So you’ve invited some folks for dinner. The table is set, the food is prepped — now, what about music? Here’s a course-by-course playlist to fit the menu.
“The Drinking Song” (from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata): This rollicking waltz-time tune, which appears during a late-night party in the opera’s first act, will set the tone for the evening. Its Italian title, “Libiamo Ne Lieti Calici,” translates as “We Sip From Happy Chalices.” Chalices, wine glasses — it’s all the same.
On to dinner
Quatre Hors D’Ouevres (Gioachino Rossini): As part of the collection of late-career works he called Peches de Viellesse — sins of old age — Rossini composed four odes to the charcuterie board: “Les Radis” (radishes), “Les Anchois” (anchovies), “Les Cornichons” (pickles) and “Le Beurre” (butter). Doesn’t sound too sinful! Take a bite out of the spicy “Les Radis”:
“Now to the Banquet We Press” (from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer): There are eggs and ham! Mustard and cress! Muffins and toast and strawberry jam and some type of bun called a Sally Lunn! If you’re so moved, you can bless the meal as Sir Marmaduke does at the song’s close: “Be happy all — the feast is spread before ye; fear nothing, but enjoy yourselves, I pray!”
The Trout Quintet (Franz Schubert): Instead of the common piano quintet arrangement, Schubert subtracted a violin and added a double bass, adding an element of undulating depth. Listen to the first movement, which evokes a trout dancing through those deep waters to escape the hook that will bring it to the dinner plate.
The Love for Three Oranges (Sergey Prokofiev): The zesty satire about a prince sent in search of three oranges — each of which contains a princess who might become his main squeeze — is best-known for this spirited march, to which film composer John Williams might owe a debt of gratitude.
Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear (Erik Satie): This suite for piano four hands (two pianists playing the same piano) was composed in response to a jibe from Claude Debussy that Satie should pay more attention to form. He responded with seven pieces (his little joke) that are alternately sprightly and melancholy, offering slices of several musical moods.
Dessert and coffee
“Tip-Toe to the Cookie Jar” (Florence Price): This short and sweet piano composition was created as a teaching piece for children — but don’t we all love cookies? The frolicking cadence mimics a little thief looking for some extra dessert. With luck, all the confections will be on the table at this party.
“Coffee Cantata” (J.S. Bach): We’ve reached the end of the dinner and the sated guests are sipping their java to this cantata, technically titled “Schweigt Stille, Plaudert Nicht” (“Be Still, Stop Chattering”). It’s essentially a miniature comedic opera about a disgruntled father trying to get his daughter to stop drinking so much coffee — obviously before the invention of decaf.
“March Past of the Kitchen Utensils” (from Ralph Vaughn Williams’ The Wasps): Did we say the end? Not for the hosts! Tidying up is much easier when you load the dishwasher to a martial beat that segues into a syncopated gallop and back again.
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