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Classical Composers, Great Conductors, Singers & Film Music Composers

 

  Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

                

Considered by nearly all musical authorities to be one of, if not the greatest composers of all time, Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on 27 January 1756. He was christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophillus Mozart, the Greek "Theophillus" meaning "beloved of God." This has been rendered as Amadeo or Amadè (Italian), Amadé (French, his preferred usage) and Gottlieb (German), all of which translate out the same.  Mozart used Amadeus only when joking in letters to friends, nearly all surviving official documents requiring his signature are signed "Amade."

His father was Leopold Mozart, a composer of some note, an excellent violinist, court musician and chamber composer to the court of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Leopold was also the author of "The Violin School," one of the best books of its time for the teaching and training of violinists. His mother, born Maria Anna Pertl, married Leopold in 1747 and gave birth to 6 children, of which only Wolfgang and his five-year-older sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) survived. Both children at an early age showed a remarkable musical talent and Leopold began to devote all his spare time and energy to further their skills for himself and the family. In the end, he surrendered his chances for advancement in his career, preferring to gamble on his children providing for the security of the family.

Nannerl was a skilled pianist by age 8 when the three-year-old Wolfgang began to spend hours at the clavier, exploring sounds, intervals and chords. Encouraged in this, he began to receive systematic training by Leopold and soon began to show amazing skills for improvising, playing at sight sheet music and the ability to create music on his own. By observing his father playing the violin, Wolfgang was able to pick up the rudiments of playing it himself, astonishing everyone at a musical gathering by playing at first sight a second violin part in a string trio. At five, Mozart was composing at the clavier and writing out (badly, at first) his works, Leopold then copying them over into more neat, musically correct forms (see, for example, K.1a, K.1b and K.1e for examples of the earliest works). Wolfgang quickly learned how to write down the music himself, but for many years Leopold would supervise, then correct and make a clean copy of the works. This led initially to people believing that Leopold was the true composer of many of the early works by Wolfgang, or at least was "improving" them.

Realizing that the gifts Nannerl and especially Wolfgang were exhibiting could take them far beyond the confines of Salzburg, Leopold requested leave from court duties and the entire family then went on tour, starting in mid-1763. To the Archbishop, the reasons that were given for touring were to make money and bring acclaim to the Salzburg court. Unspoken in all of this was Leopold?s quest to find a well paying post for Wolfgang and himself, so as to quit provincial Salzburg for better surroundings. Unhappy with his post and superiors there, Leopold strove at all times when on tour to gain a better circumstance for his family.

Initially, the family traveled to Munich then Vienna, there playing for the Habsburg royal family. Wolfgang astonished most of his audiences with his musical skills and his fame spread far ahead of their travels. The initial successes led Leopold to expand the duration and destinations of the tour; Paris and its royal family were the next goal, then in April 1764 it became London?s turn. Here, in 1764, Wolfgang composed his first symphony K.16 at age 7, although there may have been at least one other composed before this that is now lost. Received by royalty and wealthy people of station, the Mozart family continued to tour, visiting Holland, France again, then Switzerland, before finally returning to Salzburg in 1766, nearly three years after commencing the so-called Grand Tour. While no musical postings had been offered, the family had made a substantial profit from this trip and, more importantly, Wolfgang had grown greatly with his musical abilities.

Aside from keyboard antics and showpieces such as playing without mistakes on a cloth-covered keyboard, Wolfgang had expanded his instrumental skills by being able to play music at first sight on the piano, harpsichord, clavichord and organ. He was proficient on the violin and viola as well. He could improvise to great praise on any given theme, copy the style of other composers as needed and compose works that were equal to most of the other music masters of the time. If Leopold misled slightly by advertising the children?s ages as a year or younger than they really were, well, it only made the miracle that much more enticing a show.

The family was home only nine months before Leopold received permission to travel once again to Vienna, ostensibly to attend the Imperial Habsburg family at the marriage of a daughter. Again, the unstated reason was to seek a better post for the family. The Mozarts were well received initially, but an outbreak of smallpox killed the royal bride and very nearly Wolfgang as well. When recovered (and having lost income from not performing) Leopold attempted to get a royal commission for Wolfgang to produce an opera. He achieved a commission, but intrigues, jealousies and an ill-conceived complaint to the Royal family on all these problems by Leopold succeeded only in Wolfgang composing the work (the opera La finta semplice K.51). In the end it was not performed in Vienna, but most likely was later in Salzburg.

Upon returning to Salzburg, Wolfgang continued honing his skills while Leopold continued to seek out suitable projects to advance the family?s circumstances. He succeeded in the next few years in gaining contracts to compose operas for courts in Italy. Father and son made three journeys to Italy between 1770-73, with Wolfgang composing the operas Mitridate K.87 and Lucio Silla K.135 as well as other works of note. Wolfgang studied with Padre Giambattista Martini, one of the most learned musicians of the times there. By studying counterpoint with the padre, Mozart was able to pass a composition test and be acclaimed a member of the Bologna Philharmonic Society, any age requirements being waived.

In Rome, Wolfgang performed his famous feat of writing out complete a "Miserere" for double chorus after only one hearing, perhaps making a few corrections after hearing one other performance. This work was forbidden to be published or in manuscript outside of the Vatican (though it can be shown that a very few copies had been sent here and there. Padre Martini had one, for example). For this action, the Bologna award and in general for his skills at music, Pope Clement XIV awarded him the title of Knight of the Golden Order. This award now allowed him to be called "Cavaliere" or "Chevalier". For a while he (and his father for him) signed various scores, small and large, "Cavaliere", but apart from that, he never used this title and in the end tended to mock the use of it. This was quite contrary to the composer Gluck, who had the same title and used it extensively.

Everywhere they went, Wolfgang was honored for his playing and compositions. However, no posts were offered by the ruling Habsburg Archdukes of the Italian provinces. The Empress Maria Teresa advised one of her sons on engaging Wolfgang at his court: "what I say is intended only to prevent your burdening yourself with useless people and giving titles to people of that sort?if they are in your service it degrades that service when these people go about the world like beggars." Unknown to Leopold, his constant travels, concerts, requests for paid leave and complaints he had made to various authorities, gave him a bad reputation among members of the ruling elite. The Mozarts had fallen out of step with the times in thinking they could easily move from gentle servitude to independence. The family could acquire money and honor on these trips; Wolfgang could not gain a post and so was back in Salzburg by March 1773. He had again overstayed his leave of absence from the Archbishops service by many months.

Wolfgang immediately sat at his desk and began to produce compositions of even greater skill than before, turning out symphonies, quartets and a Mass according to the tastes of the Archbishop. Both Wolfgang and Leopold appeared to be settling into the routine of Salzburg at last. Then, by July 1773, the Archbishop decided to travel to Vienna to visit the Imperial family and his sick father. Leopold applied and received permission for himself and Wolfgang to go as well, again to officially bring honor to the Salzburg court, but the Hofkapellmeister in Vienna was gravely ill and Leopold had hoped to attain this post. Little else is known about the reasons for the trip; Leopold?s letters are careful to not raise the suspicions of the Salzburg court. In the end, no post was offered by the Viennese court and the Mozarts again returned home empty handed and late.

From 1774 to the middle of 1777 saw a greater outpouring of work by Wolfgang. He wrote a set of string quartets (K.168, K.169, K.170, K.171, K.172 and K.173) while in Vienna and, when back home, wrote a series of symphonies including # 29 K.201 in A and #25 K.183 in g minor, the earliest of his symphonies in the repertory. For the 1775 carnival season in Munich, he composed an opera La Finta Giardiniera K.196 that was a decided improvement over his previous opera efforts. In 1775 alone he composed at least four, perhaps five violin concertos (K.207, K.211, K.216, K.218, K.219), while over the course of the next few years came several piano concertos, more symphonies, six piano sonatas as well as church music. A new Archbishop had replaced the earlier, kinder one, and this Archbishop Colloredo was not indulgent of musicians aspiring beyond their class. Clashes occurred between the proud Mozarts and himself, but with no prospects of getting another post, Wolfgang and his father put up for now with what they perceived as the petty harassment he inflicted. By this time, Leopold was Vice-Kapellmeister at Salzburg, while Wolfgang was Konzertmeister.

By 1777, the family came again to the conclusion that with the limited opportunities in Salzburg for the gifted Wolfgang, it was time to attempt another tour and seek a post at another court. However, leave was not granted by the Archbishop; in the end Wolfgang gave up his post as Konzertmeister in order to go (in fact, his was officially dismissed from service), but Leopold, needing to provide for the rest of the family, had to stay. Wolfgang and his mother therefore set out on this last family tour. They went to Munich and then Mannheim, Mozart composing new works, performing in concerts that could be arranged and attempted to get accepted by the court at Mannheim. Four months were spent at this, to no lasting effect. In truth, neither Mozart or his mother were capable of effectively running a tour; that had always been Leopold?s job. Too much money and time were wasted chasing hopes that did not convert into either money or a job. The freedom from the dominant hold Leopold had upon the family also came into play; as Mozart dallied, acting at times more like a tourist than a job hunter. As well, he did not plan for the possibility of failure or poor receipts and his mother had no lasting positive effect upon his actions.

In Mannheim, Mozart fell in love with an aspiring opera singer named Aloysia Weber. He then wrote Leopold an ill-conceived letter about his plans to travel with her and her father Fridolin Weber, in order to write operas giving her starring roles (as a sample of what might-have-been, listen to the aria Popoli di Tessaglia K.316). Maria Anna would of course go home to Salzburg. Leopold, in one of the most famous of the Mozart family letters, replied emphatically that no such thing was going to happen, that mother and son were going to Paris to seek the family fortune: that was that! Begrudgingly, mother and son traveled to Paris, arriving in March 1778. Mozart threw himself into composing somewhat in the French style in order to make a name for himself. Two concerto works (K.297b and K.299), two ballets (K.299b and K.299c, a sketch only), a revision of a Miserie K.297a (lost) and the first great symphony, #31 K.297 in D the "Paris" were all composed within 13 weeks. However, there were many other problems. The nobles remembered Mozart as a child prodigy and did not immediately take to the lightly pockmarked German musician. Mozart, on his part, did not care for the French taste in music, was not prepared (or inclined) to teach and was thus ill equipped to compete with dozens of other composers flocking to Paris to achieve fame. Further, due to some intrigues, some of his contracted music was "lost" or misplaced, robbing him of the opportunity to advance his career with it. Finally, his mother became sick, then worsened and died. Mozart was shaken to the core by his loss and the remaining time spent in Paris after her death saw far less composing done.

Meanwhile, Leopold had spoken to many people of how well things were going for Wolfgang and had managed to convince the Salzburg court to rehire his talented son as Konzertmeister and give him a raise as well. Once Leopold recovered from the shock of Maria Anna?s death, he strove to get Wolfgang back to Salzburg to take up his new post as soon as possible. However, Wolfgang was very reluctant to put himself back into service there. A journey home from Paris that should have taken less than a month was stretched out to over four, as he dawdled along, attempting haphazardly to find another post or opportunity. As well, Mozart was savoring his last weeks of freedom from the control of both Leopold and Salzburg. This new delay did not sit well with the court officials at Salzburg. His budding love affair with Aloysia fell apart, as she had in fact become a success, while he had not. In a meeting that must have been painful, she told him that she was not in love with him, and that any hopes he might have there were for naught. Again crushed, Wolfgang made his way back (finally) to Salzburg, where he was awaited with open arms by his friends and family, and perhaps by side-long annoyed glances by the Court.

The years 1779-80 back home saw three more symphonies, various church works, 2 concertos and many serenades produced. But still it was opera that Mozart longed to succeed at and Salzburg did not boast of any such opportunities. Hence, when one such opportunity arrived in 1780 to write one for Carnival season in Munich, as he did in 1775, Wolfgang was highly interested. This time it was to be a serious opera, not buffa. The Mozarts accepted, Wolfgang went off to Munich, and the letters between him and his father back home are a rich source of information on how Mozart approached operatic composition. The work was Idomeneo K.366, perhaps the greatest opera seria written, a big success in which Mozart depicted serious, heroic emotion with great skill and richness by using vivid orchestral scoring with well-designed and expressive recitative. Idomeneo was one of Mozart?s finest creations, with its invocation of new dramatic devices, its Sturm und Drang intensity, its moments of compassion and pathos, along with the glorious music. For all its faults in terms of length and mediocre, old-fashioned writing by its librettist, this work has gained in esteem over the years, since it acts as a sort of "transition" from all that Mozart had learned in the past, to the new wonders he was to create in the future. As Julian Rushton puts it; "Idomeneo is an opera sui generis, occupying a special place in the affections of its composer who went on to other achievements as vital and significant, but never returned to its dignified, heroic, yet thoroughly human world." It was indeed a landmark work for him and helped re-establish his reputation, as well as providing a needed boost to his morale. It also reconfirmed his attitude towards his post in Salzburg, as he again overstayed his agreed leave time of six weeks in Munich.

From Munich, Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where the Salzburg court had gone on State business. Being late back from leave, it was probably expected that he would catch up with them by the end of February 1781. Instead, Mozart arrived in Vienna on March 16th. He was immediately informed that he was to give a concert for guests that very night. The Archbishop made it clear to Mozart that he was in service to the court and should follow orders and procedures. His letters home to Leopold show an increasing frustration with the attitude of the Archbishop ("I hate the Archbishop to madness!") as well as clues that Mozart was seeking out possible patrons and opportunities so as to be able to quit Salzburg for good. Mozart was once again falling out of step with his world. The inevitable break came in May, with Mozart having had enough "abuse" and quitting the service of the Archbishop. Despite Leopold?s raging letters attempting to make him change his mind and not "abandon" the family, as of May 1781, Mozart was in Vienna for good.

