Compact Discoveries
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, recorded and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2003 by Compact Discoveries, Inc.

Program 38
"Summer Music"

MUSIC: Steiner: excerpt from the theme to the film A Summer Place performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80168, track 11] under the following:

FLAXMAN: Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. The music in the background is from the movie "A Summer Place." The composer is Max Steiner. And I thought it would be an appropriate way to begin this hour devoted to "Summer Music."

MUSIC: fades out

FLAXMAN: Coming up is an international tour of summer music by the Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi the French composer Hector Berlioz the German composer, Felix Mendelssohn the Swedish composer, Hugo Alfvén the French composer, Michel Legrand and the British composer, Arnold Bax. But let's start with what is perhaps the most famous piece ever written on this theme. It is by the American composer, George Gershwin, and it's called "Summertime." it is from his opera, Porgy and Bess.

Here it is as sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with the New Princess Theater Orchestra conducted by John McGlinn on an EMI recording called "Kiri Sings Gershwin."

MUSIC: Gershwin: Summertime performed by the Kiri Te Kanawa and the New Princess Theater Orchestra conducted by John McGlinn [EMI CDC-7 47454 2, track 8]

FLAXMAN: Kiri Te Kanawa with the New Princess Theater Orchestra conducted by John McGlinn. George Gershwin's Summertime.

The most famous piece by the Italian composer, Antonio Vivaldi, is certainly his Four Seasons. This composition is actually a collection of four violin concertos, and that is the orchestration you usually hear. So, just to be different, let's listen to "Summer" from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi as performed by the Orchestra of Flanders, conducted by Rudolf Werthen, with the soloist being a harpist rather than a violinist. Her name is Yolanda Kondonassis.

MUSIC: Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Summer performed by the Orchestra of Flanders conducted by Rudolf Werthen [Telarc CD-80523, tracks 4, 5, 6]

FLAXMAN: The "Summer" concerto from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. This was a transcription for harp and orchestra. The harpist was Yolanda Kondonassis. Rudolf Werthen conducted the Orchestra of Flanders.

Vivaldi was quite a character, you know. He went from a humble birth in 1678 as the son of a Venetian baker to the heights of fame, only to return to poverty at the end of his life in 1741. He was buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna.

He was an ordained priest, but saying Mass didn't last very long. He caused scandals by traveling with two sisters, one of whom was almost certainly his mistress. He was notoriously vain and hard to work with, but he wrote more music per minute than anyone I can think of. He composed hundreds of concertos - 220 of them were for the violin.

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

Did you enjoy "Summer" from The Four Seasons with a harp rather than a violin soloist? I hope so, because next I've found for you a wonderful piece of summer music which is usually played by an orchestra, but which you will now hear in a transcription for piano, four hands, made by the composer, Hugo Alfén. It is his most famous piece: Midsommarvaka - Midsummer Vigil.

The orchestral version was completed in 1903; the piano version was completed the following year. The idea for this rhapsody had come to him much earlier, during frequent visits he made to the Stockholm archipelago from 1892 to 1895. Alfén tried to capture in music a picture of Swedish nature and the Swedish character, and the music reflects the frolics of the light midsummer night, with dancing, love-making, and celebrations.

MUSIC: Alfén: Midsummer Vigil performed by Inger Wikström and Conny Arvidsson on the piano [Bluebell ABCD 023, track 6] [11:34]

FLAXMAN: Hugo Alfén's Midsummer Vigil. That was the composer's own transcription for piano, four hands, of his orchestral tone poem. The pianists were Inger Wikström and Conny Arvidsson on a Bluebell compact disc from Sweden.

This is "Summer Music" on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

One obvious selection for any hour devoted to "Summer Music" is Felix Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Let's listen to the scherzo from that piece as performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bobby McFerrin.

MUSIC: Mendelssohn: Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bobby McFerrin [Sony SK 64600, track 8] [4:23]

FLAXMAN: The Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Felix Mendelssohn. Bobby McFerrin conducted the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra on a Sony Classical compact disc.

Well we have now heard "Summer Music" by American, Italian, Swedish and German composers. Next we'll turn to a Frenchman - Hector Berlioz.

