Program 156
"Independence Day"

MUSIC: Gould: American Salute performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Theodore Kuchar [Naxos 8.559005, track 20] [4:27] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to the special Independence Day edition of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

The music in the background is by the American composer, Morton Gould. It is called American Salute. It is played, appropriately enough, by the National Symphony Orchestra... of the Ukraine. Well they were undoubtedly less expensive, so we even outsource American music now. The conductor, at least, is an American. His name is Theodore Kuchar.

During this hour you’ll hear -- well first let me tell you what you won’t hear. We won’t be playing the National Anthem, America the Beautiful, America, or the Stars and Stripes Forever. I’m sure you’ll hear them enough on July 4th without my playing them now.

What you will hear is an hour of unusual, off-the-beaten-track music that is appropriate for Independence Day. Most of it -- but not all -- is by American composers. But first, let’s listen to the rest of American Salute.

MUSIC: stops at end of the piece

Morton Gould’s American Salute, composed in 1943 with quite a bit of help from Johnny of When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.

Morton Gould was born in Richmond Hill, New York, in 1913. He excelled as a pianist, composer, conductor and orchestrator. My personal opinion is that he wasn’t a particularly good tune writer, but he was very adept at borrowing tunes from others and making them refreshingly new, as in the piece you just heard, and the piece we’ll hear next: his Star-Spangled Overture from his 1976 suite called American Ballads.

Gould was a child prodigy. His first composition was published when he was just six years old. During the Depression, Gould, a teenager then, worked in New York City playing piano in movie theaters as well as with vaudeville acts. When Radio City Music Hall opened, Gould was hired as the staff pianist.

By 1935 he was conducting and arranging orchestral programs for New York’s WOR radio station, where he reached a national audience through the Mutual Broadcasting System. He combined popular programming with classical music, just as I sometimes do on this program.

Gould went on to appear on The Chrysler Hour on CBS, where he reached an audience of millions. And he also composed Broadway scores, film music, music for TV series, and ballets.

Gould’s music was commissioned by symphony orchestras all over the U.S. He was a master at combining musical genres into formal classical structure. As a conductor Gould led all of the major American orchestras as well as those of Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, and Australia, and he made many recordings.
In 1994, Gould received the Kennedy Center Honor in recognition of his lifetime contributions to American culture. The next year he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2005 he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But he wasn’t able to accept it in person, having died in Orlando, Florida in 1996 at the age of 82.

This performance of his Star-Spangled Overture is from the same Naxos compact disc as American Salute, so once again we hear the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine conducted by Theodore Kuchar.

MUSIC: Gould: Star-Spangled Overture from American Ballads performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Theodore Kuchar [Naxos 8.559005, track 1] [5:13]

Morton Gould’s Star-Spangled Overture from American Ballads. The National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine was conducted by Theodore Kuchar.

Let’s move on now from A Star-Spangled Overture by Morton Gould to a Star-Spangled Symphony by another very American American composer, Don Gillis. We’re going to listen to the fourth movement only, because it is called “Celebration -- Fourth of July.”

Don Gillis lived from 1912 until 1978. He wrote many lighthearted, good-natured scores, imbued with the flavor of the great American Southwest. He composed prolifically in virtually all contemporary styles and genres. He assimilated popular influences in an uncomplicated, straightforward style aimed at attracting audiences with accessible and melodic writing. In short, he was my type of guy, and as a high school student at the National Music Camp in the 1950s, I had the privilege of seeing him conduct in person.
In this Albany compact disc world premiere recording of “Celebration - Fourth of July,” Ian Hobson conducts the Sinfonia Varsovia.

MUSIC: Celebration - Fourth of July from Star-Spangled Symphony performed by the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Ian Hobson [Albany TROY618, track 4] [6:06]

Celebration - Fourth of July from Star-Spangled Symphony by Don Gillis. The performance was by the Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Ian Hobson.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and we are celebrating Independence Day this hour.

Next let’s hear from two European composers who wrote pieces based on Yankee Doodle Dandy. First, Belgian composer Henri Viewxtemps’ Yankee Doodle Variations. Vieuxtemps was a famous violin virtuoso and composer. He composed these Variations burlesques sur le “Yankee Doodle” to bring the house down at the end of the concerts on his American tour of 1843-44. It shows a wonderful sense of humor from the start, when he surprises his audience with the childish theme following an overblown opening buildup. In this Cypress recording we hear Ning Kam, violin, and Carole Presland, piano -- together known as Transatlantic.

