Program 94
"Classic Happiness"

MUSIC: clip from Six Brown Brothers’ Smiles and Chuckles, performed by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet [CBC Records MVCD 1160, track 1]  [2:30] [under the following]  

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Most people think that classical music is serious stuff, and most of the time it is. In music as in life it seems easier to compose long-form melancholy  than it is to create long-lasting happiness. It is a real challenge, for example, to find a symphony or a concerto which is light and upbeat from one end to the other. But it isn’t very difficult to find a movement which is bright and cheerful. In fact, by tradition, it is usually the third movement and it is often called a minuet or scherzo. In addition, there are many short, happy classical music pieces. These are often based on dances.

Classical music’s cheerful side is precisely what we are going to explore during this hour of Compact Discoveries, which I call “Classic Happiness.” Stayed tuned and you’ll hear music by Brahms, Haydn, Rimsky-Korsakov, George Gershwin, Scot Joplin, Victor Herbert, Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Six Brown Brothers. In fact their composition, appropriately called Smiles and Chuckles, is what we’re hearing now. Let’s listen to the rest of it.

MUSIC: comes back up until the end of the piece

The Royal City Saxophone quartet played Smiles and Chuckles by the Six Brown Brothers.

You may be a bit too young to remember that around 1915 there was a saxophone craze throughout North America. By 1917 Tom Brown claimed that the Six Brown Brothers had started it. Maybe they did. The Brown Brothers, growing steadily from two to six between 1903 and 1911, were by 1921 reputed to be the best-paid musical act of the period. Audiences from England to Australia laughed until their sides ached at Tom’s blackface pantomime. He did impersonations of John Philip Sousa conducting, an abandoned pregnant bride in a veil, and King Tut. Theatergoers tapped their feet and hummed along with the Brothers’ dynamic arrangements of the latest popular tunes and an occasional classical transcription. And when the smiling crowd left the theater, they bought the Browns’ numerous records to continue the fun at home.

MUSIC: Brown Brothers: Laughing Vamp performed by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet [CBC Records MVCD 1160, track 16]  [1:48] [under the following]  

William, Tom, Alec, Percy, Vern and Fred Brown were born between 1879 and 1890. All but one of them first saw the light of day in Ontario, Canada. By 1895 or so they formed a boys’ band under their father’s direction. Tom ran away from home in 1899 to play for Guy Brothers’ Minstrels in Massachusetts.

In 1904 Tom and Percy moved to the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, where Fred, Vern, and Alec joined them. Al Sweet, director of the Ringling band, decided to pep up the small post-circus variety show by organizing a saxophone quartet composed of three of the Browns and J. Frank Hopkins. During the circus’s winter rest, the act tried small-time U.S. and Canadian vaudeville. By 1908 they had become a quintet, first as Brown Brothers and Doc Kealey, then as Five Brown Brothers. They still played on several instruments, but always left the audience shouting for more by featuring their all-saxophone ensemble for the last number or two.

Nevertheless, they were a resounding flop when they first tried the crucial New York City market in 1909. But Tom reworked the act and New York loved them when they returned later that year with a burlesque company. They said goodbye to the circus forever now that their stage career seemed assured. In the summer of 1910 they left burlesque and toured in big-time vaudeville, covering the U.S. from Chicago west to San Francisco. By Christmas they were back in New York, billed as the World’s Greatest Saxophone Players.

MUSIC: up until conclusion

The Royal City Saxophone Quartet celebrating the music of the Six Brown Brothers with Laughing Vamp.  We’ll listen to one more piece from this compact disc in a few minutes, but first let’s hear a piece for duo pianists from this same period, Victor Herbert’s Al Fresco, Intermezzo.

The Irish-born composer, cellist and conductor settled in New York City in 1886 and wrote many popular operettas including Babes in Toyland and Naughty Marietta. He was a force in what was the beginning of the vital years of the American musical theater. His gift for great melodies is demonstrated in this piano piece, which is about as happy as they come.

MUSIC: Herbert: Al Fresco, Intermezzo, Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev, duo pianists [Fleur de Son FDS 57928, track 1]]  [4:00]

Victor Herbert’s Al Fresco, Intermezzo. The duo pianists were multi-award-winning Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev, natives of Moscow and Kiev respectively.

You are listening to “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

We’ll have two very happy classics by Gilbert and Sullivan next, both from The Mikado. First “Here’s a How-de-do.” Then “For He’s Gone and Married Yum-Yum.”

MUSIC: Gilbert & Sullivan: “Here’s a How-de-do!” from The Mikado,  performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras [Telarc CD-80284, track 17]  [1:14]

MUSIC: Gilbert & Sullivan: “For He’s Gone and Married Yum-Yum” from The Mikado, performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras [Telarc CD-80431, track 7]  [1:49]


Sir Charles Mackerras led the Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera in two pieces from Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta, The Mikado. First we heard “Here’s a How-de-do!,” then “For He’s Gone and Married Yum-Yum.”

