Anecdotes

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COMPOSERS

A Beethoven fan

In an interview with Beethoven scholar K. E. L. Nohl, Schubert's friend, Moritz von Schwind revealed that Schubert sold his ...
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A carriage of flowers for Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky's favourite flower was lilies of the valley.  The local musical society at Tiflis was extremely enthusiastic to have the ...
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A new overture – fast

Beethoven's revised version of Fidelio was due to be premiered on the 23rd May 1814. Beethoven had planned to write a ...
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A note about Chopin

The following appeared in the Musical Times in 1913:An amusing story, for the truth of which we can vouch, comes ...
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A play for dogs

"Satie said, 'I want to make a play for dogs, and I [already] have the staging planned. The curtain rises ...
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Bach’s wedding

Johann Sebastian Bach married Anna Magdelena, 3rd December 1721. They married at home, by command of the Prince of Saxe-Weissenfels. It ...
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Beethoven and the spider

Xaver Schydner von Wartensee, in the early days of meeting Beethoven, was curious about a tale he had heard about ...
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Beethoven distracted

A student of Beethoven's, Ferdinand Ries, went on a walk with his teacher in the country:Beethoven muttered and howled the ...
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Beethoven’s handwriting

Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee (1786-1868) was a composer who wanted lessons with Beethoven.  Beethoven would only look at his ...
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Beethoven’s shutters

Beethoven moved often, and his landlords were not always keen to have him back. While he was working on the ...
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Brahm’s first meeting with Schumann

He [Brahms] sat down and began the sonata which had so impressed Joachim [a violinist].  As he played, a swift ...
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Brahms’ birthday

After Robert Schumann was admitted to a mental assuming in 1854, Johannes Brahms stayed with Robert's wife, Clara Schumann to ...
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Bruckner the count

Anton Bruckner developed a condition call numeromania that compelled him to count everything - cathedral gables, stars, leaves on the ...
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Cure for the common chord

He [John Holmes] entered my room around midnight and said, "'Eureka!' shouted Arnold Schoenberg. 'I've found the cure for the ...
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Elgar’s distractions

In a radio interview in 1937, Edward Elgar's violinist friend William H. Reed described Elgar's "distractions" while composing the violin ...
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Elgar’s football team

Elgar loved his football, particularly the Wolverhampton team.  His friend Dorebella recalled the first match he attended at Wolverhampton:It all ...
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Frank Churchill in production meetings

After joining the Disney studios in 1930, Frank Churchill composed music for animated shorts and feature films. His output includes ...
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Gershwin and Ravel

Ravel, touring America in 1928, was approached by George Gershwin for composition lessons.  Ravel refused, stating "you would only lose ...
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Growing up in a bell tower

Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů was born and spent most of his childhood in a church tower in Polička, on the ...
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Handel on Purcell

An account by R. L. Stevens (1775): When Handel was blind, and attending a performance of the Oratorio Jephtha, Mr [William] ...
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Handel’s speedy method

Morrell gave Handel the words of Cleopatra's air “Convey me to some peaceful shore” in Alexander Balus, he cried out ...
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Haydn’s audition

Karl Georg Reutter II was appointed choirmaster at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna in 1738.  The following year he went ...
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How to win over an orchestra

Haydn was in London in 1791 when he performed in a concert led by Johann Salomon (a violinist/composer).   Salomon ...
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Hoyt Curtain’s compositional process

Hoyt Curtin (1922-2000) was the primary composer for the Hanna Barbara studios. Popular theme songs he composed include The Flintstones, ...
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Improvising a fugue

On 1 May 1747, Bach met Friedrich II, King of Prussia, in the Potsdam city palace (where chamber music was ...
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Just a few variations

Tchaikovsky was an enthusiastic student at the St. Petersberg Conservatoire.  Anton Rubinstein asked Tchaikvosky to write a series of contrapuntal ...
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Liszt meets Beethoven

I was about eleven years old when my respected teacher Czerny took me to see Beethoven.  Already a long time ...
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Mozart the philosopher

