Music of the Gilded Age

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 11 May, 2013

This weekend sees the US release of Baz Luhrmann’s 3D film adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and to mark the occasion, we’re presenting a weekend of music from the period depicted in the story and movies set during the era (although it should be noted that the soundtrack from Luhrmann’s film does not feature music of the period). Though it begins in the 1920s, the story reaches back in time to events set before the First World War.

Both the Gilded Age and La Belle Époque — one term from from the United States, the other from Europe — refer to essentially the same period, corresponding to the late Victorian and the Edwardian periods in the UK.

The period is bounded by the First World War at the end, and somewhere around the mid‐1870s for the start.

The term “Gilded Age” (allegedly coined by Mark Twain) is actually slightly pejorative. Gilding is a light covering of gold and it’s also ostentatious – but a “gilded age” is not a “golden age”. And the term La Belle Époque was coined after the period – looking back at the peaceful, prosperous past from the dark days of the Great War.

Today we’ll hear music of the Gilded Age from both sides of the Atlantic, including ballads (I have included some of Stephen Foster’s wonderful songs, which were well known during the period – and indeed still are today), dance music and some light classical pieces including items from Gottschalk in the US and Satie in France; and you’ll hear the first‐ever film score, composed by Saint‐Saëns.

The ZBS Radio Hour is currently on hiatus.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. You can listen to the programme now at, or simply click here to start your player, if your browser is configured to do so. Listeners in the United States are encouraged to tune in using this link:


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