December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

Procession: Hodie Christus natus est – Plainsong from Vespers of the Nativity
A Child Is Born in Bethlehem – Mode I Plainsong, 14th cent. – setting by Richard Proulx (1937 – 2010)
PSALM 98 – Peter R. Hallock (1924-2014)
HYMN: On This Day Earth Shall Ring – Melody from Piae Cantiones; arr. by Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
NUNC DIMITTIS: Marilyn setting – Peter R. Hallock (1924-2014)
O Magnum Mysterium – Gerald Near
Away in a Manger – arr. Peter R. Hallock (1924-2014)
Jeremy Matheis, director • Tyler Morse, reader • James Wilcox, cantor
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Wednesday, December 21 – Christmas Classics V

Frederick Delius: Sleigh Ride
Earlier this week, you heard Leroy Anderson’s very famous “Sleigh Ride” and learned it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a Christmas song. But this particular “Sleigh Ride,” from English composer Frederick Delius, was indeed meant to be played during Christmas Eve. The composer actually gave his piece to the host and hostess of a Christmas Eve party in 1889—none other than Edvard and Nina Grieg!

Additional Links: Frederick Delius Site

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Monday, December 19 – Orchestral Field Guide IV

Giovanni Bottesini: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor: I. Allegro moderato
The lowest and biggest instrument in the orchestra is, of course, the double bass—also called string bass, upright bass and—though we don’t know why—doghouse bass! At about six feet tall, it stands higher than its average player and has an enormous range, though is most familiar to us when it’s playing low notes.

Additional Link: Praeludium and Allegro by Fritz Kreisler performed on double bass

15 Incredible Facts About Beethoven’s Life

By Geoffrey Larson

  1. There were two other Ludwig van Beethovens in the composer’s family.

When we refer to the great composer, we are actually referring to Ludwig van Beethoven III. Beethoven’s grandfather, a singer and pre-eminent music director in Bonn, was also named Ludwig. Ludwig was also the name of the famous composer’s older brother, who died at two weeks old.

Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn.


  1. His father Johann sought to replicate the success of Leopold Mozart, promoting his son as a prodigy.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fame as a musical prodigy was well-known at the time of Beethoven’s birth, as his father Leopold toured the wunderkind and his sister all over Europe. Beethoven’s father wanted the same fame for his son (and the cash). He falsely promoted Ludwig as six years old at his first public concert, when he was seven.

The composer at 13 years old.


  1. As a child, he was hauled out of bed in the middle of the night to practice.

Beethoven’s father was famously an abusive alcoholic, and was Beethoven’s first teacher in music at age five. His father’s insomniac friend Pfeiffer was later employed as a keyboard instructor, and young Ludwig was often dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to play.

steinervertrag Beethoven contract
Draft of a Beethoven contract with Viennese publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner.


  1. He may have struggled with simple math.

Beethoven left school at age 11 to help earn money for his family, and supposedly struggled with simple multiplication and division until the end of his life.

Realien: Beethovens Viola
An instrument used by Beethoven at court in Bonn. (Courtesy Beethoven-Haus Bonn)


  1. He played violin and viola.

Save the jokes. We know Beethoven as one of the greatest pianists of his generation, and a skilled improviser. However, he also played viola in the court orchestra of the Prince-Elector of Bonn as a young man, getting to know many operatic works by Mozart and others.

Mozart portrait
A late portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


  1. He wanted to study with Mozart, but got Haydn instead.

We know that Beethoven traveled to Vienna in 1787 seeking the tutelage of Mozart, but it is uncertain whether or not they actually met. Mozart died in 1791 and Beethoven was again sent to Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn. The Count Waldstein, his friend and patron, wrote to him: “Through uninterrupted diligence you will receive Mozart’s spirit through Haydn’s hands.” They did not get along well.

Beethoven9 manuscript
A page from the manuscript of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor.


  1. He adored Schiller’s Ode to Joy and planned to set it to music from an early age.

Beethoven first considered setting Friedrich Schiler’s poem to music in 1793, at the age of 23. Composition of the Ninth Symphony and its famous “Ode to Joy” theme took place 29 years later.

Beethoven’s ear trumpets, constructed by the inventor Johann Nepomuk Mälzel. (Courtesy Beethoven-Haus Bonn)


  1. He began to go deaf around 1796, at the age of 25, but wasn’t completely deaf until the age of 44.

Though Beethoven attributed the loss of his hearing to a severe fall in 1798, his deafness was more likely caused by sickness in his young adult life such as typhus or an auto-immune disorder such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Beethoven experienced tinnitus, a growing ringing in his ears.

Pages from the Heiligenstadt Testament, with Beethoven’s signature and seal.


  1. Beethoven wrote the largely joyous Symphony No. 2 about the same time as the Heiligenstadt Testament.

The Heiligenstadt Testament is a letter written by Beethoven to his brothers Carl and Johann on October 6, 1802 detailing his acceptance of increasing, permanent deafness and his vow to continue his artistic creation. “I would have ended my life – it was only my art that held me back,” he wrote. It was on this doctor-encouraged stay in Heiligenstadt that he partially composed his Symphony No. 2 and a variety of piano sonata works.

