Friday, September 30, 2011

Russian Bells, the toll will be tremendous!

In the Russian Orthodox Church bells are seen as singing icons that have the power to banish evil. Some of these bells were huge, the doomed Tsar-Kolokol bell weighed in at 180 tons!

With this preponderance of bells in Russian society it is not surprising bell sounds and the pealing of same show up in Russian music. On the Piano this Sunday the first part of an exploration of these bell themes starting with some Western examples and then moving on to composers like Anton Rubinstein, Sergai Liapunov and moving on to familiar music by Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. The program ends with Alexander Scriabin's "Holy Bells" that are part and parcel of his Piano Sonata No. 7.

Bells, Holy and otherwise, heard on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Under the Hood: PRPD 2011

Over 500 public radio program directors, producers, and managers recently convened in Baltimore, Maryland, for the annual Public Radio Program Director’s conference and workshop. Each year, there are lively discussions about best practices for stations, and about public radio’s future.

This year, there was a noticeable push-and-pull between the feeling that public radio needs to push itself into the 21st century, versus a recent study that shows the core audience has never been more loyal to the stations they love.

Jad Abumrad from Radio Lab opened the conference on an upbeat, inquisitive note, exploring the idea of change, asking: Why don’t we change? Maybe we talk about it too much. Psychologists have found that talking about change or talking about actions can create the illusion of progress. Speaking of illusions, maybe things are changing already, and we just don’t realize it. Sometimes you can only recognize change after it’s already happened.

There were breakout sessions on fundraising, offering stations tips on how long or short their on-air breaks should be, and what kind of messages resonate with listeners. A session on music digitization offered more than you could ever want to know about bitrates, and later a gentleman from Colorado Public Radio spoke about classical music and community engagement. One particularly good session on building better on-air breaks was very well written, and presented by Scott Williams of KJZZ/KBAQ in Phoenix. I look forward to sharing it with the KPAC and KSTX staff soon.

Other sessions focused on the tech side of radio, or rather public media. Increasingly, listeners are interacting with their stations in more ways than just on-air. Whether online, or through social media, clearly stations need to be where their audience is. There were presentations on utilizing Facebook and Twitter better to engage the audience, and Skip Pizzi of the National Association of Broadcasters deflated some of the sky-is-falling rhetoric about Internet radio killing the broadcast towers. Even at the clip Internet radio is growing, it will take many, many years for it to catch up to the number of persons that use traditional (terrestrial) radio.

The biggest information dump came during a presentation by Jacobs Media, detailing the findings of their 2011 Programming Survey. Over 40 News/Talk stations took part in the survey, the results of which which Paul Jacobs characterized in one sentence: “In general, the faithful are quite satisfied.” However, the average age of the survey respondents (the overwhelming percentage of which are already station supporters) is 54, and 87% of them are white.

The last session I attended on Friday before I had to head to my connecting train featured Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of the rock talk show, Sound Opinions. It’s a program I like. Although the talk was mostly about Triple-A stations, they did have some words of wisdom that apply to classical music: If you’re not bringing something special and meaningful to your on-air presentation, listeners would be just as well-off with a stack of their favorite CDs. Wise words.

What do you think? What are your hopes for the future of KPAC and Texas Public Radio? Leave your comments here on the blog, or send me some email. I’d love to hear from you.

--Nathan Cone, Director of Classical Programming

An opening night at La Scala & San Antonio

by John Clare
Saturday night begins a run of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier through October 20th at La Scala. Philippe Jordan leads a cast that includes Marcelo Álvarez, Anne Schwanewilms, Peter Rose, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen and an old friend Joyce DiDonato.
Joyce blogs, vlogs and keeps fans up to date on Facebook - she even skype'd recently with students in Louisiana. She'll perform the role of Octavian...and took this shot at a rehearsal:
We were both at Wichita State University, and in between music history and opera, would ham it up in the lobby and at "Silly Concerts", so it is easy to see Joyce having some fun - not in Duerksen Fine Arts Center but on one of the world's great stages. It was fun seeing her last spring in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking and she'll return to Houston next spring for Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.

Tomorrow night locally you can experience opera on stage with Romeo and Juliet, presented by San Antonio Opera. Inspired by Shakespeare and an overwhelming fan favorite since its Paris premiere, Charles Gounod's opera delivers a timeless tale of love, loyalty, romance and revenge, as it underscores the power of passion to heal the deepest, darkest divides. Never in the history of romance were two lovers more star, crossed than Shakespeare's passionate Romeo and Juliet. This universal story has been adapted in countless plays and films, in popular culture and in dance, but perhaps no medium better expresses the love, longing and ultimate tragedy of this fated pair than Gounod's sweeping and supreme opera. Replete with ecstatic French melodies, this heartbreakingly beautiful production opene the San Antonio opera's 2011/2012 season!

