Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

The Flute, Part 1

Nov 30, 2016

The flute is one of mankind’s oldest instruments, and in one form or another it’s been known to virtually every culture around the world.  The modern flute used in Western classical music is known technically as a “transverse” flute because the player holds it out to one side and blows across a hole in the side of the instrument. Other flutes, such as the recorder, are “end blown”—the player blows directly into an opening in one end of the instrument.

When musicians and music scholars prepare performances of works by dead composers, they often get stuck in arguments over determining what the composers’ “original intent” was. And while I certainly recognize the importance of scholarly accuracy and authenticity, and of staying true to the composers’ wishes, I think that sometimes musicians forget that dead composers were once alive. 

Performers are always seeking the most effective and compelling ways to bring a composer’s musical ideas to life. I stress the plural, “ways,” because there’s never just one way. Some musicians sometimes forget this, unfortunately, but the best musicians, and the best teachers never do. When I was a graduate student, the string quartet I played in was working on a Bartók string quartet, and our faculty coach was Robert Mann, founder and first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet. 

Vocalist and songwriter Kat Edmonson has played major stages across the country. She also performed on The Tonight Show and Austin City Limits. Her 2014 album, The Big Picture, debuted at Number One on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. On this Song Travels, Edmonson shares her original song “Champagne” and teams up with Feinstein for “Long Way Home.”

News Stations: Sun, Dec 04, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Dec 04, 6 pm

Meredith D’Ambrosio

A sensitive and romantic vocalist and pianist, Meredith D’Ambrosio is a champion of the lesser-known songs of famous composers. She is also respected as a visual artist, composer, and teacher. In the late eighties, she met her late husband, pianist Eddie Higgins, and the pair went on to record and perform as a musical duo. On this 1994 Piano Jazz, D’Ambrosio sings and plays her own songs “Beware of Spring” and “Give It Time.”

News Stations: Sat, Dec 03, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Dec 04, 7 pm

Composers during the Baroque period wrote plenty of chamber music, especially trio sonatas, and sonatas for such high-voiced instruments as the violin and the flute. But the chamber music repertoire that today’s audiences are most familiar with probably begins with the piano trios and string quartets of Joseph Haydn. After Haydn, the floodgates opened. 

Percussion players can vary the sounds of their instruments by using different kinds of drumsticks, or drumsticks with different kinds of heads. Timpani players, for example, use  sticks that range from very soft to very hard.

You could write a book about the life of the German composer Georg Philipp Telemann– and as it turns out,  Telemann himself wrote three – three separate autobiographies. One of the things he wrote about is the time he spent in Poland in his early twenties. He became familiar with Polish and Moravian folk music during this period—he wrote that he experienced it in “all its barbaric beauty”—and he also heard the music of Eastern European gypsies. 

Mstislav Rostropovich

Nov 22, 2016

I had the enormous good fortune as a young man to get to work with the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Rostropovich, or “Slava,” as everybody called him, was the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra when I played in that ensemble, and with all his other engagements he still somehow made time to give master classes just for members of the orchestra. 

In the world of instrumental and vocal teaching, most teachers approach their students with certain basic principles in mind. For me, one of those principles is that whether we’re dealing with individuals or with ensembles, there’s no separating technical goals from musical goals. I don’t believe, in other words, that it makes sense just to learn the notes first and then somehow to “plug in” the music later. 

Lonnie Liston Smith
Scott Miller

Lonnie Liston Smith is one of contemporary music’s most versatile keyboardists. With a career spanning four decades, Smith has worked as a soloist, bandleader, and sideman to greats including Miles Davis, Betty Carter, Max Roach, and Pharaoh Sanders. He was McPartland’s guest on Piano Jazz in 2002. Smith presents his relaxed style on “What is this Thing Called Love.” Then he and McPartland swing into “C Jam Blues.” 

News Stations: Sat, Nov 26, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 27, 7 pm

John Wilson on Song Travels

Nov 21, 2016
John Wilson

British conductor, arranger, and scholar John Wilson serves as conductor for numerous orchestras throughout the UK including his own, which has a reputation as an ensemble of world-class musicians. On this Song Travels, Wilson describes his project to reconstruct the lost film scores of iconic MGM films, such as Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, and The Wizard of Oz. Musical selections include “High Society Overture” and “Les Girls.”

News Stations: Sun, Nov 27, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Nov 27, 6 pm

One of the things I’ve learned as a string teacher is that good habits can often replace a student’s bad habits quickly, because the good habits make playing easier.  But it was Mark Twain, strangely enough, who helped me to realize that the switch can only result from a very conscious and rational process on the student’s part, a process of understanding and acceptance. 

Bach's Roadtrip

Nov 17, 2016

Arnstadt to Lubeck, Expected time of Arrival, 77 hours, 234 Miles.

Greenville to Charleston, Expected time of Arrival, 71 hours, 217 Miles.

Bach's pilgrimage to hear the great organist Buxtehude reimagined and set in South Carolina.  

Special thanks to our actors, Tony Sane, who played Christopher Bach and Mathew Goins, who played  Charlie Pachelbel. Yours truly played Johann Sebastian Bach and wrote the script. I also played and recorded the music in the background. Please tune in the week after thanksgiving for part 2. 

The efficient and graceful use of the body is crucial to both sports and musical performance. But there are certainly many mental parallels as well -- and the experiences of athletes can teach us quite a bit about what musicians do. Years ago I read an interview in the Washington Post with a professional baseball player named Charles Johnson. Johnson had hit a three-run homer to win a game, and this is what he said afterward: “I recognized a curve ball right away, and told myself to stay on it. I wasn’t trying to hit it out of the park, but I got a good part of the bat on it.” 

