Monday, June 30, 2008

The ASO on GPB, July 3 & 6

Conducting the Atlanta Symphony on GPB this week is Hans Graf, music director of the Houston Symphony. He leads the ASO in
  • Tchaikovsky's little-known piece The Voyevoda, about a jealous husband and a bullet gone astray;
  • Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2, with Argentina's award-winning Ingrid Fliter as soloist (she was recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in 2006); and
  • Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, in all its hour-long glory.

Hans Graf previously led orchestras in Austria, France, Canada and - oh yeah, there was also that year with the Iraqi National Orchestra. He talks with host Sarah Zaslaw about Baghdad in the 70s, and about the flood that devastated the Houston Symphony's underground quarters mere weeks before he started work in Texas.

This is the 18th of 24 concerts from the Atlanta Symphony's 2007-2008 season, all recorded at Symphony Hall in the Woodruff Arts Center. Join Sarah Zaslaw for The ASO on GPB Thursday nights at 8:00, repeating Sunday nights at 10:00 over most GPB radio stations and over

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 26 & 29, 2008

Robert Spano led this program in Atlanta before hitting the road with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to repeat it in New York's Carnegie Hall.

GPB's broadcast starts in the cold forests of Scandinavia. Tapiola is Jean Sibelius's picture of the home of the god of the forests, according to Finnish mythology. (The god is Tapio. His dwelling place is Tapiola. It's pronounced TAH-pyoh-lah, as Robert Spano demonstrates to host Sarah Zaslaw. Spano's mother is Finnish, so though he doesn't speak the language he knows more about it than the average conductor on the street.)

The ASO Chorus then comes on stage for The Here and Now - composer Christopher Theofanidis's settings of verses by the 13th century mystic poet Jallaladin Rumi. The ASO premiered The Here and Now, which Robert Spano had commissioned, in Atlanta in 2005 and recorded it for an acclaimed Telarc CD. (To see Spano and Theofanidis talk about the project then, click on the link partway down this page.) In 2008 they revived it for this late-March concert and its early-April New York premiere.

The English translations in The Here and Now are by former UGA professor Coleman Barks. Theofanidis picks such verses of Rumi's as
  • "Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. Do it now," and
  • "World power means nothing. Only the unsayable, jeweled inner life matters," and
  • "The way you make love is the way God will be with you," and
  • "God picks up the reed-flute world and blows. Each note is a need coming through one of us, a passion, a longing pain. Let your note be clear. Don't try to end it. Be your note. Let everyone climb on their roofs and sing their notes! Sing loud!"
Last but not least: Maurice Ravel's ballet music for Daphnis and Chloe - based on the ancient Greek love story about a goatherd and a shepherdess. This concert features the entire work, not just the popular suite. Listen for a major flute solo, featuring ASO principal flutist Christina Smith; general rejoicing (with wordless chorus) when our pastoral duo, Daphnis and Chloe, finally get it together; and some of the world's all-time most luscious orchestration.

The ASO on GPB airs on GPB radio stations and at Join Sarah Zaslaw this Thursday, June 26 at 8 p.m. and again Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 19 & 22, 2008

In certain circles, debate rages over just what Dmitri Shostakovich meant with the end of his Fifth Symphony, which he wrote under the repressive Stalinist regime. Is the blazing, pounding finale supposed to sound triumphantly celebratory? Or does it represent the police bludgeoning the Soviet people into submission? For option A, play it fast and bright. For option B, play it slow and heavy. On an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert from March, guest conductor Hugh Wolff goes with option B.

Contrasting with that intense (and intensely scrutinized) piece, the first half of the program offers the lively School for Scandal Overture by Samuel Barber and the gorgeous, rhapsodic Piano Concerto Robert Schumann wrote for his wife, Clara, to premiere. As soloist we'll hear Nicholas Angelich ("AHN-ge-litch"). He has been called one of classical music's future superstars.

Conductor Hugh Wolff (right) recently returned to the U.S., together with his wife and three teenaged sons, after several years based in Europe. As a teenager himself, Wolff was a pianist and composer. He took up conducting as an undergraduate at Harvard. This fall he becomes director of orchestras at the New England Conservatory. Throughout the program Wolff talks with host Sarah Zaslaw about music and life. (He compares the sarcastic, coded second movement of the Shostakovich symphony to Tom and Jerry cartoons, in that you're not always sure if it's funny or brutal.)

Please tune in 8 p.m. Thursday and 10 p.m. Sunday for The ASO on GPB over most GPB Radio stations and

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 12 & 15, 2008

Peter Tchaikovsky grapples with fate and sexuality in his Fourth Symphony. Atlanta Symphony principal cellist Christopher Rex tames the fearsome solo part of Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto. And music director Robert Spano unwraps a world premiere, Q & A (Pregunta y Respuesta) by multifaceted Venezuelan musician Gonzalo Grau. That's all on this week's broadcast of an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert recorded in March. Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with Robert Spano and Christopher Rex. Listen to The ASO on GPB, Thursday night at 8:00, repeating Sunday night at 10:00, over Georgia Public Broadcasting's radio stations and online at

Note: In addition to leading the Atlanta Symphony's cello section, Christopher Rex directs two chamber music festivals that bring nationally prominent soloists and ensembles to our area. Just this weekend the 2008 Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival is wrapping up, on the Atlantic barrier island just south of the Georgia-Florida border, while the Madison Chamber Music Festival is just getting going with a similarly star-studded lineup in Madison, Georgia.
Christopher Rex paints, too, and he gets full credit for "Niccolo Crabanini," the violin-wielding crustacean on the Amelia Island festival's page.

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 5 & 8, 2008

Cecylia Arzewski has been concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony for the last 18 years of her 38-year orchestral career. And now she's ready for the next chapter. Before retiring from the orchestra this summer, Cecylia Arzewski makes her farewell solo appearance with the ASO, performing a piece she hasn't played in public since age 14: the Violin Concerto by Aram Khatchaturian.

Bracketing that Soviet concerto are two colorful Russian showpieces. The Russian Easter Overture by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov evokes the two strands of celebration - the devout religious proceedings and the pagan merry-making - that he sensed in Easter morning festivities.

And Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition portrays artworks by his friend Victor Hartmann, from an exhibit mounted after Hartmann's death at age 39. Mussorgsky's original piano pieces depict children at play, a lumbering ox, dancing chicks, a troubadour, French market women, Baba Yaga's hut, Polish Jews and a proposed Great Gate of Kiev. Maurice Ravel arranged this popular orchestral version.

Roberto Minczuk conducts this concert recorded in March at Atlanta's Symphony Hall. Host Sarah Zaslaw speaks with both him and soloist Cecylia Arzewski. Please join us, Thursday, June 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday June 5 at 10 p.m. over GPB Radio and

(Next week: Robert Spano conducts the world premiere of Q & A by Venezuela's Gonzalo Grau; ASO principal cellist Christopher Rex gives the first Atlanta performance of Samuel Barber's nearly impossible Cello Concerto; and Tchaikovsky grapples with his sexuality and fate in his Fourth Symphony.)