WFIT Features

In 1950, with the Cold War in full force, an international Bach festival and competition was held in the city of Leipzig in what was then the German Democratic Republic. The winner was a 26-year-old Russian pianist, Tatiana Nikolayeva.

Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the jurors, and he was sufficiently taken with Nikolayeva's playing that he wrote a collection of 24 preludes and fugues -- reminiscent of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier series -- especially for her.

Beethoven's Choral Fantasy wasn't, as it might appear at first glance, a dry run for the Ninth Symphony. This is not to say that he mightn't have looked back at it sixteen years later when he was working on his groundbreaking final symphony, but he composed it as a grand finale for a gala concert of his most recent works -- a day when Beethoven would have been better off to stay in bed.

We'll follow the Fantasy with some musical hi-jinks from Haydn and Mozart, and then music from three composers whose nationalism did not always sit well with the authorities.

Domenico Scarlatti

Not all of the great composers were accomplished performers, but there were some who were regarded as the virtuosos of their day. They wrote music for themselves to perform, of course, and once in a while they wrote passages so difficult that few -- if any -- other performers could play them.

We'll look at some demanding works by Bach, Beethoven, and Scarlatti this week.

Then it's wind-ensemble music by one of Bach's sons and a concerto in the Mannheim style -- both of which signaled a break from the Baroque practices as the new classical forms were taking over


The Most Serene Republic of Venice tended to do its  celebrations in a big way. And what could be greater cause for celebration than a naval victory over the Ottoman Turks in 1571? It called for an annual grand vesper service in the cathedral. This week we have a re-creation of what the festivities might have sounded like in the early  17th century with music of Viadana, Monteverdi, both Gabrielis. Palestrina, and others.

The 1919 premiere of the Elgar Cello Concerto was a disaster due to a rehearsal schedule that bordered on sabotage. As a result the concerto was pretty much consigned to the musical scrap heap until 1965, when English cellist Jacqueline du Pre restored it to its rightful place in the concert repertoire in a breakthrough recording that, incidentally, made her a classical superstar of the sixties. She was twenty years old. Tragically, her career would only last another seven years.