Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #13
This 1959 series features members of The Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. The musicians play a piece, then break it down in order to show how their instruments evoke certain images through music. They also explain the history of the instruments and how they were grouped - eventually culminating in the modern day quintet.
Welcome to the All Arts Vault. I'm Maddie Orton.
The Vault is the place to go
for special access to all things arts.
So we're going into the archives
to uncover some of our greatest gems
and share these programs with you
as they would've been seen decades ago
when they first aired.
Join us for a deep dive into a rich programming history
of over 50 years of archival content.
It's all here in the Vault.
There might be some mistakes in the score,
but I would say in general the score is correct, not the parts.
Man: The score is correct, not the parts.
Because that's, of course, always a question.
You know how it is when we're performing and define up.
As you just heard us play this,
and we're interested to know, as you heard it,
if that represents pretty much what you had intended.
Oh, yes, and I think it's an excellent performance.
Very good, indeed.
I'm glad you kept the tempo moving,
because it's a piece with a good deal of slow music in.
It's a summer piece with a feeling of summer.
And -- But it mustn't be -- it mustn't be too lethargic.
And, in fact, it mustn't be lethargic at all.
It must keep moving, and you did.
I noticed you put on the "baloop" at the end
in the bassoon part.
Where did that come from?
Well, we had the original parts
from the Detroit group that first performed,
and Charlie Sirard, the bassoonist, told us about it.
And I kind of liked the first idea you had there.
I like it, too.
[ Laughter ]
It's not here, but it's all right.
Yes, I wrote this for the group in Detroit.
They were men from the Detroit Symphony,
and it was a rather nice idea.
It was commissioned by the Detroit Music Guild, I think.
And it interested me
because instead of having the commission pay --
My fee was not paid by one person,
one rich person, or by a foundation.
We all seem to live with foundations these days.
But a group of people,
not one of whom paid more than, say, $10 or $20 for it,
so that they felt it was their composition.
And I thought it was a good idea
and should be followed by other communities
for many other composers all over the country.
It is a wonderful idea.
And I think it's one that we're going to try
to promote ourselves right here in Philadelphia.
Sure. There was even a --
There was such a community interest
in the piece of the people.
They all felt they owned it.
One lady had made a cake, a large cake.
And the first theme was done
in chocolate icing on vanilla icing.
[ Laughter ]
-That's wonderful. -Taste the opening.
I'd like to interrupt this little discussion
about your "Summer Music" to tell you
that we have as our distinguished guest today
Mr. Samuel Barber, the great American composer.
You have seen and heard in our past 12 television programs
a summary or a summary of the history
of chamber music for woodwinds.
You have experienced music of Bach and Vivaldi,
Haydn and Mozart,
people like Stamitz and Rosetti,
composers of the Mannheim school,
onto Paris, Onslow, Lefebvre,
and getting into contemporary music,
music of Milhaud,
and going over to Scandinavia, music of Nielsen.
And now we are back in the United States.
And on today's program, we have played music --
or will play music of Samuel Barber.
It is with great personal pride
that I introduce him formally to you.
Sam, I remember many wonderful experiences in music
with you around --
centering around the Curtis Institute of Music
here in Philadelphia.
And when you were a Prix de Rome winner,
I was very flattered that you came back
into the horn section of the Philadelphia Orchestra
and asked me some technical questions about the French horn.
-You remember that? -I was afraid to ask you.
You were already a great star by that time
in the Philadelphia Orchestra.
But it's been a great pleasure for me to hear you
and see you all again,
'cause I think most all of us were in Curtis together.
And then I remember so well going to the woodwind classes.
Gigliotti: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, Sam.
Your writing for the woodwinds is really wonderful,
very much admired by us.
And I would like to ask you if your ideas
were very much influenced by the woodwind classes held there.
Oh, I'm sure, yes.
I'm sure that they were, because, firstly,
those were extraordinary sessions.
And I'm glad that you've got Mr. Tabuteau,
that wonderful artist, on film
so that the public can see what you all went through.
And here it was not only listening to the woodwinds
and listening alone and in small groups
that was so important for a composer's ear.
That's not so easy.
Generally you hear them with the orchestra,
against the background of string.
But also the wonderful musicianship,
which I think he's transmitted to you all.
Well, you know, Sam, he was -- he came back to this country
just this summer for the first time
since his retirement from the orchestra.
