Friday, August 2, 2013

Montage # 116 – America/L’Amérique

As of August 30, 2013, this montage will no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address / A compter du 30  août 2013, ce montage ne sera plus disponible en baladodiffusion Pod-O-Matic. Il peut être téléchargé ou entendu au site Internet Archive à l'adresse suivante:

pcast116- Playlist

===================================================================== English Commentary – le commentaire français suit

America is synonymous with migration - save for the people from the First Nations, everybody (or their ancestors) have come from elsewhere. Many of today's musical selections are indicative of travel to America, or of people that have elected to live in America.

Also, we have today some works "Made in America" by American composers, and this is where I will begin my post today.

Charles Ives' Variations on "Ametrica" explores different settings of the main melody from the song
"My Country, 'Tis of Thee" which - interestingly - borrows it from "God Save the Queen" which is of course the National Anthem of Great Britain (and many Commonwealth realms). Originally set for orghan, William Schuiman set it for full orchestra.

West Side Story has to be one of the most beloved musical comedies of all time and the song America is one of the few comic relief numbers in this modern-day setting of the Romeo and Juliet story. The premise of the song is homesickness, and the at times reprehensible use of Puerto Rican stereotypes... by Americans of Puerto Rican descent portrayed in the musical.

When one thinks of Leroy Anderson, one thinks of the many cute ditties he set to music for Artrhur Fiedler and his Boston Pops Orchestra (The Typewriter, Jazz Pizzicato, ...). His Piano Concerto in C takes Anderson's knack for the catchy tune to uncharted territory, and is (in my opinion) one of most neglected gems of the American Classical Music repertoire. Let's see if you'll agree.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk exemplifies the migratory nature of American settlers -  his father was an English Jew working in New Orleans as a real estate speculator, and his mother was of French descent. She had grown up in Haiti and fled to Louisiana after a slave uprising threatened the ruling class.  A piano prodigy in his own right Gottschalk is best remembered as a virtuoso performer of his own piano compositions, spending most of his career outside of the United States. Though born and raised in the Confederate stronghold of Louisiana, Gottschalk was sympathetic to the Northern cause, and The Union, was a musical declaration of his patriotism. It was first performed in 1862, contained elements of the yet-undeclared national anthem and was dedicated to the head of the Union Forces.

Edgard Varèse was an innovative French-born composer who spent the greater part of his career in the United States. His first composition in the United States, Amériques, was finished in 1921 but would remain unperformed until 1926, when it was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. It is an ecelectic, avant-garde work in the pure sense, and very different from the work of another foreigner who spent time in the US, Frederick Delius. As a soul in search of himself, a young Delius came to America to work for his uncle who owned orange groves in Florida. It is during thiese years that Delius decided to dedicate himself to serious music composition, and the songs of the migrant workers from the plantation he managed are obvious in his American Rhapsody.

Belgium's Henri Vieuxtemps was both an accomplished violin virtuoso and a somewhat neglected composer. During his many travels, Vieuxtemps came to America and, in 1844, set to paper a set of burlesque variations on the popular American melody Yankee Doodle. Originally set for piano and violin,m we hear it today in an arrangement for violin and strings.

The Russian born pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who lived most his life in the United States, wrote a famous transcription of Sousa's  The Stars and Stripes Forever for solo piano to celebrate his becoming an American citizen. It became a favourite with audiences, who would anticipate its performance as an encore. In an interview, Horowitz opined that the march, being a military march, is meant to be played at a walking tempo. Notice how he plays it!

I Think you will Love this Muse Too!

Commentaire français

La Ststue de la Liberté et Ellis Island sont des symboles qui alimentent le folklore de la migration en Amérique. En fait, si on fait exception des peuples qui forment les Premières Nations autochtones, tous les Américains viennet (ou leurs ancêtres sont venus) d'ailleurs. Nos sélections musicales aujourd'hui illustrent cette réalité.

Notre passeport musical serait incomplet sans inclure aussi des oeuvres locales de compositeurs locaux, et c'est ici qie je commence ma réflexion.

Natif de la Nouvelle-Angleterre et éduqué à l'Université Yale, Charles Ives était cadre pour une compagnie d'assurances, et un compositeur d'avant-garde de premier plan dans son pays. Parmi ses nombreuses pièces pour orgue, on retrouve Variations on "Ametrica" que certains auditeurs croieraient des variatios sur l'hymne Britannique "God Save the Queen", qui s'adonne être la mélodie empruntée pour l'huymne patriotique "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" (qui a pour autre titre America). Le compositeur William Schuman adaptera l'oeuvre pour oirchestre et c'est sous cette forme que nous la retrouvoins aujourdd'hui.

Parmi les numéros plus légers de la fameuse comédie musicale West Side Story on compte la chanson humoristique America. La chanson semble ridiculiser les nombreux stéréotypes associés avec l'île de Porto-Rico, et l'intervention de Porto-Ricaines qui se moquent de leur pays d'origine semble faire mieux passer ce message plutôt calomnieux.

Le compositeur of Leroy Anderson fut longtemps assocé aux Boston Pops comme arrangeur et il pasa maître des petites pièces fétiches qui font sourire (The Typewriter, Jazz Pizzicato, ...). Son concerto en ut majeur quitte les sentiers battus, sans toutefois s'éloigner de son talent pour les mélodies charmantes. Un concerto négligé - qu'en pensez-vouis?

Louis Moreau Gottschalk est l'exemple vivant du melting pot Américain; né d'un père Anglais et d'une mère métis d'Haïti, Gottschalk parcourera le monde comme pianiste virtuose. Né en Louisiane, château fort de la Confédération des Etats du Sud, Gottschalk était plutôt sympatique à la cause Nordiste, et son hommage patriotique L'Union introduit une mélodie qui deviendra éventuellement l'hymne national de son pays.

Edgard Varèse est un compositeur d'avant-garde Français qui passera une large part de sa carrière en Amérique et sa première composition outre-mer, Amériques, sera créee par le fameux Philadelphia Orchestra sous Leopold Stokowski. Loin d'avoir la même audace, la Rhapsodie Appalachia de Frederick Delius. évoque les années bohémiennes du compositeur, qui travaillera dans une plantation d'oranges en Floride pour le compte de son oncle alors que le compositeur nascient "se cherche".

Le virtuose et compositeur Belge Henri Vieuxtemps visitera l,Amérique entre 1835 et 1845, et composera une série de variations "burlesques" sur la mélodie Yankee Doodle. Originalement pour violon et piano, Angèle Dubeau l'offre aujourd'hui accompagnée par son ensemble La Pieta.

Pour finir, le pianiste Russe Vladimir Horowitz, qui vivra la large part de sa vie en Amérique, se naturalisera Américain vers 1944 et composera une transcription de la marche militaire de Sousa  The Stars and Stripes Forever pour son usage personnel. Horowitz note qu'il s'agît d'une marche et non d'une course, et c'est ainsi qu'il attaque le tempo de sa transcription.

Bonne écoute!

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