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Archives: November 2017

Turn Up the Music: Exploring Music in Schools

At Exploring Music, we are constantly thinking about ways we can make our program more accessible – especially for schools. For a long time, we’ve been given scholarships to our website for schools and educators: More than 215 five-hour 'weeks' that focus on composers, countries, genres, and  music that stands under the banner of historical periods.

From the emails we receive, we know that a lot of teachers are already using Exploring Music in their classrooms. The questions we still ask ourselves are: How is Exploring Music being used in the classroom? What are the resources that are most useful for students, and how can we help in connecting Exploring Music to the school curriculum?

These are questions we cannot answer all by ourselves. So, four weeks ago, we invited music teachers from all around Chicago to our ‘Exploring Music Event’, a casual gathering on the set of our sister station WTTW’s show Chicago Tonight – joined by Exploring Music host Bill McGlaughlin who just flew in from New York.

We had a group of around twenty people. After a welcome from Tony Macaluso, Director of WFMT Radio Network Marketing & Syndication, Bill showcased the weeks on “Portraits in Black, Brown, & Beige” in person. Exploring Music Live – definitely something we don’t get every day!

Then we opened the discussion to the educators. All ideas of how Exploring Music can serve as a resource, how the shows might need to be reshaped in order to tie them into lessons, and especially, how the website needs to be improved and adjusted – these suggestions gave us a much better understanding about the integration of Exploring Music into education – and something to work toward.

-Karina Kücking

Images: 1. Tony Macaluso | Bill McGlaughlin, 2. Dr. Greta Pope | Jim A. Konsbruck (Both: Chicago High School for the Arts) —Photography: Devvora Papatheodorou Schreier
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A Most Original Piece of Music

It’s not always easy to find words to describe the things that surround us. That especially is true for music, a form of art that often gets along without any words at all. A few weeks ago, a listener asked us a question that challenges the terminological fuzziness that we satisfy ourselves with way too often.

142 years ago, the op. 21 by Edouard Lalo entered the stage for the first time. At the age of 52, the composer hadn’t had a real success with one of his pieces yet. That would change very suddenly when the audience in Paris heard his new piece: Crisp, sparkling melodies along with a tragic, emotional passacaglia — all framed by a Spanish timbre.

The most obvious question might be: Why did the audience in France react so enthusiastically when they heard a piece which contains national traits even in its title, Symphonie espagnole? Well, Spanish culture was fashionable in France at that time. In the same year when Lalo’s op. 21 premiered, Bizet’s Carmen also had its first performance.

The Symphonie espagnole became a continuing success, as a showpiece for the violinists that performed it. Considering its title, why of all things is it a showpiece for the violin? For a start, Lalo dedicated his piece to a great violin virtuoso of his time, which undoubtedly has its reflection in the complex violin part in the score. Vadim Repin once said: “It’s emotional music, sometimes it might even be entertaining — but it demands enormous preparation from the violinist. In view of the amount of notes, the piece surely is in first place.”

The question we are facing at this point is the one our listener was asking: Is the Symphonie espagnole by Edouard Lalo a symphony, or is it a concerto for the violin?

-Karina Kücking
Here is how our Exploring Music host Bill McGlaughlin answered it:

Dear Alan,

Good question. To begin with, I love the piece which is filled with color and life and seems a particularly good vehicle for younger violinists for whom the Beethoven and Brahms concerti may present challenges better taken on in maturity. I have a fond memory of hearing Joshua Bell making his Carnegie Hall debut with the Lalo. Even further back I can recall Perlman’s mastery of the piece at an early age.

Coming back to your question, is it a symphony or a concerto, I’m inclined to say both. To begin with, Lalo must have thought it was a symphony, giving the piece its title. But few symphonies have five movements and concerti mostly have three. I think the piece is definitely a symphony in at least a metaphorical sense. In certain ways, Symphonie espagnole recalls Berlioz’s Harold en Italie, which was written as a commission for Paganini. Paganini didn’t think the piece was a concerto and turned down the chance to give the premiere performance. “Not enough solo writing for the viola,” he told Berlioz. “But I like the piece very much.” He must have, as he let Berlioz keep the commissioning fee.

From all accounts Lalo was a brilliant violinist, and his Symphonie espagnole is a wonderful display piece for the solo violinist, so that might argue for thinking of it as a concerto. When Tchaikovsky heard the piece, he loved it and said it was Lalo who inspired him to write his own concerto. Tchaikovsky wrote of his enthusiasm for the Symphonie espagnole: “It has a lot of freshness, lightness of piquant rhythms, of beautiful and excellently harmonized melodies. [...] He [Lalo], in the same way as Léo Delibes and Bizet, does not strive after profundity, but he carefully avoids routine, seeks out new forms, and thinks more about musical beauty than about observing established traditions, as do the Germans.”

I have decided to think of the piece as a blend of concerto and tone poem invoking Spain. There is no debate about the Spanish influence: Lalo is an old Spanish name, even if his ancestors had come to Flanders and northern France in the 16th century. The piece is filled with Spanish rhythms and turns of phrase — no wonder: Lalo composed it for Pablo de Sarasate, who gave the premiere.

So, if Lalo wanted to title his piece ‘Symphonie’, I say bravo, Maestro, you’re the boss. Thanks for listening, Alan, and thanks for taking the time to write.

-Bill McGlaughlin

Here is the Symphonie espagnole, op. 21, by Edouard Lalo. Our performers are Joshua Bell and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Charles Dutoit.


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The Exploring Music streaming website is supported by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and the Richard P. and Susan Kiphart Family.  
You have opened up the world of Classical Music to me, where previously, it seemed too complicated.
Steffen Demeter
This is simply one of the very best radio programmes in the medium!...The study of the people, the times, and the events that inform the music we otherwise enjoy and even, heaven forbid, take for granted, brings the entire world of the music and the composer to life.
Walther Davies
There isn't a program you broadcast on Exploring Music" that isn't of interest. I find them all engaging. It is a combination of variety of subject, intellectual curiosity and your obvious enthusiasm which characterize your satisfying programs.
Michael Sanders
It’s a great way to re-engage myself with consciousness before heading off to work.
I Love this program! I am in 7th grade and I am the complete opposite of the other kids. I am 4th chair in the orchestra and I love to read. But most of all, I LOVE classical music!
Claudia Wertz
Your show has helped open my mind and heart to this world of music, and every show I hear confirms my place in music and gives me new ideas for where I'd like to go with it in the future….I grew up with classical music as a child and always held it in my heart, but I didn't have the confidence to be a good student (or a good violinist.)
Christine Anderson
Listening to you is almost interactive.You invite us in with so many well modulated dramatic and informative comments, enticing, enthusiastic interpretations, and coherent, beautiful presentations. It's a privilege to follow you into the musical space you create.
Sally Rosenbaum
I just love this program. It is soothing and comfortable at the end of the day. I find his comments interesting, but they aren't so dragged out that there is very little music. The balance of both is just right.
Jean Quay
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