Classic Mornings

A Wide Load of Diversions


You’ll thank me for this. It may not be right away. But sometime soon, when you head out on the highway for summer travels, you might be grateful that you glanced at this.

Given the number of motorists that suddenly have emerged from their hiding places and construction sites that have sprung up like wild vegetation, I wanted to provide you with some classical music “diversions” to steer you into a more relaxed frame of mind whenever you take your place on the crowded field.  It’s not a bad idea to get acquainted with them in advance, so you can use them in emergency situations, i.e. when you’re really beginning to “lose it.” 

Let me start with a fun question: Have you ever heard of a “semi-opera?” No, it’s not like a truck rodeo with singing, though that’s an interesting idea. Actually, it has nothing to do with trucks.

A semi-opera was basically a play with singing, dancing, instrumental music and special effects produced by machines. The most important roles were spoken and the minor ones were sung. It’s said that some who came to hear the actors hated the music, and those who came to hear the music were disturbed by all the spoken interruptions. Though they had nothing to do with trucks, you could say semi-operas, popular in England from the 1670s until 1710, were vehicles for carrying an oversize load of entertainment.  

Some of the music of semi-operas has been arranged into orchestral suites for concert performances. In case you’re wondering, they’re not called semi-suites.  

I wonder how you would react to a radio commercial that begins with the line: “He has more RVs than anybody!”  You probably would guess that it was for an RV dealership with rows and rows of RVs just waiting to take their places in the never-ending two-lane parade. 

But what if it turned out to be an ad for music by Antonio Vivaldi?  The most complete cataloging of the hundreds of Vivaldi compositions is by Danish musicologist Peter Ryom. He gave the works a Ryom catalog number or, in German, a Ryom Verzeichnis – an “RV” number.  Vivaldi may indeed have more RVs than anybody

So, are the works of Vivaldi recreational vehicles? You might say they have been for performers who have tried to recreate the spirit of Vivaldi’s music – and certainly for listeners who have allowed Vivaldi’s music to transport them to the delights of late 17th & early 18th century Venice.

Is this helping? I could go on to talk about cyclists who seek to impress you either with their sound or their appearance.  Franz Schubert and Gustav Mahler are known for their collections or cycles of songs.  Bedřich Smetana is famous for his symphonic cycle Ma Vlast and Richard Wagner for his cycle of music dramas known as Der Ring des Niebelungen.

Let’s not forget about all those vans. There’s pianist Van Cliburn, composer Ludwig van Beethoven, conductor Jaap van Zweeden and many other assorted “vans” of Dutch origin that often surround us on our journeys into classical music.

Do you know the classical music words for “slow?”  There’s “adagio.” That one is fairly common. “Molto adagio,” “largo” and “lento” are also used to indicate a very slow tempo. There’s even adagissimo, which literally means “as slow as possible.”  Claude Debussy wrote a waltz titled La plus que lente, which means “more than slow.” I don’t think there are any terms in music for “at a snail’s pace” or “at a complete standstill.” But I’m guessing that musicians would employ Italian or French versions of such expressions.

I’ll stop there. Otherwise we’ll have our own traffic jam of classical music thoughts. But you have to admit that it would be a lot more fun than the ones you’ve sat through or will sit through, right? 

With that said, I wish you safe and pleasant travels this summer.  If there are delays, I hope there are great selections of classical music on the radio during those times. Remember that you might not have had the chance to enjoy those pieces if you hadn’t found yourself “gifted” with the time to listen and without all the noise that can interrupt the music when your vehicle is in motion.

Let me also remind you that classical music wouldn’t be there to rescue you if listeners didn’t support it in their communities. You have the chance to keep classical music on the radio in central Illinois. There’s an “express lane” whenever you decide to make an online end-of-the-fiscal year contribution to WILL. By June 30th, we have to raise the money that’s needed to bring you the classical music and all the other programs and services of Illinois Public Media during the upcoming year, which begins on July 1st. Please consider making a gift today at And thank you!