Back to that one more piece I promised you earlier from the Six Brown Brothers. It is just so appropriate to our “Classic Happiness” theme that I couldn’t resist adding this particular selection. It’s called Laf ‘n Sax for a good reason!

MUSIC: Six Brown Brothers’ Laf ‘n Sax, performed by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet [CBC Records MVCD 1160, track 4]  [1:47]

The Six Brown Brothers’ Laf ‘n Sax, performed by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet.

You are listening to “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Before we leave this period of the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries, in which quite a few happy classics were conceived, let’s hear a couple of joyful piano solos. The first is by Scott Joplin. It’s his famous Maple Leaf Rag. The second is by George Gershwin. It’s his little known Rialto Ripples. Both are played by Richard Glazier. Both are on Centaur recordings, but they are different Centaur CDs.

MUSIC: Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag, performed by Richard Glazier, piano; [Centaur CRC 2403, track 5]  [2:53]

MUSIC: Gershwin: Realto Ripples, performed by Richard Glazier, piano; [Centaur CRC 2486, track 8]  [2:25]

Pianist Richard Glazier performed two happy piano pieces from the turn of the 19th to 20th century. First Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag from 1899. Then George Gershwin’s ragtime composition, Rialto Ripples, from 1917. Rialto Ripples was written in collaboration with Will Donaldson and is one of Gershwin’s first published works. It was composed while he was still a song plugger in Tin Pan Alley.

You are listening to “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional break not included in the 58:00 total timing of the program]

For the rest of the hour we are going to go backwards in time and listen to happy selections from music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms, Schubert,  and Haydn.

I think Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1876 Quintet in B-flat Major for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon will be a compact discovery for most of my listeners. It is in three movements, and all three are full of great melodies. But only the first and last meet my criteria for happy music, so we’ll hear those now as performed by the British rock group, Capricorn. No, I’m only kidding. Capricorn is British, all right, but it is a young, hip, chamber music ensemble. At least it was young in 1986 when this recording was made on the Hyperion label.

MUSIC: Rimsky-Korsakov: first and last movements from Quintet in B-flat Major performed by Capricorn [Hyperion CDA66163, tracks 4 and 6]  [10:30 and 8:19]

The first and last movements from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet in B-flat Major for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon played by Capricorn on a Hyperion recording. Happy music for this Compact Discoveries hour devoted to “Classic Happiness.”

One of the greatest tune smiths in history is up next: Franz Schubert.  We’ll hear the third movement, marked “Allegro Vivace,” from his Octet in F Major for Strings and Winds, Op. 166. This from a 1983 Nonesuch recording with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players.

MUSIC: Schubert: Octet in F Major for Strings and Winds, Op. 166, performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players [Nonesuch 9 79046-2, track 3] [5:06]

The third movement from Schubert’s Octet in F Major performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players. “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries.

Haydn wrote lots of happy music. I’ve selected two movements from a couple of his most famous pieces. First the “Gypsy Rondo” from his Trio in G Major. Then the finale from his Symphony Number 88. The first is performed by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio on a Dorian CD. The second by Tafelmusik conducted by Bruno Weil on a Sony Classical CD.

MUSIC: Haydn: “Gypsy Rondo” from Trio in G Major, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio [Dorian DOR-90164, track 12] [3:09]

MUSIC: Haydn: finale from Symphony Number 88, Tafelmusik conducted by Bruno Weil [Sony Classical Vivarte SK 66 253, track 4] [3:22]

Two excerpts from some of Haydn’s happiest compositions. First we heard the “Gypsy Rondo” from his Trio in G Major with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. Then we heard the finale of his Symphony Number 88 performed by Tafelmusik conducted by Bruno Weil.

We’ll conclude this hour of “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries with the very happiest of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.

MUSIC: Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5, Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado [DGG 410 615-2, track 5]  [2:16]

Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.  The Vienna Philharmonic was conducted by Claudio Abbado.

MUSIC: Herbert: Al Fresco, Intermezzo, Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev, duo pianists [Fleur de Son FDS 57928, track 1]  [under the following]

You have been listening to an hour of “Classic Happiness” on Compact Discoveries. This is Fred Flaxman hoping that you have enjoyed our selections and that you’ll let me know one way or the other. You can reach me in care of the Compact Discoveries website at www.compactdiscoveries.com. You can also use the website to view complete scripts for these programs, including information on every recording used. And you can read what other listeners have to say about these programs.

Now you can listen to Compact Discoveries programs on demand by going to www.prx.org. That’s www.prx.org. P.R.X. stands for Public Radio Exchange. PRX distributes Compact Discoveries programs via the internet to stations all around the United States.

Compact Discoveries is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. Production of this program is made possible in part by the members of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: ends at 58:00


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