Certainly of an Age: Laderman, Schuller, Previn-by Myra Herron

We are fortunate to be lliving contemporaneously with an elite group of super-octogenarian composers; Ezra Laderman, Gunther Schuller and Andre Previn. Each boasts recent premier performance of new works. Theses works have been warmly received and not just by scholars but by delighted audiences. These would be the same listeners who shied away during the 20th century but were cultivated and secured like reluctant diners with newly enhanced palates.

The world premier of ”Canto V” by Ezra Laderman(b.1924) and Poet Laureate (1997-2000) Robert Pinsky (b.1940), will be performed by the Glens Falls Symphony on November 11. Singers of notable achievement take leading roles in the new work:

Lisa Saffer, soprano (Francesca) , Joseph Holmes, tenor (Dante), Philip Lima, baritone (Virgil ) Canto V adds to Laderman’s comprehensive and critically acclaimed fountain of works. One must say “adds” not ” crowns” since this 88-year old sources a regenerative flow of new ideas without pause.

I cherish the memory of meeting Mr Laderman at the premier of String Quartet no. 9 by the Muir SQ in 1999 at South Mountain. In a brief exchange with me, a stranger, he was lively and engaging.  Evidently, the momentum that gives the music life reflects Laderman’s own joie de vivre. I am looking forward to the time we (GFSO) will spend with him as he shapes CantoV. Lyrical without being melodic in the traditional way is my impression as a listener and now studying my part. Surveying the cello part, a small segment of the configuration, I am surprised to clearly discern a finely sketched design. This order and beauty in the elemental structure signs the work of a master.

Robert Pinsky, by popular and literary command, may claim the title dean of poet laureates. An unprecedented three terms, if nothing else, qualifies that. Such words as ‘’tough…musical…vivid’’ appear to characterize his body of work. As collaborator with Laderman for Canto V one item of interest, from a myriad, is that he started his artistic life as a musician. He will read selected texts as part of the Glens Falls Symphony concert on November 11. This program also includes concertmaster Michael Emery and K. Bryan Kirk on harpsichord for Vivaldi, and tutti orchestra for “The Lark Ascending” by R. Vaughn Williams.

Gunther Schuller is one of the few (two) fellows to whom Maestro Charles Peltz has ceded the podium of the Glens Falls Symphony. (The other would be David Amram in 2001). His leadership on our (GFSO) performance of  ‘’7 Studies on Themes of Paul Klee’’ led us down a philisophical path of music making. His demeanor was of encouragement while insisting on adherence to the demands of the music.

Gunther Schuller multi-tasked his way through the 75th anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Center where he has long since been a  primary force in compositional studies.In addition to his other duties he rocked Ozawa Hall in an all Ives concert,narrating reminisces and anecdotes while conducting the Tanglewood fellows.

Dreamscape” Schuller’s 2012 work was commissioned by and premiered at Tanglewood for the center’s 75th season. Of his own telling it is so named because it came to him fully formed in a dream, complete with rhythmic intricasies he could not have devised awake. This takes place in three movements; Scherzo umoristico e curioso/ Nocturne/Birth-evolution-culmination.   In ten minutes the work communicates the best of the landscape of modern music that is still finding its center of gravity in the second decade of the 21st century. The spirit of individualism abounds with almost frenetic energy and humor. Celebration is the tone of this piece leaving the listener happy for all the tumultuous achievements of that soul baring era.

Andre Previn (b. 1929) is a name that introduces itself. He enjoys iconic status for an inclusive mix of devotees. If you love music of any kind and lived in the 20th century you are a recipient of the Previn touch. Modes of influence include film scores, piano recitalist, conducting, TV appearances, collaborations in the world of jazz and composer. This is but a glimpse of his omnipresent status as musician for every man. Previn describes himself as a conductor who does other things.

‘’Music for Boston’’  (2012) was commissioned for and premiered at the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood. It was a full scale Symphonic work in three tersely worded movements; Tempo I – Slow – Fast. Previn is masterful at pulling grand and picturesque sound whether as conductor or composer/arranger for Hollywood. That propelled this composition. There was much echoing of great 20th century composers such as Roy Harris and R. Vaughn Williams. Considering his reverential regard for composers I think it was his intent to pay homage.

Piano Trio no. 2 (2011) by Previn, was performed for just the second time by the Kalichstein – Laredo -Robinson Trio at the South Mountain series for Fall 2012. The work was exactly as pianist Kalichstein promised; “Hints of Shostakovich flavored by Brazil and Broadway.” Written soon after his opera “Brief Encounters” he awarded an operatic voice to the cello, and Ms Robinson gloried in it. The great loves of Previn’s life – classical structure- jazz – melodic flow, were present. The venerable audience of long association with the South Mountain series liked it very much. And so did I.

One Response to “Certainly of an Age: Laderman, Schuller, Previn-by Myra Herron”

  1. avatar
    Kirstin Peltz
    November 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Thank you Myra, for your informed assessment of Messr. Laderman’s and Pinsky’s work – and that of Schuller and Previn. We trust that the Canto V was received as well as it was delivered.

Leave a Reply