Program 107
"The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue"

Play List

1. Leroy Anderson: Blue Tango, performed by Leroy Anderson and his Orchestra [MCA Classics MCAD2-9815-A, track 1] [2:46]

2. Johann Strauss, Jr.: The Blue Danube Waltz, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan [DGG 400 026-2, track 1] [11:44]

3. Dave Brubeck: Blue Rondo à la Turk, performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet [Columbia CK 40585, track 1] [6:42]

4. Six Brown Brothers: Bull Frog Blues, performed by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet [CBC Records MVCD 1160, track 11] [3:05]

5. Cadman (transcribed by Gaylord Yost): From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, Op. 45, No. 1, performed by Peter Zarofsky, violin, and Paul Posnak, piano [Naxos 8.559067, track 11] [2:32]

6. Gershwin: Jazzbo Brown Blues, performed by Richard Glazier, piano [Centaur CRC 2486, track 11] [2:59]

7. George Gershwin (arranged for clarinet quartet): Little Rhapsody in Blue, performed by the Barcelona Clarinet Quartet [ARS Harmonica AH 034, track 8] [5:11]

8. Domenico Savino: A Study in Blue, performed by Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra [Naxos 8.120505, track 9] [4:28]

9. Engelbert Humperdinck: excerpt from The Blue Bird, performed by the Bamberg Symphony conducted by Karl Anton Rickenbacher [Virgin Classics Ultraviolet D 106547, track 3]

10. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Valse bluette, performed by Mikhail Pletnev, piano [DGG B0004284-02, track 11] [2:23]

11. Ernesto Nazareth: Ouro Sobre Azul - Gold on Blue [Naxos 8.557687, track 11] [3:16]

Script


MUSIC: clip from the beginning of Nazareth’s Gold on Blue [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide Fred Flaxman, and for the next hour I’ll happily lead you through “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue.” We’ll listen to music which reflects the color blue, and the blue mood, including Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango, The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr., Charles Wakefield Cadman’s From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, the Six Brown Brother’s Bull Frog Blues, Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk, Domenico Savino’s A Study in Blue, Tchaikovsky’s Valse bluette, an excerpt from Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Blue Bird, George Gershwin’s Jazzbo Brown Blues, an arrangement for clarinet quartet of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and, finally, the music you are hearing in the background right now, Ernesto Nazareth’s Gold on Blue. This last piece gives us two colors for the price of one and will make a good transition to “The Color of Music, Part 2.”

MUSIC: fades out

Let’s begin with another tango, one which is purely blue although it was a gold record hit: Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango. I’ve used this twice before on Compact Discoveries: once when “Tango” was the theme; the other time was when I devoted an entire hour to the clever musical miniatures of Leroy Anderson. So, as you can see, he is one of my favorite American composers. Here he conducts his own orchestra.

MUSIC: Leroy Anderson: Blue Tango

Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango, conducted by the composer from an MCA Classics compact disc.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m Fred Flaxman. The theme for this hour is “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue.”

The next selection is probably the most famous piece ever composed with the color blue in its title: The Blue Danube Waltz by the waltz king himself, Johann Strauss, Jr. The piece was written in 1867 for the Vienna Men’s Choral Society, but didn’t catch on in its original choral version. In the spring of that year it was performed without chorus at the Paris World Exhibition, where it received the acclaim that has accompanied it ever since. In this Deutsche Grammophon recording the Berlin Philharmonic is conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

MUSIC: Johann Strauss, Jr.: The Blue Danube Waltz.

The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss, Jr., performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Our theme for this hour of Compact Discoveries is “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue.” Let me explain the reason for this unusually long and complicated title. In researching music in my own collection that has a color in the title, I discovered that I had more compositions with blue in their names than any other color, by far. The reason for this is that the word “blue” is used as a color, but it is also used to describe a sad mood, as in “he is feeling blue” or “she has the blues.” We have examples of both uses of blue to play for you in this hour, and in “The Color of Music, Part 2,” I’ll present music in other colors.

Okay, let’s continue with a piece that is as American as The Blue Danube Waltz was Viennese: Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk. As jazzy as this work is, the whole piece is in classical rondo form. It is from the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s now classic “Time Out” album on a Columbia Records compact disc.

MUSIC: Brubeck: Blue Rondo à la Turk

Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Around 1915 there was a saxophone craze in North America and by 1917 Tom Brown claimed that the Six Brown Brothers had started it. The Canadian group was a huge success, and a century later the Royal City Saxophone Quartet was reviving interest in their music. They put out a CBC Records compact disc called “Smiles and Chuckles” that is chuck full of light, fun-filled pieces like the Bull Frog Blues, which we’ll hear next. When people get the blues, it is usually sad. This is evidently not the case with bull frogs.

MUSIC: Six Brown Brothers: Bull Frog Blues


Music of the Six Brown Brothers. You heard the Bull Frog Blues played by the Royal City Saxophone Quartet.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the theme for this hour is “The Color of Music.” We’re listening to the color blue.

Charles Wakefield Cadman, who lived from 1881 to 1946, was one of the first American composers to be influenced by Native American sources. The piece we’ll hear next, From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water, was very popular after it was written in 1913, and was later recorded by the famous violinist, Fritz Kreisler. It has fallen into undeserved obscurity since then.

