It’s December, and winter has officially begun. This is a program of music with wintery themes.
Ralph Vaughan Williams arrived on the scene just as a definite English classical music sound was being established. His three main teachers at the Royal Academy of Music were Arthur Sullivan, Hubert Parry, and Charles Stanford. Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst also had an influence on Vaughan Williams.
Other contemporaries of his were George Butterworth, Percy Grainger, and Peter Warlock.
Originally, a musical fantasy was a piece that instrumentalists made up as they went along. Eventually, fantasies evolved into pieces that composers built out of various melodies they liked — like the Scottish folk tunes that Max Bruch put into his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the most important 20th century English composers. He spent years traveling the country collecting English folk songs, writing them down, and publishing them. Many of those melodies wound up in his music.
Charles Ives loved to put hymns into his music. Several other composers borrowed hymn tunes; here are several examples from 20th Century American compositions.
The Country Band March has 12 recognizable popular and folk tunes in it. But Ives was not the only composer to put borrowed tunes in his music. Many classical composers — including Ludwig van Beethoven, Mily Balakirev, and Percy Grainger — used folk music in the pieces they wrote.
Charles Ives wrote the Country Band March about amateur musicians — people who make music for the love of it. In the Country Band March Ives combines a tune that he wrote with bits and pieces of many other popular and folk tunes. See how many of them you can recognize.
The music that Charles Ives wrote was greatly influenced by his father, George. From the time he was a kid, Ives heard his father experiment with sound. George Ives always told Charlie to “stretch his ears,” and Charlie did that with every piece of music he wrote.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov spent years as a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Many of his students became famous composers themselves: Anatol Liadov, Alexander Glazunov, and Igor Stravinsky. A lot of famous composers studied with each other.
Igor Stravinsky based his ballet The Firebird on a Russian folk tale about an evil demon named Kashchei, who has thirteen princesses under his spell. A prince who wanders into Kashchei’s garden to hunt the Firebird winds up defeating Kashchei and freeing the princesses — with the help of the Firebird's magic feather.
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky had a big hit with his first ballet, The Firebird. Stravinksy kept on writing ballets, followed by operas, and orchestral and choral music.
“Gigue” is the French word for jig — a lively dance in triple time. The jig started out as folk dance in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England, before finding its way into classical music.
Georg Philipp Telemann never studied composition – he taught himself how to write music. There are quite a few composers who taught themselves, including Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Edward Elgar, Francis Poulenc, Scott Joplin and others.
Georg Philipp Telemann composed during the Baroque period, which ran from about 1600 to 1750. Suzanne Bona, host of the National Public Radio program Sunday Baroque, talks with Naomi Lewin about Baroque music.
Telemann loved to write. He wrote more pieces of music than any other composer, and he also wrote not one, not two, but THREE autobiographies.
Tritsch-Tratsch — the title of a polka by Johann Strauss, Jr. — is Austrian slang for “chit-chat.” A lot of composers used music to portray people making sounds: talking, laughing, crying — even sneezing!
The waltz is a dance in 3/4 time that was very popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century. But the roots of the waltz go back to the German Dance of Mozart’s day. After the waltz became popular on the dance floor, it moved onto the concert stage, the ballet stage and the opera stage.
Johann Strauss, Sr. had three musical sons: Johann, Jr.; Josef; and Eduard. Sometimes they worked together as musicians, but other times, there was bitter rivalry.
Johann Strauss, Jr. was the son of a very successful violinist and orchestra leader. Eventually, Johann, Jr. was in competition with his father, conducting an orchestra of his own. When the older Strauss died, people began to realize that the son was an even better musician and composer.
What do Frank Sinatra, Blood Sweat and Tears and John Denver have in common? They all used classical music in some of their pieces. After Aaron Copland composed his Fanfare for the Common Man, the piece was also adapted by several popular musicians. Let’s explore some more classical music that made the transition to pop.
In 1942, Eugene Goossens, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony, invited two dozen or so composers to write fanfares honoring those serving in World War II. Hear some more of those fanfares, and take a guess why Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is the only one that’s still regularly performed.
