Steel Symphony,” excerpt, 1972, Lorin Maazel, Pittsburgh Symphony [New World 348]. The composer toured an actual steel mill taking notes. This is what he heard.

:32—Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992): “Flashes from Beyond,” third move., Myung-Whun Chung, Orchestra of the Bastille Opera [DG 439 929]. Messiaen was an ardent birdwatcher who transcribed bird calls and used them in his music. This music is based on the call of the Australian Lyrebird. Now, back to the steel mill.

:36—Leonardo Balada (1933- ): “Steel Symphony,” excerpt, 1972, Lorin Maazel, Pittsburgh Symphony [New World 348]. Balada was born in Barcelona but has taught in Pittsburgh since 1970.


:39—Douglas Moore (1893-1969): “General and Mrs. Tom Thumb,” from “Pageant of P.T. Barnum,” 1024, Howard Hanson, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra [Mercury 434 319]. It’s widely attributed to Barnum, but modern scholars think someone said it about his public. Barnum’s biographer wasn’t able to connect it to Barnum, and said Barnum disparaged himself but never customers.

:42—Michael-Thomas Foumai (1987- ): “Lady Dark,” 2013, Kirk Trevor, Indianapolis Symphony [Albany 1564]. Many have been inspired by Shakespeare but to write music based on a Shakespeare SONNET is more unusual.

:49—Tchaikovsky: “Romeo & Juliet,” Hubert Laws and musicians [Columbia 34330]. Happy Valentine’s Day!