In the 1980s and early 1990s Albany records re-released some of the legendary Louisville Orchestra "First Edition" recordings. I believe only 10 or 11 releases were offered (needless to say the Louisville archives are large, and a musical treasure-chest in every possible sense (the "First Edition Records" label has been releasing many of the original LPs as most of you likely know, and how wonderful it is that this series exists! Joy.) This is one of my favorites from the series-and it can be entirely attributed to Peter Schickele's wondrous and exciting "Pentangle, Five Songs for French Horn and Orchestra". The Dello Joio and Persichetti works are good-but while Schickele's "Pentangle" is bursting with personality and such varied moods and atmosphere-the other two works imo are just not as memorable, although both are finely crafted (it's Dello Joio and Persichetti after all..). I will listen to the whole disc on occasion but usually straight to the Schickele do I go. It's an unique adventure!
|This art is from the re-re-release in 1998 it seems, similar to the 1989 disc I have, although the original front cover doesn't show the composers as seen here, which is a nice touch.|
I have been extremely fond of Peter Schickele for as long as I can remember (no one imo has contributed comedy and wit to the classical music "establishment" quite like him, or rather his alter-ego "PDQ Bach", whom he "discovered" years ago, a lost Bach son. His recordings as "PDQ" are extremely successful (he won four grammys for his releases on Telarc, and there are many recordings on Vanguard also) and tons of fun, and his concerts are (apparently) not to be missed; sadly, thus far I have missed every single one, although my parents went to at least 10 concerts over the years-what they have told me makes me jealous!) As PDQ, he wrote music such as "Iphigenia in Brooklyn", "Sneaky Pete and the Wolf", The "Short-Tempered Clavier", Oratorio: "The Seasonings", "Unbegun" Symphony, "Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons"...and the list goes on. His radio show "Schickele mix" on P.R.I. was an innovative mix of both modern and early composers, but musicians such as the Beach Boys or Cole Porter would also pop up; Schickele often made the music into "suites" that demonstrate how these pieces unexpectedly share a similar musical technique or idea. Classical or otherwise. It was a brilliant program that ran for 15 years. Also a performer, educator and musicologist, Schickele is a true renaissance man and I could happily write pages and pages about him; he's just that damn interesting. As a composer of "serious" concert music (his orchestral works and his larger body of chamber music is just wonderful) he is under appreciated and not explored enough.
Peter Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa on July 17th, 1935. At the Julliard School he studied with Vincent Persichetti and William Bergsma before embarking on a variegated career in rock, folk and 'serious' music. He has been associated with several recordings by singer Joan Baez, composing music the music for the sensitive "Baptism", and arranging one of the finest albums of Christmas music, "Noël". But as mentioned above Schickele is best known for his "discovery" of PDQ Bach, a composer, and arranger responsible for a hilarious parody of classical music.
"Pentangle, for French Horn and Orchestra" was commissioned by French Horn player Tom Bacon who was soloist at the premiere by the West Shore Symphony of Muskegon, Michigan, on February 15th, 1976. The piece contains five sections entitled "Cottonwood Grove", "Tom on the Town", "Noonsong", "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Amazing and Amusing Professor Presto", and "The Riddling Knight". The composer has provided the following commentary for Pentangle (which, incidentally, means five-pointed star, a symbol associated for centuries with philosophers and magicians):
"The subtitle of Pentangle, Five Songs for French Horn and Orchestra, refers to the fact that it is closer in structure to a song cycle than to the symphonic developmental concerto of the last 200 years. During the great folk-rock renaissance of the late 1960s, the record album came to be regarded not merely as a receptacle for singles, but as a specific span of time within which songs, sometimes even inter-related, were arranged with an ear not only toward their import as separate numbers, but their overall effect as a suite. I think of Pentangle as an album side and, as a matter of fact, a couple of the themes were originally written for songs. The music was conceived for the modern symphony orchestra, but it is as indebted to jazz, folk and rock as it is to traditional classical music. Although the title was chosen for other reasons, the fact that it implies a tribute to Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, and other British folk-orientated groups is perfectly fine.
Cottonwood Grove is shimmering, serene. Tom on the Town grew out of a song begun for - but not used in - a movie for which I did the score. The film took place in Dublin. In Noonsong, the soloist is required produce chords of three or more notes, a technique which seems to go at least as far back as the beginning of the 19th century. The fourth movement - Ladies and Gentlemen, the Amazing and Amusing Professor Presto - pays respect to that relative of the musician, the magician, and the Riddling Knight is adapted lyrically from the traditional English ballad:
There were three sisters fair and bright And tell me, gentle maiden,
As ever the sun did see, What is louder than a horn,
And they three loved one valiant knight Tell me, pretty maiden,
As the dew lies on the tree. What is louder than a horn?"
The youngest was determined "Hunger is sharper than a thorn,
For to wed this valiant knight. And thunder is louder than a horn,
"And if you can answer questions three, And thunder, O valiant knight,
Fair maid, I will be thine, Is louder than a horn"
If you can answer questions three,
Fair maid, I will be thine" "What is broader than the sky
And deeper than the sea?"
"Tell me, gentle maiden, "Love is broader than the sky
What is sharper than a thorn? And deeper than the sea"
"Now you have answered well, fair maid,
And I will marry thee".
-The ballad of "The Riddling Knight" is to be performed by the Horn player or another member of
the orchestra..and it shows here, as the vocals are amateur at best-although I suspect that's the intention. There's a particular poignancy in this way I think.
This is special music folks...every time I listen to Pentangle it evokes different things for me (everything from the great Duke Ellington to the Knights of the Round Table-Arthurian and Monty Python both!).
Norman Dello Joio's "Homage to Haydn" was premiered by no less than Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in Little Rock on June 3rd, 1969. Norman Dello Joio was there and apparently the work was very well received, the composer taking many bows to a standing ovation generously punctuated with 'bravos'. The concert was part of a celebration of Arkansas's 150th anniversary as a US territory, and other composers on the program included Wagner, Debussy, and Brahms.
"Homage to Haydn", written in 1968-69, does not quote directly from the Papa himself, but does evoke the mood and spirit of the great classicist. Dello Joio says of this work: "The title indicates my intense admiration for Haydn, his seeming simplicity and also good humor. The more I get to know his work intimately, the more I am struck by his endless imagination. The strong affinity I feel for him as a composer is due to the directness of his communication which tends to be characteristic of my own efforts". This work is in three movements:
I. Introduction-Allegro scherzando. After a sombre beginning adagio sostenuto, Haydnesque themes are interpolated by the strings. The movement is charming, spiced with wit and inspired by Haydn's liveliness.
II. Adagio, molto sostenuto. The most chromatic of the three sections, this movement derives its power from compelling harmonies (and a rather fascinating use of triplets in various rhythmical surroundings).
III. Allegro giocoso. Lively syncopated rhythms establish the warmth and freedom of the final movement. Modern rhythms abound, although Haydn is not forgotten.
This is a well done work imo, but not that moving or powerful like his (Pulitzer Prize winning) "Meditations on Ecclesiastes".
-I will add info on the Persichetti soon, I am having issues w. shoulder/neck pain
(last track and photos):