This Week at The Classical Station

Photo by Public Domain Pictures

This Week at The Classical Station

by Chrissy Keuper


Saturday and Sunday, July 6-7, 2024

This weekend on The Classical Station:

Join us for the Saturday Evening Request Program (6pm to Midnight Eastern) and make your requests for your favorite classical hits here.

United States Army Chorus (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army)

This week’s episode of Great Sacred Music is an Independence Day celebration featuring works by American composers, including Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Irving Berlin, and more. Performers include the U.S. Army Chorus and the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. This week’s featured work is Grand Mass in E Flat by Amy Cheney Beach.

Join guest host Peggy Powell for Great Sacred Music this Sunday from 8am to Noon Eastern.

Join us for Preview! every Sunday at 6pm Eastern, spotlighting new releases and local arts news. This week, guitarist David Starobin talks about his latest recording, Virtuosi, and pianist Alice Sara Ott performs Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.

On today’s date in classical music history:

Lili Boulanger in 1918 (Photo by Bain News Service, courtesy of the Library of Congress)

On July 6, 1913, 19-year-old French composer Lili Boulanger became the first woman to receive the Grand Prix de Rome music award for composition, for her cantata Faust et Hélène. As a result of that honor, music publisher Ricordi took Boulanger on as a client. She was a student of Gabriel Fauré at the Paris Conservatoire, and both she and her older sister Nadia were both highly influenced by Fauré and Claude Debussy. Boulanger was chronically ill for most of her life and died in 1918 when she was only 24 years old.

Pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy in 2007 Photo courtesy of Petr Novák, Wikipedia)

Russian pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy was born July 6, 1937, in what is now Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and has been a citizen of Iceland since 1972. He won second prize in the V International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1955; first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels in 1956; and he shared first prize in the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition with pianist John Ogdon. Ashkenazy began conducting in 1987 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a five-time Grammy Award winner and retired from public performance in 2020.

Gustav Mahler in foyer of Vienna’s opera house in 1907 (Photo by Moritz Nähr)

Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler was born July 7, 1860, in Kalischt, Bohemia. Mahler studied at the Vienna Conservatory from 1875-1888 under Julius Epstein and Robert Fuchs, and developed a longstanding friendship with fellow student Hugo Wolf. Mahler’s primary income came from conducting (mostly in Europe’s premiere opera houses), and he was only able to work on his compositions part-time; the influence of his conducting experience seems obvious in his compositions, which are abundant with grand orchestrations and operatic choruses and soloists.

 

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Friday, July 5, 2024

Today is All-Request Friday on The Classical Station!
(There’s also a Saturday Evening Request Program.)
Visit us here to request your favorite classical music!

On this day in the history of classical music:

There is no known attributable portrait of John Dowland, but this is a lute from his time (built in 1596 by Sixtus Rauchwolff) and is similar to the instruments Dowland would have played. (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

On July 5, 1588, English Renaissance composer, lutenist, and singer John Dowland received a bachelor of music degree from the University of Oxford, Christ Church. Not much is known about his early life, including where he was born (some sources say Ireland, others say England). What is known is that Dowland was in service from the age of 17, mostly as a court musician; at one point, he was one of the highest paid servants in the court of Christian IV of Denmark. Dowland was a lutenist in the courts of James I and Elizabeth I, and was apparently an agent of espionage for Sir Robert Cecil for a time. He wrote secular and sacred songs and more than 90 works for solo lute, and his compositions remain a vital part of the classical repertoire.

János Starker (1924 – 2013) plays cello during a recital at the Teatro Coliseo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1970. (Photo by Eduardo Comesaña/Getty Images)

Today is the birthdate of cellist János Starker, born in 1924 in Budapest, Hungary. Starker entered the Franz Liszt Academy at the age of 11 (among the faculty at the time: Zoltán Kodály, Béla Bartók and Ernő Dohnányi); by the time he was 12, he had students of his own and made his professional debut at age 14. He spent most of World War II in Budapest, though he, his wife, his brothers, and their parents were imprisoned in Nazi internment camps (Starker, his wife Eva, and their parents survived, but his brothers Tibor and Ede were both killed). Conductor Antal Dorati brought Starker to the US in 1948 as principal cellist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Metropolitan Opera the next year and then the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953. Starker became a professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1958 and resumed his career as a touring and recording soloist. He made more than 150 recordings, was beloved by his students, and died in 2013.

