Classic Mornings

In the Business of Celebrating


It's a fun phrase. I can’t take any credit for it, but I like it. And given all the classical music celebrations and commemorations during the past few weeks or so, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to begin recalling some of them. So, with a nod to Kai Ryssdal, David Brancaccio and all the other folks from the public radio program Marketplace, “Let’s do the numbers!”

September 8th marked the 175th anniversary of the birth of composer Antonín Dvořák. His most famous work, his Symphony No. 9, which is known as “From the New World,” was performed for the first time in Carnegie Hall. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the re-dedication of Carnegie Hall.

The main concert venue of Carnegie Hall is known as Isaac Stern Auditorium. It’s named for the late violin virtuoso Isaac Stern, who gave more than 200 performances in Carnegie Hall during his career.  He also led the efforts to rescue Carnegie Hall from demolition back in 1960. September 22nd marked the 15th anniversary of Stern’s passing.

September 17th marked the 25th anniversary of the passing of French violinist Zino Francescatti, whose last name is pronounced with a soft “c” as in Francis.  Back in 1941 (75 years ago), a concert-goer asked Francescatti if she might see the manuscript of The Star-Spangled Banner – thinking he was a descendent of Francis Scott Key. He corrected her: Francescatti – though he found it amusing.  Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics of our national anthem.

Sir Malcolm Arnold passed away 10 years ago on September 23, 2006, a month before his 85th birthday. He was a composer who knew how to have fun in his music. They say he was inspired as a teenager by the fun that the members of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Band seemed to have. In 1956 Arnold wrote A Grand, Grand Overture for 3 vacuum cleaners, floor polisher, 4 rifles and orchestra. He also wrote the Grand Concerto Gastromonique for “eater, waiter, food and large orchestra” in 1961.

Arnold wrote more than 100 film scores over the years, winning an Academy Award for the one he wrote for David Lean’s  Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957.  For that score, he borrowed the famous march Colonel Bogey by Kenneth Alford.  It not only made the soldiers in the movie happy in their work but had audiences whistling the tune for years.

September 25th marked the centennial of the death of Czech composer and bandmaster Julius Fučik (1872-1916), who studied with Dvořák and is sometimes referred to as the “Bohemian Sousa.”  His most famous march is Entry of the Gladiators, which also has come to be known as Thunder and Blazes. If you don’t know it by either title, it is THE circus march, written a few years before the turn of the 20th Century. That makes it relatively recent, compared with Mozart’s opera La clemenza di Tito, which was completed 225 years ago on September 5, 1791, and The Magic Flute, which turned 225 years old on September 30th.

Italian violinist Salvatore Accardo turned 75 on September 26th. You probably can call him Paganini and get away with it. Some consider him to be the finest interpreter of the music of the 19th century violin virtuoso and composer. If he’s not Paganini, he’s the one to whom many have turned when they wanted to hear how Paganini’s music should be played.

Conductor and keyboard player Christopher Hogwood would have been 75 on September 10th. Before the early music scholar re-founded the 18th century Academy of Ancient Music in our time, he was a member of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Last Sunday, the founder of that ensemble, Sir Neville Marriner died at age 92. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have played performances by the group, led either by Sir Neville or others. Nor can I imagine how many times I have said those two names: The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner, in succession.

I can say with certainty that Illinois Public Media reached its fall fund drive goal of $125,000.00, thanks to 667 listeners who pledged their support. More important than the numbers, you again demonstrated that we can count on you. Thank you!