Friday, December 30, 2011

The indignity of it all….

There weren't many things that shocked Lord George Byron, but one of them was the waltz. When in Vienna he saw couples "clasped in each others arms" and he thought that society was tumbling down. Not everyone was so affected; one doctor prescribed the dance as a method of stirring up the blood and providing exercise. At the height of the waltz craze there where huge halls that conveniently had rooms for expectant mothers to give birth in and other rooms to give young women their start towards motherhood.

On the Piano this Sunday I continue with the dances that we broadcast earlier "live from Vienna" with a program that traces the waltz from one of its earliest practitioners of the dance to those that composed in lilting 3/4 time in the twentieth century.

It's Waltz Fever on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Die Fledermaus & Viennese Laughter

 The story is told of the of the two soldiers one Austrian, one German, each reporting on the progress of a battle.
                     " Herr General,the situation is serious, but not hopeless.", said the German.
  But the Austrian replies, smiling and relieved " Herr General. The situation is impossible, but not serious."
This laughter in tears, the self irony and deprecation; the odd smiling melancholy, all of this is part of the sensibility we think of as Austrian and more specifically Viennese. It is this exquisitely balanced and gentle sophistication that marks, perhaps the greatest of all operettas, Die Fledermaus or The Bat.
 A classic from the night of it's premiere in 1874 it blurs the line between what is opera and what is operetta. So persuasive  is its' music that it commands attention before a single note is sung in the unforgettable overture. The plot sounds impossible for a comedy. Someone is threatened with jail and decides to attend a ball. In between there is flirtation and the hint of seduction and betrayal from both a husband and a wife. Framing these events is another plot of revenge for a social humiliation: after a party attended by two drunken friends one abandons the other to stagger home still in costume (as a bat) the next day in broad daylight. The plot grows more complicated with each scene. At the ball there is no confession and revelation but a playing at masquerades, in which a husband and wife flirt unaware that the stranger that attracts them is in fact a spouse. In between is wrongful imprisonment; a drunken jailor this hilarious role playing goes hand in hand with social posing, misdirected romance, class lines hopelessly confused. All to an unstoppable flow of melody. At the end all is understood, but not everyone is pardoned. A worldly wise comedy, or adults after a night of champagne.
Please make time in your holiday celebration , for a cool and bubbling comedy.Tune in this Saturday at noon for Johann Strauss II, Die Fledermaus. This New Year's Eve on KPAC and KTXI and Prost! 
by Ron Moore

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Four Corners! Review

If your perception of the musicians of the venerable Berlin Philharmonic is of a bunch of staid, conservative individuals who just happen to play classical music in an exceptional way, you're only partly right. Granted, not everyone in the orchestra would be willing to sit in the back seat of Sarah Willis' Mini Cooper and goof around making a YouTube video, but for the most part there is a youthfulness and joy to be observed in the personnel of the Berlin Phil. And, of course, it's arguably the greatest orchestra in the world.
I drop the name Sarah Willis as though everyone will know who she is. For those who don't know Ms. Willis, she made history in September 2001 by becoming the first female brass player ever to win a position in the Berlin Philharmonic. Since then, she has become heavily involved in Zukunft@BerlinPhil, the Berlin Phil's Education Project. Sarah also does some of the intermission interviews for the Orchestra's Digital Concert Hall, while still finding time to play horn quartets with her colleagues in the orchestra.

The latest recorded venture of the Berlin Philharmonic Horn Quartet is called Four Corners! This could well be the Berlin Phil's heavy touring schedule in microcosm. Following Sarah's activities through her highly engaging internet photo albums makes my head spin. It seems the orchestra is ever with bags packed, going somewhere within the bounds of the mythical "four corners of the world". In fact, the album Four Corners! is a musical travelogue.

I was surprised, and delighted, to hear music of America in tracks one and two. With a bang, we find ourselves in the midst of a Western movie with the song Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling, from High Noon. The playing and the arrangements are outstanding throughout. By the way, that's Sarah Willis on the low 4th horn part, every bit as virtuosic as the high playing of Stefan Dohr and her other two collaborators, Fergus McWilliam and Klaus Wallendorf. The bottom line throughout Four Corners! is fun, complete with various vocalizations and sound effects. I won't give them away, but will only say that they made me smile, groan at the occasional musical joke, and almost jump out of my seat with a musical surprise more vivid than Papa Haydn's "surprise" could ever be.

