Classical Discoveries – 20 Years On The Air on WPRB

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In 1999, 2 years after Classical Discoveries was born I got my own e-mail address on CompuServe.

One of the first listeners contacting me was Linda Holt, which is why I was very excited when she wrote a wonderful post for Philadelphia’s “Broad Street Review”, a bit shorter version of the blog below.

I intended to write this post myself, but considering Linda’s long connection to this program her personal sharing was a great way to commemorate 20 years of Classical Discoveries.

She is the author of The Black Spaniard, a novel about young Beethoven, that she is obsessed with (and yes, the other book is coming soon). She teaches Humanities at Southern New Hampshire University and Thomas Edison State University. Her classical music reviews have appeared in newspapers and online and of course she is one of the long, faithful listeners of Classical Discoveries.

I am adding a few of my comments to this blog since it is focuses on 20 years and many things did happen  during this time.

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Marvin Rosen’s Classical Discoveries celebrates

20 years bringing new music to audiences around the world

by Linda Holt

Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton was sworn in to his second term as President, The English Patient won the best picture Oscar, and Scottish scientists cloned Dolly the Sheep.

But the big news for music lovers was the debut on May 29, 1997, of one of the most unique programs in the international radio community: Classical Discoveries, created, produced, and hosted by Marvin Rosen. Broadcast online and on WPRB 103.3 FM (Princeton University’s independent radio station), Classical Discoveries has no match as a source of seldom-heard music, exciting interviews, and playlists designed to wake up brains stuck in a 19th century groove.

Where else can a listener hear music composed by the daughter of Lucrezia Borgia, a five-hour program dedicated to the art music of Native Americans, the art of Klezmer, music for Kwanzaa, and melodic masterworks from Poland and Estonia? A tune played on an Australian didgeridoo may follow an air composed by King Henry VIII. The program airs each Wednesday from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., with special broadcasts throughout the year. This spring, for example, Marvin’s series, Treasures of Early Music, is broadcast from 5:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays.

“I still have my first playlist,” admitted Marvin recently, with his unflagging enthusiasm for his favorite subject. “It is handwritten, since we didn’t go online until 2001.” While there were works by Bach, Mozart, and Scarlatti on that program, there were also signs of things to come. Marvin featured works by Glass, Yardumian, and even concluded with Lennon-McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby.”

Two first playlists

Two first playlists

Today attracting diverse audiences including young and old listeners, Classical Discoveries found its niche by November of 1997, responding to listeners who were pleasantly startled to hear new music that unexpectedly met every standard for beauty and interest. Marvin even expanded the definition of new music to include unfamiliar or underplayed compositions, such as selections from the earliest years of the Middle Ages, (forgotten contemporaries of famous Western composers), music from countries and ethnic traditions not well known in Western classical circles, and music by women composers. While not taking any political position, the program also has focused thematically on topics of current interest, such as a recent program devoted to musical depictions of water.

“One of the unexplored areas of women’s music is the work composed by nuns over the centuries,” Marvin observed.

A glance of the program’s playlists, appealingly displayed online with easy-to-access links, reveals some of the variety that listeners can find nowhere else. In recent years, these have included Music of Asia, the annual In Praise of Woman series, Tulpe: a Native American Indians Tribute, Sacred Bridges linking spirituality in music across traditions, Return to Estonia, and Water is Life-For Flint.

Editor’s note: Attached to this article are several of Classical Discoveries’ playlists that show the diversity and originality of the program content.

Impact on listeners and composers

In addition to its impact on listeners, Classical Discoveries provides active composers with a forum to play and explain their works.

“What would we composer do without Marvin Rosen and his amazing show?” asks Robert Moran, a Philadelphia-based composer whose work ranging from chamber music to opera is recognized around the globe. “He presents the most varied of radio events, always exciting and always an adventure.” Moran has appeared in person several times on Classical Discoveries.

Composer Andrew Rudin, heralded by one critical journal as “the grand old man of new music,” agrees. “Marvin Rosen has been uniquely important to living composers of the greater Philadelphia area,” he wrote recently, “not only because he plays our music, but he also invites us into his studio as on-air guests. And in addition, he educates us as well, with his extraordinary knowledge and curiosity about music of living composers in even the most obscure corners of our planet, and in the most marginalized communities. His perceptions, taste, and explorations represent a personal passion that greatly enriches our musical community.”

