Possessed or Blessed

Niccolo Paganini, who is considered the greatest violin virtuoso of all time, was probably one of the most erratic figures of all time. Through his numerous performances all over Europe, he enthralled and inspired every audience, including musicians of his era.

Niccolò Paganini (1819), by Ingres


 Listen to Joshua Bell and Sharon Isbin perform Paganini's Cantabile at the White House Evening of Classical Music on 4 November 2009.


Hector Berlioz
Franz Schubert was mystified by him, Rossini was appalled by him, and Meyerbeer followed him from one concert to another not being able to get enough of his playing. Berlioz has described Paganini as "one of those artists of whom it must be said: 'They are because they are and not because others were before them'." In Paris, Liszt came under Paganini's spell and was so stimulated by his fabulous technical virtuosity, determined to accomplish similar miracles with the piano, and pushed his technique to the highest limits.

Paganini was considered a genius, a god, a devil worshiper, anything but that of reality. There was a rumor, for instance, that when Niccolo was only six, his mother made a pact with the Devil and is said to have traded his soul for a career as the greatest violinist in the world.

Paganini was a legend. In fact, he was so amazing no audience could succumb to any type of disturbance during the trance he created through his musical renditions. After borrowing a Guarnerius violin for a single concert, the lender begged him to keep it for fear of coming under Paganini's supernatural powers. He also won a Stradivarius violin in a similar manner by playing a technical piece by sight which was insisted that nobody could perform even after preparation.


 
1831 bulletin advertising a performance of Paganini
Besides his superb technical ability, his cadaverous appearance led to myths of all sorts. He was tall and thin, had a long nose, a pale and long-drawn face with hollow cheeks, thin lips that seemed to curl into a sardonic smile, and piercing eyes like flaming coals. The rumor was spread that he was the son of the Devil. It was difficult to think much otherwise as Paganini dressed in black, played weaving and flailing, with skinny fingers cavorting over the strings, and contorted shoulders giving him the appearance of a giant flapping bat. Paganini's every movement and every tone emanating from his violin seemed to support the 300-year-old myth that the violin was the "Devil's consort" and that the violinist himself was the Devil. Some people, when in his presence, would actually make the sign of the cross to rid themselves of what they believed were his evil powers. He was once forced to publish letters from his mother to prove he had human parents.

Whenever and wherever he played, he aroused tenor and awe in his audiences. There was the rumor that a satanic figure, a double of Paganini, always appeared in the audience in sombre black with the same long black locks, burning eyes, and sardonic smile. Or else the figure appeared on the stage at Paganini's side dressed in a red cloak and pantaloons, with horns, hooves, and a tail to guide Paganini's bow arm through a performance. It was believed that this figure raised a thunderstorm, during a concert and conducted lightening to the free end of the bow, and at another performance he actually took possession of Paganini's body. In spite of his appearance and the suspicions, however, he was worshiped wherever he went.

All parts of Europe were delighted with his music and women were spellbound at the sound of his hypnotic melodies. There was another rumor that he was the greatest womanizer of all time and that he killed a woman, imprisoned her soul in his violin, and used parts of her intestines as an eternal source of gut for his strings. The unearthly screams of women were sometimes heard coming from his violin as he played on stage.

Paganini was born of a poor family in 1782 at Genoa and showed a natural talent at a very early age. His father wanted his son to be a genius and did everything in his power to make that come true. He stood by him consistently when he practiced disciplining him severely with a rod that was seldom spared. His father was quite successful in his persistence for at the age of eight, he played a Pie yel Concerto in a Genoa church. He so enthralled the audience, that his playing became in great demand for local social gatherings. His teachers at that time were Giovanni Servetto and Giacomo Costa. When he turned nine, he made an official debut in a Genoa concert auditorium playing his own composition, La Carmagnole which is a theme and variations. By age thirteen, he was known throughout the town as the "wonderchild."

He continued with his studies in Leghorn with Ferdinando Paer and in Parma with Alessandro Rolla, which began his first extended concert tour. He succeeded rapidly in the cities of Lombardy playing many of his own electrifying compositions.

At the age of seventeen, he was on his own. He no longer needed financial assistance from his father and broke away assured of his talent. Freed for the first time of his father's strictness, he gave in to his two passions - women and gambling -- to which he was thenceforth to be addicted.

At the turn of the century, he disappeared from the public eye. It is generally believed that he fell in love with a Guscan noble lady and lived with her at her chateau. At this time, he abandoned the violin temporarily because of his mistress' wishes and concentrated his virtuoso and creative gifts on the guitar. He also composed several pieces and chamber works for the guitar. But, after three years, he returned to his native city to study, play, and compose at full intensity.

The most amazing stories were heard about his performances. The most famous is of the concert in Leghorn. When a string of his violin snapped in an intricate passage, the audience began expressing derision. But when Paganini continued to play the piece on three strings instead of four, the derision turned to wonder and awe. From then on Paganini would not hesitate to use this devise on purpose to further entrance his audience. Often he would use worn strings so that he could complete his performance on three or even two strings when they snapped. Later he got the idea to write entire pieces for a single string, such as the Fantasia on the G String.

By 1813, Paganini became the greatest violinist of his day and the most worshiped. He spent the next decade and a half performing numerous concerts throughout Italy. His health, however, was turning bad which limited his touring voyages to his own country. When he finally left his country to perform in other parts of Europe, the concert halls were filled immediately and crowds rushed to see for themselves the creature that was so talked about. In 1828, he was in Vienna where he hypnotized his audience. Everyone was talking about him. Snacks and billiard shots were named after him.

After Vienna, he traveled extensively throughout Germany and in 1831, he arrived in Paris, his ultimate goal. In Paris, there was a study made of him because his unusual appearance created an abnormal "presence" about him. Up until then there was no challenge as to the idea that he was possessed by the devil or was some sort of god himself. Through this study, however, it was found that his physical characteristics were linked to his mental abilities; the same qualities which characterize a genius.

In his tour to England and Scotland, Paganini made the largest sum of money that any performing artist had earned up to that time in a single trip.

He returned to Italy and purchased an estate near Parma where he made several concert appearances despite his suffering from poor health. He lost some of his fortune in a gambling house named after him, thus making him restless and weary. He started coughing and eventually lost his voice completely in 1838. He went to Nice for a rest cure - but neither rested nor was cured. He spent his last hours improvising feverishly on his violin, defying his rapidly waning strength. Finally, he died on May 27, 1840.



Paganini on his death bed

For five years the Church, disturbed as to his orthodoxy, refused his body interment in consecrated ground, and so it was laid to rest in a village graveyard on his own estate. The people in nearby towns use to say that every night they heard the sounds of a ghostly violin emanating from that coffin. The legend of Paganini's life lasted until the very end.

   
Reposted From Guitarra Magazine



The Composer and his Muse: Gabriel Faure, Emma Bardac, Adela Maddison and Marguerite Hasselmans


Gabriel Urbain Fauré was a French Romantic composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs "Après un rêve" and "Clair de lune", ("Moonlight") Op. 46 No 2, a song composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine. The lyric is from Verlaine's early collection Fêtes galantes (1869). It inspired not only Fauré but Claude Debussy, who set it in 1881 and wrote a well known piano piece inspired by it in 1891.



Though he lived well into the 20th century, he was born when Chopin was still alive and only eighteen years after Beethoven's death. Most of the Romantic era's composers were his contemporaries, he came to know many of them and outlived most of them.




A master of his craft and innovative in his work, his now classic Requiem was performed at the memorial service for singer Bing Crosby at New York's St. Bartholomew's Church (where the young Leopold Stokowski had been the organist). His music, now a staple of his country's literature, ultimately and perhaps even inevitably made him famous and respected by the musical world - and he was quite deaf toward the end of his life. Beethoven, whose deafness manifested itself relatively early, had lamented why he himself should be ". . . lacking in the sense in which I should be more perfect than others." It takes little effort to imagine the same thought in the mind of composer Gabriel Fauré.

In 1883 Fauré married Marie Fremiet, the daughter of a leading sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet. The marriage was affectionate, but Marie became resentful of Fauré's frequent absences, his dislike of domestic life – "horreur du domicile" – and his love affairs, while she remained at home.

Emma Bardac
According to Grove's Dictionary of Music & Musicians, ". . . Although he always retained a great affection for his wife, her withdrawn, bitter and difficult character, coupled with Fauré's keen sensuality and desire to please, explain his infidelities." Fauré ultimately had significant liaisons with other (considerably younger) women, each of whom played an important role in his life. Among them were Winnaretta Singer (of Singer Sewing Machines), who commissioned works from him and offered practical assistance, and Emma Bardac, who inspired a song cycle.

Gabriel Fauré's liaison with Emma Bardac in Duchen's words, "began for the first time, in his late forties", he experienced a fulfilling, passionate relationship which extended over several years. His principal biographers all agree that this affair inspired burst of creativity and a new originality in his music, exemplified in the song cycle La bonne chanson. Fauré wrote the Dolly Suite for piano duet between 1894 and 1897 and dedicated it to Bardac's daughter Hélène, known as "Dolly". Some people suspected that Fauré was Dolly's father, but biographers including Nectoux and Duchen think it unlikely. Fauré's affair with Emma Bardac is thought to have begun after Dolly was born, though there is no conclusive evidence either way. Emma later divorced her husband in order to marry another composer - Claude Debussy, his second wife.





Adela Maddison in The Sketch, 1910
Adela Maddison, the beautiful brunette Irish wife of an English attorney who directed a small publishing entity, played the piano and even composed. Her relationship with Fauré initially involved the publication and promotion of Fauré's music in England, to which end she translated some of his songs into English.

From around 1894, Maddison and her husband played a major part in encouraging and facilitating Fauré's entry onto the London musical scene. She became Fauré's pupil, and he thought her a gifted composer. She composed a number of mélodies, setting the works of poets such as Sully Prudhomme, Coppée, Verlaine and Samain in 1900 Fauré told the latter that her treatment of his poem Hiver was masterly.

During 1898 – c. 1905, she lived in Paris without her husband; Fauré's biographer Robert Orledge believes there was a romantic liaison with Fauré, who dedicated his Nocturne No. 7, Op. 74, to her in 1898; this piece was expressive of his feelings towards her, according to Orledge.





Eventually she developed a passion for the admiration and advocacy of his music, and perhaps inevitably, for him as well: leaving her husband and two children in England, she moved to Paris to be near Fauré.

Gabriel Fauré and Marguerite Hasselmans
In August 1900 Fauré met the stunning Marguerite Hasselmans, 31 years his junior. He was 55, the same age as her father. She operatively became Fauré's mistress for the remaining 24 years of his life. She read Russian, conversed philosophically, was bold enough to smoke in public and wear makeup, and was a musician. Their union was a kind of second marriage: they were seldom apart. She taught piano at their Paris residence and took part in public performances of his work. Her presence at the inception of Fauré's music during this period gave her a special and perhaps even unique insight into these works and a first-hand perception of how they should be performed.

