Friday, April 29, 2011


Spring is when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. That and not having to shovel snow might make this the most anticipated season of the year. Whatever your reaction to the warmth that follows winter, there is plenty of music to celebrate that in between season when it isn't too hot or cold.

On the Piano this Sunday we spring it up with music from China that weds music to the happiness of spring and another that describes the gusty winds of the season. Christian Sinding created a work that finds joy in these warmer winds and Joachim Raff composed music that "blooms" in to life in his Ode to Spring. Also included is a "pictorial mood" of Antonin Dvorak and his student Josef Suk. Music of love, warmth, anticipation and life - hear it all on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Inventive Quartet Stylings

A new kind of virtuosity? But wait, there's more after the ping pong, really!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tchaikovsky at the start

In preparation of the upcoming San Antonio Symphony Tchaikovsky Festival, we want to share as much about the composer and his works.  Today we'll start with his symphonic career, and the First Symphony:

We're looking forward to the festival, do you have a favorite on the programs? Let us know in the comments below!

Trouble with Tchaikovsky!

As San Antonio prepares for a Tchaikovsky Festival getting underway this week, there is a dispute about an orchestra with a claim of Tchaikovsky:

The Web site photograph depicted an elegant array of orchestra musicians in a glowing hall. A video clip showed an earnest young conductor leading players in a Tchaikovsky symphony. Below the picture, an official biography described the “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra as “an ensemble with unlimited musical possibilities.”
But according to one of Russia’s best-known conductors, Yuri Temirkanov, there is a problem: The images depicted were of orchestras unrelated to the Tchaikovsky. The photograph was of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and the video showed the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra. Both were playing in the city’s Philharmonic Hall, where the Tchaikovsky orchestra does not perform.
The materials appeared on the site of Columbia Artists Management in advance of a major American tour planned for next year.
“This Tchaikovsky orchestra doesn’t exist,” said Mr. Temirkanov, the music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, a storied orchestra that recently finished its own American tour. “Nobody knows who plays there. Maybe they got some sort of band. Maybe students. But they put the word ‘state.’ But there is no such orchestra, neither private or state.”

Read more here.

Another loss

Sad news came Saturday about the death of composer Peter Lieberson.  Much is being written about the composer, a most touching tribute is from Alex Ross:
Lieberson was a magician of harmony. He wrote with a rare combination of modernistic rigor and Romantic sensuality, the latter coming ever more to the fore in recent years. Among his major works are the First Piano Concerto, written for Peter Serkin; Drala, a sumptuous symphony in miniature; the opera Ashoka's Dream, which had its premiere in Santa Fe, in 1997; and the Neruda Songs, the last of which can be heard above. His father was Goddard Lieberson, the mighty president of Columbia Records, his mother the dancer Vera Zorina. He studied composition with the late Milton Babbitt, among others. He was also deeply versed in Tibetan Buddhism, and for a time ran a Buddhist meditation center in Nova Scotia. “What makes the human life so poignant is the recognition of its profound impermanence,’’ he told David Weininger last year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Real Deal

Mephistopheles disguised as an Abbé was how one wag described Franz Liszt, as if donning a cassock was a fashion statement and not the ultimate expression in a belief in God stretching over his entire life.

During this 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt's birth the Piano explores the religious music of the composer from his ground breaking Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses to works inspired by the writings of Lamartine and ending with a glorious performance of a tribute to Liszt's namesake, St Francis of Assisi.

Hear Liszt's musical assertions of a life of Faith on the Piano this Easter Sunday at 5 pm on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beginning of the end

For a "Music Monday" ala twitter, enjoy this live performance of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony:

The San Antonio Symphony will play all six symphonies later this month at their Tchaikovsky Festival - learn more here.

Tchaik please!

Over the next few weeks, we'll look at Peter Tchaikovsky as San Antonio prepares for his music with the San Antonio Symphony, Texas Public Radio, Trinity University, Camerata San Antonio and others!
We'll kick off our online coverage with our friend Dick Strawser:

It's often joked that Tchaikovsky wrote three symphonies: No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6. Or, as others put it, he wrote one symphony three times, since they're all Fate-dominated and similar in character and content.

This post is the first in a series about each of these three symphonies: this one, more of a prelude to the set, contains background information about the composer and his historical context at the time he was composing the 4th. You can read about the 5th Symphony here, and about the 6th, here.

