New Songs and Ancient Dances

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This week's episode of The New Canon centers on newly composed songs with both classic and contemporary texts, as well as dances that draw on ethnic influences from around the world.

On our current Album of the Week, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts pairs the world premiere recording of his Symphony No. 4, performed by Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with settings of classic and contemporary poems by women.

Sung by Texas-based choir Conspirare, If I Were a Swan takes its text from a poem by Fleda Brown, who incidentally is also Puts' Aunt. To Touch the Sky uses words from a series of female writers including Emily Bronte, Amy Lowell, Mother Teresa, and Marie Howe. The work was inspired by the idea of the "Divine Feminine" as represented by the biblical Mary.

Violinists Hlíf Sigurjónsdóttir and Hjörleifur Valsson initially formed Duo Landon in 2005 for a recording of Bela Bartok's 44 Duos. "Icelandic Violin Duos" further expands the violin duo repertoire with six commissions from Icelandic composers. We'll hear Thorkell Sigurbjornsson's charming Icelandic Folks Songs.

Finishing off the hour are two orchestral selections that draw on unique cultural sounds from around the world. Inspired by Bartok's efforts to collect Hungarian folk music, Reza Vali has spent his career cataloging folk music from his native Iran. The second movement of his Concerto for Persian Ney, Toward That Endless Plain, here performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project with Khosrow Soltani on ney, represents the blending of his Western classical training and his ethnomusicological interests. Similarly, the second movement of Kevin Puts's Symphony No. 4—"From Mission San Juan"—draws on the native music of the Mutsun Indians of the San Juan Bautista area.