Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Enlightened Self-Interest

Next week we begin the WTJU Classical Marathon, "A Musical Offering." We'll be celebrating classical music in all its diversity, but more importantly, we'll be asking our listeners to pledge their financial support to WTJU.

A public radio station fund-raising is nothing new -- and neither is the challenge. After all, we're trying to persuade someone to pay for something they get for free. It's difficult, but in a way, it shouldn't be. Because what it all comes down to is enlightened self-interest.

Here's what I mean:

Q: Should you pledge to WTJU because it's a wonderful, unique station?

A: No.

Q: Should you pledge to WTJU because you love its wonderful, unique programming?

A: You bet!

Q: Should you pledge to WTJU so that others can enjoy its remarkably wide range of music and public affairs programming?

A: No. 

Q: Should you pledge to WTJU because you enjoy its remarkably wide range of music and public affairs programming?

A: You'd better, if you want it to continue.

See, our fund drive (or any public radio/TV fund drive for that matter), is really all about you, the listener. Unfortunately, public broadcasting isn't fully funded from government or business resources. So every broadcaster -- WTJU included -- has to rely on direct financial support from its listeners.

Over half of our operating budget has to be raised directly from our listeners. So your decision to pledge -- or not to pledge -- is critical. Especially if you consider that only about 10% of a public broadcaster's audience actually pledge (according to some studies). 

If every single person who listened to WTJU pledged $50, we would be fully funded for the entire year. And then the Classical Marathon could just be about the music. But with only 10% participation, the reality is quite different.

Your pledge counts. And because (statistically) you'll be in the minority, your pledge counts even more.

But don't feel obliged to pledge just to make up for the 90% who won't. Your pledge benefits the station, but it also benefits you.

Your pledge ensures that the transmitter will stay in good repair, that we'll be able to continue to offer the services you expect, and even expand on those services. 

And why is that important? Because it makes a better listening experience for you.

We might talk a lot about the radio station this next week as we try to persuade some of that 90% to come on over. But really, this fund drive is all about you.

So please do the right thing -- for yourself. Consider your pledge a form of enlightened self-interest.

(And you don't even have to do it during the marathon. You can pledge online anytime 24/7)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

David Del Tredici: Gotham Glory has Glorious Counterpoint

Del Tredici: Gotham Glory - Complete Piano Works, Vol. 1
Marc Peloquin, piano

David Del Tredici has an affinity for counterpoint -- and the talent to compose it, too. That impression really comes through in this new collection from Naxos. The release is mostly made up of what Del Tredici terms "Ballades," although they're actually paired toccatas and fugues.

The Aeolean Ballade is the most tonal of the bunch, using primarily the white keys on the piano. The Ballade in Lavender and the Ballade in Yellow are more adventurous, with pianistically challenging free sections (the toccata parts) moving to highly structured fugues of breathtaking complexity.

The S/M Ballade mixes tonal and atonal elements in an interesting fashion. The title suggests something edgy, and the music delivers. This is a deliciously dark thrill ride that give the pianist plenty to work with (and the listener plenty to absorb).

Pianist Marc Peloquin is more than up to the challenge of these works. No matter how difficult the material, he never seems to break a sweat. And his interpretation -- especially in the fugal sections -- keeps the music from sounding dry and academic. In Peloquin's hands, complex counterpoint seems to just grow naturally out of what comes before, like a flower blooming.

The title track, Gotham Glory, is Del Tredici's love letter to his native New York City. The work has some Gershwin-like jazz inflections, that provide a NYC flavor to the music, but the composition is Del Tredici's own. The first movement serves as a prelude, and the second is a fugue,and the third a perpetual canon, (which makes the work fit in with the rest of the program).

The fourth movement "Wollman Rink" is subtitled a "Grand Fantasy on the Skaters' Waltz" and is as long as the preceding three movements combined. It harkens back to the grand fantasies of the late romantic composers (with distinctively modern harmonies, however), and is a real showpiece for the pianist. And Peloquin doesn't disappoint.

A excellent recording of music by a modern American master. I look forward to volume 2.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Haydenseque Fantasies of Sigismund Neukomm

Sigismund von Neukomm: Grande Sinfoie Heroique & 3 Fantasies
Die Kolner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens, conductor

Sigismund von Neukomm was a student of both Michael and Franz Joseph Haydn. He helped with the production of some of Mozart's late compositions, and worked with Haydn on the editing and arranging of Haydn's music. At one point, he even taught Mozart's son composition. As one might expect, his musical style shares many similarities to those of his famous colleagues.

The earliest fantasy on this disc dates from 1806, the second 1808, and the latest from 1823 -- but there's little difference in style between them. All have a light, transparent sound of Mozart and Haydn. Neukomm's music is very clean and precise, with everything laid out and organized in a sensible fashion. Neukomm's melodies aren't quite as memorable as Mozart's but they do have the same natural flow and charming simplicity to them.

By contrast, the Grande Sinfomie heroique has a bigger feel than the fantasies on this disc. The orchestration is more varied, and the drama's heightened. If the other three works were comparable to middle period Haydn, then this would be more early Beethoven and late Mozart. The work never loses its sense of balance and proportion (so think of a very polite Beethoven), but it has greater energy than the orchestral fantasies.

Michael Willens directs with a light touch, and you can hear subtle inflections in the phrasing bring this music even closer to the Mozartian ideal. Highly recommended for any fan of the classcical era.