Two farewells and a hail
Addio, Lisa Della Casa. The great Swiss soprano, beautiful in voice and bearing, died on Monday at age 93. While known for roles as diverse as Verdi's Gilda (Rigoletto ), Puccini's Mimì (La bohème ) and, believe it or not, Gershwin's Bess, Della Casa was a Mozart and Richard Strauss soprano par excellence. And that's how we'll remember her on Wednesday in WFCR's classical music, with arias from Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni , and with her poised, crystalline 1953 rendition with the Vienna Philharmonic of Strauss's Four Last Songs. Have your tissues ready. Also, check out the photos and videos of Lisa Della Casa from Norman Lebrecht's "Slipped Disc" blog; in particular, don't miss Della Casa and the young, dashing Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in a scene from Strauss's Arabella.
The final journey of a musical world traveler: The news arrived today that Pandit Ravi Shankar had died at age 92. Think about it: Did anyone over the last century better justify music's claims to be a "universal language?" A superb and honored exponent of traditional Indian classical music, Shankar collaborated with...oh, let's see, Yehudi Menuhin, the Beatles, John Coltrane, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Philip Glass, and of course many of the greats of Indian music, including his daughter Anoushka Shankar, a fine sitarist herself. If all this meant occasionally upsetting the Indian music establishment, or engaging in more self-promotion than seemed seemly at the time, good for him. We all benefited as richly as he did by the introduction to an entire subcontinent of magnificent music. We'll hear Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin together in raga a little before 4:00 Wednesday afternoon.
A classical composer with a world groove: When composer Robert Beaser, in his recent New York Times article, took a jab at "the de-skilling that took hold (in classical composition) in the ’80s — passed from the downtown school to Bang on a Can ," his target can't have been Derek Bermel. With degrees from Yale and Michigan, and a fine list of well-regarded teachers, there's no doubting Bermel's skills. But Bermel's schooling also included excursions to Bulgaria to study Thracian folk music, to Brazil to learn to play the caxixi (a maraca-like percussion instrument), and to Ghana to observe the ways of the gyil (a kind of marimba). All of those play into his style every bit as much as does his traditional classical training (and to be fair, Beaser is a bit of a musical traveler as well, even if his music doesn't show it as overtly), as you can hear in the 3:00 hour Wednesday on WFCR. That's when we'll return to a new CD of Bermel's works for one of his most frequently performed, "Three Rivers." Funky, frenetic, partly improvised, and with a catchy beat, it's also got the integrity of a real classical work. Which it is! Please tune in.