Classic Mornings

Food for Musical Thought


Were you expecting recipes? Forget it. But since it’s that time of year when celebrations include food, it seemed like an appropriate time to share a few Classic Mornings food stories.

A delicacy of the northern Italian city Bologna is a type of sausage (mortadella) that’s named for the city - sometimes. Though some do call it Bologna, it acquired (in this country) the more popular name baloney. And baloney acquired another connotation that’s difficult to ignore.

So yes. It does come to mind when I play a particular sinfonia by the young Gioachino Rossini, which he wrote when he was studying at the Conservatory of Bologna. Even that suggests an entire conservatory devoted to the delicacy or to nonsense. The sinfonia, which is like an overture, is sometimes referred to as the Sinfonia di Bologna. I have never said “The Baloney Sinfonia” on the air. I have thought about it. And I’ve wondered if some listeners have thought about it too.

I’m not the only one who has fun with culinary classical music wordplay. Recently I revisited an old Peanuts comic strip from November 1991. It takes place in a concert hall. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are in the audience. Peppermint Patty suddenly notices from glancing at the program that the orchestra is going to play what she reads as the “Introduction and rondo cappuccino.” Marcie corrects her: Introduction and rondo capriccioso. She then has a good hearty laugh at her friend’s mistake. (Introduction and rondo capriccioso is a showpiece for violin and orchestra by Camille Saint-Saëns). Marcie leaves soon after. Later on Peppermint Patty calls her on the telephone to let her know that that after she left, the orchestra played: “Introduction and rondo cappuccino.”  “It was great!,” she added.

That came to mind right around Thanksgiving. I remembered that it was the time of year when television viewers get to see A Charlie Brown Christmas. And maybe it was the concert hall comic strip that inspired me to play a flute and orchestra version of the Saint-Saëns work. It was arranged by Katherine Bryan, principal flute of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. She included it on her 2015 collection of works written originally for violin, which she called “Silver Bow” (Linn 520). If we can have fun with Peppermint Patty calling the piece “Introduction and rondo cappuccino,” flutists can have fun playing it as a part of their repertoire.

Over the years, I’ve played pieces by composers Lodovico Viadana, Marco Uccellini, and Bernardo Gianoncelli/Ottorino Respighi which make use of a tune that comes from and is named for the northern Italian city Bergamo. The tune is known as “La Bergamasca.” Recently I learned that the city is known for a stuffed pasta dish called Casoncelli alla Bergamasca. I decided not to describe it on air. I was afraid that you’d begin to hear all sorts of stomach growls picked up by my microphone. The picture of it online looks so appetizing!

But you never heard me talk about it. I was all set to mention it. And while waiting to begin the program one morning in September, I listened to the final story on the Market Place Morning Report. It was a rather serious story about world hunger. It seemed inappropriate to talk about Casoncelli alla Bergamasca after that. So, I improvised a rather simple introduction to the piece of music. Live radio is like that sometimes. I meant to share my discovery about the Bergamo delicacy some other time – and this is the time.

I also have a fun thought whenever I play Mozart’s Adagio in C major (K. 356/617a) for glass harmonica.  I imagine a dinner table at which somebody is told not to play with the drinking glasses – that is, make sounds by running wet fingers around the rims of those glasses. Suddenly, the person who is scolded gathers several glasses and begins to play the Mozart Adagio. And everyone at the table is in awe.

In some ways, that’s not too far-fetched. Musical glasses were the forerunner of the glass harmonica. The glasses were filled just enough to enable the sounding of the different tones of a musical scale. No, it’s not as simple as just taking hold of a few glasses and creating a bit of ingenious mischief. But if audiences have had no problem with Peppermint Patty and Marcie’s friend Schroeder playing Beethoven and Vince Guaraldi works on a toy piano, they probably can handle my little scenario.

It didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to guess that listeners would be generous during last week’s Giving Tuesday. Thanks to everyone who was a part of that!

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