Summer Nights - Les Nuits d'été is this composer's one true song-cycle. He wrote the music to poems by Théophile Gautier. These songs were first published in 1841 for voice and piano and were orchestrated later. Let's listen to the opening song now as sung by Kiri Te Kanawa accompanied by the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

MUSIC: Berlioz: Villanelle from Les nuits d'été, Op. 7, performed by the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Daniel Barenboim [Deutsche Grammophon 410 966-2, track 1] [2:03]

FLAXMAN: That was Villanelle from Summer Nights - Les Nuits d'été by Berlioz. It was sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Daniel Barenboim on a Deutsche Grammophon compact disc.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries and I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. This hour is devoted to "Summer Music." So far we've heard from Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Alfvén, Vivaldi and Gershwin on this theme. All were chosen from the standard classical repertory. For our next two selections we turn to the world of filmscores.

First the beautiful theme from The Summer of '42 by Michel Legrand; then Max Steiner's theme from A Summer Place, which was the piece I excerpted at the beginning of this hour. Both compositions are played by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel.

Michel Legrand was born in Paris in 1932, where he became a popular bandleader, singer and song writer before turning to films in the 1950s. He wrote the scores for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Three Musketeers, and Yentl.

The Summer of '42 takes place on an island resort off the Eastern seaboard during the early days of World War II. It is a nostalgic rites-of-passage story. The soft focus photography combined with Michel Legrand's lush score adds to the sense of a time lost forever.

MUSIC: Legrand: The Summer of '42 theme, performed by The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80168, track 13] [2:41]

FLAXMAN: The theme music for the motion picture The Summer of '42 by Michel Legrand. Erich Kunzel conducted the Cincinnati Pops on a Telarc compact disc.

Max Steiner, who lived from 1888 until 1971, wrote the scores for over 200 films, including King Kong, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and his most famous piece, Tara's theme from Gone with the Wind. It was Steiner, in fact, who established music as an integral part of the motion picture experience.

His theme from A Summer Place, as arranged by Percy Faith, became the number one Billboard hit of 1960.

MUSIC: Steiner: Theme from A Summer Place performed by the Cincinnati Pops conducted by Erich Kunzel [Telarc CD-80168, track 11] [4:06]

FLAXMAN: Max Steiner's theme from the motion picture A Summer Place. You heard Erich Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra on a Telarc release.

You are listening to "Summer Music" this hour on Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. We have heard summer-inspired music from many different countries in this program, but we have not yet heard from Great Britain. Let's correct that omission right now with a piece Arnold Bax wrote which has the same title as this Compact Discoveries program: Summer Music.

Bax, who lived from 1883 until 1953, wrote that this piece was (quote) "a musical description of a hot windless June midday in some wooded place of Southern England" (unquote) and that it is lyrical throughout. During the greater part of the piece, Bax added, (and this is a quote) "the strings are occupied in providing a murmurous accompaniment to the pastoral reveries of the various wind instruments, and not until near the end is there any great climax of sound."

I find that English composers are often stingy with great climaxes of sound, and Bax is no exception. But soft, peaceful music, I must admit, does seem more appropriate for a warm, sunny summer day.

MUSIC: Bax: Summer Music played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones [Naxos 8.557144, track 5] [9:02]

FLAXMAN: Summer Music by the British composer, Arnold Bax. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra was led by David Lloyd-Jones on this Naxos compact disc.

And with Summer Music by Bax we conclude this Compact Discoveries hour devoted to... you guessed it... "Summer Music."

MUSIC: Barber: excerpt from Knoxville: Summer of 1915 [Telarc CD-80250, track 2] under:

FLAXMAN: Of course there is a lot more "Summer Music" out there than I could squeeze into an hour. The missing pieces include Summer Afternoon and the Summer Days Suite by Eric Coates, Summer Moods by McKay, Summer Scents (that's s-c-e-n-t-s) by Alfén, Midsummer Nights by Rachmaninoff, and Knoxville: Summer of 1915 by Samuel Barber, which you hear now in the background. Let me know if you would like me to bring these pieces to you next summer.

FLAXMAN (over the end of this music): Soprano Sylvia McNair and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi with an excerpt from Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 on a Telarc CD.

Compact Discoveries is produced and presented by yours truly, Fred Flaxman, who you can reach care of this station or through the Internet at www.fredflaxman.com. Compact Discoveries is made possible in large part by the generous, caring listeners who support public radio financially as well as morally and aurally. It is a production of Compact Discoveries, Incorporated, and is a presentation of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: ends at 58:00


 
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