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Classical Composers (S)

Classical music (and some jazz and folk) from Leonarda
Includes many American composers and works by women



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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) (France) Ave Maria (voice and organ), audio sample mp3 from CD #LE341. Volière from Carnival of the Animals (flute and piano), audio sample mp3 from CD #LE333.

Pierre Sancan (b.1916) (France) studied at the Meknès College of Music, Toulouse Conservatory and the Paris Conservatory, where his composition teacher was Henri Busser. He won the Prix de Rome in 1943 and taught piano at the Paris Conservatory from 1956-1985. Sancan wrote three ballets, an opera and symphonic music as well as solo and chamber works. Sonatine (flute and piano) audio sample mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE355.

Erik Satie (1866-1925) (France) Sonata in E Major, L. 23 (solo piano) is on CD #LE344. Gymnopedie No. 1 (arr. for flute and piano) is on CD #LE355.

Domenico Scarlatti(1685-1757) (Italy) Sonata in E Major, L. 23 (solo piano) is on CD #LE344.

Peter Schickele (b.1935), composer, musician, author and satirist, is internationally recognized as one of the most versatile artists in the field of music. Mr. Schickele has created music for four feature films, among them the prize-winning Silent Running, as well as for documentaries, television commercials and several Sesame Street segments. He was also one of the composer/ lyricists for Oh, Calcutta, and has arranged for Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other folk singers. Schickele arranged one of the musical segments for the Disney animated feature film Fantasia 2000, and also created the musical score for the film version of Maurice Sendak's children's classic Where the Wild Things Are, issued on videocassette along with another Sendak classic. Among his ongoing projects is a weekly syndicated radio program, Schickele Mix, which has been heard nationwide over Public Radio International since 1992 and which won ASCAP's prestigious Deems Taylor Award.

Schickele's commissions are numerous and varied, ranging from works for major orchestras, the Minnesota Opera, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Audubon and Lark String Quartets, to compositions for distinguished instrumentalists and singers. He is, of course, best known as the inimitable Professor Peter Schickele, discoverer of the works of history's most justifiably neglected composer, P.D.Q. Bach, and instigator of numerous and delightful musical spoofs. In testimony, Vanguard released 11 albums of the fabled genius' works, Random House published 11 editions of The definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach, Presser printed innumerable scores, and VideoArts International produced a cassette of P.D.Q. Bach's only full-length opera. That all adds up to "the greatest comedy-in-music act before the public today." (Robert Marsh, Chicago Sun-Times) Last Tango in Bayreuth, a tongue-in cheek tribute to Richard Wagner, is based on motifs from his operas. In two brief sections, the first is an expansion of the famous "Tristan" chord from Tristan und Isolde, while the second is borrowed from the "Overture to Act III" of Loehengrin. The coda abandons the tango rhythm for a chorale-like setting, incorporating the "Tristan" chord within a jazz-like tonality. The work ends in a final gesture to Bayreuth, with the famous "transcendental" chord. Last Tango in Bayreuth (four bassoons). Audio sample mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE348.

Ruth Schonthal (1924-2006), composer and pianist, was on the faculty of New York University and the Westchester Conservatory of Music. She began composing at age five, becoming the youngest student ever accepted at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. As the family had to leave Germany, she continued music studies at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, where at the age of 13 she had her first Sonatina published. From there, the family moved to Mexico City where Schonthal studied with Manuel Ponce and premiered her own Piano Concerto at the Palladian de Bellas Artes. At that time she met Paul Hindemith, who obtained a scholarship for her to study with him at Yale.

Schonthal was a finalist in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition with the work heard here, and she was a finalist in the New York City Opera competition with her opera Camilla. In 1994 she received the International Heidelberger Künstlerinnen Prize. A German biography by Dr. Martina Helmig, Ruth Schonthal, Ein Werdegang im Exil (The Development of a Composer in Exile) will be published in English. Furore Verlag in Kassel, Germany, is in the process of publishing her complete output and will act as distributor for her works published by seven other publishers. Schonthal's compositions display a unique blend of her deeply rooted European tradition, depth of feeling, and mastery of contemporary techniques.

