Thursday, April 27, 2006

More on Moravec

Paul Moravec is a gifted composer and a great guy. I've interviewed him for 20/20 Hearing(tm), WITF's Composing Thoughts and at the world premiere of his Oboe Concerto. Thursday I heard Moravec's "Useful Knowledge," premiered at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia by La Fenice, glass harmonicist Cecilia Brauer and Baritone Randall Scarlata.
I arrived a little later than I had planned but had an excellent morning and trip. I was suprised that another John Clare, either another person or an imposter?!, was there - and who I didn't get to meet (confront, hahaha!) I almost immediately ran into Paul's lovely wife Wendy who said hi, and was happy to see me there. Later on I also ran into Don Spieth, the maestro from Allentown; and met Kathryn King who is a PR maven extraordinaire. I was surprised to sit down for the afternoon lectures/program and met a listener from the WITF area who uses the A.P.S. Library and said some kinds words about my programming. But back to the afternoon...
The afternoon program began with a presentation about The Enlightment Online, a wonderful presentation about E.K. Dashkova, and an unveiling of a portrait of Whitfield Bell, Jr. A brief break (complete with coffee, tea, and candies) led to the performance of La Fenice.
The Adagio and Rondo, K617 opened the was a little unsettled or uninspired reading, or perhaps I'm just not a big fan of the piece - the musicians are certainly capable and talented. I would have programmed a short Mozart opening (I really liked the idea of Mozart-Moravec-Mozart) piece, like the duo arrangements of Mozart's arias that could have been done in various combinations and are quite charming.
Next Paul said some introductory comments, in fact he was very witty - quoting Benjamin Franklin on time, that is later sung in his fantasy:"Lost time is never found again." He also mentioned that he imagined Benjamin Franklin more of a Baritone than Tenor, Bass or again jocularly, a countertenor; and he mentioned it was to capture the "spiritual side" of Franklin. And then we heard the beautiful Useful Knowledge: A Franklin Fantasy.

Hear a passage toward the opening of Useful Knowledge [mp3 file] (not a professional recording)

The Society and guests were duly impressed. It comprises of seven sections of Franklin's writings and flows gently, fitting the text with wise choices of harmony. It also is an imaginative work, never preaching, but enjoys the charming combination of piano quartet, oboe, baritone and glass harmonica. This performance was hampered slightly for me by glass harmonicist Cecilia Brauer - who seemed to futz about and often looked puzzled turning pages here and there - but who was quite popular after the program demonstrating the glass harmonica.

But I can easily see and hear Useful Knowledge joining Schubert, Wolf, Britten, Rorem and other great song composers into the standard repertory (and in various forms too: Voice and Orchestra, the original chamber version, and for Voice and piano.)

The program ended with a rousing reading of the Piano Quartet, K 493 by Mozart. There was a delay in between it and the Moravec, where I almost got up and told some viola jokes as we were waiting for her to return to the stage, like: The difference between a viola and a glass harmonica? There's much more drool with the viola than the glass harmonica! But thought that might not be so keen with the A.P.S.

It was a delightful afternoon and I bet even ol' Ben would have enjoyed himself. Keep an eye (ear?) out for Useful Knowledge!

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