Fauré met Marguerite Long in 1903, a student pianist to whom he was introduced by her teacher. He was impressed enough with her skill and interpretation of his piano music to have her study with him. She ultimately promoted Fauré's work significantly by frequently playing it in public, but this became a mixed blessing for the composer. Marguerite Long associated herself with Fauré and his reputation with a zealous ambition that eventually irritated him and wore his patience thin. She proclaimed herself as being "the sole heiress to the Fauré tradition," which prompted him to describe her to an intimate as, "a shameless woman who uses my name to get on." It's still very much to her credit that she continued championing Fauré's music as long as she lived.

Gabriel Fauré suffered from poor health in his later years, brought on in part by heavy smoking. Despite this, he remained available to young composers, including members of Les Six, most of whom were devoted to him. Nectoux writes, "In old age he attained a kind of serenity, without losing any of his remarkable spiritual vitality, but rather removed from the sensualism and the passion of the works he wrote between 1875 and 1895."

In his last months, Gabriel Fauré struggled to complete a string quartet. Twenty years earlier he had been the dedicatee of Ravel's String Quartet. Ravel and others urged Fauré to compose one of his own. He refused for many years, on the grounds that it was too difficult. When he finally decided to write it, he did so in trepidation, telling his wife, "I've started a Quartet for strings, without piano. This is a genre which L.v. Beethoven in particular made famous, and causes all those who are not L.v. Beethoven to be terrified of it." He worked on the piece for a year, finishing it on September 11, 1924, less than two months before he died, working long hours towards the end to complete it. The quartet was premiered after his death; he declined an offer to have it performed privately for him in his last days, as his hearing had deteriorated to the point where musical sounds were horribly distorted in his ear.




Gabriel Fauré died in Paris from pneumonia on November 4, 1924 at the age of 79. He was given a state funeral at the Église de la Madeleine and is buried in the Passy Cemetery in Paris.



Sources:
bach-cantatas.com
www.mfiles.co.uk/composers
 https://en.wikipedia.org

The Story Behind Beethoven’s Rage Over A Lost Penny

Beethoven’s rage was as famous as his cantankerous household habits.

He moved dozens of times, often the result of a dispute with the landlord.

Once Beethoven cut a hole in the wall of his RENTAL apartment, because he thought there was a fine view of the Cathedral that he was missing.

His landlord was a little perturbed, having not been told of Beethoven’s whimsical alterations.

Beethoven’s reaction was to get mad at the landlord, and immediately move to another apartment, leaving the huge hole in wall.

Beethoven was also known to play the piano loudly, and many complaints were registered by neighbors about the great composer’s strange hours.

He was famous for his disputes with his housekeepers, and had trouble finding anyone who would work in a household in such constant turmoil.

There were complaints by neighbors of loud crashing noises as Beethoven threw plates and books at the maids he had hired to serve him.

Beethoven often accused the maids of stealing coins from him.

And the Maestro’s dining habits left much to be desired.

One housekeeper would bring him a tray of food only to find that it was untouched weeks later. Uneaten trays of food piled up in the corner, right next to stacks of scores of the great genius’s symphonies.

But Beethoven was more likely to eat at the neighborhood pub than his lonely apartments.

He was a fixture at the local bar and would drink red wine in his private booth.

At one point Beethoven was composing his famed RONDO CAPRICCIO, a booming and boisterous piece that exuded energy and vitality.

One night a neighbor heard a loud dispute.

Beethoven was in a rage, accusing a maid of stealing a gold penny, and he was screaming. The maid ran out, never to be heard from again.

The neighbor then heard furniture crashing, and he could only conclude that the great Maestro was tipping over furniture, madly looking for the lost gold penny.

The story spread through the neighborhood, and became part of the legend of Beethoven’s bad moods and curmudgeonly behavior.

But more remarkable is the fact that the piece Beethoven was composing at the time of this story, the RONDO CAPRICCIO, became nicknamed the RAGE OVER A LOST PENNY for its rollicking, pounding enthusiasm.


It remains one of Beethoven’s most cherished masterpieces.




Read more


The Composer and his Muse: Igor Stravinsky and Coco Chanel

A Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor Stravinsky is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century.


Stravinsky first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Serge Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.



Written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, with choreography by Michel Fokine Firebird has historic significance not only as Stravinsky's breakthrough piece, but also as the beginning of the collaboration between Diaghilev and Stravinsky that would also produce Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, Pulcinella and others.

The alleged affair between eminent Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and fashion design-icon Coco Chanel is shrouded in mystery. The relationship is claimed to have taken place while Stravinsky was still married to his second wife Vera, and she adamantly denied the credibility of Chanel’s assertions in her biography (written by Paul Morand) that she and Stravinsky were lovers.

The two definitely met, introduced by Ballet Russes impresario Sergei Diaghilev in 1920. Indeed Chanel invited the whole Stravinsky family to stay with her in Paris for eight months, and it is also claimed that Chanel personally underwrote the 1920 Ballet Russes production of The Rite of Spring with a donation of 300,000 francs.


While the truth of their relationship remains an enigma, it is nonetheless an exciting thought that two such influential and iconic artists may have shared a secret tryst.

Read more


Johanne Strauss The Waltz King


Johann Strauss was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as "The Waltz King", and was largely then responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century. 








