GILBERT KAPLAN: When President Bush's National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, appeared on “Mad About Music,” she revealed that the President didn't share her passion for classical music. She reported that he preferred country and western. But, she said, he always encouraged her to make time to play the piano. Rice told us that she would soon accompany the President abroad for his first meeting with Russian President Putin, so I asked her on the spot to pick some music that would be an ideal soundtrack for that meeting. She didn't miss a beat!
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: “Getting to Know You” would come to mind as a soundtrack to that meeting. I think this is going to be great fun for the two Presidents because I suspect that they'll get along very well. But anything that in the musical world would suggest two people getting to know each other, getting to take the temperature a little bit and showing a vision for a peaceful world with a US-Russian relationship that is healthy at its center.
KAPLAN: During our first season on “Mad About Music,” we had the rare opportunity to interview four world leaders: getting to know British Prime Minister Edward Heath, President Jimmy Carter, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Today we revisit those interviews on this special summer edition of “Mad About Music.”
KAPLAN: This is Gilbert Kaplan welcoming you to this special summer edition of “Mad About Music,” a program in which we'll revisit highlights of our shows with four world leaders. These shows were filled with wonderful commentary and great music and revealed a side of these men rarely seen by the public. We've culled some of the funniest, most poignant and interesting moments. We begin with a musician who went wrong. England's Prime Minister Edward Heath started out as a musician -- an organ and conducting student at Oxford. I asked him how could he leave the wonderful world of music for politics and whether the power of the podium wasn't in some ways really greater than that of the Prime Minister.
EDWARD HEATH: Well, I've reached the stage now where having finally left Parliament after 51 and a quarter years, I sometimes say, well, how different it might have been if I'd gone straight into music. Well, you see, I had to do the utmost to hide my music in politics. Because everybody would say, well, if he's a musician, he can't be a politician and we won't take any notice of him in politics. And I find now today that if I'm deprived of music for some reason or other for three or four days then I feel starved -- got to find it somehow or other. The power of the podium is far greater than that of a Prime Minister. A Prime Minister in this country, of course, is Prime Minister in the cabinet and all are equal. He has to get agreement for what he wants and has to handle the discussion of all the members of the cabinet on things that they want and this has to be very realistic, very realistic or else the cabinet begins to break up. Now when you're conducting an orchestra that's quite different. You are absolutely in charge.
KAPLAN: For one of his works, Prime Minister Heath selected Mozart's 40th Symphony.
HEATH: Well, of course, I adore so much of Mozart. But I've always felt that of the symphonies and those last three form a complete package. Out of the three, then I personally go for No. 40 in G minor, because I think it's got most substance in it. That first movement is tremendous. You would say that the last one in C is very pleasing, well it is, but it never makes the same impact on me. It seems almost as something you take for granted. Whereas the G minor has got its own characteristics and they are very powerful.
KAPLAN: The first movement of Mozart's 40th Symphony conducted by Karl Böhm with the Berlin Philharmonic -- a selection of my guest, Sir Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. On today's special summer edition of “Mad About Music,” we're exploring the musical tastes of four world leaders who appeared on the show during our first season. We visited Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center in Atlanta. The President told us wonderful stories about the role music has played in his life but the most personal -- one might say the most intimate musical connection was with Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince.
JIMMY CARTER: Well, when Rosalynn and I were in the Navy in my earliest days of married life, we made a total of $300 a month and we spent over $150 on food and lodging which only left us a little bit. But I was assigned to go to Philadelphia to learn about pending new radar equipment and one night we decided to splurge and went out to an actual restaurant and afterwards we went to Sigmund Romberg's performance of The Student Prince. It was so overwhelming to us to hear this music live that we, I guess, became a little more romantic than usual and that night we decided to have our first child, so our oldest son Jack was conceived that night after we heard The Student Prince.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from the “Overture” and the “Drinking Song” from Sigmund Romberg's The Student Prince, a selection of Jimmy Carter when he appeared on “Mad About Music.” I think it's fair to say that no President has more embraced classical music, made it such a prominent part of White House life as Jimmy Carter. Music was always present. To such an extent that it even caused consternation on the part of some Congressmen and Senators.
