KEEPIN’ IT CLASSICAL: GTMF closes with Corky blues

By on August 11, 2015

Chicago swagger, Fred Child and climactic symphonies for finale


Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues 8 p.m., Wednesday, Walk Festival Hall. $25, students free, $15 day-of

Corky Siegel is one of the few musicians in the world who can lay claim to the credit of having forged a completely new genre of music. That’s exactly what he did in 1966 with the help of world-renowned Classical Maestro Seiji Ozawa, who discovered Siegel’s harmonica playing by a chance visit to a Chicago blues club. Ozawa was impressed by Siegel’s virtuosity on the harmonica and immediately suggested a collaboration, launching Seigel’s career as a blues pioneer and innovator into the spotlight of stages such as the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic. Through his charisma, skill and musical fluency Siegel merged the world of the working man’s harmonica into the world of high-brow chamber music, blurring social, musical and harmonic lines in the process. The result is a distinctly all-American melting pot product that throws back to the roots of blues through Siegel’s choice of tunes and his improvisational harmonica playing. It’s set to the instrumentation of a traditional chamber music ensemble with violin, viola, cello, piano and recently with the addition of Indian percussion. The evening is sure to deliver for both the classical and blues/bluegrass aficionado as composer and musician Corky Siegel leads his Chamber Blues band through selections from his “Chamber Blues Suite.”

An Evening with “Performance Today” and host Fred Child, 8 p.m., Thursday, Walk Festival Hall. $25, students free, $15 day-of

American Public Media’s “Performance Today” is America’s most popular classical music radio program and perhaps one of the last-standing live performance airwave shows of its kind. It won the 2015 Gabriel Award for artistic achievement and boasts a broadcast reach of nearly 300 public radio stations across the county. It reaches nearly 1.4 million listeners each week. Fred Child is the show’s iconic host, leading audiences through live broadcast musical performances on stage and in studio, artist interviews and fun facts about the material being presented. In addition to “Performance Today,” Child also hosts “Live At The Lincoln Center,” which is the only live performing arts series on American television. Child is a musician himself, having studied classical piano and is deeply steeped in his knowledge of music and world history. As a presenter of said knowledge, Child’s charisma and accessibility have taken him around the world to deliver pre-concert talks at Carnegie Hall and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The evening’s programming ranges from Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” as delivered by guest soprano Jane Archibald, to contemporary composer Bruce Broughton’s brass and percussion-only “Fanfares, Marches, Hymns and Finale.” It will broadcast live from Walk Festival Hall.

Festival Orchestra: “Jubilation” with guest soprano Jane Archibald, 8 p.m., Friday; 6 p.m., Saturday. Open rehearsal, 10 a.m., Friday, Walk Festival Hall. $25-55, students free, $15 day-of; $10 open rehearsal

It’s hard to believe that another Grand Teton Music Festival season is coming to an end. The weekend’s finale programming is rightfully set to take the season out in style, opening with Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165” as sang by guest soprano Jane Archibald. “Exsultate” might be the professional soprano’s equivalent of a Seven Summits peak mission. Mozart wrote the piece at the mere age of 16 for the male soprano Venanzio Rauzzini, who was a castrato, or a male singer castrated during childhood to prevent his voice from changing. As barbaric as this practice sounds, castrati were arguably the first rock stars in musical history, enjoying more than their fair share of wine, women and widespread fame during the aristocratic heydays of European opera. Aided by the lung capacity and strength of a male body and larynx and with the advantage of the range of a female voice, castrati were able to sing roles of incredible technicality, power and range. Rauzzini must have been quite the example of such talent, as Mozart’s “Exsultate” is a work of vocal stamina, long-winded phrases, impossibly fast trills and scales and most definitely not crafted for the fainthearted vocalist. Archibald is a soprano of talent to fit the bill.

Next on the program is “Symphony No. 3, ‘Pastoral’” by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Williams was a composer known for his love of English folk music and his activism as a musical nationalist, building the heritage of his country’s music into his symphony works of the early 20th century. His “Pastoral Symphony” differs from the same such work by Beethoven. Instead of painting literal pictures of bird calls and landscape narrations, Vaughan Williams crafted a work that digs a little deeper and asks a bit more of the audience. Through soundscape and contemplative, underwater musical motion, his “Symphony No. 3” is a meditative masterpiece, and ironically enough, the symphony was inspired by musical sketches that the composer made during his time spent in the French countryside as an ambulance driver during WWI. You can almost hear the apathy of an early morning French country landscape fallen to the clutches of a grappling war within the musical landscape of this timeless classic.

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines Of Rome” follows, highlighting the composer’s brilliant use of orchestral color, and acting as the second of three works that Respighi composed as a Roman series, each one celebrating some aspect of the Eternal City. The composer explained that in “The Pines Of Rome” he had used “nature as a point of departure, in order to recall memories and visions. The century-old trees that so characteristically dominate the Roman landscape become testimony for the principal events in Roman life.” Through the four movements of the piece, Respighi depicts pine trees in different Roman locations and at different times of day.

Finally, the evening and the season concludes with Russian composer Pytor Il’yich Tchaikovsky “Capriccio Italien, Op. 45,” a work most definitely influenced by the composer’s Russian musical dialect but based on Italian folk tunes and melodies that he picked up during his 1880 tour of Italy. Influenced in part by the music of his countrymen and fellow composer Mikhail Glinka, who had also composed a similar work of Spanish fantasias, “Capriccio” was actually a refuge of sorts for Tchaikovsky, who had just completed his “Symphony No. 4” and found himself rather drained by the demands of creating symphonic work. In “Capriccio” he instead crafted a piece with the principal aim not to create something of original greatness. He instead sewed recognizable references together in seamless texture and light-hearted fanfare, acting as the perfect jubilation to the conclusion of GTMF’s 2015 season. PJH

About Madelaine German

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