While desiring a post, Mozart was initially content to undertake freelance work, as Vienna was "?the Land of the Clavier (piano)." The city offered many opportunities for a talented person such as Mozart, since he was able to compose piano sonatas and concertos, give concerts to show off both his playing and composing skills, sell his works to publishers, teach students and play in the salons of the nobles and wealthy personages of Vienna. In these early years, it was his subscription concerts for the string of piano concertos he composed that brought him renown and much money. The great Piano Concertos #17, 20, 21, 23 and 24 (K.453, K.466, K.467, K.488 and K.491) were the pinnacle of his 15 total piano concerto works premiered at this time. In fact, Mozart did very well from 1782 up until 1786, making the equivalent of at least $150,000 per year (in 2000 A.D. dollars) during this time frame. Truly, Vienna responded well to his offerings.

Mozart?s approach to composition changed as well through the vehicle of the piano concerto. In all of his music he had striven to insure that every work was accessible, in the best sense of the term, but not at the expense of compromising his standards and philosophy on music. He rarely sacrificed or conceded on these points. With those concertos he rarely "played up" to an audience, rather his intentions overall were to compel his listeners to follow him. Whether by beguiling themes or dramatic interplay (or both), Mozart was able to initially secure a concert base that provided him with a steady income. While pleasing to any ear, these works were marvels of composition to attentive listeners. The unfortunate part of Mozart?s life in Vienna was that there were far too few such listeners.

The brilliance and exquisiteness that are such striking features of Mozart?s piano concerti have often been compared to great, sublime poetry. The message inherent within them, coupled with a nicely refined lyrical approach caused several of these works to have an unprecedented emotional impact on those Vienna audiences. However, in the d and c minor concertos (K.466 and K.491 respectively), Mozart moved into a completely new area, that of dramatic, truly emotionally charged concert music. In fact, despite the change from Classical to Romantic eras, when most of Mozart?s music slipped from the repertoire, K.466, with its open pathos, conflicting moods, sudden contrasts and dynamic range, never was (or could be) withdrawn. With K.491 in c minor, noted music commentator John Burke states: "If Mozart could be said ever to have ignored his public in a concerto and followed completely his own inner promptings, it was here. It is his ultimate venture, his furthest exploration of the piano concerto." His operatic skills helped him to till this fertile new ground. The former "gallant" virtuosic contest between soloist and orchestra of the earlier, pre-Vienna works is resolved by Mozart, transforming it instead into a stark, dramatic contrast. The unusually austere, almost severe quality of the opening bars of the initial orchestral themes are contrasted with the soloists flexible, expressive melodies, which can be taken as nearly speech-like in nature. This is perhaps the most striking opera technique drawn on to enhance purely orchestral music.

As a result, Mozart instilled real symphonic developments in terms of depth and breadth into these concertos. Previously, the development area within concertos had been short, being essentially a stringing together of virtuosic passages. The entire structure of the concerto, with its contrasting comparison of movements as well as the contrast between the sonority of soloist and orchestra, now became fused as well with an encompassing strength of emotional depth. As with the best of Mozart?s works, the music all seems so simple and clear on the surface, but surprisingly great depths are encountered in the passage through them. Significantly, during the period of these works (15 piano concertos total from 1782-1786), Mozart composed only two symphonies (K.385 and K.425, both for other than Viennese venues), hence it was here in the concerto form that saw this blossoming occur. However, any true romantic content in classical era works was regarded with suspicion by many in the audiences of Vienna. In making these advancements, Mozart was again moving out of step with his times.

During this period, Mozart married Constanze Weber, younger sister of Aloysia, a move that Leopold opposed as well. Leopold and Nannerl seemingly never forgave his final "abandonment" of them by him. The surviving correspondence between Wolfgang and Leopold (and between Leopold and Nannerl; with nothing between Wolfgang and Nannerl once she married and moved from Salzburg as though the father wanted to stay the sole contact point between the family members to insure he could shape their opinions of one another) during the Vienna years reveals little remaining warmth (provided by love), but instead evolves into complaints and sour-tinged commentary by Leopold, politely answered by Wolfgang. Even in 1785, when visiting Wolfgang in Vienna, Leopold?s letters home paint a picture of life with his son tinged with admiration for his achievements and colored by chagrin and perhaps a touch of jealousy at how well things were going without him guiding Wolfgang?s life. Once back home in Salzburg, the correspondence between father and son grew even more widely spaced, with gaps of months appearing between contacts. In contrast, Nannerl received a constant flow of letters from Leopold offering advice and direction. Leopold reserved his parental warmth for his daughter, whereas Wolfgang and Constanze were coolly mentioned as "your brother" and "his wife" when mentioned at all.

Despite these family tribulations, the surviving letters we have show that Mozart loved his wife very much and she appears to have returned that affection, despite rumors over the years of infidelities on both their parts. Strangely enough, we have many surviving letters from Wolfgang to his wife, but not a single confirmed one from Constanze to him. (This may be due to the simple fact that Mozart needed to read them but once to remember them, and tossed them out once he did read them). Certain passages sited within these letters have led some to promote major problems between husband and wife at times, but only the rumors mentioned earlier, appearing to date from the early 1800?s, can be cited as "evidence." Rumored scandal and character assassination were not uncommon in Vienna throughout the 19th century; no great personages were ever truly spared. What continues to come through these letters, even after 200+ years, is the love Mozart has for his wife, and the obvious affection they share for one another.

However, a notable lack of affection between Mozart and Court Composer Antonio Salieri has been brought down through the years via letters, report, plays and operas (let alone movies). Salieri was a well known, respected and well paid Court Composer on staff to the Austrian Court. As well, he was the favorite composer of Emperor Joseph II. The letters of Mozart and his father mentions "plots," "cabals" and intrigues wherein Salieri is credited with attempting to foil or spoil some enterprise of Wolfgang?s. As one of the directors of the opera in Vienna, it cannot be denied that he had a large amount of influence over areas that Mozart wished entrance into. Nor can it be denied that he would have had clout in any area of music via his contacts within Vienna. However, in none of the letters mentioned above do we know what occurred or how exactly Salieri may have influenced things against Mozart. In fact, we have no contemporary evidence to show anything other than the normal problems associated with competing composers dealing with a tightly scheduled opera season occurred at all regarding the two. With opera being the musical path most strewn with money and fame, such problems could get amplified beyond their true limits. Stories of friction between them came to prominence nearly 25 years after Mozart?s death. Significantly, such stories did not come from, nor were they supported by, Mozart?s widow.

With opera being one of Mozart?s true passions, and as mentioned, the opera stage being the most lucrative path to fame and fortune for a musician, it?s no surprise that he returned to this art form once on his own. Thus, he ended up composing a string of some of the greatest works of that genre. Starting in 1782 with the German opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio K.384), Mozart composed a highly popular work that played all over Europe (and spawned the famous quote by Emperor Joseph II of "Too many notes, my dear Mozart"). Pairing up with the Court Poet Lorenzo Da Ponte, they transformed in 1785-6 a highly political play into the opera Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) K.492, one of the greatest operas ever written. Receiving in 1787 a commission from the National Theater in Prague (where Figaro was tremendously popular) for an opera, Mozart and Da Ponte responded with Don Giovanni K.527 (Don Juan), again one of the best operas ever written. Mozart treats Da Ponte?s skilled libretti of the interplay of sexual and social tensions with such finesse and insight into the human character that these works break out of the simpler comic mode they were originally conceived in. The people of Prague responded with great enthusiasm to both of these works. Finally, in 1789, they collaborated again for the Vienna theater and produced Così fan tutte K.588, a work of great beauty, but held critically to be a lesser effort than the works that preceded it, and thus not well received at the time.

Other works of great depth and beauty were constantly being produced by Mozart during his Vienna years. The "Haydn" String Quartets (K.387, K.421, K.428, K.458, K.464 and K.465), composed in honor of Mozart?s great fellow composer Joseph Haydn, 12 violin sonatas, 10 piano sonatas, 5 string quintets, scores of dances (Mozart loved to dance; see especially the dance sets K.509, K.609 and K.605) as well as many variations for piano on other composer?s works. Mozart, contrary to the legends, frequently did sketch out musical ideas and lay out drafts of works, as opposed to composing totally in his mind. He then completed the entire scores using these drafts and his prodigious memory. The sketches appear to be on short subjects that Mozart apparently was having some troubles over. They seem to have been his way of focusing his attention on a particular "problem" or idea. Drafts appear to be works that he started, but set aside for one reason or another. Most of the ones we have he never followed up on, but analysis of some completed works shows us that he initially started on the work, set it aside (sometimes for years) and then would go back and finished it.

However, it is no legend but fact that he was able to compose complete works within his mind and transfer it all to paper, and in a very short time as well; see the "Linz" Symphony K.425, a work composed and written out in no more than 4 days. From the total amount of material we have left, it has been estimated that he must have worked 6-8 hours every day (except perhaps Sundays) for years in order to achieve what has survived to this day. This, of course, precludes material that hasn?t survived. In fact, newly discovered works turn up every few years, adding to this already prodigious total. There are currently over 40 "lost" works still to discover, running the gamut from dances and marches to concerti and symphonies.

Mozart was always busy at either composing, teaching, organizing concerts or trying to close sales of his works. With no solid post and attached salary, he had to depend on his own efforts to pay his way through the world. With no copyright, he received a single payment when he sold a work. Once that work was sold, the new owner might make large sums of money from it, none of which saw its way into Mozart?s pockets. (The idea of copyright did not become a reality in Austria until over 30 years after his death). The purchaser, or even his own copyists, could duplicate these works by hand, sell them to publishers, and so collect money that might otherwise be rightfully his as well. Therefore, he guarded his manuscripts, especially the piano works for his own use at his subscription concerts, in order to earn the most money from them. These compositions could be given repeatedly by him alone, which is one probable reason why he never completely wrote out the piano part in some of those works.

Speaking of teaching, in the 1786-88 timeframe we see two future musical giants make their first appearances in connection with Mozart. In the early months of 1786, the eight-year old Johann Nepomuk Hummel was brought to Vienna by his father in hopes of receiving lessons from Mozart. So taken by the boy?s talents, Mozart is supposed to have said; "Agreed, I shall instruct the boy, but he has to live with me so that I can keep a constant eye on him. He will get everything free: instruction, room, board." For approximately two years then, Hummel lived with the Mozarts so as to take advantage of this opportunity. Finally, Hummel and his father left to tour Europe, much as Leopold and Wolfgang had done in the early years. Mozart may have crossed paths with Hummel one more time, as they both passed through Berlin in May of 1789; Mozart attempting to gain a commission or post with the King of Prussia, Hummel (now 10) giving a concert on the 23rd of the month. Mozart stayed on in Berlin until the 28th, so he may well have stopped in to check up on his former pupil. If so, this meeting sadly has gone unrecorded

On April 7 1787, the young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived in Vienna. It would appear that he did so in order to become a pupil of Mozart. The evidence here is anecdotal for the most part, though in later years Beethoven himself indicates that he at least was present when Mozart played the piano. Beethoven was in Vienna only two weeks, leaving after that due to receiving the word that his mother was extremely ill and probably dying. As well, we know Mozart was not well in that month of April, and further was preparing to move his family from their current lodgings to less expensive ones in the Landstrasse suburbs. So, it appears that any time spent with Mozart would have been fleeting. The famous anecdote of Mozart hearing Beethoven play the piano and then announcing that Ludwig would make a name for himself in the world is only that, an uncorroborated story.

As well, 1786-87 saw a stroke of luck materialize for Mozart. The great composer Christoph Willibald Gluck, honorary Imperial Court Composer to Joseph II, died in November of 1786, shocking the Court and people of Vienna. The Court in turn bestowed part of Gluck?s position and salary upon Mozart, naming him (dating from December 7 1787) Kammer-Kompositeur (Chamber Composer) at the salary of 800 gulden (circa $35,000) per annum, as opposed to the 2000 gulden (circa $90,000) Gluck received. This was no demotion; rather that Gluck had behind him five decades of musical accomplishment and Mozart "only" two and a half (at age 31!) and as well that Mozart could no doubt "grow" into the position and hence receive future salary increases. The Court must have looked upon this post as honorary, for it required nothing more out of Mozart than to supply dances during Carnival seasons. This was no slight in itself; Haydn furnished such royal dance music to the Court and Beethoven did so later as well. But of Court requests for operas, masses, concerti, chamber works or symphonies; nothing at all. Hence the belief by most in the anecdotal report of Mozart writing on a receipt of delivery for his salary from the Court: "Too much for what I do, too little for what I could do."

For all his industry and appointment, it appears that starting in 1787, Mozart and Constanze fell on harder times. He appears to have given fewer concerts, overall his income fell and commissions for works seem to have fallen off. Many reasons have been given for this, but the true facts remain partially hidden. Three reasons can, however be noted. First, reviews suggest that his popularity was on the wane as the public considered other composers superior, or at least their music was more accessible (Also, one can?t be sure the Viennese weren?t out looking for another composer to get "enthused" over). Second, a war with the Ottoman Empire sent the nobles out from Vienna to join their regiments in the field, which reduced the flow of money into all the arts and entertainment areas. Third, there is reason to believe that Mozart may have over-extended himself by losing at gambling, though we do not have firm details in this area. Fourth was that illness stalked the Mozart family, with both husband and wife suffering various ailments, not including pregnancy and childbirth costs.

