Amazing Women in Classical Music History

All pioneering and inspiring in their stories and music.



Ethel Smyth


 

One of this country's greatest composers was an English composer from Sidcup, Kent in 1858. Her father was opposed to her pursuing a career in music, but Smyth was determined to make it as a composer and her studies led her all the way to the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory. Her compositions include works for voice, piano, chamber groups and orchestra. In 1910 she joined the women’s suffrage movement and her composition The March of the Women became the anthem of movement. Smyth was awarded Damehood in 1922 - the first female composer ever to receive such an honour.

Teresa Carreño



Teresa Carreño was a pianist, singer, composer and conductor born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1853. Her father was from a very musical family and gave her music lessons from an early age and was quite the prodigy. Over her life she became a world renowned pianist and composed around 75 pieces for voice, piano, choir, orchestra and instrumental ensemble. She also sang roles in operas like Don Giovanni, Les Huguenots and many more. What a star.


Marianna Martines

 

 

Let's go back to Vienna in 1744 where an exceptional pianist, singer and composer was born. Marianna Martines took keyboard lessons from none other than Joseph Haydn (you'd want to do you practise with a teacher like that). She soon began to show a talent for composition and took lessons with Imperial Court composer Giuseppe Bonno. As her music became more well known she joined the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna in 1773 and really indulged in the Italian style (it was very fashionable at the time). Her compositions included two oratorios in Italian as well as a number of cantatas, motets and masses - and here's one of her sonatas.


Isabella Leonarda

 

 

Isabella Leonarda was a composer from Novara, Italy. She entered the Collegio di Sant'Orsola, an Ursuline convent, at the age of 16 and remained there for the rest of her life. Her compositions spanned almost every genre of sacred music, including psalms, responsories and Magnificats. She was also the first woman to publish sonatas, writing many in her lifetime. Listen to her 'Sonata duodecima' for violin solo and continuo - it's just stunning.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre



Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was a French harpsichordist and composer, born in Paris in 1665, into a wonderful (and possibly quite noisy) family of musicians and instrument-makers. She received her music education as a child from her father, performing to King Louis XIV at a young age. As a teenager her education was overseen by the king’s mistress in the French court. After her marriage in 1684 she taught, performed around Paris and composed opera and ballet. Her opera Céphale et Procris was the first opera to be published by a woman in France.

Augusta Browne
This American composer and author was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1820 and crossed the Atlantic with family when she was a child. She gained fame in the mid-1800s as part of the first wave of female composers in the US. She liked to compose music that would be enjoyed by the masses, writing over 200 works for piano and voice in addition to numerous hymns and secular pieces. She was also a rather outspoken writer and music critic.

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Happy Birthday Clara Schumann

 Composing gives me great pleasure... there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.
— Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann. Together they encouraged Johannes Brahms. She was the first to perform publicly any work by Brahms.


Clara Schumann had a brilliant career as a pianist from the age of 13 up to her marriage. Her marriage to Schumann was opposed by her father. She continued to perform and compose after the marriage even as she raised seven children.

In the various tours on which she accompanied her husband, she extended her own reputation further than the outskirts of Germany, and it was thanks to her efforts that his compositions became generally known in Europe. Johannes Brahms, at age 20, met the couple in 1853 and his friendship with Clara Schumann lasted until her death. J. Brahms helped Clara Schumann through the illness of her husband with a caring that bordered on love. Later that year, she also met violinist Joseph Joachim who became one of her frequent performance partners. Clara Schumann is credited with refining the tastes of audiences through her presentation of works by earlier composers including those of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven as well as those of Robert Schumann and J. Brahms.

Although for many years after her death Clara Schumann was not widely recognized as a composer, as a pianist she made an impression which lasts until today. She was one of the first pianists to perform from memory, making that the standard for concertizing. Trained by her father to play by ear and to memorize, she gave public performances from memory as early as age thirteen, a fact noted as something exceptional by her reviewers.

She was also instrumental in changing the kind of programs expected of concert pianists. In her early career, before her marriage to Robert, she played what was then customary, mainly bravura pieces designed to showcase the artist's technique, often in the form of arrangements or variations on popular themes from operas, written by virtuosos such as Thalberg, Herz, or Henselt. And, as it was also customary to play one's own compositions, she included at least one of her own works in every program, works such as her Variations on a Theme by Bellini (Op. 8) and her popular Scherzo (Op. 10). However, as she became a more independent artist, her repertoire contained mainly music by leading composers.