On February 19 1786 Mozart attended a masked ball disguised as an Indian philosopher. He distributed pamplets with riddles. One ...
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Mozart’s daily schedule

"...at 6 o'clock in the morning I'm already done with my hair; at 7 I'm fully dressed; - then I ...
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Music with no boundaries

Music can imply the infinite if enough things depart from the norm far enough. Strange "abnormal" events can lead to ...
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One way to get a doctorate

Robert Schumann aspired to be awarded a doctorate degree. On January 31 1840, Robert Schumann asked a friend to appeal ...
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Origins of the name Beethoven

The Beethoven family tree can be traced back to the mid 13th century. The name appears in chronicles of Flemish cities, ...
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Oysters and champaign before a concert

"Sibelius and his wife Aino were in Gothenburg for a concert, the composer disappeared shortly before he was due to ...
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Prokofiev is evicted

Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by ...
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Prokofiev is evicted

Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by ...
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Prokofiev is evicted

Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by ...
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Richter on Bach

"It does no harm to listen to Bach from time to time, even if only from a hygienic standpoint." - Sviatoslav ...
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Rossini and food

"After doing nothing, I know no more delightful occupation of eating, eat properly, I mean. The appetite is for the ...
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Rossini’s salad recipe

"Take the oil from Provence, English mustard, vinegar from France, a little ‘lemon, pepper, salt, beat and mix together; then ...
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Schubert’s progress

Schubert's report card in in the Music of the Court Chapel Choir-Boys in the I. & R. Seminary, 1st term, ...
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Schumann as a student

Schumann studied with Dorn, the conductor at the civic theatre. Dorn recalled:Having completed exercises in figured-bass realization, chorale harmonization, and ...
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Schumann chasing a girl

Schumann once attended a masquerade during the carnival of 1830, in company with his friend Rosen, for the purpose of ...
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Sibelius’ punch recipe

"Punch recipe (for Satu's christening party) 1 l water + sugar + jam + brandy or spirit. Add 2 bottles ...
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Sondheim’s pass times

Sondheim is a lover of games, and collects antique ones (many were destroyed in a fire that swept through the ...
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Tchaikovsky at Cambridge

In 1893, Tchaikovsky was awarded an honorary doctorate at Cambridge University. Charles Villiers Stanford was involved organising the occasion. He ...
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Water music

A common theme in the music of French composers at pre world war I was water.  Debussy wrote En bateau ...
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INTERESTING FACTS

Bacharach’s teachers

Burt Bacharach was a student of Darius Milhaud, Bohusalv Martinu, and Henry Cowell. Bacharach's hits included Magic Moments, Walk on by, ...
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Beethoven in code

The first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony are the morse code for the letter V ...
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Beethoven’s letter

A letter written by composer Ludwig van Beethoven has emerged in Germany after being left in a will. In the six-page ...
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Brian Wilson to complete Gershwin songs

In a surprise union of two quintessentially American composers from different eras, one the 1960s mastermind of "Good Vibrations," the ...
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Early music discovered on carving

A craftsman replicating large medallions has discovered medieval Scottish notation of instrumental music.  The notation is sequences of 0s, Is and ...
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Musical taste in England in 1925

A general perspective of musical taste in Britain in the 1920s can be seen in the letters to radio broadcasters ...
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Teddy Bear’s Picnic

American composer John Bratton wrote the music for "Teddy Bear's Picnic" in 1907. It was first published by M. Witmark ...
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The development of concert life in London

The public concert, as an institution, dates from England from the Restoration period [from the 1660s]; previously music, unless ecclesiastical ...
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The first soundtrack: Snow White

The first soundtrack to be commercially released was Disney's 1938 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The songs were ...
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The origin of the interval

Plays in the Jacobean period (16th century England) were divided into acts to enable the theatre company to manage the ...
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Theme from The Office

The theme to the comedy series The Office is based on the 1967 song "Handbags and Gladrags" (written by Mike ...
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Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley refers to the concentration of music publishers in New York City, West 28th Street between Fifth and ...
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INSTRUMENTS

