On PBS Sunday: National Philharmonic’s cathartic ‘In Memoriam’ concert

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Philharmonic's 'In Memoriam' (Part 1)

The National Philharmonic continues its biweekly series Sunday at 2 p.m.

PBS affiliate WETA will televise the cathartic concert “In Memoriam,” a program filmed at Strathmore featuring three compositions dealing with themes of grief and mourning.

“The three pieces together relate to our mood today,” conductor Piotr Gajewski told WTOP. “Hopefully we’re at the tail of a pandemic, which was a horrific time in the history of the world, and when we look back at it, we’ll see it even more as such. We’re also going through this transformation in America in terms of race relations.”

The first piece is Adolphus Hailstork’s “Essay for Strings,” a tribute from the 80-year-old Norfolk-based composer to his friend.

“The work was written in memory of his friend Glen Hull — the initials obviously are G.H., and Hailstork used those initials as the pitches. … It’s a device composers have used for generations. Bach composed a complicated piece based on pitches B, A, C, H.” (In German musical language, B is used for what English speakers call B flat, while H is used for B natural.)

The second is Janice Hamer’s “For the Uprooted,” by Rockville’s Janice Hamer, about the plight of refugees.

“This work is for solo cello and orchestra,” Gajewski said. “It’s based on the idea of refugees worldwide. It’s an interesting piece, very intricate and modern-sounding. … It uses motives from Bach and Mozart.”

The third is “Metamorphosen,” by German composer Richard Strauss about the pain of World War II.

“He wrote it toward the end of World War II in 1944 and 1945,” Gajewski said. “Throughout his life, he saw Germany be a great power of composers [such as] Beethoven … and saw all that crumble in the 1940s. So, this is a piece that expresses the idea of it crumbling and the world changing.”

The concert is the third-to-last virtual show before in-person shows return in fall.

“At the time being, we’re still very much in social distancing protocols,” Gajewski said. “We expect to be back in the concert hall with a full audience and back to what we would consider more normal operations by October 2021.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Philharmonic's 'In Memoriam' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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