Summer's Musical Fireworks
by Rex Levang
ourth of July concerts are a little like Thanksgiving dinners. The
items on the bill of fare aren't always identical - some people go with
Copland instead of Gershwin, rutabagas instead of mashed potatoes -
but there's a strong family resemblance all the same.
So if you're taking John Adams's advice (who said that Independence
Day should be "solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games,
sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and iluminations") and heading out
to a Fourth of July concert, here's a look at some of the items you
may well hear:
opland: Fanfare for the Common Man
One of a group of fanfares commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony during
World War II. Copland's is a classic, the others vanished quickly. When
was the last time you heard Eugene Goossens' "Fanfare for the Merchant
||Listen -Fanfare for the
vorak: Largo from Symphony No. 9 ("From
the New World")
This is the most famous symphony ever written on American soil. You
sometimes even hear the claim that Dvorak adapted his Largo movement
from a spiritual called "Going Home." Patriotically gratifying,
though it's actually the other way around - the spiritual was adapted
ousa: Stars and Stripes Forever
Did you know it had words?
Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea
The banner of the right.
Les despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
ernstein: West Side Story selections
I'm including West Side Story here to acknowledge that nowadays almost
any Fourth of July event will make a nod, sometimes a very big nod,
in the direction of popular music - rock, jazz, Hollywood, or Broadway.
It's interesting to look at Bernstein's score: If you had a general
impression that he uses "Latin rhythms," you might be surprised
how carefully Bernstein distinguishes the different dances he uses -
cha-cha, huapango, mambo, paso doble, etc.
chaikovsky: 1812 Overture
What piece of music do you think goes best with fireworks? Beethoven's
Ode to Joy? The William Tell Overture? Both go well, but the clear favorite
of audiences and orchestras nationwide on the Fourth of July seems to
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture - commemorating the Russian defeat of Napoleon
- has scant connection with American independence. But audiences have
decided that no better music exists to accompany Roman candles, parachutes,
hummers, and chrysanthemum shells - especially here in Minnesota! The
following sample comes from a 1958 recording by the Minnesota Orchestra.
Recordings are available from the
Public Radio MusicSource