The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Was Bernard Herrmann’s love theme in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” influenced by Antonin Dvorak’s “American Suite”?

July 8, 2019
5 Comments

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By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear spent an interesting and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Two of the most enjoyable things seemed to overlap unexpectedly.

On Wednesday night, I tuned into Turner Classic Movies. That’s when I watched, once again and with great pleasure, Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful “North by Northwest (1959.”

The next morning, on Independence Day, I tuned in to Wisconsin Public Radio and heard a lot of music by American composers and by composers who were inspired by America.

That’s when I heard the “American Suite” (1895) by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (below), who directed a conservatory in New York City and liked to spend summers in a Czech community in Spillville, Iowa, where he was captivated by American music of Native Americans and African-Americans.

What overlapped was the music, the love theme between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint — called “Train Conversations” — by Bernard Herrmann (below) in the film and the opening of the suite by Dvorak.

But The Ear needs a reality check: Is the Ear the only one to hear striking similarities between the two?

Take a listen to the two works in the YouTube video below, decide for yourself and let us know if you hear the same influence.

To be sure, The Ear is not saying that Herrmann – a sophisticated American composer who knew classical music and who is perhaps best known for his edgy score to “Psycho,” which is often played in concert halls – completely lifted the music or stole it or plagiarized it.

But it certainly is possible that Herrmann was influenced or inspired by Dvorak – much the same way that Leonard Bernstein’s song “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” seems remarkably close to an opening theme in the slow middle movement of the Piano Concerto No. 5 – the famous “Emperor” Concerto — by Ludwig van Beethoven. The same goes for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who, some say, borrowed tunes more than once from Franz Schubert.

Well, if you’re going to borrow, why not do it from the best? And Dvorak was among the great melodists of all time, in company with Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel and Francis Poulenc, to name a few of the best known.

Anyway, listen to the two scores and let us know what you think.

Can you think of other music that was perhaps influenced by a work of classical music? If so, leave a comment, with YouTube links if possible, in the Comment section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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Classical music: A new world record is set for the largest symphony orchestra ever assembled

July 15, 2016
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

This past week, a new record for the world’s largest symphony orchestra was set.

The very big orchestra (below) featured more than 7,500 players, mostly from Europe. who gathered at a soccer stadium in Frankfurt, Germany and played for 45 minutes.

world's biggest orchestra frankfurt 2016

The music included music by Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonin Dvorak as well as lighter fare and pop music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and John Miles.

The new record – which surpassed the previous one set in Australia in 2013 — has been verified by the famous Guinness Book of World Records and by the German Institute of Records.

Here are links to some stories:

http://www.euronews.com/nocomment/2016/07/11/world-s-largest-orchestra-performs-in-germany/

http://www.reuters.com/video/2016/07/11/new-record-for-worlds-largest-orchestra?videoId=369228409

And here is a link to videos and sound samples:

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/dvorak/news/biggest-orchestra-world-record/#slo5bbxtfTAP7WuQ.97

http://qz.com/729230/watch-the-worlds-largest-orchestra-perform-with-over-7500-musicians/

 


Classical music: Madison resident and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss will perform a song journey next Saturday to benefit the piano restoration at Arboretum Cohousing.

January 12, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger 

A while ago, The Ear put out a call for guest bloggers.

Madison resident Janet Murphy has since responded with several blog posts. The latest one is about a concert by mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss (below) that is coming up this coming Saturday night, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m.

kitt reuter foss copy

The concert is last of two concerts — a very successful appearance by Madison keyboard player Trevor Stephenson of the Madison Bach Musicians was the first — this season will benefit the restoration of the historic Mason and Hamlin grand piano at Arboretum Cohousing (below bottom) at 1137 Erin Street. Tickets are $25. Adds Murphy: You’d be wise to reserve ahead at: www.ArboretumCohousing.org or ArbcoPiabo@gmail.com or call 608-204-7131.

Arbco Grand Piano

Here is some information about Janet: “I received my bachelor’s and masters in musicology from the University of Michigan. After toiling in the music industry for 20 years, I got a bachelor’s in nursing from UW, and have worked as an RN (Registered Nurse) ever since.

“Music is now my hobby. I sing in the UW Choral Union, play with an informal recorder group, and I am currently taking banjo lessons. Needless to say I am a big fan of The Well-Tempered Ear.”

Here is the guest post, with many of her own photos, by Janet Murphy (below):

Janet Murphy

By Janet Murphy

Mezzo-soprano Kitt Reuter-Foss came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison — ostensibly as an early childhood education major — with her real objective being admission to the UW Swing Choir.  Fortunately for all of us, music professor Lois Fisher heard something in Kitt’s voice and told her she could do it. 

The “it” was opera.

The “it” was the Metropolitan Opera.

(For more about her and her history, see the extended and very cordial interview done by John Roach with Kitt for The Big Ten Network, in a YouTube video at the bottom of the page.)

That bit of history helps explain why Kitt — I love that she is affectionately known about town as “Kitt” — has theatrical chops and stage presence as remarkable as her voice, and why she moves between so many musical genres with ease.  She even did back up vocals on Do You for rapper Bow Wow.

So, if Kitt were free to put together a concert … anything she likes … what would it look like?

You have the chance to find out this coming Saturday at Arboretum Cohousing (below) when she’ll perform an up-close-and-personal concert with accompanist Jennifer Hedstrom (a member of the Madison-based group Clocks in Motion).  What a rare treat!

Arboretum Cohousing Arbco

Here’s what Kitt herself has to say about the program:

“I am planning to take a little trip “musically” through my journey from Oconomowoc High School to the stages of the Metropolitan Opera and others throughout the world. I will include some Broadway and jazz selections which have always kept me busy, too.”

Kitt’s journey includes Mozart, Puccini and Saint-Saens, but also Lerner and Lowe, Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Wicked. Carmen. My Fair Lady. Faust. Plus, a bit of art song and jazz for good measure. 

It will be a fascinating musical night to hear this all stitched together. 

As always, creative sweets and savories will be provided by the hosts (below).

Arbco Refreshments

More from Kitt (below): “Hi there: Here is the program — I will say a few words about the pieces and why I chose them.”

Kitt Reuter-Foss BW small photo
He touched me                                                                  Levin/Schafer

Se tu m’ ami, se sospiri      (attributed to Pergolesi)                   Parisotti

Pieta, Signore!                                                                           Stradella

Faites lui, mes aveux (Faust)                                                      Gounod

L’ amour est un oiseau rebelle: Habanera (Carmen)                        Bizet

Voi che sapete (Le Nozze di Figaro)                                            Mozart

Mon coeur s’ ouvre a ta voix (Samson et Dalila)                   Saint-Saens

O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi)                                         Puccini

The Letter Scene (Werther)                                                      Massenet

INTERMISSION (a little break of 10 minutes)

Where is love?  As long as he needs me (Oliver)                      L. Bart

I could have danced all night!   Show me! (My Fair Lady)        Lerner/Loewe

Anyone can whistle!  No one is alone (Anyone can Whistle and Into the Woods)                                                                 Stephen Sondheim

I’m not that girl   For good (Wicked)                                 S. Schwartz

Memory (Cats)                                                   Andrew Lloyd Webber


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