It’s There For Them, Too!

December 16, 2016

It seemed like it was staged. In fact it was serendipitous.

I had just mentioned during our Giving Tuesday Fund Drive how classical music on the radio in central Ilinois might somehow inspire our young people.  That was based on accounts I had heard from listeners over the years. The following day, while preparing for the December 1st  edition of Classic Mornings and a little tribute to pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, I read excerpts from an interview with Buchbinder by Kate Molleson, which appeared in The Guardian last year.  

Buchbinder, who turned 70 on December 1st, talked about growing up in a small apartment consisting of two rooms for four people. “Don’t ask me why,” he said, “but there was a piano. On top of it was a radio. Both were like a magnet for me. As a little boy, I always tried to play what I heard on the radio.”  Buchbinder passed the junior entrance exam for Vienna’s music academy at age 5. I passed the story along to listeners.

Buchbinder’s reminiscence brought to mind a note by James Galway, which I saw in the booklet that accompanied a recording he made in tribute to flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. He credited Rampal, whom he heard on the radio at age 13, with being his first major influence. He added that he went looking for a radio guide to find out the next time Rampal would be performing on the air.

No matter who the performers have been, radio has helped to keep the music of Mozart alive during much of the past century. On December 5th,  the 225th anniversary of Mozart’s passing, I reminded listeners at least a few times during the program that Mozart’s music has been on its own – without the composer – for 225 years. Thus far it seems to be doing just fine.

There was a news report a few days ago that a new 200 CD compilation, which was intended for the Mozart commemoration, is the top selling release of 2016. That’s according to the music publication Billboard, which bases its statistics on CD sales. OK, they multiplied each set sold by 200 to arrive at the total number of units in comparing it to the sales figures of other single CDs, including those of pop artists. Nevertheless, Mozart came out on top!

December 5th  also turned out to be the birthday of 2 “big-selling” classical music performers of our time.  Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman celebrated his 60th and Spanish tenor José Carreras turned 70. Zimerman won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1975. He’s one of a number of musicians with a similarly spelled family name, which is the German word for carpenter.  That probably  gets lost in translation, leaving the late composer John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) from Park Ridge, Illinois as the only classical music “carpenter” on most listeners’ minds.  And many know Carreras as one of the famous “Three Tenors,” along with Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti.

December 2nd marked the 150th  birthday anniversary of American singer, composer and arranger Henry (“Harry”) Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949). He’s remembered for his arrangements of African-American spirituals and songs. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, he won a scholarship to study at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. At the time, Antonín Dvořák and Victor Herbert were on the faculty.

Burleigh became one of Dvořák’s students and introduced his teacher to African-American music. That was one source of inspiration for Dvorak’s famous 9th symphony, known as “From the New World.”  Some have been led to believe over the years that the tune of the song Goin’ Home was used by Dvořák in the slow movement of the symphony. Actually, it’s the other way around. William Arms Fisher, another of Dvořák’s students at the Conservatory, borrowed the composer’s melody and wrote the song Goin’ Home.

Francesco Paolo Tosti was a composer of songs and a singing teacher as well. The centennial of his death was on December 2nd.  If songs like La serenata and Marechiare, both by Tosti, have attained a sort of royal status, know that their composer was called upon to help nurture the voices of royal familiy members in Italy and England during his lifetime (1846-1916).

All of those celebrations just happened to occur on a couple of days at the outset of December, 2016. Though none of that was staged, I was able to put it on stage, so to speak, because of the ongoing support of listeners. If you look forward to the classical music celebrations on the radio in central Illinois each day, not to mention the music that’s a part of those celebrations, please consider becoming one of thousands who continue to provide the gift of classical music on the radio to those in the community. You may contribute at willpledge.org.

Thanks to all who have been a part of that support this year. Be sure to make time over the holidays to enjoy the gift. And be sure to let some young folks know it’s there for them too!


Classical 24 Music Playlist

WILL Highlights

Farmer/Veteran

Turning to farming as a place to heal and a means to cope, 9 pm May 29 on WILL-TV


American Epic

The first time America heard itself, Tuesdays at 8 pm May 16-30 on WILL-TV