NC Symphony Broadcast

NC Symphony Broadcast
7:15 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

"Fireworks" And A Piece That Incited A Riot - Stravinsky & NC Symphony For Aug 26

A 'Rite of Spring' ballet performance
Credit drama_huddersfield / flickr

At its premiere in Paris in 1913 Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" caused a near-riot. There's debate over whether it was the unconventional ballet score or the avant-garde choreography (or the two combined) that enraged the audience. That first audience witnessed surprisingly modern music and evocative, provocative dance. Conductor Grant Llewellyn explains:

Grant Llewellyn, in an interview with series host David Hartman, talks about the 'riot' that occurred at the first performance of 'The Rite of Spring' and goes on to explain the basic concept of the ballet.

Today, the piece is considered a masterpiece and to mark its 100th anniversary, the North Carolina Symphony presents it with Grant Llewellyn conducting as part of the August 26 broadcast concert here on WUNC. The program airs Monday night at 10 p.m. It was recorded in Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh.

"Vibrant" and "virtuosic" are two of the words used by series host David Hartman to introduce the explosive "Fireworks" by Stravinsky that opens this program.  It's a short orchestral piece that prefigures a later work by Stravinksy, "The Firebird."

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NC Symphony Broadcast
6:07 pm
Sun August 18, 2013

A Musical Mystery, "The Enigma Variations" - NC Symphony Broadcast For Aug 19

Sir Edward Elgar
Credit P.D.

"A musical mystery. Sir Edward Elgar's 'Enigma Variations' have confounded music scholars and music fans since its premiere. Elgar tells us that the theme is never actually played during the piece.  So, just what is the theme and where did it come from?"

So begins series host David Hartman's introduction to the broadcast concert of the North Carolina Symphony for Monday August 19. The program airs on WUNC at 10 p.m. and will be available for on-line listening for the week following.

During the course of the broadcast conductor Grant Llewellyn presents some of the theories that try to get to the bottom of the Elgar enigma. The piece itself is a series of fourteen variations.  The missing part is the theme. Generally, when a composer presents a series of variations, either the theme is a well known and obvious tune (like, say, "Yankee Doodle") or the theme is clearly stated at the beginning of the piece. In the "Enigma Variations" that foundation is missing.

Conductor Grant Llewellyn puts on his sleuthing cap and joins the audience in the search for the answer to Elgar's Enigma Variations. (Short excerpt from this NC Symphony broadcast of Aug 19)

For Elgar's own first performance of the piece the composer wrote: "The Enigma I will not explain - its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connection between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme 'goes', but is not played." Additionally, Elgar dedicated the piece to "my friends pictured within" as each variation is presented as an affectionate portrayal of someone Elgar knew.

See if you can solve the heretofore unsolved musical mystery as you join Grant Llewellyn in search of the answer to Elgar's "Enigma Variations."

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NC Symphony Broadcast
7:37 pm
Sun August 11, 2013

Abraham Lincoln And "Hair-Raising" Music - NC Symphony Broadcast For Aug 12

Conductor William Henry Curry
Credit NC Symphony

The second in the series of August broadcast concerts by the North Carolina Symphony features two works by American composers, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. The program airs at 10 p.m. on Monday, August 12.

Copland's Lincoln Portrait

During the Second World War Aaron Copland was asked to write a patriotic work. After first considering Walt Whitman, Copland then settled upon Abraham Lincoln for the work's subject.  Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" is for speaker and orchestra, combining a biographic sketch with texts from letters and speeches.  It also features melodic nods to popular tunes of the day, such as "Camptown Races" and other popular folk songs. The work was completed and first performed in 1942.

The North Carolina Symphony performed the work in honor of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln' Emancipation Proclamation of 1 January 1863.  David Hartman, who is also the host of the North Carolina Symphony broadcast series, is the narrator. The Symphony is lead by its resident conductor, William Henry Curry.

Ives's Second Symphony - A "Hair-Raising" Finish

American composer Charles Ives learned much about music from his father. Charles was born in October 1874 in Danbury, Connecticut. The elder Ives taught his son popular tunes from the age of the Civil War, as well as other music and hymns. In fact, "Camptown Races" and other popular tunes serve as an underpinning of the Symphony No. 2, but are not directly quoted musically as in the "Lincoln Portrait."

"He's a visionary and a Yankee contrarian with a great sense of humor," conductor William Henry Curry tells host David Hartman. These qualities show through in the ending of Ives's Symphony No. 2 in a jarring cluster of notes. This is  meant to replicate the sour notes from a barn dance where amateur  musicians would intentionally play something "off" at the end of the night to signal the end of the dance. "It was a way of saying good night folks, time to go home now," continued Curry.  "Ives caps this symphony with a completely crazy cluster of sounds. It really is hair-raising."

The symphony was premiered in 1951, some fifty years after it was completed, by The New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Some commentators referred to the closing discord as a sort of "Bronx cheer."

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NC Symphony Broadcast
12:00 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

"Romantic And Terrifying," Grant Llwellyn Leads The NC Symphony In Sibelius

Music Director Grant Llewellyn
Credit Michael Zirkle

Our first North Carolina Symphony broadcast for the 2013 Summer season presents the Symphony's Music Director Grant Llewellyn conducting Sibelius's Symphony No. 2.

Jean Sibelius began writing his Second Symphony while vacationing in Italy in 1901. It departs sonically from some of his other work composed in his native Finland in that it's sometimes described as more "sunny" and "uplifting" than his other compositions from around the same time. Also, some listeners hear a nationalistic current that imagines a Finland free of Russian domination.

"Some people would say that the Second Symphony is perhaps uncharacteristic  of his symphonic output in that in that it is as Romantic as it is, " said Llewellyn while talking with host David Hartman. However, he doesn't see the work as sunny reaction to a holiday in Italy as some might propose. "I think it's as terrifying in places as anything he ever wrote. The second movement is thorny and sort of monolithic. It's sort of cataclysmic stuff. This is the Sibelius of the endless forest and lakes."

"I have an opportunity to see this landscape (of Sibelius) because I conduct in Finland three or four times every year and I'm beginning to get a real sense of the epic proportions of that country. And, I see it immediately in the Second Symphony," continued Llewellyn.

This first broadcast also features a recording of Sibelius’s Humoresque No. 1 in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, played by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Staatskapelle Dresden, with Andre Previn conducting.

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