Variations on a Theme: Atop Mount Olympus


April 6th has been a historical day for many events. Music inspired by mythology weaves them all together in this episode. 

2024 is a year of Summer Olympics. It’s fun to observe the first Olympics in 1,500 years began April 6, 1896 in Greece. It had been banned by a Roman emperor 1.5 millennia beforehand. The first event was a triple jump, and it was won by an American. But the Greeks won the marathon, which is what they wanted more than anything, and they won it by 7 minutes. 
John Williams composed “The Olympic Spirit” for the 1988 games in Seoul. 

Orpheus is one of the most inspirational stories in music. Maybe because he was a musician. The son of Apollo and a muse, he falls in love, gets married, and soon thereafter his wife Eurydice gets bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus convinces Hades to let her come back to the land of the living, but only if he doesn’t look at her until they are top-side. Orpheus looks and Eurydice is then gone forever. A fantastic, tragic romance with an happy ending that ended too soon. 

April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered into World War I after voting to declare War on Germany. Holst had written Mars, The Bringer of War right before WWI

A brief but consequential war for the USA ended in an uneasy peace. 

From the Planet Suite: Venus, Bringer of Peace holds that uneasiness. Things are calmer, but still, there’s tension under the surface of serenity. 

April 6th, 1924, four aircraft lifted off from Seattle, Washington with the goal of circumnavigating the globe. Only two completed the goal, which took months. Total flying time was 371 hours 11 minutes. The planes used were made from Pacific Northwest timber, the Sitka Spruce. Ironically, made by a man of the last name Douglas, the popular variety of Fir for Christmas trees.

The work by William Bolcom was written for the celebration of man learning to fly. He named it after the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. The wax-feathered father-son duo that flew too close to the sun. 

Creatures of Prometheus is the only ballet by Beethoven. It was criticized harshly by a few, but enjoyed by the general populace, so much so it was performed 28 times after the premier March 28, 1801. Beethoven’s Overture includes the most mythical of themes: the thunderbolts of Zeus. 

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