Beethoven’s title page to the Symphony No. 3 in E-flat “Eroica,” with Napoleon’s dedication scratched out.


  1. After dedicating his Third Symphony to Napoleon, he changed his mind…and back again.

A symphony of greater scope, length, and musical innovation than any that preceded it, the Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” of 1804 ushered in the Romantic Era. Beethoven was an intensely political person, and initially supported Napoleon, who he believed to be a proponent of Enlightenment thought. Eroica was at least partially inspired by Napoleon, and was originally dedicated to him. It was when Bonaparte was declared Emperor that Beethoven scratched out the dedication so vociferously that he tore through the manuscript. However, he is said to have changed his mind on Napoleon, remarking to Carl Czerny in 1824, “”Formerly I disliked him. Now I think quite differently.”

Beethoven’s life mask.


  1. He suffered from a great variety of diseases and maladies throughout his life. We still can’t confirm what killed him.

Throughout his life, modern doctors believe Beethoven could have suffered from colitis, rheumatic fever, typhus, lupus, abscesses, a variety of skin disorders and infections, ophthalmia, inflammatory degeneration of the arteries, cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice, and chronic hepatitis. He underwent crude and painful treatments, everything from pouring hot oil in his ears to draining fluid from his abdomen. He may have been poisoned with lead from cheap wine or toxic salves.

Countess Giulietta Guicciardi
Countess Giulietta Guicciardi: Beethoven’s pupil, love interest, and dedicatee of the “Moonlight” Sonata.


  1. Women both adored and shunned him. He withdrew from society as his hearing worsened.

Accounts of an aging Beethoven paint the picture of a highly respected genius who repulsed many he met. A woman he wooed once called him “ugly and half crazy,” and others complained of his foul smell and temper. Even still, he had many romantic encounters (often with piano students) and penned a secret letter to a still-unidentified “Immortal Beloved.” As his hearing worsened, his friends wrote in “conversation books” to communicate with him, and he became increasingly isolated from public life.

Prince Carl Lichnowsky.


  1. He fought with many of his friends and his patrons.

The composer’s tempestuous temperament meant that he was given both to episodes of great praise and great insult. In just one example, Beethoven flew off the handle after his friend and patron Prince Lichnowsky joked that he would be placed under “house arrest” if he were to refuse playing for a visiting group of French officers. Beethoven stormed out, traveled to a different patron’s estate in the region, smashed a bust of Lichnowsky and wrote him a scathing letter.

A modern recreation of a period fortepiano.


  1. Famous nicknames of his works, such as “Moonlight” and “Emperor” were assigned later.

The Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia” of 1801 “Moonlight” Sonata didn’t get its nickname until after Beethoven’s death, when the critic Ludwig Rellstab remarked in 1832 that the first movement sounded like moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne. The “Emperor” nickname assigned to his grand Fifth Piano Concerto may have been exclaimed by a French officer at a performance of the work, as the story goes – or it is the result of the editorializing of an early publisher.

Beethoven drawing
A lithograph of Beethoven on the podium.


  1. Some of his greatest works were premiered in huge marathon concerts, and may not have sounded very good.

In one concert at the Theater an der Wien on December 22, 1808 lasting over four hours, Beethoven premiered his Fourth Piano Concerto (as soloist), Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony (“Pastoral”), Choral Fantasy (as piano soloist), and part of the C Major Mass. There had been one rehearsal. It likely wasn’t a great performance – there was even a train wreck in the middle of the Choral Fantasy, which had to be stopped and started again.

Geoffrey Larson is the Music Director of Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, and Sunday morning host 12-9am on 98.1 Classical KING FM.

January 1, 2017

First Sunday after Christmas; The Feast of The Holy Name

ORISON: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence- (Tune: Picardy, French Carol) from Chansons populaires des Provinces de France, 1860
PSALM: 103 plainsong, Tone VIII
HYMN: Ring Out, Wild Bells (Tune: Deus Tuorum Militum) from Grenoble Antiphoner, 1753; Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), arr. GWB
NUNC DIMITTIS: Plainsong, Mode V; harm. Padre Vincente Ripollès
I saw a maiden – Old Basque Nöel from the 15th cent; refrain by Edgar Pettman (1865-1943)
Resonet in laudibus – Jacob Handl (1550-1591)
Ken Pendergrass, director • William Turnipseed, reader • Kenneth Peterson, cantor

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How to Celebrate Like Jean Sibelius

By Geoffrey Larson

Jolly Sibelius 281x300







Join us for a weekend of the music of Nordic and Scandinavian composers on Classical KING FM, now through Sunday the 11th. Listen now.

Jean Sibelius is remembered as a Finnish national hero, the composer whose music stood as an anthem for a defiant Finland under Russian rule. He staunchly remained true to his music’s tonal, quasi-romantic aesthetic, laughing in the face of European avant-garde forces. His works include tone poems that evoke the legends of his native country along with its breathtaking natural landscapes, and symphonies that wrote an important chapter of the classical symphonic tradition in the 20th century. He also REALLY liked cigars, alcohol, and food.

