Monday, February 10, 2014

A Gamut of Olympic Music

Most classical music lovers aren't aware that Joseph Suk took the Silver Medal at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, or that Polish composer Zbigniew Turski brought home the Gold from the 1948 Olympics in London. Were these musicians extraordinary athletes? Not especially -- the truth is even more remarkable.

When the modern Olympics were established in 1912, the goal was to emulate the ancient Greek games and have both athletic and artistic competition. And so, from 1912 through 1948, there were Olympic competition in the fields of literature, sculpture, painting, and music composition.

After 1948 it was decided that since almost all the competitors for the arts events were professionals, the Olympics would shift to just having an art exhibition celebrating the contributions of the participating nations, and leave the amateur competition to the athletic events.

As is common with composition contests (but exceedingly rare in sports), not every medal was awarded in every event. If the judges thought there was no work worthy of an Olympic gold medal, then none was awarded, and the "best" composition received a silver -- or a bronze.

Below is a complete list of the winners for the Olympic Games Music Competition. Although most of these composers are obscure, some of the prize-winning works have been recorded. And so this coming Wednesday morning, from 8am to 9am, I'll be sharing Olympic Gold (and a lot of Silver and Bronze) on the air. Tune in to hear the top finisher from the 1928 Antwerp games, the Gold Medal composition from 1936, Canada's champion from the 1948 games, Joseph Suk's Silver composition.

Even if you're tired of luge and double axels, this show will give you a different take on the Olympic Spirit!

Listen live Wednesday, 2/12/14, 6-9am EST. This edition of "Gamut" will also be available from the WTJU archives through 2/26/14.

Olympic Music Competition Winners 

Stockholm 1912 
  • Gold: Riccardo Barthelemy (Ita): Olympic Triumphal March 
  • Silver: none awarded 
  • Bronze: none awarded 
Antwerp 1920 
  • Gold: Georges Monier (Bel): Olympique Silver: 
  • Oreste Riva (Ita): Marcia trionfale 
  • Bronze: none awarded 
Paris 1924
  • None awarded 
Antwerp 1928
   Song category: none awarded

   One instrument category: none awarded

   Orchestral music category
  • Gold: none awarded 
  • Silver: none awarded 
  • Bronze: Rudolph Simonsen (Den): Symphony No. 2 “Hellas” 
Los Angeles 1932 
  • Gold: none awarded 
  • Silver: Joseph Suk (Tch) “Into a New Life” symphonic march 
  • Bronze: none awarded 
Berlin 1936 
   Solo and chorus
  • Gold: Paul Hoffer (Ger): Olympic Vow 
  • Silver: Kurt Thomas (Ger): Olympic Cantata 1936 
  • Bronze: Harald Genzmer (Ger): The Runner 
   Instrumental: none awarded

  • Gold: Werner Egk (Ger): Olympic Festive Music 
  • Silver: Lino Liviabella (Ita): The Victor 
  • Bronze: Jaroslav Kricka (Tch): Mountain Suite 

London 1948 
  • Gold: none awarded 
  • Silver: none awarded 
  • Bronze: Gabriele Bianchi (Ita): Inno Olimpionico 
   Instrumental and Chamber
  • Gold: none awarded 
  • Silver: John Weinzweig (Can): Divertimenti for Solo Flute and Strings 
  • Bronze: Sergio Lauricella (Ita): Toccata per pianoforte 
   Choral and orchestral:
  • Gold: Zbigniew Turksi (Pol): Olympic Symphony 
  • Silver: Kalervo Tuukkanen (Fin) Karhunpyynti 
  • Bronze: Erling Brene (Den): Viguer

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