American Classics: Lou Harrison

Naxos American Classics: Lou Harrison Violin Concerto, Grand Duo and Double Music. Tim Fain, Violin; Michael Boriskin, Piano; PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordonez

PostClassical Ensemble’s new release:

American Classics – Lou Harrison

Click below to hear Tim Fain and PostClassical Ensemble led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez

Critical Reviews of PostClassical Ensemble’s New Lou Harrison Recording

“Lou Harrison had a pioneer’s imagination, not least regarding what might be walloped in the name of music—his Violin Concerto calls for flowerpots, plumber’s pipes and clock coils in the percussion. What’s more striking in this performance by Tim Fain, the PostClassical Ensemble and conductor Angel Gil-Ordóñez is the brilliance of his writing for violin, a collision between itchy dance rhythms and soaring lyricism. …a very enjoyable disc.” –Eirca Jeal, The Guardian


Three intriguingly special works, extremely well served by the performers. The recording is altogether first class and one superb homage to Lou Harrison for his 100th birthday.” –Remy Franck, Pizzicato


“Using a near-insane combination of rummaged ‘instruments,’ including bells, brake drums, sistra, gongs, tam-tams, and thunder sheet, Double Music begins with a barely audible drone before breaking into a virtual rainbow of colors. Who knows what’s responsible for what sounds, but the clanging and gongs are not only sometimes hilarious, but also make for a perfect system test-track. This relatively short, joy-filled cacophony has the last laugh as it fades out at the end.

Harrison wrote the first two movements of Concerto for Violin and Percussion in 1940, and revised them when he created the final movement in 1959. Astoundingly modern, it combines a wild battery of percussion with extremely challenging writing for the violin.

Amidst its unbounded inventiveness and jollities, Grand Duo also reflects the gravity with which Harrison viewed the world. A proponent of boundary-less societies, he condemned war and violence, and promoted Esperanto as a universal language.” –Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile


“This splendid CD contains two masterworks by Lou Harrison.

Throughout much of the 20-minute concerto [Concerto for Violin and Percussion], Tim Fain has to play in the violin’s upper register; he does so, brilliantly.

The five-movement, Indonesian-influenced Grand Duo for violin and piano (1988) lasts 35 minutes. New to me, I found every minute enthralling. A great piece!

Double Music (1941), for which Harrison and Cage each independently wrote the music for two of the four players, is a long-standing percussion staple. Gil-Ordóñez’s meditative seven-minute interpretation takes over a minute longer than my swinging, Cage-conducted LP version. Different, but effective.

Heartily recommended!” –Michael Schulman, The WholeNote


“All of this music has been recorded before successfully, but this particular compilation works very well as a unified program, while the performances are second to none. Harrison’s Violin Concerto (really Concerto for Violin and Percussion) is a major masterpiece. Harmonically inspired by Berg, in that the violin line is what you might call “atonal-lyrical,” the opposition of a single solo cantabile instrument against the mass of unpitched percussion creates a distinctive expressive contrast unique in the instrumental literature. The mood is neither Asian nor Western avant-garde, but somehow a world unto itself, and utterly compelling.”            –David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

PostClassical Ensemble’s THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND | Steal Away arr. Burleigh

PostClassical Ensemble's The Trumpet Shall Sound

Listen below to an excerpt from PostClassical Ensemble’s The Trumpet Shall Sound:

Steal Away arr. Burleigh performed by Kevin Deas, bass-baritone and Joe Horowitz, piano. Recorded in concert February 4, 2017 at The Washington National Cathedral

Joe Horowitz, Piano. Photo Credit: Behrouz Jamali, 2017

Kevin Deas, Bass-Baritone. Photo Credit: Behrouz Jamali, 2017

PCE plays Shostakovich Chamber Symphony

The Gershwin Project: PostClassical Ensemble with Genadi Zagor, piano

Russian Gershwin

Friday, September 24, 2010, 8:00 p.m.
Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

No other American composer straddles as many musical worlds. In the realm of popular song and jazz, Gershwin’s genius has long been celebrated. In the world of classical music, he was long marginalized as a “pops” composer —but no longer. Post-Classical Ensemble explores “interpreting Gershwin” —the man and the music.

Gershwin: Prelude no. 2 (1926, as broadcast by the composer in 1932).
Gershwin: Prelude no. 2 (an improvisation by Genadi Zagor).
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1924, as scored by Ferde Grofé for the Paul Whiteman Band); Genadi Zagor, piano, PostClassical Ensemble, Angel GIl-Ordóñez, conducting


Friday, May 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm
Mexican Cultural Institute

2110520fb Tuscany

with PostClassical Ensemble
conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez

and presentations by
Roberto Kolb Neuhaus: Revueltas and Redes
Terri Weissmann: Paul Strand and Redes
Lorenzo Candelaria: Redes and El Paso’s upcoming “Copland and Mexico” Festival
Joseph Horowitz and Angel Gil-Ordóñez on the making of Redes (with film clips)

Reception to Follow



Join us for the international launch of the new DVD on May 13 at the Mexican Cultural Institute. Our program will begin with another Revueltas score – Ocho por radio – performed live by PCE and Angel Gil-Ordóñez. Then we’ll explore the impact of the new print and soundtrack with reference to three key sequences from the film. Finally, Roberto Kolb and Terri Weissman will contribute further thoughts about Revueltas and Strand, and the making of Redes.

The 60-minute film REDES (1935) is an iconic product of the Mexican Revolution. Shot by master photographer PAUL STRAND, with a galvanizing score by SILVESTRE REVUELTAS and direction by FRED ZINNEMANN, it is a peak achievement in the history of music and the moving image.

