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Enchantment and immensity: music by J.C. Bach, Schumann, Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Gustav Holst

Webb NIRCam composite image of the Jupiter system
NASA, ESA, CSA, Jupiter ERS Team; image processing by Ricardo Hueso (UPV/EHU) and Judy Schmidt
Webb NIRCam composite image of the Jupiter system

Hosts Michael Stern and Dan Margolies continue their celebration of September birthdays with the Sinfonia in G Minor by J.C. Bach, Robert Schumann's cello concerto, two short works by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and "The Planets" by Gustav Holst in a performance led by the late Bramwell Tovey.


Michael Stern
Dan Margolies


Part 1 - J.C. Bach and Schumann
Composers Johann Christian Bach and Robert Schumann

Sinfonia In G Minor, Op. 6, No. 6
by Johann Christian Bach
Bernard Labadie, guest conductor
Live performance, May 2012

The youngest of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 11 sons, Johann Christian Bach was greatly admired in his day and was a big influence on the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He composed operas and longer works but 'he had a lot of success writing these symphonies which are really very short," Michael Stern says. "They're kind of miniatures inspired by Italian overtures, but there's a lot of energy and propulsion in this music."

Concerto in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 129
by Robert Schumann
Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello
Live performance, January 2013

Schumann tried to calm the auditory hallucinations that led to his eventual mental breakdown and his placement in an asylum shortly afterword by proof-reading this concerto. Six days later, he hurled himself into the Rhine River. This emotional work has "so much variety of mood and shifting passion and virtuosity and extraordinary songfulness," says Michael Stern.

Part 2 - Griffes and Holst
Composers Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Gustav Holst

by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Live performance, September 2014

The White Peacock
by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Live performance, January 2019

Like a lot of American composers of his day, Griffes went to study in Germany and came under the spell of Wagner. Ultimately, though, he gravitated to the music of Debussy and Ravel, influences that are apparent in his vividly chromatic writing. "He was to American music what Debussy and Ravel would be to French music," Michael Stern explains, adding that "he never got there because it's a tragedy that he died so young. He would've changed American music for sure."

The Planets
by Gustav Holst
Bramwell Tovey, guest conductor
The Kansas City Symphony Chorus - Charles Bruffy, director
Live performance, November 2014

Clifford Bax, the brother of the British composer Arnold Bax, introduced Holst to astrology, which Holst referred to as his "pet vice." The spectacular international success of "The Planets" catapulted Holst to fame, although, Holst, a shy man, preferred to be left in peace to compose and teach. While "The Planets" is often thought of as a programmatic work, Michael Stern clarifies that "there is no narrative. It's the feeling of Holst pondering the idea behind what the astrological significance of each planet is."

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Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
Sam Wisman is a Senior Producer for 91.9 Classical KC and a backup announcer for KCUR 89.3. Email him at