Classical Music

Music In The Making: Child’s Play

This week: music for the young at heart


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On this week’s episode, we’re finding our inner child with classical music inspired by the younger set, including music by Schumann, Ravel, and Villa-Lobos.

Scenes of Childhood: Robert Schumann
Scenes of Childhood: Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann: Selections from Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (Scenes of Childhood)
Nancy Weems
Moores Opera House

In the world of Classical music, there are few better-known love stories than that of Clara and Robert Schumann. After courting Clara for more than five years despite the objections of her father, the couple was eventually allowed to marry. During a period of separation prior to their union, though, Schumann turned to the piano for solace, churning out many works. “Scenes of Childhood,” was one such project. “You once said to me that I often seemed like a child,” Robert wrote, “and I suddenly got inspired and knocked off around 30 quaint little pieces…” Of these, he chose 13 to publish. This charming miniatures are not meant to be played by children, but rather evoke the nostalgia an adult perhaps feels for their own childhood.

Maurice and Mother Goose
Maurice and Mother Goose

Maurice Ravel: Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose)
Moores School Chamber Orchestra; Pierre-Alain Chevalier, conductor
Moores Opera House

“There are few of my childhood memories in which Ravel does not find a place. Of all of my parents’ friends I had a predilection for Ravel because he used to tell me stories that I loved,” wrote Mimi Godebski, one of the children to whom the original piano-duet version of Ma mère l’Oye, or Mother Goose, is dedicated. Inspired by fairy tales, particularly those of Charles Perrault, each movement captures a different story. Later, with the encouragement of Jacques Durand and Jacques Rouche, Ravel not only orchestrated the set, but also turned it into a ballet, in which Sleeping Beauty is the main figure, and the other stories and characters are woven into the action as her dreams.

Villa-Lobos teaches kids to count
Villa-Lobos teaches kids to count

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Carnaval das crianças (Children’s Carnival)
Tali Morgulis (piano)
Moores Opera House

The piano literature is rife with works meant to capture the imagination of children, with offerings from 20th century composers such as Bartok, with his transcriptions of Eastern European folk music, and Prokofiev’s own didactic offerings. Villa-Lobos, one of South America’s most famed composers, also contributed to this genre, with “Children’s Carnival.” In this suite, Villa-Lobos depicts the specific characters, such as Pierrot, and general exuberant atmosphere of Brazilian Carnival. He also incorporates folk elements, particularly dance rhythms, native to the region.

This episode originally aired Sunday, January 22nd, 2017. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical.