Alberto Ginastera / Nikos Kazantzakis

Rick Rogers Published: February 18, 2013

On this day in classical music: Alberto Ginastera’s “Harp Concerto” was given its premiere by Nicanor Zabaleta and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1965. Eugene Ormandy conducted the premiere. While Ginastera’s compositional style had moved well beyond the era in which folk elements featured strongly in his music, the harp concerto combined folk influences with 12-tone practices. The work demands a virtuoso harpist. Listen to Remy van Kesteren play the opening movement of Ginastera’s “Harp Concerto” with Clark Rundell and the NJO Chamber Orchestra.

Alberto Ginastera
Alberto Ginastera

On this day in the musical theatre: Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Crete in 1883. His 1946 philosophical novel “Zorba the Greek” made him world famous. Michael Cacoyannis filmed Kazantzakis’ work in 1964. John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joseph Stein adapted the work for the stage in 1968. Herschel Bernardi starred as the title character, who befriends Nikos, a young man who has inherited an abandoned mine on Crete. Anthony Quinn starred in a 1983 Broadway revival. On the 50th anniversary of his death, Kazantzakis was honored with a 10 Euro commemorative coin. Listen to the original cast of “Zorba” perform the lively “Life Is.”

Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis

Musical musings: Beware of Greeks bearing scripts. Herschel Bernardi wasn’t Greek, of course, but then neither was Anthony Quinn. Bernardi — Tevye number three — enlisted “Fiddler” librettist Joe Stein to adapt Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, and the pair ran the project over to “Fiddler” producer Hal Prince. Who duly drafted his “Cabaret” songwriters and choreographer, his “Fiddler/Cabaret” set and costume designers, and Bernardi’s own Golde, the Robbins-ballerina-turned-comic-actress Maria Karnilova. Everybody was primed for a smashing “Fiddler” follow-up — including audiences, who provided a two-million-dollar advance. Only trouble was, the show was ponderously leaden and just plain dull. “Zorba” begins with the refrain “Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.” After around forty minutes it felt like “Zorba’s” what you do while you’re waiting… – Stephen Suskin in More Opening Nights on Broadway

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