On this day in classical music: Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” was given its premiere in Warsaw in 1961. Scored for 52 string instruments, this piece brought the Polish composer international acclaim. The work features many unusual sounds that are created by string players playing on the bottom side of the bridge or on the tailpiece. The “Threnody” also makes use of tone clusters and quarter tones, both of which magnify the work’s dissonances. The composer conducts his acclaimed work with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPtP2gGGBCw
On this day in the musical theatre: Richard Rodgers’ final Broadway production was “I Remember Mama,” a 1979 musical based on the play by John Van Druten. Rodgers and Hammerstein had produced a non-musical stage adaptation in 1944 that was noteworthy in that it marked Marlon Brando’s stage debut. Rodgers collaborated with Martin Charnin and Raymond Jessel for this ill-fated musical about a family of Norwegian immigrants living in San Francisco after the turn of the 20th century. With a miscast and unmusical Liv Ullmann in the role of Hanson family matriarch, the old-fashioned musical limped along for 13 weeks before closing. Six years later, original cast members George Hearn and George S. Irving reunited to make a studio cast recording that featured Sally Ann Howes as Mrs. Hanson.
Musical musings: The musicalization of “Mama” sprang from the mind of director/lyricist Martin Charnin; the selling point was the presence of Richard Rodgers, with whom Charnin had written “Two by Two.” But this was an old, tired and ailing Rodgers; while he came up with the requisite tunes, they were — well, tired. Rodgers barely outlasted the show, dying as the year came to an end. Charnin was fired after negative reviews in Philadelphia. “Ms. Ullmann and I do not see ‘I to I’ about how musicals are made. To make a long and ugly story short, there’s no longer a fjord in my future.” – From More Opening Nights on Broadway by Steven Suskin.