The Corner

Culture

Royal Music

George Enescu is essentially the national composer of Romania. (He lived from 1881 to 1955.) When people say “Romanian Rhapsody,” they mean Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. Yet he wrote two. No. 1 is the familiar one.

Max Bruch wrote three violin concertos. Yet “the Bruch Concerto” can mean only one: No. 1, in G minor.

Tchaikovsky wrote two piano concertos, or three, depending on how you count. But “the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto” can only mean No. 1. (Funny how the number-ones seem to be the special ones. You might think the composers would get better.)

The “Shostakovich Violin Concerto”? That, too, means No. 1, though he wrote two.

Incidentally, lots of composers have written ninth symphonies — Schubert’s, Dvorak’s, Bruckner’s, and Mahler’s are all immortal. But when you say “the Ninth,” with no qualification: It must be Beethoven.

Anyway, my latest Jaywalking podcast is about the late King Michael of Romania. I have some musical accompaniment and lead, naturally, with the Romanian Rhapsody (No. 1). Along the line, I have something royal, the Orb and Sceptre march, written by Sir William Walton for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

I end with more British music, but with a twist: This is Elgar’s Nimrod Variation, from the Enigma Variations, arranged for vocal octet (a cappella). It is a stunning thing. The children of some musician friends of mine put me on to it this past Christmas. “Divinely arresting” is the best way I can describe it, in words.

What did Debussy say? (The attribution varies.) “Music begins where human speech leaves off.”

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