A River Runs Through This Music

We celebrate the Classical California Ultimate Playlist with a series of fun and informative blogs about the music you love.

What I love The Moldau? This dreamy symphonic poem by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana somehow lifts us from our office chair, our couch, our sorrows, and transports us to the lush Bohemian forest, where a pair of small springs join together, gradually forming the most magnificent river in the country. . That river, in which we seem to be floating, flows through the vast Czech countryside towards Prague, where it is crossed by 18 bridges, including the magnificent Charles Bridge.

The Charles Bridge | Sergey Ashmarin’s photo

As is often the case, the circumstances of the work’s composition belie its uplifting spirit. While he was writing The Moldau in 1874, Smetana became completely deaf. But, like Beethoven, he did not let it silence him, composing almost until his death at the age of 60 in 1884 in a mental asylum in Prague.

That same year, 1884, the 22-year-old Englishman Frederick Delius, who hated the family’s wool business and had not proven good at it, was sent by his father to Florida to manage an orange plantation. The grove runs along St. John’s River south of Jacksonville. This two-year stay inspired the nature-loving composer Florida Suite.

You could say it’s a kind of protest song; the composer’s father despised his son’s musical passion, but the Suite written in “exile” became one of his most famous works. Here is the second movement, By the River:

Our last dip in the musical rivers was inspired by a current odyssey: in 2009, the renowned American composer Eve Beglarian, who grew up in Los Angeles, embarked on a four-month journey by kayak and bicycle down the Mississippi River. In the following years he composed BRIM: The River Project, an extensive collection of works based on that journey. Its deep waters include traditional song arrangements, original works, prose, and videos. Since then, Eve has traveled back down the river, sharing her creations with the people who inspired them.

Eve Beglarian | Photo by Lori Gum

In her 2017 list of the top 35 contemporary American women composers, Washington post writer Anne Midgette writes about Eve Beglarian: “an experimental composer and performer, Beglarian writes genre-defying, intimate music that defies categorization: a collage of sound and effects, voice and electronics, written for on everything from a rock band to a found recording. ”

It’s always exciting to hear what’s just around the corner from this adventurous composer with strong ties to USC. Eve’s father, composer Grant Beglarian, was the beloved Dean of the USC School of Performing Arts from 1969 to 1982.


Gail Eichenthal

Gail Eichenthal is the Senior Director of Community Engagement for the USC Radio Group, which includes KUSC Los Angeles and KDFC San Francisco. She oversees community engagement, live concert broadcasts, and contributes art features to Arts Alive.

In 1978, Gail became the first woman to host national radio broadcasts of an American orchestra, hosting and producing the LA Philharmonic broadcast for more than 20 years. From 1994-2005, Gail expanded her news career, working as a staff reporter and anchor at KNX-AM, the CBS news station. He is a member of the USC Thornton School of Music Board of Councilors.