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2020-01-09

Music: Sun Jan 12

Classical musicians: musty, bespectacled; more curators than artists; priests, but not visionaries. The popular stereotypes suggest that the interpreter of classical music follows a sacrosanct score, faithfully conserving the musical past.

But how do performers know what music sounded like in remote times? How can they be certain that the texts they revere have been transmitted reliably over the centuries? How can they be confident that the dots, slashes and other symbols they must decipher meant the same thing at the time of creation as they do now?
 
In reality, the classical musician is like an actor who creates flesh and blood out of a script. Different actors revivify characters is different ways; the musical composition does not have a single, fixed identity.
 
Mozart's Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475, performed as this morning's Centering Music, has come down to modern-day performers through a fitful history. The work was composed in May 1785 and was published later that year by a Viennese firm. Apparently, there were numerous discrepancies between the manuscript and the printed edition, and it remained unclear to publishers of subsequent editions how many of the changes were authorized by the composer, and how many might have been the initial publisher's amendments. Some 19th-century editions were based on the autograph, others on the first printed edition. Then, in the 20th century, the manuscript disappeared, and pianists could rely solely on published versions. Through a strange error in filing, the long-missing manuscript resurfaced in 1990, at the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia! It provided numerous insights into Mozart's compositional process, the evolution of the work, and the fine line between writing and improvisation that existed in 18th-century music.
 
The works of Frederic Chopin have also posed serious questions for interpreters interested in discerning the composer's intentions. In the days before international copyright, Chopin had publishers in several European countries. He had to copy out his works by hand to send to each publisher, and these copies—often made on the same day!---frequently diverge from one another. Chopin, it would seem, had a hard time settling on a final version of his compositions. The situation becomes only more complicated when one studies proof sheets corrected by the composer, dedication copies he wrote out after publication, and other changes he introduced in the printed scores his own students used. In many cases, the pianist must join in the process of artistic choice to bring Chopin's music to life; he proves to be an unauthoritarian authority. This morning, one of his Mazurkas, an amalgamation of folkloric forms from his native Poland, is played at the Offertory.

In addition, the CUUC Choir is on hand with a traditional Navajo chant as well as a tender evocation of childhood.  Read on for programming details.
 
Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475
                                                Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
 
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Now l Walk in Beauty 
 Gregg Smith   
 
Offertory:
Mazurka in F Minor, Op. 7, No. 3
                                                Frederic Chopin
 
Anthem:
Dreams that Children Dream  
 Ruth Elaine Schram

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