Understanding Intentions

Audio not yet available
Email a Friend

Do you have to understand the lyrics of a vocal piece to truly enjoy it?

One can argue that music can still reach us in a personal way even if lyrics are vague and mysterious. A good composer can always convey the spirit of his intentions even if certain details are not easily discernible. This week, Terrance McKnight explores pieces translating those very feelings.

To that end, Simon Mashoko kicks off this weekend's episode with a traditional song from Zimbabwe played on the mbira called Kumakudo. The mbira is the national instrument of Zimbabwe, and it's been used by the Shona people for thousands of years during religious and social gatherings. This piece signifies their rhythm of purpose.

Anne Sofie von Otter sings Clara Schumann's Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, which roughly translates to "he came in storm and rain." And we also hear a Humoresque composed by Dvorak, performed by Art Tatum who was a champion of stride piano, intentionally skipping around his target theme on the keys.

Other highlights include two works that reflect composers' lifelong fascination with birds. Messiaen's Black Bird is followed by Duke Ellington's The Bluebird. Both evoke the mysteries of these unconscious, planned and inherent journeys.


Music on this Program:

Traditional: Kumakado (Shona Mbira Music)

Simon Mashoko, mbira & vocals




Clara Schumann: Er is gekommen in Sturm und Regen, Op. 12/2 Warum willst du andere fragen Op. 12/11

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo; Helene Grimaud, piano

Deutsche Grammophon

Op. 12/11


Bryan Johanson: The Secret Guitar

Bryan Johanson, guitar; Yoshi Nakao, clarinet; Joel Bluestone, percussion; Hamilton Cheifitz, cello


The Secret Guitar


Olivier Messiaen-Le Merle Noir

Phillipe Bernold, flute; Alexandre Tharaud, piano

Harmonia Mundi

Le Merle Noir


Edward K. (Duke) Ellington: Bluebird of Delhi (alternate take)

Duke Ellington Orchestra


Bluebird of Delhi


Antonin Dvorak: Humoresque in G-Flat, Op.101/7, “Spring Song”

London Symphony Orchestra; Andrew Litton, conductor, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin


Spring song


Antonin Dvorak: Humoresque

Art Tatum, piano

Best of Jazz



Johannes Brahms: Four Songs, Op. 17

Richard Hickox, conductor; Frank Lloyd, horn; Stephen Stirling, French horn; Rachel Masters, harp


Four Songs, Op. 17


Ronn McFarlane: Blue Norther

Ronn McFarlane, flute


Blue Norther


Giya Kancheli: Night Prayers

Kronos Quartet; Jan Garbarek, saxophone; Vasiko Tevdorashvili


Night Prayers


Bobby McFerrin: Mass

Bobby McFerrin, vocalist; Cyro Baptista, percussion

Blue Note



Arvo Part: In Principio

Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Tonu Kalijuste, conductor; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir


In Principio