The final capstone was the death of Leopold. Wolfgang?s last letter to him, upon hearing that his father was very sick, was one of love and respect. Whether or not there was a reply to this is lost to us, but the closing of this chapter in the lives of the Mozarts was not a happy one. His father had warned Wolfgang that if he married Constanze, they could expect to be left out of any will. Despite a small thaw in their relationship since the stormy early days, Leopold kept his word in this regard. Though the will is lost, we know that Wolfgang in fact got nothing bequeathed to him. All he received was part of the proceeds from the sale of Leopold?s personal effects at his death (after Nannerl selected various items to keep for her own family). Meanwhile, a savings total of three times that amount went solely to his sister ($125,000 approximately in a 2000 A.D. conversion), without Wolfgang?s knowledge (at least initially). Considering the fortune Wolfgang?s tours made for the family and all the gifts given and kept over the years, the strong speculation is that Mozart was angered by this final "rejection" engineered by his father and supported by his sister. Certainly, with Leopold?s death, the flow of correspondence between the two remaining households ceased. Neither Wolfgang or Nannerl appear to have made any efforts to keep in touch thereafter, thus completing the breech Mozart?s move to Vienna initiated.

The end result of these factors was that Mozart was forced to borrow money to keep up appearances (highly important in Vienna, where "dressing for success" was a near-art form) and was never fully able to pay off loans without borrowing more to cover the older ones. His "begging" letters from 1788 are almost heartbreaking when one sees what despair Mozart had fallen into to try and stay solvent, keeping his honor and reputation intact. Despite this, 1788 saw him compose his last three symphonies, #39, #40 "Great" and #41 "Jupiter" (K.543, K.550 and K.551), a proud statement in music of his self worth and skill at composing. There are no known commissions, concerts or publishers for these three works (though he probably was composing them for Artaria), yet Mozart spent no longer than 8 months on them (and probably less), producing his three greatest works in this field. While there are many clues otherwise, all three may not have seen the concert hall until after his death, though it is almost certain that the Symphony #40 in g ("Great") did have its premiere during his lifetime.

 We have program notes from some concerts Mozart gave that state that a new, grand symphony is to be performed at them, with unfortunately no description of the work meant by the notes. However, there is evidence from one specific concert that would indicate that one of the last three was played; specifically K.550. Looking ahead about three years here, the Tonkünstler-Societät (the Society of Musicians) held two pairs of annual concerts to collect money to aid the widows and orphans of member musicians. In 1791, at the Lenten concerts, which took place on 16 and 17 April, the opening work was ?Eine neue grosse Simphonie von Herrn Mozart.? It is hardly likely that Mozart could or would try to palm off an older work on such an informed group of musicians. This description could, realistically, be any of the last four symphonies, if we include the "Prague."

However, each one of the last four symphonic works has a different wind arrangement devised by Mozart. As it turns out, we have the manuscript list of the Society?s performers for these two concerts in question. The orchestra included flutes, oboes and clarinets, the latter played by the Stadler brothers, both good friends of Mozart. Of the last four symphonies, only K.550 in its revised form utilizes all three of these instruments. He had originally composed this work without clarinets, but subsequently added them into the score, modifying the oboe parts in places to do so. While it is possible for Mozart to have offered any one of the last four symphonies for use here and hence leave out the unneeded woodwind players, would he have let his friends the Stadlers be the ones to sit this one out?

Therefore, it seems highly likely that an elegant and large Viennese audience, made up from the best well-heeled members of the upper crust, heard K.550 performed on these two dates, directed by?of all people?Antonio Salieri, one of the major directors of the Society. In fact, it may have been the last occasion at which Mozart heard such a large and professional orchestra perform any of his music. The Society?s concerts commanded an orchestra of around 100 musicians; triple that of the standard orchestras of the time. Further, since these were charity events, everyone contributed their time, efforts and music gratis, meaning that Mozart could only reap praise and gratitude for his work.

The final irony here was that Mozart was not a member of this Society, and hence his widow and children did not receive aid from the members after his death. Mozart had indeed applied for membership. Among the requirements for acceptance was that of supplying a copy of one?s birth certificate for review. Wolfgang had written his father asking for this document, but it appears that it never was sent, for whatever reason. If it was sent, this copy certainly never turned up in his effects after his death. In any case, a birth certificate was not presented, and so Mozart never became a member of the Tonkünstler-Societät; a loss to all parties concerned.

Mozart traveled to Berlin in 1789 to meet the King of Prussia, hoping to gain a better post than the small one of Chamber Composer he had received in Vienna in 1788. As well, he planned to give concerts to improve his money situation. Neither plan came to any useful fruition. He traveled in 1790 to Frankfort for the new Emperor?s coronation with the same hopes, but again was disappointed. First, he was not invited to attend by the Court; he instead had to pay his own way there and back. Second, attendance at his concerts was spotty. The Vienna public had been treated to 15 piano concerti between 1782-1786, 1787 to 1791 saw only two more composed to indifferent receptions (K.537 "Coronation" and K.595). Mozart received a commission on short notice in 1791 to compose an old-style opera seria for the coronation ceremonies of Leopold II in Prague, the city that adored Mozart?s operas. Compressing 5-6 months of work down just over 9 weeks, Mozart gave the festivities there the opera La Clemenza di Tito K.621, which was not well received initially. Idomeneo, his last effort in this genre, had been a commission that allowed Mozart to work with a superb musical establishment in order to impress a ruler enough so as to be offered a major musical posting. Tito, on the other hand, was, for all intents and purposes, a job requiring speed and polish to compensate for a proper lack of time to develop the opera. This, for a ruler who was, at best, lukewarm to Mozart?s style of composition. The wonder is that it turned out so well.

Mozart?s final year of 1791 saw many great works premiered. His music had been changing again over time and works from this last period are noted for their darker-hued tones, a simplicity without losing directness of purpose and their autumnal "feel", which has been described as portraying that everything in Mozart?s life was somehow winding down. He performed the last piano concerto # 27 (K.595) in B-flat as the third item on another performer?s concert bill. Mozart was writing music for playing on mechanical organs at a memorial to a dead war hero. His final wind concerto, the great Clarinet Concerto In A K.622, was written for a friend who owed him about $25,000 (2000 A. D. conversion) and never repaid that debt, despite Mozart?s pressing need for money throughout this time. For his friend Emmanuel Schikaneder, owner of a suburban theater in a lower middle class part of Vienna, Mozart was inspired to collaborate with the impresario and his troupe and so the German opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) K.620 came about. This work was immediately popular, first in Vienna and then throughout the German states, giving Mozart one last taste of recognition and honor.

By this time, after years of poor monetary luck, it seemed that things began to turn around for Mozart and his family (now with two sons). Mozart was appointed unpaid deputy Kapellmeister to St. Stephen?s cathedral in Vienna to help the sick composer in charge there. This put Mozart in line for the post, which paid about $100,000 a year (2000 A.D. conversion). An amateur musical group in Hungary was offering to buy new compositions from him on subscription as was one in Holland, totaling perhaps another $50,000+ yearly. He had received an offer to go to London and compose for theaters there for at least $120,000 for a year as well. Mozart had an understanding with Johann Peter Salomon, the impresario that had taken Joseph Haydn to England for a successful concert season, to go there as well in 1792. Haydn had made about $250,000 on his 1st tour and Mozart could thus expect a similar success. Other impresarios were offering opera texts for Mozart to compose music for. All that was required now was patience and the time to choose the most advantageous offers, as many of these could be accomplished simultaneously and without conflict. His musical timing had always been peerless; it now it was time for Mozart to get his life in step with these offers.

Mozart?s last major composition was a Requiem in d minor K.626, commissioned and prepaid by an unnamed messenger acting on behalf of an anonymous amateur composer named Count Franz Walsegg. The Count intended to pass off the work as his own, to honor his dead wife. Mozart had taken the work on despite these strange circumstances in the spring of 1791, believing he needed about six or eight weeks to complete it. It was due by the anniversary of the death of the Count?s wife, which would mean that Mozart had until January 1792 to complete the work. But, with other compositions such as the two operas crowding his schedule, Mozart worked intermittently at best on the Requiem. Finally, after the premier of The Magic Flute in September, he went back to work in earnest. He had a prepayment in hand, a delivery date set and could not afford to be late. By the middle of November, he had about 30% of it on paper when he fell sick.

Despite treatments by some of the best doctors in Vienna, Mozart?s condition became worse and was confined to bed, his joints swollen, the pain too great for him to move himself and subject to a high fever. In his sickness, Mozart said he had been writing the Requiem for himself, as well as the Anonymous Benefactor (as he was later called). Finally, the disease proved too great, and at about 1:00 AM on December 5th 1791, after suddenly sitting up, then falling back, Mozart died. To this date, there is no firm conclusion of exactly what he died of, though the theories of poisoning and murder are discounted. There are well over a hundred speculative theories on exactly what (or who) caused Mozart?s death, with new ones cropping up every few years. With no new evidence surfacing to add clarity, experts generally incline towards kidney failure or complications from rheumatic fever as being the most likely culprits.

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart was buried in a suburban churchyard in an unmarked grave with little ceremony, as was the custom at the time. Because the family and/or admirers did not immediately seek out the grave site, its location became lost. Today, the monument to Mozart in that graveyard is located at the approximate site where perhaps the greatest composer the world has yet seen rests.

(Visit the official mozart website at http://www.Mozartforum.com)

 

 

 Joseph Haydn  (1732 - 1809)

 

Joseph Hayden (1732-1809) was born in Rohrau, a tiny Austrian village. Until he was six, his musical background consisted of folk songs and peasant dances (which later had an influence on his style); but then his eager response to music was recognized and he was given training. At eight, he went to Vienna to serve as a choirboy in the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

"When his voice changed, he was dismissed, penniless, from St. Stephen's. To live, he  gave music lessons to children, and took odd jobs (including playing violin in street bands).

During this period he struggled to teach himself composition, and gradually aristocratic patrons of music began to notice his talent. In 1761 he entered the service of the Esterhazys, the richest and most powerful of the Hungarian noble families. For nearly thirty years thereafter most of his music was composed for performances in the palaces of the family, especially Esterhaza--which contained an opera house, a theatre, two concert halls, and 126 guest rooms.

As a highly skilled servant Hayden was to compose all the music requested by his patron; conduct the orchestra, coach singers, and oversee the instruments and the music library. This entailed a staggering amount of work, for there were usually two concerts and two opera performances weekly, as well as daily chamber music. Though today this sort of patronage seems degrading, it was taken for granted in Haydn?s time and had definite advantages for composers, for they received a steady income and their works were performed. Haydn was conscientious about his professional duties and concerned about his musicians' interests, and, despite an unhappy marriage, known to be good-humoured and unselfish.

Word spread about the Esterhazys' composer, and Haydn's music became immensely popular all over Europe. In 1791-1792 and again in 1794-1795, Haydn was wined and dined by the aristocracy, given an honorary doctorate at Oxford, and received by the English royal family, and in 1795 he returned to Vienna rich and honoured. At this time (now in his late sixties) he composed six masses and two oratorios, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801), which were so popular that choruses and orchestras were formed for the sole purpose of performing them. He died in 1809, at seventy-seven.

Haydn was a pathfinder for the classical style; a pioneer in the development of the symphony and the string quartet. Both Mozart and Beethoven studied composition with him, and were influenced by his style. His music, like his personality, is robust and direct; it radiates a healthy optimism. Many of his works have a folk flavour, and The Creation and The Seasons reflect his love of nature. He was a master at developing themes; he could build a whole movement out of a single main theme, creation contrasts of mood through changes in texture, rhythm, dynamics, and orchestration.

The contagious joy that springs from his lively rhythms and vivid contrasts makes it clear why London went wild. Haydn's 104 symphonies--along with his 68 string quartets--are considered the most important part of his enormous output. Many of them have nicknames, such as Surprise (No. 94), Military (No. 100), Clock (No. 101), and Drum Roll (no. 103).

Some scholars believe that Haydn invented the string quartet form. He began writing the first of his lifelong series of string quartets for good reason--only three other musicians (two violinists and a cellist, in addition to Haydn as violist) were on hand during the summer of 1757, when he was invited to take part in chamber music performances at a castle.

The variety in his works is astounding. He was a great innovator and experimenter who hated arbitrary "rules" of composition. 'Art is free,' he said. 'The educated ear is the sole authority, and I think I have as much right to lay down the law as anyone.'

 

Visit  http://www.classicalarchives.com/haydn.html   more fascinating details on this Composer.

 

 

  

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

    

Although his name is a household word, myths and misconceptions about the personality and life of Ludwig van Beethoven are prevalent today. Beethoven was not the neurotic genius-lunatic portrayed in some novels and movies in recent years. But he was instead an offspring of a truly dysfunctional family. It is true that his mother died during his late teenage years and that his father, an accomplished violinist and tenor singer, had become an intolerable and abusive alcoholic long before his wife's death.

The circumstances of his family life may have had an effect on Beethoven's genuinely eccentric personal nature, but it is more likely that the demands he placed upon himself as a musical perfectionist were transferred to and expected from those around him. As an adult, Beethoven's moodiness, his brooding, his famous fits of temper were often due to the early deterioration of his hearing which made him shun crowds and seek peace in nature. His sensitivity to the beauties of the countryside led him to take long, solitary walks in the surroundings of Vienna. The composer drew inspiration from nature, but at the same time Beethoven was intolerant of the mediocre, the flawed, and the unexamined in himself and in others.

When one realizes that life itself to Beethoven was a search for perfection, personified in his music, then his personality becomes more easily understood. For most people, life is about compromise and accepting less-than-perfect results in negotiations. But in his music and largely in his life as well, Beethoven viewed things from an "all or nothing" perspective, refusing to accept anything other than absolute perfection, reworking his compositions for years on end, and finally accepting his own creations as the nearest thing to perfection that he could achieve.