*** ***** ******** ***** ***

Neither Tchaikovsky nor his 4th Symphony really need much in the way of “explanation” for a concert-goer to be able to enjoy the music. In these “Up-Close & Personal” posts, I’m usually looking for something behind the music, something that was going on in the composer’s life at the time the music was written or maybe about the times it was written in, whether that impact is direct or seemingly indirect. You can always argue that a work of art stands independently of any of the extraneous and technical details involved in its creation, but you can also argue that a work of art is something you can come to time and time again and each time discover something new, something that may make you listen to it in a different way or appreciate it from a slightly different angle, that the more you know about it the more you can appreciate it.
If you’re not familiar with the events of Tchaikovsky’s life at the time he wrote this symphony – his disastrous marriage and the voluminous correspondence with the rather mysterious Nadezhda von Meck – you can read about that in Part 2 of this post. There are some other ideas I’d like to look at, for now.
Tchaikovsky is a Russian composer which, to an American listener, may seem obvious but actually implies a number of often conflicting ideas. It also implies a debate similar to that around Aaron Copland and the “American Sound” – how much of what we identify as the “Russian Sound” is really what we think of as being Tchaikovsky’s sound? What is it that makes Russian music sound Russian? When I asked a famous Soviet-era sociologist this question back in the ‘70s, she thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know – perhaps the long cold winters?”
Culturally, putting it into a glib nutshell, there are at least two Russias. As a political nation, it has been on the edge of Europe and never really a part of the general European culture. As a geographical entity, it straddles both Europe and Asia and much of its ethnic and social back-history is more Asiatic than European. While there are people who had always lived in the area we think of as Russia, much of its history was crystallized first by Scandinavian migrants who set up ancient kingdoms and converted to Christianity, then by Asians ranging from the Tatars and Mongols who conquered them. A long ingrained xenophobia aside, the lack of trade routes to connect them with Western Europe and the lack of a viable marketplace for European goods created little need for contact between these cultures until the 18th Century when one of these rulers – known to us as Peter the Great but not considered “Great” by the Russians themselves – forcibly turned his backward empire toward the West, imposing on them European attitudes and customs after conquering a miserable stretch of swampland where he built a grand city that, within a few generations, created a seemingly artificial world of wealthy aristocrats living in a mirror image of the royal courts of France and Germany while the greater percentage of Russians lived in a peasant culture of extreme poverty. There was little else, then, in between.
A century after Peter the Great built his new imperial capital St. Petersburg, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. At that time, few if any aristocrats spoke Russian. The language of the court was French, the literature and theater they enjoyed was in French. Much of the architecture of Peter the Great’s brand new city was the result of Italian architects trying to encompass something that looked Russian combined with something they were familiar with. Much of the music the aristocrats listened to was written and performed by Italian-born musicians who began teaching Russian-born musicians how to write and play in a European style. Even in Tchaikovsky’s youth a generation after 1812, there were still no Russian music schools: everybody was an amateur who studied privately with musicians imported either from France or Italy.
The “first” Russian composer (or at least the first one to be recognized as one), Mikhail Glinka, generally referred to as the “father” of Russian music, learned the rudiments of music and composition by way of correspondence with a theory teacher in Berlin, not by studying with a composer first-hand or by attending a school. Another important composer with a national awareness, Alexander Dargomyzhsky, learned not directly from Glinka but essentially by borrowing his notes.
In the mid-19th Century, the Russian musician Anton Rubinstein was one of the greatest pianists of his day, usually placing 2nd to Franz Liszt, but as a composer he was too German for the Russians and too Russian for the Germans. He was too much of a Futurist for the Conservatives and, for the Futurists like Liszt and Wagner, too conservative. As a Jew who’d converted as a child to the Russian Orthodox church, he was also regarded as a Christian by Jews and as a Jew by Christians, therefore, as he put it, “neither fish nor fowl – a pitiful individual.”
In 1862, Rubinstein and his brother Nikolai opened the first music school in Russia – first in St. Petersburg and then another in Moscow – making a point that courses would be taught in Russian, not in French (one grand lady retorted “Music in Russian? That’s a novel idea!”).
Tchaikovsky, who had discovered classical music as a child through a music-box reproduction of some Mozart pieces, wanted to become a musician but lacking any chance of good training ended up going into law. After becoming a law clerk, he decided it was too boring and he joined Rubinstein’s newly opened conservatory as one of its first students. He did well enough upon graduation, grounded in solid European-style training but without much practical experience, he was immediately set up as a teacher in the new Moscow school.
This was all happening around the same time young composers gathering around Mily Balakirev began formulating ideas about creating an authentic Russian musical style. They became known as “The Russian Five” or “The Mighty Handful” and their attitude about what Russian music should be was directly opposed to Rubinstein’s.
Dick's article continues here:

Classical kids

Congrats to these wonderful singers! MacArthur's PFC A Cappella group took first place in New York City in the final round Friday night of the International Championship of High School A Cappella.
Led by co-directors Matt Woodward and Caitlyn Griffith, also won best choreography for their performance, taking home a trophy, a certificate and some serious prestige.
Ten groups were selected to compete in the international competition based on YouTube submissions. The MacArthur group made the cut against 75 other groups.

