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Cue Sheet – 2011


Through January, Classical 90.5 will explore German Romantic symphonies. Every morning between 10 and 11 (except New Year's Day, when we actually launch the series around 11:30), we'll be working our way through the most popular compositions that define the very notion of "symphony"--at least as defined in Germany and Austria.

We'll begin with Ludwig van Beethoven, highlighting one of his symphonies per day Jan. 1 through 9. We'll hear how Beethoven inherited the elegant, Classical symphonic form from Mozart and Haydn and gradually transformed it into something more personal and dramatic. Then, starting Jan. 10, we'll work through the eight canonical symphonies of Franz Schubert (they're numbered through 9, but there's a hole in his catalog where No. 7 should be). Again, this is the work of a pioneer in the Romantic style, building on the Mozart and Haydn models until he takes full possession of the form with the intense lyricism of his "Unfinished" Symphony and nearly bursts from the symphonic seams with his big, irrepressible Ninth.

On Jan. 18, we turn to Robert Schumann, whose four symphonies begin to blur the line between symphony and symphonic poem--particularly with No. 3, a musical voyage along the Rhine River. Then, Jan. 22 through 25 will be devoted to Schumann's good friend Johannes Brahms, whose four symphonies prove that purely abstract forms are capable of high drama.

New attitudes toward just what a symphony should be emerge as we hear the five symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn Jan. 26 through 30. Three of them are homages to specific times or places--the German Reformation, Scotland, Italy--and No. 2, inspired by Beethoven's monumental Ninth, is nothing less than a huge cantata in praise of the printing press and the first printed Bible. We'll wrap things up Jan. 31 with a work that completely erases the distinction between the symphony and the symphonic poem, the "Faust" Symphony by Franz Liszt, the leader of what was, by Romantic standards, the avant-garde in the middle of the 19th century.

One German Romantic symphony will be played each January morning between 10 and 11 (between 11 and noon on Jan. 1, shortly following our New Year's Day in Vienna broadcast).



Gustav Leonhardt, essentially the first musician to spur interest in historically informed performance of harpsichord music among hundreds of thousands of ordinary record buyers in the 1960s, has played his final concert at age 83.

Leonhardt was not the first artist to make notable harpsichord recordings, but he was the first specialist in Baroque style to have a broad phonographic impact. Wanda Landowska's recordings in the 1940s and '50s were popular, but still very much of the Romantic school. Ralph Kirkpatrick and Fernando Valenti made little splashes with their Scarlatti records, and other musicians, such as Karl Richter, did have a harpsichord presence on LP, but it was the discographically prolific Leonhardt whose sober, scholarly, but rarely dry performances were imprinted on the generation of classical record collectors active in the 1960s. His was not the only way to perform Baroque music; indeed, one might count Igor Kipnis, with his wry showmanship and florid approach to ornamentation, as the progenitor of such later harpsichordists as Scott Ross and almost anyone from a Mediterranean country. But Leonhardt's way influenced later harpsichordists from England (notably Trevor Pinnock), the Netherlands and Germany.

He hasn't recorded in years, yet he has continued to perform from time to time. But after a recent, draining recital in France, at which he looked thin and frail and apparently barely had the stamina to make it through an encore, Leonhardt abruptly decided that it was time to retire, and canceled all his future concerts. It's sad to see him go, but thanks to his work, there will be no shortage of fine harpsichordists to take his place on disc and on the concert stage.

If you can read French, or persuade your browser to come up with an adequate translation, you can learn about his decision here.

Classical Music,


Finnish music scholars--or at least a couple of them--think they may have found enough sketches to piece together the Eighth Symphony of Sibelius, something the composer was known to have been working on in his later years, but it was believed that he'd ultimately burned almost all of what he'd done. Recently, though, experts have been sifting through some 800 pages of sketches Sibelius didn't burn, and there's some loose talk of stitching them together into a full symphony. Caution is in order. How can they be sure that all these pages really are related to the symphony, and not other things? Of those that can be connected to the symphony, how do they know that these are not rejected scraps, and that the destroyed manuscript contained quite different material? Nevertheless, they are forging ahead, and three fragments adding up to about two minutes of material have been performed and can be found online. Read this article for the background, then check out the video by going to this page and clicking the button below the photo.

