by Mike Telin
Born on this day in 1876, Venetian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari penned a piano quintet, two piano trios, three violin sonatas, works for organ, and a violin concerto, as well as numerous songs. However, he is best known for his comic operas I quattro rusteghi (“The School for Fathers”) and Il segreto di Susanna (“The Secret of Susanna”), the latter a one-act, three-character intermezzo which premiered in Munich on December 4, 1909.
And what was Susanna’s secret? No, she was not keeping a lover as her husband suspected, but he would discover that the young countess — I can hardly write the words — smoked cigarettes. Heavens to Betsy. Many will recognize the opera’s lively overture, here performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Lance Friedel.
On January 12, 1926, composer Morton Feldman was born in the New York borough of Queens. A pioneer of 20th-century music, Feldman was greatly influenced by the Abstract Expressionist painters and had a close association with John Cage. Until his appointment to SUNY Buffalo at the age of 47, the composer was a full-time employee at his family’s textile business in New York City.
Today Feldman is best known for writing long — very long — soft, slowly developing, one-movement works, including the String Quartet II (1983), which lasts over six hours and is to be performed without a break. Writing for The Guardian, Tom Services urges would-be listeners to not be afraid of these pieces. Click here to read the article.
In 2017, the Cleveland Institute of Music New Music Ensemble, Keith Fitch, director, gave an outstanding performance of Feldman’s The Viola in My Life 2 (1970). Click here to watch.
Today also marks the passing of American composer and conductor Arthur Shepherd in 1958 in Cleveland. Born in Idaho on February 19, 1880, Shepherd entered the New England Conservatory at age 12 and upon graduation moved to Salt Lake City, leading a local orchestra for six years. He would later accept a teaching position at his alma mater. After serving as a bandmaster during World War I, at the invitation of Nikolai Sokoloff he was appointed The Cleveland Orchestra’s assistant conductor and program book editor. His tenure with the Orchestra lasted from 1920 until 1928.
As a composer Shepherd wrote over 100 works which included symphonies, string quartets, and songs.
In 1977 he was posthumously awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for music. In her tribute, Wilma Salisbury writes:
Arthur Shepherd, like other esteemed composers of his generation, sought to develop a distinctively American musical language. Born in the Mormon village of Paris, Idaho, on February 19, 1880, he celebrated his pioneer heritage in works such as “Horizons,” Symphony no. 1. His most frequently performed work, the large-scale piece incorporates cowboy tunes and paints tone poems of the grand Western landscape.
Read the article here. Listen to a performance of “Horizons” by The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Louis Lane here, and click here to listen to his Triptych for High Voice and String Quartet (1926) performed by soprano Betsy Norden and the Emerson String Quartet.
COMING ON WEDNESDAY:
Tomorrow ClevelandClassical.com will dedicate the Daily Diary to events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. One work that is certain to be performed at many, if not all of the Reverend King events is Lift Every Voice and Sing — often called “The Black National Anthem.”
The Anthem — a poem by James Weldon Johnson set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson — was first performed on February 12, 1900 in Jacksonville, Florida by 500 schoolchildren from the segregated Stanton School at an event commemorating Lincoln’s birthday.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.