Happy Birthday Mozart! Top 10 facts about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

WOLFGANG Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, which makes today his 260th birthday.



1. Actually he was baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

2. The name Amadeus means love of God and is the Latin version of the Greek Theophilus.

3. It would take 202 hours to listen to all the music Mozart wrote in his short life. He had written eight operas by the aged of 16.



4. When Mozart performed in London at the age of nine some thought his playing was too good for a child and suspected him of being a dwarf.

5. When growing up, Mozart had a pet dog, possibly a fox terrier, called Bimperl (or Pimperl or Miss Bimbes). He also had a pet canary.


6. For three years, he kept a pet starling. His notebook includes a tune the starling sang which he used in his 17th piano concerto, K.453.

7. When the starling died, he buried it in his garden and wrote a poem in its memory.


8. Mozart loved to play billiards. A billiard table with five balls and 12 cues was among Mozart’s estate when he died, aged 35, in 1791.

9. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an anagram of A Famous German Waltz God.

10. The species of frog Eleutherodactylus amadeus was named after Mozart in 1987.

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5 Ways Music Improves Our Health

Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing. In particular, researchers have looked for applications in healthcare -- for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.

Here are five ways that music seems to impact our health and wellbeing.

Music reduces stress and anxiety.

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Music can prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels -- all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Performing music, versus listening to music, may also have a calming effect. In studies with adult choir singers, singing the same piece of music tended to synch up their breathing and heart rates, producing a group-wide calming effect. In a recent study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music -- either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist -- three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang.

Though it’s sometimes hard in studies like this to separate out the effects of music versus other factors, like the positive impacts of simple social contact, at least one recent study found that music had a unique contribution to make in reducing anxiety and stress in a children’s hospital, above and beyond social contributions.

Music decreases pain.

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Music has a unique ability to help with pain management, as I found in my own experience with giving birth. In a 2013 study, sixty people diagnosed with fibromyalgia -- a disease characterized by severe musculoskeletal pain -- were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In another recent study, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

It’s not clear why music may reduce pain, though music’s impact on dopamine release may play a role. Of course, stress and pain are also closely linked; so music’s impact on stress reduction may also partly explain the effects.

However, it’s unlikely that music’s impact is due to a simple placebo effect. In a 2014 randomized control trial involving healthy subjects exposed to painful stimuli, researchers failed to find a link between expectation and music’s effects on pain. The researchers concluded that music is a robust analgesic whose properties are not due simply to expectation factors.

Music may improve immune functioning.

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Can listening to music actually help prevent disease? Some researchers think so.

Wilkes University researchers looked at how music affects levels of IgA -- an important antibody for our immune system’s first line of defense against disease. Undergraduate students had their salivary IgA levels measured before and after 30 minutes of exposure to one of four conditions -- listening to a tone click, a radio broadcast, a tape of soothing music or silence. Those students exposed to the soothing music had significantly greater increases in IgA than any of the other conditions, suggesting that exposure to music (and not other sounds) might improve innate immunity.

Another study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels, but the music also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6 -- a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems.

According to a 2013 meta-analysis, authors Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin concluded that music has the potential to augment immune response systems, but that the findings to date are preliminary. Still, as Levitin notes in one article on the study, “I think the promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do.”

Music may aid memory.

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Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory. In a study published last year, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to speak, or speak in a rhythmic fashion, or sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy.

Evidence that music helps with memory has led researchers to study the impact of music on special populations, such as those who suffer memory loss due to illness. In a 2008 experiment, stroke patients who were going through rehab were randomly assigned to listen daily either to self-selected music, to an audio book or to nothing (in addition to receiving their usual care). The patients were then tested on mood, quality of life and several cognitive measures at one week, three months and 6 months post-stroke. Results showed that those in the music group improved significantly more on verbal memory and focused attention than those in the other groups, and they were less depressed and confused than controls at each measuring point.

In a more recent study, caregivers and patients with dementia were randomly given 10 weeks of singing coaching, 10 weeks of music listening coaching, or neither. Afterwards, testing showed that singing and music listening improved mood, orientation and memory and, to a lesser extent, attention and executive functioning, as well as providing other benefits. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients, in part promoted by organizations like Music and Memory.

Music helps us exercise.

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How many of us listen to rock and roll or other upbeat music while working out? It turns out that research supports what we instinctively feel: music helps us get a more bang for our exercise buck.

