For this week’s installment of our Collective Listening Project, we continue to highlight classic summer road trip music as selected by our PUC audience. Perhaps it was music that someone discovered during a vacation, a favorite from a special summer music festival, or a long-beloved classic saved for a long drive. The response was tremendous—so much so that we devoted two playlists to these picks!
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Adagio Affetuoso ed Apassionato from Quartet No. 1, Op. 18, No. 1
Submitted by Judith Czigler, PUC Subscriber
The timing and expressions layered in this movement adds uplifting romance and love and you will forget how many remaining miles until your destination. Enjoy!!!
JEAN SIBELIUS Symphony No. 5
Submitted by Marue Walizer, PUC Subscriber/Member Princeton University Concerts Committee
I loved listening to this in the evening in the Rocky Mountains, not the Norwegian fjords but just as beautiful.
GABRIEL KAHANE 8980: Book of Travelers
Submitted by Zachary White, PUC Patron
When I think of road trips and PUC, I think of Gabriel Kahane's Book of Travelers project (presented February 2019). Searching and empathetic, the album is essential listening for this American moment - a reminder of our shared humanity and the power of song to help us connect across time and space.
ALEXANDER GLAZUNOV Symphony No 5
Submitted by Sheldon Eldridge, PUC Patron
My summer listening pleasure always includes the music of Alexander Glazunov who is, to my mind, a composer much underrated today. Franz Liszt once said “The whole world will be talking about this composer.” While his ballet music, especially “Raymonda” is in the canon, his symphonic work less so. Symphony No. 5 in four movements and dubbed “Heroic” is a favorite. The movements are alternatively characterized by majestic breadth, airy virtuosity (in particular the woodwinds), supple lyricism, and dynamic driving energy. All these kaleidoscopic affects are brilliantly brought to the fore in performances led by the incomparable conductor Neemi Järvi.
SAMUEL BARBER Knoxville:Summer of 1915
Submitted by Bob Pollack, PUC Subscriber & Irene Caramuta, PUC Patron
To me this Barber-Agee work is quintessential Americana, perfectly describing the scene of a summer evening in most pre-WWII, town and city neighborhoods, not only the South. Barber skillfully and magically captures all the emotions and movement in James Agee's poetic prose from ""A Death in the Family," with word painting of people rocking on their porches as they watch and listen to the constant flow of traffic. There are people in pairs, a horse and buggy, loud and soft autos, a whining streetcar - passing, creating a feeling of continous motion. While I would love to relate my first hearing to a road trip of some kind, I actually first heard the piece, 30-40 years ago sitting in Richardson Auditorium and it has been a favorite ever since. And of all recordings, I think that soprano Dawn Upshaw with David Zinman conducting St. Lukes is the finest. Enjoy the music and here is a link to the exquisite Agee prose.
The title of this work, scored for soprano and orchestra and a setting of James Agee's evocative and nostalgic poem of the same name, says it all about its connection to summer. Quoting directly from Agee's text, this is a great piece to listen to "on a summer evening, among the sounds of the night." To this I would add while practicing social distancing on your road trip, of course. Although I am straying far from the task you've set for us by giving you the following details, I allow myself to add that I fell in love with this piece many years ago (in freezing cold Rochester, NY -- of all places), courtesy of the Eleanor Steber recording. (She recorded the work with the Dumbarton Oaks Orchestra, under the baton of William Strickland.). Leontyne Price and Dawn Upshaw have also lent their voices to this score in very respected recordings. If I had to choose, I'd say that Upshaw, with her light moon-beam of a voice, is the most believable as Agee's prescient child narrator, but oh Steber! This largely forgotten American artist had an effortless evenness of voice and hauntingly ethereal pianissimi (manifestly on display in her performance of this work). She deserves a re-hearing and her recording of this work should be included on any summer road trip playlist.
PS - We would like to continue to collect your favorite pieces for future playlists. Please use this link to share your inspiration with us.
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