And this is coming up in Austin:
About three years ago, Jack Roberts found a demo version of Finale, a music composition program, at the back of a band textbook.
He started messing around with the software and discovered, much to his surprise, that he really liked writing music.
So he kept it up. And that work is paying off this week, when the Austin Symphony Orchestra will be playing his symphonic piece “War for Survival” as part of a program of student-written work.
“It's basically like an alternate history thing, like a WWII type of scenario, where there's a generic evil force and a generic force for good and they're clashing,” said Roberts, a freshman at Alamo Heights High School who plays piano and alto saxophone. “Out of that erupts a huge battle. In the end, good prevails, and there erupts hope.
“I love music that has a happy ending to it but also takes you through a journey. I don't like music that wanders around; I like music that makes you feel like it's worth listening to.”
Anthony J. Corroa, executive director of the Austin symphony, said the piece was “very interesting. ... All the thematic ideas were amazing.”
Roberts got the news in January that his piece would be performed by professional musicians.
“I couldn't speak for several minutes,” he said. “I was in awe that I was going to be a legitimate composer. It was just jaw-dropping; I couldn't believe it.”
The 14-year-old composer will get his first listen of the piece Tuesday when he and his dad, Wayne Roberts, sit in on a rehearsal. They will be joined by mom Shannon and sister Katy for the concert Wednesday night at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin.
It will be the orchestra's first Texas Young Composers Concert. Corroa spearheaded the project after receiving a composition in the mail in 2009 from a Round Rock teen looking for some feedback. Corroa took a look and liked the piece so much that he put it on the program for a series of concerts for high school students.
“It needed very little alteration at all — it had a few little problems, but it was quite good as it was,” he said. “After we were through with that, I had an idea that it might be fun to launch a contest for young composers.”
He expected to get a handful of entries — “I figured there can't be that many young people composing music on a symphonic level” — but ended up getting around 25 submissions from high school-aged composers from all over the state.
Read more:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whatever floats your Boat

The boat rocks gently, the amazing sun splashed buildings glide pass you and then your gondolier breaks into song - can life get any better than this?

The Barcarolle is another type of travel music, a tuneful escape to a better world. On the Piano this Sunday we start with Frederic Chopin's un-paralleled contribution and sample other composer's examples of bring the splendor of Venice to you home.

The Barcarolle on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cactus Pear Music Festival: Young Artist Winners

Nathan Dowling

Rachel Roberts

Mattie Kotzur

Ellen Pavliska

KPAC congratulates the winners of this year’s Cactus Pear Music Festival Young Artist Program!
Rachel Roberts, violin [MacArthur High School]
Nathan Dowling, viola [home school]
McKinley Glasser
McKinley Glasser, cello [Boerne Champion High School]
Mattie Kotzur, flute [John Marshall High School]
Ellen Pavliska, piano [home school]

These five young musicians will have the opportunity to study one-on-one with visiting artists this summer as part of the Cactus Pear Music Festival (July 4 – July 17). On Saturday, July 16, the YAP (Young Artist Program) Ensemble will debut the winning chamber music composition from Cactus Pear’s second annual Young Composer Xtreme Competition.

More information is online at

Monday, April 11, 2011

Daniel Catán, 1949-2011

Mexican composer Daniel Catán, known for his operas “Il Postino” and “Florencia en el Amazonas,” died Friday, April 8 in Austin. He was 62. Catan was born in 1949 in Mexico City, and was the first Mexican composer to have an opera produced in the United States.
His opera “Il Postino” premiered in Los Angeles in the fall of 2010. The opera was based on the Oscar-winning film, and book by Antonio Skarmeta. Placido Domingo took the role of exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who befriends a young postman.

Catán was to be in Houston this past weekend for the University of Houston Moores School of Music production of "Il Postino." The final performance was scheduled for this evening at 7:30. Earlier this spring, Catán's opera "Rappacini's Daughter" was staged at the University of Texas in Austin.
At the time of his death, Catán was working on another adaptation. His next project was to be an operatic version of Frank Capra’s “Meet John Doe,” commissioned by the University of Texas.

Last fall, KPAC’s James Baker spoke to Catán about “Il Postino” and his orchestral music.

Part 1:
Part 2:

Catán in February, 2011:

You can also listen to an interview with Catán on this page, from KPAC's Classical Spotlight:

Friday, April 8, 2011

In like a Lamb and out like...

When Irishman John first started composing his piano nocturnes he could not have foreseen what these imaginative works would evolve into. From their symmetrical and tranquil beginnings the nocturne grew to incorporate wild and even surreal aspects.

I'm Randy Anderson and on the Piano this Sunday I trace the nocturne from its polite origins to other kinds of expression in the twentieth century. Hear musical evolution on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Friday, April 1, 2011

A young man of morbid sensibilities…

Franz Liszt was always curious, even as a child he was aware that life was short and wasting time was a sin. He lost his father at the age of fifteen and was cognizant of death even while he enjoyed rude health for most of his life. As a young man Liszt wore a ring with a skull on it as a momento mori, a reminder that life is short and death is all around us. When cholera struck Paris, Liszt was there, visiting hospitals and playing music to match the mood of the city. While at Victor Hugo's house he played a funeral march of Beethoven to accompany the log-jam of hearses in the street. At home Liszt improvised on the chant of the dead the Dies Irae all night long in his rooms as wagons of the perished rattled down the streets.

It was this recognition of the dark side of life that acted as a balance to Liszt's rock-like belief in God. This morbidity comes out in many of the composer's compositions like the Funerailles, Penseé des morts, Totentanz and others. Hear the Gothic side of Liszt this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson