Here we are once again for another week of facts, history, dates, and trivia.
No events of musical merit. Births:
1875 – Alexander Goldenweiser, Russian pianist, composer, and educator (this guy has been in my rotation some recently)
1915 – Charles Groves, English conductor
1910 – Carl Reinecke, German pianist, conductor, and composer
Some familiar names to begin the week. No one I’m too familiar with, but if nothing else, at least a reminder to brush up on some stuff I’ve already got. Honegger and Goldenweiser all both make appearances here when I’m ready for them.
1851 – The first performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi takes place in Venice. (It’s always the Italians in the events)
1950 – Bobby McFerrin, American singer-songwriter, producer, and conductor (only including this guy because of this video. Otherwise I’d not have recognized his name. Also, I am entirely unfamiliar with his music. I just find this
little demonstration fascinating.)
little demonstration fascinating.)
Seriously, those Italians…
No events. Births:
1923 – Norbert Brainin, Austrian violinist
1938 – Dimitri Terzakis, Greek-German composer
1832 – Friedrich Kuhlau, German-Danish composer (pretty significant guy. Knew Beethoven personally, came from a family of “military oboists”, and although poor, managed to have piano lessons. Responsible for introducing many of Beethoven’s works to Danish audiences; also a prolific composer himself).
1937 – Charles-Marie Widor, French organist and composer
1985 – Eugene Ormandy, Hungarian-American violinist and conductor (one of the longest tenures of any conductor with a single ensemble: 44 years with the Philadelphia orchestra, earning him three gold records and two Grammys.)
1999 – Yehudi Menuhin, American-Swiss violinist and conductor (one of the greats. I have many of his recordings)
1845 – Felix Mendelssohn‘s Violin Concerto receives its première performance in Leipzig with Ferdinand David as soloist. (Finally, a non-Italian event)
1918 – César Cui, Russian composer and critic (a member of The Five, along with Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and their leader, Balakirev)
1990 – Karl Münchinger, German conductor
I was all excited about events this week and hoping for more. Not today.
1939 – Stavros Xarchakos, Greek composer, conductor, and politician (tenuous inclusion, but this guy studied with Nadia Boulanger)
1944 – Boris Brott, Canadian composer and conductor (son of the aforementioned Alexander Brott, born on the same day 29 years earlier)
Wow, this may be a first. A couple of film score composers or lyricists, but…. aside from that, nada. March 14 is a pretty good musical day.
Beware the Ides of March…
1835 – Eduard Strauss, Austrian composer and conductor
1842 – Luigi Cherubini, Italian composer (Beethoven considered this man the greatest of his contemporaries)
1946 – Hubert Soudant, Dutch conductor
2004 – Vilém Tauský, Czech conductor and composer (this guy’s mom sang Mozart at the Vienna State Opera under Mahler!)
And that’s it for this week’s history lesson.
And, as always, something to think about. As I’ve said before, I’m always interested to see what kind of patterns I notice in these dates and figures. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there’s always an Italian or French or German composer and/or organist born or dead somewhere, but as we reach the 20th century, the ‘pianist and composer’ titles become more and more tenuously classical. Even the names bear that out. A guy named Fritzling Breckenfield (or whatever) just sounds classical, even if born in America, whereas just looking at the name Mikey “Bubbles” McGee or something tells you this guy was probably a jazz or blues trumpet player. As we reach the early 20th century, true classical-related events and births dwindle to almost nothing, whereas the deaths will still have relevant events even into the late 20th century. More and more of the births are futbol players, ‘adult’ actors, reality TV show stars, and other ‘celebrities’. It also stands to reason that even an exceptional pianist or composer may not get his ‘big break’ until well into his twenties or later, so I don’t expect to see much going on after the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. (Daniil Trifonov last week was an exception; he is already a huge name at only 23.)
That being said, here’s another question: what role has technology played in the ‘big breaks’ of classical music? I have a few conflicting ideas:
- It makes it much easier for someone to carve out a place in the world, get recognition and make a name for themselves. While a few centuries (or just decades ago), you had to know the right people or be in the right place at the right time to play for someone important, now you don’t. You may have to work day and night on marketing and social media, but people can get recognition (auxiliary question: does that constitute cheating? Is it ‘working the system’ to earn recognition from people other than your ‘peers’ in the classical world? Are you a ‘sell-out’?)
- It could make it much harder. Many people agree that the world is a much smaller place as a result of technology, and this can be good for having more opportunities, but it also means more competition, to some extent or other. Does that make any sense?
I wonder in what direction classical music will head in the next fifty years. People hear “classical” and they think “old”, so for many, “Modern Classical” sounds like an oxymoron, but there are still people writing symphonies and sonatas and operas, just maybe not like they did a few hundred years ago. To be honest, I haven’t come to appreciate (granted, with some, I haven’t tried) the new waves of music like Stockhausen and the like. Honestly, I have more hopes of coming to appreciate music that is generally considered more ‘atonal’ than music that is ‘aleatoric’ or ‘indeterminate’. That is to say, I think I will warm up to something like Babbitt or Boulez more readily than I would, say, Xenakis. I just don’t get most of it. We will have to wait and see.