Four Corners! is published by the horn maker Gebr. Alexander, Mainz. The horn section of the Berlin Philharmonic has traditionally played instruments made by Alexander, and such is the case with this recording. Four Corners! is available as an MP3 download from iTunes or If you can track down the CD, perhaps from Pope Instrument Repair or Amazon in Germany, the liner notes provide numerous photos and more of the tongue-in-cheek cheer of the disc. Highly recommended!

James Baker, KPAC

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Holly & the Steinway

Think back to how families used to celebrate the Holidays, for some of us it was sitting in front of the TV watching a Charlie Brown special. Go back another twenty years and Dad would play disc jockey keeping the records spinning on the Hi-Fi. Back even further, another generation before that and it was the family grouped around the piano with someone, who hopefully spent some time practicing up, playing Christmas carols for the mini-multitude to sing to.

On the Piano this Christmas day music of the season with Tchaikovsky's contribution to a music magazine then there is Liszt's music for his grandchildren with selections from his Christmas tree. Then Sergey Liapunov presents some music from the hinterlands of Russia, there are some American spirituals as played by a master of  touch and phrasing and even music for the amateur with piano accompanied by triangle, bird call and toy trumpet.

Find music to lift your heart on this special day on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Around the net

With apologies to AOTS, we have seen some fun stuff posted from different sources, and wanted to share with you!
NPR breaks the London Philharmonic playing the Angry Birds theme!

Performance Today has Christmas Around the Country:

Frank Oteri impersonates some famous composers.

It's Rob Kapilow's birthday:

For all those music theory geeks:

Donizetti for the Holidays

For something truly light and sweet for your holiday musical feasting the Metropolitan Opera offers Donizetti's bel canto comedy La Fille Du Regiment as the penultimate opera of the year.
It's plot centers on the diverting and the virtuosic. During a military skirmish a noblewoman complains of being delayed in her travels. The Duchess of Krakenthorp then after talking to the soldiers takes notice of the regiments mascot, Marie, the Daughter of the Regiment. It seems that she was found by the company an abandoned child and they took in the orphan and made her one of their own. It seems she also possesses the manners of the military men and the Marquise is determined to take her in hand, explaining that she believes her to be her sisters long lost child. There is also the matter of a budding romance with a Tyrolean local, Tonio, that the Marquise is determined to end and replace with an aristocratic connection. But,this regimental daughter proves a harder case than the Marquise had bargained for and she rebels at the attempts to tame her and transform her through a crash course in etiquette. Besides,Tonio is a virtuoso tenor role with nine high C's, how can a girl resist? 
By the time of Marie's removal to Berkenfeld Castle the soldiers have decided that it's time to revolt and reclaim their daughter. In the middle of her forced marriage the troops march into the castle, with her lover leading the charge, intent on bringing her back into the regimental fold. Tonio's virtuosic and touching declaration of love changes everything and the Marquise confesses that is acting out of selfishness and shame: "She" is the long lost mother of this very headstrong and egalitarian girl. The Marquise then announces that Marie will be allowed to marry Tonio to the astonishment and scandal of the aristocratic guests.
Tune in this Saturday at 11 am for a very tasty French confection and a perfect compliment to friends and food and the celebration of the season, Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment, here at 11 am on KPAC and KTXI.  
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Soundtrack Review: "War Horse" and "Tintin"

Steven Spielberg has asked John Williams to score almost every single movie he’s ever directed since “Jaws,” which won Mr. Williams his second Oscar, and his first for Best Original Score.  It’s a working relationship that has lasted nearly 40 years, and given us some of the most memorable melodies of our time.
This holiday season, Spielberg is back with an unprecedented feat. He’s releasing two movies right on top of one another. “The Adventures of Tintin,” an animated adventure based on the Belgian comic, opens today, and “War Horse,” a period drama set in England and based on a stage play, opens on Christmas Day.  Williams was employed once again to create a unique atmosphere for each film.
Williams’ score for “War Horse” is sequenced on the soundtrack album programmatically. The early cues are pastoral, and evocative of the Dartmoor countryside. The music is ripe with Celtic influences, and a friend of mine even picked out a quote from an old Irish sea chantey. There are few big themes established, but the mood is set as a young boy takes in a steed named Joey.  Midway through the album, the mood turns more somber, as Joey is placed into service.  A solo trumpet passage is faintly evocative of a similar device in “Saving Private Ryan.” The biggest payoff for Williams fans comes in the final three tracks of the album, “The Reunion,” “Remembering Emilie,” and “The Homecoming.” All three are rich with those big melodies one expects from Williams.
For “The Adventures of Tintin,” Williams calls on his early jazz influences (he once played in a combo as Johnny Williams) and the grand scores of Korngold and Waxman that some say Williams built his career on aping. Personally, I think that Williams has at least distinguished himself from those other composers, even if there is a similarity. “Tintin” opens with a jazzy sound reminiscent of 1950s television sleuths, with a drummer using brushes to keep things hopping. Williams opens the orchestra up to allow unique colors like accordion and harpsichord to steal the spotlight.
I played the second track cold on the day the CD came in to the library at KPAC, and I wasn’t disappointed by the short and sparky “Snowy’s Theme,” representing Tintin’s loyal dog. Vertical runs by the orchestra are echoed by a solo piano at a fast clip. This is “Raiders”-esque high adventure, folks, and it’s a lot of fun.
Williams goes for mystery with some cues, and humor in others, such as a “shattering” guest turn by Renee Fleming.
Both “War Horse” and “Tintin” are welcome additions to the Williams canon, and “War Horse” seems a likely candidate for an Oscar nomination.