A labor of love

In addition to teaching full-time at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton, Marvin gets up at 3:30 a.m. to host Classical Discoveries, but he is not alone. His wife, Beata Rzeszodko-Rosen, who shares his musical tastes, is by his side at WPRB’s music studios in Bloomberg Hall on the university campus, creating exquisitely detailed and content-rich playlists and other Web resources for everyone from the musically curious to scholars and researchers of early and new music.

“Beata has been with me right from the start,” beamed Marvin in a recent interview. “She is the person behind the scenes making Classical Discoveries possible.”

The couple even met over an incident involving new music. Beata had gone to the Princeton University Store (where Marvin managed the record department) in search of music by Alan Hovhaness. It just so happened that Marvin’s doctoral dissertation from Teachers College, Columbia University, was on the music of Hovhaness. The two enthusiasts bonded over the Armenian-influenced American composer’s intensely melodic compositions and before long they were married and had the opportunity to meet the composer in person before he passed in 2000.

Another major influence on Marvin’s musical life comes from an unexpected corner of the musical world. “If there is one person whose professionalism most influenced me it’s Jim Nettleton,” he said. “Jim was an ‘oldies’ DJ at WFIL in Philadelphia when I was young. He told me that the most important lesson for broadcasters was to remember that in radio, unpredictability means entertainment. That’s advice I’ve taken to heart over the years.”

Going the distance with new music marathons

Classical Discoveries is also the only new and unfamiliar music program with an annual marathon. Instead of running 26 miles as in the athletic prototype, Marvin hosts a non-stop edition of Classical Discoveries at the end of the year, logging 24 to 25 hours of air time, and taking catnaps on the couch on a catch-as-catch-can basis.

The marathon theme is “Viva 21st century,” with a focus on music composed since 2000. The theme was first explored on the show in 2003, and by 2007 had morphed into the marathon framework. Since then, there have been a dozen marathons, with sub-themes of International Music, American Music, and Music by Women Composers. Two marathons with special themes focused on post-9-11 music and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Hovhaness.

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New music: its time has come

“After World War II, there was a lot of new music that was heavy and difficult for many people to listen to,” Marvin reflected. “Now that has changed. Much of the new music being composed is accessible and can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Think back to the time of Bach and Beethoven: new music is what was being played. The secret is to start out playing some new works that are pleasant for most people to hear, then you can follow up with music that is a little more challenging and build on that.”

Marvin will incorporate elements from the best of Classical Discoveries on his 20th anniversary program 5:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. May 29. Expect to hear the Vivaldi sinfonia (original disk used in 1997) that opened the first program in the series, followed by other works played on the first program as well as some of the most favorite compositions of listeners over the years. “And there will be surprises,” added Marvin, who is looking forward to 20 more years of innovative programming. “It wouldn’t be Classical Discoveries without surprises!”

–Linda Holt

Almost 12 years ago, in early October 2005, I found out that Classical Discoveries was the recipient of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award.

Here are a couple of pictures taken at the December ceremony!! It was an exciting time for me and was totally unexpected.

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Here are some photos of guests who visited the WPRB studio during the last 20 years: Maya Beiser, Martha Mooke, Marilyn Bliss and Rain Worthington, Katherine Hoover Jennifer Higdon, Jakub Ciupiński, Halim El-Dabh, Danny Dorff, Andrew Rudin, Alexandra Vrebalov, Alex Shapiro, Vivian FungSergio Cervetti, Robert Moran, Randall Woolf and Kathleen Supové, Philip Blackburn and DBRPaul Mealor,

At the end of last year, I was the host of a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio as presented by Choral Arts Philadelphia. Here is a small introduction to the event.

