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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
Thursday, March 28, 2019, 11:30am
In 1601, at the age of 25, Thomas Weelkes was one of England's most promising musicians... then his life took a turn for the worse.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 11:30am
On March 27 th , 1830 a twenty-year-old Polish pianist, Frederic Chopin, was concertizing in Warsaw and he wrote to a friend in a nearby town: “About the first concert: The hall was full, and all the boxes and stage seats were sold out three days in advance, but most of the audience didn't get the...
Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 11:30am
It was a time when a president of the United States was in sore need of soothing music, and Woodrow Wilson brought some of the best performers into the White House. He had the added advantage of being a pretty fair musician himself. As a young man Wilson had played the violin. He sang tenor in the...
Monday, March 25, 2019, 11:30am
An invitation to perform for a king. Most musicians would see it as a grand opportunity. Louis Spohr found it a royal pain.
Friday, March 22, 2019, 11:30am
Jean-Baptiste Lully was extremely devoted to his music. In fact, he died for it.
Thursday, March 21, 2019, 11:30am
On March 21st, 1864--in the thick of the Civil War--New Orleans-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk was in the middle of a concert tour of the northern and western states.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 11:30am
At the age of 30 Robert Schumann was one of many pianist composers who was dazzled by the virtuosity and personality of the 29-year-old Franz Liszt. He reported to his fiancée Clara Wieck, from Leipzig in March 1840: “I wish you could have been with me this morning to see Liszt. He is quite...
Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 11:30am
. The group of sixteen Italian musicians didn’t know what to think. Their leader, Gaetano Carusi, had brought them to America, the land of promise. But when they arrived in Washington their first thought must have been to go back home. The year was 1805 and Carusi himself described the capital city...
Monday, March 18, 2019, 11:30am
How direct should an established composer be when appraising the work of an up-and-comer? Vincent d'Indy would've had two answers to the question -- one before and one after getting advice from Cesar Franck. D'Indy recalled: "Once I had played a movement of my string quartet for him -- which I...
Friday, March 15, 2019, 11:30am
That first symphony can be intimidating for a composer. Sergei Rachmaninoff was a long time recovering from his. He was pleased with his symphony, confident to the point of arrogance. He played a piano version for composer Sergei Taneyev, who expressed his displeasure with it. Undaunted,...
Thursday, March 14, 2019, 11:30am
Joseph Haydn had been in London for three months and was succeeding mightily with English audiences. On March 14th, 1791 he wrote to a friend in Vienna: “I have plenty to do because of all the concerts and opera, and I am hounded all the time by the subscription concerts. Our opera hasn't opened...
Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 11:30am
It was an extremely popular subject--science fiction. The music was by France's leading operetta composer, Jacques Offenbach, and the story by the father of science fiction, Jules Verne. The French stage had never seen anything like From the Earth to the Moon. The Franco-Prussian War of the 1870's...