Classic Mornings

Bee Schubert

Logo of a bird with the words "classic morning."

We’re trying to confuse you. Well, sometimes it might seem that way, especially for those who are new to classical music.

Here’s one example. You might have been all excited when you first got to know the name Bach and perhaps a few pieces by the composer. But then you began to hear the names Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel or Johann Christian all associated with Bach. Suddenly things started to get complicated.

Actually, they’re not.  Simply saying “Bach” has come to mean Johann Sebastian Bach. But there’s more Bach and quite a variety of it within the Bach family. And once you get to know the music of his sons, whose names I mentioned above, you’ll discover that.

It’s a similar situation with the name Strauss. You may have been charmed by a Strauss waltz. And when you wanted to hear more Strauss, you discovered there was the famous Viennese family of Johann Sr., Johann Jr., Josef and Eduard Strauss. That doesn’t include Richard Strauss from Germany. And there’s Oscar Straus from Vienna (spelled with one “s” ) and American composer Charles Strause of Bye Bye Birdie & Annie fame. 

Johann Strauss Jr. has come to be known as the “Waltz King.” And he’s the one that most are referring to when they say “Strauss” in a generic sort of way.  But again, there’s such a variety from all the Strausses, no matter how you spell the name.

Aren’t you glad there was only one Schubert? Actually, there have been many musical Schuberts in music history, including other Franz Schuberts.  Besides the famous Viennese Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828), there was the Dresden church composer Franz Anton Schubert the Elder (1768-1824) and his son Franz Anton Schubert the Younger (1808-1878), who was a violinist and composer. The son called himself François to distinguish himself from Franz Schubert “the Famous,” you might say.

I was reminded of him recently when I played his most famous work: a piece for violin and piano titled The Bee. Over the years, I’ve played Michala Petri and Lars Hannibal’s arrangement of the piece for recorder and guitar.  Nevertheless, not only did François become Franz Schubert “the Lesser,” but his charming bee was out-buzzed by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s. That composer’s Flight of the Bumblebee is the most famous bee in music history.

Knowing the name and/or music of Franz Schubert, you have to admit that the name François Schubert catches your attention. So does the name Carlos Kleiber, if you’re aware that his father was the famous Austrian conductor Erich Kleiber. As it turns out, Carlos, who passed away 15 years ago, was born Karl Ludwig Kleiber. His family moved to Buenos Aires when he was 5 years old.  Karl was then renamed Carlos.

Sugár is not sugar in Hungarian. So Hungarian composer Rezsö Sugár’s name doesn’t mean sugar. Actually, the word “sugár” means light beam in Hungarian. And “cukor” is the Hungarian word for sugar. The composer never changed his name, but I’m guessing that with English-language audiences, his name suggests sweetness. October 9th marked the centennary of his birth. He died in 1988. Over the years, I’ve presented selections from his folk-inspired Hungarian Children’s Songs, written for the piano, but played by guitarist David Starobin.

It’s funny. They call recordings “releases.” But there are some recordings that companies just can’t seem to set free. One of those, released 40 years ago in 1979, featured guitarists Julian Bream and John Williams in concert. Actually, there were two concerts in October,1978. One was in Boston at Symphony Hall. The other was in New York at Avery Fisher Hall. The live recording was a compilation of the two.

For years I played selections from the LP version, applause and all, though I couldn’t tell you whether you were hearing a particular piece as performed in Boston or as performed in New York. Nor could I tell you whether the applause was from Boston or from New York. I guess that sort of thing happens all the time with live albums.

Anyway, in the CD era, that recording was re-issued as a part of two separate CDs, mixed with cuts from studio recordings made by Julian Bream and John Williams years before. The re-issues were titled Together (RCA 61450) and Together Again (RCA 61452). So that the concert performances might blend in better with the studio performances, the applause was removed from the live cuts. I read recently that in France, there had been a CD version of the live album, minus the final encore so that it could fit onto a single CD.

Well, eventually the original live recording made it to a CD - start to finish – but only as a part of a 40 CD set of Julian Bream’s complete recordings for that particular record company. And I’ve seen suggested retail prices for $1,200.00. We still have the LP version. in the Friends of WILL Library. I made sure to give it a big hug when I saw the price tag for the complete set. Our LP version isn’t as clean as the re-issues which were stripped of their applause. So I’ve asked listeners to applaud if they enjoy the performances.  That’ll make me feel as though we’re getting the full effect without spending a small fortune.

You always get the full effect of the stories I tell in this blog when you hear the music that accompanies them on Classic Mornings. Join me Monday through Friday from 9 am-12 pm on FM 90.9 or online.