Friday, September 23, 2011

21st century pianists continue…

The Honens International Piano Competition looks for "21st century musicians for 21st century audiences" and this month the Piano wraps up its review of recent laureates.

On this weeks program there is music where Claude Debussy wanted so many levels of notes and accents that his Images book II started out as a composition for two pianos, then a German look at the Jazz Age with Paul Hindemith's Suite 1922 and the program ends with Drei Klavierstucke of Franz Schubert from that amazingly productive year of life, 1827. All this music performed by laureates from the 2009 Honens International Piano Competition.

The program starts Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Jinx with Don Pasquale Saturday at noon

Taking some time away from madness on the Scottish highland’s or intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, Gaetano Donizetti found time to give us delightful comedies and none more hilarious or worldly wise than Don Pasquale.

An aging bachelor decides he finally wants to marry, he also wants to find a way to disinherit his nephew. He thinks he can employ the aid of his doctor who suggest a union with his ‘sister’. We later discover that this imaginary sibling is in fact the very woman his nephew loves and that the doctor has decided to aid the would be lovers. The law of unexpected consequences follows with a vengeance.

Tune in this Saturday at noon and hear how Beverly Sills, Donald Gramm and Alfredo Kraus turn all this into bel canto delight on KPAC and KTXI.

host, Ron Moore

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Olmos Ensemble kicks off its season with a bang

by Valerie Cowan

The Olmos Ensemble put on a stunning performance for their season’s debut Monday, Sept. 19 at Fist Unitarian Universalist Church. Titled “Summer Music at the End of Summer!,” the program’s repertoire included Karl Reinecke’s Sonata for flute and piano featuring Marianne Gedigian on flute, Frances Poulenc’s Sonata for oboe and piano featuring the ensemble’s Artistic Director Mark Ackerman, Samuel Barber’s Summer Music and W.A. Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat for piano and winds featuring the talented Warren Jones on piano.

Artistic Director Mark Ackerman founded the Olmos Ensemble in 1994 and is comprised of musicians from the San Antonio Symphony alongside New York based pianist Warren Jones and other guests.

The evening’s program opened with Karl Reinecke’s Sonata “Undine” for flute and piano performed by Warren Jones and Marianne Gedigian, a professor of flute at University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music and a former performer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The sonata is a character piece composed with the theme of romance throughout.

From her virtuosic playing to her silver stilettos and brilliant gold flute, Gedigian put on an all-around gorgeous performance. Her round, expressive tone during melodic sections of the piece swept the audience away in a blissful reverie, while her intense attack during fast, technical passages showcased her talented precision. Much like a rock band’s guitarist shredding lightning-speed solos, Gedigian’s execution of the most technically difficult parts of the piece sounded effortless and full of character.

Next on the evening’s set was Frances Poulenc’s Sonata for oboe and piano featuring Mark Ackerman and Warren Jones. Dedicated in memory Serge Prokofiev, this sonata was Poulenc’s last major work composed in the summer of 1962. Emotion emanated from the performers from the start of the piece as they passed the tender, recurring melodic line back and forth. Torment and sadness was expressed through the silent pauses coupled with thunderous dissonant chords and reinforced by the eerie, irresolute ending. Poulenc maintains his sense humor with the unpredictability of the piece. The sonata was full of very sudden changes between singing melodic lines and pounding dissonance executed seamlessly by Ackerman and Jones.

Samuel Barber’s Summer Music brought clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg, bassoonist Sharon Kuster and French horn player Jeff Garza to the stage, alongside both Gedigian and Ackerman. This one-movement piece opened immediately with interesting combinations in instrumental timbres. The horn and the bassoon provided the harmony, while the clarinet, oboe and flute provided dancing, frenetic melodic lines in the high register. The piece contained dramatic changes between poignant melodies and complex polyphonic passages. The five musicians not only found a perfect balance within the texture of ensemble, but they also expertly melded polyphonic parts together to form a unified musical idea.

The evening concluded with W.A. Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat. The piece shone the spotlight on Warren Jones while the wind instruments often played a supporting role, especially in the first movement. The opening was full of celebratory, regal-sounding rhythmic patterns and virtuosic piano passages. The wind instruments took a more leading role in the Larghetto, which contained beautifully phrased, long melodic lines. The finale explores every possible instrumental combination within the ensemble as the melody bounces from instrument to instrument with various duets and trios in between.
The seemingly random combination of instruments (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano) shows off the ingenuity and creativity of Mozart as well as the ability of the musicians to blend and balance with one another despite the differing timbres of their instruments.

The unique program and the high level of musicianship made for an exceptional performance Monday evening. Look out for upcoming performances this season by the Olmos ensemble, including their November 7 show titled “Variety! Winds and Strings, Thoughtful and Humorous” and their January appearance in the Beethoven Festival. For more information about the Olmos Ensemble, visit

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top Ten Classical Pirate Songs

On this, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we bring you the Top Ten Classical Songs for Pirates!