MUSIC: Vieuxtemps: Yankee Doodle Variations performed by Transatlantic [Cypress CYP9615, track 5] [5:13]

Variations on Yankee Doodle by Henri Vieuxtemps, performed by Transatlantic: Ning Kam, violin, and Carole Presland, piano.
Now here’s Yankee Doodle, Italian style. It is by Ruggero Leoncavallo, who is better known for his opera Pagliacci. First published in 1906 with the title Viva l’America, it was dedicated to then-President Theodore Roosevelt. It was published again in 1912 with a new title, Marcia Yankée. Marco Sollini is the pianist on this Bongiovanni digital recording.

MUSIC: Leoncavallo: Yankee March performed by pianist Marco Sollini [Bongiovanni GB 5599-2, track 19] [3:30]

Leoncavallo’s Yankee March as performed by pianist Marco Sollini.

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

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

Have you ever heard of the American composer Henry F. Gilbert? Well neither had I until I received a Fleur de Son CD called “American Souvenirs” by duo-pianists Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev. Turns out Gilbert lived from 1868 until 1928 and -- rare for the time -- his entire musical education took place in the United States. He is reputedly the first composer to use Negro spirituals and ragtime in his music.

In 1906 he tried to produce an opera called Uncle Remus. The attempt failed but he arranged three of the pieces for piano duet in 1919. They are called Three American Dances: “Uncle Remus,” “Dolphin,” and “Brer Rabbit.”

MUSIC: Gilbert: Three American Dances: “Uncle Remus,” “Dolphin,” and “Brer Rabbit” performed by Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev [Fleur de Son FDS 57928] [7:21]

Three American Dances: “Uncle Remus,” “Dolphin,” and “Brer Rabbit,” by Henry Gilbert. The duo pianists were Nadia and Vladimir Zaitsev.

As you heard earlier, the American folk tune Yankee Doodle inspired composers both in the U.S. and abroad. One American composer who made use of this melody was Louis Moreau Gottschalk. I devoted an entire Compact Discoveries hour to his fascinating biography and music, but did not include the piece I’m going to play for you now. The New Orleans-born composer called it The Union: Paraphrase de concert on the national airs “Star Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Hail Columbia,” Op. 48. This testament of Gottschalk’s patriotism was first performed in 1862, and was dedicated to the head of the Union Forces. Cecile Licad is the pianist in this Naxos recording.

MUSIC: Gottschalk: The Union, performed by Cicile Licad [Naxos 8.559145, track 16] [7:29]

Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s The Union, performed by Cicile Licad.

And now, to conclude this hour of music for Independence Day, let’s listen to what the Boston Pops calls America Medley of pieces by Leonard Bernstein. John Williams conducts in this Philips release.

MUSIC: Bernstein: America Medley performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by John Williams [Philips B0002606-02, CD 2, track 15] [10:05]

John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in America Medley by Leonard Bernstein.

MUSIC: Gould: American Salute performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Theodore Kuchar [Naxos 8.559005, track 20] [under the following]

This brings us to the end this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to “Independence Day.” I hope you enjoyed it. If you missed any of this hour or would like to hear it again, go to on the internet where you’ll find links to stream most Compact Discoveries programs on demand without charge. Look for program number 156. At the web site you’ll also find scripts for every Compact Discoveries program, including this one, with complete information on every recording I use. There are some other features there as well, including my lists of recommended orchestral music, concert DVDs, and CDs and DVDs of classics for kids.

This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening and for supporting your local public radio station. It is that kind of support which makes the broadcast of this program possible in your community.

MUSIC: fade out

ANNOUNCER [Steve Jencks]: Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by grants from an anonymous donor, Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, the Puffin Foundation ("continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people"), and Barry and Florence Friedberg. It is a production of Compact Discoveries, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation located at 36 Pickens Lane, Weaverville, North Carolina, and on the web at These programs are distributed to public radio stations nationwide through PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. [0:30]

Program Ends at 58:00

  ©2009 Compact Discoveries