Classical Music,


Just now, I was trying to figure out if I'm still listed as a contributing editor to Strings magazine even though I haven't written anything for that publication in more than a year, and even though I haven't yet found an answer to that question, I did stumble upon a long page with links to the articles I've written for the magazine over the past 10 years or so--a lot more than I'd remembered. Here it is, in case any of the features or technical topics interest you.



In case you missed the item in the newspaper over the weekend, here's the Tucson Symphony's announcement that George Hanson will be leaving his music director's post, but only after another few seasons:


(Tucson, AZ)—Music Director and Conductor George Hanson has signed a contract extension that will keep him on the podium with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra through June 2015, Tucson Symphony Society Board of Trustees President Barbara R. Levy announced today. Mr. Hanson has informed the Board of Trustees that his newly-renewed contract will be his last with the TSO. He will conclude his 20 year tenure with the Orchestra as Music Director Laureate in the 2015-16 Season.

“On behalf of the Board, we are immensely grateful to George for the exciting growth of our orchestra and the many memorable performances he has brought to our community,” stated Ms. Levy. “He has become an icon for the Tucson Symphony. Thanks to his accessibility, his easy going conversations with audiences and his strength on the podium, the Tucson Symphony has blossomed and grown. Our musicians are providing everyone with a level of artistic excellence Tucson is fortunate to enjoy.”

George Hanson is the fourteenth Music Director and Conductor in the 83-year history of the TSO and the conductor with the longest tenure. Mr. Hanson is the primary conductor and artistic director of the Classic, TSO Pops! and MasterWorks Chamber Orchestra Series. He began his sixteenth season with the TSO by conducting Fabio Bidini’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz October 14 and 16 at the Tucson Music Hall.

Critics have noted remarkable artistic growth by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra during Mr. Hanson’s tenure. Since his arrival in 1996, he has led the TSO to international recognition. TSO’s first recording, released in 2008, reached No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 on U.S. Classical charts, and was lauded by critics around the globe. Stereophile Magazine praised the orchestra’s “chamber-music-like interaction” with pianist Alain Lefèvre in André Matthieu’s Piano Concerto No. 4, “a work demanding-- and here receiving- utmost virtuosity and musicality.” In an editorial, the Arizona Daily Star proclaimed, “TSO recording proves Tucson has a gem.”

“My work with this organization and its wonderful musicians and staff has been deeply gratifying,” stated Mr. Hanson. “I will remember forever the many wonderful performances and the dedication of all involved with TSO. It is in the best interests of the TSO and the community to have a smooth transition into the future. We look forward to staying involved with the orchestra and the community in the coming seasons.”

In a statement, the musicians’ orchestra committee said: “During George Hanson's tenure, the Tucson Symphony has seen consistent artistic growth. He and his wife Petra have been instrumental in helping to raise the level of relevance and recognition of the TSO through their work in the Tucson community. His collaborative efforts with guest soloists have also given the Tucson Symphony worldwide attention with our first commercial recording. The musicians will miss the intensity and energy he brings to the podium, but we understand and respect his decision to move on to other projects. We wish George and his family the best of luck in their future endeavors.”



"NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies" involving issues NPR covers, according to NPR's code of conduct. Well, fine. But Lisa Simeone, host of World of Opera (which we do not happen to carry), is not a journalist, she's the host of an entertainment program, and she doesn't even work for NPR--she's paid by a station that produces the series, and NPR merely distributes it. Yet NPR is now refusing to distribute the program because Simeone was helping organize a political protest. There is absolutely no justification for this, aside from the justification that the sniveling cowards in charge of NPR want to avoid attacks from right-wing extremists. Shouldn't America expect more backbone from NPR?


About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.