Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bill McGlaughlin's 'Exploring Music' Airs Adolphus Hailstork's 'Epitaph For A Man Who Dreamed'

[Adolphus C. Hailstork (b. 1941) is featured at AfriClassical.com.  Hailstork composed Epitaph: For A Man Who Dreamed, In Memoriam: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), the title work on African Heritage Symphonic Series Volume II, Cedille Records CD CDR 90000 061 (2001).  Paul Freeman conducted the Chicago Sinfonietta in this recording.]

Dominique-René de Lerma
Monday, 10 September.
NPR's Fresh air is brilliantly hosted by Terry Gross, who seems extraordinarily comfortable with any variety of subjects in which her guests are specialists.  The show rather often concludes with terse reviews by others of recent recordings.  Those on jazz and novels are penetrating, while those on pop culture understandably avoid any notice of the music itself, traditionally lacking anything of substance,  and seem so profoundly out of place on broadcasts then not rarely including respectable works of art.  This program discussed pop recordings from Nashville as if discography earned the city the title of Music City U.S.A.  I sent an e-mail to remind the producers that justification came about in the previous century by the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University.  A kind, polite stock reply was the reaction, probably the end of it.
This was followed by Bill McGlaughlin's stellar Exploring music, given this week to the pupils of Nadia Boulanger. This is a suitable time to cite her African American students, none of whom might not make it to  this week's agenda: Vada Butcher, Donald Byrd, R. Nathaniel Dett, Adolphus Hailstork, Eugene Haynes, Nora Holt, Raymond Jackson, Quincy Jones, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Kermit Moore, Julia Perry, Howard Swanson, Leon Thompson, and particularly George Walker (who was one of her few private students).
Then came a documentary on the production of Wagner's Ring, whose four operas were to care for the remainder of the week.  There may be those who greatly dislike Wagner (like Stravinsky), but this is a giant whose music and art cannot be ignored -- nor the monumental production of the Metropolitan Opera.  He expects -- no, demands! -- that those who come to him have the obligation to study his scores in great depth before his colossal genius and shameless audacity can begun to be understood -- and, for that matter, any aspect of 19th-century German music.  Being unequivocally German, his operas do not open the door for non-German performers -- a position that cannot be thought prejudicial.  Even so, Grace Bumbry broke the mold in the sacred halls of Wagner's own Festspielhaus in Bayreurth in 1961 when she was engaged for Tannhäuser, just  as Simon Estes did with Der fliegende Holländer in 1978.  Then there was Jessye Norman, superbly cast in the Met's last production of the Ring, while Gwendolyn Killebrew had made her mark  at the Met and in German productions in the past.  I initially feel at least a little discomfort to find Black singers in the role of villains, but everyone in the Ring is a villain, but for Brünnhilde and those swimmers in the Rhine River, so Eric Owens has been able to shine as the sinister Alberich.
The subject of this tetrology is the downfall of the gods and their lust for gold.  I don't suggest the Met's scheduling has a relationship to the current American presidential election.

Dominique-René de Lerma

Additional Comment
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma subsequently informed us: "Before the week ended, Bill McGlaughlin included the Elegy of Adolphus Hailstork, with Paul Freeman conducting the Chicago Sinfonietta on the recording."  The work is on the CD pictured above.

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