Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sentinel-Tribune: 'Musical voice - Kostraba, radio host & pianist, performs BG recital'

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]

Bowling Green, Ohio
Written by By DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor 
Thursday, 19 March 2009
“For many years Greg Kostraba was the voice of classical music on WGTE-FM. As classical music programming director and senior radio host at the PBS affiliate in Toledo, he introduced the music in clear, dulcet tones, adding bits of commentary along the way. Sometimes, though, he lets his fingers do the talking. A classical performer, who was a semifinalist in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in 2004, he has performed solo and chamber recitals as well as with orchestras around the region. Kostraba, who now is program director for WBAA in West Lafayette, Ind., said his dual careers as radio personality and performer are 'symbiotic.' He realized shortly after getting his doctorate in piano performance from the University of Cincinnati, that the two would work well together. People who heard him on the radio may want to see him perform and those who saw him perform would be more interested in tuning in to his radio programs.

“That’s proved to be the case, Kostraba said in a recent telephone interview. Kostraba will present a lecture-recital Sunday at 2 p.m. in the atrium of the Wood County Library. His program will showcase works by African-American composers. Violinist Rico McNeela, from the University of Toledo, will join him for some pieces. The program includes pieces by William Grant Still, considered the dean of African-American composers and the composer the pianist has an abiding interest in that dates back to his studies in Cincinnati. Still was a trailblazer in bringing African-American sounds into the classical realm. His first symphony the 'Afro-American Symphony' was the first work by an African-American composer to be played by a major American orchestra. Howard Hanson conducted its debut with the Rochester (New York) Symphony in 1931. Still was also the first African-American to conduct a major symphony.

“But breaking down racial barriers is only part of Still’s story. 'His music to me is as good as any American composer,' Kostraba said. His music is imbued 'with a great sense of lyricism,' the pianist said. And the composer loved the sound of trains and he incorporates “motor rhythms” in his pieces. 'There’s always a sense of forward motion in his pieces.' His music is evocative, often trying to project a visual image through the music. 'Summerland,' one of the 'Three Visions' Kostraba will play Sunday, is 'a musical depiction of heaven,' and one of the most beautiful pieces in the literature, Kostraba said. The blues element is also deeply felt throughout his work. 'What’s nice about it ... is it’s authentic. It’s rooted in his life in Harlem, his experience with Eubie Blake, his experience with W.C. Handy.' Kostraba will conclude the program with a blues that Still wrote for his 1936 ballet 'Lenox Avenue.' The program will begin with works by two of Still’s predecessors, the Afro-Anglo composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and R. Nathaniel Dett, who like Still studied at Oberlin College. Listeners, Kostraba said, may be struck by the similarities between the tonalities in Dett’s work and those of French impressionist composer Claude Debussy. [Full Post] [William Grant Still (1895-1978), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) and R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) are profiled at, where a complete Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is also found]

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