--Nathan Cone

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smart piano playing

Turns out Siri can do more than just tell you where the nearest coffee shop is, or if your flight will be on time! Siri can play piano!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Live from NY, it's Ludwig van Beethoven!

This weekend put Beethoven in the pop culture spotlight on Saturday Night Live:

We're looking forward to the Beethoven Festival next month, no word about Triangle Sally appearance in SA yet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday surprise

The San Antonio Symphony has been busy lately, Holiday Pops and Family concerts, Beethoven Festival coverage on KLRN, Food Bank benefit concerts and Saturday afternoon, the San Antonio Symphony Players Association gave shoppers a gift of their own at the La Cantera Food Court:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy birthday Ludwig!

All of San Antonio is celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven next month, and we're happy to honor the Bonn master as well!
This is the Cypress Quartet in the finale of Beethoven's last string quartet:
Tonight, KLRN will air a special with the San Antonio Symphony about the Beethoven Festival:

Travel impressions and the Heart

It was a German thing to travel to Italy. The artist Albrecht Dürer was the first during the renaissance and the changes in his art and the stories he told when he returned made an Italian Pilgramage a part of any serious artist's young life. Goethe did it as well as Richard Strauss centuries later.

While Franz Liszt wasn't German, he was a great reader and eager to see the sights experienced by Goethe and Chateaubriand, so Italy was on his "to do list". While Liszt was a relatively young man he was growing up fast and by the end of his time in Italy several things became apparent. One, his life with Marie D'Agoult would have to change, her aristocratic arrogance and lack of understanding of his artistic temperament was pushing Liszt away from her. And in 1837 the composer found a new love, one that appreciated him and one he could actually help. It was his homeland Hungary and when disaster struck, Liszt left his family with friends and dashed off to Vienna to raise money for the flood victims and tour the country he left behind but had not forgotten.

On the Piano this Sunday the Années de pelerinage books II and III. A musical document that not only entertains, but shows the listener an artist in transition from the young lover full of optimism to an older man wise with experience and his bitterness of heart.

Hear the last program of my "Liszt jahr" this Sunday at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Evolution of Butterfly

 It is difficult to believe that anything as warm, (apparently) cohesive and beloved as Puccini's Madama Butterfly grew in fact  from sources as the diverse and seemingly incoherent and unrelated as the fragments of  Frankenstein's monster and just as miraculously that at the distance of over a hundred years audiences all over the earth still cry, "It's alive!"
Always looking for the "next thing " the Italian Puccini, with little English found himself in London to oversee the Covent Garden premiere of Tosca and, like any good tourist,took in the theatre.In this case an American play by a man named Belasco.This play itself taken in part from from a short story by another American, John Luther Long. Puccini sat and listened knowing almost no English and "felt" the plot from what he saw on stage.He was said at the end to rush backstage in tears, embrace Belasco and propose that he be given the rights to turn it into an opera.This emotional beginning gave way to years of inspired drudgery. Through struggles with his own marriage, he lived with his wife- to -be for almost two decades before they married, colored by his philandering and her jealousy perhaps he saw the plot clearly. In the midst of these arguments,followed by building a house for his growing family and then wrecking a new car in an accident that could have killed him, he began work. He called on the help of diplomats who had lived and traveled in Japan;acquired recordings of Japanese music and met Japanese artist then traveling in Italy. The librettists Giacosa and Illica added and added drawing on novels then popular at the time dealing with the subject, in French. Arguments flared as the final structure saw the composer and the librettists at odds. Three acts or two long acts; to open the first act in America or Japan? How culpable was each character to be in the precipitation of the final tragedy? How sympathetic was each principal to be or how flawed; how much was it to be a study in character or cultural clash of East and West? By the opening at Scala these questioned still remained  unanswered.The premiere was a fiasco, but the composer's faith held. Incredibly, as in the case of that other monster, lightening did finally strike. The corrections,  adjustments and cuts that went on for years eventually came together and the result was one of the world's most beloved musical classics.
Please tune in for this week's Met presentation of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. This Saturday at noon on KPAC and KTXI. 
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Straight from the diva?

