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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: May 4, 2007 Archive

Pieces of Spring No. 3

Posted at 8:00 AM on May 4, 2007 by John Birge

Welcome May, and Classical Minnesota Public Radio's Pieces of Spring.

Every day, we'll play a springtime classic. Visit our online playlist to find each day's spring piece or, in the Twin Cities, listen to 99.5 every morning at 8. Enter the correct title here, and you have another chance to win fresh flowers delivered to your door for a year! Check back here every day to see if you got it right.

Yesterday's piece was "Spring," from Dominick Argento's Six Elizabethan Songs.

Although the poem “Spring, the sweet Spring” by Thomas Nashe was published in 1600, composers seem to have only recently discovered the charming lyric, with settings by Benjamin Britten and Peter Warlock, to name a few. Dominick Argento’s setting might be the best-known, at least in Canada: his “Six Elizabethan Songs” are part of the required repertoire for all Canadian music school graduates.

Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year's pleasant king;

Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,

Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing,

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,

Lambs frisk and play, the shepherd pipes all day,

And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay,

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,

Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,

In every street these tunes our ears do greet,

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

Spring! The sweet Spring!

The MTT Quiz

Posted at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2007 by Rex Levang

Most conductors consider the score of [?????] insignificant fluff.

But I think it's a masterpiece.

--Michael Tilson Thomas.

Scroll down for answer.

Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle. Hear Michael make the case for its masterpiece status on the next installment of The MTT Files, called "Freud and the Ballet."

I'll be less distracting if I open this really slowly...

Posted at 3:08 PM on May 4, 2007 by Alison Young

Which instrument covers the sound of unwrapping candy wrappers? Or non-silenced cell phones competing with the symphony by blaring out their own tinny replacement? Or a whisper whose sibilance travels four aisles away? Or other basically ill-mannered, inconsiderate concert hall behaviors that have garnered another -ism in the lexicon of anger management: concert rage?

Alex Ross, the music critic of The New Yorker may have the been the first to use the term, but he suggests in his blog, "With marketers and educators trying desperately to bring classical music to broader audiences, it seems strange that the inner circles of the initiated are so determined to uphold a stifling code of silence."

And that's the tack a Georgia Tech composer named Jason Freeman has taken with his new work Flock that uses computers and "an adventurous saxophone quartet" to create a piece existing of the sounds, the fidgeting, the coughing, even the wandering about of concert goers to generate a piece of music. Like John Cage and other aleatoric composers who used chance as part of their subject, Freeman is exploiting the randomness of the moment for his art. But is it music? Well, I'd say it's probably a welcome diversion from the Chinese water torture tactics of a slowly opened crinkly candy wrapper obliterating Beethoven!

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