Clara Schumann, "one of the most soulful and famous pianists of the day", according to Edvard Grieg

Clara Schumann's influence also spread through her teaching, which emphasized a singing tone and expression, with technique entirely subordinated to the intentions of the composer. One of her students, Mathilde Verne, carried her teaching to England where she taught, among others, Solomon; while another of her students, Carl Friedberg, carried the tradition to the Juilliard School in America, where his students included Malcolm Frager and Bruce Hungerford.

Clara was also instrumental in getting the works of Robert Schumann recognized, appreciated and added to the repertoire. She promoted him tirelessly, beginning when his music was unknown or disliked, when the only other important figure in music to play Schumann occasionally was Liszt, and continuing until the end of her long career.

Happy Birthday John Cage!



An American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.

Born in Los Angeles in 1912, Cage studied for a short time at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with classical composer Arthur Schoenberg. There he realized that the music he wanted to make was radically different from the music of his time. “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.'” But it wasn’t long before Cage found that there were others equally interested in making art in ways that broke from the rigid forms of the past. Two of the most important of Cage’s early collaborators were the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.






The piece 4’33” written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4’33” was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

A Musician's Brain is Different!

Aside from general pleasure, learning and playing music benefits your mind in a number of ways.

Happy Birthday Claude Debussy


Born in 1862, Claude-Achille Debussy was one of the most important French composers ever to sit at a piano, but he also boasted a romantic history to make even the most salacious tabloid journalist salivate.

Aged just 18 Debussy began an eight-year affair with Blanche Vasnier, wife of a wealthy Parisian lawyer. After Blanche, Debussy lived ‘in sin’ with Garielle Dupont, a tailor’s daughter from Lisieux. He cheated on Gaby with Thérèse Roger (to whom he was briefly engaged) before leaving her for her friend, fashion model Rosalie Texier, whom he did eventually marry. Rosalie clearly had the looks but not the brain to interest Debussy long-term, and she was soon packed back to her father’s home when Debussy met the captivating Emma Bardac, the mother of one of his students and wife of a Parisian banker. It’s something of an understatement to say that Rosalie did not take the rejection well. She shot herself in the chest while standing in the middle of Paris’s Place de la Concorde. Amazingly she survived this violent suicide attempt, but the bullet stayed lodged in her spine until her death 28 years later.

Claude Debussy at the home of Ernest Chausson

This was one scandal too many for Debussy. He and the now pregnant Emma found themselves so unpopular that they were forced to flee to England, before eventually returning to France for the birth of their eponymous daughter Claude- Emma.

When Parisians first heard Debussy’s music they didn’t know what to make of it. It was different to anything they had heard before, but they liked it. His visionary Préludeàl’après-midi d’unfaune premiered in 1894 and even now when you listen to the music, every note is surprising. It sounds incredibly earthy and sensuous, yet deliciously light. Predictably the work was not without its critics, but it got a standing ovation at its premiere and it is still popular today.

Inspired by Stephane Mallarmé’s poem ‘Afternoon of a Faun’, the work tells of a faun trying to seduce two nymphs. The poem is full of the sounds of nature and has a sultry, hazy atmosphere, all of which can be heard in the music. The faun tries to seduce his nymphs with sound by making a flute, an incident from the poem which can clearly be heard in the work. Just as Mallarmé’s Faun inspired Debussy, Debussy’s Faun inspired a ballet by the world renowned Vaslav Nijinsky in 1912.



Though he rejected the term himself, Debussy is considered to be a central figure of the Impressionist movement by music historians.

When Debussy died in Paris in March 1918 after a long illness, Stravinsky honored his colleague with a musical tribute:

 “I was sincerely attached to him as a man, and I grieved not only at the loss of one whose great friendship had been marked with unfailing kindness towards myself and my work, but at the passing of an artist who, in spite of maturity and health already hopelessly undermined, had still been able to retain his creative powers to the full, and whose musical genius had been in no way impaired throughout the whole period of his activity.”

When the Parisian Revue Musicale published a memorial supplement to Debussy, Stravinsky submitted a chorale that would, a short while later, form the final section of his Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a single-movement piece for twenty-four woodwind and brass instruments dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy.






5 Surprisingly deep benefits of listening to classical music

VIOLINS

Even for a country or rock fan, classical music can reduce stress and boost creativity, among other things.

Many of the greatest classical composers attributed their masterpieces to their worship of God. Johann Sebastian Bach once said, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

Classical music provides its listeners with a number of benefits, both physical and psychological.