Frühe Lieder (Early Songs) (voice and piano). Audio samples: mp3a; mp3b; mp3c. CD #LE352.
String Quartet. Audio sample mp3 Leonarda CD #LE336.
In Homage of... 24 Preludes (solo piano). Audio samples from 4 variations: mp3 #1; mp3 #2; mp3 #3; mp3 #4. Leonarda CD #LE345.
Fiestas y Danzas (solo piano), audio sample #1 mp3; #2 mp3  from CD #LE334.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)  Ave Maria (voice and organ) is on Leonarda CD #LE341Ave Maria (arr. flute and piano) is on Leonarda CD #LE355Die schöne Müllerin (tenor and piano) is on Leonarda LP #LPI 112 (2 LP-set).

Erwin / Ervin Schulhoff (1894-1942), born in Prague to a wealthy merchant family, studied piano from an early age and started composing as a boy. He received an excellent musical education, with studies in Prague (1902-08), Leipzig with Max Reger and others (1908-10), and Köln (1910-14). He also studied with Debussy for a short time. Awarded the Mendelssohn Prize in 1913 for his piano performances, he won the same prize as a composer following World War I. After serving in the military in the First World War, he spent several years in Germany composing, performing, and collaborating on productions with Paul Klee, Georg Grosz and other leading visual artists.

Returning to Prague in 1923, he taught piano and composition, lectured, and was a staff pianist/composer for various radio stations. As a pianist, he traveled to France, England, and Russia, and was a much sought-after interpreter of modern music. A prolific composer, he enjoyed a great international reputation. Many of his chamber and symphonic works received premieres at contemporary music festivals (Prague, Salzburg, Venice, Geneva, Oxford) and his ballet and pantomime were each staged in several different cities, and his opera was performed in Brno.

Popular dance and folk rhythms permeate Schulhoff's works from the 1920s, the small dance forms and their grotesque caricatures standing in the foreground of his style. This is certainly true of the Burlesque movement of the Sonate for Violin & Piano of 1927. The first and fourth movements are impetuous, with sweeping chromatic lines. Harmonies sometimes sound like jazz chords in parallel motion, but are completely individual, breaking away to Eastern European harmonic and rhythmic patterns.

Hoping to protect himself from the Nazis, Schulhoff became a Soviet citizen, but remained in Prague. He took a strong anti-fascist stand and wrote a series of works dedicated to concepts of social reform. Vocal symphonies with solo voice deal with his war experiences and describe the cataclysmic events in Germany. The East Slovakia hunger riot, the Spanish civil war, the threat by the Nazis­-all these events affected him and inspired him to write. Schulhoff was imprisoned for his politics and race soon after the Nazi takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1939. One of his last compositions, a setting for chorus and orchestra of the Communist Manifesto, was smuggled out shortly before he died of typhus in the Wülzburg concentration camp in August, 1942. "My music is not drowned in dreams. Neither decadent lyricism nor outbursts of hysteria occur in it. It is tough, irreconcilable, uncompromising." ­Ervin Schulhoff.  Sonate for Violin & Piano. Audio samples from  each mvt. mp3a; mp3b; mp3c; mp3d. Leonarda CD #LE342.

William Schuman (1910-1992) was born in New York and began composing in high school, forming a jazz ensemble in which he played violin and banjo. He studied at Columbia University Teachers College and at Juilliard with Roy Harris, who strongly influenced him and brought him to the attention of Serge Koussevitzky, who championed many of his early works. Schuman taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1935 to 1945, and by the age of 35, he had been director of publications for G. Schirmer, Inc. and appointed President of the Juilliard School, a post he held until 1962, when he was appointed first president of the newly-founded Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He wrote a plethora of works in virtually every musical genre, and incorporated American jazz and folk traditions into works which ranged from a harmonically conservative early style to later excursions into dissonance and polytonality. In addition to his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Academy of Music, Schuman received the National Medal of Arts and was honored.
Quartettino for Four Bassoons. Audio samples mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE348.