Maria Callas during a recording of the television talk show “Small World,” hosted by Edward R. Murrow, c. 1958. (Photo courtesy of CBS Television)

And on this date in 1965, American opera diva Maria Callas gave her final stage performance at Covent Garden in Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca. Callas began singing at age five at the insistence of her mother, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship. Her mother moved Callas and her sister to Athens, Greece, in 1937 and she began her musical training at the Greek National Conservatoire under Maria Trivelli. Callas made her public debut the next year and performed in secondary roles with the Greek National Opera. She sang lead roles in Italy and Argentina before making her U.S. debut in 1956 with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, and then the Metropolitan Opera later that same year. Callas’ temper, abilities as a performer, and voice quality were often subjects of controversy and she said herself that she never enjoyed the sound of her own voice. Nevertheless, she performed with opera companies all over the world until 1965 and continued to give concerts into the early 1970s.

Did you know that The Classical Station has been volunteer-powered since 1978? Our volunteers love classical music just like you do, and they support this special community radio station by giving their love AND their time. If you are in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area and you want to know more about volunteer opportunities, visit our Volunteer FAQ page.


Thursday, July 4, 2024
Independence Day (United States)

For today’s Independence Day holiday in the U.S., we celebrate the birthdays of three composers who made history in American music.

Stephen Foster, c. 1860 – Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

American songwriter Stephen Collins Foster was born this day in 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, and started writing songs in his childhood. Foster was one of the first American songwriters to earn a living through composition alone and was focused on writing distinctly American songs, influenced by the different styles popular in his time: American minstrel songs, German lieder, Irish melodies, Scottish ballads, English pleasure garden songs, Italian opera, and Afro-American religious music. Foster wrote the words and music for about 200 songs, including “Camptown Races,” “Nelly Bly,” “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” In 1857, in the midst of financial difficulties, Foster sold all rights to his future songs to his publishers for about $1,900.

Soprano Leontyne Price with Samuel Chotzinoff, c. Date Unknown – Photo courtesy of E. Azalia Hackley Collection, Detroit Public Library

Russian-American pianist, music critic, and producer Samuel Chotzinoff was born on this date in 1889 in Vitebsk, Russia (now part of Belarus). Chotzinoff and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1906 when he was 17 years old. He became an accompanist for violinists Efrem Zimbalist and Jascha Heifetz. Chotzinoff’s musical critiques began appearing in Vanity Fair and other American magazines in 1923; he was later music editor of the New York World. He became music consultant at NBC-Radio in 1937; during this tenure, NBC sent Chotzinoff to Italy to convince Arturo Toscanini to conduct the newly formed NBC Symphony Orchestra. Chotzinoff managed NBC-Radio’s music division from 1942 until 1948, when he was named NBC-Radio and Television staff music director.

Alec Templeton, c. 1940 – Photo courtesy of MCA-Music Corporation of America (management)

Welsh-American composer and pianist Alec Templeton was born in Cardiff, Wales, this date in 1910. Templeton was blind from birth and had perfect pitch. When he was 12, he began appearing on BBC Radio and continued appearing regularly until 1935. He moved to the U.S. in 1936 as a member of Jack Hylton’s Jazz Band. Templeton became a very successful radio pianist; his radio program, Alec Templeton Time (sometimes known as The Alec Templeton Show), was sponsored by Alka-Seltzer and first broadcast in 1939. Later, he appeared on television in It’s Alec Templeton Time. Templeton’s compositions include “Scarlatti Stoops to Conga” and “Bach Goes to Town.” He performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra throughout the 1950s and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Join Jay Arthur Pierson at 7 p.m. EDT for Thursday Night Opera House! Today’s program features Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Seduced by Venus, the knight Tannhäuser takes part in a minstrel contest for the hand of Elisabeth, daughter of Hermann.

