World Music

Celebrating Bartók

Friday, March 11, 2011
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During this 130th anniversary year of the birth of Béla Bartók (born March 25, 1881), 99.5 All Classical celebrates the groundbreaking Hungarian composer with a series of on demand performances and features.
 



New England Conservatory Philharmonia
The Concerto for Orchestra, one of Béla Bartók's most enduring and popular masterpieces, was commissioned by conductor Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Performed for the first time in December 1944, it remains a regular fixture on orchestra programs around the world, and on March 9, 2011, Benjamin Zander conducted a performance at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall, with the NEC Philharmonia.
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Discovery Ensemble
Courtney Lewis conducts one of Boston's most exciting orchestras, Discovery Ensemble, in Bartók's kaleidoscopic Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. 99.5 All Classical host Brian McCreath talks with Lewis about the piece, with a walk-through of each of the movements, all recorded in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio.

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Duke Bluebeard's Castle
In 1911, Bartók completed a one-act opera based on Charle Perrault's French fairy tale "Bluebeard," further revising it before its first performance in Budapest in 1918. A dark, pyschologically rich piece, Brian Bell offers a guided tour.
(image:  Gustave Doré's Barbe Bleue, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Hear a guided tour at Backstage with Brian Bell

 


Takács Quartet, Muzsikás, and Márta Sebestyén
One of the premiere string quartets on today's concert stages joins forces with a legendary Hungarian folk ensemble and equally legendary Hungarian folk singer to explore the roots of Bartók's music.



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Pianist Hung-Kuan Chen
Recorded in 2008 in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio, Hung-Kuan Chen performs a piece that combines Bartók's fascination with folk music and his evolving perspective of the piano as a percussion instrument, the Out of Doors Suite, in a program that also includes music by Brahms and Ravel.

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Violinist Augustin Hadelich
Recorded in 2008 in 99.5 All Classical's Fraser Performance Studio, Augustin Hadelich performs Bartók's Sonata for solo violin, Sz. 117.




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Violinist Lara St. John and Pianist Anton Kuerti at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival
Recorded on May 14, 2009, at St. James Church during the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Lara St. John and Anton Kuerti perform Bartók's Rhapsody No. 2, Sz. 89, BB 96, written in 1928, part of a program that also includes music by Beethoven, Franck, Hindson, Ravel, and Liszt.

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The Bartók Experience

By Brian McCreath   |   Thursday, March 10, 2011
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The Takács Quartet, folk string band Muzsikás, and Hungarian folk singer Márta Sebestyén join forces for a concert that digs into the roots of Bartók's musical personality.  Listen below.


When I was in high school, I joined a youth orchestra at just the right time:  in the year of a European tour! It was my first time to play with anything like a real orchestra, and the fact that our year would culminate in a trip to Romania and Hungary, with a few days in Vienna to cap it off, only sweetened what already seemed like a pretty exciting prospect.

And among the pieces of music we took with us was the Viola Concerto by Béla Bartók (left). In comparison to the other music on our programs - Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 - it positively crackled with other-world-ness in my 17-year-old ears.

But what is that other world? It's not Bartók's alone;  he would tell you that himself, I imagine. There are those composers who invent sound worlds out of thin air, but the music Bartók wrote has, at its core, the music of the countryside, painstakingly collected by visiting the villages of Hungary and Romania with unbelievably cumbersome and primitive recording equipment. 

That monumental effort paid off. Ultimately, his musical creations take that DNA to places only he could have constructed.

In November 2008, thanks to the Celebrity Series of Boston, we had the chance here in Boston to experience the connections between Bartók's work and its spiritual (and sometimes actual) source material in a fiery, colorful, visceral way. The Takács Quartet, originally from Hungary, now based in Colorado, collaborated with the Hungarian folk band Muzsikás and folk singer Márta Sebestyén for a fascinating concert that placed Bartók's concert music side by side with examples of the music he collected in the villages of Hungary and Romania.

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The Bartók Experience

By Brian McCreath   |   Thursday, March 10, 2011
0 Comments   0 comments.

March 11

When I was in high school, I joined a youth orchestra at just the right time:  in the year of a European tour! It was my first time to play with anything like a real orchestra, and the fact that our year would culminate in a trip to Romania and Hungary, with a few days in Vienna to cap it off, only sweetened what already seemed like a pretty exciting prospect.

And among the pieces of music we took with us was the Viola Concerto by Béla Bartók (left). In comparison to the other music on our programs - Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 - it positively crackled with other-world-ness in my 17-year-old ears.

But what is that other world? It's not Bartók's alone;  he would tell you that himself, I imagine. There are those composers who invent sound worlds out of thin air, but the music Bartók wrote has, at its core, the music of the countryside that he painstakingly collected by visiting the villages of Hungary and Romania with unbelievably cumbersome and primitive recording equipment. 

That monumental effort paid off. Ultimately, his musical creations take that DNA to places only he could have constructed.

In November 2008, we had the chance here in Boston to hear the connections between Bartók's work and its spiritual (and sometimes actual) source material in a fiery, colorful, visceral way. The Takács Quartet, originally from Hungary, now based in Colorado, collaborated with the Hungarian folk band Muzsikás and folk singer Márta Sebestyén for a fascinating concert that placed Bartók's concert music side by side with examples of the music he collected in the villages of Hungary and Romania.

