Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2007 by Fred Flaxman

Program 122
"In the Beginning"

MUSIC: Beethoven: clip from the opening of the first movement of Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, Zagreb Philharmonic conducted by Richard Edlinger [Naxos 8.550779, track 15] [under the following]

This is undoubtedly the most famous beginning of any classical music piece ever written: the opening of the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony Number Five in C Minor, Opus 67.

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and for the next hour my theme is going to be “In the Beginning” -- famous, unusual and extra creative ways composers have come up with to start their compositions.

Stay with me and we’ll hear the openings of Burleske by Richard Strauss, the Hary Janos Suite by Zoltan Kodaly, Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and the Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. But we’ll start with some clips from some other nominees for inclusion in this theme.

MUSIC: fades out

For example, Simon Corley in Paris, France, suggested the opening of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. He wrote that the first two notes were added later. He suggested trying the beginning without them to see what a difference it makes. So we’re going to do just that.

First here’s the opening to the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony Number Three as he first wrote it.

MUSIC: clip from opening of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“The Eroica”) performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta, without the first two notes [CBS Records Masterworks MK 35883, track 1]

Now let’s hear the final version, including the first two notes which Beethoven added later.

MUSIC: clip from opening of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“The Eroica”) performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Zubin Mehta, with the first two notes [CBS Records Masterworks MK 35883, track 1]

The opening of Beethoven’s Symphony Number Three, the “Eroica” symphony, first as he originally wrote it, then with the two notes he added later. This is from an old Columbia Masterworks compact disc recording by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta.

I had piano lessons for ten years. I gave up when I was defeated by the opening of the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Robert Schumann. But that hasn’t lessened my appreciation for this spectacular, original beginning.

MUSIC: Schumann: clip from the opening of the first movement of his Piano Concerto in A Minor, performed by Daniel Barenboim with the London Philharmonic Orchestra [EMI/BMG Direct Marketing D101436, track 5]
The opening of Schumann’s only piano concerto, from an EMI Classics recording by Daniel Barenboim with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Grieg Piano Concerto also has a dynamic opening. We’ll hear the entire first movement now as performed by Eva Knardahl with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kjell Ingebretsen.

MUSIC: Grieg: first movement of his Piano Concerto performed by Eva Knardahl with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kjell Ingebretsen [BIS CD-113, track 1] [13:38]

The first movement of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16, performed by Eva Knardahl with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kjell Ingebretsen.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the theme for this hour is “In the Beginning” -- unusual, great and original openings to classical music pieces.

The next example is not only original, it is humorous. I’m referring to the orchestral sneeze at the very start of Zoltan Kodaly’s Hary Janos Suite. Both the suite, and the opera it comes from, begin with this musical sneeze, which Kodály himself explained as follows (and I quote): "According to Hungarian superstition, if a statement is followed by a sneeze of one of the hearers, it is regarded as confirmation of its truth. The Suite begins with a sneeze of this kind! One of Háry's group of faithful listeners … sneezes at the wildest assertions of the old tale-spinner."

According to Kodály, Háry János is "the personification of the Hungarian story-telling imagination. He does not tell lies; he imagines stories; he is a poet. What he tells us may never have happened, but he has experienced it in spirit, so it is more real than reality."

Here’s the first movement of that suite, which is called “Introduction.” It is performed by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by János Ferencsik on a Hungaroton compact disc.

MUSIC: Kodály: “Introduction” to Háry János, performed by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by János Ferencsik [Hungaroton HCD 12190-2, track 1] [3:30]

The “Introduction” to Háry János, by Zoltán Kodály, performed by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by János Ferencsik, complete with its opening, original and humorous orchestral sneeze.

I spent a couple of summers at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, studying percussion as well as radio and television production. The experience has left me with a lifelong appreciation for the tympani. This probably goes far in explaining my fondness for the openings of Haydn’s “Drum Roll” Symphony, Number 103...

MUSIC: Haydn: clip from the opening of his Symphony No. 103 in E-Flat (“Drum Roll”) performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin [RCA Victor/BMG Classics 9026-68424-2, track 1]

...and the Burleske for Piano and Orchestra by Richard Strauss, which we’ll hear now in its entirety.

MUSIC: Richard Strauss: Burleske for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor; Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Gerandhausorchester Leipzig [Decca B0004645-02, track 1] [19:05]

Burleske for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor by Richard Strauss. The pianist was Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra was conducted by Herbert Blomstedt.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the theme for this hour is “In the Beginning” -- exceptionally interesting beginnings to classical music pieces.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting and original beginnings of a piece for orchestra was written by an American composer, George Gershwin. It is the jazzy clarinet slide at the opening of his Rhapsody in Blue. This compact disc recording is by André Previn as both soloist and conductor, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

MUSIC: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, performed by André Previn as both soloist and conductor, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra [Philips 412 611-2, track 1] [13:51]

George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. André Previn was both soloist and conductor in that Philips CD recording with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

MUSIC: Haydn: clip from the opening of his Symphony No. 103 in E-Flat (“Drum Roll”) performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin [RCA Victor/BMG Classics 9026-68424-2, track 1] [under the following]

I’m Fred Flaxman hoping that you enjoyed these selections and that you’ll let me hear from you about this or other Compact Discoveries programs. I can be reached through the Compact Discoveries website: www.compactdiscoveries.com.

My thanks to the Norwegian Embassy and to William Gilcher of the Goethe- Institut/German Cultural Center, in Washington, D.C., for their help with the pronunciation of Norwegian and German names.

Compact Discoveries is distributed internationally by the Public Radio Exchange, and Compact Discoveries programs can be streamed on demand at their website: www.prx.org. This program was produced in Weaverville, North Carolina. It was made possible by the financial support of members of public radio station WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

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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.

PROGRAM ENDS AT 58:00

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