And we were, of course, so happy to see him
and so pleased that he was able to appear on the series.
But I'm sure you'll be interested to know
that after he did this little interview with us,
he went -- vacationed in Canada and did some fishing.
And he came back, and when he was here,
just before he left for France last week,
we played a recording of the "Summer Music" for him,
and he was really very thrilled with it
and very, very pleased and so happy
not only for the wonderful music,
but for wonderful music for woodwinds,
which, of course, is very close to his heart, as we all know.
Cole: On one of our earlier programs,
I told how musicians get together
when they visit various cities,
how we exchange information,
talk about music and instruments and things.
And in connection with this,
I have something that might interest you, Sam.
When the Philadelphia Orchestra was in Russia this past year,
in Leningrad, I met a young Estonian flutist
who was there to hear our orchestra play.
And we got in a conversation,
and he asked me about woodwind chamber music.
So I promised him that I would send him some.
So later, after we got home,
the quintet here sent him a copy of your "Summer Music,"
and I have here a letter from him commenting on it.
I would like to read you part of it.
He says, "Since my writing,
our quintet has given many concerts at home,
in Transcaucasia, and in Central Asia.
Especially interesting to our friends of chamber music
was to hear a very original quintet by Barber,
which aroused great attention
by its contemporary music and fantasy.
Thank you once more for this wonderful work.
That's very kind of you to have sent it.
That's rather quick, too,
because it hasn't been published very long, has it?
Man: No. Of course, we've known it since the --
since we received the manuscript parts from Detroit,
and we played it for a couple of years that way,
and as soon as we got the copies from Schirmer,
why, we sent them not only to Estonia, but --
Man: Yeah, we've sent them all over the world -- Poland.
Yes, Copenhagen, Poland, Bucharest and --
Because we do feel that it's a magnificent work,
and we're proud that it emanates from America
and most of all, Philadelphia.
The trend has reversed.
At least your Russian could speak to you
in apparently rather good English.
Last night, when I met Rostropovich, the cellist,
the famous cellist who played here,
we wanted to talk to each other.
He came out, but all he could do --
He put his arms around me
and sang the first theme of my cello concerto.
That was the end of the conversation.
-International language. -Yes, how true it is.
I understand you had quite an evening last night
meeting all the Soviet composers
and all the American composers.
Must have been very interesting.
We had a very good time.
We couldn't talk too much
because there's the language difficulty.
They don't speak French or German and English,
and we don't speak Russian,
so there wasn't too much communication.
It had to be done through interpreters,
which cuts down a bit.
But we had a very good time,
and it was a fascinating experience to see them all here.
Man: May I ask, how many Russian composers were there?
Kabalevsky, Shostakovich, Khrennikov,
and two others and a critic
and somebody they were traveling with.
Yes, and there were some American composers, too,
Sessions, Menotti, Dello Joio, and others.
Did they mention your music?
Did they know in Russia
that the kind of music that they played over there --
the American music that they play?
Well, they're beginning to.
I was interested to know what of our music
gets played there not only by the Philadelphia Orchestra
and the Philharmonic last year.
Of course, they knowthat music.
They come to all those concerts.
But I was also interested to ask them what music of ours
they play when we're not there.
Did they play themselves? They do.
-More pertinent. -Yes.
I think the adagio. Yes.
Evidently, the cellist's in your concerto.
Yes, and then the Piano Sonata is performed frequently
because Van Cliburn played that there,
and then he sent copies around
and gave copies to his his pianist friends.
The whole distribution of music is very complicated
because we have no agreement with him.
DeLancie: Yes, well, I'm sure that your violin concerto
will be soon played there, too,
because I recall that we played it
with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Brussels last year
and there were quite a few Russians
in the audience at the time,
and I'm sure they were impressed with it as much as we were.
Could I ask you a question about recordings of your works?
Have you performed in any of your recordings of your works?
Well, I conducted a couple of things.
You conducted? Yes.
I don't think I'll say too much about that.
[ Laughter ]
DeLancie: Welcome to the Philadelphia Orchestra.
With an English orchestra, I did a second symphony in Media
and then the cello concerto.
And then I played piano
in recordings with Leontyne Price.
We did a song cycle called "Hermit Songs" --
And that's all I've done.
I'm going to record for Stravinsky.