 

 

Here is a list of some other publication honoring 20th anniversary of Classical Discoveries:

May 05, 2017 – Radio SurvivorHAPPY 20TH BIRTHDAY TO CLASSICAL DISCOVERIES – by Matthew Lasar

May 10, 2017 –Town Topics of Princeton NJ20 YEARS OF CLASSICAL DISCOVERIES WITH MARVIN ROSEN ON WPRBby Doug Wallack

May 13, 2017 – Broad Street ReviewTWO DECADES OF DISCOVERIESby Linda Holt

You can follow me on:

Facebook, Twitter, in addition you can join the Classical Discoveries Facebook Group

Marvin Rosen

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Return of Marathonmaniac

Final moments at Viva 21t Century Marathon.  left: composers Daniel Dorf, back: Robert Moran, Susan T.Nelson and  Amanda Harberg

Final moments at 2014 – Viva 21st Century Marathon. left: composers Daniel Dorff, back: Robert Moran, Susan T. Nelson and Amanda Harberg

I am embarrassed to look at my blog and to see how long it has been since I wrote anything. Some might think that I disappeared which is of course not the case. Here I am!! I am back!!!

Between teaching, administrative duties at my school, and of course radio I really do not have much time left. Once again, I am promising that even if I do not have much time, I will post some pictures or music videos to keep the blog going.

I never will catch-up with all the blogs that I could have written during the last few years. Despite this, I will try to summarize things I still remember in a few sentences.

  • I became more active (at least during broadcasts of Classical Discoveries) on Twitter. If you want to follow me you can do so @MarvinRosen. You will find out during my radio broadcasts what music is coming next.
  • The Piano Duo “Venti Dita” CD became available on CD Baby in April 2013 and sold pretty well, meaning that we at least recouped most of our expenses.
  • Have done a few performances, concerts and some lectures about new music. Have been the subjects of a few newspaper stories.
  • In 2013 I received theDistinguished Musician Alumni Award from TCNJ.
  • Have finally meet one of my favorite, Slovak composers Vladimir Godár in New York.
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Composers: Peter Breiner and Vladimír Godár with Publisher & Editor of Music & Literature Magazine: Taylor Davis-Van Atta – guest on Classical Discoveries

So what did I miss with regard to my radio program?

  • Presented three more annual Viva 21st Century Marathons (two of three were actually 25 hour-long) – I hosted my 10th new music marathon this past December. *

With 10* to my credit (1 devoted to American composers and one to women), all live and hosted, some of my friends started call me a Marathonmaniac. Yes, I must be crazy to be on the air for 242 hours during 10 sittings. One of those days I will summarize how many new, 21st century compositions I have presented during all of my New Music Marathons combined.

* Actually 11th -24 hour but was devoted just to the music of Alan Hovhaness on his 100th hundred birthday year

I must say that being live on the air for 24-25 hours straight and playing that all wonderful music gets me so excited that I do not feel tired until about the 23rd hour. This is why I love it each year when my annual guests – composer friends like Daniel Dorff and Robert Moran (plus many that I have endless gratitude to but not mentioned here) visit me, especially close to the end and join me on the air talking about their recent, just written works.

Nothing can replace a live, unedited, spontaneous DJ trying to speak, after being on the air for many, many hours. This is one of the special, unique moments of live radio.  Someone told me that I was the first who dared to present a 24 hour live marathon devoted to compositions just written after 2000 when I did this back in 2007 (of course in addition to playing new music on Classical Discoveries each week for almost 18 years)

I am sorry to say this but many people have forgotten this already or have maybe chosen to ignore it, have simply very short memories, or are maybe playing politics. I do not know, but I am OK with this and very happy that there are others doing 24 hour Marathons featuring new music. We need these more often since we already have plenty of new music to present on many marathons.

In 2007 it was much harder to organize 24 hours of good, diverse new music but now it is a totally different story.

Maybe one day I will try to do 30 straight hours. Should I do it? Should I announce a challenge “The Game of XXI-Marathons”? Hmmmm?.

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Talking about new music news: Last Wednesday I presented the World Premiere Broadcast of the just premiered (February, 2015) Viper Concerto for Viper electric violin and orchestra by Serbian composer, Ana Milosavljevic composed in 2014!

  • Now I am working on my 3 specials:  “Sacred Bridges” (Wednesday, April 1, 5:30-11:00am), “Little Known Treasures of Early Music for Easter” (Sunday, April 5, 10:00am-1:00pm) and “Music for Orthodox Easter” (Sunday, April 12, 1:00-3:00pm).

So get ready. More blogs are coming (I hope)!

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