Your Thanksgiving Stress Playlist NPR's Rachel Martin talks to music commentator Miles Hoffman about classical music that captures the stress of Thanksgiving.
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Your Thanksgiving Stress Playlist

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Your Thanksgiving Stress Playlist

Your Thanksgiving Stress Playlist

Your Thanksgiving Stress Playlist

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NPR's Rachel Martin talks to music commentator Miles Hoffman about classical music that captures the stress of Thanksgiving.

NOEL KING, HOST:

It is Thanksgiving, a day to be thankful. But, look, between the anxiety over cooking the perfect dinner and those weird, awkward political conversations with relatives, Thanksgiving can be stressful. But MORNING EDITION co-host Rachel Martin discovered that the stress of the holidays is not so bad if you just add a little music.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If the perfect Thanksgiving could be expressed in music, it might sound like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF EDVARD GRIEG'S "MORNING")

MARTIN: This piece is "Morning" by Edvard Grieg. It's from his "Peer Gynt Suite." It is peaceful, it is soothing and probably the exact opposite of how your Thanksgiving Day is going to go. Here with a musical guide to the emotional cornucopia known as Thanksgiving is musical commentator Miles Hoffman. Hey, Miles.

MILES HOFFMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Rachel. How are you?

MARTIN: I am doing fine. I am ready to have you dish up some musical antidotes to Thanksgiving stress.

HOFFMAN: (Laughter).

MARTIN: So with that in mind, here's the deal. I'm going to present a few holiday-related scenarios. You're going to come up with some classical music that captures those moments.

HOFFMAN: Yeah, so accompaniments, maybe not antidote. I don't know if we're going to...

MARTIN: You're not going to fix it (laughter).

HOFFMAN: I don't know if I'll be successful with antidotes. I won't fix anything, no.

MARTIN: All right, so let's start off with the following situation. It's about 45 minutes before your guests are going to arrive. You are still in your pajamas.

HOFFMAN: Oh, dear.

MARTIN: The food is not nearly ready. What's a good piece of music that seems to fit that moment?

HOFFMAN: OK, and the cranberry salad, you forgot to take it out of the refrigerator.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah. It's not even made. I didn't even assemble that yet.

HOFFMAN: All right, here's some good music for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF "ROMEO AND JULIET" BALLET)

MARTIN: Yeah, frantic, maniacal - that about does it.

HOFFMAN: Yeah, that's from Sergei Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo And Juliet," which I feel a little guilty using it because it really doesn't end well. All that scurrying around is, in fact, a duel scene. It's a sword fight, and it ends with the death of Tybalt.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah, that does not portend good things.

HOFFMAN: No, no, no, no. I can also tell you that it's very hard to play. Prokofiev, I don't know what he was like in the kitchen, but he made life difficult sometimes for orchestra players.

MARTIN: All right, so let us just assume for the sake of this game that all the major disasters in the kitchen have been averted. Nothing has burned, the guests show up. But what happens when one of those guests is your Uncle Hal (ph), the relative in your family who always has just the wrong thing to say at the wrong time. But, of course, you've got to invite him because he's your Uncle Hal. He's part of your family.

HOFFMAN: Well, I think that what we need to hear is the most famous acceptance of a dinner invitation by an unwelcome guest in the history of music. This is from the final scene of Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni." And the Don is hosting a big dinner and a stone statue from the other world shows up.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah.

HOFFMAN: It's the terrifying stone guest. The statue of a man Don Giovanni killed at the beginning of the opera. The statue shows up and he sings Don Giovanni, you invited me to dinner, and I have come.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "DON GIOVANNI")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, singing in Italian).

MARTIN: Wow, that is going to be an awkward dinner. So Uncle Hal, he has arrived. He's at the table. And, of course, he starts talking about politics. Maybe a little religion thrown in just to get things...

HOFFMAN: Oh, my goodness.

MARTIN: ...Really complicated.

HOFFMAN: Politics religion.

MARTIN: Yeah, double whammy.

HOFFMAN: Yeah, OK.

MARTIN: What's the musical choice now?

HOFFMAN: More Mozart, Rachel. This is from the finale of Act 2 of Mozart's opera "The Marriage Of Figaro." And in this scene, six people are all singing at the same time. They're singing different words over or under one another. And they're all either angry or frightened or confused or are loudly self-congratulatory. Only Mozart could have pulled this off.

(SOUNDBITE OF OPERA, "THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing in Italian).

MARTIN: The cacophony of the family discussion over Thanksgiving.

HOFFMAN: And it is kind of a family discussion. And the good news is at the end of the opera, everything ends happily so that's the good news.

MARTIN: Thank goodness. All right, so if everything has ended happily or at least you've agreed to disagree, you've got to eat, right? Let's move on to the main event.

HOFFMAN: OK.

MARTIN: The moment the turkey is revealed to the table. It's a dramatic moment. You have anything for that?

HOFFMAN: The dramatic presentation of the turkey.

(SOUNDBITE OF MODEST MUSSORGSKY'S "GREAT GATE OF KIEV")

MARTIN: Wow, that better be a dang good turkey.

HOFFMAN: And actually, it would be even better if it were a Ukrainian turkey because that's the "Great Gate Of Kiev" from Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures At An Exhibition." But I think the music is entirely appropriate in a foul kind of way because the music that leads into the great gate or the great turkey, in this case, is the end of the section of the piece called "The Hut On Chicken's Legs."

MARTIN: Oh, really (laughter)?

HOFFMAN: Yeah, so that's fowl.

MARTIN: So that's fowl. There you go. You did it twice.

HOFFMAN: Sorry.

MARTIN: OK, so despite the bad jokes, the bad puns, I'm still grateful for you, Miles. And it is the season of thanks and Thanksgiving. So to round out this conversation, what do you have that gives us a sense of thanks and gratitude?

HOFFMAN: Well, the most beautiful thank you I know, Rachael, is actually a thank you to music itself. This is Fritz Wunderlich, the great tenor Fritz Wunderlich singing Franz Schubert's "An Die Musik," to music. And the final words are often has a sigh flowing out from your harp, a sweet, divine harmony from you unlocked to me the heaven of better times.

You noble art, I thank you for it. You noble art, I thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AN DIE MUSIK")

FRITZ WUNDERLICH: (Singing in German).

MARTIN: A fitting end to our musical Thanksgiving tribute. Miles, I am thankful for you and I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving.

HOFFMAN: Oh, it's entirely mutual, Rachel, and you too and you and yours.

MARTIN: Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players and the distinguished visiting professor of chamber music at the Schwob School of Music in Columbus, Ga.

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