Compact Discoveries
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2002 by Fred Flaxman

Program 15
"Favorite Funeral Music"

MUSIC: Verdi: Dies irae from the Requiem Mass [Deutsche Grammophon 415092-2, track 2] [Down and under...]

FLAXMAN: Ah, this is music to die for! On second thought, maybe it's music to die to: perfect music to play at a funeral. But not my funeral. Someone really important. Charles DeGaulle, for example. Franklin Delanor Roosevelt. Winston Churchill. Woody Allen.

Well hello there! I'm Fred Flaxman and you're tuned - on purpose or by accident - to Compact Discoveries and today's exciting episode, "Favorite Funeral Music."

I once had the pleasure of sitting next to Steve Reno, former president of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, at a chamber music concert on campus. In the intermission immediately following a beautiful, melancholy work by Franz Schubert, Dr. Reno said to me, "Ah, that was so beautiful. I would like that piece played at my funeral!"

Steve Reno thus became the only person I have ever met who, like me, confesses to thinking about what music he would like at his interment ceremony. In the old days, the men in the white suits would probably have carted both of us away. And, come to think of it, he is the former president of Southern Oregon University.

When I moved from Southern Oregon to South Florida, I thought it was a good time to revise my last will and testament. But the only thing I found interesting about this task was including a list of some of my very favorite classical music compositions in the section on funeral arrangements, just in case someone is kind enough to want to give a small service or concert in my memory. Or if my children want to put on a few CDs and think about their old dad. On this edition of Compact Discoveries I want to share my musical last will and testament with you.

Of course, when it comes to music and death, the first pieces that come to mind are requiems. I love the requiems of Berlioz, Brahms, and Fauré. But I think the most exciting requiem of all - hands down, but feet and face up - is the one by Giuseppe Verdi that you heard at the start of this program. This particular performance was by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan on a Deutsche Grammophon compact disc.

If I want to solicit tears even from those who are happy to see me go, a good choice would be Wagner's Prélude und Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. This piece is as beautiful a work as was ever created. That's why I would welcome it with calcified open arms even though it was written by a conceited, anti-Semitic S.O.B. whom I would never otherwise consider inviting to my one-and-only funeral.

MUSIC: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Prélude und Liebestod [Telarc CD-80379, track 5] [17:24]

FLAXMAN: Richard Wagner's highly moving Prélude und Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was led by Jesús López-Cobos on a Telarc recording.

You are listening to "Favorite Funeral Music" on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in total 58 minute timing]

I'd like to include the third movement from Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in my ideal memorial concert. The haunting theme is perfect for the occasion and it was one of my father's favorite pieces as well. If it weren't for him I wouldn't have had a life to memorialize.

Since I would be dead and might well have the same forwarding address as Leonard Bernstein, I could ask him to conduct. Not live, of course, but via his compact disc with the Vienna Philharmonic.

MUSIC: Brahms: Symphony No. 3, Third Movement [Deutsche Grammophon 410 083-2, track 3] [7:04]

FLAXMAN: The Third Movement from the Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Opus 90, by Johannes Brahms. Leonard Bernstein conducted the Vienna Philharmonic.
Perhaps the most appropriate music for my funeral ceremony would be the piano pieces I tried to play during my lifetime, performed the way I would have liked to have played them by far better pianists than I ever was.

These include Debussy's Rêverie and Chopin's Prélude, Op. 28, No. 4.

MUSIC: Debussy's Rêverie [London 452 022-2, CD1, track 18] [4:17]

MUSIC: Chopin's Prélude, Op. 28, No. 4 [Naxos 8.554536, track 4] [2:25]

FLAXMAN: Two piano pieces I used to play, performed the way I wish I had played them. First you heard Debussy's Rêverie with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on a London compact disc recording. Then Chopin's Prélude, Op. 28, No. 4 played by the Turkish pianist Idil Biret [Eedeel Birette] on a Naxos release.

As a struggling young pianist who was clearly destined to make his living some other way, I played several pieces by Grieg. He wrote a good number of easy-to-play compositions which were nevertheless very beautiful. Let's listen to six of them right now as performed by Eva Knardahl.

MUSIC: Grieg's Waltz, Op. 12, No. 2 [BIS CD-104, track 2] [1:47]

MUSIC: Grieg: Album Leaf, Op. 12, No. 7 [BIS CD-104, track 7] [1:32]

MUSIC: Grieg: Mélodie, Op. 38, No. 3 [BIS CD-104, track 11] [2:01]

MUSIC: Grieg: Grandmother's Minuet, Op. 68, No. 2 [BIS CD-106, track 8] [2:04]

MUSIC: Grieg: Notturno, Op. 54, No. 4 [BIS CD-105, track 4] [4:28]

MUSIC: Grieg: At Your Feet, Op. 68, No. 3. [BIS CD-106, track 3] [2:40]

FLAXMAN: Six pieces by Edvard Grieg I used to try playing on the piano before I decided to give it up and play compact discs instead. Fortunately for you, I have been using the compact discs. We heard a Grieg Waltz, then Album Leaf, Melody, Grandmothers Minuet, Notturno, and lastly At Your Feet - which should really be the podiatrists theme song. Eva Knardahl was the pianist. These were BIS [Beess] B-I-S recordings.

Selections for my imaginary memorial service conclude now with two more piano pieces from my limited repertoire: the first by Anton Rubinstein. The second by Beethoven, and I'll bet you can guess what that piece will be.

MUSIC: Rubinstein: Romance in E-flat, Op. 44 [Centaur CRC 2235, track 11] [2:33]

MUSIC: Beethoven: Für Elise [Cembal d'amour CD 108, track 31] [2:32]

FLAXMAN: Beethoven's Für Elise, performed by Mordecai Shehori at the piano. Before that we heard the Romance in E-flat by Anton Rubinstein, played by Zora Mihailovich.

I hope you don't think this too morbid, but I thoroughly enjoy planning the music for my own funeral. And I wonder, if Polish weddings can last for three days, why can't musical funerals? There is still so much more music I would like to share with my survivors... and you!

MUSIC: Verdi: Requiem: Sanctus [Deutsche Grammophon 415093-2, track 2] [Down and under...]

FLAXMAN: I hope you've enjoyed my selections today. If you would like a list of the recordings played on this program, or have questions or comments about the broadcast, by all means write or call me in care of this station. I'd love to hear from you. You can also send me an e-mail message from my website: This is your guide, Fred Flaxman, thanking you for joining me today on Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC: Up, down and out at 58:00. [58:00]

30-Second Promo for Program Number 16
"Hats Off to Coates"

MUSIC: Coates: Halcyon Days from The Three Elizabeths Suite [ASV CD WHL 2053, track 1]

FLAXMAN: Next time on Compact Discoveries the theme will be "Hats Off to Coates." That's C-o-a-t-e-s - Eric Coates - the English composer. Join me, Fred Flaxman, for the Forsyte Saga theme, By the Sleepy Lagoon, The London Suite and other delightful music by this master of British light classics.

TAG: [Sunday at 7 p.m. on 90.7, WXEL-FM.]

MUSIC: fade out at 30 seconds

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