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2020-01-21

Music: Sun Jan 26


This morning’s musical selections include works by composers who faced adversity. Some of that adversity was external, like homophobia or racism; some of it derived from internal challenges, like physical disability or illness. The creation and durability of their art speaks to the inner strength and abiding truth of their legacies.

Ludwig van Beethoven perceived his growing deafness at around the time of composing his so-called “Moonlight Sonata,” a work which broke with musical convention and redefined received forms. The composer struggled to accept his hearing loss, which he confided in his anguished Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802.

Scott Joplin is universally remembered and loved for his pioneering work as a composer of Ragtime, a quintessentially American musical form. His later years were marred, though, by disappointment over the indifference of the prevailing musical establishment to his opera Treemonisha, and personal suffering from the syphilitic dementia which claimed his life.

Often labeled a “musical mystic,” the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin imagined a vivid correlation between sound and color. His Prelude for the Left Hand is an early work, which calls to mind the wealth of music written for Paul Wittgenstein, a brilliant pianist who lost his right arm in the First World War.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky led a tense, nervous existence as a gay man in an uncomprehending, homophobic society. A brief, unhappy heterosexual marriage brought the composer deeper stress, and the rumor persists that his death from cholera was a form of suicide, from his knowingly drinking contaminated water.

On a happier note: two short works by Valerie Capers comprise the Musical Interlude. Dr. Capers, an African-American jazz legend who will return to grace CUUC later this year, was the first blind graduate of The Juilliard School. Her Portraits In Jazz reflect her pedagogical work introducing musicians of all stripes to this unique art form.

Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Sonata quasi una fantasia in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”
I.    Adagio sostenuto
Ludwig van Beethoven
Maple Leaf Rag          
                                                Scott Joplin

Opening Music:
Prelude for the Left Hand, Op. 9, No. 1
                                                Alexander Scriabin

Offertory:
Barcarolle, Op. 37, No. 6
                                                            Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Interlude:
From Portraits in Jazz
            Billie’s Song
            A Taste of Bass
                                                            Valerie Capers

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