Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Was Leroy Anderson Banned by the Soviet Union?

That may be the best explanation for why Alexander Vereshagin seems to take such delight in offering his compositions as encores at performances by the Russian Chamber Orchestra. A year ago the encore was "The Typewriter," leading me to go off on one tangent about the "authentic instrument" problem in an age where typewriters are rarely (if at all) manufactured and another on my surprise at writing anything about a composer whose primary claim to fame lay in the number of television programs that used his music for opening and closing theme songs. Today in the Noontime Concerts™ offering at Old St. Mary's Cathedral here in San Francisco, the concert concluded with "Plink, Plank, Plunk!," which contributed to the television panel show, I've Got a Secret. Written strictly for pizzicato strings, this work did not present any demand for period instruments! There was even a certain logic to a twentieth-century encore, since the program began with the third (G major) suite in the eighteenth-century Water Music collection by George Frideric Handel and continued with Franz Schubert's nineteenth-century D. 438 rondo for violin and string orchestra! Furthermore, it is possible that the Soviets had banned Leroy Anderson on the grounds that his music tended to glorify the values of bourgeois capitalism!

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