The Fontainebleau Conservatory’s Centennial Celebration
Midge Woolsey: Hello, I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman. Tonight, performances by musicians from the Grand Dame of Summer programs abroad for over 100 years, Les Écoles d'art américaines de Fontainebleau on this edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
Since 1978, the Young Artists Showcase has been generously underwritten by the McGraw Family Foundation. More than 50 years before that, in 1921, the summer conservatory at the historic Fontainebleau Chateau outside Paris opened its doors to American music students. A very young Aaron Copland was the first to apply, marking the beginning of a procession of influential musicians and composers, seeking the inspiration and knowledge of esteemed French pedagogues. Nadia Boulanger was one of the most sought-after faculty members. She began teaching that very first year and was there every summer until 1979. Mademoiselle Boulanger's younger sister Lili was one of her first students, and the first woman to win the coveted Prix de Rome. Violinist Kelly-Hall Tompkins and pianist, Donna Weng Friedman joined forces at the recent Fontainebleau Conservatory centennial here in New York City with this performance of Lili Boulanger's Two Pieces for Violin and Piano.
MUSIC - Lily Boulanger: Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, I. Nocturne, II. Cortège
Two distinguished alumni of the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, Kelly-Hall Tompkins and Donna Weng Friedman with Two Pieces for Violin and Piano by Lili Boulanger. The program at Fontainebleau has been described by many of its alumni as the experience of a lifetime. It was the dream of General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western front during World War I and was a jewel in the crown of the Franco-American Alliance.
Robert Casadesus also began teaching at Fontainebleau during that inaugural summer. Described by David Dubal as the absolute French pianist, Casadesus was also a prolific composer. Here is pianist Matthew Bengtson at the Centennial with Two Etudes from Casadesus' Opus 28.
MUSIC - Casadesus: Eight Etudes, Op. 28, No. 2
Two Etude by Robert Casadesus, performed by Fontainebleau alum, Matthew Bengtson. The Casadesus family has been featured prominently throughout the conservatory's 100 plus year history. Robert's Uncle Francis Casadesus was one of the founders. Robert, his wife Gaby, and their son Jean, taught, performed and administrated for almost 80 years, and their daughter Thérèse, only recently stepped down as president of the Fontainebleau Association after 25 remarkable years of service.
American composer George T. Walker attended Fontainebleau in the mid 20th century. In 1996, Walker became the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize in music composition. Here are Fontainebleau alums, Khari Joyner and Matthew Bengtson at the centennial with the final movement from Walker's Sonata for Cello and Piano.
MUSIC - Walker: Sonata for Cello and Piano, III
Cellist Khari Joyner and pianist Matthew Bengtson with music by George T. Walker. The Fontainebleau Conservatory Centennial Celebration took place at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center here in New York City. In addition to the many soloists that night, 24 artists formed an alumni chamber orchestra, renowned songwriter, and Hollywood composer, Charles Fox, himself a Fontainebleau alum, conducted the impressive group in the American premier of his fantasy for clarinet, piano, and chamber orchestra. Here's a short excerpt.
MUSIC - Fox: Fantasy for Clarinet, Piano, and Chamber Orchestra
The Chamber Orchestra of the American Conservatory of Fontainebleau with Clarinettist Carol McGonnell and pianist Magdalena Baczewska, conducted by Charles Fox in an excerpt from the American premier of Fox's fantasy for clarinet, piano, and chamber, orchestra. You're listening to the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase on WQXR.
I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman, and today we're featuring the American Conservatory, a summer program where young musicians have the unique opportunity to study the French approach to music at the highest level. At the historic Fontainebleau Chateau, just outside Paris. French composer, Maurice Ravel became resident director of the conservatory in 1935 and remained involved until his untimely death two years later. Each summer, the musicians at Fontainebleau compete for prizes in the Prix Ravel sponsored by the Fondation Maurice Ravel. In 2022, 17-year-old violinist Bartu Elci-Ozsoy and Pianist Mathilde Nguyen won second prize with this remarkable performance of Ravel's Tzigane.
MUSIC - Ravel: Tzigane
Violinist Bartu Elci-Ozsoy and pianist Mathilde Nguyen with their award-winning performance of Ravel's Tzigane during the 2022 summer session at the Fontainebleau Chateau. It's time for a quick break now and then I'll be back with more performances by the talented alumni of the renowned French Conservatory here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
Welcome back. I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman. Today we're celebrating 100 years and counting of summer music making at France's Fontainebleau Chateau. In 1949, Nadia Boulanger became the first woman to hold the position of resident director of the American Conservatory, eventually gaining the reputation as the most renowned composition teacher of the 20th century.