Some of Johann Strauss' most famous works include "The Blue Danube", "Kaiser-Walzer" (Emperor Waltz), "Tales from the Vienna Woods", and the "Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka". Among his operettas, Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron are the best known.




Johannes Brahms was a personal friend of Strauss; the latter dedicated his waltz "Seid umschlungen, Millionen!" ("Be Embraced, You Millions!"), Op. 443, to him.



A story is told in biographies of both men that Strauss's wife Adele approached Brahms with a customary request that he autograph her fan. It was usual for the composer to inscribe a few measures of his best-known music, and then sign his name. Brahms, however, inscribed a few measures from the "Blue Danube", and then wrote beneath it: "Unfortunately, NOT by Johannes Brahms.


Van Cliburn





Van Cliburn is one of the most celebrated pianist this country has produced. Though he will always be remembered as the winner of the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and remains the only American ever to have won it.

His mother, an accomplished pianist and piano teacher, discovered him playing at age three and mimicking one of her students. She arranged for him to start taking lessons. He developed a rich, round tone and a singing voice-like phrasing, having been taught from the start to sing each piece.





Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1Played by Van Cliburn in Moscow, 1962. He was accompanied by Kirill Kondrashin.
 

Mr. Cliburn, a Texan, was a lanky 23-year-old when he clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition, and the feat, in Moscow, was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land.

When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York, he was given a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, which offered the sight of about 100,000 people lining the streets and cheering a classical musician. In a ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed that Mr. Cliburn’s accomplishment was “a dramatic testimonial to American culture” and that “with his two hands, Van Cliburn struck a chord which has resounded around the world, raising our prestige with artists and music lovers everywhere.”

In his 1999 memoir, “The Times of My Life,” Mr. Frankel recalled his coverage of Mr. Cliburn’s triumph in Moscow: “The Soviet public celebrated Cliburn not only for his artistry but for his nationality; affection for him was a safe expression of affection for America. My account of his rapturous reception landed on the front page of The Times two days before the pianist was crowned the contest winner because I posed the obvious question of whether the Soviet authorities would let an American beat out the finest Russian contestants. We now know that Khrushchev” — Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier — “personally approved Cliburn’s victory, making Van a hero at home and a symbol of a new maturity in relations between the two societies.”

Mr. Cliburn was a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands spanned 12 notes each. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested solid musical instincts. At its best, his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a juror for the competition, described Mr. Cliburn as a genius — a word, he added, “I do not use lightly about performers.”

But if the Tchaikovsky competition represented Mr. Cliburn’s breakthrough, it also turned out to be his undoing. Relying inordinately on his keen musical instincts, he was not an especially probing artist, and his growth was stalled by his early success. Audiences everywhere wanted to hear him in his prizewinning pieces, the Tchaikovsky First Concerto and the Rachmaninoff Third. Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.

“When I won the Tchaikovsky I was only 23, and everyone talked about that,” Mr. Cliburn said in 2008. “But I felt like I had been at this thing for 20 years already. It was thrilling to be wanted. But it was pressure, too.”

His subsequent explorations of wider repertory grew increasingly insecure. During the 1960s he played less and less. By 1978 he had retired from the concert stage; he returned in 1989, but performed rarely. Ultimately, his promise and potential were never fulfilled. But the extent of his talent was apparent early on.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition takes place every four years and holds the most extensive audition screening tour by judges of any international contest. The winner of the Cliburn gets three years of professional management, international bookings and publicity. This year's winner is Yekwon Sunwoo of South Korea. Sunwoo, trained at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School.




To promote music-making as a part of everyday life, the Cliburn established the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in 1999. Now a quadrennial forum for non-professional musicians, the competition is open to pianists age 35 and older who do not derive their principal source of income through piano performance or instruction.




Beethoven's touching response to a young fan



In the summer of 1812, a young aspiring pianist named Emilie sent her hero a beautiful hand-embroidered pocketbook to express her admiration for his artistic genius. Touched by the gesture, 41-year-old Beethoven wrote back, offering some simple yet profound words of encouragement and advice on the creative life — an exquisite micro-manifesto for what it means to be an artist and what art demands of those who make it.


This was Beethoven’s response which was included in the Michael Hamburger's documentary book Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations.

    My dear good Emilie, my dear Friend!

    Do not only practice art, but get at the very heart of it; this it deserves, for only art and science raise men to the God-head. If, my dear Emilie, you at any time wish to know something, write without hesitation to me. The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.

    I would, perhaps, rather come to you and your people, than to many rich folk who display inward poverty. If one day I should come to [your town], I will come to you, to your house; I know no other excellencies in man than those which causes him to rank among better men; where I find this, there is my home.

    If you wish, dear Emilie, to write to me, only address straight here where I shall be still for the next four weeks, or to Vienna; it is all one. Look upon me as your friend, and as the friend of your family.


Beethoven Suffered from Lead Poisoning


New tests confirm that Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from lead poisoning. The legendary composer, who experienced decades of illness that left him in misery for most of his life, died in 1827.

Researchers aren't sure why his lead levels were so high, but they have some ideas. "There are many possibilities," says Bill Walsh, who headed a team that studied Beethoven's hair samples and fragments from his skull at the Department of Energy laboratory in Argonne, Ill.

The composer was a wine lover, and wine at the time was known to contain high lead levels. He also drank out of a goblet made partially of lead and stayed at a spa where he drank mineral water, Walsh says. But Walsh says Beethoven may not have been exposed to higher-than-normal lead levels. The composer may have been hyper-sensitive to lead and his body may not have been able to eliminate it, Walsh says. Walsh says researchers are convinced the hair and bone samples they tested are Beethoven's because they came from two different sources and were matched by DNA tests.