Today is the birthday of the composer Paul Hindemith, who was born near Frankfurt, Germany, in 1895. Hindemith originally trained as a violinist and violist, and as a young man he enjoyed a very successful performing career. But it was as a composer that he achieved lasting fame, eventually writing hundreds of pieces, from operas to string quartets to songs to sonatas for every conceivable instrument.

The Colors of White

Nov 15, 2016

In 2004 the Vatican Museum presented an exhibit called “The Colors of White.” What the exhibit showed, in a nutshell, is that our notion that the beauty of ancient Greek and Roman statues lies in their pure, white form is a relatively modern idea, with no basis in historical fact. Scientists working with electron microscopes discovered vestiges of all sorts of bright paint colors on ancient statues, colors that to modern eyes seem hideously garish, and the curators of the Vatican exhibit commissioned reproductions that were painted with those colors. 

David Popper

Nov 14, 2016

Have you ever heard of a composer named David Popper? If you’re not a cellist, your answer is very likely…“Nope.” But if you are a cellist, your answer is, “Well of course.” There are some composers whose reputations rest almost entirely on their works for one instrument, and who, although they may not have been composers of the first rank, wrote brilliantly for that one instrument. Popper, who was born in Prague, in 1843, is a perfect example. 

Nellie Luchter, circa 1950
Public Domain

Nellie Lutcher (1912 – 2007) started out playing piano at fifteen but soon transitioned to singing. She built a career as a prominent jazz vocalist in the 1940s and 1950s with hits such as “Fine Brown Frame.” She joined McPartland for Piano Jazz in 1986. Lutcher performs two of her most popular compositions, “Hurry on Down” and “Real Gone Guy.” McPartland solos on “Love Is the Sweetest Thing,” and the two combine their talents on “I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues.”

News Stations: Sat, Nov 19, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 20, 7 pm

Aaron Neville on Song Travels

Nov 14, 2016
Aaron Neville
Sarah A. Friedman

Grammy-winning R&B/soul singer Aaron Neville has been a music mainstay for more than five decades. Ambassador to the world for New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, he is this week’s guest on Song Travels. Neville performs a set of Doo-Wop greats, such as “This Magic Moment” and “Under the Boardwalk,” and he and host Feinstein create their own magic moment with a duet of “Smile.”

News Stations: Sun, Nov 20, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Nov 20, 6 pm

Brennan Szafron Recording Bedard
David Kiser

On this edition of Your Compositions Canadian pipe organ music played by a Canadian organist on a French Canadian organ. Brennan Szafron recorded the Suite Romantique on the Twichell Pipe Organ, a 50-some rank Casavant on the campus of Converse College. Our composer is the prolific Denis Bedard who writes contemporary music that in the words of Dr. Szafron does not sound like cats scratching each other. 

Here are Denis Bedard's notes on his piece: 

No piece of music is ever just “about” any one thing. In Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni stands beneath Donna Elvira’s window and sings the aria Deh vieni alla finestra, “Come to the window, O my treasure.” It’s a serenade, a love song, and a very beautiful one. But there’s one big problem: it’s a fake.

Bela Fleck Talks About the Juno Concerto

Nov 10, 2016
Bela Fleck
Courtesy of the artist

Alfred Turner had a chance to talk with musician and composer Béla Fleck a few days before his visit to Columbia, SC, to perform his new banjo concerto, the Juno Concerto. Beck was scheduled to perform the work on November 13, at the Koger Center, with the South Carolina Philharmonic, under music director Morihiko Nakahara. Just in case you aren't familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he's the world’s premier banjo player. 

Aria Part 4

Nov 10, 2016

The da capo aria, which I talked about yesterday, was a form that by 1750 had begun to lose its once enormous popularity. It was a form that was essentially killed by excess. The reign of the da capo aria coincided with the reign of the castrati as the stars of Italian opera.

Aria Part 3

Nov 9, 2016

For about a hundred years, roughly from 1650 to 1750, the principal type of aria in opera, and also in the oratorios and cantatas of such composers as Bach and Handel, was the da capo aria.

Aria Part 2

Nov 8, 2016

The aria - a musical form that’s a kind of song, but more elaborate and vocally demanding than the pieces we usually call songs. The development of opera in Italy in the 1600's is what brought the aria to glory.

Aria Part 1

Nov 7, 2016

Arias are the pieces for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment that are found in operas, oratorios, and cantatas. They’re songs, in a sense, but they tend to be more musically elaborate and vocally demanding than the kinds of pieces we usually call songs.

Richard Sudhalter (1938 – 2008) was a true “Renaissance Man” of jazz. A top jazz cornetist, he was also a respected critic, author, recording artist, and featured guest at major jazz festivals. He co-wrote Bix: Man and Legend, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and in 1983 won a Grammy for his liner notes for Bunny Berigan: Giants of Jazz. On this 1992 Piano Jazz, Sudhalter reminisces about Bix Beiderbeck and joins McPartland for a duet of “Chasing Shadows.”

News Stations: Sat, Nov 12, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Nov 13, 7 pm

Roseanne Cash and John Leventhal on Song Travels

Nov 7, 2016
John Leventhal and Rosanne Cash
Courtesy of the artists

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash is the daughter of Country music icon Johnny Cash and one of the preeminent artists of her time, with eleven Number One singles. On this week’s Song Travels, Cash and her husband and co-writer John Leventhal join Michael Feinstein to talk about their journey to the South to gather inspiration for their 2014 album, The River & The Thread. Performances include their original music as well as a stirring cover of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.”

Library of Congress

  On this Movement of On the Keys, the mostly forgotten composer Georg Joseph Vogler, who was immortalized via words by Robert Browning. With the help of Musical Theater students at Anderson University, Aaron Copland, and Mozart this programs explores piano and posterity and why Mozart was such a great composer.