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Broadway Meets the Avant-Garde in a Juilliard Music Festival

These are the six Focus programs, starting on Sunday evening:

A set of Joplin’s rags — the phenomenally popular sheet music for “Maple Leaf Rag” helped put American music on the global map — leads directly into two of Ives’s bustling, changeable Ragtime Dances, performed by Sachs’ New Juilliard Ensemble. The rapidly shifting moods of the dances will offer a new context for the similarly jittery “Octandre,” written for a small group of winds and brasses and ending in a bright scream. Varèse, a native Frenchman, spent the last 50 years of his life in America, and his influence here made him a natural for this Focus.

Sachs wrote a biography of Henry Cowell, who was part of a circle of experimental composers with Varèse, and whose brooding Sinfonietta follows “Octandre.” Ruth Crawford was also part of the group, and the program includes her angular “Three Songs to Poems by Carl Sandburg,” before closing with Ives’s Third Symphony, “The Camp Meeting,” a characteristically Ivesian explosion of European styles and 19th-century Americana.

The military marches of John Philip Sousa, a major American presence in Europe during this period, are rarely heard alongside modernists like Milton Babbitt and Leon Kirchner, and Amy Beach’s String Quartet is rarely heard, period. Beach’s warm, thickly chromatic, intensely elegant single-movement quartet — which incorporates, after the model of Dvorak, the Native American melodies “Summer Song,” “Playing at Ball” and “Ititaujang’s Song” — looks both backward and forward.

The quartet and chamber works by Babbitt, Kirchner, Conlon Nancarrow (best known for his wild player-piano studies) and Virgil Thomson lead, however unexpectedly, to Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” represented by Vladimir Horowitz’s virtuosic — and, in this company, truly progressive-sounding — piano arrangement.

Among the week’s most intriguing rediscoveries is “Deep Song,” a Martha Graham solo that she first danced in 1937 as a cri de coeur during the Spanish Civil War. The score, by Cowell, was lost, so when the dance was revived in the 1980s, it was with another Cowell piece.

Circassia News

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