“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.

632 Posts
  • The Tears of Dowland The Tears of Dowland
    From Flow My Tears to Lachrimae, or Seven Tears The composer John Dowland (1563-1626) perfected the idea of the lute song. He also thought himself as suffering from melancholy, a known illness of his time. Melancholy was one of the
  • Night and Day and Delius Night and Day and Delius
    Frederick Delius: Summer Night on the River and A Song Before Sunrise Two works written in close proximity give us two different times of day. Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was a quiet master of the tone poem. Summer Night on the
  • Bells for All Occasions Bells for All Occasions
    It was just Orthodox Easter Eve and all over Greece, the church bells rang out at midnight. We were thinking about music with bells and all the different ways that they are used. They’re used in a couple of different