Anecdotes

“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.

725 Posts
  • Old Bach meets Old Fritz! Old Bach meets Old Fritz!
    Musical Offering, BWV 1079 Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra Ton Koopman Frederick the Great of Prussia, affectionately known as “Der Alte Fritz” (Old Fritz) is generally known as a brilliant military campaigner who established the reputation of Prussian military might. In addition,
  • Hands off my Flute! Hands off my Flute!
    Frederick the Great and his greatest Obsession Frederick II, of Prussia, subsequently known as Frederick the Great, was the eldest surviving son of Frederick William I and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, the sister of George II of England. Daddy Frederick,
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart versus Muzio Clementi Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart versus Muzio Clementi
    Just imagine being in Vienna on Christmas Eve 1781. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II — eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband Francis I, and brother of Marie Antoinette — was hosting a reception for the music loving
  • Johann Sebastian Bach vs. Louis Marchand Johann Sebastian Bach vs. Louis Marchand
    We would be entirely wrong to assume that musical duels were in the exclusive domain of the 19th Century. Far from it, throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries, musicians busily battled in musical contests that measured technical facility and improvisational
  • Franz Liszt versus Sigismond Thalberg Franz Liszt versus Sigismond Thalberg
    The culture of the traveling virtuoso, so prevalent in the first half of the nineteenth century and clearly reincarnated in today’s concert environment in which pianists like Lang Lang play more than 300 concerts a year, brought forth a unique