1. It boosts brain power and creativity

Craig Ballantyne, editor of the self-improvement website Early to Rise, explains the “Mozart effect” as a mental result of listening to classical music, particularly Mozart’s. “In a controlled University of California study, students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart before taking SATs had higher scores than students who didn’t,” explained Ballantyne. He also pointed to a study done by the University of Washington in which copyeditors who listened to classical music while editing caught 21 percent more errors than those who did not.

Author Cinda Yager raves about the psychological effect that classical music had on her. “Encouraged by the music, my imagination came out to play. It played through scenes in the novel I was working on, presenting solutions to problems, giving me ideas to flesh out characterizations, suggesting necessary edits I had not seen before. This was amazing to me.”


2. It deepens musical appreciation

The instrumentals contained in classical music are unlike those of any other genre in their ability to reach a person. Fittingly, Albert Einstein once said that Mozart’s music “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.”


3. It has healing properties

If the sound of classical music results in water’s formation of elegant ice crystals, one has to wonder what it can do for our bodies, which are made up of 70 percent water. The man responsible for the study, Dr. Masaru Emoto, “sees energy as vibrations moving through matter.” These vibrations include the sound waves of music, which can affect us in various ways. Dr. Emoto refers to the vibrations as hado. He gives several examples of specific classical songs and their healing effects.


4. Acts as a stress reducer

PsychCentral reported that classical music “can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.”


5. It aids in expressing one’s emotions


Southern Methodist University conducted a study in which 85 individuals were asked to verbally reflect upon their life’s most significant experience. The participants whose interview involved classical music playing in the background were found to be more expressive and detailed in their reports. This is because classical music is “cognitively and in turn emotionally arousing,” the report concluded.

Having trouble articulating your feelings? Try listening to some Mozart or Beethoven and see if it helps you express your deepest self.


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Lili Boulanger: the fragile, forgotten genius of classical music

Lili Boulanger was one of the most exciting composers of the early 20th century, until her tragically early death at the age of 24. 


 Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy 

Marie-Juliette Olga (Lili) Boulanger was born on 21 August 1893. When she was just two the great composer Gabriel Fauré – a friend of the family – spotted that she had perfect pitch. At the age of two she also contracted bronchial pneumonia. She survived, but the illness left her immune system weakened for the rest of her life. 

She came from musical – and royal – stock 

Her mother was a Russian princess who fell in love with, and eventually married, her Paris Conservatoire teacher Ernest Boulanger and both her grandparents (on the Boulanger side) had been musicians. Lili herself played (deep breath) piano, violin, cello, harp and organ. Oh and she sang. 

She was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome 


Photo: Lili with composers (L) Claude Delvincourt, Lili Boulanger, (R) Marc Delmas and Edouard Mignan.


The Prix de Rome was the most prestigious honour for artists. It was a prize, first awarded in the 17th century, that allowed the winner to live in Rome for three to five years, all expenses paid. In the 19th century it was awarded to a composer for the first time. In 1913 Lili Boulanger became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome… though the judges couldn’t quite bear to let her enjoy the honour on her own. So they also awarded first prize that year to Claude Delvincourt. 


She wrote her cantata Faust et Hélène in just 4 weeks



It’s the piece that gave the Prix de Rome judges no choice but to give her the award. The rules of the competition stated that the piece had to be written in four weeks. So that’s what the precocious 19-year-old Lili did. It’s 30 minutes long and is written for a full orchestra. It tells the story of Faust, the man seduced by the power offered by Mephistopheles. And the music Boulanger uses to tell the story sounds Wagnerian, with hints of Debussy. It’s no surprise it won the most prestigious prize of the day. 

She was famous for her use of harmony 

In her own time she was noted for her lush harmonies, instrumentation and elegant text setting. Try this eerie setting of Psalm 130, ‘Du fond de l’abime’ (also known as De Profundis, or in English ‘Out of the depths’) 




Her final work is a beautiful Pie Jesu 

Lili was 24 when she wrote this piece. She dictated the piece to her sister from her sick bed. The text asks Jesus to grant someone ‘everlasting rest’. She died shortly afterwards. 





Nadia found a new calling 



Her sister Nadia was so affected by Lili’s death that she stopped composing and turned her attention to teaching. She went on to become one of the most renowned teachers of the 20th century and taught composers including Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Thea Musgrave, Leonard Bernstein and Philip Glass. 

Here she is with Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story and Candide. (Picture Getty) 

And Lili’s star lives on 

Lili may have only lived for 24 short years, but there are plenty who admire her music – including the jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, who calls her one of his favorite composers. This year marks the centenary death. Perhaps 2018 will be the year her genius gets the attention it truly deserves. 