CARTER: There was a very large collection of 33 RPM recordings when I got to the White House and I had the sound engineers come into the White House and arrange for this music to be played by my secretary whose small office was just adjacent to the Oval Office and then I had a private office behind that and I would guess for ten hours a day she would play musical selections that she or I chose and when she played some more esoteric selections with which I was not familiar, she would put a stack of 3x5 cards on my desk so that I could turn from one to another and know what was being played. Sometimes when I was on the telephone, I would forget to turn the sound down low enough and sometimes members of the Congress would complain later to my staff that they had a difficult time understanding what I was telling them because the music in the background was overwhelming.
KAPLAN: Beyond the steady flow of background music, President Carter also hosted world-renowned musicians in live recitals. But when the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz arrived at the White House, he presented Carter with an unexpected challenge for which the President had to fashion a very creative response.
CARTER: When Mr. Horowitz came to the White House on Saturday afternoon to get ready, we had the East Room prepared with a platform there, he brought his own Steinway piano, but he thought the room was too harsh sounding. So I went upstairs myself, with my blue jeans on, as President of the United States, and brought down a oriental carpet and Horowitz and I placed that carpet at different places against the platform until he was satisfied that the resonance in the room suited him. But this is one of the high points of my life to sit there and hear Rachmaninoff's music played by Mr. Horowitz who had in the past always refused to come to the White House.
KAPLAN: A Rachmaninoff polka played by Vladimir Horowitz at the Carter White House. Through this recital the President of the United States and one of the world's greatest musicians came to know each other in a special way. After a short break we'll hear how another world leader came to know two of the world's foremost conductors on this special edition of “Mad About Music.”
KAPLAN: This is Gilbert Kaplan and you're listening to “Mad About Music.” During our first year on the air we had the pleasure of visiting with four world leaders. On today's special edition we're revisiting parts of those four shows. We've heard how President Carter came to know pianist Vladimir Horowitz through his recital at the White House. Helmut Schmidt also hosted a series of concerts during his tenure as Chancellor of West Germany.
HELMUT SCHMIDT: Both my wife and I loving music and, as a Chancellor you are so busy you have to work 14, 16 hours every day including weekends, we couldn't go to concerts, so we decided to have our own little concerts and invited a few guests into the Chancellery. First class conductors came to Bonn from time to time and I couldn't go because I had to be busy. My wife went and she brought the conductors to our home afterwards.
KAPLAN: And who were the ones you got to know the best?
SCHMIDT: Two of them: Lenny Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. Two absolute extremes in character and personality. And both fascinating musicians. Bernstein was a man interested in politics. He wanted to know about the world. He was - he had a philosophical mind. Karajan had a knack for high technology and he flew his own airplane, he sailed his own yacht; a man of unbelievable self-discipline. Lenny Bernstein had no discipline, except when the concert had begun, but before and after he was without discipline.
KAPLAN: There was a major political event in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down and many musicians responded to that. Rostropovich came to the Wall to play his cello and Leonard Bernstein conducted a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. I asked Helmut Schmidt if he had participated in any of those events.
SCHMIDT: No, I didn't. But I must tell you that the moment in which the Wall came down or, to be more correct, the moment at which the Wall became perforated, and symbolically, Brandenburg Gate was opened up, was one of very very few moments in my lifetime when I couldn't avoid to shed tears. I was overwhelmed.
KAPLAN: You say that's a rare moment when you came to tears. Does music ever move you to tears?
SCHMIDT: Has not happened as yet.
KAPLAN: Helmut Schmidt was certain that Bernstein had made the right choice of Beethoven's Ninth for the occasion.
SCHMIDT: Oh yes. Yes, no doubt about it. The chorus in a way is the incarnation of German solemnity. It is also good music. I never understood the Ninth Symphony as a whole because the first three parts is orchestra and then all of a sudden you have chorus against any classical concept of a symphony. But the chorus in the Ninth Symphony is something almost holy to the Germans.
KAPLAN: The concluding moments of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Leonard Bernstein conducting a live concert in Berlin with an ensemble that drew on musicians from five orchestras and three choruses in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall -- a selection by West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt when he appeared on “Mad About Music.” Now as regular listeners to “Mad About Music” already know, our guests are permitted to choose one non-classical work -- jazz, show music, rock. Chancellor Schmidt chose “Yesterday” by the Beatles, which for him brought back memories of a German folk song.