10. Bellini Il Pirata (listen to it here)
9. Benjamin Jamaican Rumba (listen to it here)
8. Berlioz Le Corsair (listen to it here)
7. Badelt Pirates of the Caribbean (listen to it here)
6. Sullivan Pirates of Penzance (listen to it here)
5. Leonard Bernstein Peter Pan (listen to it here)
4. Handel Sarabande [from the Aubrey-Maturin Series] (listen to it here)
3. Leigh Jolly Roger Overture (listen to it here)
2. Leroy Anderson Pirate Dance (listen to it here)
and the number one International Talk Like A Pirate Day song is
Wagner The Flying Dutchman (listen to it here)

What's your favorite matey?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fiesta Criolla Filled with Surprises

Always amazing in this world which is touted as "global" is to find music which is unknown to most of us in the Northern Hemisphere. We are all more likely to have a steady diet of South American fruits, vegetables and coffee than even a few bars of classical music from
Peru, Argentina, Brazil or Bolivia. Outside of Astor Piazzolla or Heitor Villa-Lobos, our general knowledge of serious music from South of the Panama Canal is scant. That's what makes this recent discovery such a gem. Argentinean conductor Gabriel Castagna, is ardent in his quest for revealing a wealth of South American orchestral music. Fiesta Criolla is the 5th such recording in his discography. Let's hope for many more.

Honens winners continue…

Esther Honens loved the piano and as a successful business women she combined the two by donating 5 million dollars to an international piano competition to be held in Calgary Alberta every three years.

As part of the package the laureates receive is three years of free management and consultation to help them with their careers. Part of this package is professionally recorded CDs to show their talent. On the Piano this week more from these exceptional musicians with compositions of Ravel, Debussy, Szymanowski, Bach and a musical farewell of Franz Schubert.

Hear more of the laureates of the Honens Competition this Sunday at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Latin Grammy Nominations for 2011

Mejor Álbum de Música Clásica
Best Classical Album

Nominations were announced on Wednesday for this year's Latin Grammys. Congratulations to all and good luck when the winners are revealed November 10, 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Adios A Cuba (Adonis González; Rey Rodríguez, producer) [RRProductions]

Brazilian Guitar Quartet Plays Villa-Lobos (Brazilian Guitar Quartet) [Delos]

Clara Sverner Plays Chopin (Clara Sverner) [Azul Music Multimídia Ltda]

Concertino Para Percussão e Concerto Para Violão (Francis Hime & Nelson Ayres) [Biscoito Clássico]

José Serebrier: Sinfonia No. 1 (José Serebrier) [Naxos]

Tárrega! (Manuel Barrueco) [Tonar Music]

Villa-Lobos Trio Play: Heitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzolla & Lucio Bruno-Videla (Villa-Lobos Trio) [Oehms Classics]

Mejor Obra/Composición Clásica Contemporánea
Best Contemporary Classical Composition
  • Le Repas Du Serpent
    Javier Álvarez, composer (Iracema De Andrade) Track from: Electro-Acústico (Obras Para Cello Y Sonidos Electroacústicos) [CMMAS]
  • Mixtura
    Orlando Jacinto García, composer (Iracema De Andrade) Track from: Electro-Acústico (Obras Para Cello Y Sonidos Electroacústicos) [CMMAS]
  • Panamericana Suite
    Paquito D'Rivera, composer (Paquito D'Rivera) Track from: Panamericana Suite [MCG Jazz]
  • Romerías
    Lalo Schifrin, composer (Sergio Puccini) Track from: Romerías [Aleph Records]
  • Umas Coisas do Coração (i- Agitado)
    Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, composer (Armildo Uzeda) Track from: Música Brasileira Contemporânea Vol. 3 [A Casa Discos]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Artists Respond

This afternoon at 4pm, KPAC & KTXI air a special program, Artists Respond. It looks at creativity with composers. Here is the playlist:
Augusta Read Thomas: Eagle at Sunrise - Ying String Quartet (Quartz Records)
Troy Peters: Lament - 9/11/01 (live recording)
Richard Danielpour: An American Requiem - Pacific Symphony & Chorale Carl St. Clair (Reference Recordings)
Steve Reich: WTC 9/11 - Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch Records)
John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls - NY Philharmonic Lorin Maazel (Nonesuch Records)
Robert Moran: Trinity Requiem - Trinity Childrens Chorus Robert Ridgell (Innova Records)
Edgar Meyer: Short Trip Home - Josh Bell Mike Marshall Sam Bush Edgar Meyer (Sony Classical)

Another version of Artists Respond, with more interviews, airs at 8pm on KSTX:
Troy Peters: Lament - 9/11/01 (live recording)
Richard Danielpour: An American Requiem - Pacific Symphony & Chorale Carl St. Clair (Reference Recordings)
Penn and Teller: American Flag trick - West Wing (NBC)
Augusta Read Thomas: Eagle at Sunrise - Ying String Quartet (Quartz Records)
Chris Brubeck interview
Steve Reich: WTC 9/11 movement 1- Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch Records)
John Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls - NY Philharmonic Lorin Maazel (Nonesuch Records)
Robert Moran: Trinity Requiem - Trinity Childrens Chorus Robert Ridgell (Innova Records)
Edgar Meyer: Short Trip Home - Josh Bell Mike Marshall Sam Bush Edgar Meyer (Sony Classical)

Read composers, conductors and artists creative responses here.

