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Lost & Found in America

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Pops concerts these days are an anything-goes experience: video-game nights, the "20 Tenors," your fill-in-the-blank crossover act. But in the first decades of the 20th century, the sensational sound of classical-meets-popular music was all the rage.

Departing from a more traditional sound, composers premiered new works that infused themes like ragtime, rumba, boogie-woogie, or jazz to create a distinctive American musical landscape. Played by symphony orchestras, sometimes by dance bands or other configurations, these compositions pushed listeners of classical music into a new world.

On this inaugural episode of American Pops, Michael Feinstein shares his favorite discoveries from this era, some of which are rarely heard. Featured on the episode is a Serenata composed by Leroy Anderson and the Boston Pops, George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, and an unknown work from 1947 called Dis-Concerto by composer Jacques Press.

Program playlist:

Leroy Anderson: Belle of the Ball
BBC Concert Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin
Album Title: Orchestral Music I
Naxos 8.559313

Leroy Anderson: Serenata
Leroy Anderson and his Orchestra
Album Title: Leroy Anderson Collection
MCA Classics MCAD2-9815

Jacques Press: Dis-concerto in C
Jacques Press with Orchestra
1948 78rpm recording
Alco Recording Company S-111

Gordon Jenkins: Girl On The Rock
Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra
Album Title: The Magic World of Gordon Jenkins
Collectors Choice Music CCM-1292

Johann Strauss Jr.; Arr. Leonard Pennario: Emperor Waltz
Leonard Pennario
Album Title: Virtuoso Favorites
RCA Victor LSC-2714 (LP record)

Jerome Kern: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes from Roberta
Boston Pops Orchestra and Arthur Fiedler
Album Title: Pops Concert
RCA Red Seal 6213-2-RC

George Gershwin: Cuban Overture (Recorded 1938)
Rosa Linda, Pianist with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra
Album Title: George Gershwin: Orchestral Works
Past Perfect PPCD78106 (UK)

Jerome Kern: Mark Twain Portrait for Orchestra
Keith Lockhart and The Boston Pops Orchestra
Album Title: American Visions
RCA 68786

Hosted by:

Michael Feinstein

Comments [6]

NYCSandi from NYC

Welcome back, Michael! How is life in Indiana?

Jul. 09 2014 10:25 PM
Neil Schnall from Fairview NJ

I'm old enough either to remember, or perhaps mis-remember, that Leroy Anderson's Serenata had once been the theme music for one of WQXR's programs. Which, I definitely do not remember. Would love if someone with a long memory can confirm and enlighten.

Also, lovely way to honor the 90th anniversary of Pennario's birth! I own the LP containing that performance.

Best to Michael, old friend.

Jul. 09 2014 10:13 PM
Rob from Philadelphia, PA

Great new program - too bad the medium isn't TV (Mr Feinstein isn't all that hard to look at!)
Welcome to my living space Michael...

Jul. 09 2014 12:04 PM
Jared from Greenwich CT

Agree with much of the above (or below, forget how this will post). Not that it really matters but Gershwin's Cuban Overture is not obscure in any sense. Anyhow when it comes to incorporating quasi-jazz or ragtime styles specifically I think the Eastern European composers (Schulhoff, Martinu, Hindemith, Milhaud, Honegger, Boris Blacher, Stravinsky etc..) did it with much more finesse and grittiness. Then again what could be more fun than a Gershwin or Kern tune? :)

Jul. 08 2014 10:56 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

Happy 4th of July everyone! Richard from Salem, MA makes an excellent point here. All one has to do is go back approx 100 years and look at programs put together by John Philip Sousa for his famous band. He brought music to the masses and yes, it included classical, novelties, solos by famous vocal and instrumental artists, and "pop" tunes of the day. This was a formula that was successful for over his 50 years leading both the U.S. Marine Band and his own organization. Sadly, many band directors today miss the mark with this type of programming which is often why there are more performers on stage than in the audience. Sousa's philosophy was simple; "entertainment, not education."

Jul. 04 2014 08:27 AM
Richard from Salem, MA

Pops seems to be a very lost concept. They used to play Glen Miller, Strauss, etc and pop in a little Mozart concerto here or there to develop a classical repertoire in their audience. Nowadays, Pops actually playing any pop music is a ridiculous concept. The Boston Pops and Bruno Mars or Niki Minaj? I don't think so. So Pops orchestras are left with the daunting mission of doing ANYTHING to get people in seats. Beyond film and video game music or playing back up band to some 70s act like the Doobie Bros (the "Pop" music for the audience gray hairs), orchestras are intellectually bankrupt on this front and fighting actual bankruptcy on the other front.

The truth is that these orchestras continue to play themselves into total irrelevance rather than do the things that make people actually have a chance to fall in love with the orchestra.

Jul. 03 2014 01:50 PM

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