“Anecdotes and maxims are rich treasures to the man of the world.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The universe of classical music is jam-packed with musical anecdotes. Frequently these short narratives delineate subtle stories that highlight specific traits of a classical composer or a performer. Often humorous, anecdotes of classical composers don’t simply provoke laughter but can reveal a more general and subtle truth. We find Sophia Corri escaping her inattentive husband in an empty harp case, Beethoven being thrown in jail for vagrancy, and Rossini and Pavarotti both cooking their favorite meals. Napoleon gave free reign to his infatuation with an opera singer, Bach was challenged to a duel, and Frederick the Great had not only a great passion for music but also for a handsome Lieutenant in the Royal Guard. A musical anecdote is part of the process of telling a story, but it means sharing an experience with someone and not simply supplying him or her with information. And don’t worry, embellishment, exaggeration or fictitious invention are all part of the process. Anecdotes of classical composers impart the sense of a lived experience, as they usually involve real people in recognizable places and locations. In fact, musical anecdotes exhibit a special kind of realism and an identifiable historical dimension. Check back with us for more insightful and delightful musical anecdotes.
Written in a rush for a celebratory concert, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture is a joyous bubble starting with a brilliant fanfare. Written for a concert in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre celebrating the 37th anniversary of the October 1917 Revolution, this
The lure of Italy to those who live in cold Northern Europe cannot be understated. Composer after composer went south and brought back their musical memories of that country of sunshine and warmth, of folksong and dance, and of landscapes
We’re used to the classical orchestral sound – the violins, the winds, the mostly ignored lower brass. Žibuoklė Martinaitytė (b. 1973), a Lithuanian composer currently based in New York, uses the symphony orchestra as her instrument of many voices –
We celebrate Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) as one of the most successful and popular operatic composers of his time. And although you might never have actually seen or heard a complete Rossini opera, I am sure you know a good many
For a good many people, including some practicing musicians, music history can be a somewhat distant and dry subject. Educators, scholars and critics have long searched for ways to make this particular subject more palatable. The Musical Herald started publishing
If you listen to the recordings by Glenn Gould playing Bach, you can’t help but notice that he kept singing, humming or groaning along as he plays. Since audio engineers were not always successful in erasing his voice from the
Throughout his early years, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was teamed up with his older sister Nannerl to entertain audiences with music for piano four-hands. And not entirely unexpected, he composed a number of works for himself and his sister. However, once
Jules Mouquet (1867-1946) studied at the Paris Conservatoire and after winning the Prix de Rome in 1896, became a professor at the Conservatoire in 1913. In the early 20th century, Mouquet wrote his lovely flute sonata, La Flûte de Pan.