Paris: The Luminous Years

Monday, December 13, 2010
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Paris: The Luminous Years
Premieres Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 9pm | WGBH 2
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In the early decades of the 20th century, a storm of modernism swept through the art worlds of the West, uprooting centuries of tradition in the visual arts, music, literature, dance, theater and beyond. The epicenter of this storm was Paris, France. Paris: The Luminous Years tells the story of Paris from an unprecedented point of view, not as the familiar, glamorous backdrop for the revolutions that exploded there, but as active protagonist, catalyst and midwife to modernity. The film spotlights now-famous key figures in the art world’s first international avant-garde, including Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, Ernest Hemingway, Serge Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Aaron Copland, Josephine Baker, Marcel Duchamp, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Beach, Janet Flanner, and many more, as they recount their individual stories of why they came to Paris, whom they met, what they made there, and how being in Paris transformed them and their work.

Celebrate Christmas in Europe

Thursday, December 2, 2010
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One More Swing Through Prague

By Brian McCreath   |   Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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One of the reasons I got hooked on classical music at an early age is that, as with literature and visual arts, it's such a great way to get to know places you may never have the chance to visit.  For my generation, which reached young adulthood just as Eastern Bloc Communism collapsed, Prague has taken on an almost legendary status as a vibrant, youthful, exciting place to spend time.  I wasn't sure I'd ever get there to see it for myself, but the classical music from that city (and the Czech Republic at large) provided a way to plug into that energy and see what all the fuss has been about.  Even though a lot of Prague's current reputation as a destination for young adults hangs on all kinds of factors beyond classical music, to say the least, the classical music composed by Czech composers over the last century and a half is invariably fascinating, colorful, and dramatic.

Each Wednesday during October, we've been featuring concert performances from the Czech Philharmonic playing music by Czech composers as a way of bringing all that energy to you.  And along the way, it's been fun to share with you some impressions and experiences from last spring, when I actuallly did finally land in Prague with a WGBH LearningTour.  Feel free to browse through previous notes about the Czech Philharmonic, Prague's pivotal role in the Art Nouveau movement, and a bit about a particular intersection between Czech cuisine and history.

And to cap off the series, today's performance features the Symphony No. 2 by Bohuslav Martinu, one of the seriously underrated composers of the last century.   Emerging from the tradition of Josef Suk (with whom Martinu studied) and Antonin Dvorak (with whom Suk studied), Martinu was also captivated by trends in music that caught fire in Paris in the 1920's.  It lent that gritty, energetic Czech language he inherited a certain kaleidoscopic brightness, a quality that was challenged by the very troubled times in which he lived.  He eventually found support from our own area, at Tanglewood and through the support of Serge Koussevitzky.  If you enjoy today's performance, I'd urge you to look further into Martinu's music, through an excellent set of the symphonies from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conductor Bryden Thomson on the Chandos label.

Oct. 11: Columbus Day

By Laura Carlo   |   Friday, October 8, 2010
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This day honors Christopher Columbus, the Genovese explorer, who, sailing under the Spanish flag, ignored the commonly-held fear of falling off the edge of the earth and travelled across the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of discovering a new trade route to the East. It’s a good day for hearing the music of Italian and Spanish composers and performers, or music about those two countries.  Be listening today for music by Verdi, Vivaldi, Aguado, performed by Segovia, I Musici, Pollini to name a few. And while you're sipping an espresso and munching on cannoli (of course!), take a look at the replicas of the Niña and Pinta built by the Columbus Foundation, and the video that shows what it would have looked like if Columbus had made it all the way to Iowa.

Interview with Rick Steves

Monday, August 30, 2010
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