9/11 Resposnse: Dan Welcher

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
I can't give the knee-jerk response most people have to this sort of thing, which is "it made me redouble my efforts to improve the lot of humanity". Not being a religious person, I refuse to follow any "divine mystery" dictum, so 9/11 only reinforced my increasing sense that the world I inhabit (where art and music are the ruling forces) is not going to be able to change the course of events in the physical world. I feel powerless to do anything that will make most Americans smarter, more inquisitive, or more open to serious thought or feeling. Instead, I think I've tended to herd together with my own kind---to care more about music and art, and less about politics. 9/11 itself didn't do this---the ongoing march of human stupidity and greed did it.

Writing in High Fidelity in 1974, critic Royal S. Brown said "on the basis of this work (Concerto for Flute and Orchestra), I would say that Welcher is one of the most promising American composers I have ever heard". Born in Rochester, New York, in 1948, composer-conductor Dan Welcher has been fulfilling that promise ever since, gradually creating a body of compositions in almost every imaginable genre including opera, concerto, symphony, vocal literature, piano solos, and various kinds of chamber music. With over one hundred works to his credit, Welcher is one of the most-played composers of his generation. Dan Welcher first trained as a pianist and bassoonist, earning degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. He joined the Louisville Orchestra as its Principal Bassoonist in 1972, and remained there until 1978, concurrently teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. He joined the Artist Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1976, teaching bassoon and composition, and remained there for fourteen years. He accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Texas in 1978, creating the New Music Ensemble there and serving as Assistant Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1990. It was in Texas that his career as a conductor began to flourish, and he has led the premieres of more than 120 new works since 1980. He now holds the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professorship in Composition at the School of Music at UT/Austin, teaching Composition and serving as Director of the New Music Ensemble.
Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 Response: P Kellach Waddle

