Category Archives: Music History

License to fritter

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832, German writer and politician and Franz Schubert’s poet of choicce) thought it futile to try to write without that spark of inspiration. “My advice therefore is that one should not force anything; it is better … Continue reading

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Chopin on Scarlatti: “He sometimes reaches even Mozart.”

“My colleagues, the piano teachers, are dissatisfied that I am teaching Scarlatti to my pupils. But I am surprised that they are so blind. In his music there are exercises in plenty for the fingers and a good deal of … Continue reading

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“One note follows another with complete inevitability”

Leonard Bernstein plays through – on piano and with an orchestra – some fragments and sketches that Beethoven rejected when composing his Fifth Symphony. It’s a fascinating look at what might have been. Or might not have been. And it … Continue reading

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Heartrending melancholy

“At the Symphony concert, Casals played, one of the most marvelous musicians who ever lived! The sound of his cello is of heart-rending melancholy. His execution unfathomable. At times going outward from the depths, at times going inward, into the … Continue reading

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Does it matter?

An attention-grabbing headline in the New York Times: “Doubts greet claims about Stravinsky’s sexuality”. Musician and writer Robert Craft alleges in a recent book and essay that Stravinsky had affairs with composers Maurice Delage, Maurice Ravel, and Sergei Diaghelev. Our … Continue reading

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Nobleman, lutenist, composer, and murderer

Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), was, according to ‘Wikipedia: “an Italian nobleman, lutenist, composer, and murderer.” Way to bury the lead, Wikipedia. Gesualdo discovered that his wife and a duke were having an affair, so it’s speculated that he pretended to leave … Continue reading

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Fearlessly embrace things that seem odd

Vihart – the mathemusician – has done it again. A brilliant video that teaches, inspires, and makes you fall in love with something you never thought you would. Her video on the overtone series is required for my history students. … Continue reading

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Relationship status: It’s complicated.

Brahms never did marry, but he did have what was described as a “passionate friendship” with his friend Robert Schumann’s wife, Clara Schumann. In today’s words: it’s complicated. Clara hadn’t seen her husband, Robert, in nearly a year since he … Continue reading

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Rejoice. There’s a disconnect.

Thought I had my summer reading material planned. A couple of books by Harold Schonberg have been started but not finished – The Great Pianists and Lives of the Great Composers. I love his writing. He brings to life the … Continue reading

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Composers refuse to be bound by rules

“Some people will perhaps wonder why I have undertaken to write about music, there being so many works by outstanding men who have treated the subject most thoroughly and learnedly; and more especially, why I should be doing so just … Continue reading

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A passport to anarchy

Carl Czerny – composer of that myriad of musically boring etudes – was a big fan of the ritardando. In his Klavierschule, he allows it everywhere: when the main theme returns when a phrase is to be separated from the … Continue reading

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The tumbling piano. An instrument of death.

This gives a whole new meaning to the concept of fighting (with) the piano. It’s a florid, almost exhausting telling of Polish composer/pianist/politician Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s adventurous night on a ship bound for New York. “A fight with a piano … Continue reading

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