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Classical Music

Music In The Making: American Songbook

Songs from Copland, Barber, and Gershwin.


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Emily Dickinson
Public Domain
Emily Dickinson, daguerreotype c. 1848.

On this week’s Music in the Making, we feature songs from great 20th-century American composers, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday!

Aaron Copland: 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson (1950)
Lynelle Rowley, soprano; Meryl Ettelson, piano
Dudley Recital Hall

A collection of contemplative poetry from Emily Dickinson, where Copland attempted to emulate her distinctive style and syntax through his melodic, yet abrupt, vocal line. Some of the poems included in this set are “Nature, the gentlest mother,” “Dear March, come in!,” and “The Chariot.” Each song is dedicated to a composer friend of Copland’s.

Samuel Barber: Mélodies passagéres (Passing Melodies) (1951)
Sydney Carlson, flute; Meryl Ettelson, piano
Dudley Recital Hall

The French title shows where Barber got his influence for this set of 5 songs. While his previous vocal works were in a decidedly German style, these are often compared to the idioms of Debussy and Fauré. The texts come from the “Poèmes français” by Rainer Maria Rilke. This version is transcribed for flute.

George Gershwin: “I Got Plenty O’ nuttin’,” “A Woman is a Sometime Thing,” “Embraceable You,” and “They All Laughed”
Timothy Jones, bass-baritone; Timothy Hester, piano
Moores Opera House

Finally, some of George Gershwin’s great hits, with songs from Porgy and Bess, his popular song catalog, and music he wrote for film (Shall We Dance). It’s no wonder these are so popular when Gershwin dropped out of school at 15 to become a song-writer. Clearly it worked out!

This episode originally aired Sunday, November 22nd, 2015. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.