Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin and Percussion
February 7, 2021

A virtual performance available through March 5

Lou Harrison – the master American composer PCE has championed since 2011 – espoused “world music” before there was a name for it. His profound knowledge of non-Western idioms -- in particular, of Indonesian gamelan – made him the master musical practitioner of cultural fusion. His violin concerto may be considered the most memorable ever composed by an American. The solo part is both fabulously virtuosic and fervently expressive. The “orchestra” includes wash tubs, coffee cans, flower pots, and other “junk percussion” Harrison discovered rummaging with his San Francisco colleague John Cage.

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Igor Stravinsky’s L'Histoire du Soldat: A Story for Today
May 8, 2021

In the wake of World War I, Igor Stravinsky was living in Switzerland, cut off from his family estate in Russia. He was receiving no royalties from his publisher in Berlin. Stage performances of his music by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe were very infrequent. His concert works were virtually dormant. With the Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz, he conceived a small, portable entertainment, requiring neither a large theater nor a large orchestra, in fact suitable for outdoor performance. They imagined a small touring company of players – as an aspiration that proved impractical. But the work itself has vigorously survived.

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L'Histoire du Soldat and Berlin Suite 1920: Two Tales for Today
July 9, 2021

Ernest Ansermet conducted Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale in my native Switzerland right after the first World War. The war had devastated the financial and human resources of old Europe. Stravinsky and his colleagues searched for compact formats, conducive to stylistic flexibility, to new colors and sounds. Kurt Weill did something similar with ThreePenny Opera in Berlin. Common to both Stravinsky and Weill was the influence of America – of “jazz.” A new sound was born. My Berlin Suite 1920 reflects on that time, following in the wake of battlefield losses, of the Spanish flu. Again, composers are seeking lean formats and new ideas. The big concert halls and opera houses are unfortunately closed – and when they re-open, it may be in a timid way, favoring standard works chosen to lure people back. Let’s hope not.  Daniel Schnyder, composer

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