SCHMIDT: I have attended just one concert of The Beatles. They were totally unknown at the time, it was in the early ‘60s here in Hamburg and a friend of mine, a journalist, called me by telephone telling me there is a group of youngsters in Saint Paulie and the two of us went to that more or less obscene place where The Beatles were performing and I just remember this one song, “Yesterday.” It is neo-romanticism. It's an “ear worm” as we say in Germany. It goes into your ear and doesn't get out again. In a way, the melody is as simple and naive as many German folk songs. “Yesterday” could very well be a German folk song translated into English.
KAPLAN: The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” a choice of my guest former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. On this special edition of “Mad About Music” we are revisiting our interviews with four world leaders. Thus far, we've heard from former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, President Jimmy Carter and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. In a moment we'll hear from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. If you'd like to hear any of our past shows, read transcripts of the discussion or learn more about our guests, visit our website at WNYC.org.
KAPLAN: This is Gilbert Kaplan on this special edition of “Mad About Music” where we're listening to highlights of our prior shows with four world leaders: former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, President Jimmy Carter, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and now we turn to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. One element that has struck me in all these programs has been just how personal music is to these world leaders. Ehud Barak was trained as a pianist, learning as a child in a kibbutz, playing the one upright piano available to him. Israel’s most decorated military man revealed a very emotional side of himself during our conversation.
EHUD BARAK: My father was clearly the real engine behind my awareness of the beauty and sensation of listening or performing in music. He was the one that always escorted me to every, almost every training session on the piano and more than any other individual, was encouraging me to try never to be deterred by either technical or other obstacles in playing the piano. He passed away several months ago at the age of 92. But I believe that one of the most moving moments for him was when he was already lying in his dying bed. I remember that all along my life he tried to encourage me to play the “Appassionata.” And I thought that I will never be able to perform the “Appassionata” just by listening to it and he insisted that I try. And, in fact, it happened that I tried in the last year and found it possible after all. I played it to him through the telephone. He could hardly talk, and when I ended he told me, “I told you all along your life, never be deterred from experiencing more in music.”
KAPLAN: The final movement of Beethoven's “Appassionata” sonata played by Murray Perahia, a selection of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak when he joined us on “Mad About Music.” Now for Presidents and Prime Ministers, music is often a welcome part of the ceremony of visits with other leaders. Prime Minister Barak, however, related how Chopin almost spoiled his first meeting with Yassir Arafat.
BARAK: I stopped the music at the right moment; in fact, I met Arafat for the first time in my life when I was a foreign minister in the government of Shimon Peres after the assassination of Rabin. We met at Barcelona in a Euro-Mediterranean gathering of leaders. Out of security considerations, they sent myself and Arafat in different convoys without, ahead of all the other leaders, into a royal palace when the reception by the King had to take place. So I came, I had to wait some half an hour for, I looked around and I saw a very lovely brown grand piano, so I sat down. I ordered my security guy to be close enough to the door to avoid surprises and I played the Military Polonaise of Chopin. In the middle of it he, the security man, noted to me, “Arafat is coming.” I didn't know that they are preparing it and I found myself stopping it immediately, closing the piano and running to the entrance and this was my first meeting with Arafat.
KAPLAN: Interviewing Ehud Barak during troubled times was fascinating and I wasn't surprised that he perhaps spoke for all our guests when he introduced his selection, his final selection, Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.”
BARAK: Yes, I think that it doesn't need even an explanation. Just listen focused to the words. I believe it's the motto of any autonomous independent free-minded human being that experiences this great journey of life.
KAPLAN: “My Way,” the classic sung by Frank Sinatra, a selection of former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak. And so, we've come to the end of this “Mad About Music” summer special in which we've listened to parts of our interviews with four world leaders. While there is no single musical theme that captures the essence of these four men, one thing is plainly evident: music is a vital part of all their lives and has provided solace and inspiration at the most critical times for them and the world at large. Until we get together again in September, this is Gilbert Kaplan for “Mad About Music.”
“Mad About Music”
Gilbert Kaplan, Executive Producer
Heidi Bryson, Producer
Marcela Silva, Associate Producer
Leszek Wojcik, Recording Engineer