Until recently, Redes was not available in an acceptable format. A new Naxos DVD, produced by PostClassical Ensemble, mates a pristine print (created by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation) with a freshly-recorded soundtrack. The result is revelatory.

“A very special film . . . Strand brought his camera eye, Zinnemann brought his tremendous sensitivity to actors, and with his score Revueltas gave the film a terrific majesty and grandeur” – Martin Scorsese


Anton Seidl’s “Good Night:” A World Premiere Recording

In the 1890s, when Wagnerism was at its height, Wagner’s American disciple Anton Seidl (1850-1898) would lead concerts fourteen times a week at Coney Island. He mainly conducted Wagner. The concerts, at the seaside Brighton Beach Music Pavilion (capacity 3,000), included children’s programs and the Seidl Society children’s chorus. Seidl himself composed a work for the children, “Good Night,” the manuscript of which resides at the Seidl Archives at Columbia University.

“Good Night” received its first performance since 1898 in February, 2014, as part of “Scenes from Childhood,” a concert presented by PostClassical Ensemble  at DC’s Dumbarton Church. The chorus was Washington National Cathedral Choir of Boys and Girls (Michael McCarthy, conductor), conducted on this occasion by PCE Music Director Angel Gil-Ordonez.

The story of the Seidl Society is one of the strangest and most stirring in the history of classical music in America. It was a singular Brooklyn women’s club, founded by Laura Langford. In summer, the Society presented Seidl and his orchestra at Brighton Beach. In winter, the Society’s Seidl concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music were more numerous than those of the New York Philharmonic, also conducted by Seidl, across the river. Propagating Wagner as a spiritual therapy, the Society hosted working women and African-American orphans, presented lectures on social and spiritual betterment, reserved special railroad cars so unescorted women could attend the Brighton Beach concerts; its goal — aborted by Seidl’s death — was a Brooklyn Bayreuth.

Seidl had aspirations to compose, and was working on a Hiawatha opera when he died. Though he produced numerous transcriptions for orchestra, he left only a single composition of note: “Good Night,” composed and premiered in 1895. I discovered the score when researching my book Wagner Nights: An American History at Columbia University’s Seidl Archive. (I’ve also written about Seidl and Langford in Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America’s Fin-de-Siecle). The text, a poem by Edna Dean Proctor, reads:

Good-night! Good-night! The morn will light
The east before the dawn,
And stars arise to gem the skies
When these have westward gone.
Good-night! And sweet be thy repose
Through all their shining way,
Till darkness goes, and bird and rose,
With rapture greet the day, –

“Good Night” was last performed on May 2, 1898 — the Seidl Society’s memorial concert for Anton Seidl. Emil Fischer, a much-loved bass in his final American performance, sang Wotan’s Farwell. The program also included the Dream Music from Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel, Liszt’s Les preludes and Concerto pathetique (arranged for piano and orchestra), and, to close, Siegfried’s Funeral Music, for which the audience was asked to stand. Langford rose to explain that, as Fischer was sailing for Europe that very day, Wotan’s Farewell would be repositioned near the beginning of the evening. This short speech effectively ended Laura Langford’s public career. A Seidl monument at Brighton Beach was advocated by the Eagle; none was erected. The Seidl Society ceased to exist.

For the PostClassical Ensemble performance, the piano accompaniment for “Good Night” was transcribed (and performed) for solo harp by Jacqueline Pollauf.


Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain
PostClassical Ensemble, conducted by Angel Gil-Ordonez, with pianist Pedro Carbone

Amor Brujo Trailer
In collaboration with Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and the legendary flamenco cantaora Esperanza Fernandez, PostClassical Ensemble has created a new production of Falla’s El Amor Brujo, available for touring. Next performances: March 22 and 23, 2014,  at Peridance Center (New York City).

“The Plow That Broke the Plains / The River” DVD

The original films by Pare Lorentz with newly-recorded soundtracks.

Composer: Virgil Thomson
Conductor: Angel Gil-Ordóñez
Ensemble: PostClassical Ensemble
Author: Pare Lorentz
Label: Naxos

View the trailer:

The Plow that Broke the Plains / The River from PostClassical Ensemble on Vimeo.

Read the reviews:

Read the reviews

“The Plow That Broke the Plains / The River” CD

World premiere recordings of the complete film scores.

Pare Lorentz’s The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1937) are landmark American documentary films. Aesthetically, they break new ground in seamlessly marrying pictorial imagery, symphonic music, and poetic free verse, all realized with supreme artistry. Ideologically, they indelibly encapsulate the strivings of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Virgil Thomson’s scores for both films are among the most famous ever composed for the movies. Aaron Copland praised the music for The Plow for its “frankness and openness of feeling”, calling it “fresher, more simple, and more personal” than the Hollywood norm. He called the music for The River “a lesson in how to treat Americana.”

Read the reviews

“The City” DVD

The classic 1939 documentary film with a newly recorded soundtrack.

Made for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, The City is a seminal documentary film distinguished for the organic integration of narration (scripted by city planner Lewis Mumford), cinematography (Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke), and music (Aaron Copland). The score, arguably Copland’s highest achievement in film, was also his ticket to Hollywood; The LA Times‘s Mark Swed called it “an astonishing missing link not only in the genesis of Copland’s Americana style but in American music and cinema.” As the film contains no dialogue, it is possible to create a fresh soundtrack and discover musical riches inaudible on the original monaural recording.

Watch the trailer:

The City from PostClassical Ensemble on Vimeo.

Read the reviews
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