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
My first thoughts of 9/11 are the literal cliche of "OMG, what's that on TV.. is it a movie?" On 9/11/01, I was visiting my family an odd occurrence to be visiting them so late in September, but my Austin, Symphony and other duties just happened to be starting later in the month than usual. I sleep with the TV on and I just happened to have left it on CNN the night before--as my sleepy self started to register what was on TV the next morning I thought, " Wow, this is one of those creepy " real life" pretend disaster movies like the 1980s TV movie "Special Report" or "The Day After." Of course then I realized to my horror, it was not a movie, and it was quite real . Then I heard the messages on the answering machine from my mother at work saying " As soon as you get up, you really need to turn on news, something very bad has happened in NYC." My next thought was of concern for my NYC friends. I have always had many musician friends there but also at that time in one of my " other" work lives, I was writing a weekly column in a national TV magazine. I tried to call to make sure all of my magazine colleagues were OK and what would be the status of our deadlines. Needless to say I couldn't get through and instead of beating my head against the wall of that, I took a deep breath and said a great deal of prayers and realized I would hear from them as soon as they could get through, which thankfully I did indeed hear from all the people I was trying to contact by the next morning. (This was my first feeling of guilt for worrying about mundane job issues , "The world is forever changed and many people's lives , both living and deceased from this event, are destroyed. Am I going to hell for worrying about when for heaven's sake my column about friggin' TV show analysis is due?") Then the immediate thought everyone is pondering in these guest blogs-- what shall I compose about this? I decided to take the very ironic route that I do in unspeakable tragedy :to attempt to write about trying to find hope where there seems to be none at the moment; to start searching for what possible redemption can be found in the aftermath of indescribable horror. I do this because #1 : I think it's always quite the knee-jerk reaction to attempt to compose about all the horror and grief and I feel like tons of composers will already " go there" , as it were, and that they will do a better job of capturing THAT than I so I always look for a different approach-- and #2, I write SO Much music already tinged with Mahlerian darkness and angst that it seems almost insulting to the event and those who suffer the most deeply from said event If I just write something that is of the same color of all the music I write all the time anyway. I did the same thing when my father was killed in April 2009, I wrote a piece about redemption and ascension and my father (who had been ill for many years at the time he was killed) no longer being in any pain and now being in paradise with the Lord. Moving on to October 11th, I was astoundingly flattered and blessed to be invited to perform on a series I appear on regularly, the Thursday at Noon concerts at Central Presbyterian Church in Downtown Austin. This concert was actually televised in part marking the one month demarcation of the horrific event and I performed some Bach and the piece I had indeed completed in reaction to 9/11. (I wrote another Prelude for solo bass, one of the eventually completed in a set inspired by the Chopin/Bach model-- pieces for solo bass--one in each key. Being the avid Messaien worshiper/admirer/stealer I am== I chose Messaien's key center he used often for religious redemption and transformation-- and composed "To Arise in a Prayer of Hope" : Prelude in F Sharp Major. ) I, like everyone else, was still in a very strange state of sadness, mourning and edginess. I played the short concert, then did short TV interview. Then I was trying to process my feelings by going outside for a walk, a cigarette and some coffee. When I walked back into that sanctuary, there was a middle-aged lady with her hand on my bass. Still being edgy, my first reaction was appalled horror. I controlled myself enough not to run up to her and say "Hey !! What are you doing?? Get off of that !! That's not furniture lady, that's my life-- get away from there!!" But by the time I walked up to her, she had turned around and began to say the following: "Mr. Waddle, I am sorry to be putting my hand on your bass violin. But my stomach has hurt non-stop since I found out what happened a month ago today. While you were playing your piece you wrote and those Bach movements, for the first time, my stomach stopped hurting. I just had to touch the large piece of wood that this nice long-haired young man used to finally make my stomach stop hurting." She said "Thank you" as a tear ran down her face and walked off. I was now alone in the church, and after my hating myself for wanting to at first yell at her, then my knees quite literally buckled. I collapsed into the front pew and then shed many tears of my own. Both in mourning and also in thankfulness that my playing that day touched someone so profoundly. Since this was before our ubiquitous texting and social networking and such, it still pains me that I never caught that lady's name. P.S. I want to also express my thankfulness that on the weekend of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I will get to perform Strauss' Death and Transfiguration in my position with The Austin Symphony. 
P. Kellach Waddle
P. Kellach Waddle enjoys a widely lauded career as a solo bassist, composer, chamber musician, orchestra musician, conductor and concert director. He has been cited as “... an Austin classical music legend…” by award-winning Viola By Choice Director Aurélien Pétillot; he has been called “…an amazing, incredible virtuoso...” by famed Austin radio personality John Aieili; and after his ovation garnering solo concert at the 2009 International Society of Bassists Symposium (where he was one of only five dozen bassists from all over the world invited to perform a solo recital) convention officials declared “…(Waddle) is now obviously one of the great solo bassists of the world.” Waddle’s music has been performed over 700 times in nearly 40 states and in 10 foreign countries. With over 40 premieres scheduled for the calendar year 2011 alone and nearly over 370 works composed as of Winter 2011, Waddle continues to maintain his position as one of the most prolific and performed composers of his generation. Waddle has been a member of numerous professional and festival orchestras including his current position with The Austin Symphony, which he has held since 1992. He has been nominated three times as a possible finalist for The Pulitzer Prize in Music and twice nominated for State of Texas Musician of The Year. He also serves as the “part-time Bach” in his position as Composer/Artist is Residence at Ascension Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. Waddle also is the director of PKWproductions — a company presenting sets of concert series comprising new works presented on literature, music presented with movies at the legendary Austin Alamo Drafthouse Theaters, music of Waddle’s all devoted to a single instrument or medium, and PKWproductions first out-of Austin endeavor --the series " When Texas Meets Manhattan" a series of concerts given in NYC combining composers and performers from both areas — all of the series under the PKWproductions umbrella continue to be some of the most lauded, inventive and unique classical music presentations in the nation. Mr. Waddle’s music is published exclusively by tFv Inc. of Concord, Massachusetts and Wyatt Brand of Austin Texas manages his publicity. For more detailed information as well as links to recordings of Mr. Waddle’s music please go to

Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Read more composers, conductors and artists creative responses here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Are you still keeping up?

It is possible for a pianist to compose music that they cannot duplicate at a piano? Having a wide range of virtues, a virtuoso can play with distinction, music that others stumble through.

On the Piano this Sunday compositions that tax even accomplished performers like Franz Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, then music that Stravinsky composed to take on the road and earn some much needed money and the concert ends with Maurice Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, a monster-piece that was composed with ultimate difficulties in mind. Never fear, at the piano we have Laureates of the Honens International Piano Competition performing these masterworks.