Researchers in the United Kingdom recruited thirty participants to listen to motivational synchronized music, non-motivational synchronized music or no music while they walked on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion levels. Measurements showed that both music conditions increased the length of time participants worked out (though motivational music increased it significantly more) when compared to controls. The participants who listened to motivational music also said they felt better during their work out than those in the other two conditions.

In another study, oxygen consumption levels were measured while people listened to different tempos of music during their exercise on a stationary bike. Results showed that when exercisers listened to music with a beat that was faster and synchronous with their movement, their bodies used up oxygen more efficiently than when the music played at a slower, unsynchronized tempo.

According to sports researchers Peter Terry and Costas Karageorghis, “Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions and encourage rhythmic movement -- all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise.”

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. For more, please visit greatergood.berkeley.edu.

THE HISTORY BEHIND THE SKETCH LEAF AND BEETHOVEN'S 'KING STEPHAN'


The sketch leaf, apparently unknown to scholars prior to its discovery and sale, belongs to a book of sketches that Beethoven used while writing his stage music 'König Stephan' (King Stephan) in 1810.

Dr. Carmelo Comberiati, author and professor of Music History at Manhattanville College explains: 'He [Beethoven] created his own book from various paper on hand and used it while at the spa in Teplitz from late 1810 into mid 1811.

He finished King Stephan between August 25 and September 13 in 1810. The sketches are of the first chorus (after the overture). It was commissioned for the opening of the new theater in Pest (as in Budapest) along with The Ruins of Athens. First performed 2/9/1812, it was published as op. 117.

King Stephan I founded Hungary in 1000. Emperor Francis I of Austria commissioned the new theater, and Beethoven made most sense as the composer to honor the occasion of the opening. The Austrian emperor was honoring Hungary's loyalty, thus the subject matter on a text by August Von Kotzebue.'

The sketch leaf gives insight into his work process. Parts are only in pencil and others are also done over in pen -- that’s evidence that this is the area where Beethoven decided, "Okay, that’s the theme I’m going to use."

Teamwork: Beethoven Sketch Leaf Verified by Professor Comberiati (left) and Brendan Ryan (right). Upon finding the work, Ryan turned to his college professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., Carmelo Comberiati, to help him find the piece of music attached to the sketch leaf

The sketch shows off Beethoven's 'stormy personality.

Beethoven would write out his ideas. With most composers, we just have the final product — they threw the rest out. Beethoven didn’t throw anything out,' Comberiati said, 'I found the sketchbook, and referenced the exact piece, we put it all together.

The sheet of paper was revealing of Beethoven's impatience.

We can see the fire as it happened. He just went wild with a crescendo of activity. There’s so much impatience there — I can’t imagine working for the guy. But that aspect of his character is wonderful.

Read more at The Daily Mail


A previously unknown Beethoven manuscript has been discovered – hanging on a wall in a house in Connecticut!


Brendan Ryan, who made the chance discovery, said finding the manuscript was the highlight of his career as an appraiser.

On a routine visit to a house, an American appraiser (auctioneer), who is also a trained musician, happened upon a remarkable discovery.

Brendan Ryan was called to a house in Greenwich, Connecticut, to examine furniture and paintings for sale.

Ryan told US TV station WHAS11 : “It was just sort of hanging in a hallway and I saw it essentially right when I walked in, from across the room… I said to myself, ‘ Oh my God, that's Beethoven’. I recognized the handwriting because [Beethoven] has unmistakable handwriting.”

After the find, Ryan had to research the history of the fragment. “It took about three weeks and was a lot of work,” he said. “I equate it to trying to find a word in the dictionary without knowing the first letter.”

The sketch was eventually attributed to the composer’s work 'King Stephen Op. 117.



Ryan said: “It's certainly one of the highlights of my career. For me, personally, Beethoven is an idol of mine. It's like seeing pages by your favourite author in the flesh.”

The sketch was sold at auction by Butterscotch auctioneers last month for $120,000 (£81,000) to a German autograph manuscript dealer.

Read more at Classic FM


7 Famous Classical Piano Duels

Abbe Gelinek vs. Ludwig van Beethoven

It wouldn’t have made it onto this list were it not for the comment Gelinek made, when asked if he thought he could beat Beethoven in a piano duel. “I’ll make mincemeat of him!”