A $1.2 million piano

"Spotlights dance down on 216 jewels of lead crystal, set in dazzling diamond patterns into the piano's black lid, sides, ...
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A musical use for trash

Favio Chávez, a technician at a Paraguayan landfill site, formed the the Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments: an orchestra comprising ...
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A replacement conductor

The following appeared in the Musical Times, August 1890: We read that "a Saxon engineer has invented an automatic machine, the ...
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Bach’s preferred instrument

Johann Sebastian Bach's preferred to play the viola when conducting an orchestra. Source: Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: ...
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Beethoven’s piano

Franz Liszt owned Beethoven's Broadwood piano ...
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How piano wires have changed throughout history

While piano wire has changed over the centuries from iron to steel of varying qualities, researchers were surprised to find ...
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Instrumental stereotypes

Insider jokes are not just for White House Correspondents' Assn. Dinners or ESPN kibitzers or Academy Awards emcees. They also ...
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Mozart’s piano returns to his home

"The piano that Mozart used for the last 10 years of his life and which he used to compose much ...
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Shaw on the cello

In the nineteenth century, the cello was regarded as an important solo instrument.  George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1890 "I ...
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That’s a wrap

(180, 237, 'That's a wrap', 'that-s-a-wrap', ' Electronic music composer Jeff Bryant never imagined that learning to knit would be part ...
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The art of whistling

In mid-nineteenth century England, whistling was a common source of entertainment and as part of the general reception to a ...
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The Brainy Baboon

"There once was a brainy baboon who always breathed down a bassoon for he said, It appears that in billions ...
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The human voice

"The human voice is the organ of the soul." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Cited at: QuotationsBook ...
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The piano as furniture

In the ninteenth century, the piano was not only regarded as a musical instrument but as a part of the ...
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Violoncello piccolo

A violoncello piccolo is a violin-sized instrument tuned like a cello.  It is held horizontally, slung from a from a ...
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Warmed pianos

There was soon to be no excuse for not practising in the chill of the winter. This excerpt is from ...
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PERFORMERS AND PERFORMANCES

A concise rehearsal

Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was a German conductor. However, he had a dislike of rehearsals. Karajan recalled:One time he was going ...
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A little ahead … or a little behind

Samuel Sebastian Wesley received great reviews for his conding at Gloucester's annual Three Choir Festivals in 1865. An critic in ...
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A matter of tempo

Bruno Walter, Friedrich Buxbaum, and Arnold Rosé were to perform Erich Korngold's Piano Trio in D in 1910. Korngold was ...
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A monkey on his shoulder

Cellist Walter Joachim spend some time in Calcutta, India. He recalled: "I bought a monkey with which to amuse myself ...
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A simple request

Humorists Ilf and Petrov described a concert by Rachmaninoff In New York (November 1935):The night we went to hear him ...
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A very specific error indeed

The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:The newspaper critics Bülow continued to despise because of their ...
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Advice to opera performers

In the early 18th century, the standard of Italian opera performances had become somewhat questionable. In 1720, The satirical writer ...
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Autumn Leaves

Pianist Roger Williams on his hit recording of Autumn Leaves (which was recorded three days after signing his contract with ...
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Baroque they are not

Between 1910 and 1938 the Austrian violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler produced some arrangements of works by Boccherini, Martini, Couperin, Vivaldi ...
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Beethoven and the candlesitcks

Beethoven once gave a performance of a new piano concerto in which he forgot he was the soloist and began ...
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Beethoven conducting

On 5 April 1803 Beethoven conducted an concert of his own works: the First and Second Symphonies; The Third Piano ...
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Beethoven’s contest

In 1800, an improvisation contest occured between Beethoven and the pianist Daniel Steibelt.It was agreed that Prince Lobkowitz would sponsor ...
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Beethoven’s duet

Beethoven was premiering his piano duet, March (op. 45) with duet partner Ferdinand Ries.  When a young count spoke loudly ...
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Brahms’ ladies choir

Brahms formed a Ladies Choir of about fifty singers: "Fix oder Nix" was the motto he coined for them - "Bang ...
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Climbing Mount Fugi with a cello in hand