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896), the daughter of a progressive music educator, received the best musical training, was groomed to become a professional musician, and was encouraged to compose. By the time she was 18, she was second only to Franz Liszt among European pianists. She was the first to introduce Chopin's music to Germany, the first to play Beethoven's Appassionata Sonata in Berlin, and the first to introduce many works by Johannes Brahms and her husband Robert Schumann. She managed to continue her piano career while bearing eight children. At 59 she accepted a full-time teaching post at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt where she remained for fourteen years.

When she was 20, she wrote, "I once thought that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up the idea. A woman must not desire to be a composer, not one has done it, and, why should I expect to? It would be arrogance, though indeed my father led me to it in earlier days." These attitudes were a reflection of the society in which she lived, which questioned women's ability to produce works of art or intellect. Clara composed little after marriage. She wrote piano works, songs, a piano concerto and three chamber works. Leonarda double CD #LE353 includes these four Clara Schumann songs:
Das ist ein Tag der klingen mag (soprano and piano) audio sample mp3;
Warum willst du And're fragen (soprano and piano)audio sample  mp3;
Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen (soprano and piano) audio sample mp3;
Liebst du um Schönheit (another performance for soprano and piano)

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) Aufschwung (solo piano). Audio sample mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE344.

Jeanne Ellison Shaffer (1924-2009), born inKnoxville, Tennessee, began singing professionally when she was four years old, doing commercial radio programs throughout the 30's for WNOX (Knoxville) and WCKY (Covington, Kentucky) and other stations. She signed a five-year contract to sing with Paul Whiteman's Orchestra when she was eleven and toured 38 states with his orchestra. Playing the role of Jeannette MacDonald as a child in the MGM movie, "Girl of the Golden West" and singing with Grace Moore on the Lux Radio Theater were some 30's highlights. Shaffer has sung recitals as well as solos in oratorio, opera and musical theater throughout the United States, often performing her own compositions with chamber groups.

Shaffer's degrees are from Stephens College (AA), Samford University (BM), Birmingham Southern College (MM) and Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (PhD). Her first publications, dating from the early 1950's, are mostly anthems. Since that time, Shaffer has written three musicals in collaboration with Robert S. Barrnettler (whom she married in 1989), orchestral works, chamber music, a chamber opera, a ballet, several volumes of organ music, four cantatas, and song cycles. Shaffer has won the Birmingham Festival of Arts Composition Award three times, and has received grants from NDEA, The National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Aspen Music Festival and Alabama State Council on the Arts. She was an Associate in Composition at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in 1989, with Joan Tower; and in 1991, with Lucas Foss, and has received an ASCAP award each year since joining.

Three of her song cycles were performed at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. One of them, "Boats and Candles" for string quartet, flute and soprano, was released on MMC CD 2026 in 1997. "Three Faces of Woman" for clarinet and piano, published by Sisra Publications, was premiered at the 1996 annual convention of the Southeastern Composers League. The orchestral version of "Three Faces" was recorded by Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic.

Jeanne Shaffer taught for 35 years and has been an organist-choir director for 46 years. Since 1993 she has produced a weekly radio program on women composers, "Eine kleine Frauenmusik," over the Southeastern Public Radio Network. Shaffer's music has been published by twelve publishers. A 1956 composition has become standard repertoire in Brazil, and has been included in a 1994 Portuguese hymnal. Her anthems have been published in Hong Kong in Chinese. Jeanne has 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Shalom, a cantata for peace (SATB double choir, soloists, chamber orchestra). Audio samples mp3a; mp3b ; mp3c; mp3d; mp3e; mp3f. Leonarda CD #LE347.