Beethoven's Ear Horns


Beethoven's Last Days

Beethoven wrote a series of quartets, known as the "Late Quartets," the last quartets amidst failing health. In April 1825 he was bedridden, and remained ill for about a month. The illness—or more precisely, his recovery from it—is remembered for having given rise to the deeply felt slow movement of the Fifteenth Quartet, which Beethoven called "Holy song of thanks ('Heiliger Dankgesang') to the divinity, from one made well." He went on to complete the quartets now numbered Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth. The last work completed by Beethoven was the substitute final movement of the Thirteenth Quartet.

Of the late quartets, Beethoven's favorite was the Fourteenth Quartet, op. 131 in C♯ minor, which he rated as his most perfect single work. The last musical wish of Schubert was to hear the Op. 131 quartet, which he did on 14 November 1828, five days before his death.



Beethoven was bedridden for most of his remaining months, and many friends came to visit. He died on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56 during a thunderstorm. His friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, said that there was a peal of thunder at the moment of death.

The following art works and objects describe Beethoven's final days and the accounts of eye witnesses, including the young man who clipped Beethoven's  lock of hair, Ferdinand Hiller.

Beethoven on his deathbed

Beethoven on his deathbed (Beethoven auf dem Sterbelager)

Reproduction of an engraving by J. Adé, based on a drawing by Wilhelm von Lindenschmit (date unknown)


This original drawing was probably by Lindenschmit the Younger (1829-1895), whose father was also a well-known historical painter. His paintings on musical subjects include Hall of Fame of German Music (1740-1867) [Ruhmeshalle der deutschen Musik (1740-1867)], which depicted the most famous German musicians surrounding a platform on which sat Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, among others. In Beethoven On His Deathbed, the man holding Beethoven's hand appears to be J.N. Hummel, but the young man in the back of the room is likely meant to be Gerhard von Breuning, the son of Beethoven's childhood friend Stephan.


Hummel portrait

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Hummel was one of the greatest composers and fortepianists of his time, both friend and rival of Beethoven. A child prodigy, he studied with Mozart and like Beethoven learned composition from Albrechtsberger, Salieri, and Haydn.

In 1804 he left Vienna to serve as Kapellmeister of Prince Esterhazy's court orchestra, but returned in 1811 to focus on composition and performance in Vienna's theaters.

In 1813 he married the singer Elisabeth Röckel (1793-1883), who Beethoven knew and was very fond of. Elisabeth was the sister of Josef August Röckel, the tenor who sang the role of Florestan in the 1806 revival of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. Hummel's relationship with Beethoven was occasionally strained; Beethoven was said to have taken offense to Hummel's criticism of his Mass in C. However, the friendship persevered, and in 1814 Beethoven enlisted Hummel as the percussionist for a performance of hisWellington's Victory, with this delightful letter:

"Most charming Hummel! Please conduct this time too the drum-rolls and cannonades with your excellent Kapellmeister's and Master of the Ordnance's baton-Please do so. If you would like me to cannonade you sometime, I am at your service, both body and soul. Your friend, Beethoven."

Hummel left Vienna in 1816, and became court conductor in Weimar two years later. His sense of loss at Beethoven's death was strongly felt. When hearing of Beethoven's grave illness, he and his wife rushed to Vienna from Weimar with Ferdinand Hiller in tow to pay their last respects. They kept some mementos of that final meeting, including the last quill Beethoven used and a lock of his hair (now in the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn). Hummel served as a pallbearer at the funeral and he performed at the memorial concert, improvising themes from Beethoven's works on the fortepiano.

Photo of Ferdinand Hiller

Ferdinand Hiller from ca. 1855


Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885) was a German conductor, composer, teacher and a close friend of Felix Mendelssohn. At the age of thirteen he began musical studies with J.N. Hummel in Weimar, and in 1827 he traveled with Hummel to Vienna to visit Beethoven on his deathbed.

An excerpt from his reminiscences of this visit follows:

"On March 13th, Hummel took me to see Beethoven for the second time. We found that his condition had deteriorated considerably. He lay in his bed, seemed to be suffering great pain and at times uttered a deep groan; nevertheless, he spoke freely and vigorously. He seemed to be deeply concerned with his failure to enter the married state. Already during our first visit he joked about this with Hummel, whose wife he had known as a young and beautiful girl. This time he said to him, smiling: 'You are a lucky fellow: you have a wife, she looks after you, she is in love with you-- but I'm a poor bachelor!' -- and he sighed deeply. Also, he begged Hummel to bring his wife, who had been unwilling to face in his present state a man whom she had known at the height of his powers ..."

"When we stood beside his bed once more on the 20th, it was certainly clear from his remarks how greatly this attention had pleased him; but he was extremely weak and spoke only softly, in clipped sentences. 'I rather think I shall soon be setting out on the upward journey,' he whispered after our greeting. Similar exclamations occurred frequently; but, in between, he spoke of his plans and hopes, neither of which, unfortunately, were to be realized. Speaking of the noble conduct of the Philharmonic Society and praising the English, he said that it was his intention to leave for England as soon as his condition had improved. 'I wish to compose a grand overture and a grand symphony for them.' And then, too, he wished to visit Frau Hummel (who had come with her husband) and go to Heaven knows how many different places. It did not occur to us to write down anything for him. His eyes, which during our last visit had still been quite lively, were now drooping and only with difficulty could he sit up from time to time. We could no longer deceive ourselves: the worst was to be feared."



Ferdinand Hiller was not the only visitor who wanted a lock of hair as a remembrance of the composer. Beethoven's young friend Gerhard von Breuning reported that

"On March 29 I went with my father to Beethoven's dwelling and wanted to cut off a lock of his hair. Father had not allowed me to do this before the lying-in-state ended, in order not to spoil his appearance; but now we found that strangers [sic] had already cut off all his hair." (Memories of Beethoven, ed. Maynard Solomon, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992).



Reproduction of Beethoven's death mask

Death mask by Joseph Danhauser (1827)

Reproduction in plaster
The painter Joseph Danhauser (1805-1845) made a plaster mask of Beethoven's face shortly after Beethoven's death.

Danhauser's brother Carl recorded the story:

"On March 26 [1827] early in the morning while we were still asleep, Ranftl knocked on our door and brought in the news that Beethoven had died in the night."

"Since we had a plaster in our firm, my brother Joseph, who in the course of his studies of heads had been prompted to try that sort of work, immediately struck on the idea of taking a death mask of the departed great man. We dressed quickly, had the horses harnessed and since the stucco worker Hofmann had arrived in the meanwhile, we took him along with us in the carriage."

"It was still early in the morning as we arrived at the dead man's house, and we could find no one who could tell us anything. Finally, a woman let us go upstairs, and as we arrived at the landing we found an open entrance hall; the door leading to the next room was ajar, so we lifted the latch and went in. A bed stood against the main wall of this room, and in this bed lay Beethoven's body."

"Since during the dead man's illness his beard had grown very thick, we sent the plasterer to fetch a barber, who shaved him clean. The barber's apprentice said that he could never use the razor again after he had shaved a dead man with it. I bought it from him."

"In the meanwhile we had cut off two locks from the temple where it grew thickly, as a memento of the celebrated head, and then we went to work. My brother, who knew less about this kind of work than the plasterer, was glad to have him help, and so we soon obtained a good cast which we brought home with great care; for my brother, a painter, had conceived the idea of trying his hand at modeling and at producing a bust of Beethoven. He went right away to work and actually succeeded in making a bust of the master ..." [From H.C. Robbins Landon, Beethoven: a documentary study]

The earliest known extant cast of the death mask was given by Danhauser to Franz Liszt in 1840 and is now in Vienna at the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien. Another cast is at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn.

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How Classical Music Advanced the Civil Rights Movement

Remembering Marian Anderson's landmark Met performance, 60 years later


Marian Anderson Acting On Stage
Marian Anderson acting on stage during the Metropolitan Opera production of Un Ballo in Maschera, New York City, January 8, 1955. Afro Newspaper—Gado/Getty Images

Anderson, fittingly, had a habit of rhetorically erasing her own significance by referring to herself as “one” — and she didn’t behave like the typical prima donna in her debut at the Met:
“I’m not quite sure it’s happening,” Contralto Anderson told friends and reporters [after the performance]. Apologizing for her jitters, she added: “A serious person, when beginning anything, is usually a little overanxious.” … As for the possibility of other roles at the Met, she said in her modest, impersonal way: “One is so involved in this one, no other has been thought about.”
Meanwhile, out in the packed house, it was the crowd that lifted the singer to hero status: “There were eight curtain calls. ‘Anderson! Anderson!’ chanted the standees,” TIME reported, “and men and women in the audience wept.”


Reposted from Time.com 



THE MUSIC MAN Turning children on to classical music

The Dr. Fuddle Music Scholarship has been officially established! This is the first step in moving forward with the goal of establishing tuition-free conservatories of music worldwide and The Dr. Fuddle Foundation for the Arts.


Pianist, musicologist and author Dr. Warren Woodruff of Buckhead is a man on a mission: to instill a new generation with a love of classical music. A teacher for the last 30 years, he spreads his message wherever he goes and volunteers to help students with extraordinary talent.

In 2016, Woodruff endowed The Dr. Fuddle Music Scholarship to the Atlanta Music Club. The award was named after the hero of his children’s novels. Woodruff was instrumental in raising funds to develop a music therapy program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), as well as helping the hospital’s Tower of Talent event raise more than $1 million.

“I’ve seen firsthand how transformative and healing classical music can be,” Woodruff says. “It gives children joy and carries them through tough times. The power of music is the most untapped resource on the planet.”

The Magic Piano, a play written by Woodruff, debuted in Atlanta in 1999 and was so well received that he expanded it into a fantasy novel and screenplay titled Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton. A sequel to the book, a feature film and toys will debut this year.

“In the story, children go to a magical land where the great composers live and learn how to solve real world problems through music and nonviolence,” Woodruff says. 



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BY: Mickey Goodman
Photo: Tim Wilkerson Photography

Classical Music as Medicine

Instrumental healing: Tustin violinist turns lifelong hobby into music therapy for hospital patients – Orange County Register

One recent study uses classical music as a treatment for high blood pressure. Researchers took 90 men and women aged 40-74, and divided them into three groups. One group listened to music on a regular basis; another group took part in something called laughter yoga (where you force yourself to laugh until it starts to feel natural) while the third group served as a control, receiving neither music nor laughter.

At the end of the study, both the classical music group and the laughing group had lower blood pressure. And here’s the really good news: the difference was about the same as it would be if you lost 10 pounds or cut salt out of your diet (and I know what I’d rather do!)