The word fanfare comes from a French word that means to blow trumpets. Fanfares have been used for centuries to announce someone or something important. Presidential inaugurations, movies, the Olympics — they’ve all had special fanfares written for them.
Aaron Copland was a 20th century American composer from Brooklyn, New York. Copland is known for writing very American music, but he actually studied in France. His teacher, Nadia Boulanger, helped Copland find his way to an American sound in classical music.
Giuseppe Verdi composed Aida for a new opera house in Cairo, Egypt that opened around the time as the opening of the Suez Canal. Aida is the story of an Ethiopian princess being held captive by Egyptians. One of the Egyptian generals is desperately in love with her, and she’s in love with him — but so is the daughter of the Egyptian king.
An opera is like a play in which the characters sing all their lines. Opera singers do not use microphones — their voices are trained, and can fill a whole theater with sound without any amplification. All operas have solo singers and an orchestra — and a lot of operas have a chorus, too. Operas have been written in many different languages, including English.
Guiseppe Verdi — “Joe Green,” in Italian — was a great opera composer and Italian patriot. His music became part of the Italian fight for independence and unity.
From the time Frédéric Chopin was a child, audiences loved to hear him play the piano. A lot of composers were famous as keyboard players, too: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt…
In his Military Polonaise, Frédéric Chopin uses the piano to imitate the drums that accompanied armies marching into battle. A lot of composers have put battle sounds into their music.
The polonaise is a dance that was fashionable in the Polish court. Since Polish nobility used to like to speak French, the name “polonaise” is French. Eventually, the polonaise caught on all over Europe, and even migrated to America. Lots of operas contain polonaises, and after a while, composers began to use the polonaise as a form for non-dancing, instrumental pieces.
Frédéric Chopin was one of the greatest pianists of his day. Every single piece of music he wrote used the piano. The name Chopin doesn’t sound very Polish because Chopin's father was born in France. Even though he was fiercely proud of being Polish, Frédéric Chopin wound up moving to France, and never returned to Poland.
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the brass and percussion families.
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the woodwind and string families.
Pizzicato is the Italian word for “plucked” — it tells string players how to play their instruments at a given spot in the music. A lot of musical “traffic signals” are in Italian. This show has explanations and examples of some more of them.
Benjamin Britten composed his Simple Symphony when he was twenty, but he based it on music that he’d written much earlier — some of it when he was only 10! The “Simple Symphony” has four movements, each of which has a very catchy name: Boisterous Bouree, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande, and Frolicsome Finale.
After studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, Benjamin Britten got a job writing film music. Then he went on to compose choral music, chamber music, songs, and quite a few operas, including some for major events in British history. In addition to being a composer, Britten was an excellent pianist and conductor.
A program featuring acclaimed conductor JoAnn Falletta, who talks about her early love of music, how seeing her first symphony concert inspired her to become a conductor, and all the listening and preparation that goes into being successful at her job.
There are many women composers these days, and this program introduces some of them: Caroline Shaw, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Lera Auerbach, Kaija Saariaho, Chen Yi, Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen, Missy Mazzoli, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Tania León.
Though many societies either forbade or looked down on women who wanted to be composers, many persevered. This show highlights Francesca Caccini, Élizabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Louise Farrenc, Cécile Chaminade, Germaine Tailleferre, Hildegard von Bingen, Marianna Martines, Fanny Mendelssohn, Amy Beach, Florence Price, and Queen Lili’oukalani.
How women in world history – Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II, Aphra Behn, Joan of Arc, Emmeline Pankhurst, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Grace Hopper – inspired classical music compositions.
Music by composers with all kinds of hyphens to their African heritage: African-French, French-Cuban, African-English, and African-American.
Ragtime music is truly African-American music. It combines rhythms that were brought to this country by slaves, with musical forms brought over to the United States from Europe. Ragtime uses syncopated rhythms — that is, the accents in the melody are shifted away from the strong beats in the bass line underneath.
