Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 5th: Celebrating the birth of four composers

Johann Christian Bach & John Cage
September 5th must be a great day to be born if you want to be a composer. On this day Giacomo Meyebeer, Johann Christian Bach, John Cage and Amy Beach were all born. You certainly couldn't find four different composers, so we're going to present a selection from each. 

Amy Beach & Giacomo Meyerbeer
The 19th century composer Giacomo Meyerbeer is best remembered for his grand operas, but wrote some beautiful choral works for male voices, two songs with solo instrumental obbligato and a number of beautiful songs. Thomas Hampson has wonderful recording of many of these and here he is singing  Meyerbeer's "Menschenfeindlich":

Johann Christian Bach was the youngest surviving son of the master Johann Sebastian Bach. Having abandoned his father's Lutheran faith for Catholicism, he is best remembered for his sacred works. Here is Victoria de los Angeles & Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing "Ah, lamenta oh bella Irene" by Johann Christian Bach with Gerald Moore at the piano:

Here is John Cage's "Litany for the Whale" from 1980. This beautiful piece is scored for two male voices, and has a call and response structure to it. The two singers, recorded in a resonant chamber, are given five pitches to sing, one assigned to each letter in the word "whale." It has a calm, meditative quality that harkens back to medieval chants. The singers are Alan Bennett and Paul Elliott.

Amy Beach was the first truly successful American female composer. Among her works are a mass, piano concerto, symphony and 150 songs. We had a difficult time finding a suitable recording by a baritone singing an Amy Beach song, so we're going to break a few rules of this site and present the immortal tenor Jussi Bjoerling performing "Ah, love, But a Day" with words by Robert Browning.

For the next two weeks we will be accepting submissions for our first Barihunks charity calendar, which will benefit young artist programs. Send High Res photos and a brief bio to

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