Dr. Joanne Loewy uses live music during general anesthesia to sedate a patient before surgery

Another study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Music and Medicine, looked at recovery times for procedures such as hip or knee surgery. People in the study listened to music for at least 4 hours a day, with a control group who didn’t listen to any music.

The result? People who got the dose of music along with their other post-op medications recovered more quickly. Specifically, the music group tested significantly higher in the area of confusion and mental cognition than the control group. Given that reduced confusion and more cognition can equal less time in hospital, this musical study could have very real implications for health care.

Meanwhile, a doctor in Boston is investigating the connections between classical music and surgery.

Dr Claudius Conrad grew up studying music; he became quite an accomplished pianist before he turned to medicine. Now that he’s a surgeon, he sometimes listens to recordings of himself playing Mozart during operations. Conrad says there’s a clear connection: “In surgery, you do something that is comparable to a concert,” he says,” and like a concert situation, in surgery you want to do the most beautiful work you can under the most stress.”


Dr. Claudius Conrad has studied how the mechanisms of Mozart’s music seemed to ease the pain of some patients. Credit C.J. Gunther for The New York Times

Finally, here’s an inspiring story from an orchestra in England. The Royal Liverpool Orchestra has won a very special award; not a Grammy or a Gramophone Award, but a special commendation for “Innovative and Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Arts and Health Practice” from the Royal Society for Public Health. The commendation celebrates the orchestra’s  Musician in Residence Program.



Members of the Royal Liverpool Orchestra bring their instruments into mental health wards to play for people with problems like depression, dementia, or brain injuries. From what the patients and staff say, there’s a very real benefit. Just having a symphony musician come and play for them makes people feel special. If there’s a chance to play, or sing along, that’s even better, helping make patients feel less isolated, more relaxed and confident, taking them outside their world of mental illness.

As the judging panel put it, “The Musician in Residence program is great value for money and it works. It aids recovery… (and) it would not be possible without the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and some very talented musicians.”

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The Composer and his Muse: Johannes Brahms and Soprano Agathe von Siebol



A couple of years before he had started composing the 1st String Sextet, Brahms was still living in his hometown of Hamburg in 1858 when a friend invited him to come check out Göttingen, a college town about 170 miles south. This friend, Julius Otto Grimm, composer, teacher and music director of the local choral society, the Cäcilienverein (Cecelia Club), wrote to him, “If it would please you to have a few good voices lodged in very lovely girls, sing for you, they will take pleasure in being at your disposal. Come quickly!” Odd that Brahms had hesitated, at first.

So, in the midst of working on a serenade originally for a small group of strings and winds, he did so reluctantly, even if it was part of a holiday with Clara Schumann, her five youngest children, her half-brother, composer Woldemar Bargiel and violinist Joseph Joachim. It didn’t, however, take Brahms long to succumb to the charms of the town and especially some of the young ladies in town – one soprano named Agathe von Siebold, in particular.

In addition to having long dark hair, a lush figure, a fondness for practical jokes and a voice that Joachim likened to an Amati violin, Agathe (left) was also studying composition with Julius Grimm who once berated her for some sloppy counterpoint exercises. When Brahms agreed to play a trick on his friend, he wrote out her assignment himself which she duly handed in as her own. Grimm exploded over this “swinish mess” and when Agathe asked “well, what if Johannes had written it,” he said it would be even worse. Here, Brahms had actually screwed it up on purpose, playing a joke on both of them.

At the end of this extended vacation, Brahms returned to Detmold, about 30 miles to the northwest as the crow flies, where he was employed part of the year as a “court musician,” performing with the orchestra there and teaching music to the family of Prince Leopold III. In addition to organizing chamber music concerts, he also conducted a women’s choir for whom he wrote numerous short choral works.

Visiting Göttingen again in 1859, he and Agathe continued their friendship and apparently became secretly engaged. According to his friends, they seemed perfectly happy with each other.

This quote from a memoir Agathe von Siebold

I think I may say that from that time until the present, a golden light has been cast on my life, and that even now, in my late old age, something of the radiance of that unforgettable time has remained.  I loved Johannes Brahms very much, and for a short time, he loved me.

Then he left for two performances of his finally completed D Minor Piano Concerto which was neither a success nor a failure in Hannover but which was frostily received in Leipzig five days later. After a long silence, perhaps three pairs of hands bothered to applaud before the hissing began. Critics called it “banal and horrid.”





By then, returning to see Agathe, Brahms suffered what today would be called “a fear of commitment.” When he wrote to her, "I love you! I must see you again! But I cannot wear fetters! Write me whether I may come back to fold you in my arms, to kiss you, to tell you that I love you!" she responded by breaking off the engagement.

To his friends, Brahms would admit to “playing the scoundrel” to Agathe. Over a decade later, he recalled those days, how he would like to have married but when his music was hissed in the concert hall and so icily received, he realized while this was something he himself could tolerate, returning alone to his room,

“...if, in such moments, I had had to meet the anxious, questioning eyes of a wife with the words ‘another failure’ – I could not have borne that! For a woman may love an artist… ever so much… and if she had wanted to comfort me – a wife to pity her husband for his lack of success – ach! I can’t stand to think what a hell that would have been.”

During the first months in Göttingen , he wrote several songs for Agathe to sing, many of them using a musical motif based on her name spelled out in certain available notes.

In the months following his break-up with Agathe, Brahms composed more songs, still occasionally employing the “Agathe Motive” but setting it to words about parting and lost love.

Brahms would use this “Agathe Motive” again in the 2nd String Sextet which he completed a few years after he and Agathe von Siebold parted ways.