The results are exhilerating.

After that trip to Hungary as a teenager, I had an intense desire to return to Budapest. It had been my first trip abroad, our time in Hungary only lasted a few days, and it was a chaperoned group tour in a Communist country. Not too much flexibilty to explore, as you can imagine...

But something about the place and the music had grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I finally got the chance to return last spring, as part of a WGBH LearningTour, and I wasn't disappointed. Budapest is an even more beautiful city now than it was under the Communist regime (no surprise there, I suppose).

Serendipitously, we had the chance to attend a concert honoring Bartók on the anniversary of his birth, which took place at the gorgeous concert hall that bears his name.

To be honest, it wasn't the most polished concert. With a combination of professional, semi-professional, and student groups, the results were always going to be mixed. But one thing was abundantly clear:  Bartók's music is held very close to the hearts of the people of Hungary. The soulfulness with which the performance unfolded was striking, and I ended up feeling like the fortunate interloper, happy to have had the chance to share that evening with the people of Budapest.

Now you can share the evening of November 16, 2008, when that soulfulness found a different kind of expression here in Boston. In two parts below, the Takács Quartet, Muzsikás, and Márta Sebestyén celebrate Bartók.


 

Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
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Gadhafi’s Zenga Zenga Hip-Hop Remix

By Daniel Estrin   |   Tuesday, March 1, 2011
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Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has long been known for his flamboyant fashion and rambling rhetoric. But as opposition forces have taken control of much of Libya, Gadhafi’s public appearances have gotten increasingly aggressive and bizarre.

Last week he delivered a nearly hour long speech, replete with fist pounding and threats to clean Libya inch by inch, street by street.

Now a hip-hop remix of the speech has gone viral on the Internet and has become a sort of anthem of the Libyan opposition. And if that alone doesn’t sting Gadhafi, here’s another twist: The DJ who made the song is from Libya’s arch enemy, Israel.

But the video is no Mossad spy operation. It’s the brain-child of 31 year old musician Noy Alooshe.

“This is amazing. I am number 10 most viewed musicians in the world. And number one in Israel. It’s amazing,” Alooshe said.

It was all premeditated. When Egyptians started taking to the streets, Alooshe would sit on his couch in his small Tel Aviv apartment and watch for good clips he could turn into hip-hop mashups.

He watched Mubarak’s televised speeches, but thought they were too monotone. Then Gadhafi gave a quick speech from under an enormous umbrella: Good visuals, but not much else. And then, on the evening news last Tuesday, Alooshe watched Gadhafi’s fiery balcony speech.

“I will call upon millions from desert to desert,” threatened Gadhafi. “We will march to purge Libya inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley.”

Lady Gaga from the Arab world

Alooshe saw the speech, transfixed. “And it was like, before the mixing, it was funny and looks like a parody,” he said. “When he (Gadhafi) raises his hand like he is at a party, and his clothes look like Lady Gaga from the Arab world.”

The Lady Gaga of the Arab world not for his violence towards Libyan protestors, Alooshe said, but for his over the top clothing and his theatrics.

“It was like a dance track,” Alooshe said. “When I first listened to it, zanga zanga, der der, like someone put a tempo and Gadhafi said, zenga zenga. ‘Okay, it’s funny in the first place,’ I thought. ‘Let’s make it more funny. And let’s make it something that people can dance or sing to.’”

And so Zenga Zenga — literally “alley by alley” — was born.



Alooshe mixed the speech with the beat from Hey Baby, the hit song by American hip hop artists Pitbull and T-Pain. He uploaded two versions of the video – one without go-go dancers, for conservative Muslim viewers – and sent the link to Arab websites, including Al-Jazeera’s Facebook page and the Twitter feed of a Libyan youth movement.

Within hours, he says, it was all over the Arab world. Even the official Facebook page of the Libyan opposition reposted the clip.

’Zenga Zenga’ goes viral

All together, Alooshe said about a million viewers have seen it. Not all of them have been happy about it. There have been vigorous debates: “the artist is Israeli,” much of the chatter says, “is it ok to like his video?”

“When some from Arab world found out I am Jewish, some wrote really bad stuff. Death to Jews, death to Israel. But after that I got a lot of good comments,” Alooshe said. “I’m from Egypt, you’re from Israel. I don’t like you, but I like remix.’ Someone from Saudi wrote me, ‘even though I’m a Muslim and you’re a Jew, I really like your mix, and I hope world will be free and there will be peace’”

Now that he’s an Internet sensation, Alooshe’s number one piece of advice to aspiring DJs who want to fuel a national revolution on the internet: don’t wait.

“If you are not the first person to do this stuff, you are gonna lose the game,” said Alooshe. “It was like, with Gaddafi, I’ve gotta mix it right now. I am not going out for a beer with my friends; I am sitting at computer and doing it and uploading it. I was first.”

Alooshe has been spending the last few days granting interview after interview to Israeli and international media. He’s sold the remix to a company that produces cell phone ringtones in Israel.

The young DJ said Gadhafi is obviously a bad guy who has to go — but as an artist, he’s indebted to the dictator for providing great material.

East London's Portico Quartet

Saturday, October 2, 2010
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The World's Marco Werman tells us about a recent recording from Abbey Road studios in London by the eclectic ensemble, Portico. Their second album, "Isla" has just been released in the US.

Read this story and more at The World.

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