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Concert and Conversation with Yehudi Wyner

Yehudi Wyner and Wendy Putnam at GBH's Fraser Performance Studio
Yehudi Wyner and Wendy Putnam at GBH's Fraser Performance Studio

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer performs his own music as well as that of Florence Price and Franz Schubert, with violinist Wendy Putnam, in a Concord Chamber Music Society program.

That phrase, though - "Pulitzer Prize-winning" - barely begins to encompass Yehudi Wyner's musical life and language. To be sure, his Chiavi in Mano, a Boston Symphony Orchestra commission premiered with pianist Robert Levin in 2005, brought his work to a wider audience than had experienced it before. But with decades of that work in circulation and teaching positions at Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Brandeis, and the Tanglewood Music Center, the Pulitzer only confirmed Wyner's place as one of the most engaging musical voices of our time.

Now Yehudi Wyner has been honored again, with a Gold Medal for Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, who describe him as "a true ambassador in the belief that the history of civilization is written in art whose creation and appreciation is universal across continents, cultures, and languages."

To those lucky enough know Wyner, as I have for a number of years, there is no one who deserves such honors more. Yet such accolades also only hint at the warmth, humor, and humanity of who Yehudi Wyner is. As he describes his ambition in this program, "I'm not trying to please an audience, I'm trying to reach another soul."

That's why I was delighted when Wendy Putnam, the founder of the Concord Chamber Music Society, asked me to participate in this program in GBH's Fraser Performance Studio. In the five short parts below, you'll see and hear what makes Yehudi Wyner so remarkable as both a musician and a person.

Part One begins with two short pieces by Wyner himself, each with a very personal connection.

In Part Two, Putnam joins Wyner for a sweetly lyrical piece by Florence Price.

Part Three returns to Wyner's own music, specifically Three Informal Pieces, a collection with a very revealing history told by the composer.

Part Four brings us the Sonatina No. 1 by Franz Schubert, a composer who has inspired both Wyner and Putnam in different ways, as you'll hear.

In the final segment, Wyner once again returns to his own music, with a piece written, like so many others, for a friend, with imagination, personality, and a figurative wink of the eye.

Each of these sections, when released in February, was accompanied by a Q&A with Wendy Putnam. To see and hear those, visit the Concord Chamber Music Society on YouTube.

Brian McCreath is the Director of Production for CRB.