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In Daddy’s Footsteps! Franz Xaver Mozart

Rather predictably, the deciphering of the human genome has done little to provide conclusive answers to questions regarding musical talent and ability. Although we have learned that certain genes control unique sites in the brain, which in turn determine levels of pitch perception, we are also aware that encouragement, nurture, and training represent significant factors. 

Leopold Mozart was much determined to foster Wolfgang Amadeus’ natural abilities, and Constanze Mozart made sure that her son Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844) studied with the best teachers in Vienna. Of course you know that Wolfie married Constanze Weber, who also came from a highly talented musical family at home in Mannheim. You might not know, however, that the couple had 6 children, with only 2 surviving into adulthood. Karl Thomas Mozart, who entered into the service of the Viceroy of Naples in an administrative capacity, was never really interested in music at all. He remained unmarried and childless. And there was Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, who was only four months old when his father died.

But then, we really can’t be sure who was actually the boy’s father. “Franx Xaver” had been the first names of Mozart’s student Süssmayr — the one who put the finishing touches on the Requiem — and when Wolfie passed away, Constanze changed the boy’s name to “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sohn).” No wonder Vienna was buzzing with rumors that Süssmayr might actually have been the biological father. Be that as it may, Franz Xaver received his early musical education from the Mozart student Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and from Georg Friedrich Albrechtsberger, who had taught Haydn and Beethoven. Antonio Salieri suggested, “the boy has a rare talent for music, and his future might not be inferior to that of his celebrated father.”



Franz Xaver with elder brother Karl Thomas
Of course, it was always going to be slightly difficult to fill his father’s musical shoes. Franz Xaver was certainly a gifted pianist who toured extensively through the German speaking parts of Europe, but also in Denmark, Russia and Italy, and then spent most of his life as a private music tutor in the Ukraine. He also remained unmarried and had no children, so that particular musical lineage sadly disappeared. 

In terms of personality, Franz Xaver was very unlike his father. He was introverted, constantly underrated his own talent and feared that whatever he composed would be compared to the compositions of his father, and of course, it was. His father’s shadow even followed him after his death. On his tombstone we can read, “May the name of his father be his epitaph, as his veneration for him was the essence of his life.”



Franz Xaver composed about 30 compositions, assorted Sonatas, some chamber music and 2 piano concertos, with his music remaining stylistically firmly in the mature musical style of his father. Franz Xaver was never going to be able to escape the shadow of his father, but both composers were born with exceptional musical talent and aptitude into a fertile environment that recognized, encouraged and nurtured that particular talent. And as Wolfie told us, that’s really all that matters!

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Music Education: More Than Just Music!



Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.

More Than Just Music


Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Language Development


“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

Increased IQ


A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.

The Brain Works Harder

 
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

In fact, a study led by Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College, and Gottfried Schlaug, professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, found changes in the brain images of children who underwent 15 months of weekly music instruction and practice. The students in the study who received music instruction had improved sound discrimination and fine motor tasks, and brain imaging showed changes to the networks in the brain associated with those abilities, according to the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research.

Spatial-Temporal Skills


Research has also found a causal link between music and spatial intelligence, which means that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together, like they would do when solving a math problem.

“We have some pretty good data that music instruction does reliably improve spatial-temporal skills in children over time,” explains Pruett, who helped found the Performing Arts Medicine Association. These skills come into play in solving multistep problems one would encounter in architecture, engineering, math, art, gaming, and especially working with computers.

Improved Test Scores


A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test.

Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”

And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.”

Being Musical


Music can improve your child’ abilities in learning and other nonmusic tasks, but it’s important to understand that music does not make one smarter. As Pruett explains, the many intrinsic benefits to music education include being disciplined, learning a skill, being part of the music world, managing performance, being part of something you can be proud of, and even struggling with a less than perfect teacher.

“It’s important not to oversell how smart music can make you,” Pruett says. “Music makes your kid interesting and happy, and smart will come later. It enriches his or her appetite for things that bring you pleasure and for the friends you meet.”
While parents may hope that enrolling their child in a music program will make her a better student, the primary reasons to provide your child with a musical education should be to help them become more musical, to appreciate all aspects of music, and to respect the process of learning an instrument or learning to sing, which is valuable on its own merit.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”
 


Laura Lewis Brown caught the writing bug as soon as she could hold a pen. For several years, she wrote a national online column on relationships, and she now teaches writing as an adjunct professor. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and three young children, who give her a lot of material for her blog, EarlyMorningMom.com.

