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

Program 41
"Swan Songs"

MUSIC: Excerpt from the waltz, Act 1, of Swan Lake, from the ballet suite by Tchaikovsky, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras [Telarc CD-80151, track 8] under the following:

FLAXMAN: Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. The music in the background is the waltz from Act I of Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky, and this hour is going to be devoted entirely to "Swan Songs."

MUSIC: fades out

I've devoted an hour to "The Birds and the Bees." I found so much music about birds that my theme for another Compact Discoveries hour was "Leftover Birds." When I realized how much beautiful music was inspired by swans, I decided to devote an hour entirely to "Swan Songs."

The major work will be a suite of music from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet, including, of course, the "Dance of the Swans" from Act II. We'll also hear The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius. And we'll listen to a few arrangements for different instruments of "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns.

Let's get started right away with the suite from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. This was Tchaikovsky's first ballet score, which he began writing in 1875. It is so famous now and full of such gorgeous melodies, that it is hard to image how big a failure it was at its first performance in 1877.

It seems that the audience and the critics were put off by the bold, symphonic score after years of listening to feather-weight ballet music by composers whose names most people would not recognize today.

In this Telarc compact disc, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky: ballet suite from Swan Lake , performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Charles Mackerras [Telarc CD-80151, tracks 9, 10, 11, 12, 13] [33:40]

FLAXMAN: Excerpts from a suite from the ballet Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky. Sir Charles Mackerras conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a Telarc compact disc.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries and I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman. This hour is devoted to "Swan Songs." Swan Lake certainly qualifies, especially the "Dance of the Swans" from Act II, which you heard as part of this suite.

Our next swan is from Tuonela, Finland, and it is by Jean Sibelius. This was composed in 1893 as the prelude to a projected opera with the not very appealing title, The Building of the Boat. The piece was revised two years later to form part of the cycle of four Legends based on passages from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

Unlike those other tone poems, The Swan of Tuonela does not tell a story. Instead, it paints a picture of the land of the dead, surrounded by a large river with black waters and a rapid current, on which the Swan of Tuonela glides majestically. The strings, and later the harp, represent the river. The swan is represented by the English horn, played in this performance by Gerhard Stempnik. The Berlin Philharmonic is conducted by Herbert von Karajan in this Deutsche Grammophon recording.

MUSIC: Sibelius: The Swan of Tuonela, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert Von Karajan conducting [DGG 413 755-2] [7:50]


FLAXMAN: The Swan of Tuonela by Jean Sibelius. Herbert von Karajan led the Berlin Philharmonic. The swan was represented by the English horn played by Gerhard Stempnik.

You are listening to "Swan Songs'" on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Next we turn to Camille Saint-Saëns, whose swan is part of his famous piece, The Carnival of the Animals. I think it is one of the most beautiful tunes ever written, and many musicians must agree with me, because this melody has been transcribed for piano, harp and other instruments.

We'll hear it first with the original orchestration as performed by the Nash Ensemble on a Virgin Classics compact disc; then with harpist Susan Drake; and finally in the Leopold Godowsky transcription for solo piano as performed by Wibi Soerjadi [VEE-bee SEWer-YAH-dee].

MUSIC: Saint-Saëns: "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals, with the Nash Ensemble [Virgin Classics VC 7 90751-2, track 21] [2:56]

MUSIC: Saint-Saëns: "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals, with harpist Susan Drake [Helios CDH55129, track 13] [2:17]

MUSIC: Saint-Saëns: "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals, with pianist Wibi Soerjadi [Philips 454 149-2, track 6] [2:46]

FLAXMAN: "The Swan" from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. First you heard the original orchestration as performed by the Nash Ensemble of London. Then we heard harpist Susan Drake performing a transcription by Hasselmans; and finally we listened to the Leopold Godowsky transcription for solo piano as performed by Wibi Soerjadi [VEE-bee SEWer-YAH-dee].

We are winding up an hour of "Swan Songs" on Compact Discoveries. Let's conclude with Earl Wild's transcription for solo piano of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Four Swans" from Swan Lake.

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky/Wild: "Dance of the Four Swans" from Swan Lake, with pianist Earl Wild [Ivory Classics 70907, track 11] [1:40]

FLAXMAN: Earl Wild performed his transcription for piano of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Four Swans" from Swan Lake. And this brings to an end this hour of Compact Discoveries, which was devoted entirely to music inspired by swans. I call the program "Swan Songs." I hope you enjoyed it.

MUSIC: opening theme again, under the following:

FLAXMAN: Compact Discoveries is produced and presented by yours truly, Fred Flaxman, who you can reach in care of this station or through the Internet at www.fredflaxman.com. That's www-dot-f-r-e-d-f-l-a-x-m-a-n-dot-c-o-m.

Compact Discoveries is a production of Compact Discoveries, Incorporated, and is a presentation of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: ends at 58:00

 
  2009 Compact Discoveries