Classic Mornings

Voicess of Sspring


It’s almost like a trademark: that double “s” at the end of the name Strauss. It makes you want to get carried away and add an “s” to every one that you write, in hopes of conveying a Strauss-like elegance and charm, like the Viennese topping their coffee with whipped cream. The “Classic” in Classic Mornings already has it. In German, you’ll sometimes see “ss” represented by the character “ß” as in Strauß . The word itself means bouquet. Somehow that’s fitting for a name that has brought such joyful and colorful music into the lives of so many. German composer Richard Strauss, who was no relation to the Viennese Strauss family, wore the legendary spelling. And now that I’ve brought it to your attention, you’ll probably have this image of a shortstop (“ss” for short – stop) slowly waltzing in toward the batter when anticipating a bunt.

A recent birthday anniversary led me to reflect on it all for a moment. Suddenly I was off in another Will Schortz-like direction. I opened Classic Mornings on March 6th  with a little puzzle – namely, to take the famous family name of the Viennese waltz composers, remove an “s” and lend the name to one of the famous film prize statuettes. The result was a reason for celebrating that morning. I then played a waltz from the operetta known as Ein Walzertraum or A Waltz Dream by the Viennese-born composer Oscar Straus (1870-1954), who was no relation to the famous Strauss family with the double “s.” By the way, Charles Strouse came to mind too – he’s the lyricist whose credits include Annie.

That was just the beginning of a little wordplay.  Later that day, I was introduced to a game which I understand is popular in Spain and Latin America. It’s called Jerigonza. According to Walter Clark and William Krause, it involves adding the letter “p” after each vowel in a word and then repeating the vowel. So Carlos becomes Cápar-lopos. I understand that it usually results in lots of tongue-twisting. I wondered whether Will Shortz had heard of this game and whether we’ll hear some variant of it on an upcoming Weekend Edition puzzle. "Jerigonza" was the title given to the opening piece in a suite titled Airs of La Mancha, written in 1966 by Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba. A new recording of his works for solo guitar and for guitar(s) and orchestra features Pepe Romero – not with members of his guitar-playing family, but with 2 members of the Coves family: guitarist Manuel Coves and his brother, conductor Vicente Coves. (Naxos 8.573255)

You can always have fun with the name Handel, whose 330th birthday we celebrated on February 23rd. His is the first of the 3 major 1685 birthdays we’re celebrating this year. Handel is the anglicization of the composer’s German name: Händel. I’m guessing that can be fun to play with in German since it sounds like words for trade and chicken.

I know I’ve talked about classical music’s Carpenters – perhaps I’ve only just begun. Besides American composer John Alden Carpenter, there are several players whose family name is the German word for carpenter: Zimmermann. There’s the Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman (a variant of Zimmermann), German violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman and violist Tabea Zimmermann. Those two are not related. But Frank Peter Zimmermann’s son Serge is slowly making his way toward the top of the violin performance world. Papa turned 50 years old on February 27th.  I’ve heard Serge mention in an interview that he has studied the instrument with his father and that the two play together at home.

The Labèques are a family duo. Pianists Katia and Marielle – the Labèque sisters from France – celebrated their birthdays in early March. It was Katia’s 65th.  Somehow, it seems like poetic justice that the sisters who always have played works for piano duet and 2 pianos celebrate their birthdays around the same time. Yes, they might have been twins. But then it all may have sounded scripted.

Conductor Jésus López-Cobos turned 75 on February 22nd.  We’ve enjoyed his recording of Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra over the years (Telarc 80309). When he was a student in Vienna, he travelled to Rome and had the chance to meet Respighi’s widow. The 2nd Suite of Ancient Airs and Dances had its premiere in Cincinnati in 1914 under Fritz Reiner. López-Cobos served as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1986-2001.

Lorin Maazel, who died last July, would have been 85 on March 6th. His conducting suitcase had quite a few travel stickers, including Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh and Munich. 

Carmen has been all over the world, many times. Carmen (Georges Bizet’s opera) turned 140 on March 3rd and recently enjoyed a 6 month celebration of performances by the Met. WILL-FM listeners had the chance to hear the Met production last Saturday.

We had the chance to hear from 100 new Friends of WILL during the month of February, as well as many current supporters who helped encourage the 100 new contributors. Thank you all for your generous support and for helping to make the recent campaign a success!