On this day in classical music: Composer Peter Mennin, president of the Juilliard School from 1962 to 1983, died at age 60 in 1983. Despite his academic duties, Mennin was a prolific composer, completing nine symphonies, concertos for flute, piano and cello, “Canzona” for band and various choral works. He withdrew his first two symphonies; the third, his doctoral dissertation, was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Walter Hendl. Mennin’s works often feature melodies that are complemented by driving rhythms. Listen to the Sacred Winds Ensemble perform Mennin’s “Canzona.” Scott Bersaglia conducts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVlAfkzGmrs
On this day in the musical theatre: The Broadway revival of “The Pajama Game,” starring Harry Connick, Jr. and Oklahoman Kelli O’Hara, closed in 2006 after 129 performances. The Richard Adler/Jerry Ross musical focused on a pajama factory superintendent who falls in love with a grievance committee leader. In spite of being on either side of the labor dispute (workers were demanding a 7½ cent hourly raise), the two principals resolved their issues and the musical had a happy ending. The original 1954 production won six Tony Awards, including one for best musical. The 2006 revival won awards for choreography and best revival. Adler composed one new song for the revival, reworked another from the 1973 revival, and restored a third that was dropped shortly after the 1954 production opened. Listen to Connick and O’Hara perform “There Once Was a Man,” followed by the cast performing “Hernando’s Hideaway” on the 1996 Tony Award broadcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyxjQBvHB6c
Musical musings: After four years at Peabody (Conservatory), Mennin’s abilities as an administrator distinguished him to the degree that he was offered the presidencies of the Oberlin Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, and the Curtis Institute in addition to Juilliard. His acceptance of Juilliard made the front page of the New York Times. Mennin had chosen Juilliard because he wanted the challenge of building a new school at Lincoln Center to rival and surpass the great European conservatories, especially those in Moscow and Paris. – From Juilliard: A History by Andrea Olmstead.