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Thomas Jefferson as a Violinist and Advocate for Music Education



Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was also a violinist and strong advocate for music education. Family and holiday gatherings, solo performances, or as a way to have some time alone, the violin was important to him throughout his life.

His violin studies as a young man paid off during his courtship of his future wife, Martha Skelton. While she sang and played the harpsichord at parties, he would often join in, playing his violin and singing. Christmas celebrations at the White House and in his home, Monticello, included him playing the violin for family and guests.

According to Jefferson family tradition, as recorded by biographer Henry S. Randall, Jefferson’s musical ability dispelled the hopes of other suitors:

Two of Mr. Jefferson's rivals happened to meet on Mrs. Skelton's door-stone. They were shown into a room from which they heard her harpsichord and voice, accompanied by Mr. Jefferson's violin and voice, in the passages of a touching song. They listened for a stanza or two. Whether something in the words, or in the tones of the singers appeared suggestive to them, tradition does not say, but it does state that they took their hats and retired, to return no more on the same errand!

Jefferson and Martha Skelton were wed on January 1, 1772.


When time permitted, Jefferson played at least three hours a day. While he was a law student, he gave weekly concerts with other musicians. His music library at his home, Monticello, contained violin works by Corelli, Handel, Vivaldi, and other composers. His selected works by Corelli required an advanced level of skill due to advanced bowings and techniques for the left hand. He also had a violin technique book by Francesco Geminiani (1680-1762), The Art of Playing on the Violin, which further indicated his level of proficiency.


Jefferson’s Music Technique Book




Francesco Geminiani (1680–1762). Rules for Playing in a True Taste on the Violin German, Flute, Violoncello, and Harpsicord. . . .  London: J. Johnson, 1751. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (S. 4255) (40.00.00)

Music, according to Jefferson, was his “favorite passion” and the violin his preferred instrument. Jefferson was schooled in music at an early age and cultivated his love of music throughout his life. As an accomplished violinist and music aficionado, Jefferson owned four violins, including a so-called “kit,” an instrument small enough to fit neatly into a coat pocket. He was known to take his kit along on his travels to practice while away.

The instrument's body is very small, but its fingerboard is made long relative to the instrument's overall size in order to preserve as much of the instrument's melodic range as possible.

Many violinists in the eighteenth century used kits because of their portability. Thomas Jefferson owned at least two kits.

At home, he could play his other instruments as well as consult his personal copies of contemporary musical treatises such as this one by Francesco Geminiani. Jefferson rarely wrote in his books, but this book includes Jefferson’s inscription of Charles Burney’s discussion of violin technique.

Jefferson insisted that his daughters and granddaughters learn to play the violin. He hired Frances Alberti, an Italian immigrant, as a music tutor. Jefferson felt that a music education was “invaluable,” especially pertaining to young women, and that it provided “recreation” and “respite” from the concerns of the day, which would last through the rest of one’s life.

Monticello has several instruments on display that reflect the Jefferson household. In addition to violins, daughter, Martha, played harpsichord, and his other daughter, Maria, played guitar. He encouraged them not to neglect their music.



A violin owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States

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The composer and his muse: Richard Strass and Pauline de Ahna



It is often said that behind every great man there is a great woman; but not every great composer can claim to have achieved a long and happy – if somewhat tempestuous – marriage to his muse. The soprano Pauline de Ahna was the powerful presence behind Richard Strauss: his wife, his inspiration and a diva in every sense. Over his many decades he drew on plenty of different spurs to musical action, but none more consistently or more powerfully than the soprano voice.

Strauss’s operas remain arguably his finest achievements and the Royal Opera House is marked the 150th anniversary of his birth with a new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten (1918), the most complex, symbolic and magical of his collaborations with the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Despite its baffling fairytale premise – for example, the woman without a shadow is an Empress who is a transformed gazelle – it deals at heart with the human and domestic.

Richard Strauss enjoyed an impressive female following, particularly in the gallery of heroines that he brought to the stage as a composer. Yet by the time of his 37th birthday he was still a bachelor with no scandalous love affairs to his name. And so it came as a complete surprise when Richard proposed to his former student and operatic soprano Pauline Maria de Ahna in the middle of a turbulent rehearsal for his opera “Guntram” in 1894. Apparently, his student Heinrich Zeller was unable to master the insanely taxing vocal part and Strauss had to repeatedly interrupt the rehearsal. Then came the time for Pauline’s scene in Act III, which she knew well. In spite of this, she did not feel sure and envied Zeller because he had
Pauline in Richard Strauss' now obscure early opera "Guntram
been given so many chances of repeating. Suddenly she stopped singing and asked Richard, to whom she had been secretly engaged since March 1894, why he was not interrupting her. Richard replied, that she knew her part well. Pauline retorted, “but I want to be interrupted” and threw the piano score at Richard’s head, but to the delight of the orchestra it landed on the desk of the second violinist. Having thus made her point, she stormed off the stage and locked herself in the dressing room, with Richard hurriedly following her. Once Richard returned to rehearsal the orchestral musicians enquired as to what kind of reprimand he had in mind for the temperamental soprano, to which Richard replied, “I am going to marry her”! And so he did, with the wedding taking place in a small chapel adjacent to the castle in Marquartstein on 10 September 1894.

