Folk 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.


 

Local School for the Blind Celebrates Doc Watson's Life

By Cristina Quinn   |   Wednesday, May 30, 2012
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May 30, 2012

doc watson

Doc Watson performs at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 1, 2009. (Rick Diamond/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment)


BOSTON — Legendary guitar musician Doc Watson passed away Tuesday at the age of 89. Watson, who lost his sight when he was a baby, was an inspiration to many musicians, but particularly those in the blind community. And his music resonates with one local institution — the Perkins School for the Blind.

"There’s that list of famous blind musicians that we all know and love and Doc Watson is definitely one of them,” said Robert Hair, education director of the Perkins Lower School. Wednesday morning, the school paid tribute to Watson by playing his music and talking about his accomplishments.

“Blind kids in particular, I think, really do enjoy music and gravitate towards it," Hair said. "And of course having role models like Doc Watson and Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles is really meaningful to these kids. So when they hear something like Doc Watson with this sort of soulful folk picking on the guitar and singing, it really says something to the kids and they really can get into that.”

Hair added that although they are fortunate to be able to listen to a recording of Doc Watson any time, the musician will be missed.

Judy Collins: Ready to Change the World

By Jordan Weinstein   |   Monday, May 7, 2012
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May 7, 2012

cocktails

Judy Collins performs at Joe's Pub's 10th Anniversary Gala and tribute to her at the Public Theater in New York, 2008. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)



BOSTON — Judy Collins turned music on its head with her incomparable voice and those lyrics that draped our country during the turbulent 60's. But the turbulence was also personal. In her new memoir, she describes herself as "a working alcoholic."

Another turn was as an author who's completed six books including her latest, “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music.

The legendary folk artist  will be at Sanders Theatre this Tuesday night with authors Alice Hoffman, Sue Miller and Tom Perrotta, for a night of musical and literary performance. The event will benefit the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital.
 
WGBH Radio’s Jordan Weinstein caught up with Judy Collins and asked her to read a brief passage from her latest memoir.
 
COLLINS: ‘It was a time of undeniable destructiveness as the war raged and the young trashed their bodies and their lives, with the drugs many of us thought were so cool. I remember singing in the dusk of summer, the audience primed with wine, organic cheese and fruit for a long night of music.  I put fresh flowers in my hair and through the lace of my Mexican wedding dress. I’d bought a full length leather vest that had roses painted on it, and leather bottoms were stitched to my Levi’s. I wore my hair straight and threw my head back. We were all free, all of us, to be, to love, to live in a world different from the one our parents had inhabited. We were going full steam ahead and yet we floated like water lilies on a pond, dreaming of a billion suns.’
 
WEINSTEIN: That’s a beautiful passage. Do you feel in retrospect that the ‘60s and the whole anti-war movement and the other cultural movements that were going on were the primary influences in shaping your life and your songs?
 
COLLINS: I think my life was shaped when I was born in 1939 into a fantastic, complicated, dysfunctional, beautiful family of music and of challenge. You know, my father was blind from the age of 4 and he was an extraordinary man--very adventurous, very determined to do things his way. He was very determined to challenge the politics and the methods of the moment. We were raised to be activists in my family, so that’s where it all began.
 
Of course as I moved into the ‘60s, I was well prepared. It was like packing your lunch to go on a hike. I was packed and I was ready to change the world. Then I was primed by that combination of Rodgers and Hart and Dylan Thomas and folk music that I’d begun to hear in Denver and the Denver Folklore Center and up on Lookout Mountain sung by Lingo the Drifter. I also played classical music for a dozen years and performed with an orchestra. I was prepared for this job that I do and this life that I lead. And also to be an activist, that was certainly in my bones.
 
WEINSTEIN: In your memoir, you are very open about your life and you have been very open about your struggle with alcoholism.
 
COLLINS: I felt it was very important to describe and to illuminate, illustrate, the life of a working alcoholic, the life of an active, working, “showing up” alcoholic. Being successful is very, very difficult to do. Looking back, of course, upon it as I wrote, I couldn’t believe that I was able to do that for 23 years: make records, become a top Grammy and Billboard charting artist, and show up for my shows. I was not the crash-and-burn type. I was somehow given a psyche or physical stamina to hold up and do the work that I had to do in addition to struggling with that disease. And I wanted to show what that was like. It was very hard work.
 
WEINSTEIN: Your upcoming concert at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge is a benefit for the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital, and I’m wondering if you were taken up in the controversy surrounding the decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood that was made by the Susan B. Komen for the Cure organization.
 
COLLINS: I wasn’t taken up in it. I was appalled by their actions, and I think it spoke to an underlying problem with that organization which they quickly began to try to cover up in the ways that were open to them. I mean, they gave the money back and some people were fired. I don’t think it was news to many people that the Komen group was not, let’s say, of the same mind that many of the rest of us are. But I do think it turned out to be somewhat of a triumph for the women’s issues and for the things that we care deeply about, which are the freedom to make decisions about our own bodies, our own lives, and to get the kind of medical care that we all need.

Judy Collins appears at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge this Tuesday, May 8.

How Cambridge Brought Back Folk Music

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, April 11, 2012
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April 11, 2012
 
Legendary American folk singer Tom Rush performs Drift Away in the Greater Boston studio.

BOSTON — Folk music legend Tom Rush is in town is to celebrate the Cambridge-based club where he and others like Judy Collins and Joan Baez began their musical careers. Their stories are told in For the Love of the Music, a new documentary premiering at the Boston International Film Festival next week.

The club was intended to be a Parisian-like coffeehouse, featuring jazz music on the far reaches of Harvard Square. That was how two Brandeis students envisioned the scene when they opened Club 47 on Palmer Street in 1958. (Now home of the non-profit arts program Passim.)

For the Love of the Music charts the evolution of Club 47 from a Jazz oasis to a launching pad for the American folk music revival, especially with the arrival of one then-unknown Joan Baez. Club owner Joyce Chopra recalls the first time the legendary folk singer came to “47”.

“To expect nothing and to have this rather ordinary looking young person walk in and open her mouth to start to sing is an amazing experience; a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.
 
“That was just coming out of the jazz era and the women who ran 47 took a risk,” recalls Baez. “Instead of having Jazz, I guess one night a week they had folk music. And that’s where I really got started, in my opinion.”
 
Baez was hired for the club’s slow nights and paid all of ten dollars. A vibrant folk scene briskly developed and Club 47 became fertile ground for singers like Tom Rush, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and many others.
 
Grammy-award winning bluegrass singer Peter Rowan recalls learning from the giants in the early days. “First night, I heard Erik von Schmidt playing the Blues. Next night, my mother dropped me off and I heard Jackie Washington, then the next night I heard Tom Rush.”
 
Building upon 30 interviews, performances, old recordings and never-before-seen photographs, the film fully documents Club 47’s pivotal role in folk music’s renewed popularity, and how it embraced the anti-war and civil rights movements before the revival peaked in the mid-60s.

About the Authors
Brian McCreath Brian McCreath

Jordan Weinstein Jordan Weinstein
Jordan Weinstein is a news anchor for NPR's All Things Considered on WGBH, 89.7 FM in Boston.
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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