Then & Now 8/17: Let's Wing It

Robert Levin

On this date in 1957, American composer Gunther Schuller gave a lecture at the Tanglewood Festival, during his talk, he came up with the phrase "third stream" to describe a type of composition in which elements of jazz are organized within a classical musical structure.

Improvisation is certainly an important part of playing jazz, but it’s used in classical music too.  J.S. Bach improvised at the organ during church services, and Beethoven used improvisation as a way to demonstrate his skills as a pianist.  Well, Robert Levin (the former artistic director of the Sarasota Music Festival) is famous for improvising during the cadenzas of the concertos of Mozart and Beethoven.  Levin describes a cadenza as a musical freeze frame in the midst of a concerto. While the orchestra pauses, the soloist takes a single chord and through musical reflection and invention blows it up and prolongs it.  You can hear Robert Levin’s improvisational skills as he plays the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 at the BBC Proms in London this Sunday night on SymphonyCast.  Listen at 6:00 right here on Classical WSMR 89.1 & 103.9.  

Air Date: 
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 - 8:00am