Host John Clare was just in NYC, and caught up with his classmate Joyce DiDonato...who shared this rehearsal moment:

You can see Joyce at the Met in HD this next month, on January 21st!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Would Tchaikovsky Do?

Do you think Peter Illich would approve?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Genghis Barbie Holidaze

If you liked their Grinch last year, you'll love Genghis Barbie's newest video:

They have a new holiday album out now.

Better than Aunt Tillie's slides of Hawaii

It's natural to bring back knick-knacks and souvenirs from our travels but recording these new impressions into music that would last for centuries was an unheard of concept when Franz Liszt started composing his different versions of his musical impressions of Switzerland in the 1830's.

This was a great period for the composer, through massive amounts of talent and hard work Liszt was becoming a creature of his own invention and the freshness and audacity of his new approach to piano music shows in his Années de pèlerinage: Suisse.

Follow the creative path Liszt forged in this groundbreaking work on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Inside Look at Carnegie Hall

This Saturday, American Public Media’s special “Carnegie Hall Live” series continues on KPAC with a vocal recital featuring soprano Karita Mattila, accompanied by Martin Katz. Mattila dazzled audiences at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of “Salome,” and she’ll be bringing that same intensity to works by Poulenc, Debussy, Marx, and Aulis Sallinen live from the stage of Carnegie Hall, which is celebrating its 120th season this year.

Earlier this fall, TPR’s Nathan Cone traveled to New York to experience the hall for himself, and took along his trusty hand-held microphone recorder. As you read on below, click the hyperlinked text for audio from his tour, and more links.


Despite having visited New York on a number of occasions, I had never been to a Carnegie Hall performance before attending the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique on November 16. Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner led the ensemble in an all-Beethoven program with the Egmont Overture offering a taste of grand things to come—the Seventh and Fifth symphonies of Beethoven followed.

Gardiner’s handling of the Seventh was terrific; the final Allegro movement almost had me leaping out of my seat! Never have I heard such energy in a live performance. Furthermore, individual parts in the ensemble were easily discernable to the ear. It gave me a deeper appreciation for Beethoven’s mastery. Gardiner also breathed new life into the Fifth Symphony, emphasizing its rhythmic propulsion. If you missed it, you can listen to the whole concert at this link, and read a full review online from the New York Times.

Following the concert, I spoke to many audience members who remarked on the sound of the hall. The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique easily filled the 2,804 seat auditorium with their performance.

Later that night, I visited for a short time with Fred Child (at left, APM) and Jeff Spurgeon (WQXR), co-hosts of the broadcast. Their broadcast booth is a tiny room up a winding staircase on the opposite side of the recital hall. Their monitor? A 13-inch closed-circuit television feed. But the sound mix is great!

The next morning, our tour guide, Elliot Kaback, a college librarian, singer, and longtime supporter of Carnegie Hall, enthusiastically shared the history of Carnegie Hall with our group. He recounted how he used to come hear concerts at Carnegie Hall as a young man, and how there used to be storefronts along the lower level at one time, alongside the entrances to the hall.

The main hall that everyone knows simply as “Carnegie Hall” is just one of three recital halls at the 120-year-old venue. Weill Recital Hall is a 268 seat auditorium that often features debut performances by musicians just finishing their schooling at Julliard or other music schools. Zankel Hall was actually the first hall to open to the public in 1891, but was converted into a movie theater in the 1950s. In the late 1990s, that operation was shuttered, and now the 599-seat hall offers cutting edge performances. According to Kaback, the hall always sells out its bookings, because New Yorkers love new ideas. But Zankel is also wired as an online classroom, and students from around the globe can experience lectures and performances live from Zankel.

Carnegie Hall is unique in its construction. It’s one of the last large buildings built in New York to use masonry construction, and there is very little wood in the hall itself. The structure is all iron and steel, because Andrew Carnegie was a steel tycoon, and “this was all his stuff,” as Kaback noted. Carnegie was also futuristic; in the 1880s, he had the foresight to place his hall in between 56th and 57th streets in Manhattan. Although you might have seen animals wandering the streets in the early days of the hall, less than a decade after it was built, Carnegie Hall was in literally in the center of New York, an area we now know as Midtown. The two towers on top of the hall used to be rented out to artists, musicians, and teachers; now they are being renovated into rehearsal and administrative space.

