Running the Gamut 2 – A Thousand and One Milestones

Since July 11, 1991, I’ve been hosting a classical music morning program on WTJU, 91.1fm in Charlottesville Virginia. The three-hour program had a simple programming tenant — never repeat a work. (read more at Running the Gamut – A Thousand and One Wednesdays)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013, from 6-9 am we’ll mark the 1000th program with a live webcast, mini-fundrive, and air messages from our listeners (call 434.207.2120 to leave your message).

Looking over the master playlist for “Gamut,” I’m amazed at both how much music by how many composers I’ve been able to air, and how much there is still left to do. Nevertheless, if you (like me), have listened to every single episode of “Gamut,” you would have been exposed to a lot of great music. I freely program from all style periods of classical music, from the Middle Ages (beginning ca. 900) all the way up through the present.

And I mean present. In 2010 composer Robert Ian Winstin undertook the task to compose, perform, record, and produce a new classical work every single day during the month of February. (28 in twenty-eight) I obtained permission to air the works, and so during that month “Gamut” featured works that were less than six hours old. Now that’s about as contemporary as you can get!

Complete Series

Along the way, I’ve been able to do some interesting cycles that, taken in total, help the listener more fully understand the composer. Some cycles are easy — like Brahms symphonies (he only wrote four), and Grieg piano concertos (he wrote just one). But then some cycles could only be programmed and aired with a longer view — like these:

Franz Joseph Haydn – 104 symphonies
Ludwig van Beethoven – 9 symphonies. 16 string quartets, 32 piano sonatas, 10 violin sonatas
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – 18 piano sonatas, 23 string quartets, 41 symphonies
Felix Mendelssohn – Complete Songs without Words (8 volumes, 48 pieces), 5 symphonies, 12 string symphonies

– to name a few

Underrepresented Composers

I also featured a lot of works by composers that haven’t made the Top 10, but either perhaps should have, or at least deserve to be in the Top 40. Since they’re not as widely recorded, I usually can’t do a complete cycle of works, also often I can do a complete cycle of recordings! Here are a few examples:

Alan Hovhaness: 51 compositions out of  434 published works
Gerald Finzi: 37 out of 40 published works
Heitor Villa-Lobos:  60 (including all 17 string quartets)  out of 592 known compositions

Non-European Composers

The stereotype is that classical music is irrelevant because it’s all written by dead, white, European men. Well, not quite. Here’s a very short list of the non-European (and some non-white) composers I’ve featured:

Carlos Chavez (Mexico)
Healy Willan (Canada)
Bechara El-Khoury (Lebanon)
Zhou Long (China)
Peter Schulthorpe (Australia)
William Grant Still (America)

Women  Composers

Addressing the second part of the stereotype, I’ve aired more than a few women composers — and not just contemporary ones, either. Here’s a small sampling:

Hildegard von Bingen (medieval)
Fanny Mendelsohn-Hensel (romantic)
Clara Schumann (romantic)
Amy Beach (20th century)
Barbara Strozzi (baroque)
Joan Tower (contemporary)
Jennifer Higdon (contemporary)

Living Composers

And finally, I also air a lot of music by living composers. Because to me, classical music isn’t a musty old artifact in a museum, but a vital part of contemporary life — as evidenced by the composers who create it today. A very small list of living composers would include:

John Taverner
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Lawrence Ball
Judith Shatin
Kenneth Fuchs
Philip Glass

…. and a work or two by yours truly.

And more!

Then there are all the other oddities I’ve aired, like Richard Wagner’s symphonies(!), overtures from Haydn operas, PDQ Bach, Benjamin Franklin’s string quartet, piano concertos by Beethoven’s personal assistant, Ferdinand Reis, violin concertos by Saint-Georges, the greatest swordsman in 18th century France, and many, many more.

It’s been quite a musical journey — and I’m not done yet.

Part 1: A Thousand and One Wednesdays
Part 2: A Thousand and One Milestones
Part 3: A Thousand and One Lessons
Part 4: A Thousand and One Questions
Part 5: A Thousand and One Thanks

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