Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, recorded and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2003 and 2007 by Fred Flaxman

Program 47
"Classical Kids"

MUSIC: Poldini: Poupée valsante (Waltzing Doll), performed by pianist Philip Martin [Hyperion CDA67379, track 19] under the following: [3:15]

FLAXMAN: Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. The music in the background is Poupée valsante (Waltzing Doll) by Eduard Poldini. The pianist is Philip Martin. And our theme for this hour is “Classical Kids.”

I’m going to feature the three most famous suites for piano inspired by children: Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly Suite, Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), and Claude Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite. Debussy himself recorded a piano roll of this suite using a system that preserved the dynamics of his playing as well as the notes. That has been transferred to compact discs so that we can listen to the Children’s Corner Suite in high fidelity, stereo sound as performed by the composer.

But first, while the Waltzing Doll is playing, let me tell you all I know about its composer, Ede — the nickname for Eduard — Poldini. Poldini is so well known, he is not even mentioned in The Oxford Companion to Music. All I know about him is what I found in the little booklet which accompanied this CD.

Poldini sounds like an Italian name, but Poldini was not born in Italy. The title of this piece is in French, but Poldini was not born in France. Rather, he was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1869, and he died in Corseaux, Switzerland in 1957.

He was highly regarded for his stage works, according to the program notes. These long-forgotten serious and comic operas include The Vagabond and the Princess from 1903, and The Carnival Marriage from 1924, which was produced in London in 1926 as Love Adrift. Of his 156 opus numbers, most are elegant piano pieces. And of all of these, only his Waltzing Doll is remembered now. So let’s listen to the rest of it.

MUSIC: up until the end of the above piece

FLAXMAN: Eduard Poldini’s Poupée valsante (Waltzing Doll). Philip Martin was the pianist on a Hyperion CD called “The Maiden’s Prayer and other gems from an old piano stool.”

Next on this tribute to “Classical Kids” let’s listen to Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly Suite. This piece was named after the young daughter of Fauré’s mistress. Fauré was very fond of her even though she probably was not his daughter. Each piece in this suite was written separately and given to Dolly as a present between 1893 and 1896. The suite is among the best pieces of music ever inspired by childhood. It is the only significant composition by Fauré for piano duet.

The first piece is called “Berceuse,” which is “Lullaby” in English. The duo pianists are Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade.

MUSIC: Fauré: “Berceuse” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 13] [2:39]

FLAXMAN: The second piece from Fauré’s Dolly Suite is called “Mi-a-ou.” That refers to the nickname Dolly gave to her brother Raoul.

MUSIC: Fauré: “Mi-a-ou” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 14] [1:47]


FLAXMAN: The third piece from Fauré’s Dolly Suite is called “Le Jardin de Dolly — Dolly’s Garden.”

MUSIC: Fauré: “Jardin de Dolly” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 15] [2:46]

FLAXMAN: The fourth piece from Fauré’s Dolly Suite is called “Kitty-Valse -- Kitty Waltz.”

MUSIC: Fauré: “Kitty-Valse” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 16] [2:27]

FLAXMAN: The fifth piece from Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly Suite is called “Tendresse — Tenderness.”

MUSIC: Fauré: “Tendresse” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 17] [3:18]

FLAXMAN: The sixth and last piece in Gabriel Fauré’s Dolly Suite is called “Le Pas espagnol — the Spanish Step” as in a Spanish dance.

MUSIC: Fauré: “Le Pas espagnol” from Dolly Suite with duo pianists Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Plancade [EMI 7243 5 72526 2 1. track 18] [2:04]

FLAXMAN: Duo-pianists Laurence Fromentin & Dominique Plancade performed the complete Dolly Suite, Op. 56, by Gabriel Fauré. This was from an EMI Classics compact disc.

You are listening to “Classical Kids” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

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

Another highly successful classical piano suite inspired by children is Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen — Scenes from Childhood.

Schumann was particularly well qualified to compose on this subject: he was the father of seven surviving children. His wife, Clara, was a well-known pianist, and they had a very good marriage. But Schumann had severe mental problems, caused perhaps by syphilis, which he admitted having; perhaps by mercury poisoning, a side effect of the treatment for syphilis; perhaps by bad genes, since his father also suffered from mental problems and his younger sister committed suicide. Schumann died in an insane asylum at the age of 46.

Kinderszenen consists of thirteen pieces, each with a descriptive title. I’ll give you these as we go along, starting with “Faraway Countries.” The pianist is Daniel Blumenthal.

