Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Musical archaeology of the day

Ok, weird music archaeology over the last few days.

So, I have this recording of the Zagreb Philharmonic "7-4-69" it says on the box. For Yogoslav Svc. (Probably VOA's propaganda station that they beamed to Yugoslavia).

Date is stamped July 9, 1969 (oked) and 7-4-69 (typed).

The program as I heard it was:

1) Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto (easy enough to identify)

2) Barber, Adagio for Strings (very easy)

3) Commentary and award ceremony onstage involving Millard Gladfelter,the chancellor of Temple University; Senator Mark Hatfield (Republican from Oregon), John Propolec (sp?), the chairman of the Croatian Fine Arts Committee, and Congressman Gerald R. Ford!

4) Three songs in Croatian, Russian? with a baritone and orchestral accompaniment.

5) Unidentified dance like piece. (Actually after knowing this was a Croatian orchestra, I kinda guessed it might be the Symphonic kolo by Jakov Gotovac--which is probably the most famous work by a Croatian composer, and my favorite. I ordered a copy for WETA when I was their music librarian so they could play it as much as they could.

So from auditioning the tape, I found that this performance took place at the Temple University Music Festival in the summer of 1969. I did an online search of historical newspapers, but they didn't have the Philadelphia Inquirer (might try the print version later today), but the NYT does give some listings for the festival, but not this concert. So, I did a WorldCat search for the orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic both in English and its authorized name in Croatian, Zagrebacka Filharmonija. There's a history published by the orchestra and the LC has it (and it's in Croatian). I get it and there's a listing of concerts by season--Wonderful. Now I have the book in my hands, I can figure out the other concerts at the festival. I thought that the soloist in the Tchaikovsky was good. Who does it turn out to be? Itzhak Perlman.

Today...I have the "Spanish American Music Festival." Ok...interesting. The boxes are labeled with the pieces that were played. That usually helps. But not always. You can't always trust what the engineers type/write. One box says "Suite de OtoƱo" para arpa y orq. de cuerda (Autumn suite for harp and orchestra) by Walter Piston. Only Piston never wrote a piece with the word autumn in it. Virgil Thomson did, and it's moments like this that makes me glad I was a music history major.

LESSON LEARNED: Always trust your nose, or at least your ear.

My work with obscure, but lyrical musical compositions which public radio programs play all the time helps too. I am becoming exposed to many Latin American composers on this job, as well as reinforcing my knowledge of the basic orchestral repertoire. My basic reference tools: Grove Music Online, Allmusic.com, David Daniels' Orchestral Music (4th ed.), ProQuest Historical Newspapers database, and access to some of the greatest music librarians in the country. (Being able to check out obscure music scores helps too.)

About Empire of the Air: I've gotten past where Lee DeForest invented the audion, and on to a young Edwin Armstrong tinkering with radio sets at this home in Yonkers. Lest we forget the race for wireless was the goal of the turn of the 20th century, not just the 21st.


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