Program 99
"Music by the Numbers"

MUSIC: Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox Fanfare, performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80168, track 1] [0:23]

No this isn’t a 20th Century Fox movie. You haven’t made a mistake. This is not a movie at all. It’s not even a television program. It’s Compact Discoveries, but Alfred Newman’s world-famous 20th Century Fox Fanfare makes the perfect introduction to the theme for the next hour, which is “Music by the Numbers.” I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

MUSIC: Euday Bowman: 12th Street Rag performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80112, track 6] [under the following]

Listeners often ask me how I come up with the themes of these Compact Discoveries hours. Most of them just come to me as I get new CDs. But in the case of “Music by the Numbers,” my computerized CD catalog gave me the idea when one day I ordered it to put the names of the pieces of my collection in alphabetical order. It turned out that the top of the list did not contain pieces beginning with the letter “a” as expected, but by the number “1” as in 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.

Following that was the piece you are hearing in the background now, the 12 Street Rag by Euday Bowman. Some of the other wonderful pieces included in this numerical/alphabetical list were the music to 8 & 1/2 by Nino Rota, 76 Trombones from The Music Man by Meredith Wilson and the 1947 Overture by Tyzen Hsiao, all of which you’ll hear if you stay tuned for the next hour.

MUSIC: ends

Euday Bowman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1887. He began his career in the bordello section of his home town, and published The 12th Street Rag at his own expense in 1914. He then sold it outright for $50 to a Kansas City publisher, who made a fortune when 12 Street Rag became one of the favorite standards of bandleaders, pianists and music lovers. At least 120 recorded versions of it were issued during the 78 r.p.m. era alone, and it may well have been the best-known ragtime composition before the Scott Joplin revival of the 1970s. Trombonist and bandleader Pee Wee Hunt had his greatest hit with his recording of the 12th Street Rag in 1948. Bowman tried to capitalize on his song’s renewed success, but he died in New York the following year before he could press his claim for some of the recognition and royalties he really deserved.

Playing “Music by the Number,” the most famous piece of classical music beginning with a number -- I mean a real numerical title as opposed to the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven -- is undoubtedly Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. We hear that next as performed by many of the same musicians we heard in the opening 20th Century Fox Fanfare and the 12th Street Rag. This time they are called the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In the last two pieces they were the known as the Cincinnati Pops. In all cases the conductor is Erich Kunzel.

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80041, track 1] [15:34]

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel.

We are playing “Music by the Numbers” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Stay tuned for two versions of Nino Rota’s charming music to the Fellini film 8 and a Half. But first, another overture which begins with a much more recent number than 1812. This will undoubtedly be a compact discovery for most of my listeners. It is the 1947 Overture by the Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao.

What, you might ask, happened in 1947 that inspired this overture? Well there was, in short, an uprising in Taiwan that began on February 28 of that year and lasted four days. Some 30,000 civilians were killed as the uprising was brutally repressed by the Kuomintang government. In this performance Vakhtang Jordania conducts the Russian Federal Orchestra.

MUSIC: Hsiao: 1947 Overture, performed by the Russian Federal Orchestra conducted by Vakhtang Jordania [Angelok CD 9912, track 1]

Tyzen Hsiao’s 1947 Overture, another example for our game of “Music by the Numbers” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

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We turn now to film music which begins with a number: 8 and a Half to be precise. Fellini was the director of the movie. The composer was Nino Rota.
We’ll listen to Nino Rota playing this music himself on the piano. Then we’ll hear the Harmonia Ensemble. That is a clarinet, cello and piano trio.

MUSIC: Rota: 8 & 1/2 performed by the composer at the piano [Istituto Discografico Italiano IDIS 335, track 16] [2:38]

MUSIC: Rota: 8 & 1/2 performed by the Harmonia Ensemble [JSL Média 015 851, track 4] [2:12]

Music from the Fellini film 8 & 1/2, first as performed by the composer, Nino Rota, then by the Harmonia Ensemble.

The Spanish composer Joaquín Nin wrote a set of variations for piano which meet my criteria for inclusion in this hour of “Music by the Numbers.” It is called “1830” Variations on a Frivolous Theme. What, you may ask, happened in the year 1830? Well, lots of things, of course. Greece gained full independence from the Ottoman Empire, as I’m sure you’ll remember. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. and five others in Fayette, New York. Ecuador separated from Gran Colombia, France invaded Algeria, Greece granted citizenship to Jews, Louis Philippe became king of France, Belgium became an independent country, Edwin Budding was granted a patent for the invention of the lawnmower, the Symphonie Fantastique had its world premiere in Paris, the Poles revolted against Russian rule in Warsaw, and the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, just to name a few.

But none of these events had anything to do with this piece by Joaquín Nin being called “1830” Variations on a Frivolous Theme! Turns out there was one other event that year which I somehow neglected to include in this list: the birth of the composer’s grandmother, to whom this piece was dedicated. The pianist in this Koch recording is Thomas Tirino.

MUSIC: Nin: “1830” Variations on a Frivolous Theme; Thomas Tirino, pianist [KOCH 3-7516-2, starting with track 6]

Thomas Tirino played some of the variations from the “1830” Variations on a Frivolous Theme by Joaquín Nin. The complete performance of that work is on a Koch compact disc.

You are listening to “Music by the Numbers” on Compact Discoveries. We are devoting this hour to playing works that begin with a number which represents something other than the number of the work itself, such as the Second Symphony by Rachmaninov. As our last selection for this theme, I’ve chosen... Well, perhaps you can tell me what this piece is called.

MUSIC: Meredith Wilson: 76 Trombones from The Music Man, performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams [Philips 80002606-02, track 13] [2:59]

Meredith Wilson’s 76 Trombones from The Music Man, performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams.

: Euday Bowman: 12th Street Rag performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80112, track 6] [under the following]

This is Fred Flaxman hoping that you have enjoyed our little game of “Music by the Numbers” and that you’ll let me hear from you. You can reach me in care of the Compact Discoveries website at

You can also use the website to view complete scripts for these programs,
including information on every CD used. You can also look at ideas for future Compact Discoveries programs and contribute your own themes, program titles, and recommendations for pieces. You can now stream this and other Compact Discoveries programs on demand at the Public Radio Exchange website,

Compact Discoveries is distributed via the Public Radio Exchange and is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. Production of this program is made possible in part by Story Books, publishers of The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor. Samples available at

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