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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

George Gershwin's "American in Paris," soon to be performed by an American orchestra in Pyongyang - the New York Philharmonic, which performs in the North Korean capital tomorrow. No doubt, there will be much examination of the political implications of this unprecedented visit. And we thought we'd hear a little bit about the musical implications of it from music critic Tim Page. Hello, Tim.

Professor TIM PAGE (Music Critic; Visiting Professor of Music and Journalism, University of Southern California): Hi. It's good to talk to you.

SIEGEL: Now, the philharmonic is going to play Gershwin, Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Wagner's "Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin," and they have a Korean folk song prepared as an encore. What does that program say to you?

Prof. PAGE: Well, it's a fairly conventional program. But considering all the additional baggage that's going on here, it seems to me that it's a, you know, it's a good way of programming. You know, it strikes me as a nice calling card for the largest and oldest orchestra in America to bring to a very, very new audience.

SIEGEL: You think that in a let's-break-the-ice-after-more-than-half-a-century concert, not the moment to play Pierre Boulez or something like that?

Prof. PAGE: Probably not, although I imagine there are probably some Koreans who'd just love to hear some Pierre Boulez because some of his music, I can imagine, may be permitted by the government. I suspect, yes, they'll probably be more people who'll respond to this than Pierre Boulez.

SIEGEL: Are these signature pieces of the New York Philharmonic?

Prof. PAGE: Oh, I think they're signature pieces for any orchestra. I mean, they're all played a fair amount. The Lohengrin is a great and an exciting encore, which has been used in so many different films. It's fast-moving, it's got great melody that, you know, it's that one, da, da, da, da - da, da, da, da ...

(Soundbite of music, "Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin")

SIEGEL: This is a little bit that we'll hear of the Seattle Symphony playing the Wagner music from Lohengrin.

(Soundbite of music, "Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin")

Prof. PAGE: And you know, "American in Paris," Gershwin is very popular and very American. And you can do this without a piano soloist so you don't have to, you know, lug a piano over there. So it's, well, you know, probably one of his two or three most popular, you know, orchestral compositions.

SIEGEL: That would be a consideration that if you were to play a piano piece, let's say, you would have to add to all the other complications of this trip, the...

Prof. PAGE: Oh, oh, sure.

SIEGEL: ...handling of the piano, yeah.

Prof. PAGE: Yeah, absolutely. And anytime you're planning an orchestral tour, that's a big question. Do we bring a pianist? Do we bring a soloist who carries her own instrument? I mean, what exactly do we do? But, you know, it sounds like the sort of concert that, frankly, if I were still reviewing music in Washington, that wouldn't exactly get my heart a-fluttering too much. But, I mean, for people who've been kind of musically land-locked for so long, again, it strikes me as a nice calling card.

SIEGEL: Not setting your heart a-flutter - I think I can read the imaginary lead in my mind, which is it's all old warhorses they're putting on, if it were playing for an American audience.

Prof. PAGE: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, but, you know, there's a time and a place for old warhorses. And, I mean, this is kind of musical politics light, but I think that's probably what's called for in such a case. And, you know, I know there's been some disagreement among some critics and some people who are writing about music, but I can't see how this is going to hurt anything.

SIEGEL: Tim Page, thanks a lot for talking with us once again.

Prof. PAGE: My pleasure, good to talk to you.

SIEGEL: Music critic Tim Page spoke to us from Los Angeles, where he is a visiting professor at the University of Southern California.

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