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Cue Sheet


The first day of spring this year is Tuesday, March 20, and spring is clearly the most popular season among classical composers. For summer, autumn and winter I can drop relevant pieces onto the schedule here and there, but for spring there's enough music for a full day of programming.

We'll launch the season between 6 and 7 a.m. with some lesser-known short items, i addition to the popular On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring by Delius. Vivaldi's "Spring" Concerto will blossom shortly before the 8:01 news, and the day will continue with the expected spring works by Stravinsky, Copland, Beethoven, Strauss and Schumann--and a lot of unexpected music, as well. You can inspect the full schedule here.


Here's a very interesting little article on the effect sound has on the way we perceive taste. Noise apparently makes us less sensitive to salt, which is another reason bar food is oversalted--besides the usual explanation that it's intended to make you thirsty and order more drinks. It also proposes that the roar of the engines is what makes airplane food taste so icky. And perhaps this also explains why the restaurants I enjoy most have only a low murmur of conversation and no music blaring over the sound system; the pianist in the next room half-heartedly going through Andrew Lloyd Webber's greatest hits is only a minor inconvenience.

Of course, my boss would never endorse any suggestion that you turn off the radio to make your breakfast taste better ...



Maurice André, the first classical trumpeter to become an international celebrity, has died.


I haven't written much for Strings magazine in the past couple of years, but I am still on the masthead, so every once in a while I really ought to contribute something. Here's an article I cranked out for the March 2012 issue, a survey of 25 contemporary composers helping to keep string music alive and kicking.


Sorry for the late notice--I prepared this schedule a month ago, then applied my feeble mind to other things and forgot all about it--but our music schedule for the morning of February 10 marks the 175th anniversary of the death of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. I don't usually "celebrate" necrologies, saving the special programming for birth anniversaries in multiples of 25, but the anniversary of Pushkin's death gives us a rare excuse to showcase the music, famous and obscure, inspired by his work.

(If you look Pushkin up and see references to his death date being Jan. 29, that's because Russia was still using the old, unreformed calendar at that time; in Europe and America, the date that day in 1837 was Feb. 10.)

We're beginning around 7:30 a.m. with a snippet from Shostakovich's score for an animated adaptation of Pushkin's "Tale of a Priest and His Servant Balda. Then we'll have a polonaise "in memory of Pushkin" by Liadov. And then we're into far more famous music: suites from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Le Coq d'Or and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov for starters. These are among the best-known stage adaptations of Pushkin's work, as is Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. We'll have a full two hours of Onegin music between 9 and 11, including the most significant orchestral pieces and arias from Tchaikovsky's opera, bracketed by piano concert paraphrases of the opera's themes by Franz Liszt and Paul Pabst.

After that will come a miniature drawn from Stravinsky's treatment of Mavra, followed by a string of pieces inspired by The Queen of Spades: excerpts from the Tchaikovsky opera, of course, but also something you may not have connected with Pushkin: the overture to Suppe's operetta Pique Dame.

Beyond that, a suite from Gliere's ballet The Bronze Horseman and about 15 minutes of orchestral music and an aria from Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa (Liszt's orchestral and piano treatments of the Mazeppa story were inspired by a source other than Pushkin, so we won't be hearing those today).

We'll wrap up the Pushkin celebration between 11 and noon with one of Prokofiev's Pushkin Waltzes, the overture to Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmilla, orchestral bits from Rachmaninov's early opera Aleko, and Rimsky's little one-act opera adapting a Pushkin story, Mozart and Salieri.

So, we'll be giving a literary context for some music whose background you may not have given much thought. I hope you enjoy it.


I trust this sorry episode will be edited out of the eventual New York Philharmonic broadcast (we carry the series on Monday nights), but had you had the misfortune to be in the audience a few nights ago, you would have witnessed Mahler's Ninth Symphony being brought to an absolute halt by a ringing cell phone. Conductor Alan Gilbert stopped the orchestra and had to stare down the offender. Here's a good account of the fiasco.

About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.