Special Programming Not Uncommon at PCMS

By Philip Maneval on October 28, 2011

Like stewards of a prominent art museum, we believe our role at PCMS is to bring to the public works that encompass a wide range of artistic styles, periods and perspectives. The Society was created to fill in the landscape of our city’s musical life, to serve diverse audience tastes, and to allow great musicians to perform works they find to be especially meaningful and exciting. In our curatorial role, we also look for compelling ways to present the music, such as programs that focus on a particular composer, period or style.

As Tony and Miles develop each season, therefore, they consider not only the diversity of the artists, but the variety and presentation of the repertoire. There is no shortage this season of chamber and recital masterworks:

  • Violin sonatas by Brahms and Schumann, Chopin piano works, Schubert songs, Beethoven quartets, Mozart string quintets, and Mendelssohn’s amazing String Octet in E-Flat (on November 18), to name but a few.
  • There are also seven programs focused entirely on a single composer: Liszt (October 12), Mozart (October 21), Schubert (December 14), Stravinsky (January 24), Beethoven (February 8), Schumann (February 10) and Shostakovich (March 14).

Who is the rarely-heard composer pictured above and mentioned in this blog post? Guesses welcome in the comments.

Yet our audiences can also enjoy pieces that–because of their level of difficulty, instrumentation or other factors–are rarely heard. Sprinkled throughout the season, for example, is a piano sonata by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (December 7); the D Minor cello sonata by “Munich School” composer Ludwig Thuille (January 25); Cesar Franck’s lush Piano Quintet (February 7); Respighi’s D Major string quartet subtitled “Life is Serious, Art is Joyful” (March 4); the 1876 Fantasie Brillante on Bizet’s Carmen by the Hungarian violin virtuoso Jenö Hubay (March 18); Meditation on the old Czech Chorale, St. Wenceslas for string quartet by Josef Suk (March 27); Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor arranged by Liszt (April 12); and Bartok’s fascinatingly contrapuntal and percussive suite for piano entitled “Out of Doors” (May 8).

The PCMS "art museum" also has galleries devoted to great works of the 20th Century, and its amazingly varied schools of composition. There will be early masters who explored their ethnic and nationalist roots: Prokofiev, Janacek, Ravel, De Falla, Dohnanyi, Shostakovich. There will be later composers who epitomized the turbulent times in which they lived by speaking in startling new voices: Ives, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ginastera, Dutilleux, Stockhausen, Lukas Foss and Elliott Carter. They are the Picassos, Dalis, Kandinskys, de Koonings and Pollocks of the musical world.

And this fascinating journey continues… How were composers raised later in the century shaped and influenced by their times? What music is representative of the world today? From the musical roots of the 19th and 20th centuries have gown an astonishing array of styles:

Our early December schedule features two works by Osvaldo Golijov

  • consider the lyrical serialism and layered construction of Donald Martino (November 18);
  • the eclectic Osvaldo Golijov, whose “colliding” influences range from Klezmer to the works of his University of Pennsylvania professor George Crumb (December 2 and December 4);
  • the wildly unpredictable, surrealistic Jörg Widmann (May 8);
  • or composers rooted in Philadelphia, such as Jan Krzywicki, Cynthia Folio and Thomas Whitman (February 26).

The world of chamber music is very much alive and thriving.

When new PCMS friends see that they can subscribe to 10 concerts for less than $20 per ticket, they sometimes ask, “Why do you keep ticket prices so low?” Hey, with so much music to hear, how can we not?

See you at the concerts!