Taking this perspective into account, it is no small wonder that Beethoven was viewed by his patrons, colleagues, and his students as a person difficult to know, communicate with, and understand. In the history of music, he is unique as a composer and as a person. His nine symphonies and thirty-two piano sonatas are essential study pieces for any serious student of music anywhere in the world today. These and other masterworks clearly place Beethoven's music as the culmination of Viennese Classical style. Today, Beethoven is regarded as the dominant musical figure during the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence in some way.

Ludwig van Beethoven came from a family of musicians. His father and grandfather worked for the Electors of Cologne, whose residence was in Bonn, Germany. The grandfather, Lodewyk van Beethoven (1712-1773), came from Mechelen, Belgium and joined the court chapel choir in Bonn as a bass singer in 1733. In 1761 he became the conductor. His son Johann (1740-1792) entered the Elector's service, first as a boy soprano in 1752, and continuing after adolescence as a tenor. He also played piano and violin and supplemented his income as a private teacher of these instruments.

In November 1767, Johann married Maria Magdalena Leym, a twenty-one-year-old widow. On December 17, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was born. Only two of his five younger brothers and sisters survived infancy, Caspar Anton Carl (1774-1815) and Nikolaus Johann (1776-1848). They were very close to the composer throughout his life.

Ludwig's father discovered the outstanding talent of his son at an early age. He gave him piano and violin lessons and attempted to popularize the boy as a child prodigy after Mozart's example. On March 26, 1778, he presented his six-year-old son to the public. (But Ludwig was already seven years old.) In some of his early debut recitals, the advertisements stated his age as two years younger than he truly was. These "Mozartian" prodigy recitals were only marginally successful, and Johann eventually gave up trying to "market" his son as a child wonder.

In 1779, the composer and organist, Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798), came to Bonn as court organist, and Ludwig became his student. In addition to piano and organ lessons, Neefe also taught Ludwig composition and helped him to publish his first works. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. A set of nine variations for piano, on a march in C minor by Dressler, was published in 1782. This may be Beethoven's earliest preserved work, and it was the first of many sets of variations that Beethoven later composed in sonatas, symphonies, and other multi-movement genres, culminating in the great Diabelli Variations of 1823. Neefe engaged Beethoven as assistant organist in the court orchestra, and Beethoven often substituted for his teacher on the harpsichord. The sacred repertory that the young Beethoven came to know included the works of Caldara and Pergolesi. Also, he was exposed to the instrumental works of various Mannheim composers, and these pieces were "absorbed" into his experience.

Through the work for Sunday Masses and holy days and the taking part in concerts and at the theater, the young Beethoven came into contact with the music of Haydn and Mozart as well as the works of other composers from Vienna and Paris. Neefe acquainted him with the strict counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach. And through his compositions and his virtuoso piano playing, Beethoven attracted much attention at court. In addition to the flourishing musical life at court, Beethoven took part in much informal music-making. In the home of the von Breuning family, Beethoven found a personal warmth that was sadly lacking in his own home, and here he met educated people from all walks of life. His friendship with Count Waldstein, who did so much for the young composer, in all likelihood also began in the von Breuning home. But it was his employer, The Elector Maximilian Franz (1756-1801), whose interest in Beethoven's musical progress was to bring about a new atmosphere for the young composer.

In 1787, the Elector granted the seventeen-year-old a leave of absence for a trip to Vienna to continue his studies with Mozart. But this project failed, because Beethoven was called back to Bonn after a fourteen-day stay in Vienna, informed of the serious illness of his mother. A short time after his return, his mother died in July 1787. Beethoven's father retired as a court musician in November 1789. After the death of his wife, Johann Beethoven became increasingly addicted to alcohol, and the care of Ludwig's younger brothers became the composer's responsibility. Beethoven obtained an order from the Elector that half the paternal salary was left to him for the maintenance of the brothers.

In December 1790, Joseph Haydn stopped in Bonn on his first journey to London. It is not certain that Beethoven met him at that time. But when Haydn went back to Vienna in 1792, he became Beethoven's teacher. Elector Maximilian Franz again granted Beethoven a leave of absence to study in Vienna, but this time with Haydn. Beethoven's lessons in counterpoint with Haydn continued intermittently until 1794, when Haydn started off on his second journey to London. Beethoven was not always satisfied with Haydn's teaching methods, and since Haydn had left Vienna, he began to study counterpoint, canon, and fugue composition with the well-known theorist, Johann Albrechtsberger (1736-1809). But Beethoven's relationship with Haydn lasted until Haydn's death in 1809. And their relations were supposedly quite friendly. Also, Beethoven undoubtedly owed his acquaintance with many influential patrons to Haydn.

Following his instruction with Haydn and Albrechtsberger, Beethoven took Italian vocal and opera style lessons with the court conductor, Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). Later, Beethoven had no more significant relations with the highly esteemed opera composer, and it seems that Salieri was rather prepossessed against him. Perhaps this was due to the simple reason that Beethoven was of German birth, whereas the Imperial Austrian court was directed and dominated by Italian musicians at the time.

In March 1794, Elector Maximilian of Bonn stopped payments of Beethoven's salary, since the composer had long overstayed his leave of absence. At that time, Beethoven no longer depended upon the allowances from Bonn. He was very popular as a piano teacher and gave lessons to several young ladies from wealthy noble families. A short time later, his brother Caspar Carl came to Vienna to live with him. The next year, Nikolaus Johann also moved to Vienna and worked there as an assistant pharmacist.

During his early years in Vienna, Beethoven appeared as a pianist only in private circles. But in March of 1795, he faced a large Viennese audience in his first public concert at the Burgtheater. Among the important works from this period are the Piano Trios, Op. 1 and several Piano Sonatas including Op. 13, the famous Pathetique Sonata. These works show obvious ties to the Classical models of Haydn and Mozart. For example, in the Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 1, the range of the piano part is conventional, and the violin and cello parts still lie fairly low in the range of the instruments. Beethoven gives them far less thematic material than that given to the piano. This had been the dominant model of such works in this genre prior to Beethoven. However, there are new elements here as well. Chromaticism is used for its own sake, for coloration rather than modulation. And from the beginning, Beethoven employs a wider range of dynamics with his characteristic sudden pianissimo following a fortissimo. Similarly, his early Piano Sonatas show the expressive character of his music very well, and often, changes in his compositional style are first demonstrated in his Piano Sonatas.

After intensive work on the String Quartets, Opus 18, Beethoven ventured for the first time into the composition of a symphony in 1799. In April 1800, his Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Opus 21 was performed as part of a public concert at the Burgtheater. The symphony was dedicated to Baron van Swieten, the arbiter of musical taste in Vienna. The program for what was in fact Beethoven's first benefit concert was a substantial one. A Mozart symphony was followed by an aria from Haydn's Creation. Then came a piano concerto by Beethoven, with the composer as soloist. The Schuppanzigh Quartet was joined by three wind-players to perform a septet by Beethoven. After this came the symphony.

As so often in Beethoven's career, the reviews of this concert were decidedly cool. Only his ballet music Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, Op. 43, (The Creatures of Prometheus) achieved a breakthrough for him as a composer. It was a commissioned work of the famous dancer, choreographer and composer Salvatore Vigano (1769-1821). The première in March 1801 was very successful. The ballet was performed thirteen times that year and nine times the next year.

From 1800-1802, Beethoven composed the Piano Sonatas, Op. 27 and Op. 28, the Piano Quintet, Op. 29, and the violin Romance, Op. 40. In February 1802, he finished the composition of Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36, which was performed for the first time just one year later. The work is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, the kind of forces that the Vienna Court Opera had for some years been able to provide. It was first performed privately in April 1803, under the composer's direction and is dedicated to Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to whose patience and generosity Beethoven continued to be indebted.

Despite his frequent changes of residence, Beethoven's daily routine did not vary particularly. Usually, he spent the morning writing down his compositions and went for long walks in the afternoon. He always carried a notebook with him to write down new musical ideas. Either he spent the evenings with friends, or he stayed at home to read. During the summer months, the composer left Vienna and rented lodgings in the country. He was often invited to spend the summer at the country estates of his noble patrons.

In the early Nineteenth Century, it was not unusual for composers to tour, giving performances in different cities. But Beethoven undertook only three concert tours: in the spring of 1796 to Prague, Dresden, and Berlin, in the autumn of 1796 to Bratislava and Pest (Budapest), and in 1798 once more to Prague. His increasing deafness probably restrained him from making other tours.

In a letter, dated June 1801, to a friend from Bonn, Beethoven mentioned for the first time the failure of his hearing. The problem had already begun by 1797, but it was four years later before he entrusted this knowledge to some of his closest friends. He consulted several physicians, but no one could help him. From the descriptions of his symptoms there is a general agreement among modern otologists that his deafness was caused by otosclerosis of the 'mixed' type, that is, with the degeneration of the auditory nerve as well - by no means a rare condition. On the advice of a physician, he moved in the spring of 1802 to Heiligenstadt, hoping that the seclusion of the Viennese suburb would ease his illness. But the treatment had no success, and he had to accept his worsened deafness. On October 6, he wrote in a state of deepest despair the Heiligenstadt Testament addressed to his two brothers. He explained the reason for his recent unfriendly behavior and asked them and his circle of friends for understanding for his hopeless situation.

Obviously, Beethoven had seriously considered suicide as a way of solving his problem, because he requested that his brothers publish the letter after his death. But in writing it down, he seems to have gathered fresh hope, because he left Heiligenstadt not much later and returned to Vienna. It is not surprising that following this time of great personal trial, his next great work was a religious one, his only oratorio, Christus am Ölberge (Christ on the Mount of Olives). From this work, published as his Opus 85 in 1803, comes the famous Hallelujah that remains one of his most popular choral pieces widely performed around the world.

From a personal perspective, his affliction with deafness and his undeniable inability to enter into happy personal relationships caused him to create a more inward music of an increasingly individual style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition, exploration, and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is perhaps the most admired composer in the history of Western art music.

After his return from Heiligenstadt, Beethoven's music deepened. He began creating a new musical world. In the summer of 1803 he began work on his Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 (The Eroica). It was originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, and like its subject, it was revolutionary. It broke the symphonic mold, yet established new, logical and cogent forms. This was the miracle Beethoven was to work many times. Symphony No. 3 has several original features, including the substitution of a funeral march for the slow movement, a Scherzo for the Minuet, as in the D major symphony, and a set of variations for the finale. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and drums, with three French horns and the customary strings.

Stephan von Breuning with whom Beethoven shared rooms reported a thunderous episode in connection with the Eroica Symphony. In December 1804, the news arrived that Napoleon, that champion for the rights of the common people, had proclaimed himself Emperor. In a fury, Beethoven strode over to his copy of the Symphony, which bore a dedication to Napoleon, and crossed out the Bonaparte name in such violence that the pen tore in the paper. "Is he, too, nothing more than human?" he raged. "Now he will crush the rights of man. He will become a tyrant!"

For the next few years in Vienna, from 1804 to 1808, Beethoven lived in what might be described as a state of monotonous uproar. His relationships suffered elemental rifts, while his music and his reputation grew ever greater. Beethoven left an indelible impression on all those who encountered him, and even for his contemporaries there were certain features of his life - his idiosyncratic working methods, for example, his mournful isolation through deafness, and the nobility of his total dedication to his art - that endowed him as an almost mythical figure.

Beethoven was neither good-looking nor equipped with more than a very rudimentary education; it was by the force of his character that he produced such a powerful effect on those around him. This, notoriously, had its thorny side. As a young man he was already known to be difficult, impatient and mistrustful, an "unlocked bear." What his capricious and, at times, outrageous behavior could not dim was the enormous appeal of his personality. He fascinated and endeared himself to men and women of many sorts, who continued to value his friendship no matter how rough a ride he gave them. Symphony No. 4 in B-Flat Major, Opus 60, was completed by September 1806, when it was offered to the Leipzig publishers Breitkopf and Haertel. The proposal to Breitkopf came to nothing, and the symphony seems to have had its first performance in March 1807, at the estate of Prince Lobkowitz. It was played publicly in Vienna at a Liebhaber Concert in January, 1808, and it was presumably commissioned by and certainly dedicated to Count Franz von Oppersdorff. Symphony No. 4 is scored for flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, drums, and strings.

Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were completed by the summer of 1808. Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 is perhaps his most famous work, and it indeed takes fate by the throat. This work is dedicated to Count Razumovsky, Prince Lichnowsky's brother- in-law, the Tzar's representative in Vienna and a patron of great munificence, while his money lasted, and to Prince Lobkowitz. It received its first performance at a concert on December 22, 1808. Through Beethoven's orchestration, the Fifth Symphony shows innovations in its inclusion of the piccolo, the double bassoon and the three trombones of the final movement.

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 (The Pastoral) is a portrait of the countryside around Heiligenstadt. It was first performed at a concert in Vienna in December 1808. The occasion was an important one for the composer, since it was likely to be his only significant source of income for that year. In spite of a four-hour concert program at which The Pastoral Symphony was premiered, it was generally well received by the Viennese audience. The Sixth Symphony is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums with the usual strings, along with piccolo and trombones.

Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92 was completed in the spring of 1812, but sketches for some of the material occur as early as 1809. Surmounting his deafness, Beethoven, in his forties, was at the height of his powers, but the new symphony was greeted by some contemporary critics as "the work of a drunkard." At the first performance in December 1813, the work was received with considerable enthusiasm. The occasion was a patriotic one, a concert organized by Maelzel, inventor of the new metronome, to raise money for the wounded at the battle of Hanau, and the program included Beethoven's Wellington's Victory, a program piece in which some of the most distinguished musicians of the day took part. Symphony No. 7 was popular with the Viennese public in spite of the critics' attacks. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and drums, with strings.

Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93 is scored for the usual orchestra of strings, with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani. Of its four movements three are in sonata form, while the third movement is a traditional Minuet. Beethoven made his first sketches for his eighth symphony in 1811 and completed the work in October the following year, during the course of a visit to Linz. The summer had taken him to the spa-town of Teplitz, where he was to meet the great German poet, Goethe, while the subsequent journey to Linz was undertaken for the officious purpose of forcing his younger brother Johann, an apothecary in the town, to break off his irregular liaison with Therese Obermeyer, a woman that Johann married in November of the same year. Whatever anxieties he may have entertained in the time about his health or about members of his family, he created in Symphony No. 8 a work of clear optimism. Its first performance was given on February 27, 1814. To Beethoven's disappointment, it was greeted rather coolly, the audience favoring in particular the other works of Beethoven on the program.

Beethoven's brother Casper Carl died in November 1815. The consequences brought about something that neither the tragedy of deafness nor Napoleon's guns could achieve: they almost stopped Beethoven from composing. Beethoven was appointed guardian of his brother's nine-year-old son, Karl, a guardianship he shared with the boy's mother Johanna. Beethoven took the appointment most seriously and was certain that Johanna did not. He immediately began legal proceedings to get sole guardianship of his nephew. The lawsuit was painful and protracted and frequently abusive, with Johanna asserting, "How can a deaf, madman bachelor guard the boy's welfare?" Beethoven repeatedly fell ill because of the strain. He did not finally secure custody of Karl until 1822 when the boy was sixteen years old.

His final work in the symphonic genre, Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (The Choral), was completed in 1823, by which time Beethoven has been completely deaf for years. The idea of introducing voices into a symphony was one that had been in Beethoven's mind for some time. He had written his Choral Fantasia, a kind of piano concerto with voices, in 1808, and Beethoven had always shown a considerable interest in the composition of songs, an element in his work that is often underestimated. By 1818 he was planning a choral symphony making use of what he described as a pious song in the ancient modes as an introduction to a fugue, a celebration of the feast of Bacchus. In the 1820's this was to become the recitative and the stirring setting of An die Freude in the last movement of the Choral Symphony. There was a poignant scene at the first performance of Symphony No. 9. Despite his deafness, Beethoven insisted on conducting, but unknown to him the real conductor sat out of his sight beating time. As the last movement ended, Beethoven, unaware even that the music had ceased, was also unaware of the tremendous burst of applause that greeted it. One of the singers took him by the arm and turned him around so that he might actually see the ovation.

The constant worries about his nephew overshadowed the last years of Beethoven's life. Diseases, too, plagued him increasingly. In 1826, he accepted an invitation of his brother Johann Nikolaus and spent a few weeks with his nephew at his brother's country estate near Krems. On December 1, he traveled back to Vienna in an open coach despite the biting cold, and he contracted pneumonia, which he survived fortunately, but which aggravated his other physical problems. On January 3, 1827, he wrote down his last will and testament. On March 26, he died in his apartment.

On March 29, he was buried at the cemetery of Währing. More than 20,000 people were present at the funeral. At the entrance to the cemetery the actor, Heinrich Anschütz, recited a commemorative address written by Grillparzer. In 1888, Beethoven's remains were transferred to the Central Cemetery of Vienna.

Whole books have been devoted to single aspects of Beethoven's posthumous reputation. The most striking fact about his legendary status is the great and enduring popularity of his music. During the last years of his life and the period after his death, the musical audience was changing, as a new bourgeois element replaced the typical Eighteenth Century aristocratic circles for which Beethoven himself had composed. Large public concert halls became the primary venues for musical performances, rather than the royal courts and aristocratic salons of earlier times.

To this new audience, Beethoven's music appealed with particular (and almost uncanny) force. His symphonies, overtures, and the more famous of his piano sonatas at once became central to the musical culture of the Nineteenth Century. And his music has remained so to the present. Beethoven remains a musician's musician. His influence on composers in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries has been immense, and his works are among the most popular available on recorded media today. His piano concerti and sonatas are the hallmarks by which performers are judged in our conservatories and universities. Beethoven is still very much with us today, and we can only hope that we may someday see his like again. Today, Beethoven is considered the man that changed the form of the symphony forever. He took the construction and form of the symphonyfrom the days of Mozart and Haydn to new heights, setting the template for the future. If only Mozart and Haydn had lived long enough to hear the whole circle of nine Beethoven symphonies, they would have been extremely proud of him as a Composer, friend, and the undisputed master of the symphony.

 

(More about Ludwig at:  http://www.lvbeethoven.com/ )

 

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 Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1697)

                                                         

    Giuseppe Verdi was born in e Roncole, near Busseto, Parma, in 1813. The son of an innkeeper, he was taught by local organist, Antonio Barezzi, a wholesale grocer and merchant, who liked music, and recognized Giuseppe's musical ability and offered to pay for him to go to The Milan Conservatory of Music.  However, the Conservatory authorities would not admit him, partly because of his poor piano playing skills. Undaunted, Verdi then studied composition in Milan privately for 2 years, then returned to Busseto, where he continued his studies. He also took it upon himself to take over the direction  of the town's music activities, no doubt to hone his composing skills. During this period he courted, and then married Barezzi's daughter.

   Verdi completed his (first?)opera Rocester (now lost) in 1836, but Oberto was produced at La Scala in1839 with some success, followed by his comic opera, Un giorno di regno (1840), which unfortunately turned out to be a failure. Between 1838 and 1840, Verdi's wife and 2 children died. Prostrate with grief, he vowed to abandon composition, but was persuaded to compose Nabucco (1841) and its triumphant success made him  the most prominent amongst young Italian composers.

    He then wrote a series of operas; some more successful than others at their premières, but each were eagerly sought by impresarios. In 1847 he composed I masnadieri for Her Majesty's Theatre in London, England, with two bright opera stars of the day, Jenny Lind and Lablache, heading the cast.

   In 1849 he bought a farming estate at Sant? Agata, near Busseto, to which he returned whenever possible. In the sensitive political climate of the 19th-century in Italy, Verdi's liberatos (e.g. for Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, etc.) frequently caused trouble with the censors, especially when they dealt with historical events, which could be interpreted as referring to contemporary political events. Verdi's feelings that Italy should have independence from Austria were well known. In 1860, after the Italian war of independence, he was elected a Deputy in the first Italian National parliament, serving in the post for five years.

   His next 3 operas were written for performance outside of Italy. La forza del destino for St Petersburg, 1862, Don Carlos for Paris, 1867, and Aida for Cairo, 1871. 16 years were to pass before the next opera, but in 1874 the great Requiem, composed in memory of the poet Manzoni was performed in Milan. It was an immediate success. Verdi himself conducted 15 performances in Paris in 1874 and 1875, 4 in Vienna, and 3 in London. In 1879, his publisher Ricordi, suggested Shakespeare's Othello as an operatic subject, and Boito, with whom Verdi's relations had hitherto been cool, submitted a draft liberato. The work (Otello) was first perfomed in Milan in 1887, and was acclaimed as the supreme achievement, not only for the composer,  but of all Italian opera.

   In 1889 Boito suggested a further collaboration, on Falstaff. Its production was in Milan in 1893, though a personal triumph, was not such a success as that of Otello, and it has taken until recent times for this masterpiece of comic opera to become a popular favourite. In 1859 Verdi had married the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, with whom he had lived for a decade before that. Her death in 1897 marked the end of Verdi's composing career, and he died at the Hotel Milano, a short distance from La Scala, leaving most of his money to a home for elderly musicians, that he had founded in Milan.

                      Dedicated website; www.naxos.com/composer/verdi.htm

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Great Conductors

 

  Sir Thomas Beecham  (1879 -1961)

 

   Sir Thomas Beecham was a British conductor and impresario. From the early twentieth century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and, according to Neville Cardus, was the first British conductor to have a regular international career. From a wealthy industrial family, Beecham used the money at his disposal to transform the operatic scene in England from the 1910s until the start of World War II, staging seasons at Covent Garden, Drury Lane and His Majesty's Theatre with international stars, his own hand-picked orchestra and a wide range of repertoire. He was known for his wit, and many "Beecham stories" are still told nearly fifty years after his death. In the concert hall, London still has two orchestras founded by Beecham: the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic. He also maintained close links with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé Orchestras in his native county of Lancashire. His repertoire was eclectic, sometimes favouring lesser-known composers over famous ones. His specialties included composers whose works were rarely played in Britain before Beecham became their advocate, such as Frederick Delius and Hector Berlioz.

   Beecham was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, in a house adjoining the Beecham's Pills factory founded by his grandfather, Thomas Beecham (1820?1907). His parents were Joseph Beecham, the elder son of Thomas, and Josephine Burnett. In 1885, by which time the family firm was making very substantial sums of money, Joseph Beecham moved his family to a mansion in Ewanville in the Blacklow Brow area of Huyton, now in Merseyside. Their former home was demolished to make room for an extension to the pill factory. He was educated at Rossall School between 1892 and 1897, after which he hoped to attend a music conservatoire in Germany, but his father forbade this, and instead Beecham went to Wadham College, Oxford. He did not find university life to his taste and successfully sought his father's permission to leave Oxford in 1898. He studied composition privately with Charles Wood in London and Moritz Moszkowski in Paris. As a conductor, Beecham was self-taught.

   Sir Thomas first conducted in public in St Helens, in October 1899, with an ad hoc ensemble comprising local musicians and players from the Hallé and Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras. A month later, he stood in at short notice for the celebrated conductor Hans Richter at a concert by the Hallé to mark Joseph Beecham's inauguration as mayor of St Helens. Beecham's professional début as a conductor was in 1902 at the Shakespeare Theatre, Clapham, with Michael Balfe's The Bohemian Girl for the Imperial Grand Opera Company. He was also composing music in these early years but concluded that he was not good enough and concentrated on conducting. In 1906 he was invited to conduct a chamber orchestra, in a series of concerts at the Bechstein Hall, adopting the title the New Symphony Orchestra. Throughout his career, Beecham frequently chose to programme works to suit his own tastes rather than those of the paying public. In his early discussions with his new orchestra, he proposed works by a long list of barely-known composers such as Méhul. During this period, Beecham first encountered the music of Frederick Delius, which he loved deeply and with which he became closely associated for the rest of his life.

   Beecham quickly concluded that to compete with the existing London orchestras, the Queen's Hall Orchestra and the recently-founded London Symphony Orchestra, he needed to expand his forces from sixty players to full symphonic strength and to play in larger halls. For two years starting in October 1907, Beecham and the enlarged NSO gave concerts at the Queen's Hall. He made no concessions to the box office: he put on a programme described by his biographer as "even more certain to deter the public then than it would be in our own day."  The principal pieces were Vincent d'Indy's symphonic ballad La fôret enchantée, Smetana's symphonic poem ?árka, and Édouard Lalo's practically unknown Symphony in G major. Beecham retained affection for the last work: it was the subject of his very last recording sessions more than fifty years later.

   In 1908 Beecham and the New Symphony Orchestra parted company, disagreeing about artistic control, and in particular the deputy system. Under this system, orchestral players, if offered a more lucrative engagement, could send a substitute to a rehearsal or a concert. The treasurer of the Royal Philharmonic Society described it thus: "A, whom you want, signs to play for your concert. He sends B (whom you don't mind) to the first rehearsal. B, without your knowledge or consent, sends C to the second rehearsal. Not being able to play at the concert, C sends D, whom you would have paid five shillings to stay away." Henry Wood had already banned the deputy system in the Queen's Hall Orchestra (provoking rebel players to found the London Symphony Orchestra), and Beecham followed suit. The New Symphony Orchestra survived without him and subsequently became the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra. In 1909, Beecham founded the Beecham Symphony Orchestra. He did not poach from established symphony orchestras, but instead he recruited from theatre bandrooms, local symphony societies, the palm courts of hotels and music colleges. The result was a youthful team ? the typical age of his players was twenty-five. They included names that would become celebrated in their fields, such as Albert Sammons, Lionel Tertis, Eric Coates, and Eugene Cruft.

   Because he persistently programmed works that did not attract the public, Beecham's musical activities at this time consistently lost money. From 1899 to 1909 he was estranged from his father, and his access to the Beecham family fortune was strictly limited. In 1899 Joseph had secretly committed his wife to an asylum. Thomas and his elder sister Emily took legal action to secure her release and to obtain her annual £4,500 alimony. For this, Joseph Beecham disinherited them. From 1907 Beecham had an annuity of £700 left to him in his grandfather's will, and his mother subsidised some of his loss-making concerts, but it was not until father and son were reconciled in 1909 that Beecham was able to draw on the family fortune to promote opera. From 1910, subsidised by his father, Beecham realized his ambition to mount opera seasons at Covent Garden and other houses. In the Edwardian opera house, the star singers were regarded as all-important, and conductors were seen as ancillary. Between 1910 and 1939 Beecham did much to change the balance of power.

   In 1910 Beecham either conducted or was responsible as impresario for 190 performances at Covent Garden and His Majesty's Theatre. During the year, he mounted 34 different operas, most of them either new to London or almost unknown there Beecham later admitted that in his early years he chose to present operas that were too obscure to attract the public. His assistant conductors were Bruno Walter and Percy Pitt. During Beecham's 1910 season at His Majesty's, the rival Grand Opera Syndicate put on a concurrent season of their own at Covent Garden, bringing London's total opera performances for the year to 273 performances, far more than the box-office demand could support. Of his 34 operas staged in 1910, only four made money: Richard Strauss's new operas Elektra and Salome, receiving their first, and highly-publicised, performances in Britain, and The Tales of Hoffmann and Die Fledermaus.