From a very early age, Scott Joplin supported himself as a performing pianist. Eventually, he earned a living selling his compositions, too. Thanks to Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, the most famous of all piano rags, Joplin became known as the King of Ragtime Writers.
Many countries around the world have national anthems and other patriotic songs that were written by classical composers. Haydn, Elgar and Verdi are just a few you’ll explore here.
The minuet is a dance that started in the 1700’s in the French court. Gradually, the minuet began to be used for non-dancing purposes, as a musical form — especially as the third movement of symphonies. Minuets found their way onto the stage, too, in operas, plays, and ballets.
Every year, when the weather turned nice, Prince Esterhazy — Franz Joseph Haydn’s employer — moved his entire household to his summer palace. When it turned cold again, everyone moved back to the main palace in the city. But one fall, it stayed warm for a very long time, and the prince didn't budge. The musicians in his orchestra wanted to go home, and Haydn found a musical way to tell the prince it was time to go: the Farewell Symphony.
Franz Joseph Haydn never had any children, but the musicians who worked for him liked him so much they called him Papa Haydn. And Haydn is also known as the “Father of the Symphony.” He wasn’t the first person to compose symphonies, but he did help the symphony to grow up as a musical form.
Franz Joseph Haydn spent over thirty years working as music director for the Esterhazy family. By the end of his life, Haydn was both rich and famous, and he had gotten along well with his employers – pretty unusual for a composer of that time.
George Frederick Handel’s Messiah wasn’t written for Christmas — it was first performed in April. Hear some other pieces of classical music that traditionally get played during the Christmas season.
Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker is based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. In The Nutcracker, a Christmas present — a nutcracker — comes to life as a handsome prince. He takes the young girl who received him as a present on some fantastic adventures.
Ballet is a theatrical performance that tells a story using music, costumes, sets, and dance. Victoria Morgan, artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet, talks with Naomi Lewin about ballet and ballet terms.
Some composers in Tchaikovsky’s day didn’t think his music sounded “Russian” enough, but Tchaikovsky was Russian through and through. Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, operas, songs, chamber music — and of course, several wonderful ballets.
Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” is an operetta. An operetta is like an opera, with one big difference. In opera, everything is sung, but in operetta, there are spoken lines between the singing.
Composers who wrote operettas in English include Sir Arthur Sullivan (who can’t be separated from William S. Gilbert, who wrote the words for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas), Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, and Rudolf Friml.
When he was growing up, Leonard Bernstein loved to put on operas and other musical shows with his friends. That interest in musical theater continued all through his life, and produced such great Broadway musicals as “On The Town,” “Wonderful Town,” and “West Side Story.”
American-born Leonard Bernstein became famous all over the world as a composer, a conductor, and a pianist. In addition to writing classical music, composed classic Broadway musicals, including West Side Story.
Music by composers from the three official Scandinavian countries — Norway, Denmark and Sweden — and a couple of unofficial ones — Finland and Iceland!
“In The Hall of the Mountain King” is part of the incidental music Edvard Grieg wrote for Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt. Hear the story of the play as you listen to Grieg's music.
Edvard Grieg was from a music-loving Norwegian family. In addition to becoming the leading Scandinavian composer of his day, Grieg became a big supporter of Norwegian arts and culture.
Dance is very important in Spain, and Spanish dance forms have made their way all over the world. They’ve even turned into music that was never meant for dancing. Listen and move to the irresistible rhythms of the jota, fandango, seguidilla, tango, and other dances in the Spanish tradition.
La danza es muy importante en España, y las formas de danza españolas se han hecho camino en todo el mundo. Incluso se han convertido en música que nunca fue pensada para bailar. Escucha y muévete al ritmo irresistible de la jota, el fandango, la seguidilla, el tango y otros bailes de la tradición española.
After Christopher Columbus made his first trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Spain and other European countries began to colonize the Americas. Spanish music had a big influence on Latin American music – and so did the music of the enslaved people who were brought over from Africa. Hear how composers and players in Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay and other parts of Latin America married European forms with Indigenous sounds, creating folk music traditions that have become classics in their own right.