"In 2007 Italian cellist Mario Brunello climbed to the summit of Mount Fugi and played selections from Bach's cello suites, ...
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Concentrate on the performance

Daniel Saidenberg ws the first cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.  He recalled:Stoki's ability to exert disciplines ...
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Conducting gloves

The practice of wearing white gloves whilst conducting was common in the nineteenth century. The Musical times reported in July 1884 ...
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Debussy’s reception in England

In 1908-9, Claude Debussy made two appearances conducting his own works in England.  The Musical Times reported on the occasions. The ...
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Don’t wish me luck

"From here on out, I declare that no one ever wish me again to 'break a leg'". Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo ...
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Dress regulations for Handel’s Messiah

In the eighteenth century, hooped skirts were a popular choice of ladies dress attire as they enabled a dramatic entrance, ...
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George Gershwin at the piano

The theatre director Rouben Mamoulian describes Gershwin's playing: George at the piano was George happy ... like a sorcerer celebrating his ...
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Gershwin conducting

Isaac Goldberg described Gershwin's enthusiasm when conducting: He conducted not just with his baton, but with his cigar, his shoulders, his hips, ...
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Gershwin’s playing (and sense of humour)

The composer Burton Lane describes George Gershwin's playing: You could feel the electricity going through the room when he played.  He ...
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Here’s a pencil … and an eraser

'The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:Young composers whom Bülow decided to feature in the concerts ...
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How not to get an audience

Satie's ballet Relâche (1924) had trouble pulling a crowd: the title translates as "this performances is cancelled". Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) ...
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In the event of a lack of singers

In a letter to his friend Abbé Joseph Bullinger, Mozart jokes about the musical environment in Salsburg. One of his ...
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Just as we checked the tuning …

In 1853, Brahms went on a tour of German cities with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi.  In the town of ...
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Loyalty to a lead

John Sublett (stage name, John Bubbles) was a tap dancer unable to read music.  He was chosen by Gershwin to ...
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Maiky’s recording of Bach’s cello suites

"The Latvian cellist Mischa Maisky recorded the Bach's cello suites "at a small guest house he converted into a studio ...
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Mozart improvising

In 1777, Mozart was having lunch with his uncle at the Holy Cross Convent in Ausburg. Mozart played a sinfoni ...
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Mozart’s magic ring

When Mozart was in Naples, he so impressed his audience that they suspected "musical sorcery". They ordered him to play without ...
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Musicians in Dresden in 1720s

''There was rivalry among the musicians in Dresden in the 1720s.  Daniel Heartz describes some incidents:Silvius Weiss, the famous lutenist, ...
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Not just a one hit wonder … but there was an audience favorite

Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor proved very popular with the public. At times, it was programmed "by request" (1), and if ...
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Page turning for Beethoven

Ignaz Xaver Seyfried was asked to turn pages for Beethoven in a performance of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto (5 April ...
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Paper and matches for maintenance

When Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was in his seventies, he retired from the concert stage and lived in Prades, Southern ...
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People must hear me

"I cannot tell you how much I love to play for people. Would you believe it - sometimes when I ...
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Pierrot Lunairre

A performance of Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire was given by Artur Schnabel (piano), Boris Kroyt (violin), Gregor Piatigorsky (cello), Paul Bose ...
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Practising at every opportunity

The conductor Stokowski was co-conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  He was rehearsing his own orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures ...
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Rehearsal conditions must be suitable

Strengthened by his initial triumph and by daily evidences of the ever-mounting appreciation and support of the Philadelphia's new claim ...
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Sondheim on audiences

"I do think audiences become more sophisticated. You try something out on them and they say, “Ugh”. You try it ...
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Stokowski and singers

Leopold Stokowski was staging a concert version of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Natalie Bodanya, one of the finest singers at Curtis ...
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Stokowski on contemporary music

Leopold Stokowski was a champion of contemporary music. He conducted music without judgement, believing judgement to be the public's job. During ...
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Stokowski playing Bach on the organ