The Main Hall was designed by a man named William Tuthill, an architect and cellist whose assignment by Carnegie was to study the great concert halls of Europe. What Tuthill did was to basically take the European halls he saw, and – in an eminently American move – super-size it. Carnegie Hall’s Main Hall holds 2,804 patrons, and though its height can seem intimidating, it still feels intimate inside.

Incidentally, although we can thank Andrew Carnegie for footing the bill for Carnegie Hall, it was actually a family of German immigrants, the Damrosch family, who initiated the idea of a permanent concert hall. Walter Damrosch conducted the first performance at the hall on May 5, 1891.

One auspicious debut performance at Carnegie Hall came in 1943, when Leonard Bernstein stepped in to conduct the New York Philharmonic after Bruno Walter came down with the flu. Bernstein, who had been up partying the night before, was asked by the musicians to simply keep time and let them do the work, but they – and the audience – soon realized they were in the presence of greatness.

Carnegie Hall has played host to a variety of performers over the years, including the Beatles, Dave Brubeck, Benny Goodman, and countless classical premieres. I could really feel the history in the hall while visiting. It is our pleasure to share the Carnegie Hall Live series in this special 120th anniversary season with you on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM. Live broadcasts are an important part of radio history in the making, and we hope you’ll join us!

--Nathan Cone, Director of Classical Programming

Future Carnegie Hall Live concerts on KPAC 88.3 FM:

Saturday, December 10, 2011, 7pm: Karita Mattila, soprano
Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7pm: Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
Saturday, February 25, 2012, 7pm: Berlin Philharmonic, piano
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 7pm: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Thursday, March 15, 2012, TBA: L’Arpeggiata
Sunday, March 25, 2012, 1pm: Les Violins du Roy
Friday, April 27, 2012, TBA: Pavel Haas Quartet
Wednesday, May 23, 2012: Cleveland Orchestra
Tuesday, May 29, 2012: Lang Lang, piano

Monday, December 5, 2011

Soundtrack Review: My Week With Marilyn

“My Week With Marilyn” is drawn from the memoirs of a lowly assistant that shepherded the actress around Britain while she was filming “The Prince and the Showgirl.” The film features a soundtrack largely written by Conrad Pope, but incorporating a main theme written by Alexandre Desplat. Desplat’s music, called “Marilyn’s Theme” on the soundtrack, is built on a rising, then falling five note motif that evokes some of the star’s fragility. Lang Lang performs the solo piano part on the title track, as well as throughout the soundtrack, whenever cues call for the theme to reoccur.

Some of Pope’s music has a churning, buoyant urban restlessness that indicates things are happening on screen. But over time, that sound becomes a little tiresome. I preferred Pope’s quieter, more melodic cues that feature either woodwind soloists playing longer lines, or the aforementioned piano theme by Desplat. One of my favorite tracks is “Arthur’s Notebook.” Arthur, in this case, refers to playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe’s new husband in 1956. He had to leave for work while the two were on honeymoon in England, and Marilyn was left alone.

The soundtrack also includes a few period hits of the time, including Nat King Cole and Dean Martin, and features Michelle Williams vocals on “When Love Goes Wrong, Nothin’ Goes Right,” “That Old Black Magic,” and “I Found A Dream,” by Richard Addinsell (known for his ‘Warsaw Concerto.’). Although no one can match Monroe’s unique voice, Williams holds her own. I suspect the effect works even better on screen!

--Nathan Cone

USAF Band of the West Sax Quartet in the TPR Studios

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cypress String Quartet live in the TPR Studios, playing Griffes

Cypress Quartet is live at 1pm today!

Cypress Quartet warming up in our studios

And you thought cooking was hard…

Don't tell a French food addict that you've enjoyed "authentic" Bouillabaisse because that will start a fight. It seems that even in Marseilles everyone has a different idea as to how the recipe should go. When it comes to music, at least as far as pop music is concerned, we know how the performance should go because we all heard the same recording with the original artist. That doesn't work too often in classical music since the original artists have long since joined the choir invisible.

On the Piano this Sunday Claude Debussy's Preludes, not quite with the original artist, but with a great pianist who studied these light and elusive works with the composer himself.

Hear Debussy, one step removed on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Looking at Ludwig

As we get closer to Ludwig van Beethoven's birthday this month and the Beethoven Festival next month, we thought it would be fun to focus on the Bonn master. Here is maestro Riccardo Chailly discussing Beethoven's first three symphonies: