Musical Chairs

I was recently a guest on Seattle’s classical music station, 98.1 KingFM, on a program called “Musical Chairs” in which local musicians choose a handful of their favorite recordings and explain why they’re important to them.

Royalties and copyrights prevent the station can’t post these episodes on its web site, so I thought I’d assemble my little list here:

1) William White, Acadia Fanfare

This piece has turned into a real calling card for me – this season alone it will receive 5 or 6 separate performances, and I used it as the kickoff of my very first concert as music director of OSSCS. I wrote it for the Monteux School, so in addition to trying to capture the effect of Acadia National Park, it’s also got allusions to French music (Ravel and Debussy). And of course to Sondheim – always Sondheim.

2) Lili Boulanger, Psalm 24

Lili Boulanger is the focus of my season with OSSCS – we’re doing one of her works on every concert. I chose this piece for the first concert because a) it’s the first piece of hers I ever learned and b) it’s just so damned trilling. Her musical language owes debts to many sources, but I’m at a loss to figure out exactly where this piece sprung from. Her voice is vital and original, and I’m really hoping that our audiences will have a deep appreciation for her art after this season is over.

3) Maurice Ravel, La Valse

Speaking of French music and L’École Monteux, this is a piece that I learned in Maine and have come back to many times over. Monteux recorded the work several times – you’ll find versions from 1930, 1941, and 1965 on YouTube. The ’65 version with the LSO is the most famous and most widely available, but I much prefer this version with the San Francisco Symphony from ’41.

This is a piece that tells a real story in music, in this case, the story of the desolation of the European “Old World” in World War I.

4) Heinrich Schütz, “Alleluja! Lobet den Herrn”

I wanted to be sure to get a bit of early music on the list, and this is such a splendid work. I took a semester-long course on the music of Schütz when I was in grad school at IU, and his work has spoken to me ever since. It’s not all just “Saul, Saul”! (Though, that piece is deservedly celebrated.)

5) Arturo Marquez, Danzon No. 2

This piece makes me think fondly on all of my time spent working with youth orchestras. Whenever I’ve done this piece, I’ve added choreography and staging, and the kids always bring a ton of ideas to bring the piece to life. It’s endless fun and brings a real feel of collaboration to the life of an orchestra.

6) Quinn Mason, Concerto for Violin and Chamber Ensemble

I wanted to include something from the next generation of composers, and as far as I’m concerned, Quinn Mason is a leading voice of the under 25 crowd. He and I have been correspondents for at least a year now, and I’ve been thrilled to observe his development as a composer and the advancement of his career. I’ve never come across a composer who produces music so voluminously before – it seems like every other week, Quinn is sending me another movement of a symphony or suite or chamber piece. He’s starting to be recognized for the incredible talent he has, which is a welcome development in American musical life.