View our radio program essays dating from 2002.
The first Saturday of each month from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on WRTI 90.1 FM. Hosted by Kile Smith, former Curator of the Fleisher Collection, and Jack Moore, Program Director of WRTI. Encore presentations of the entire Discoveries series every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on WRTI-HD2
In Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, we uncover the unknown, rediscover the little-known, and take a fresh look at some of the remarkable treasures housed in the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music, at the Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The Fleisher Collection is the largest lending library of orchestral performance material in the world.
In January, we began a survey of the history of American orchestral music with George Bristow, born in 1825. Now in December, we end 2016 with two composers who lived into the 1940s, wrapping up an American century with Frederick Shepherd Converse and Carl Busch, representing American music as well as any other composers.
New Englander Converse could be a model for the American composer at that time. The son of a wealthy businessman, his musical gifts overrode his father's desire for him to join the business. He studied composition with John Knowles Paine and George W. Chadwick, then went to Munich and studied with Chadwick's teacher, Joseph Rheinberger. Returning to the States, he taught at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music (Chadwick having in the meantime become its director), then at Harvard. But after only eight years total of teaching, Converse left academia to compose full-time.
He wrote choral and orchestral works, as well as operas. The Irish-themed The Pipe of Desire was the first opera by a native-born American to see the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. The small Serenade for strings was followed by his grand tone poem, The Mystic Trumpeter, which was based on Walt Whitman and premiered by the young Philadelphia Orchestra in 1904.
Along with The Mystic Trumpeter, his much later Flivver Ten Million has become his most-played orchestral works. Flivver humorously celebrates the tenmillionth Ford Model T to roll off the conveyor belt. Converse said he wondered "what Mark Twain would have done with such a theme if he had been a musician."
The Danish composer and violinist Carl Busch studied in Brussels and Paris, and, at 25, was invited to Kansas City, Missouri, by the Danish consulate there. He formed a string quartet and came to the United States. He became the leading musician in Kansas City, directing the Philharmonic Choral Society and the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.
Busch fell in love with American Western and Native American cultures. Many of his works use homegrown melodies, including, in his Four North American Legends, Chippewa tunes. The so-called Indianist Movement in music, though a short-lived phase, grew out of the urge to find unique American folk elements from which to craft an American classical music. The irony that Americans were partly spurred on in this quest by foreigners has not been lost. Antonin Dvorak famously wrote the very thing in the 1890s while here, and the Danish-American Carl Busch was one of those who led the way.
You can hear Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on WRTI 90.1 FM Philadelphia, 97.7 Reading, 97.1 Allentown, WJAZ 91.7 Harrisburg, 90.7 York, WRTL 90.7 Lancaster Ephrata Lebanon, WRTY 91.1 Mount Pocono, 94.9 Wilkes-Barre, 99.1 Pottsville, 106.1 Scranton, WRTQ 91.3 Ocean City, WRTX 91.7 Dover, and on the web at www.wrti.org.