   In 1911 and 1912 the Beecham Symphony Orchestra played for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, both at Covent Garden and at the Krolloper in Berlin, under the batons of Beecham and Pierre Monteux, Diaghilev's chief conductor. Beecham was much admired for conducting the complicated new score of Stravinsky's Petrushka at two days' notice and without rehearsal when Monteux was unavailable. While in Berlin, Beecham and his orchestra, in Beecham's words, caused a "mild stir", scoring a triumph: the orchestra was agreed by the Berlin press to be an elite body, one of the best in the world. Where, asked Die Signale, the principal Berlin musical weekly, did London find such magnificent young instrumentalists? The violins were credited with rich, noble tone, the woodwind with lustre, the brass, "which has not quite the dignity and amplitude of our best German brass", with uncommon delicacy of execution.

   Beecham's 1913 seasons included the British première of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden, and a season at Drury Lane announced as Sir Joseph Beecham's Grand Season of Russian Opera and Ballet. There were three operas, all starring Feodor Chaliapin, and all new to Britain: Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Ivan the Terrible. There were also 15 ballets, with leading dancers including Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina. Also included were Debussy's Jeux and his controversially erotic Afternoon of a Faun, and the first performances in Britain of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, six weeks after its first performance in Paris. Beecham shared Monteux's private dislike of the piece, much preferring Petrushka. Beecham did not conduct during this season; Monteux and others conducted the Beecham Symphony Orchestra. The following year, Beecham and his father presented Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov and Borodin's Prince Igor with Chaliapin, and Stravinsky's The Nightingale. During the First World War, Beecham strove, often without a fee, to keep music alive in London and Manchester (where he formed grandiose plans for a new opera house). He conducted for, and gave financial support to, three institutions with which he was connected at various times: the Hallé Orchestra, the LSO and the Royal Philharmonic Society. In 1915 he formed the Beecham Opera Company, with mainly British singers, performing in London and the provinces, and Manchester especially owed to Beecham a significant widening of its operatic experience. In 1916, Beecham received a knighthood in the New Year Honours, and succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death later that year.

   After the war, there were joint Covent Garden seasons with the Grand Opera Syndicate in 1919 and 1920, but these were, according to a biographer, pale confused echoes of pre-1914. These seasons included forty productions, of which Beecham conducted only nine. By then Beecham's financial affairs were in a condition that demanded his temporary withdrawal from musical life to put them in order. Influenced by an ambitious financier, James White, Sir Joseph Beecham had agreed to buy the Covent Garden estate from the Duke of Bedford and float a limited company to manage the estate commercially. Under the terms of his agreement of 6 July 1914, Sir Joseph contracted to buy the estate for £2 million. He paid an initial deposit of £200,000 and covenanted to pay the balance on 11 November. Within a month, however, World War I broke out, and new official restrictions on the use of capital prevented the completion of the contract. The estate and market continued to be managed by the Duke's staff, but in October 1916 the situation was further complicated by the death of Joseph Beecham. A Chancery suit was instituted to unravel his affairs, and eventually it was agreed, and confirmed by a court order, that a private company should be formed, with Joseph Beecham's two sons as directors, to complete the contract. On 30 July 1918, the Duke and his trustees conveyed the estate to the new company, subject to a mortgage of £1.25 million, the balance of the purchase price then still outstanding.

   Beecham and his brother Henry had to sell enough of their father's estate to discharge this mortgage. For over three years Beecham was absent from the musical scene, working to sell property worth over £1 million. By 1923 enough money had been raised, and in 1924 the Covent Garden property and the pill-making business at St Helens were united in one company, Beecham Estates and Pills. The nominal capital was £1,850,000, of which Thomas Beecham had a substantial share. After his absence, Beecham first reappeared on the rostrum with the Hallé in Manchester in March 1923, then in London with the combined Royal Albert Hall Orchestra (the renamed New Symphony Orchestra) and London Symphony Orchestra with the contralto soloist Clara Butt in April 1923. The main work was Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben. No longer with an orchestra of his own, Beecham established a relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra and negotiated with the BBC over the possibility of establishing a permanent radio orchestra.

   In 1931 Beecham was approached by the rising young conductor, Malcolm Sargent, with a proposal to set up a permanent, salaried orchestra with a subsidy guaranteed by Sargent's patrons the Courtauld family. Originally Sargent and Beecham envisaged a reshuffled version of the London Symphony Orchestra, but the LSO, a self-governing co-operative, baulked at weedings-out and replacements of underperforming players, and in 1932 Beecham lost patience and agreed with Sargent to set up a new orchestra from scratch. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, as it was named, consisted of 106 players, including a few young players straight from Music College, many established players from provincial orchestras and some poached from the LSO. The players included Paul Beard, George Stratton, Anthony Pini, Gerald Jackson, Léon Goossens, Reginald Kell, James Bradshaw and Marie Goossens. The orchestra made its debut at the Queen's Hall on 7 October 1932, conducted by Beecham. After the first item, Berlioz's Carnaval Romain Overture, the audience went wild, some of them standing on their seats to clap and shout. During the next eight years, the LPO appeared nearly a hundred times at the Queen's Hall for the Royal Philharmonic Society alone, played for Beecham's opera seasons at Covent Garden, and made more than three hundred gramophone records.

   By the early 1930s, Beecham had again secured a substantial control of the Covent Garden opera seasons. Wishing to concentrate on music-making rather than management, Beecham assumed the role of artistic director, and Geoffrey Toye was recruited as managing director. In 1933, Tristan und Isolde with Frida Leider and Lauritz Melchior was a success, and the season continued with the Ring cycle and nine other operas. The 1934 season featured Conchita Supervia in La Cenerentola, and Lotte Lehmann and Alexander Kipnis in the Ring. Clemens Krauss conducted the British première of Strauss's Arabella. During 1933 and 1934 Beecham repelled attempts by John Christie to form a link between Christie's new Glyndebourne Festival and the Royal Opera House. Beecham and Toye fell out over the latter's insistence on bringing in a popular film star, Grace Moore, to sing Mimi in La bohème. The production was a box-office success, but an artistic failure. Beecham maneuvered Toye out of the managing directorship in what Sir Adrian Boult described as an 'absolutely beastly' manner.

   Beecham took the London Philharmonic on a controversial tour of Germany in 1936. There were complaints that he was being used by Nazi propagandists, and Beecham complied with a Nazi request not to play the Scottish Symphony of Felix Mendelssohn, who was a Christian by faith but a Jew by birth. In Berlin, Beecham's concert was attended by Adolf Hitler. When he saw the dictator applauding, Beecham remarked, "The old bugger seems to like it!" After this tour, Beecham refused to accept further invitations to give concerts in Germany, though he conducted Orpheus and Euridice and Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Oper under den Linden the following February and recorded The Magic Flute in the Beethovensaal in Berlin in 1937 and 1938.

   As his sixtieth birthday approached, Beecham had planned a year's complete rest from music, intending to go abroad for sun-warmed leisure. The outbreak of World War II on 3 September 1939 obliged him to shelve his plans, instead fighting to secure the future of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, whose financial guarantees had been withdrawn by their backers when war was declared. In 1946, Beecham founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, obtaining an agreement with the Royal Philharmonic Society that the new orchestra should replace the LPO at all the Society's concerts. As in 1909 and in 1932, Beecham's assistants went to work in the freelance pool and elsewhere. Beecham later agreed with the Glyndebourne Festival that the RPO should be the resident orchestra at Glyndebourne each summer. He secured backing, including from record companies in the U.S. as well as Britain, with whom lucrative recording contracts were negotiated. Original members of the RPO included Gerald Jackson, Reginald Kell, Archie Camden, Leonard Brain, Dennis Brain and James Bradshaw. The orchestra later became celebrated for its regular team of woodwind principals, often referred to as The Royal Family, consisting of Jack Brymer (clarinet), Gwydion Brooke (bassoon), Terence McDonagh (oboe), and Gerald Jackson (flute).

   By 1950 the RPO was able to undertake a strenuous tour through the U.S., Canada and South Africa. During the North American tour, Beecham conducted forty-nine concerts in almost daily succession. Beecham was furious and hurt at being excluded from Covent Garden after the war. State-funded for the first time, the opera company operated quite differently from Beecham's pre-war regime. Instead of short, star-studded seasons, with a major symphony orchestra, director David Webster was attempting to build up a permanent ensemble of home-grown talent performing all the year round, in English translations. Extreme economy in productions and great attention to the box-office were essential, and Beecham was not felt to be suited to participate in such an undertaking. This was illustrated in 1951 when Beecham was at length invited back to Covent Garden. Offered a chorus of eighty singers for Die Meistersinger, he insisted on augmenting their number to 200. He also, contrary to Webster's policy, insisted on performing the piece in German. In 1953 at Oxford, Beecham presented the world première of Delius's first opera, Irmelin, and his last operatic performances in Britain were in 1955 at Bath, with Grétry's Zémire et Azor.

   Between 1951 and 1960, Beecham conducted at the Royal Festival Hall no fewer than 92 times. Characteristic Beecham programmes of the RPO years included symphonies by Bizet, César Franck, Haydn, Schubert and Tchaikovsky; Strauss's Ein Heldenleben; concertos by Mozart and Camille Saint-Saëns; a Delius/Sibelius programme; and many of his favoured shorter pieces. Though in his seventies, Beecham did not stick uncompromisingly to his familiar repertoire. After the sudden death of the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, Beecham in tribute conducted the two programmes his younger colleague had been due to present at the Festival Hall; these included Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 3, Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole, Brahms's Symphony No 1, and Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra. In the summer of 1958, Beecham conducted a season at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina, consisting of Verdi's Otello, Bizet's Carmen, Beethoven's Fidelio, Saint-Saëns's Samson and Delilah and Mozart's Magic Flute. These were his last operatic performances. His last illness prevented his operatic debut at Glyndebourne in a planned Magic Flute and a final appearance at Covent Garden conducting Berlioz's The Trojans.

Sixty-six years after his first visit to America, Beecham made his last, beginning in late 1959, conducting in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Washington. During this tour, he also conducted in Canada. He flew back to London on 12 April 1960 and thereafter never left England. Beecham's final concert was at Portsmouth on 7 May 1960. The programme, all characteristic choices, comprised the Magic Flute Overture, Haydn's Symphony No. 100 (the Military), Beecham's own Handel arrangement, Love in Bath, Schubert's Symphony No. 5, On the River by Delius, and the Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah.

   Thomas Beecham died of a coronary thrombosis at his London flat, aged 81. He was buried two days later in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. Owing to changes at Brookwood, his mortal remains were exhumed in 1991 and reburied in St Peter's churchyard at Limpsfield, Surrey. His grave is situated approximately 10 metres from that of the composer Frederick Delius. Sir Thomas was succeeded in the baronetcy by his elder son, Adrian Welles Beecham.

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 Herbert Von Karajan  (1908 -1989)

 

  Herbert von Karajan was the son of an upper-bourgeois Salzburg family. The Karajan family is said to have originally been Aromanian (Vlach) or Greek, from the region of Macedonia. His great-great-grandfather, Georg Johannes Karajanis, was born in Kozani, a town in the Ottoman province of Rumelia (present West Macedonia in Greece), leaving for Vienna in 1767, and eventually Chemnitz, Saxony. He and his brother participated in the establishment of Saxony's cloth industry, and both were ennobled for their services by Frederick Augustus III on June 1, 1792, thus the prefix "von" to the family name. The surname Karajanis became Karajan. Herbert's family from the maternal side, through his grandfather who was born in the village of Mojstrana, Duchy of Carniola (today in Slovenia), had Slovene origins according to a modern genealogical research, thus contrasting with the traditional view which expressed a Serbian or simply a Slavic origin of his mother.

   Karajan was born in Salzburg, Austria as Heribert Ritter von Karajan. He was a child prodigy at the piano. From 1916 to 1926, he studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where he was encouraged to study conducting by his teacher, who noticed his amazing talent and ability. In 1929, he conducted Salome at the Festspielhaus in Salzburg, and from 1929 to 1934, Karajan served as first Kapellmeister at the Stadttheater in Ulm. In 1933, Karajan made his conducting debut at the Salzburg Festival with the Walpurgisnacht Scene in Max Reinhardt's production of Faust. The following year, and again in Salzburg, Karajan led the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time, and from 1934 to 1941, Karajan conducted opera and symphony concerts at the Aachen opera house. In 1935, Karajan's career was given a significant boost when he was appointed Germany's youngest Generalmusikdirektor and was a guest conductor in Bucharest, Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Paris. Moreover, in 1937, Karajan made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin State Opera with Fidelio. He enjoyed a major success in the State Opera with Tristan und Isolde and in 1938, his performance of the opera was hailed by a Berlin critic as Das Wunder Karajan (The Karajan miracle), claiming that his "success with Wagner's demanding work Tristan und Isolde sets himself alongside Furtwängler and de Sabata, the greatest opera conductors in Germany at the present time" Receiving a contract with Deutsche Grammophon that same year, Karajan made the first of numerous recordings by conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin in the overture to Die Zauberflöte. On 26 July 1938, he married his first wife, operetta singer Elmy Holgerloef. They would divorce in 1942.

