Tune in every night at 6 for a two-minute listening adventure packed with
fun facts and stories about great classical music! Have questions,
comments or ideas? Email the Exploring Music host, Lisa Bergman.
Fanny Mendelssohn: Song Without Words, Op. 8
It’s said that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister, Fanny, served as the
inspiration for his series of short, lyrical piano pieces called “Songs
Without Words.” Fanny herself wrote a few similar pieces, one of
which can be heard here.
In 1928, Maurice Ravel was commissioned to compose a new ballet
score as an experiment. It was meant to be almost entirely uniform
in its melody, harmony and rhythm, with the only element of variety
to be supplied by the orchestral crescendo. It became a worldwide
sensation, much to Ravel’s embarrassment. He said of his most
famous piece, “It seems I have written only one masterpiece, the
Boléro. Unfortunately, there is no music in it at all.”
Standard titles for pieces in classical music are pretty boring, aren’t
they? Suite No. 4. Symphony No. 1. Concerto in A. But there are
some very notable exceptions. There’s nothing stale, for example,
about “Unappetizing Chorale,” “She Who Talks Too Much,” and
“Agreeable Despair.” It’s easy to imagine the avant garde, Belle
Époque French composer Erik Satie was the man to come up with
such odd names! Listen to one of his odder-titled pieces, “Limp
Preludes for a Dog,” here.
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G: I.Allegramente
Don’t worry, that whipping sound you hear at the beginning of the
piece isn’t from a real whip. The sound is produced from a wooden
instrument whose two pieces slap together loudly.
Maurice Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
What instrument in the orchestra makes the music of angels, plays
up to seven octaves, has seven pedals, and can take up to 47
minutes—one minute per string—to tune? The harp! In its early stages,
the instrument was quite small and popular among folk musicians. Its
larger, louder, more modern incarnation has made its way into com-
positions from all the key composers starting in the late 18th century.
(Learn more about the harp--and if you play, join the Pacific Harp
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