Classic Mornings

Atlanta, Atalanta, Red Rover and Hannover


It happened again!  I was in another Will Shortz frame of mind, having heard the NPR Weekend Edition Puzzle Master the day before. Out of nowhere it came to me.  And I introduced a piece of music on Classic Mornings with this puzzle of sorts. Here, give it a whirl:

He wrote a famous 5th and a famous 9th. Add those numbers and you get another famous work by the same composer, even though it’s almost never identified by its number. What’s the piece? 

On the air, I gave the answer immediately with the piece of music. Read on. I’ll give you the title in just a bit.

Now this isn’t meant to be a puzzle. “The 4th” is always “The 4th.” But there was a 325th on the 4th this year. The French organist, harpsichordist & composer Louis Claude Daquin was born in Paris on July 4, 1694. The story is told that at age 6 he was able to play the harpsichord for French King Louis XIV. A couple of years later he conducted a sacred work he had written. Beyond being a child prodigy, he became a virtuoso harpsichordist, who they say was skilled at improvising at the keyboard.

Are you wondering whether he wrote anything appropriate for the 4th of July, even though he died 8 years before the Declaration of Independence. Actually, he did. It’s a fact that a fife and drum procession led the way for Thomas Jefferson to proclaim the Declaration of Independence. In classical music, a “tambourin” is a piece of music that imitates a fife and drum. On Classic Mornings, I played a tambourin by Louis-Claude Daquin, written for the harpsichord and played on a piano accordion by Mie Miki, who has been called the “Queen of the Classical Accordion.”

Daquin was a younger contemporary of François Couperin, another French keyboard virtuoso. Recently, when I played one of his pieces titled Atalanta, I realized that in print it looks like a typo or a misspelling. But it isn’t. For one thing, it has nothing to do with the famous American city. In fact, the city we know as Atlanta, which began as a railroad settlement in Georgia, was originally named for a governor’s daughter. It was called Marthasville. It then was renamed Atlantica-Pacifica for the railroad. That was shortened to Atlanta.

Atalanta is a character from Greek mythology. She was a hunter and quite an athlete. She could outrun anybody – except when during one particular race, she was tricked with golden apples, for which she stopped. If you know just that much about Atalanta, you can enjoy listening to harpsichordists sprinting through Couperin’s piece.

And now that you know the difference between Atlanta and Atalanta, how about Hanover and Hannover? Actually they’re 2 different spellings of the German city. The Germans spell it with 2 “n”s and put the accent on the second syllable. Think of the rhyme that goes with the children’s game Red Rover: “Red Rover, Red Rover, let so and so come over” (or “send so and so over”). The German way of saying the name of the city rhymes with Red Rover. So remember this: “Red Rover, Red Rover, come to Hannover.”

No matter how you pronouce it, the name may have come from the words “high embankment”, which describes the geography of the city. The Latin equivalent is “alta ripa.”  35 years ago, a music ensemble formed in the city of Hannover, which called itself Musica Alta Ripa. We’ve been enjoying some of their performances for years.

It’s easy to be fooled by pronunciations as well as spellings. If you’ve never encountered the Norwegian word for butterfly, you might be fooled into thinking it’s “summer fool” The word is sommerfugl, which literally means summer bird. But it sounds a bit like summer fool when it’s spoken. That came to mind recently when I played one of the Lyric Pieces by Edvard Grieg titled “Sommerfugl,” which I simply refer to as “Butterfly.”

And regardless of whether you’ve heard any of those words, I hope you heard that we reached our fiscal year end goal! Thank you for your support that helped make that possible! And thank you for being so patient in waiting for the answer to the puzzle: Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, which is almost never identified as his Piano Sonata No.14.