The Piano heard every Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

9/11 Response: Troy Peters

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
Troy Peters
My strongest feeling in the wake of 9/11 was numbness. The immediacy and impact of what happened were so powerful that I found myself exhausted for weeks. When Steve Klimowski, who directs the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, asked me to write a piece for a 9/11 memorial concert, I knew I wanted to be involved. I struggled, however, to begin working.
At the same time, the Vermont Youth Orchestra (where I was the Music Director) was completing a huge building project, renovating a historic U.S. Army Cavalry drill hall to create the Elley-Long Music Center.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, we held our opening ceremony on a Saturday morning, before a full house of community leaders. Among the guests at this event was Senator Patrick Leahy, who spoke eloquently of how the inspiring spectacle of a community investing so much to share music with its youth was the perfect antidote to the anguish we had all been going through as a nation. Senator Leahy's comments energized me, sending me back into conducting and composing with a new commitment and energy. In the end, the world is (and always has been) a dangerous place. All of us, however, can do our best to spread joy and beauty to our families, our communities, our audiences.
And what about the 9/11 piece Steve Klimowski had asked me for? I decide to write about my feelings in the immediate wake of the attacks. In the cello solo which opens Lament — 9/11/01, I tried to capture my sense of being emotionally lost. The cello mulls over its sorrow and doesn’t know where to go with it, turning in circles. When the cello finally exhausts itself, the voice enters with a brief song of mourning to this text by Abu Al-ala Al-ma’arri, an 11th century Arab poet from what is now Syria:The soul driven from the bodyMourns the memory it leaves behind.A dove hit in flight sadly turnsIts neck and sees its nest destroyed.
Listen to Lament — 9/11/01 
Troy Peters
Troy Peters has been a popular and acclaimed guest conductor with orchestras including the San Antonio Symphony, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and Vermont Mozart Festival. He became Music Director of YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) in August 2009, after 14 years in Vermont, where he was Music Director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Middlebury College Orchestra, and Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. His work has been the subject of national media attention from CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, and The New Yorker. He has gained international attention for his orchestral collaborations with rock musicians, including Jon Anderson (of the band Yes) and Trey Anastasio (of the band Phish), with whom he worked on two albums on Elektra Records. Peters conducted the world premiere recording of Daron Hagen's Masquerade with violinist Jaime Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Among the other soloists with whom he has collaborated are Midori, Horacio Gutiérrez, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), and Soovin Kim. Vermont Governor James Douglas recognized his contribution to the state's cultural life by proclaiming April 17, 2005, as "Troy Peters Day" in Vermont, and he was also awarded a Vermont Arts Council Citation of Merit in 2009. He has been honored with seven ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Among Peters' other past conducting positions are posts with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, the Pacific Chamber Soloists, and Perpetuum Mobile. He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Pennsylvania. Peters is also active as a composer, where his work ranges from orchestral and chamber music to a large body of songs and an opera for hand puppets. Among his honors are the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and grants from Meet the Composer and the Rockefeller Foundation. His music has been commissioned by many groups, including the Philadelphia Singers, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Saint Michael's College, Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Social Band. His primary compositional mentors were Ned Rorem and George Crumb. A versatile instrumentalist, Peters not only plays the viola, but has also performed on tenor banjo and electric guitar with symphony orchestras. Born in 1969 in Greenock, Scotland (of American parents), Peters grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and lives in San Antonio with his wife and two children.

Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/11 Response: Yvonne Freckmann

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
Yvonne Freckmann
How has 9-11 affected me? I still clearly remember that morning in eighth grade in science class, hearing something terrible had happened, but not knowing and understanding what, nor knowing what the Twin Towers were. But seeing the photos in the Express-News of people jumping out of these high rises helped me realize the terror and unimaginable choice these people were making. So, I think a feeling of not wanting to move or do anything blanketed everyone for a while. Overall, I think 9-11 has caused the U.S. to put security as its number one priority – even with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as natural borders! The obsession with security as a reaction to fear and antagonization has led to a loss in freedom – be it privacy, travel, or peace. Every child born since 9-11 has been living during a time of war. They may be fought somewhere else but the mental and economic effects are inescapable in daily life. Roberto Prestigiacomo and other Trinity University drama faculty produced a show called ‘8’ – the age of Prestigiacomo’s daughter, who has only known life with a nation at war. It was mostly minimalistic and abstract, people running in patterns, scary masks and sets with bright colors, trying to recreate this post 9-11 world from the view of a child. I experienced a lot of emotions. The closing involved a lot of water – a kind of giant slip’n’slide on stage, and this had the most cleansing and hopeful effect… I believe it may be the first major artistic production in San Antonio that addressed the post 9-11 topic.Furthermore, the focus on security and military efforts abroad has caused neglect to the basic needs at home – laid off teachers, failing infrastructure. It takes only a few listens on NPR to hear the details of many such maladies. John, you had asked me about a response as an artist. I was not nearly as serious about composing back then, but I remember hearing one of my teachers talking about the feeling of ‘how do I start to compose after this?’ I have not written any pieces grappling with 9-11 and its aftermath; maybe it is not yet time for me to do so.I think 9-11 will continue to affect the American psyche, especially if its memory keeps being used by politicians, military leaders and ordinary citizens to justify further fighting, occupation, racism or de-humanizing of other people in the world. The U.S. is an open and welcoming place for the most part, but it is part of a whole world of people, customs and ideas. I am glad that the 9-11 attacks brought the American people together, but I wish that it had been for healing, not a campaign for security and retribution.
Yvonne Freckmann
Yvonne Freckmann is a composer, performer and avid promoter of new music. Equally at home in two countries, she began her piano studies in Braunschweig, Germany, and began playing clarinet, accordion and composing after moving to a small town in south Texas during sixth grade. She earned her B.M. in Piano Performance and Composition from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas in 2010, and her teachers included Dr. Carolyn True (piano), and Drs. Timothy Kramer, Brian Nelson, Jack W. Stamps and David Heuser (composition). She is currently attending the University of Louisville as a Bomhard Fellow to earn her MM composition, studying with Drs. Marc Satterwhite and Krszysztof Wolek. Her most recent collaboration includes writing a string quartet for a student ensemble as part of the Chamber Music Institute hosted by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2011. Freckmann attended the Czech-American Summer Music Institute (CASMI) in Prague with Ladislav Kubík in July 2009. She enthusiastically performs and promotes new music, and founded TUCHÉ (Trinity University Chamber Ensemble) in fall 2008. She has written a variety of solo, chamber and electroacoustic works, and completed her first orchestra piece. TUCHÉ formed a pit orchestra to perform incidental music she wrote for Trinity University main stage production of Booth. Her first electroacoustic composition, Remember From Womb You Came (2008) was selected for the 2008 SCI Student National Conference hosted at Ball State University, and the 2009 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, where she was the youngest participant. Besides making music with her friends, Yvonne greatly enjoys swing dancing and cycling.

Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 Response: Tim Kramer

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
Tim Kramer
I was shocked as we all were about 9/11. My wife is from Manhattan, and my mother-in-law still lived there, so the impact was very personal. Also, at the time, we just received word that my wife's step-mother had passed away suddenly on 9/9. I remember having lunch with composer Ken Metz on 9/10 who was also having some problems. At the time, we asked ourselves "what else can go wrong?" I had nearly 6 months before and 8 months after 9/11 without writing a single note. But I had to finish a commission from the local Alamo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. That piece, Meditation (Noel Nouvelet), was 9/11 inspired. The notes are as follows:This work is the first work of mine written after the tragedy of September 11 and it is as much a meditation on how our world has changed as it is a personal reawakening for my work as a composer. The hymn tune Noël Nouvelet is associated with rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in that light this piece begins in a dark environment and moves toward that melody. The melodic arabesques in the center of the work are integrated with elements of the old French carol and eventually the hymn tune emerges in the pedal. At the end, the ascent continues on and hovers in quiet stasis. The text (often sung with this melody) echoes in my memory “…now the green blade rises…”I had this work played at festival in Florida, with no program notes. After the performance, a composer, who was Egyptian, came up to me and asked me about the piece. He thought it must have a program behind it. He said that the mode that I used at the opening sounded like the Arabic mode Saba, a melancholy mode used for mourning, loss, and grief. Wow. I was amazed at what popped up in the music.
You can hear a portion of Meditation (Noel Nouvelet) here.
Timothy Kramer
Timothy Kramer's works have been performed widely throughout the United States and Canada – from Carnegie Hall to college campuses - and in Europe, South America, and Asia with performances by major symphony orchestras (Indianapolis, Detroit, Tacoma, San Antonio) chamber groups (North/South Consonance, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, ONIX Ensemble, Luna Nova, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings) and university ensembles (Michigan State, Arizona State, Indiana University, Florida State). He has also been a featured composer at the San Antonio International Piano Competition, the Mostly Women Composers Festival in New York City, the Midwest International Clinic in Chicago, and at national conferences of the American Guild of Organists, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, the Society of Composers, Inc. and the College Music Society. He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Meet the Composer, Broadcast Music, Inc., ASCAP, the American Guild of Organists, and the American Music Center among many others. His degrees are from Pacific Lutheran University (B.M.) and the University of Michigan (D.M.A.), where he studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson. He was also a Fulbright Scholar to Detmold, Germany, where he studied with Martin Redel. Originally from Washington State, Kramer began playing the piano at a young age, and, although trained as a pianist, organist, and harpsichordist, he spent many years as a youth playing bass guitar in jazz and rock ensembles. Kramer often incorporates rhythmic elements of popular music in his works, and he embraces the idea that the composer should not lose touch with the performer or with the audience. After teaching at Trinity University in San Antonio for 19 years - where he also founded CASA (the Composers Alliance of San Antonio) - he accepted a post in 2010 as Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Read more composers, conductors and artists creative responses here.

Still composing

Elliott Carter is still making waves in the music world. He'll be 103 years old this December and his publisher has posted some great interviews with Carter, filmed last summer.

