What’s On Preview! | July 4, 2021

Dan Locklair
Photo by Rick Gibbons

This evening on our Independence Day edition of Preview!, we are featuring some of the best recordings of American music released over the last couple of years. We begin the program with the Independence Day movement from North Carolina composer Dan Locklair’s Symphony No. 2. Kirk Trevor conducts the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra.

We’ve played several tracks from Songs of Comfort & Hope, a CD on which pianist Kathryn Stott and cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform. This evening they play Caroline Shaw’s arrangement of the traditional American song, Shenandoah.

Earlier this year the distinguished Harmonia Mundi label released Americans: Bernstein/Barber/Crawford/Ives. James Galligan conducts the Zurich Symphony Orchestra in that performance of Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School For Scandal, Op. 5, a work which Barber composed while still at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

Will Liverman
Photo by Larrynx Photography

From Cedille comes Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers. Baritone Will Liverman, accompanied by pianist Paul Sanchez, perform Margaret Bonds’ Three Dream Portraits, settings of three poems by Langston Hughes: “Minstrel Man”, “Dream Variation” and “I, Too”

A quick scan of the biography of New Jersey native Jonathan Leshnoff (1973-) reveals an accomplished composer whose music has been performed worldwide. Joyce Yang is the soloist in a performance of Jonathan’s Piano Concerto. She’s accompanied by the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern.

In 2019 we interviewed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and conductor Ward Stare about Jennifer Higdon’s Harp Concerto (2018) which the composer dedicated to Yolanda. Ward Stare conducts the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our next recording features renowned composer John Williams conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in a performance of Adventures on Earth from the film,  E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial.

We have another work by Samuel Barber on the program. That’s the Symphony No. 1, Op. 9 (in one movement) performed by the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern. Barber completed the work in 1936. He dedicated it to his companion, composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

“Of course the playing is exemplary, with each musician bringing decades of experience to the collaboration”

Ronn McFarlane & Carolyn Surrick
Photo by James Carr

Classical music has always enjoyed influences from other forms of music, especially popular music. Early music specialists Ronn McFarlane and Carolyn Surrick interpret Little Martha by rock guitarist Duane Allman. You can find this on their CD entitled Fermi’s Paradox.

The MDH Quartet performs Bruce Dessner’s Haven. The members of the quartet are Katia and Marielle Labeque, pianos; and David Chalmin and Bryce Dessner, guitars. A GRAMMY-Award winner, Dessner (b. 1976) is an American composer and guitarist. He is also a member of the indie-rock band The National.

Pianist Jeni Slotchiver has released a CD on the Zoho Classix label entitled American Heritage. She plays Louis Moreau Gottschalk’ The Banjo.

Composer Linda Robbins Coleman wrote For a Beautiful Land in 1996 to celebrate her native state of Iowa. Reuben Blundell conducts the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra for us from their CD American Discoveries/Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra & Reuben Blundell.

Pianist Lara Downes plays another one of Margaret Bonds’ compositions,  Tangamerican. It’s on a CD entitled Remember Me to Harlem.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra brings Preview! to a close with a performance of Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 1 Ives was a student of Horatio Parker at Yale when he wrote this symphony. Gustavo Dudamel conducts on a Deutsche Grammophon CD featuring the Complete Symphonies of Charles Ives. About this work,  Steve Lacoste writes: “The Symphony No. 1 is a thoroughly European late-Romantic work. Ives used models such as Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World,” 1893), utilizing devices of cyclic form and the contrapuntal combination of themes from one or several movements; no experimentation here.”

Rob Kennedy
July 4, 2021