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September 2014
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Animal Kingdom

Through the ages, composers have continually drawn on the animal kingdom for inspiration, from early English madrigals as The Ape, the Monkey and the Baboon to Haydn’s Creation to the Carnival of the Animals to George Crumb’s Vox balaenae, using actual whale calls. We’ll explore many of them this month, so tune in and have fun!

–Peter van de Graaff

Edward Elgar, Dogs and Other Creatures

Edward_Elgar

“Play it like something you hear down by the river.” That’s how Sir Edward Elgar instructed his orchestra to play one of his symphonies. Elgar’s father had been a musician, his mother a farm hand. He and his six brothers and sisters were country people. Though Elgar married beyond his class (an act which his more…

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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?

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LISTEN: A Musical Tale for Kids

Camilla Gorilla, illustrated by Sharon Lomasney

Camilla Gorilla, illustrated by Sharon Lomasney

WFMT’s February theme is The Animal Kingdom, the celebration of music inspired by things that scamper, swim, swing, and scoot; that fly, cry, bite and hoot.

Here’s a tale about one special gorilla

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Beethoven’s Cuckoo: A Comparison

Beethoven and Cuckoo

[San Francisco Symphony, Wednesday at 8:00 PM] Composers are the ultimate mockingbirds. They hear other birds’ calls and simply can’t resist scoring them for flutes, clarinets, oboes, string sections, even pipe organs. There is one bird that the composer/mockingbird species especially likes to mock: the cuckoo. Beethoven, Delius and Mahler have all imitated the cuckoo

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Exploring Music: Shostakovich

Shostakovich in 1919

Weeknights at 7:00 PM When Bill McGlaughlin turned his sites on Dmitri Shostakovich, it didn’t take much consideration to determine he’d need two weeks. Putting aside the enormity of this Russian’s best-known works, like the Fifth and the Tenth Symphonies, it was the composer’s ambition to compose in every genre possible from show tunes to more…

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Schubert’s Vacation and a Masterpiece

Leaping Trout by Winslow Homer

Leaping Trout by Winslow Homer

The story goes like this: Schubert and his friend, baritone Johann Vogl decided to beat the Summer heat and take a mountain holiday. Vogl had grown up in the Alpine town of Steyr, and was sure he could find lodgings there. Indeed he did; the 22-year-old Schubert wrote “there are eight girls living in the home, nearly all of them pretty.”

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Shostakovich on New York Phil

Dmitri Shostakovich

Thursday’s broadcast of the New York Philharmonic This Week offers variety: Beethoven, a composer who goes with just about anything; Shostakovich—now we’re looking at a program with some muscle; then a composer who isn’t usually paired with the other two, the ever-tuneful George Gershwin

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The Birds and the Bees (and other little creatures)

eighth blackbird

eighth blackbird

Imitating birdsong in music is irresistible to composers, from Vivaldi to Mahler, from Haydn to Dvorak. Perhaps no one took that task as seriously as French composer Olivier Messiaen who began taking side trips when he traveled in order to hear and transcribe the calls of local birds

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Tenor, Composer, Dachshunds

Britten and Pears at Crag House, 1954

Britten and Pears at Crag House, 1954

In honor of WFMT’s February theme, The Animal Kingdom, we present a little bit about opera and a little bit about dogs.

Coming up on the Tuesday Night Opera, Peter van de Graaff features a recording of Benjamin Britten’s opera “Death in Venice.” It’s a classic recording starring (no dogs) the voice for whom it was written, tenor Peter Pears

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Tuesday: Les petites musiques

Germaine Tailleferre, 1970

Germaine Tailleferre, 1970

On Tuesday afternoon, 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM, Suzanne Nance features a group of six friends who played music together, shared ideas and populated cafes together: Les six. Coming of age amid the horrors of World War I, this smart set of French (and Swiss) composers possessed an almost revulsion toward Romanticism which characterized art and literature before the War

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Fabulous Fables: Great for Kids and for Composers

Francis Poulenc with Mickey

Francis Poulenc with Mickey

The Animal Kingdom is WFMT’s Theme for February.

Everybody knows the expression, sour grapes, from the Aesop classic “The Fox and the Grapes.” 17th century French poet Jean de la Fontaine set 124 such fables to verse; little moral lessons often starring members of the animal kingdom. It was la Fontaine’s set that inspired Francis Poulenc to compose a ballet called Les animaux modeles

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