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

©2014 by Fred Flaxman

Program 234
"Well-Known Don Quixotes"

MUSIC: excerpt from Mitch Leigh: Overture to Man of La Mancha, performed by the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani. [Sony Classics SK 46436, Track 1]  [over the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. I’m going to devote at least two hours to music inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote, because so much music has been inspired by this character, indisputably one of the most famous in all fiction.

This first hour will feature two of the most famous examples of this music, Don Quixote, Opus 35, by Richard Strauss, and two excerpts from the musical, Man of La Mancha, which you hear in the background now. The second hour will feature little-known but beautiful Don Quixotes that have been recent compact discoveries for me and probably will be for you as well.

MUSIC: fades out

The Spanish novel Don Quixote was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615.  It follows the adventures of Alonso Quixano, who reads so many novels about chivalry that he decides to set out to revive the tradition under the name Don Quixote. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire. Sancho Panza often employs a unique, earthly wit in dealing with Don Quixote’s orations on antiquated knighthood. Of course, Don Quixote is famously met by the world as it is now, not as he would like it to be. That’s a problem I often have, as well.

Don Quixote is considered the most influential work in Spanish literature — a founding work of modern Western literature. It regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published. There are direct references to it in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, from 1844, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, from 1884. According to the article on the book in Wikipedia, Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any other literary work with the exception of the Bible.

The tone poem by Richard Strauss is for cello, viola, and large orchestra. Strauss composed the work in Munich in 1897 and the premiere took place the next year in Cologne. The score is written in theme-and-variations form with the solo cello representing Don Quixote, and the solo viola, tenor tuba, and bass clarinet depicting the comic Sancho Panza.

The second variation depicts an episode where Don Quixote encounters a herd of sheep and perceives them as an approaching army. Strauss uses dissonant flutter-tonguing in the brass to emulate the bleating of the sheep, an early example of this technique. All the “episodes” in Strauss’ piece are taken directly from the Cervantes novel.

In this performance John Sharp is the cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. It is from a Warner Classics Erato compact disc recorded in 1991 and reissued in 2008.

MUSIC: Richard Strauss: Don Quixote performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim; John Sharp, cello [Warner Classics Erato 2564 69659-7, tracks 1-11] [43:40]

Richard Strauss’ tone poem, Don Quixote, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim with John Sharp, cello.

You are listening to music inspired by the Spanish novel Don Quixote on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the program timing]

The Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha was also inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s 17th Century masterpiece. It tells the story of Don Quixote as a play within a play, performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.

The original 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has since been revived four times on Broadway, becoming one of the most enduring works of musical theater. The music is by Mitch Leigh; lyrics by Joe Darion; and the book is by Dale Wasserman.

The musical has played in many countries around the world, with productions in French (translated by and starring Jacques Brel), Dutch, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Icelandic, Hungarian, Finnish, Ukrainian, several languages I’ve never heard of before and have no idea how they’re pronounced, and nine distinctly different dialects of Spanish.

Let’s listen to the Overture and the principal song, The Impossible Dream, from the Sony Classical compact disc from 1996 featuring Plácido Domingo, Mandy Patinkin, Julia Migenes, and Samuel Ramey with the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani.

MUSIC: Mitch Leigh: Overture to Man of La Mancha, performed by the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani. [Sony Classics SK 46436, Track 1]  [4:12]

MUSIC: Mitch Leigh & Joe Darion: The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, performed by Plácido Domingo with the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani. [Sony Classics SK 46436, Track 1]  [2:19]

The Overture and The Impossible Dream from the musical Man of La Mancha. Plácido Domingo sung the part of Don Quixote with the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani.

And that concludes this first hour of music inspired by the most famous Spanish novel ever written, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I hope you enjoyed the music by Richard Strauss and Mitch Leigh and that you’ll join me for lesser-known but very beautiful music inspired by Don Quixote on the next hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

MUSIC: excerpt from Mitch Leigh: Overture to Man of La Mancha, performed by the American Theatre Orchestra conducted by Paul Gemignani. [Sony Classics SK 46436, Track 1] [fades out]

ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, Art and Eva Stevens, and ArkivMusic dot com, the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles. That’s A-r-k-i-v Music dot com.

Program Ends at 57:00