   Karajan joined the Nazi Party in Salzburg on 8 April 1933; his membership number was 1.607.525. In June the Nazi Party was outlawed by the Austrian government. However, Karajan's membership was valid until 1939. In this year the former Austrian members were verified by the general office of the Nazi Party. Karajan's membership was declared invalid, but his accession to the party was retroactively determined to have been on 1 May 1933 in Ulm, with membership number 3,430,914. His membership in the Nazi Party and increasingly prominent career in Germany from 1933 to 1945 cast him in an uncomplimentary light after the war. While Karajan's defenders have argued that he joined the Nazis only to advance his own career, critics such as Jim Svejda have pointed out that other prominent conductors, such as Bruno Walter, Erich Kleiber and Arturo Toscanini, fled from fascist Europe at the time. However, British music critic Richard Osborne argues that among the many well-known conductors who worked in Germany throughout the war years?a list that includes Wilhelm Furtwängler, Ernest Ansermet, Carl Schuricht, Karl Böhm, Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss and Karl Elmendorff?Karajan was in fact one of the youngest and least advanced in his career. Some have argued that careerism could not have been Karajan's sole motivation, since he first joined the Nazi Party in 1933 in Salzburg, Austria, five years before the Anschluss. In The Cultural Cold War, published in Britain as Who Paid the Piper? Frances Stonor Saunders noted that Karajan "had been a party member since 1933, and opened his concerts with the Nazi favourite 'Horst Wessel Lied.'"

   In addition, although he did open a Paris concert with the Horst Wessel Lied, he had a history of avoiding political or nationalistic gestures at performances wherever possible. Jewish musicians such as Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, and Itzhak Perlman refused to play in concerts with Karajan because of his Nazi past. Richard Tucker also pulled out from a 1956 recording of Il trovatore when he learned that Karajan would be conducting, and threatened to do the same on the Maria Callas recording of Aida, until Tullio Serafin replaced Karajan. Some people have questioned whether Karajan was committed to the Nazi cause given his marriage in 1942 to Anita Gütermann, who was partly of Jewish origin. Evidence suggests that he received several threats to his career as a result of the engagement, and had attempted to resign from the Nazi Party when questioned about it.

   Commentators such as Osborne and the British journalist Mark Lawson have suggested that music, and access to making music, over-rode everything for Karajan, and that may have led to him making amoral decisions such as Nazi membership in order to get what he wanted with regard to music. Lawson in particular has suggested that the lack of conclusive evidence about Karajan's personal political ideology, and apparently contradictory episodes in his life (such as his marriage), at least suggests that his membership was more a means to an end than the expression of an ideological standpoint. Adolf Hitler did not appreciate Karajan's performance of Die Meistersinger on 2 June 1939, according to Winifred Wagner, because Karajan, who was conducting without a score, lost his way, the singers halted and the curtain was rung down in confusion. According to Winifred Wagner, Hitler decided that Karajan was not ever to conduct at the annual Bayreuth festival. However, as a favourite of Hermann Göring he would continue his work as conductor of the Staatskapelle (1941-1945), the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera, where he would accompany about 150 opera performances in total. On 22 October 1942, at the height of the war, Karajan married his second wife, Anna Maria "Anita" Sauest, née Gütermann, the daughter of a well-known sewing machine magnate, and who, having a Jewish grandfather, was considered Vierteljüdin (one-quarter Jewish). By 1944, Karajan was, by his own account, losing favor with the Nazi leaders, but he still conducted concerts in wartime Berlin on 18 February 1945, and fled Germany with Anita for Milan a short time later. Karajan and Anita divorced in 1958. In the closing stages of the war, Karajan relocated his family to Italy with the assistance of Victor de Sabata. Karajan was discharged by the Austrian de-nazification examining board on 18 March 1946, and resumed his conducting career shortly thereafter.

   In 1946, Karajan gave his first post-war concert, in Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic, but he was banned from further conducting activities by the Soviet occupation authorities because of his Nazi party membership. That summer, he participated anonymously in the Salzburg Festival. The following year, he was allowed to resume conducting. In 1949, Karajan became artistic director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. He also conducted at La Scala in Milan. However, his most prominent activity at this time was recording with the newly-formed Philharmonia Orchestra in London, helping to build them into one of the world's finest. Starting from this year, Karajan began lifetime long attendance of the Lucerne Festival In 1951 and 1952 he conducted at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

   In 1955, he was appointed music director for life of the Berlin Philharmonic as successor to Wilhelm Furtwängler. From 1957 to 1964, he was artistic director of the Vienna State Opera. He was closely involved with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival, where he initiated the Easter Festival, which would remain tied to the Berlin Philharmonic's Music Director after his tenure. On 22 October 1958, he married his third wife, model Eliette Mouret; they became parents of two daughters, Isabel and Arabel. He continued to perform, conduct and record prolifically until his death in Anif in 1989, mainly with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic.

   Karajan played an important role in the development of the original compact disc digital audio format. He championed this new consumer playback technology, lent his prestige to it, and appeared at the first press conference announcing the format. The maximum playing time of CD prototypes was sixty minutes, but the final specification enlarged the disc size and extended the capacity to seventy-four minutes. There is a story that this was due to Karajan's insistence that the format have sufficient capacity to contain Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on a single disc. Snopes says the truth of the story is undetermined. Kees Schouhamer Immink, a Philips research engineer and fellow of the Audio Engineering Society, denies the Beethoven connection.

   There is widespread agreement that Herbert von Karajan had a special gift for extracting beautiful sounds from an orchestra. Opinion varies concerning the greater aesthetic ends to which The Karajan Sound was applied. The American critic Harvey Sachs criticized the Karajan approach as follows: Karajan seemed to have opted instead for an all-purpose, highly refined, lacquered, calculatedly voluptuous sound that could be applied, with the stylistic modifications he deemed appropriate, to Bach and Puccini, Mozart and Mahler, Beethoven and Wagner, Schumann and Stravinsky... many of his performances had a prefabricated, artificial quality that those of Toscanini, Furtwängler, and others never had... most of Karajan's records are exaggeratedly polished, a sort of sonic counterpart to the films and photographs of Leni Riefenstahl. However, it has been argued by commentator Jim Svejda and others that Karajan's pre-1970 manner did not sound polished as it is later alleged to have become.

   Some critics, particularly British critic Norman Lebrecht, charged Karajan with initiating a devastating inflationary spiral in performance fees. During his tenure as director of publicly-funded performing organizations such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Salzburg Festival, he started paying guest stars exorbitantly, as well as ratcheting up his own remuneration. Once he possessed orchestras he could have them produce discs, taking the vulture's share of royalties for himself and rerecording favorite pieces for every new technology: digital LPs, CD, videotape, laserdisc. In addition to making it difficult for other conductors to record with his orchestras, von Karajan also drove up the prices that he would be paid and thus other conductors wanted. During a recording session of the Beethoven Triple Concerto with David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich, pianist Richter demanded an extra take, to which Karajan replied "No, no, we haven't got time, we've still got to do the photographs." This did not prevent violinist Oistrakh from saying, when Karajan turned 65, that he was "the greatest living conductor, a master in every style."

   Karajan was the recipient of many honours and awards. On 21 June 1978, he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from Oxford University. He was honored by the "Médaille de Vermeil" in Paris, the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, the Olympia Award of the Onassis Foundation in Athens and the UNESCO International Music Prize. He received two Gramophone awards for recordings of Mahler's Ninth Symphony and the complete Parsifal recordings in 1981. In 2002, the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize was founded in his honour; in 2003 Anne-Sophie Mutter who had made her debut with Karajan in 1977, became the first recipient of this award. Karajan was recently selected as a main motif for a high value collectors' coin: the 100th Birthday of Herbert von Karajan commemorative coin. The nine-sided silver coin, in the reverse, shows Karajan in one of his typically dynamic poses while conducting. In the background is the score of Beethoven's Ninth. Karajan's recording of Johann Strauss An der schönen, blauen Donau (The Blue Danube waltz) was used by director Stanley Kubrick in his science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (with Kubrick animating the sequence to match the prerecorded music, the opposite of the usual practice for soundtracks). The popular effect of this unconventional use of the music was such that the music became more identified for subsequent generations with space stations, primitive men, alien artifacts and such, than with the original waltz. Some years later, Kubrick again used Karajan's recordings, this time Béla Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta in The Shining.  Although there is a 1958 version by Ferenc Fricsay of the second movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, the symphony's finale we hear at the end of the movie is Karajan's now-famous 1963 recording. These two versions are from DG and performed by the same orchestra, The Berlin Philharmonic. Explaining why he preferred conducting the Berlin Philharmonic to the Vienna Philharmonic: "If I tell the Berliners to step forward, they do it. If I tell the Viennese to step forward, they do it. But then they ask why. Those who have achieved all their aims probably set them too low"

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 Georg Solti  (1912 - 1997)

 

   Georg Solti studied as a pianist at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where his teachers included Bartók, Kodály, and Leo Weiner. Here he developed his fidelity to the tempo, rhythm and dynamic of the written text, using these as the starting points of interpretation throughout his life. Having decided at an early age to be a conductor, Solti became a répétiteur at the Budapest Opera, working there in this position from 1931 to 1939. During 1937 he was engaged to play for the rehearsals of Die Zauberflöte conducted by Toscanini at the Salzburg Festival; the Italian maestro?s impact upon Solti was great, reinforcing his deep respect for the written text, as well as his ethic of continuous work and study. He made his operatic debut as a conductor at the Budapest Opera leading Le nozze di Figaro on 11 March 1938, the day of the Anschluss or German annexation of Austria.

   Soon a fascist regime was in place in Hungary and Solti, a Jew, was sacked by the Budapest Opera. In order to seek a recommendation to work in America Solti travelled to Switzerland in 1939 to visit Toscanini. However the attempt to reach America came to nothing, and so in conducting terms, Solti?s career was stalled for the six years of World War II while he was effectively trapped in Switzerland. Here, unable to conduct but wishing to do so, he developed great prowess as a pianist, winning the first prize in the piano section of the Geneva International Music Competition in 1942.

   As a result of this enforced delay to the continuation of his chosen career, by the end of the war Solti was sufficiently desperate to conduct as to be prepared to travel to Munich on the off-chance that a fellow ex-pupil from the Franz Liszt Academy, Edward Kilenyi, now a major in the American army, might be able to find him a conducting position. Because of the de-Nazification procedures, there were no German conductors of note able to work in this part of the country; so Solti, following a successful debut in Stuttgart, was immediately offered the job of music director of the Bavarian State Opera: thus in one bound finding himself in a position which normally would be awarded only to a conductor with an extensive pedigree.

   At this time Solti also made a key contact, through the Swiss tenor Max Lichtegg, with Maurice Rosengarten, who was responsible for classical music at Decca Records. By convincing Rosengarten that he was a conductor to watch ? and aided by the Munich appointment ? Solti commenced a relationship with Decca in 1947 which continued virtually without interruption for fifty years.

   An unusual characteristic of Solti?s conducting career, which was based very much on relationships, was his longevity in formal ?command? positions. Between 1946 and 1991, when he ended his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he held only four appointments, all as music director of the following musical institutions: Bavarian State Opera, Munich (1946?1952), Frankfurt Opera (1952?1961), Covent Garden (later Royal) Opera Company, London (1961?1971); Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1969?1991). These posts covered a period of forty-five years, and they formed the bedrock upon which a highly active programme of recordings and international guest engagements was built.

   Another key factor in the development of Solti?s recording career was his relationship with the record producer John Culshaw. Culshaw first heard Solti conduct in 1949, at a performance of Der Rosenkavalier in Munich, and that autumn he produced Solti?s first record with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Decca, a disc of Haydn?s Symphony No. 103. The following year Culshaw heard Solti again in Munich, this time conducting Die Walküre, and was sufficiently highly impressed to make Solti his first choice, after Knappertsbusch, to conduct the Ring on record.

   The Decca connection enabled Solti and Culshaw to keep their relationship in play, while the 1957 recordings of Arabella (with Solti substituting for Böhm) and of Act III of Die Walküre demonstrated Solti to be a conductor of consequence in both Strauss and Wagner. Decca?s 1958 decision to record Das Rheingold, the springboard to the later recording of the entire Ring cycle, gave Solti the platform from which to leap into the international musical firmament, a rise which the success of these recordings certainly facilitated. By 1959, the year of his Covent Garden debut and of the offer of the music directorship there, he had become established as a recording and opera conductor of the first rank.

   Solti built the Covent Garden Opera, later renamed during his music directorship as the Royal Opera Company, into a company of the highest international quality. He introduced for the first time an uncompromising drive towards the best possible standards, replacing the repertoire with the stagione system, whilst also developing an ensemble of mainly British singers, most of whom went on to enjoy international careers. He expanded the repertoire by introducing works such as Schoenberg?s Moses und Aron, and engaged outstanding theatrical directors such as Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn to deliver productions of high quality.

   Throughout the 1960s Decca sustained and developed this reputation by recording Solti in three key repertoire strands: Wagner, Richard Strauss and Mahler. By the time he came to take over the music directorship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1969 Solti was firmly established internationally as a conductor to be mentioned in the same breath as Herbert von Karajan. By bringing together Decca and the Chicago orchestra he created a relationship which ensured a stream of recordings that ran up to and beyond his resignation as music director in 1991.

   Solti?s years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra may now be seen as a direct continuation of the musical standards and expectations created by his formidable predecessor, Fritz Reiner. The virtuosity achieved by Solti and this orchestra has rarely been equalled and never exceeded. During his time in Chicago Solti also accepted appointments as chief conductor of the Orchestre de Paris (1972?1975) and as principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1979?1981) and conducted a new production of the Ring at the Bayreuth Festival in 1983. Knighted in 1971, Sir Georg maintained a programme of guest-conducting engagements throughout the world in both the opera house and the concert hall from 1991 to his death in 1997. His last public appearance was conducting at the Gala performance that marked the closure of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in the summer of 1997, prior to its renovation.