Sibelius’ tastes in alcohol were wide-ranging, and it’s possible that his senses had synaesthetic qualities, tying his tastes for light or dark flavors to music of similar robustness. He apparently thought that the golden Frascati wine of Rome was like “an ode of Horace” and that red wine sauce on roast fowl was at its best only after the “joyful red C major color” had slowly cooked and become “melancholy” enough.

His favorite beverage selections included Aalborg Taffel (aquavit), Amontillado sherry, Johnny Walker Black Label, Cinzano rosso vermouth, Bordeaux, and dessert wines such as port and madeira. Check out his own (somewhat non-specific) punch recipe below, from a party he hosted on April 9, 1943.

Sibelius punch recipe


1L water + sugar + jam + brandy or spirit.
Add 2 bottles of wine when everything is completely cold.
Add a few drops of Bergamot oil in a lump of sugar, which must be melted in the water.

(N.B. All mineral waters make the punch black.)

Sibelius’ love of cigars is thought to stem in part from the memories of his father that their scent brought (the composer’s father, who died when Sibelius was three years old, was also an aficionado). Constant cigar smoking took its toll on Sibelius, and he was diagnosed with throat cancer in his 40s, undergoing a successful operation to remove it. Apparently, this did not stop him from demanding a box on the way home from the hospital. His favorite brands included Africana, Bürgermeister, Havana, Los Paulos, Matador, and Rosa Aromatica. (Here’s the full list.)

Sibelius cigar2









“All the doctors who wanted to forbid me to smoke and to drink are dead. But I am quietly going on living. It’s not every man of my age who can unhesitatingly eat and drink as I do.”
-Jean Sibelius

A MUST hear!

The Bohemian composer David Popper was one of the greatest cellists of the 19th Century, performing with many great musicians including Johannes Brahms. He is known for his cult-favorite cello works, and for performing without the use of an endpin on his cello for most of his career. Cellists Rajan Krishnaswami, Brian Wharton, and Jonathan Salman join Pianist Mark Salman for a performance of David Popper’s Requiem on NW Focus Live in the KING-FM studio.

Sean MacLean’s Concert Picks for the Holiday Season

Handel's Messiah banner 640

Dec. 16-18:  Of the many yearly Messiah performances, I always try to single out one for or anything that stands out, and this year it’s the conductor. Stephen Layton has made some of the most exquisite choral recordings with his group Polyphony, that I can recount in the past four decades. And Messiah is a choral showcase!

This Saturday Morning, Dec 3: while we’re on the Benaroya Hall subject, this King FM Family Concert has a lot of goodies. Rob Kapilow, who hosts the “What Makes It Great” NPR series, recounts how his kid ran home from school one day and said: “Daddy, daddy, you can’t be a composer: you’re not dead!” So he did something about it: At this concert, Tom Skerritt’s niece Jessica will host, King FM’s Young Artist Award winner Takumi Taguchi will play the violin, and longtime guest of many our shows, the charming baritone Charles Robert Stephens will be the soloist.

Through December 11: for Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel in Vancouver Opera’s production, they commissioned a charming new orchestration to suit the intimate Vancouver Playhouse and invited the masters from Old Trout Puppet workshop to bring the magical story to life.  Live singers, master puppets. Your child’s eye wide open in wonder.

December 9-11: Latin American Christmas, Baroque style (with swing!)  I was amazed to hear Stephen Stubbs and his Pacific MusicWorks gang on my live show last week, swinging a Latin feel to music of the Baroque. Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia, and old world Spain all contribute their warmth to this repertoire.

Dec. 10: One of the freshest groups to emerge in the past few years is Seattle Wind Symphony. Their holiday concert will feature King FM’s own cellist/host Dave Beck as narrator, and the enchanting Alexandra Picard will be soprano soloist.  I remember an amazing hour in studio with her and guitarist/composer Michael Nicolella:  which also yielded this video. This concert has a lot of expected holiday classics, with a few lung-powered exotics, like Holiday for Trombones.

Dec. 17, St. James Cathedral: A choir and harp tribute to one of Seattle greatest choral composers we lost this year, Bern Herbolsheimer, with several of his holiday favorites, as well as Rautavaara’s masterpiece Magnificat, my personal required dose of Herbert Howells and Gerald Finzi, and Advent & Christmas music by the Robert Scandrett and John Muehleisen. This is Opus7’s 25th year. We live in choral paradise.

Finally, a non-Christmas concert (if you’re overloaded), Dec. 10!  Pianist Jonathan Biss is not only The Bomb, but I’m picking this evening at Meany Center because his chosen repertoire is deep, beautiful, and monumental, and concludes with Beethoven’s final piano sonata, a work of such probing genius it’s already enough to consider how many kinds of music he presaged, until you remember that on top of that, he was completely deaf when he penned it.

Sean MacLean is your host 7pm – midnight, Weeknights & Saturdays, and is the host of NW Focus on KING FM.

P.S.: Catch Sean narrating Peter & the Wolf with KING FM’s own Christophe Chagnard conducting this Sunday at 4pm. More info here.