Today's resident director, cellist Diana Ligeti, is the only other woman to serve in that position. It seemed only fitting that Diana performed music by Mademoiselle Boulanger at the Centennial celebration, the first of three pieces for cello and piano.
MUSIC - Nadia Boulanger: Three pieces for Cello and Piano, No. 1. Modéré
Cellist Diana Ligeti with pianist Donna Weng Friedman and Modéré, the first of three pieces for cello and piano by Nadia Boulanger. Renowned pianist and musicologist, Robert Levin attended Fontainebleau in the early sixties. He became resident director in 1979. In honor of the conservatory's centennial, Levin wrote a theme based on the name Nadia Boulanger.
Nine other Fontainebleau composers joined Levin in writing variations on his theme. Here are three of the nine variations from the centennial performance.
MUSIC - Fox: Variations on the Name Nadia Boulanger, Theme by Robert Levin
MUSIC - Brown: Variations on the Name Nadia Boulanger, Theme by Robert Levin
MUSIC - Levin: Variations on the Name Nadia Boulanger, Theme by Robert Levin
From the world premiere of Variations on the name Nadia Boulanger, we heard Magdalena Baczewska performing a variation by Charles Fox, violinist, Natalie Darst Xia and cellist Jane Yeong Eun Lee with Eliza Brown's variation. And finally, Baron Fenwick with Robert Levins Waltz for Nadia.
Award-winning Chinese composer, Bright Sheng studied at Fontainebleau at the suggestion of his mentor, Leonard Bernstein, who also taught at Fontainebleau. Sheng's three movement work, Rages of Love, was commissioned by the Fontainebleau Association for the Centennial. Here are members of the Alumni Orchestra with violinist Dan Zhu and the first movement: Dream Song.
MUSIC - Sheng: Rages of Love for Violin and Chamber Orchestra, I. Dream Song
Fontainebleau alumn Dan Zhu was the violin soloist with members of the Fontainebleau Alumni Orchestra conducted by Bright Sheng and Dream Song from the world premiere of Sheng's Rages of Love. The centennial concluded with a lovely encore music by Nadia Boulanger's close friend and mentor, Gabrielle Fauré, whose music remains a very important part of the program at the conservatory to this day. Bright Sheng moved from the podium to the piano to accompany Dan Zhu.
MUSIC - Fauré: Après un Rêve
Gabriel Fauré's Après un Rêve. We heard violinist Dan Zhu with pianist Bright Sheng in that special centennial performance. We have just enough time to return to the Prix Ravel and the young artists who won first prize in 2022 from the historic Chateau Fontainebleau outside Paris. Here is Daniel Dastoor, Leerone Hakami, Madison Marshall, and Jaime An with the first movement from Ravel's Quartet for strings in F.
MUSIC - Ravel: String Quartet in F Major, I. Allegro moderato
An award-winning performance by Daniel Dastoor, Leerone Hakami, Madison Marshall and Jaime An. We heard the first movement from Ravel's Quartet for Strings in F, rounding out this week's edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase, which is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.
Terry McGraw: Once again, it's always good to be with The Young Artists Showcase and WQXR. I have to tell you, I get awed all the time by the type of talent that we attract to The Showcase, and they're from all over the world: China, Indonesia, Denmark, I mean, you name it. It really is fun and exciting to see such wonderful young talent and to be able to hear them and to have them demonstrate their capabilities.
Midge Woolsey: Thank you, Terry. And special thanks to Jennifer Jahn, president of the Fontainebleau Associations and Joe Kerr, program director extraordinaire who curated the music for today's show. Fontainebleau also boasts a summer architecture program, which will celebrate its centennial this year. You can find out more about Les Écoles d'art américaines de Fontainebleau at fontainebleauschools.org. For a deep dive into the remarkable history of this century old institution, check out the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau Records Library of Congress Music Division. Next week the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase will feature countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in performance with several emerging stars of Manhattan School of Music, a recording of an event which recently took place live in The Greene Space here at WQXR.
Many thanks to WQXR program producers Eileen Delahunty, Max Fine, Laura Boyman, and Maya Cassady. Our session engineer is Jason Isaac, and our generous program underwriter is the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman.
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