Stewart Warkov, assistant manager of the Symphony of The Air in 1961 described Stokowski playing Bach on the organ:Stokowski played ...
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Stokowski’s orders

A letter from the conductor Leopold Stokowski to Sylvan Levin gives an insight into his sense of humour: Caro Maestro Illustre, ...
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Streisland’s instinct

[Barbara Streisand's] early voice training amounted to one lesson with a voice teacher. At that session Ms. Streisand sang "A ...
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The silent bass clarinet

During a rehearsal of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony: Stokowski had inserted a gratuitous part for bass clarinet. "It so happens," wrote O'Connell, ...
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The state of opera: 1720s

In 1720 in Italy, opera was largely dictated by the egos of the singers, rather than considering the text, or ...
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To be a good player

Bach was once complemented on his organ playing: "There is nothing remarkable about it.  All one has to do is hit ...
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Two hands or one

American pianist Seymour Lipkin, a student of Rudolf Serkin recalled a performance of Beethoven's Hammerklavier SonataBack in the 1970s I ...
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What a difference an audience makes

Mozart was in Paris in 1778. He visited the duchess of Chabot, Elisabeth-Louise de la Rochefoucauld, wife of Louis-Antoine-Auguste de ...
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Where to curse the orchestra

The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:Bülow's close relationship with his Berlin audience was not achieved ...
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Who needs four strings anyway?

In his work Le Streghe (The Witches), the virtuoso violinist Paganini would use scissors to reduce the number of strings ...
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Word of mouth encore

Leopold Stokowski gave the Philadelphia premiere of Ravel's Bolero as an "encore" at a Friday afternoon concert.The newspaper critics had ...
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PERSONALITIES OF THE MUSICIANS

A little poem by Mozart

Dearest Stroll! good old troll! you sit in your hole drunk as a Mole! - But ...
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A motorboat experience

Rachmaninoff was a great lover of motorboating and used to go out every day.  He always steered himself.  Often he ...
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A mushroom anyone?

...everybody was possessed by the Russian passion for gathering mushrooms.  Rivalries ran high, mushrooms were counted and compared, their beauty ...
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A noisy neighbour

The Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev was evicted from his lodgings on several occasions on account of the noise which accompanied ...
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Accustomed to being ignored

Josef von Spaun recalled the following incident involving Franz Schubert at a concert. Schubert had just accompanied Baron Schönstein, at ...
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Beethoven and food

When he [Beethoven] came to Vienna, he knew nothing at all of the fine art of cooking.  He cared little ...
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Beethoven as a boy

In his Beethoven: Biography of a Genius, Marek provides an insight into Beethoven as a boy:The boy was looking out ...
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Beethoven in 1821

In his book, A Tour in Germany, and some of the Southern Provinces of the Austrian Empire, in 1820, 1821, ...
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Beethoven’s prank

Beethoven was a musician for the Electoral court and chapel in Bonn. Franz Wegeler, a friend of of Beethoven's, recounted an ...
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Brahms at the tavern

When Brahms was young, he had to play in rowdy taverns to help support his family.Dance music was what the ...
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Brahms’ harmonic exercise

It was during the summer of 1858 that Brahms met Agathe von Seibold.  He had gone to visit Ise Grimm ...
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Brahms’ post-concert adventure

Brahms was invited to the family of one of his students, Fräulein von Meyensbug, in Detmol :The Meysenbug ladies proved ...
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Brahms’ pranks

Hannes was not always solemn - far from it!  He could be as full of fun and wild pranks as ...
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Brahms’ stingy side

Musicologist Richard Leonard describes a stingy side to Brahms's personality:It is true that at times he was generous, giving away ...
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Bunking down in the Philharmonic

Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, after running into some problems with his accommodation, was spending a cold November day in the Tiergarten, ...
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Debussy’s recreational activities

Often at the end of the day Gaby [Debussy's lover] would discover that they had a little money left over ...
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First class regardless

The composer Karol Szymanowski was born into a landowning class family.  Even, later in life, when short for money, he ...
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Gershwin’s romantic side

