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March 2011 Archives

March 25, 2011

Make Public Radio a Von Suppe-Free Zone

In the early morning, seeking only solace in quiet music and a cup of freshly brewed coffee, have you ever had the experience of being assaulted by a herd of prancing Lippizzaner stallions, accompanied by a troupe of tumbling circus clowns and a chorus line of high-kicking can-can girls?

If you have, then obviously you have been listening to your local public radio station, and you have been the victim of the unholy alliance of station programming executives and the diabolical Prince of Bad Music, one Francesco Ezechele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppe-Demelli, better known to the world as Franz von Suppe.

Von Suppe, a 19th-century Viennese composer, conductor and theater director, produced some four dozen operettas that--inexplicably in the city of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms--were smash hits in their day. They are largely forgotten now except for their overtures, with the overtures from "Poet and Peasant," "The Jolly Robbers" and "The Light Cavalry" the ones most beloved by programming directors who need something to fill the seven or eight minutes in the morning program between the first movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the news from NPR.

In 2011, can anyone REALLY like the music of Von Suppe? (Apparently Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields do, since it's their CD of Von Suppe overtures public radio seems to play most often. Oprah Winfrey should go back on the air to make them explain themselves.) To me at least, Von Suppe's overtures contain everything that makes people think they hate classical music: loud, self-important orchestration married to melodies that lack any contour of grace or beauty. The music has some utility, in that it can be heard over prancing ponies and tumbling clowns, but other than that it sounds natural only as an accompaniment to Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny. (I can't imagine Elmer or Bugs liking the music either.)

What von Suppe's overture most obviously, definitely, egregiously fail at is providing a pleasant listening experience to people who have risen unwillingly from their beds and are contemplating another difficult day of existence in an abrasive world. Unless, of course, you are a circus clown, a can-can girl, or a Lippizzaner stallion.

Let's all join together in a quest to make public radio a von Suppe-free zone. Once we have accomplished this noble goal, we can turn our attention to other goals--such as banning the music of Victor Herbert and Meredith Willson.

About March 2011

This page contains all entries posted to MDM in March 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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