Richard Strauss composed “Cäcilie”, the second song of his Op. 27, as a wedding present for his future wife one day before their nuptial ceremony. Their marriage, which can properly be filed under the category of opposites attract, lasted almost fifty-five years. Although Pauline became the perfect housewife and mother, she really never lost her high-strung temperament. And Richard, who liked to have a couple of beers in the local brewery and play cards with his friends remarked, “my wife is often extremely harsh, but, you know, I need that”.


Anecdotes aside, their relationship was highly complex and based on a mutual passion for music. When he traveled without his wife, he wrote her long love letters nearly every day. And Pauline was entirely devoted to her husband’s well being. She made him concentrate on his work, provided regular meals, and the couple went for long nature walks every single day. In addition, she inspired and musically featured in a variety of his compositions. When Richard composed his autobiographical tone poem “Ein Heldenleben”, the Hero’s companion is clearly modeled after Pauline. Strauss writes, “It’s my wife I wanted to portray. She is very complex, very much a woman, a little depraved, something of a flirt, never twice alike, every minute different to what she was the minute before”.



And when the celebrated diva Lotte Lehmann visited the couple in Garmisch, she reports “I often caught a glance or a smile passing between her and her husband, touching in its love and happiness, and I began to sense something of a profound affection between these two human beings, a tie so elemental in strength that none of Pauline’s shrewish truculence could ever trouble it seriously. In fact, I rather suspect that they were always putting on a kind of act for their own benefit as well as for that of outsiders”. If we want to know about their sex life, we once again have to turn to Richard’s music. The “Symphonia Domestica”, portrays daily worries and joys, their son Bubi splashing around in the bathtub, a domestic argument between the couple and a passionate and all-consuming reconciliation. There has never been any suggestion or evidence that Richard was unfaithful to Pauline or vise versa. In fact, Pauline was intensely jealous of her husband. At the tender age of eighty, she told a friend “I would still scratch the eyes out of any hussy who was after my Richard”. When Richard died on 12 September 1949 Pauline’s will to live was also broken, and she died only a couple months later in May of 1950.

Beethoven and Napoleon: Beethoven's Eroica

 Beethoven in 1804 by Horneman (L); Napoleon in coronation costume by Robert Lefebvre1807.


Beethoven called his Third Symphony Eroica (“Heroic”). The Eroica is two hundred years old yet still seems modern.

In this symphony Beethoven began to use broad strokes of sound to tell us how he felt, and what being alive meant to him. The piece caused a sensation and changed the idea of what a symphony could be.

When Beethoven called this piece “heroic,” he wasn’t kidding. It’s bigger, longer than a symphony had ever been. It’s confessional, even confrontational.

Just the scale of it was huge, unprecedented—and daunting for its first listeners. It foreshadowed the world that Wagner and, ultimately, Sigmund Freud would explore—the realm of the unconscious. That’s what was so revolutionary.


By late 1803, Beethoven had sketched out his new epic symphony, the Eroica. It was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution and dedicated to its hero, who then seemed to be the great liberator of the people: Napoleon.

Beethoven thought of himself as a free spirit, and he admired the principles of freedom and equality embodied by the French Revolution. He thought he recognized in Napoleon a hero of the people and a champion of freedom, which was why he intended to dedicate a huge new symphony to him.

But when Beethoven heard the news in late 1804 that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor of France, he
was disgusted. “He’s just a rascal like all the others,” he exclaimed.Beethoven violently erased Napoleon’s name from his manuscript—so forcefully, in fact, that he erased his way right through the paper, leaving holes in the title page.

So this revolutionary piece of music that was originally to be The Bonaparte Symphony became simply Eroica—the heroic.

But if the hero of the music was no longer Napoleon, who was it? The Eroica explores what it means to be human. In facing his own demons and choosing to continue making music, to continue living, Beethoven embraced the heroic in everyman and, ultimately, in himself.

