A classy birthday class
While Beethoven dominates the classical birthday scene for December, today's class of three honorees has us scrambling for candles, and carving out major chunks of airtime. You'll hear plenty from each in WFCR's classical music.
Youngest is the fourth and last in line of the immortal Czech composer, after Smetana, Dvořák and Janáček. Born in 1890, he grew up in a church tower, flunked out of music school, hit Paris in 1923, wrote some of his best stuff on Cape Cod, and played duets with a neighbor named Albert Einstein. His music, and there's a lot of it, has a propulsive, uplifting quality that many listeners find irresistible.
In the middle is a Mexican, born in Aguascalientes, Zacatecas State in 1882, seen here both as a dashing youth and elder statesman. A prodigy, he was well-ensconced in his country's musical scene by 1925, when he too trekked to Paris to update his idiom. Prolific and eclectic, he's best-known for the music he contributed to the repertoire of the legendary guitarist Andrés Segovia. We'll hear from Segovia today with our composer's "Concierto del sur" ("Concerto of the South"). Oh, and there's his famous, nostalgic canción ,in which the singer asks the evening star ("estrellita") to tell him his dear one loves him. Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez will melt our hearts with that song this afternoon.
Oldest and greatest of our trio is the composer who's internationally synonymous with Finland. A national hero, he outlived his final masterpiece by over thirty years, during which time he became the object of a critical war between musical conservatives, who touted him as their exemplar, and progressives, who thought his music was reactionary junk. Now, over a half-century since his death, his music is celebrated for its mystery and majesty -- for expressing in sound the "idea of north", in the words of the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. And he's even back in the news, for plans to complete and perform his long-rumored Eighth Symphony (read more on critic David Patrick Stearns's blog). Given a listen to WFCR, take a gander at his photo, and see whether you agree that his appearance and music resemble each other more closely than do those of any composer this side of Beethoven.