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.




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