Monthly Archives: February 2011

Now is the Time, Sunday 27 Feb 2011

My contemporary American music program Now is the Time airs every Sunday night at 10 o’clock on WRTI-HD2. Listen on HD radio or online here. The complete schedule and more information are here.

Coming up this Sunday night:

Feb 27 2011

Larry Kucharz. City Street Scenes II

Robert Maggio. Riddle

John Melby. Concerto for Computer and Orchestra

Eric Whitacre. When David heard

Vespers is WETA’s Vocal Pick of the Week

WETA-FM is Washington, DC’s source for classical music, and VivaLaVoce is WETA’s HD2 channel devoted to vocal classical music. Every week VivaLaVoce showcases “notable new (or newly reissued) vocal classical music CDs worth discovering,” and starting today, February 21st, their Vocal CD Pick of the Week is Vespers.

Listen to selections from Vespers on-air throughout the week, and check online to learn more about the artists and the music. For further enticement, ArkivMusic puts the CD on sale for the entire week, and contributes a portion of each sale to WETA-FM.

So you can listen to WETA-FM here, and then check out Vespers at ArkivMusik. Thanks to all!

Now is the Time, Sunday 20 Feb 2011

My contemporary American music program Now is the Time airs every Sunday night at 10 o’clock on WRTI-HD2. Listen on HD radio or online here. The complete schedule and more information are here.

Coming up this Sunday night:

Feb 20 2011

Ezra Laderman. Simões

Larry Kucharz. Blue Drawing No. 06

Jay Reise. Concerto for Cello and 13 Instruments

ACF Grant for The Waking Sun

The American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter has announced that they are helping to fund The Waking Sun through their Subito Grants:

Kile Smith: To support the production and recording of The Waking Sun, a large work written for The Crossing and Tempesta di Mare, to be premiered in the second concert of the 2011 Month of Moderns, The Crossing’s annual new music festival.”

Also funded in this round are Alban Bailly, Michael McDermott, Andrew McPherson, Gregg Mervine, and Nick Millevoi.

Valentine’s Day, 2011: Vaughan Williams

WRTI asked us once again to come up with Valentine’s Day recordings, so here’s my latest offering. You can read all my CD reviews here.

Vaughan Williams, Holst: Choral Folksong Arrangements

Spring is not too far away, and as a harbinger of romance, always reminds me of the English folksong arrangements of Ralph Vaughan Williams. There’s “Loch Lomond,” there’s “Greensleeves,” and there’s my favorite, the Robert Burns poem to his bonnie dearie, “Ca’ the yowes tae the knowes” (Drive the ewes to the knolls), which crescendos to “While waters wimple tae the sea, While day blinks in the lift sae hie, Till clay-cauld death shall blin’ my e’e, Ye shall be my dearie!”

They’re all here (and more) on Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst: Choral Folksong Arrangements. But you could just give me those folk songs, and that would be enough.


Now is the Time, Sunday 13 Feb 2011

My contemporary American music program Now is the Time airs every Sunday night at 10 o’clock on WRTI-HD2. Listen on HD radio or online here. The complete schedule and more information are here.

Coming up this Sunday night:

Feb 13 2011. The Wider View

David Snow. Winter

Wendy Mae Chambers. Organism from Symphony of the Universe

H. Leslie Adams. The Wider View

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Now is the Time begins in winter and ends with intimations of spring. The appropriately-named composer David Snow shares with us his haunting Winter for trumpet and piano. The second movement from the Symphony of the Universe by the always engaging Wendy Mae Chambers is called “Organism.” She wrote for a big-band jazz ensemble to be recorded in the cavernous Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and the results are stunning.

The song cycle The Wider View comes from the romantic and lyrical pen of H. Leslie Adams. Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and others lead to the final “Love Rejoices” by James Dillet Freeman. “…O love, come close and circumscribe me round / With love’s dear otherness, encompass me / In bonds so fair for when I am bound by love / on ev’ry side, / Then I am free. / O love, you are the only narrow door through which myself can reach to the yet more. / And Love Rejoices, Love Rejoice!”

How’s that for a lead-in to Valentine’s Day?

Aaron Copland, Charles-Marie Widor

On the first Saturday of the month Jack Moore and I host Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and on the all-classical webstream at We also broadcast encore presentations of the entire Discoveries series (now nine years and counting!) every Wednesday at 7:00 pm on WRTI HD-2. For a look at all the shows, click here.

Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 5:00-6:00 p.m. (Second Saturday this month… back to first Saturday in March!)

Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924). Wayne Marshall, organ, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Litton. Delos 3221. Tr 13-15. 23:52

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra, Op. 69 (1894). Ian Tracey, organ, BBC Philharmonic, Yan Pascal Tortelier. Chandos 9785. Tr 6-7. 29:32

Widor at St. Sulpice

The organ world in Paris, January 1870 was buzzing when the top names in the business saw to it that a 25-year-old got the biggest job in the city. St. Sulpice Church was looking for someone to pilot its newly installed five-manual organ, the greatest and largest instrument by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, known as the greatest organ builder of the 19th century.

Camille Saint-Saëns, Charles Gounod, and Cavaillé-Coll himself all said that there was only one person for the job: Charles-Marie Widor. The church offered Widor the appointment on a temporary basis.

He kept the job for 64 years.

Among all his activities, Widor created an entire literature for this “new” instrument, including ten works for solo organ he called, indeed, “Symphonies,” and three Symphonies for organ with orchestra, the last of which we’ll hear today. In it, the organ is not only a part of the orchestra, but it is on par with it. The power, sophistication, and range of color of the Romantic, symphonic organ are stunning. To understand the revolution in organ building at the time, Widor himself tells us that it was Cavaillé-Coll who

conceived the diverse wind pressures, the divided windchests, the pedal systems and the combination registers… pneumatic motors… and perfected the mechanics to such a point that each pipe—low or high, loud or soft—instantly obeys the touch of the finger… the freedom of mixing timbres, the means of intensifying them or gradually tempering them… the balance of contrasts… harmonic flutes, gambas, bassoons, English horns, trumpets, celestes, flue stops and reed stops of a quality and variety unknown before.

The clean, discrete sounds of the Baroque organ, so perfect for contrapuntal music, had now given way to a truly symphonic instrument.


Widor, of course, is well-known for organ music. Aaron Copland isn’t. But it was his own Symphony for Organ and Orchestra that launched his career. He went to France at age 21 to study composition at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, which had just been set up by Gen. John J. Pershing, Walter Damrosch, and others for the American troops stationed there. It quickly evolved into a mecca for American composers, however, and Copland led the way, studying with the organist and composer Nadia Boulanger. He admitted later that he’d never “before thought of studying with a woman.” But her inexhaustible knowledge and theoretical rigor (along with her charm) won over Copland and the generations of musicians who flocked to her until her death in 1979.

Serge Koussevitzky, presenting concerts in Paris in 1924, was just about to take over as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He, along with Damrosch (at the New York Symphony Orchestra), had asked Boulanger to play in the States, and she insisted that her student Copland write something for her. This Symphony is that something.

America noticed, and Copland’s career took off. It may never have happened without Boulanger and the Conservatory, which would not have been established—Pershing or no—without the help of French influence at the highest levels. One of those most involved became the Conservatory’s first Director. His name? Charles-Marie Widor.