MUSIC: Cadman: From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water

Charles Wakefield Cadman’s From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water. Peter Zazofsky was the violinist; Paul Posnak, the pianist, on this Naxos compact disc.

From The Land of the Sky-Blue Water we go to the blues, in this case the Jazzbo Brown Blues from George Gershwin’s 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess. Gershwin created an extended piano solo to be played in a speakeasy to open the opera, but the director deleted the scene and solo from the original production because he felt it didn’t fit into the over-all structure. More recent productions have restored the Jazzbo Brown Blues. In any case, I think the original piano solo works very well on its own as an example of Gershwin at his best, most original and most creative. Here the piece is performed by Richard Glazier from a Centaur compact disc.

MUSIC: Gershwin: Jazzbo Brown Blues

George Gershwin’s original piano solo, Jazzbo Brown Blues from Porgy and Bess. The pianist was Richard Glazier.

You are listening to “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in total timing]


In the 1920s a very popular band and orchestra leader named Paul Whiteman commissioned composers of the period to create modern American orchestral music based on America’s original jazz idiom. His most famous and enduring commission was George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Well you’ve probably heard that piece hundreds of times, so to make it a compact discovery, I’ve located a version for clarinet quartet which I find great fun. This abbreviated rendition is called the Little Rhapsody in Blue and it is performed by the Clarinet Quartet of Barcelona on an ARS Harmonica compact disc.

MUSIC: Gershwin: Little Rhapsody in Blue

An abbreviated version of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The Clarinet Quartet of Barcelona played what they call -- most appropriately -- the Little Rhapsody in Blue.

Band leader Paul Whiteman commissioned the original version of that piece, and its huge success inspired other composers to delve into the idea of composing symphonic jazz.
One of these works was by Domenico Savino. It was also written for piano and orchestra, and it also used the word “blue” in its title. He called the work A Study in Blue, and it is less than five minutes long.

Never heard of Domenico Savino? Well, you’re not alone. I hadn’t either, so I did an internet search to find out that he was born in Taranto, Italy in 1888 and died in New York City in 1973. From what little I could find about him, he served as director of the house band of the Pathé record label during the 1920s and after that mostly as a film composer.

There seems to be only one compact disc recording of this piece, a remastering of the original 1927-1928 recordings by Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra on the Naxos label. So here it is.

MUSIC: Savino: A Study in Blue

Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra in this historic recording from the 1920s of Domenico Savino’s A Study in Blue. It is not hard to hear the influence of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on this little piece. Nevertheless, I don’t think it deserves to be totally forgotten, and it would be nice to have a state-of-the-art recording of this piece by a contemporary orchestra.

In any case, the theme for this hour of Compact Discoveries is “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue,” and we’re going to continue now with another unjustly neglected work in that color, The Blue Bird by the composer whose name takes first place in the Compact Discoveries Competition for Ridiculous Composer’s Names: Engelbert Humperdinck.

The Blue Bird was composed in 1912 as incidental music for Belgian Nobel prize-winning author and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck’s fairy-tale drama in six acts. It deals with the search by a poor woodcutter’s two children for the blue bird, a symbol for Maeterlinck of ultimate truth. On their travels they visit the Land of Memory, the Palace of the Night (which conceals the horrors and wonders of the world), and the Kingdom of the Future, before finally awakening in their own beds. This composition may well have drawn some of its inspiration from Humperdinck’s first and most famous stage work, Hansel and Gretel.

This excerpt is performed by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karl Anton Rickenbacher.

MUSIC: Humperdinck: excerpt from The Blue Bird

An excerpt from Engelbert Humperdinck’s incidental music for Maeterlinck’s drama, The Blue Bird. Karl Anton Rickenbacher conducted the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra on a Virgin Classics Ultraviolet compact disc.

A far more famous composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, wrote a short piano piece called Valse bluette, which qualifies for our theme, “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue.” Here it is as performed by pianist Mikhail Pletnev on a Deutsche Grammophon compact disc recording.

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky’s Valse Bluette

Tchaikovsky’s piano piece, Valse Bluette, performed by Mikhail Pletnev.

One final piano piece with blue in its title now: Brazilian composer Ernest Nazareth’s Gold on Blue. The title refers to something very beautiful or becoming, and I think this piece lives up to its name. The pianist is Iara Behs.

MUSIC: Nazareth’s Gold on Blue

Pianist Iara Behs played Ernesto Nazareth’s Gold on Blue, bringing to an end this hour of Compact Discoveries. Our theme was “The Color of Music, Part 1: Blue.” “The Color of Music, Part 2” will go on to explore music inspired by other colors.

MUSIC: excerpt from Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango [under the following]

I’d like to dedicate this program to Simon Corley in Paris, France, who suggested its theme. He listens to these programs at prx.org. Compact Discoveries is distributed to public radio stations and to listeners directly via the Public Radio Exchange.

MUSIC
: ends at 57:45


ANNOUNCER: Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Books, publishers of The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor, selected and edited by Fred Flaxman. Samples and ordering available at bretnor dot com, b-r-e-t-n-o-r dot com. [0:15]

RECORDING ENDS at 58:00


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