Well, it was the other way around. Gelinek turned out not to be all that formidable an opponent, although his nerves may have gotten the best of him. After the first round, in which both played their own best, and most difficult works, Gelinek looked a little paler to the audience, probably because Beethoven chose his Sonata 19 in G minor, Op. 49.

Once the improvisations began, Gelinek couldn’t seem to get his head in the game, and Beethoven walked all over him. Gelinek simply left the room when Beethoven began the third round.



Josef Lhevinne vs. Alexander Scriabin

This one never actually took place. But it would have, had Scriabin not strained several of the tendons of his right hand while preparing for the duel. He was practicing Liszt’s Reminiscences de Don Juan, after Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and also Islamey, by Mili Balakirev. Either of these works has a fair claim to the title of most difficult piano piece ever composed.

Lhevinne, however, went down in history as one of the finest pianists ever, having made several recordings of piano rolls, which have left other great pianists, Josef Hofmann and Vladimir Horowitz among them, in awe. You can find some of these on YouTube.

It’s for the best that Scriabin hurt himself, because he wrote his F minor Sonata as a sort of elegy for his right hand. His right hand did however make a full recovery, but he never challenged Lhevinne again.


Daniel Steibelt vs. Beethoven

Is Beethoven less than 31 years old? Then he can still hear himself play. Don’t challenge him. If only Steibelt’s foresight had been as clear as our hindsight. He is referred to as “a most unvirtuous virtuoso,” well-known during his day for spreading false rumors, cheating, stealing money from concert receipts, sleeping with married women, and, among other things, telling everyone he met, even announcing before and after his concert recitals, that Beethoven was a hack performer and scared of him.

Beethoven, for his part, really didn’t care what Steibelt had to say, until Steibelt finally worked up the nerve to challenge him to a duel. This happened in May 1800, when Steibelt traveled to Vienna for the sole purpose of beating Beethoven at his own game. The question most often asked in history class is, “What the hell was he thinking?!”

They met at the house of the Count von Fries, who was a patron and fan of the arts, especially music, and liked Beethoven’s irascible nature. He therefore favored him over Steibelt, but rooted for both fairly as did the rest of the audience, about 100 people, mostly the Count’s entourage.

The duel took place according to traditional conventions: the first round was whatever piece the performer wanted to play, by anyone, and thus the performers chose the most technically difficult piece they knew. Beethoven played a sonata by Mozart. Steibelt played one by Haydn.

The second round was a two-piano contest of alternating improvisations on themes each performer would give the other, making the themes up on the spot. Beethoven soundly won this round.

The third and final round was the most important for testing the true genius of a performer. Each performer would sight-read a new piece written by the other performer. Steibelt went first, playing Beethoven’s brand new Piano Sonata in B Flat Major, Op. 22. He did well enough, garnering a good amount of applause after his improvisations. The Count claims to have seen Beethoven roll his eyes at the applause.

Then Steinbelt tried to trip Beethoven up by giving him a new cello sonata, for cello and piano. This is a breach of the rules, technically, but Beethoven wasn’t about to win on a technicality. He took the score, turned it upside-down on the music rack, and sight-read it backward, then improvised on one of its themes for about 30 minutes.

Steibelt was thoroughly destroyed, and didn’t wait for Beethoven to finish. He walked out and never met with Beethoven again.



Louis Marchand vs. Johann Sebastian Bach


This story has been recounted by most of Bach’s biographers, and told and retold with more and more embellishments. The most authoritative biography of him is by Phillip Spitta, who tells the story as follows.

In September 1717, Bach had become well known throughout Europe as the greatest keyboard performer in Germany. He was not well-known or admired for his compositions, as the Baroque movement was going the way of the Dodo and Bach wrote in an extremely heavy, robust, meat-and-potatoes Baroque style.

Louis Marchand was equally well-known throughout Europe as an outstanding French organist and keyboard performer, and when he heard the tales about Bach’s virtuosity, he traveled to Germany with the express purpose of meeting and defeating Bach.

Bach worked in Weimar at the time, and when they met, Frederick II, the King of Prussia, who was a huge fan of Bach’s music, organized a little harpsichord playoff. Bach arrived first, early in the morning before anyone else, to warm up and stretch his fingers. Marchand walked into the palace, heard these warm-up exercises, turned right around and walked out, got in his carriage and returned to France. He never went to Germany again.