Beethoven said that this symphony was his favorite. In it, he envisioned where his music was going and in fact where the music of the future was going.

All the works that followed it—by Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler—would have been impossible without the pathfinding steps that Beethoven took in this symphony
.

Read more about the movements of Beethoven's Eroica


Fascinating Stories Behind Classical Music Compositions

Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony

Dubbed the Eroica symphony, which means “heroic” in Italian (not “erotic”), Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony was initially his tribute to Napoleon, whom he admired. But when Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven angrily declared that Napoleon had become a tyrant and tore out the score’s title page dedicating the symphony to the general-turned-emperor. The Eroica was the first work of Beethoven’s in which he finally arrived at the peak of his composing abilities.



Mozart’s Requiem

If you believe the fantastic 1984 movie “Amadeus,” then Mozart’s rival, Salieri, plotted to kill Mozart while helping the younger artist compose the Requiem, as Mozart lay dying. The truth is somewhat different, and the Salieri plot is a creative fiction. The youthful genius apparently completed only the first movement sometime before his death, while the remaining outlines were completed by others. How much Mozart actually did before he died is still subject to much debate.



Beethoven’s 9th symphony

As you may know, Beethoven eventually lost his hearing. The maestro composed some of his later pieces while literally pounding the piano with his ear close to the keys. When he premiered his magnificent 9th Symphony, he conducted it without hearing a single note. Because of his deafness—and perhaps the fact that he had not conducted in public for 12 years—Beethoven’s conducting was sporadic and unsynchronized with the orchestra. A member of the orchestra even had to turn him around so that he could see the enthusiastic approval of the audience.




Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

People with a passing knowledge of classical music would know this one: Igor Stravinsky’s ballet of pagan springtime rituals sounded, and looked, so bizarre to early 1900s audiences that during its first public performance the audience rioted. It didn’t help matters that the composer and his choreographer came to despise one another. The dance steps, costumes and intricate music didn’t sit well with some in the audience. Soon, supporters and detractors started fistfights, which degenerated into a riot—even though many could no longer hear the music. Musicians were even assaulted. Think about that the next time you hear of an audience going crazy at a rock or rap concert.




Liszt’s Les Preludes

The Nazis used parts of Les Preludes to be the official theme song for the propagandistic German Weekly Newsreel service, circa 1940-1945. (Can you imagine watching news footage of Luftwaffe Stukas dive-bombing Soviet troops and towns with The Prelude blaring, just like Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries was used during the helicopter attack in the movie Apocalypse Now?)



Reposted from Listverse.com

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



The True Story Behind Mozart’s Requiem


Mozart working on the Requiem on his deathbed

It’s one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but the story behind Mozart’s Requiem is one of the strangest chapters in history

In 1791 Mozart was at his desk working on the music for what would become The Magic Flute.




He’s interrupted by a knock at the door.

When he opens the door, he’s met by a man dressed all in black. The man’s face is covered by a mask.

He tells the composer he’s here to commission a piece for his master. But there’s a condition: Mozart can never ask who his master is, and never try to find out.

Mozart accepts the commission – when he hears what the fee is he is unconcerned by the cloak-and-dagger small print.

But little did Mozart know that this Requiem would be the last thing he ever wrote.

Before the year was out, Mozart would be dead at the age of just 35. And the Requiem – the work that arguably brought about that death – would be left unfinished.

For many years it was believed that Mozart was poisoned.  These rumors started as early as New Year’s Eve, 1791.  An obituary in the Berlin’s Musikalische Wochenblatt reported Mozart is—dead.  He was sickly when he returned home from Prague and remained ailing since then . . . Because his body swelled up after his death, it is even believed that he was poisoned.

At times Mozart even believed this.  When he was working on the Requiem he told his wife,  “I feel it very acutely.  It won’t be long now: I’ve surely been given poison!  I can’t let go of that thought.” Constanze never believed it.

The story strengthened when Salieri “confessed” that he poisoned Mozart. Salieri was delusional in the last years of his life.  But few of the people who heard his “confession” believed him.  Shortly before his death, Salieri put the record straight.  He said, although this is my last illness, I can assure you on my word of honor that there is no truth to that absurd rumor; you know that I am supposed to have poisoned Mozart.


The Russian dramatist Aleksander Pushkin must have believed the rumors.  In 1830, he wrote a short play in which Salieri does poison Mozart. It is aptly titled “Mozart and Salieri.”