Moving ahead a few years, Brahms had completed two new piano quartets and three versions of his Piano Quintet, before writing to his Göttingen friend Julius Grimm once again, asking how things were “in all the houses where one used to go so happily… of that house and gate – ” which he didn’t need to explain was the house where Agathe von Siebold lived with her father.

Grimm told him “the old Professor had died three years ago” and Agathe had taken a job the past year as a governess in Ireland where she teaches music and German to the daughters of a rich young English family. She had to get away, he said, from “the shadowed pages of her life… what a gloomy lot is that of a girl alone.”

Brahms returned to Göttingen and stood by that ruined gate, looking at the empty house (such images typical of the lovelorn poetry of the Romantic Age). In September, he composed the devastated and exalted songs of Op. 32 which included the lines “I would like to stop living, to perish instantly, and yet I would like to live for you, with you, and never die.”





That same month, he began the first movement of the 2nd String Sextet. The second movement was based on a Baroque-like gavotte he’d written (part of a collection of tongue-in-cheek dances in the early-1850s) contrasting with a jocose middle section. The original sketch of the slow movement’s variations was written in 1855 and the overall sound is basically “wandering, empty, tragic.” The finale sounds like it might be a proper scherzo with a warm contrasting section with a bit of a dance to it: perhaps a “last dance, at the end of an affair,” as Swafford describes it.




The opening is a gem of a motive – This is Agathe’s Motive - and at its most obvious, climactic point, it is repeated five times. Yet this time, there is another note inserted within the motive – a D (see above) – which helps spell out the word “adé” or “Adieux, Farewell” in the inner voices. One could even sing "Agathe, adé" to this fragment of a melody.

Brahms is certainly saying farewell to Agathe, taking his leave, musically if not emotionally. Yet in the very first song he wrote for her – Op.14 No. 1 of 1858 – this “adé” motive appears when the night-watchman sounds his horn as the lovers part.




We may think of this as purely abstract music with no literary allusions or suggestions of telling a story, the sort of thing Liszt and the New German School espoused. But even Brahms must have had something on his mind, here, when he was writing this – a young girl who used to sing his songs for him and with whom he once contemplated marriage.

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Johannes Brahms: 15 facts about the great composer


Johannes Brahms is one of the Romantic period's most revered and popular composers - but how much do you really know? Here are 15 essential facts about the great man. 




1. Brahms is born!

Johannes Brahms was born on May 7th 1833 in Hamburg, Germany.
jakob brahms, Brahms' father


2. Son to a musical spare man



Brahms' father, Jokob (pictured), found employment as a jobbing musician, mostly getting work from playing the double bass and the French horn.


3. Earning a crust



The young Brahms was forced to play the piano in dance halls to contribute to the family's income as they were so poor.


4. Embarrassing early compositions?

An early starter, Brahms began composing when he was just 11. However, when he was older, he found them a bit embarrassing and destroyed the majority of them.


5. Sleeping on the job



Brahms apparently upset his host when he saw Liszt perform his own Sonata in B Minor at the Court of Weimar. Claiming that he was exhausted from traveling, Brahms fell asleep while the work was being played.



6. New Paths



Robert Schumann was so impressed with Brahms' talent when they met that he was inspired to write an essay entitled 'Neue Bahnen' ('New Paths') which gave Brahms a lot of publicity.



7. Gypsy influence

Brahms met a Hungarian refugee and violinist by the name of Eduard Remenyi (left) in 1850, and was introduced to a whole range of folk and gypsy music that massively influenced his composing style.


8. An epic first symphony

Although Brahms began composing his first symphony in 1854, it wasn't premiered until November 1876, 22 years later. The whole piece underwent severe edits until he was completely happy with it.


 

9. A shoulder to cry on



When Schumann died in 1856, Brahms immediately went to Düsseldorf to be with Schumann's wife, Clara. It's unclear exactly what kind of relationship the two had, but they destroyed a large amount of their letters to each other, possibly suggesting that they had something to hide…



10. The War of the Romantics

The so-called War of the Romantics was basically a musical argument between composers like Wagner and Liszt, who represented a more radical approach to music, and more conservative artists like Brahms and Clara Schumann. As a result, Brahms has always been seen as something of an old-fashioned composer, despite still being extremely popular today.



11. An outdoor type

Brahms was very much an outdoors-y sort. When he wasn't traveling around Europe for concert tours, he was fond of traveling to the hills of Italy for walking holidays and to retreat for solitary composing.



12. Inspired by grief

When his mother died in 1865, Brahms was overcome with grief. It is speculated that this led him to compose his German Requiem, one of the most celebrated works from his career. However, the premiere of the piece was a disaster - the timpanist misread the dynamics as 'ff' (very loud) instead of 'pf' (quiet) and drowned the other musicians out.



 
13. Wagner - not a fan



Perhaps due to their musical opposition to one another, Wagner (pictured) and Brahms weren't exactly best friends when they met in Vienna in 1864, after Brahms moved there to direct the Vienna Singakademie. Wagner later attacked Brahms in the press.


14. Early retirement?

When he was 57, Brahms announced that he was finished with composing. However, he was clearly unable to stop his creativity - he produced some incredible late-period works, especially for the clarinet, like his Clarinet Sonatas, Trio and Quintet.





 

15. Death



Brahms died of either pancreatic or liver cancer (evidence is unclear) on April 3rd 1897. The British composer Hubert Parry (pictured) composed a musical tribute to him, his Elegy for Brahms, in the same year.


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