The Dresden Gamble
Monday, April 29, 2019, 11:30am
The same piece of music can draw very different reactions from city to city as Carl Maria von Weber reported from Dresden to a friend in Berlin in April 1824: “I’ve been going through a rough patch, and maybe it’s just as well that my enormous workload didn’t give me much time to think. But still I...
The Composing Machine
Sunday, April 28, 2019, 11:30am
Today he is best known for his technical studies such as The School of Velocity- -methodical, mechanical approaches to piano mastery. Carl Czerny was actually an extraordinarily prolific composer whose curiously mechanical way of working made his vast output possible. The English writer John Elia...
Friday, April 26, 2019, 11:30am
Peter Tchaikovsky wrote some of his best music during long trips to Italy. But even there, music and friends could put him out of sorts. To his brother Modeste he wrote from Rome in April 1890. “For two days now I've been in a bad mood to the point of despair. I've lost both my appetite and my...
Overwhelmed in London
Thursday, April 25, 2019, 11:30am
Felix Mendelssohn's trip to England inspired some of his finest music. But sometimes the 20-year-old composer was so overwhelmed by his surroundings that Mendelssohn the musician took a backseat to Mendelssohn the tourist. He wrote to his family on April 25th, 1829: “I have taken leave of my senses...
Trust Your Players
Friday, April 19, 2019, 11:30am
Every now and then, a conductor has to give his players the benefit of the doubt. In fact, André Previn once remarked, "The more you trust your players -- whether you're doing a Haydn symphony or something with the ink still wet -- the better off you'll be." As a beginning conductor, Previn was...
The Conductor Who Invented Himself
Thursday, April 18, 2019, 11:30am
It must have been the radio interviewer’s nightmare. In 1955 the world-renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski arrived for a live interview before he was to conduct a concert with the Miami University Symphony Orchestra. The interviewer began by stating that Stokowski was born in 1882. Stokowski...
The Blessing of a Broken Leg
Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 11:30am
Sometimes a musician to make a tremendous effort just to go through with a performance. In the case of pianist Oscar Levant, a broken leg helped. In 1955 Levant had a thirty-year performing career to his credit, but in recent seasons he had become better known for his cancellations than for his...
The Orange Plan
Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 11:30am
Sergei Prokofiev's previous trip to America had not gone very well. The critics had panned his piano pieces and playing as "Bolshevism in art" and "the epitome of Godless Russia." Worse, he had become known as a performer with a mechanical style. Now it was 1920 and Prokofiev came to America with a...
Monday, April 15, 2019, 11:30am
It had worked for Sergei Rachmaninoff. Sergei Prokofiev thought it might work for him too.
A Dangerous Detour
Friday, April 12, 2019, 11:30am
Charles Burney, courting danger on Mount Vesuvius in 1770.
Thursday, April 11, 2019, 11:30am
For the first time ever, will an American win the first prize in the highly prestigious Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition ?
The Singer Is Always Right
Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 11:30am
Performer and accompanist may practice hard to develop a common approach to a piece of music. But when the night of the performance arrives, the best intentions may go out the window if nervousness throws the performer into old habits. In his memoir Am I Too Loud ? the great accompanist Gerald...
The Quarrelsome Handful
Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 11:30am
They were known as "The Mighty Handful"--five 19th century Russian composers who supposedly constituted a "school" of Russian nationalist writing. But sometimes the "handful" took the shape of a fist. Two of them--Cesar Cui and Modeste Mussorgsky--became bitter adversaries. In 1874 Mussorgsky's...
Monday, April 8, 2019, 11:30am
Ludwig van Beethoven's music has many stormy moments, and it's likely that some of them were inspired by his dealings with his publishers. In the spring of 1805 he wrote to Breitkopf and Hertel in Leipzig a letter that shows his Olympian anger...
Footloose in Paris
Friday, April 5, 2019, 11:30am
In April 1778 twenty-two-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in Paris hoping to build an international reputation.
Nettles Instead of Roses
Thursday, April 4, 2019, 11:30am
"This profession, my dear boy, is not what people imagine." So wrote violinist Eugene Ysayë to his son Gabriel about 1901.
The Swedish Nightingale Meets Barnum
Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 11:30am
The famed soprano Jenny Lind had plenty of talent and determination. And when she came to America in 1850 she had more than enough publicity. Her promoter was the biggest showman of them all—PT Barnum. Eager to rise above his reputation as a promoter of sideshows and freaks, Barnum had risked his...
Fed Up in Rome
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 11:30am
Love, politics, and music. In April 1831 Hector Berlioz was in Florence, Italy, and he was disgusted with all three. He wrote to a friend: “You speak to me of music and of love! What do you have in mind? I don't get it. Is there something on earth called music and love? I thought I'd heard those...
Monday, April 1, 2019, 11:30am
Niccoló Paganini was the most famous violinist in Europe. He was also more versatile than anyone would have guessed--at work and play. And he loved a practical joke.
Eccentric to the End
Friday, March 29, 2019, 11:30am
He was a strange man, a macabre man, the composer of the "Funeral March for a Papagallo." Everything about Charles-Valentin Alkan seemed eccentric—even his death on March 29th, 1888.