If Mozart was not poisoned, then how did he die?  The cause of death was first thought to be  “feverish prickly heat.” Later it was thought to be a “liver condition with terminal uremia.”  Currently two theories exist.  A 1972 report suggests rheumatic fever.  A more recent study proposes that Mozart had the following sequence of illnesses in his final three weeks: streptococcal infection, Schönlein-Henoch Syndrome, renal failure, venesection(s), cerebral hemorrhage, terminal broncho-pneumonia.

Finally, let’s look at the Requiem.  Was the commission conceived by Salieri as a way to drive Mozart mad?  No.  Was it some malicious plot to make Mozart believe he was writing a requiem for himself?  No.  Was it commissioned by an anonymous messenger?  Yes, and that is where we need to begin.


Did Salieri plot Mozart's demise to the point of actually poisoning him? Or is it just as fanciful as all those serpents and magic bells in the younger composer's opera The Magic Flute?

Antonio Salieri was a hugely influential composer of opera and a much in-demand teacher who taught Schubert, Beethoven and Liszt. The chances are, however, that you've only ever heard of Salieri because he happened to be the arch-rival of the irrepressible Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Or was he?

The rise of the poisoning tale

Vasiliy Shkafer as Mozart and Fyodor Shalyapin as Salieri
(Russian Private Opera, 1898)
The rumor was immortalized in art when, six years after Salieri’s 1825 death, revered Russian poet Alexander Pushkin wrote a verse drama Mozart and Salieri that posited Salieri as the bitterly jealous poisoner of the greater man. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov set the play to music in the opera Mozart and Salieri, and playwright Peter Shaffer based his 1979 play Amadeus on Pushkin’s drama. That in turn was adapted for film in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name directed by Miloš Forman. So now when people think of Mozart and Salieri they think of a rivalry unto the death, when in fact the two men were on quite good terms.

Mozart had been suffering from rheumatism since childhood and his health was deteriorating. He suffered from loneliness and depression. This may have been the reason why he interpreted the mysterious commission for a requiem as a sign of impending doom. His deteriorating health convinced him that he was slowly being poisoned. “I know I have to die… I write (the requiem) for myself.”

To distract his mind from his delusions and fear of death for even a short period of time, Mozart composed the “Kleine Freimaurerkantate” – the “Freemasons Cantata”. The cantata premiered at the inauguration of a new masonic temple, with Mozart himself conducting. It was his last complete work.




Deception

Count Franz Walsegg-Stuppach was a music lover and wealthy landowner from Lower Austria.  Every Tuesday and Thursday Walsegg hosted concerts at Schloss Stuppach in which he and his musicians performed for his many friends . And this is where the strange, almost pathetic side of Walsegg emerges. For whatever reason, Walsegg would commission fresh compositions and pass them off as his own.

This harmless deception continued for years. At the conclusion of his soirees, he would challenge his guests to identify the composer of the piece they had just heard. Unknown to Walsegg, his friends were well aware of his artifice and calmly played along eventually naming the Count as the composer. As Herzog put it, "We were all young folk and considered that we were giving our master an innocent pleasure."

On February 14, 1791, his young wife died.  He came up an idea. Deeply affected by his loss, the Count resolved to honor her memory in two ways. He would build a magnificent memorial for her remains and he would commission a requiem mass to be performed every year on the anniversary of her passing. To this end, he charged his attorney, Dr. Johann Sortschan, with making the necessary arrangements stipulating that Mozart should provide the requiem. As usual, Walsegg intended to claim the requiem as his own.

Spooked by the commission, Mozart threw himself obsessively into the work. But it was all too much. He was only able to complete the Requiem and Kyrie movements, and managed to sketch the voice parts and bass lines for the Dies irae through  to the Hostias.

The composer had given detailed instructions about finishing it to his pupil Süssmayer. Süssmayer copied the entire completed score in his own hand - making it virtually impossible to determine who wrote what - and gave it to the stranger.

Even after Mozart’s death, the Walsegg-Stuppach persisted with his deception. He copied the music (which had been completed by Mozart’s students) into his own handwriting.  On December 11, 1793, he conducted it. It was entitled, “Requiem, composto del Conte Walsegg”!






Sources:
[1] http://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/guides/mozart-requiem-full-works-concert-highlight-week/
[2] http://www.classicfm.com/composers/mozart/case-notes-requiem/
[3] http://www.classical-music.com/article/story-behind-mozarts-reqiuem
[4] http://inmozartsfootsteps.com/380/the-real-story-of-mozart-salieri-and-amadeus-2/
[5]  http://www.mozart.com/en/timeline/life/la-clemenza-di-tito-magic-flute/