MUSIC: Schumann: “Faraway Countries” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 15] [1:44]

FLAXMAN: “Curious Story.”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Curious Story” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 16] [1:05]

FLAXMAN: “Blindman’s Bluff.”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Blindman’s Bluff” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 17] [0:35]

FLAXMAN: “Child’s Desire”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Child’s Desire” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 18] [0:58]

FLAXMAN: “Perfect Happiness.”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Perfect Happiness” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 19] [0:55]

FLAXMAN: “Important Happening.”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Important Happening” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 20] [0:53]

FLAXMAN: “Reverie.”

MUSIC: Schumann: “Reverie” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, track 21] [2:44]

MUSIC: Schumann: the remainder of Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Daniel Blumenthal, pianist [Calliope, tracks 22-27]

FLAXMAN [announces the remainder of the pieces is the same fashion as above.]

FLAXMAN: Kinderszenen, Scenes from Childhood, Opus 15, by Robert Schumann performed by Daniel Blumenthal.

You are listening to “Classical Kids” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. We are featuring the three best-known suites for piano inspired by children. First we heard the Dolly Suite for duo pianists by Gabriel Fauré. We just listened to Scenes from Childhood by Robert Schumann. And now I’ll perform a true miracle, with a great deal of help from Pierian Recordings. We’ll listen to the Children’s Corner Suite by Claude Debussy, recorded in 1913 by the composer himself, who died in 1918.

The “miracle” is that you will hear this in high fidelity, stereo sound — audio techniques that weren’t developed for nearly another half-century. This is possible because Debussy recorded this music on a reproducing piano roll, not on a 78 RPM record. This piano roll was played back on a reproducing piano similar to the one on which it was recorded. This sound was then taped from the piano in high fidelity stereo, just as if a live person were sitting there playing the piano.
The Children’s Corner Suite, which Debussy dedicated to his daughter, consists of six pieces. Debussy gave them English titles, making a mistake with the second piece, which he called “Jimbo’s Daughter” rather than “Jumbo’s Daughter.”

Composed between 1906 and 1908, the suite starts with “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum.” Granted, that doesn’t sound like it’s totally in English, either. “Gradus ad Parnassum” is Latin, to tell the truth, and it means “Steps to Parnassus.” It refers to the mountain sacred to Apollo and the Muses. In Debussy’s piece, it is a parody of a child’s attempt to play a piece by Clementi.

Here, then, is The Children’s Corner Suite by Claude Debussy, as played by the composer.

MUSIC: Debussy: “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 8] [1:51]

FLAXMAN: “Jimbo’s Lullaby.”

MUSIC: Debussy: “Jimbo’s Lullaby” from Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 9] [3:06]

FLAXMAN: “Jimbo's Lullaby” from The Children’s Corner Suite by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer. The next piece in the series is called “Serenade for the Doll.”

MUSIC: Debussy: “Serenade for the Doll” from Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 10] [1:44]

FLAXMAN: “The Snow is Dancing.”

MUSIC: Debussy: “The Snow is Dancing” from Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 11] [2:09]


FLAXMAN: “The Little Shepherd.”

MUSIC: Debussy: “The Little Shepherd” from Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 12] [1:47]

FLAXMAN: The final piece in The Children’s Corner Suite is called “Golliwog’s Cake Walk.” A golliwog is an animated doll in children’s fiction by Bertha Upton. A “cakewalk” is a black American game having a cake as the prize for the most accomplished steps and figures in walking. It is also a stage dance developed from walking steps and figures typically involving a high prance with backward tilt.

MUSIC: Debussy: “Golliwog’s Cake Walk” from the Children’s Corner Suite, with the composer at the piano [Pierian 0001, track 13] [2:53]

FLAXMAN: The Children’s Corner Suite by Claude Debussy. The composer was at the piano in a Pierian Recording made from a reproducing piano roll.

MUSIC: Poldini: Poupée valsante (Waltzing Doll), performed by pianist Philip Martin [Hyperion CDA67379, track 19] under the following:

You have been listening to Compact Discoveries. In this hour we have explored “Classical Kids” — music inspired by children, composed by Fauré, Schumann and Debussy. I hope you have enjoyed this program. My name is Fred Flaxman, and you can reach me in care of this station or by e-mail at fred@compactdiscoveries.com.

Do you have an idea for a Compact Discoveries theme? I’d love to hear it. If I make a future program using your suggestion, I’ll give you credit for it at the end of the program. The first person to suggest the theme is the person who will be mentioned on the air, unless that person is me. My e-mail address, again, is fred@compactdiscoveries.com. Thank you for listening!

MUSIC: ends at 56:45

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks):
This program was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts - a great nation deserves great art; and by the Public Radio Exchange Reversioning Project. The Public Radio Exchange is at prx.org.

Program Ends at 57:00

 

 
  2009 Compact Discoveries