Rodney Greenberg describes a side of George Gershwin's "romantic side": He wrote a little waltz-song, which he would sing and play ...
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Gershwin: the life at the party

Gershwin was often the life of a party, entertaining on the piano.  He said: "The trouble is, when I don't ...
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Hammerstein’s card games

Music theatre writer Oscar Hammerstein loved to play games.  His nephew recalls:There’s a family story about his game-playing. I can’t ...
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I am Beethoven

An account of Beethoven being lost in his creative world: Thayer tells us of a conversation he had with a Professor ...
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It’s my apartment and I’ll play if I want to

Prokofiev and his family moved into a small top floor-apartments in Paris.  Prokofiev spent much time practicing a revised version ...
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Learn my name

Stokowski's ability to inspire musicians was sometimes balanced by the ability to turn them off.  Saidenberg altered me to a ...
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Mozart’s Pranks

Mozart's sense of mischief is evident in his behaviour at a performance of The Magic Flute.  Thisis from a letter ...
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Not up to form, because …

Harvey Sach's comments on pianist Author Rubinstein at age 13:...it is clear that Arthur's practising began to deteriorate when he ...
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Out of practice

"All I have left is a long nose and a fourth finger out of practice." Chopin, in Scotland, unable to ...
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Puccini’s hangout

Puccini was a very sociable man, quote often putting this before his composing.  Even when he was working hard, he ...
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Puccini’s rain machine

Puccini custom built a villa in the seaside resort of Viareggio. Here, Puccini had a "rain machine that sprinkled water ...
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Rachmaninoff scares me

Cyril Smith recounts Rachmaninoff's stage presence: Those who were fortunate enough to hear him play will almost certainly remember this very ...
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Rachmaninoff the examiner

In 1900, Rachmaninoff worked at the Yekaterininsky Girls' Institute.  One of his students recalled her experience of examination day:The lessens ...
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Rachmaninoff’s concert routine

Reporters described Sergei Rachmaninoff on a concert tour (c. 1940):His punctuality is a legend.  If a reporter asks for two ...
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Ravel and food

Ravel was touring America, in 1928, but was having some interesting experiences with food. One on occasion:The Mason & Hamlin ...
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Ravel’s fashion sense

Ravel was always particular about his sense of fashion.  As Léon-Paul Fargue recalled:Even when he was wasted by illness, Ravel never ...
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Sight singing with Handel

When Handel travelled through Chester, on his way to Ireland, this year, 1741 (to give the first performance of Messiah), ...
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Stanford on Tchaikovsky

"Tchaikovsky reminded me, in more ways than one, of his countryman Tourgéniew, whom I once met at Madame Viardot's. He ...
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Stokowski’s rehearsal

Raoul Berger (who eventually had a fall out with the conductor Stokowski and left The Philahrmonic Orchestra) described Stokowski's rehearsal ...
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Szymanowski’s dogs

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski was brought up in  very musical environment: he had a dogs named "Scherzo" and "Crotchet". ...
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Tchaikovsky and mushroom collecting

Like so many Russians, he was a madly keen collector of mushrooms and could indulge his passion freely at Klin; ...
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Tchaikovsky and the village children

Tchaikovsky lived in a village Maidanovo.  When Tchaikovsky would go for works, he would also be hailed by groups of ...
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Tchaikovsky as a teacher

Tchaikovsky disliked teaching at the best of times, but he particularly didn't enjoy teaching female students, most of whom, in ...
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The advantages of having a manager

Vaughan Williams had asked Holst about his experience of having an agent. Holst, who was at Harvard University at the ...
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The personality of George Gershwin

Isaac Goldberg, a friend of George Gershwin, described the composer's personality:HE was as simple, as unaffected, as modest, and as ...
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Too much pedal

Johannes Brahms could be incredibly rude, even to his friends. While playing a Beethoven sonata with a cellist friend one ...
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What about me?

Songwriter Johnny Green recalled Gershwin bragging about his achievements after a concert, eventually to stop and say: "That's enough about ...
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