Cole: I was gonna ask if you were gonna do anything currently.
Going to do [indistinct].
I'm going to play one of the piano parts
in [indistinct] with three other composers. Wonderful.
Copeland, Sessions, and Lukas Foss and I
are playing the four pianos,
and we all have to practice piano again.
[ Laughter ]
Well, you know, in the classical period
I think the thing that launched the woodwind group
definitively in the minds of the composers --
the two works -- probably were the Mozart
and Beethoven piano quartets or quintets.
And we're hoping that perhaps soon you will
think of writing a quintet
that will include piano,
or rather, a sextet, and then perhaps
we would have the pleasure having you play the piano
with us on the recording.
It's a combination that I love. I love piano and winds.
We've just completed the recording commercially
of the summer music,
and I hope that won't be long
before we do something else for winds
and we can do it with you.
I would like to hear it.
Are there many woodwind quintets in Europe?
-Oh, yes. -Oh, yes. Every capital.
Not in Russia, though.
Not in Russia, no. Strangely enough. No.
In Russia, this fellow
that I had the correspondence with
is behind the Iron Curtain
but he's in Estonia. -Uh-huh.
Barber: But why aren't there?
The woodwinds don't seem to enjoy the eminence
that they do in this country and other European countries.
Well, you're all prima donnas in this country.
[ Chuckling ]
DeLancie: Can you imagine
that the two works that I just spoke of --
Mozart and Beethoven quintets,
which are considered, of course,
such great works in German music.
I spoke with Richter -- Sviatoslav Richter...
The great pianist. The great pianist.
...and he did not know either one of these works... Amazing.
...to give you an idea how a little
woodwind music is used there.
I don't know why,
but that's just the way it is.
We, I think,
did a great deal to stimulate their interest in this
and your music, of course, is going to even do more
because they're going to have contemporary works
that are of great value to display their instruments.
Schoenbach: Sam, one of the problems
that always comes up with instrumentalists
who perform the works of composers like your own
is that we always try to read things into the music
and we were fascinated when we first saw
this composition titled "Summer Music"
to let our imagination roam and presuppose
that all kinds of things were happening in this music.
And then we find when we speak to the composer
that they're just busy writing wonderful music
and they don't have these dream fantasies
that instrumentalists have. [ Laughs ]
Barber: Well, sometimes we do,
but in this particular piece, I don't think I did.
I thought of it as music
perhaps recalling summer
and quiet, placid peace
and also perhaps it's a little bit outdoor music.
Perhaps it would sound well played out of doors.
I think it was played in Rome out of doors in the garden,
and I think that was --
Would it sound well out of doors?
-I don't see why not. -Yes.
Jones: And we were very interested
in the form of the composition
in that it takes about,
I think, 12 minutes to perform,
and it is continuous music.
It has a certain form of symmetry
where there's a beginning... -Sort of a rondo form.
Rondo form, and we have the return of the themes
Barber: Well, I kept you all busy, didn't I? Yes.
We did not rest to recuperate.
DeLancie: Had you intended at any time
to make it into two movements
or was it all -- was your original intention --
No, I always thought of it being one movement, yes.
Someone writing about your music
says that Samuel Barber always uses wind instruments
and an idiomatic way
but it always requires the greatest virtuosity,
and now I know what they mean.
Well, I have them -- I have all the virtuosos here today,
so I've been very lucky. [ Laughter ]
I'd like to develop one of the instruments
and call for it --
and ask for its maximum potentiality.
Gigliotti: Well, I was going to say
that your treatment of the winds
is such that the parts are extremely difficult to play.
They require an awful lot of wood shedding,
but they are possible.
So many composers write things
that are extremely difficult and impossible
and really are not worth the effort,
but I must say that that's not the case with your music.
Well, Sam it's certainly been wonderful to have you here,
and I know that everybody's gonna enjoy "Summer Music."
But the thing that really impresses us most
in studying this entire area of woodwind music
and its development
is to find that now we have an art form
and that so many American composers
and contemporary composers regard the woodwind quintet
as an art form, and I think
that your contribution is one of the greatest
and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
This is National Educational Television.
More Episodes (35)
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #13January 22, 2021
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #12January 16, 2021
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #11January 08, 2021
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #10January 01, 2021
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #9December 31, 2020
Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #8December 25, 2020