WFIT Features

It will be beeswax and shellac this Thursday as we look at recordings from the 1900s to the 1940s.

This period encompasses some of the most primitive recording sessions imaginable to the just-pre-high-fidelity era that ended with the 78 RPM record. It also encompasses entirely or in part, the legacy of any number of "Heritage Musicians" who have -- one way or another -- shaped the way we think about classical music today.

This week's program starts off with music from five very different contemporary composers, Americans John Adams, Janet Gilbert, and Michael Torke, along with Estonian Arvo Part and Gambian-born Foday Suso.

The program continues with the third of William Boyce's little symphonies dating back to 18th-century London, along with a motet from Baroque composer Michael Praetorius, Beethoven's Pathetique sonata, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.

Musicians need to practice, and for organists this historically presented a problem: someone had to be engaged to pump a bellows to provide air pressure. One solution was the pedal harpsichord, a practice instrument that didn't require an assistant.

When the electric fan came along, there was no longer a need for a bellows, much less a bellows pumper. Soon the expensive and cumbersome pedal harpsichord disappeared as well -- until a revival a half century or so ago. This once nearly extinct instrument will be featured in a couple of Bach trio sonatas this week.

When Amit Peled was 10, his parents gave him a gift: a cassette of music by cello master Pablo Casals. Peled had no classical background; his parents were not musicians. He says his own budding interest in the cello was a scam, a way of getting close to a girl in his town who happened to play the instrument. And yet, every night, he would fall asleep with the tape playing from a boombox beside his bed. The music made an impression.

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