Después de que Cristóbal Colón hizo su primer viaje a través del Océano Atlántico, España y otros países europeos comenzaron a colonizar las Américas. La música española tuvo una gran influencia en la música latinoamericana, al igual que la música de las personas esclavizadas que fueron traídas de áfrica. Escucha cómo compositores e intérpretes de Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Paraguay y otras partes de América Latina fusionaron formas europeas con sonidos indígenas, creando tradiciones de música folclórica que se han convertido en clásicos por derecho propio.
In the 16th century, “conquistadores” – soldiers from Spain – sailed to Mexico, and took over the country from the Indigenous people who lived there. The Spanish brought their language, their religion, and their music to the place they called “Nueva España,” or New Spain. Mexico became independent from Spain in the 19th century, but the music stayed, combined with African and Indigenous forms, and took on a life of its own.
‘En el siglo XVI, los "conquistadores" – soldados de España – navegaron hasta México, y se apoderaron del país de los indígenas que vivían allí. Los españoles llevaron su idioma, su religión y su música al lugar que llamaron "Nueva España". México se independizó de España en el siglo XIX, pero la música se quedó, combinada con formas africanas e indígenas, y cobró vida propia.
When composers use their country’s folk songs, dances, and rhythms to paint musical pictures of local places and legends, it’s called musical nationalism. Hear how composers like Isaac Albeniz, Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and others defined the Spanish sound with spirit, fire, and romance.
‘Cuando los compositores usan las canciones, danzas y ritmos folclóricos de su país para pintar cuadros musicales de lugares y leyendas locales, se llama nacionalismo musical. Escucha cómo compositores como Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla y otros definieron el sonido español con espíritu, fuego y romance.
¡Bienvenidos! Listen and explore the music of some of Spain’s most influential composers and players, from King Alfonso X (a.k.a. “Alfonso El Sabio”/Alfonso the Wise) to Francisco Tárrega, known as “the father of classical guitar.” You’ll also learn how the guitarra came to Spain in the first place.
¡Bienvenidos! Escucha y explora la música de algunos de los compositores e intérpretes más influyentes de España, desde el rey Alfonso X (también conocido como “Alfonso El Sabio”) hasta Francisco Tárrega, conocido como “el padre de la guitarra clásica”. También aprenderás cómo llegó la guitarra a España en primer lugar.
Zoltan Kodály developed a method for teaching music. It is still used by teachers around the world today. Jill Trinka, who teaches the Kodály Method, talks with Naomi Lewin.
Kodály’s opera Háry János is about a real person who told real whoppers – big, fat lies. If you listened to him, you'd think he defeated Napoleon's army all by himself.
Zoltán Kodály was born in a small town in Hungary. His father worked for the Hungarian railroad, so the family moved around a lot. This meant that as a kid, Zoltán heard folk music from many different parts of the country. When he grew up, Hungarian folk music became his passion. Kodály spent a large part of his life collecting his native music, and teaching his countrymen about it.
“Rhapsody” is an ancient word that means “songs stitched together”. The Greeks used to write long poems in praise of their heroes, and then take bits and pieces of those poems and string them together for performance. In music, a rhapsody is a free-form piece that takes different tunes and strings them together.
Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies were greatly influenced by gypsy, or Romani music. Brahms, Telemann and Verdi are among the many composers were attracted to this distinctive music.
Inspired by violinist Niccolo Paganini, Franz Liszt became a piano superstar. Many classical music superstars followed, including Jan Paderewski, Jenny Lind, Van Cliburn, Enrico Caruso, Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang.
Franz Liszt was a pianist, composer, conductor and teacher who came up with musical innovations in all those fields. He was the first of the virtuoso performers and invented the solo recital. As one of the greatest pianists the world has ever known, Liszt was a 19th century superstar.
From the late 1800’s to the early 1900's, professional bands toured all over the United States, and many towns in this country had their own amateur bands.