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February 2014
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Hast Thou Heard the Nightingale? Probably Not.

Common nightingale

Common nightingale

The New York Philharmonic This Week, Thursday at 8:00 PM

North Americans often run across references to a bird that most of us have never seen: the nightingale. It comes up in Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, even the The Eagles have a song called Nightingale. At this point we know it can sing, but what’s so special about that? Why are so many Classical composers susceptible to its song?

Composers who’ve written about the nightingale: Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Handel, Liszt, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Respighi, Schubert, Berlioz, J. Strauss, Grieg, Stravinsky, Rameau, Byrd, Rimsky-Korsakov, Delius, Mahler, Glinka, Schumann, Finzi, Monteverdi, Holst, Glazunov, Shostakovich, and Biber.

The nightingale’s range does not extend into the Americas. It nests during the warmer months in the forests of Europe and in southwest Asia, and winters in Africa. It has a reputation for singing at night, but did you know that birdwatchers have observed this little guy (the males are the singers) singing louder in places that are noisy, especially in urban areas?

In 1914 Igor Stravinsky wrote an opera called The Nightingale (Le rossignol) with a libretto based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Orchestras often perform a suite from the opera, Le chant du rossignol. On Thursday’s New York Philharmonic broadcast (8:00 PM), Andrey Boreyko conducts Le chant.

In honor of WFMT’s February theme The Animal Kingdom, and the New York Philharmonic broadcast, take a moment to hear what all the fuss is about.

LISTEN to the song of the nightingale.

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