Friday, November 13, 2020 Music of Fikret Amirov began the concert. "The short, sparkling gem 'Summerland' by William Grant Still followed."

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

An old friend you can visit online for free:

The Dame Myra Hess Memorial concerts mounted by the International Music Foundation (IMF) have been a staple of the Chicago cultural landscape since 1977, and the coronavirus pandemic has not changed that. But it has changed the method of presentation, with the effect that considerably more people can see and hear these concerts than ever before.

Since 1977 the concert series has been presented, free of charge, in Preston Bradley Hall in the downtown Chicago Cultural Center. Now the concerts are live-streamed for free from that location, and later archived. So you can view the two concerts I review here, as well as many others.

The concert series, which takes place at lunchtime on Wednesdays, typically offers performances of less than 45 minutes, allowing listeners to attend during their workday break. Last week’s concert featured Marie Tachouet, principal flute of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, and Beilin Han, an accomplished musician since childhood and an IMF regular who performs extensively as a collaborative pianist. Tachouet and Han opened their performance with selections from Six Pieces for Flute and Piano by Fikret Amirov, a Soviet-era composer from Azerbaijan.


The short, sparkling gem “Summerland” by William Grant Still followed. Still was one of the 20th century’s great American composers, though he remains sadly underperformed by major orchestras, opera companies and chamber ensembles. Tachouet and Han’s performance begins to make amends for this neglect and will surely encourage listeners to seek out more of Still’s music, particularly now that we are seeing a performing renaissance of composers of color.

“Summerland” is the middle section of a three-part suite entitled “Three Visions” that Still wrote for piano and that was premiered by his wife, Verna Arvey, in 1936. The suite explores the fate of the soul after death, with Summerland representing heaven.

The interpretation by Tachouet and Han was languorous and warm, with the flute offering silky legato for the main, wistful melody. Tachouet’s high notes were silvery and lingered easily. Han’s piano was sensitive, contributing texture and depth.

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