Ann Silsbee (1930-2003), composer and poet, received musical degrees from Radcliffe and Syracuse and a DMA at Cornell University where she studied with Karel Husa. Her music has been performed throughout the USA, in Canada, Europe, China, Japan and South America, and recorded on Leonarda, Northeastern, Vienna Modern Masters, Finnadar and Spectrum. Silsbee was an accomplished pianist whose music, although carefully notated, gives the impression of improvisation, exemplified in the virtuosity and spontaneity of the song recorded here. Iris from Four Songs (voice and piano). Audio sample mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE338.

Sheila Silver (b.1946) is a versatile composer on the faculty of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She studied in Germany with Erhard Karkoschka and Gyorgy Ligeti after graduation from the University of California at Berkeley, and received her doctorate from Brandeis University. She is a Rome Prize winner (1979) and has had numerous prizes and awards including the American Institute and Academy of Arts and Letters Composer Award, and NEA, Cary Foundation, and Barlow Foundation grants. Silver has written a large body of chamber, solo, and choral music as well as an opera and feature film music. Silver's compositions have commissioned and performed by numerous groups throughout the USA and Europe, among them the Los Angeles Philharmonic, RAI Orchestra of Rome, American Composers Orchestra, Richmond Symphony, the Gregg Smith Singers, the Muir Quartet, and Ying Quartet. Fantasy Quasi Theme and Variation (solo piano). Audio sample mp3 from Leonarda CD #LE345.

Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999), a Chicago native, earned a bachelor's degree in composition from the American Conservatory, where she was a student of Leo Sowerby and Stella Roberts, and a master's degree from DePaul University, where she studied with Leon Stein. She also attended The Juilliard School during 1946-47, studying with Vittorio Giannini. In summers, she studied at the Eastman School of Music, the Berkshire Music Center with Irving Fine, and at the Conservatory in fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger. Smith's works include a Sinfonietta for orchestra, chamber music, piano works, anthems, and songs. Now retired, Smith taught elementary school in Chicago for more than 40 years while continuing to compose. Sonata for Violin and Piano was written while she was a student at Juilliard. Audio samples mp3a; mp3b. Leonarda CD #LE339

Johannes Somary (1935-2011), composer and conductor, was founder of Amor Artis and its Music Director for more than forty years. He achieved a prominent international career, having conducted such ensembles as the English Chamber Orchestra, the New Orleans Symphony and London's Royal Philharmonic, and participated in many international festivals, including those in Dubrovnik, Sion, Madeira, Israel and Greece. Somary worked with such renowned singers as Elly Ameling, Sheila Armstrong, Ernst Haeflinger, Maureen Forrester, Benjamin Luxon, Felicity Palmer and John Shirley Quirk, and with such well-known instrumentalists as David Bar-Ilan, Garrick Ohlsson, Aaron Rosand and Dizzy Gillespie. Maestro Somary's discography claims over 50 recordings, including 4 Stereo Review Record-of-the-Year Awards. Also active as an organist, Somary has received critical acclaim for his recordings of Handel organ concertos. His dramatic cantata "Is This Life?" was given its premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with Michael Moriarty as narrator. Many-Colored Brooms for women's voices (SSA), flute, cello and piano (text: Emily Dickinson). Audio samples mp3a, mp3b, mp3c, mp3d, mp3e. Leonarda CD #LE347.

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677) composed some of the most extraordinary music of the 17th century and was considered the best singer and lute player in Venice. She was probably the illegitimate daughter of the poet Giulio Strozzi, who adopted her when she was nine. He saw to it that she received the best musical education and encouraged her to compose, publish and perform. The Strozzi home was the meeting place for groups of highly educated men who met to discuss the arts and sciences, which greatly influenced Barbara's development. One group in which she was particularly interested was the Accademia degli Unisoni, or the "group of similar thinkers" founded in 1637. Their meetings were devoted to musical performances as well as to academic discourse, and Barbara played an important role as singer, lutenist, composer and collaborator. She commissioned poetry from members of the academy, set it to music, and performed and published it. She was eventually joined in these activities by other women musicians, and was often referred to as a highly virtuosic singer. At the time, there was no consensus that women had souls or belonged to the human race, and because of the role she played in a "man's world," she and the Accademia degli Unisoni gained much notoriety.

