Sunday, July 15 at 4pm
St. Paul Cathedral, 108 N. Dithridge Street, Oakland
Teachers and Students: We understand the connection because we have all experienced the teacher-student relationship. In music composition, it is often the transmission of the teacher’s DNA of aesthetic choices, but not always. Teachers commonly transmit what experience has taught them and their students choose to accept or reject and plot their own course. In the pairings played today, I ask you to compare the voices of teacher and student. Are their aesthetic world’s similar or different? Certainly there is personal bias in these pairings that exposes my a priori notions. Some are obviously speaking the same language but in different accents, and at different paces where meanings are congruent or disparate. Some are defined by their era and some in spite of it.
Johann Christian Bach, J. S. Bach’s eleventh child and youngest son was not a composer of his father’s high baroque; yet, his fugal homage on the family surname pays it tribute. Do you hear tongue-in-cheek treatment of chromaticism that extends the boundaries of his father’s harmonic common practice? J.S. Bach’s preceding fugue is a spurious work, but so are the little preludes and fugues that first taught us the name of Bach.
C. V. Stanford’s presence in Victorian England was dominant. Symphonist, cathedral musician, and professor of music at Royal College of Music, his students included Vaughn Williams and Herbert Howells. The beauty in paring Stanford’s lyrical setting of an Irish tune with Howells’ large scale work evolving from lyricism to effusive expression and closing solace, shows the teacher’s restraint in a Teutonic era and his student Howells’ personal and identifiable neoromantic style of grave beauty in a modern age.
Duke Ellington is one of America’s finest and most productive composers. Pittsburgh’s own Billy Strayhorn was his student-protege and compositional partner. When Billy first played for Duke backstage at the Stanley Theater in 1938, Duke discovered his musical twin and they spent the next thirty years together. Within the opus of Ellington’s thousands of compositions, many are co-written with Billy and some Strayhorn works were even published under Duke’s name. “Melancholia” is a transcription of Duke’s 1953 televised improvisation. Billy’s “Lotus Blossom” later became a musical tribute to Strayhorn after his untimely death in 1967 as Duke played it as a piano solo to open each big band concert. Alex Wyton arranged Lotus for organ, playing it at Duke’s funeral in 1974 at St. John the Divine.
Horatio Parker sought to be America’s greatest composer yet his aesthetic profile had nothing to do with America. Charles Ives, Parker’s Yale University Student, sought to compose in a world of Emersonian self-reliance. Parker was an Anglophile and student of German romanticism. Ives was co-founder of the American Life Insurance industry who professed respect for Parker but identified his father, George Ives, his true teacher. Horatio Parker’s “Risoluto” channels Joseph Rheinberger and Johannes Brahms. Ives idiosyncratic setting of “Adeste Fidelis” demonstrates why he left his post-Yale job as church organist and became a businessman. What Ives heard and felt compelled to compose was not congruent with the expectations of his audience in the pews. Ironically, today Ives is considered one of America’s greatest composers. Parker is perhaps best known as the “teacher” of Charles Ives.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these student-teacher pairings. You can reach me with your reactions to this program at email address
Teachers and Students
Baroque Era Master and Classical Era Son
Teacher: J. S. Bach (1685-1759)
Fuge für die Orgel über die Buchstaben seines Namens, B.A.C.H BWV Anh. 45
Student: Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782)
Fuge für die Orgel über die Buchstaben seines Namens, B.A.C.H
Victorian Era Romanticist and Twentieth Century Evocateur of Gravitas
Teacher: C. V. Stanford (1852-1924)
Intermezzo founded upon an Irish Air
Student: Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Siciliano for a High Ceremony
A Jazz Symphonist and His Musical Twin
Teacher: Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington (1899-1974) Melancholia
Student: Lotus Blossom
Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)
An American Professor & Composer and an American Businessman & Composer
Teacher: Horatio Parker (1863-1919)
Risoluto, op 68, No. 2
Student: Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Adeste Fidelis, S 131
An American Professor, Organist, Composer and One Student among Hundreds
Teacher: Wilbur Held (1914-2015)
I will sing the wondrous story, from Gospel Hymn Settings
Student: Douglas Starr, b. 1952
Pass me not, oh gentle Savior