Burgers, Bach & More

This week, Rochester hosts its second annual Burger Week celebration of the iconic American food item. Whether topped with loads of various meats or made wholly vegan, Rochesterians take to area restaurants to partake in this savory (and sometimes messy) delicacy. We highlight five musical pieces inspired by food.

Jean Françaix, Ode à la Gastronomie
Inspired by Jean Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste, Françaix’s three movements delves into the relationship between food and dining. Using twelve singers, Jean highlights the ecstatic power of black truffle – which we may have to try on a burger one day.

Bernstein, La Bonne Cuisine
Composed in 1947, Leonard Bernstein found his muse in Emile Dumont’s 19th-century cookbook, La Bonne Cuisine. Rabbit stew, oxtails, plum (sweet) and Turkish (savory) pudding provide the perfect recipes for a delightful composition set to a piano and a soprano.

Bach, Coffee Cantata
Written subtly as a comic opera, Bach’s Coffee Cantata tells the story of a father wanting to curb his daughter’s consumption of a cup of joe. (Once upon a time, coffee was once deemed a blasphemous beverage by the Roman Catholic Church.) In the end, the daughter has the last laugh and convinces her father to include in her marriage contract a guarantee she could enjoy three cups daily.

Verdi, “The Drinking Song (Brindisi)” from La Traviata
If coffee doesn’t pair well with your burger, perhaps alcohol will suffice! (Please drink responsibly.) One of Verdi’s most memorable pieces, “Drinking Song” is a duet between Alfredo and Violetta as they partake in a drink, followed by the chorus raising their glasses to them. The famous classical composition shows Verdi’s love of lifting the top notes. But the joyful tune is a sharp contrast to the tragedy unfurled in the opera.

Kurt Weill, “Ice Cream Sextet” from Street Scene
Care for some dessert? Street Scene presents a multi-ethnic community in Manhattan, with various trysts in its subplots. Weill’s “Ice Cream Sextet” showcases six performers praising the popular treat. Kurt was the first to refer to Street Scene as “American opera,” a dramatic break from European opera and American musicals.

William Bolcom, “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise”
A satirical cabaret song, Bolcom was once a club pianist, and the piece is a dedication to the bizarre foods they provided him. The ditty, featuring a piano and a mezzo-soprano, lists other dishes unique that may or may not be appetizing. Hopefully, it doesn’t ruin your appetite.

Rochester Burger Week, presented by CITY Newspaper, runs through Friday, July 26, with a portion of the proceeds from your purchase donated to Foodlink. Click here for more information. And while you’re enjoying your burger, listen to our food-inspired playlist, available on Spotify.

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