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.
Felix Mendelssohn: The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
In 1830, Mendelssohn sent his sister, also a composer, a letter
containing the opening phrase of this piece during a trip to Fingal’s
Cave on an island off the coast of Scotland. The cave is a mass of
beautiful basalt columns, and one can hear mysterious echoing
noises from inside. In the letter, Mendelssohn wrote: "In order to
make you understand how extraordinarily The Hebrides affected me,
I send you the following, which came into my head there.”
Carl Maria von Weber: Hungarian Fantasy, Op. 35
The bassoon is a soulful, humble instrument. It seems to have
found its niche buried in the back of the orchestra, and it is often
the butt of jokes: it was once said the bassoon is nothing more
than a bedpost with indigestion! So it’s a pleasant surprise to hear
seldom-composed bassoon solos like this one.
(Learn more about the bassoon and the International Double Reed Society.)
Gustav Holst: The Planets, Op. 32: IV. Jupiter, the
Bringer of Jollity
Gustav Holst originally wrote “The Planets” for a piano duet, but he
couldn’t bear to hear his “Neptune” movement played this way. He
believed Neptune was too distant and mysterious a planet to be
represented by a piano, so he composed this movement for an
organ. Later, he decided to score the whole work for an orchestra.
Hear this performance, conducted by Eugene Ormandy—do you
think it sounds as mysterious as Holst wanted it to sound?
The pizzicato technique isn’t just for stringed instruments! The
staccato, or short, sound of a plucked string can be imitated by a
piano player, too, as shown here.
(Learn more about Léo Delibes, and watch more videos demon-
strating the pizzicato technique here and here.)
Georges Bizet: Carmen: "Votre toast...je peux vous
Believe it or not, this world-famous opera was once loathed…by
the performers who premiered it! Word has it the male and female
leads both hated the showpiece arias Bizet had written for them
and demanded he rewrite them. The French composer scrambled
to rewrite the now-ubiquitous aria “Votre toast…he peux vous le
render,” reportedly grumbling all the while, “If it’s rubbish they want,
it’s rubbish they’ll get!”
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