Enjoy your Independence Day, wherever you may be, and thank you for listening to The Classical Station!


Wednesday, July 3, 2024

As a preview of tomorrow’s Independence Day holiday in the U.S., we celebrate the birthdays of two American composers: George M. Cohan and Ruth Crawford Seeger.

George M. Cohan, c. 1918 – Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

 

George M. Cohan was born in 1878 in Rhode Island and began his career in entertainment as a child, performing on the vaudeville stage as one of “The Four Cohans” along with his parents and his sister. He never stopped performing, and later became a playwright, composer, and lyricist. Cohan wrote more than 300 songs in his lifetime, including the patriotic favorites, “Over There,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” In 1940, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt awarded Cohan the Congressional Medal of Honor; he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

 

Ruth Crawford Seeger, Mike Seeger, Peggy Seeger, and Charles Seeger, c. 1937 – Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Born in Ohio in 1901, Ruth Crawford was among a group of American composers known as the “ultramoderns.” In 1930, she became the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition and wrote her famous String Quartet 1931 the next year. In 1932, she married composer and musicologist Charles Seeger and became stepmother to Pete, Peggy, and Mike Seeger, who all later became renowned folk musicians.

                                                                                                              Happy Independence Day Eve!
Stay tuned to The Classical Station for wonderful music to celebrate with.


Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Today, we observe the birthdays of Christoph Willibald von Gluck and Frederick Fennell.

Christoph Willibald von Gluck was born in 1714 in Bavaria, Germany, and is probably best known for his operas, which make up the majority of his compositions and include Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). In addition to his many operas, von Gluck also wrote sacred and secular vocal music, music for ballet and pantomime, and other orchestral and chamber music.

You can hear the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Orfeo ed Euridice today during Classical Cafe. Tell your smart device to “Play The Classical Station.”

(Portrait of Christoph Willibald von Gluck by Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1775), courtesy of Google Art Project)

 

In 1914, exactly 200 years after von Gluck was born, Frederick Fennell was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Fennell created the legendary Eastman Wind Ensemble in 1952 at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, taking a “chamber music” approach that Fennell said was influenced by both European and American classical music. Among the many honors Fennell received in his lifetime were his inductions into the National Hall of Fame for Distinguished Band Directors and the Classical Music Hall of Fame.

(Photo of Frederick Fennell, courtesy of Reference Recordings)

 

This month, The Classical Station celebrates 46 years on the air!
We’ve been listener-supported and volunteer-powered since 1978 and we’re proud to have live announcers on the air, 24/7. Thank you for listening!


Monday, July 1, 2024
Canada Day

Monday Night at the symphony (with 'Monday Night' in flowing script)This evening, Monday Night at the Symphony features the London Symphony Orchestra which was founded in 1904. The program includes music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonin Dvorak, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and more conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, Jaime Martin, and current Music Director Sir Antonio Pappano.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. Eastern. Tell your smart device to “Play The Classical Station.”

The July edition of My Life in Music features conductor Nathalie Stutzmann. Maestra Stutzmann is the Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Join Rob Kennedy for My Life In Music this evening at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Happy Canada Day to all our listeners north of the border! Most of us are probably familiar with Canadian musicians such as pianists Glenn Gould, Angela Hewitt, Bruce Liu, Marc-André Hamelin, Louis Lortie, and Jan Lisiecki; violinists Angèle Dubeau and James Ehnes; cellist Ofra Harnoy; conductors Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Alexander Shelley; Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, to name just a few!

But what about composers? Six Canadian Composers You Should Know is worth a read. If you’re listening to us north of the border on our app, online, or via Alexa, how about leaving a comment for us, eh? Have a safe and happy Canada Day!