Mozart vs. Muzio Clementi

On Christmas Eve, 1781, Clementi and Mozart met at the court of Franz Joseph II. They were amiable at that time, not bitter rivals, and Clementi’s skill at the keyboard was such that he was able to hold his own with Mozart, all the way to the end. The Emperor called it a draw. They were both required to improvise variations on a theme the Emperor devised on the spot, and Clementi managed to draw equal amounts of applause. They both improvised fugues, waltzes, variations in minor and major.

Mozart and Clementi both agreed afterward that Mozart had won, but these were dubious statements, since Clementi was just being polite, as was his nature, and Mozart did not like Italians, in general. He considered them terrible at music. He wrote to his father, “Clementi plays well, as far as execution with the right hand goes. His greatest strength lies in his passages in thirds. Apart from that, he doesn’t have a kreuzer’s worth of taste or feeling. In short, he is a mere mechanics [robot].” Mozart wrote later, “Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece presto but ‘plays’ only ‘allegro.’”

Clementi, for his part, had this to say about Mozart, “Until then I had never heard anyone play with such spirit and grace. I was particularly overwhelmed by an ‘adagio’ and by several of his extempore variations for which the Emperor had chosen the theme, and which we were to devise alternately.”


Joseph Wolfl vs. Ludwig van Beethoven


Beethoven had a bad habit of being good at what he did. That made him a bigger target for other performers trying to carve reputations out of his hide. Wolfl and Beethoven were friends at one time, both having dedicated various works to each other. But Wolfl apparently became malcontent with his status as second in pianistic greatness behind Beethoven, and thus challenged Beethoven to a piano duel, in 1799, at the home of Count Wetzlar, one of Beethoven’s admirers and patrons, and a patron of artists in general.

By the time the duel took place, Wolfl had made a point of playing many recitals and concerts all over Europe, especially in Germany and Austria, where Beethoven would catch wind of his rise, for the sole purpose of building the hype. It worked. Beethoven was informed by his friend, Aton Schindler, that he was no longer without performance competitors. Wolfl was about 6 feet tall and had gigantic hands that could stretch a thirteenth on the piano. Beethoven was only 5’3 and 3/4” and could just manage a tenth. He countered this as all good pianists must by using the pedal to sustain the first note and then quickly hitting the second note, if two notes of a tenth or more have to be spanned. Good pedaling technique renders the results nearly indistinguishable.

But the duel played out in much the same fashion as that of the next year, versus Steibelt. Beethoven and Wolfl were evenly matched after the first round, but in the second and third, Beethoven wiped the floor with Wolfl. When it came to improvisation and sight-reading, Beethoven had no equal during his life. Wolfl was much less spoken of in Austria after this encounter.


Franz Liszt vs. Sigismond Thalberg



The rivalry between Liszt and Thalberg lasted from 1836 to 1842, during which time Thalberg made as many concert tours of Europe as Liszt, playing in the same venues, immediately before or after Liszt, in order to show the musical world that he was the greatest pianist in the world.

The fact that their contest lasted as long as it did is a testament to Thalberg’s virtuosity, since every classical pianist of the 20th Century has agreed that none of them, not even Vladimir Horowitz, could hold a candle to Liszt.

Liszt and Thalberg did not follow the traditional duel format as described earlier. Instead they first tried to trounce each other’s popularity throughout Europe with their concert tours. Both were very well admired, and finally they agreed to meet and settle the score. It all came to a head on March 31, 1837. They had both prepared a new composition each, of the most extreme technical demands, neither knowing that the other was preparing a piece of music expressly for their showdown.

When they met and discovered this, they laughed and readied themselves for a heck of a fight. They were watched by about two-dozen close friends and admirers in the Paris salon of Princess Cristina Belgiojoso. They first played a few pieces each that they had played many times in concerts. Liszt played his Grand Galop Chromatique, which Thalberg countered with his fantasy variations on Bellini’s “Norma.”

They then played their grand finales, the new pieces. Thalberg’s was “Fantasy,” Op. 33, on melodies from Rossini’s “Moise.” Liszt’s was “Reminscences de Robert le Diable,” from Meyerbeer. Both pieces are still played today, although Liszt’s is more well-known, but the result of the duel was reported as a toss-up. Both received standing ovations, but, whereas Thalberg had for years been after Liszt’s crown of the greatest pianist in the world, he never again challenged Liszt to a face-to-face duel. They continued to perform throughout Europe enjoying success, but Liszt’s lasted longer.

Read more at Listverse