Few people have ever known the ins and outs of 91Classical’s music library as well as Will Griffin. He’s worked with this music longer than anyone else at the station, and maintaining and adding to the collection was an important part of his job.
In preparing to leave and begin his retirement, Will took one last look through the shelves to pick some of his favorite recordings. His picks will be played throughout the day Friday as our way of saying goodbye and best wishes to a longtime teammate and friend. Here’s what Will selected and why:
William Byrd: "Ye Sacred Muses"
performed by Fretwork with countertenor Michael Chance
“It’s also called Ode on the Death of Thomas Tallis, who was Byrd’s predecessor and a very prominent composer of choral music. It’s valedictory and beautiful and deserves to be heard.”
Richard Strauss: "Morgen"
performed by soprano Gundula Janowitz and the Academy of London
“It’s a song expressive of deep love and in this particular recording, there was a gleam in her voice — a beautiful gleaming quality which I think is sublime.”
Johann Sebastian Bach: Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D
performed by Hillary Hahn, violin
“It’s one of the cornerstones of Western Classical Music. It’s as high as you can get. It’s been done in many forms and variations over the years.
“A version I’ve been very moved by is the one done by Hillary Hahn that lasts almost 17 minutes. To play a piece of music that usually lasts 13, 14 minutes in 17 minutes means that you have super control over your rhythm and the capacity to stay in the music for the entire time. To slow something down that much and let it unfold like a great flower is just a stunning achievement as a player, as a violinist. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, but the way she plays it is really remarkable and thoroughly enjoyable to me.”
Franz Schubert: mvt. 2 from Piano Sonata in B flat D. 960
performed by pianist Stephen Kovacevich
“Schubert had a knack for writing deeply, deeply personal, very moving music. The second movement [of this piano concerto] is in that universe of Schubert looking beyond human life, somehow. The melodic and harmonic shifts are pure Schubert genius.”
Camille Saint-Saens: “My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice” from Samson and Delilah
performed by the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble
“There’s something particularly sweet and wonderful about the way they handle the beautiful melody and harmonies of this aria. They manage to keep the sound going with the tremolo and it’s just so sweet and wonderful, their version of this aria It’s just about my favorite version I’ve ever heard.”
Gustav Mahler: “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”
performed by mezzo-soprano Janet Baker and the New Philharmonia Orchestra
“I’ve always personally related to this song, especially this version sung by Janet Baker. It starts with a slow, quiet English horn solo, which is so rich and deep and dark.
“I guess you might notice I pick beyond transcendant performances or pieces of music; this one has such a quiet resignation to it. I’ve always personally related to it because I live such a way in music...it seems like a piece of music that’s beyond any particular moment in time. It’s universal.”
Federico Moreno Torroba: Burgalesa
performed by guitarist John Johns
“It’s a very understated piece, lovely melody and harmony.
“John Johns of course was a classical guitar instructor at the Blair School of Music for many years. He’s an elegant player, his touch on the strings is clean and elegant, lucid and clear. I like it a lot. I like the way he plays. He’s always been a good musical friend to interact with over the years.”
James Scott Skinner: Hector the Hero
performed by violinist Caroline Goulding
Will points the backstory for this piece in explaining why he picked it: “I think it was late 19th century, there was a highly accomplished British military man who was drummed out of the corps for suspected homosexuality and he committed suicide. This piece, Hector the Hero, is such a moving valedictory elegy for that person and this young Canadian violinist’s version of it is very heartful as well.”
Joseph Haydn: adagio from Violin Concerto No. 1 in C
performed by violinist Christian Tetzlaff and the Northern Sinfonia
“This is a piece that I discovered when I was still in high school in a recording that showed up at our house...somebody joined a record club, probably my sister, Sarah.
“It’s a piece that is so simple in its structure and so lovely that I just listened to it probably the summer after my senior year in high school, or all through the year. I was just grabbed by it. It was so simple, songlike and lyrical, so perfect in its structure and subtleness. I could say that this is one of the pieces that pulled me into classical music as much or more than any other. It was just something I had to hear occasionally.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Canzona from String Quartet No. 15 in a, Op. 132
performed by Alban Berg Quartet
“Beethoven, for all his fire and crustiness and cantakerousness obviously had deep feelings, emotional feelings, and he puts a lot into this canzona. It speaks for itself. All you do is just play it.”
Claudio Monteverdi: “Pur Ti Miro” from The Coronation of Poppea
performed by soprano Arleen Auger and mezzo-soprano Della Jones with the City of London Baroque Sinfonia
“I discovered this piece from a recording we have of Joshua Bell, one of Bell’s collaboration recordings. It’s the final duet from Claudio Monteverdi’s opera from the early 1600s and it’s the most sublime music. It’s interesting that it's two complete lunatics singing it. I think that might have been a statement, I’m not sure what Monteverdi had in mind...it’s the Emperor Nero and Poppea singing their love duet to each other at the end of the opera and it’s really a sick piece of psychology going on but the music is sublime, and this is a lovely recording.
“At the very beginning of the initiation years of the opera, form operas were being written already at the very highest level, in some ways never improved upon from that music by Monteverdi.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: "Nocturne: Mi lagnero tacendo" K. 437
performed by Vienna Boys Choir and Vienna Chamber Orchestra
“[The set of songs this comes from is] my biggest discovery in the music of Mozart that I didn’t know before I started working here and discovered these in our stacks. They’re just the most charming little pieces for boy choir and they deserve to be heard and known.”
Johann Sebastian Bach: 'Dona nobis pacem' from Mass in B
performed by The English Baroque Soloists
“The final chorus from the b minor mass speaks for itself. It’s one those pieces that starts low and slow, in a way, with the bass voices coming out of the depth and builds to a brilliant conclusion. It’s thrilling and certainly thrilling to sing and perform.”