Although she studied with Francesco Cavalli, the foremost composer of opera of the day, she never entered the operatic world of Venice. Instead, she wrote over 100 arias and cantatas for solo voice and basso continuo. Between 1644 and 1664, she wrote eight volumes of songs that were published in Venice. Amor dormiglione (voice and harpsichord), audio sample mp3 is on Leonarda CD #LE338, as are Chiamata a nuovi amori and Spesso per entro al petto.

Tradimento! (voice, baroque guitar/lute, viola da gamba), audio sample mp3, is on Leonarda CD#LE350 and also on the double CD #LE353, the latter which can be used in conjunction with the book Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found. Non pavento io non di te and Che si può fare? (soprano, lute, viola da gamba), audio sample mp3.are on Leonarda CD #LE350.

Joyce Hope Suskind (b.1928) began her musical studies as a pianist. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City and was first oboist with the American Youth Orchestra under Dean Dixon. Entering the Juilliard School on an oboe scholarship, she later transferred her major to voice and went on to become a specialist in 20th Century music. As a pianist, she played for the Martha Graham School and the Jose Limon wing at Juilliard. It was in this capacity that she discovered her talent for composing. She composed a score for a Balinese dance using gamelans and other instruments, commissioned by Lehman College; a revue presented in Oxford, England; and a musical based on Moliere's "The Doctor in Spite of Himself." Suskind has dedicated most of her composing life to setting poems of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), with two scored for orchestra. In addition to Yeats, she has set Aiken, Stevenson, Auden, Hopkins and others. Ms. Suskind resides in New York City, where she teaches singing and the Alexander Technique. Six Songs to Poetry of Yeats (voice and piano). Audio samples mp3a, mp3b, mp3c. Leonarda CD #LE352.

Karel Svenk (1907-1945), born Schwenk, was active in Prague and other Czech towns as actor, director, writer, and composer before World War II. One of the prime initiators of cultural activities at Terezín (the Nazi concentration camp, where he was prisoner), he created the cabaret, or variety show, becoming Terezín's most popular theatre producer

On December 28, 1941, the Nazis sanctioned performances in Terezín, reasoning that the prisoners would cause less trouble. These Kameradschaftsabende (evenings of fellowship) then sprang up rapidly in succession. Svenk joined forces with pianist/conductor Rafael Schächter, who was involved in Terezín's choral activities, and in early 1942, presented the first all-male cabaret, called "The Lost Food Card," for men living in the "Sudeten" barracks. At this time, Czech inhabitants were still in the city and the camp's prisoners were forbidden to leave their barracks

Svenk wrote the text as well as the music, and besides being director and producer, he participated in the performance as an actor. Besides being amusing, the cabaret had a more important mission: to strengthen the morale of the prisoners. The show's success was instantaneous, especially when the final song, the Terezín Hymn [also called the Terezín March], sung only in Czech, reached the ears of the listeners. Its refrain expressed the cruel present and hope for the future. Svenk incorporated the hymn into all his subsequent cabarets

Cabarets were easy to assemble, and with small groups the show could move from one attic to another and be performed in modest accommodations for limited audiences. The gates of the barracks eventually opened, and people could attend cultural activities of their own choice, thus enabling the women to see and also participate. Women took part in Svenk's third and most important cabaret ­ his only Terezín play ­ "The Last Cyclist," but it was immediately censored after the dress-rehearsal. Svenk put together several more or less improvised shows before being sent to Auschwitz in September, 1944. About a month later, he was selected to go as a laborer to a factory in Menselwitz near Leipzig. The heavy work, long hours and insufficient food caused a rapid deterioration of his already weakened health and he died in April, 1945. Only six songs from his Terezín output have been preserved. "The Last Cyclist" was performed in Prague following the war. Terezín Hymn (chamber singers). Audiio sample mp3. Leonarda CD #LE342.



 

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