It's in three parts:
Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

South Central Texas 9/11 responses

We asked local composers about September 11th, and this is what they had to say:
David Mairs
David Mairs will perform his Lacrimosa and Benedictus on September 11, 2011 with the Mid Texas Symphony. This is what he had to say about the work:
David MairsMairs began his professional career playing Solo Horn for the elite U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C. Following his military service, he became Associate Principal Horn of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Solo Horn of the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet, and a member of the New Pittsburgh Quintet brass ensemble.Mairs’ interest in conducting led him to the Flint Symphony where he served as Assistant Conductor and Music Administrator. He moved to the San Antonio Symphony in 1988 where he served as Resident Conductor until 1999, directing classical concerts, audience-pleasing pops, and educational and family concerts. Mairs also hosted the weekly “Symphony Spotlight” on KPAC radio.Mairs has conducted leading orchestras around the country including the Houston, Dallas, Colorado Springs, Dayton, Austin, Saginaw Bay, Phoenix, Charlotte, West Shore, Kansas City, and Ft. Worth symphonies. He is an annual guest conductor with the Flint Symphony.Mairs has been a leading Texas music educator for over 35 years, and was named Denton ISD’s 2010 Teacher of the Year (after a short four years in the school system as its director of orchestras). Mairs has served as Conductor of Orchestras at UTSA, Music and Administrative Director of the North East School of the Arts, and Music Director of the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio.Mairs has led sessions of the League of American Orchestras Conductors’ Workshop, designed to teach up-and-coming conductors their craft. His passion for education and talent for communicating with audiences of all ages make the annual Mid-Texas Symphony’s Children’s Concerts outstanding, yet fun, educational experiences. As the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise wrote, Mairs “is looking for a lot more than offering students a unique experience. He’s looking to change lives.”In addition to conducting, Mairs composes and arranges orchestral, band, and choral music; his works include the creation of the first marching band arrangements for half-time programs at high school football games using classical music, choral and orchestral works, and many of the arrangements for children’s chorus heard at the Mid-Texas Symphony annual Christmas concert.

Hear Artists Respond this Sunday on Texas Public Radio: 4 p.m. on KPAC 88.3 FM and KTXI 90.1 FM, 8 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Read more composers, conductors and artists creative responses here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pianists for the 21st Century


With mass media filling our days and nights with entertainment, popularity is the byword. There is a lot of talent out there that doesn't make it to television and radio, but sometimes the good word leaks out.

For the month of September the Piano will highlight "laureates" of the two recent Honens International Piano Competitions. This contest takes place in Calgary Alberta every three years and the judges are looking for what they call "complete musicians" and "21st century musicians for 21st century audiences".  I can't say that there is something of the moment exhibited by these pianists, but the music played is thought provoking and fresh and that works for me.

During this series you will hear old favorites like Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel and the Wanderer fantasy of Schubert as well music of Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Bach's Goldberg Variations. All beautifully recorded and heard on the Piano, Sunday afternoons at 5 on KPAC & KTXI.

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Consideration of James "Little Caesar" Petrillo

On this Labor Day celebration 2011, let's consider the role played by James "Little Caesar" Petrillo in a couple of clashes between several major American orchestras and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Petrillo was head of the AFM from 1940-1958. His autocratic (some would say iron-fisted) rule was legendary; the fact he was born in Chicago fueled accusations of "mob" affiliations. It was said he traveled in an armored car with three body guards. In 1942, Petrillo brought the recording industry to its knees with a ban on recording. His control over the musicians of the AFM was such that he effectively halted production of recordings for the duration of the ban. For better or worse, Petrillo was a force to be reckoned with.

Petrillo's influence continued post-1958 through his presidency of Chicago's Local 10 of the AFM. However, during the early 1960s the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began to challenge Petrillo with accusations that he was neglecting effective representation of the classical musicians. Wayne Barrington gives this first hand account of balancing the dual role of artist and activist in the Chicago Symphony during those troubled times.

The Boston Symphony had its share of confrontations with Petrillo. They famously resisted joining the AFM. Petrillo punished the orchestra by banning many prominent soloists, including Efrem Zimbalist and Joseph Szigeti, from playing in Boston. He then banned Serge Koussevitsky from conducting AFM affiliated orchestras. Eventually, Koussevitsky and the board of directors of the Boston Symphony relented, allowing the musicians of the BSO to join the AFM. This occurred during Petrillo's famous recording ban of 1942-1944. Finally, in 1944, the major record companies gave in to Petrillo's demands. It's somewhat ironic that the last major American orchestra to join the AFM, the Boston Symphony, was also the first out of the gate with the lifting of the recording ban. The very day the ban was lifted, Koussevitsky and the BSO recorded Tchaikovsky's 5th Sympony for RCA.

The famous horn solo from the slow movement of Tchaikovsky's 5th can be heard in this vignette which traces the early years of Wayne Barrington as he tells of growing up in Boston and giving thanks for the guidance given him by Willem Valkenier, principal horn of the BSO.

Happy Labor Day - James Baker