   Solti was a most energetic conductor in both rehearsal and performance, with a frequently sharp and stabbing conducting style. At the same time he was also capable of producing the most beautiful legato playing. He insisted upon great rhythmic precision and tight ensemble, allied to the acute observation of dynamics and of course the highest technical standards of execution. The result in the works of the ?two Richards?, Wagner and Strauss, was to present their music with a discipline which had rarely been encountered previously. His emphasis upon line and phrasing also paid great dividends in the music of Mozart and Verdi, whose works he conducted with complete mastery. His most enduring legacy is the vast catalogue of operatic and symphonic recordings which he made for Decca, in which pride of place must certainly go to his account of Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

   Other outstanding operatic recordings include, by Richard Strauss, Arabella, Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra and Salome; by Richard Wagner, Tannhäuser and Parsifal; by Verdi, Don Carlos, Rigoletto and Un ballo in maschera; and by Mozart the three da Ponte operas as well as Die Zauberflöte. Solti?s drive and precision are extremely well displayed in his account of Gluck?s Orfeo ed Eurydice. Of his orchestral recordings, particularly memorable are his accounts of works by his teachers Bartók and Kodály, together with the symphonies of Mahler and most notably those of Elgar. No Solti recording is without some point of interest: his stature as one of the most outstanding conductors of the twentieth century is fully confirmed through this legacy.

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 Zubin Metha (1936 -)

 

 

    Zubin Mehta was born into a Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, the son of Mehli and Tehmina Mehta. His father Mehli Mehta was a violinist and founding conductor of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. Zubin is an alumnus of St. Mary's (ISC) High School, Mazagoan, Mumbai and St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Zubin initially intended to study medicine, but eventually became a music student in Vienna at the age of 18, under the eminent instructor Hans Swarowsky. Also at the same academy along with Zubin were conductor Claudio Abbado and conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim.

   In 1958, Mehta made his conducting debut in Vienna. The same year he won the International Conducting Competition in Liverpool and was appointed assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Mehta soon rose to the rank of chief conductor when he was made Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1960, a post he held until 1967. In 1961, he was named assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; however, the orchestra's music director designate, Georg Solti, was not consulted on the appointment, and Solti subsequently resigned in protest; soon after, Mehta himself was named Music Director of the orchestra, and held the post from 1962 to 1978.

   In 1978 Mehta became the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and remained there until his resignation in 1991, becoming the longest holder of the post. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra appointed Mehta its Music Advisor in 1969, Music Director in 1977, and made him its Music Director for Life in 1981. Since 1985, Mehta has been chief conductor of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence. Additionally, from 1998 until 2006, Mehta was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra named him its Honorary Conductor. Since 2005, Mehta has been the main conductor (together with Lorin Maazel) of the new opera house of the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia.

   Zubin Mehta received praise early in his career for dynamic interpretations of the large scale symphonic music of Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Franz Schmidt. He has also made a recording of Indian instrumentalist, Ravi Shankar's Sitar Concerto No. 2, with Shankar and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His conducting is also renowned as being flamboyant and forceful in performance. Mehta has conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert in the years 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2007. As a double bassist, one of his most memorable performances was in a collaboration with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim in a performance of Schubert's Trout Quintet in the summer of 1969.

   In 1990, he conducted the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Orchestra del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma in the first ever Three Tenors concert in Rome, joining the tenors again in 1994 at the Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. In June 1994, Mehta performed the Mozart Requiem, along with the members of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the ruins of Sarajevo's National Library, in a fund raising concert for the victims of armed conflict and remembrance of the thousands of people killed in the Yugoslav wars. On August 29, 1999, he conducted Mahler Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection), at the vicinity of Buchenwald concentration camp in the German city of Weimar, with both the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, sitting alongside each other. He toured his native country India and home city Mumbai (Bombay) in 1984, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and again in November-December 1994, with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, along with soloists Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham. In 1997 and 1998, Mehta worked in collaboration with Chinese film director Zhang Yimou on a production of the opera Turandot by Giacomo Puccini which they took to Florence, Italy and then to Beijing, China where it was staged, in its actual surroundings, in the Forbidden City with over 300 extras and 300 soldiers. for eight historic performances. The making of this production was chronicled in a documentary called The Turandot Project which Mehta narrated.

   On 26 December 2005, the first anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Zubin Mehta along with the Bavarian State Orchestra performed for the first time in Chennai (formerly called Madras) at the world famous "Madras Music Academy". This special Tsunami memorial concert was organised by the Madras German consulate along with the Max-Mueller Bhavan/Goethe institute. The team performed to a packed hall of select invitees. Nearly 3000 people turned up including eminent personalities such as Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate in economics) and the Tamil Nadu governor, Surjit Singh Barnala. He also performed in Delhi on December 28 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium. 2006 will be his last year with the Bavarian State Orchestra. He conducted in Andrea Bocelli's Verdi Album in 2000, as well as in two of his seven complete recorded operas la Boheme and Tosca in 2000 and 2003.

   In 1999 Zubin Mehta was presented the "Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award" of the United Nations. In 2001, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award. In September, 2006 the Kennedy Center announced Maestro Mehta as one of the recipients of that year's Kennedy Center Honors. These were presented on December 2, 2006.

   On February 3, 2007, Zubin Mehta was the recipient of the Second Annual Bridgebuilder Award at Loyola Marymount University Conductor Karl Böhm awarded Mehta the Nikisch Ring ? the Vienna Philharmonic Ring of Honor. Mehta is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997. In 2001 he was bestowed the title of ?Honorary Conductor? of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and in 2004 the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra awarded him the same title, as did the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 2006. At the end of his tenure with the Bavarian State Opera he was named Honorary Conductor of the Bavarian State Orchestra and Honorary Member of the Bavarian State Opera, and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien appointed him honorary member in November 2007.

   Mehta's first marriage was from 1958-1964 to Canadian soprano Carmen Lasky. They have a son Mervon (1960) and a daughter Zarina (1958). The divorce was amicable. "We grew apart. It just happened. I never did anything nasty to him, and he never did anything nasty to me," Carmen said in 1968. Mehta married Nancy Kovack, a former American film and television actress, on 20 July 1969. Two years after divorcing Zubin, Carmen married Zubin's brother Zarin Mehta. Carmen and Zarin have daughter Rohanna (1967) and son Rustom (1969). In 2000 his brother, Zarin Mehta, was appointed executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

   Mehta's life has been documented in Terry Sanders' film Portrait of Zubin Mehta and in a book by Martin Bookspan and Ross Yockey entitled Zubin: The Zubin Mehta Story. His autobiography, written with Renate von Matuschka is "Die Partitur meines Lebens".

   The Muppet, Zubin Beckmesser, is named after him. The second part of the name (Beckmesser) being a character from Richard Wagner's opera, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. The Frank Zappa song Billy the Mountain includes a character of whom it is said "some folks say he looked like Zubin Mehta." This is a reference to a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1970, in the UCLA basketball arena, of a series of Zappa's orchestral pieces. The performance was prefaced by a short speech from Zappa, who then turned to Mehta and said, "Hit it, Zubin!"

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  Arturo Toscanini  (1867 - 1957)

 

    Arturo Toscanini was born in the city of Parma, in Italy?s fertile Po plain, on March 25, 1867. He was the oldest of four children and the only son of Paola (née Montani) and Claudio Toscanini. Both parents came from middle-class families, but Claudio had the temperament of an adventurer and had gone off in his youth to fight in Garibaldi?s forces during Italy?s wars of independence and reunification. Thereafter, he never managed to settle down seriously to domestic life, and his drinking, philandering, and general irresponsibility made life difficult for his wife and children. Arturo entered Parma?s Royal School of Music at the age of nine and graduated from it at eighteen, with maximum honors in cello and composition and with a reputation, among local musicians, not only for his virtually photographic memory and other remarkable talents but also for his wide-ranging musical interests and passionately held ideals. The following year, he was engaged as principal cellist and assistant chorus master of an Italian opera company that was to tour South America, and one evening, in Rio de Janeiro, the nineteen-year-old musician was called upon at the last moment to replace the ensemble?s regular conductor in Aida, which he led by heart. Thus began one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of musical performance.

   On his return to Italy, Toscanini immediately began to acquire experience by conducting one short season after another in many of the country?s opera houses. During one of those seasons, at Milan?s Teatro Dal Verme in 1892, he conducted the world premiere of Leoncavallo?s Pagliacci. Three years later he became what would today be called artistic director of Turin?s prestigious Teatro Regio, where he conducted ? among many works ? the world premiere of Puccini?s La Boheme, the first Italian production of Wagner?s Götterdämmerung, the local premier of Tristan und Isolde, and a host of new or recent symphonic pieces. In 1898, at the age of thirty-one, he assumed the directorship of Milan?s Teatro alla Scala, the most important opera ensemble in Italy. He spent seven of the following ten seasons there (1898-1903, 1906-08), conducting the first Italian production of Wagner?s Siegfried, Tchaikovsky?s Eugene Onegin, Strauss?s Salome, Debussy?s Pelléas et Mélisande, and symphonic works by some of the most promising talents of his generation, including Debussy, Strauss and Sibelius. He also introduced Tristan, Puccini?s Tosca, Charpentier?s Louise, and works by Mascagni, Giordano,Cilea, Franchetti, and other leading Italian composers of the day to the Milanese public; initiated a series of revolutionary revivals of the Verdi repertoire; and undertook many important reforms in the theatre?s artistic and administrative sectors.Toscanini quickly established himself as the first Italian conductor of world-class talent who was as interested in foreign repertoire as in domestic works, in symphonic music as in opera, in the classics as in the moderns. He performed Wagner?s music with passion and intellectual rigor ? in Toscanini?s student days Wagner had embodied Europe?s musical avant-garde ? but he performed with equal passion and rigor the works of many composers whom Wagner had detested, notably Verdi and Brahms. In the lyric theatre, which had often been held hostage by star singers and their caprices, Toscanini gradually imposed a system in which solo voices, chorus, orchestra, stage movement, sets, costumes, and lighting were all given maximum attention in order to create what Wagner had called the Gesamtkunstwerk ? the complete work of art. At the same time he began to demand more highly skilled playing from orchestra musicians than his predecessors had considered necessary. To his way of thinking, the sense and spirit of a piece of music could not be expressed if the notes were not played in tune, with their proper rhythmic values, at a tempo close to the one indicated by the composer, and in correct textural balance against all the other notes being played at the same time. All of this was merely a point of departure for achieving something much deeper and more valuable, but it was nevertheless a sine qua non. To achieve all of these goals Toscanini fought great battles, and his terrifying temper became a legend in the musical world. The result, however, is that most professional musicians from his day to ours ? even those who disagree with his recorded interpretations ? are direct beneficiaries of his lifelong struggle. Toscanini conducted four substantial seasons in Buenos Aires during the first decade of the twentieth century ? seasons that included the Argentine premieres of Tristan, Berlioz?s The Damnation of Faust, Cilea?s Adriana Lecouvreur, Puccini?s Madama Butterfly and many other works. From 1908 to 1915 he was in effect principal conductor (together with Mahler, during the first two seasons) of New York?s Metropolitan Opera Company, with which he led the world premiere of Puccini?s La Fanciulla del West, the American premiere of Mussorgsky?s Boris Godunov, and important revivals of works that ranged from Gluck?s Orfeo ed Euridice and Armide and Weber?s Euryanthe through the best-known mid-and late-nineteenth-century repertoire, to the most recent works of Giordano, Montemezzi, Wolf-Ferrari, and Dukas. During World War I, Toscanini stayed in Italy, conducting only military bands at the front and special benefit events in the cities. In 1920-21 he took the Scala orchestra on a marathon tour of Italy, The United States, and Canada, and masterminded the rebirth of his country?s most glorious opera company, which had been virtually defunct since 1917. In December 1921 he inaugurated the overhauled Scala ensemble?s first season, and he presided over the house?s fortunes with tremendous success almost to the end of the decade. This period was in many ways the culmination of his life as an opera conductor. Toscanini made his first guest appearance with the New York Philharmonic in 1926, and by 1930, when he took the ensemble on a history-making European tour; he had become its principal conductor. Also in 1930, Toscanini became the first non-German-school conductor to perform at the Bayreuth Festival, to which he returned in 1931; he canceled a further scheduled return in 1933 because Hitler had come to power in Germany. From then until the outbreak of the Second World War, Toscanini conducted a circle around Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy (he had been attacked and hit in the face by Facist thugs in his own country in 1931 for refusing to play the ruling party?s official anthem at the start of a concert): He worked occasionally as guest conductor with Paris?s Orchestre Walter-Straram beginning in 1932, with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Stockholm Concert Society Orchestra from 1935 to 1939, and with the Residentie-Orkest in the Hague in 1937 and 1938. At the Salzburg Festivals of 1935 to 1937 he gave what proved to be his last performances of complete, staged operas, and in 1938, when he withdrew from Salzburg for political reasons, he helped to create the new Lucerne Festival by agreeing to conduct concerts in the Swiss city. But his most celebrated political gesture was his trip to Palestine, at his own expense, at the end of 1936, to conduct a new orchestra (later known at the Israel Philharmonic), that was made up largely of Jewish refugees from Central Europe. In 1937, a year after his retirement from the New York Philharmonic, the seventy-year-old Toscanini accepted an offer from the National Broadcasting Company in New York to conduct a new orchestra made up of musicians of the highest caliber, for weekly radio broadcast concerts and frequent recordings. He remained in the United States throughout the Second World War and returned to Europe only in 1946, to reconsecrate La Scala, which had been heavily damaged by Allied bombs in 1943. Thereafter he returned to Europe every year, but his principal center of activity remained the NBC Symphony. Toscanini retired for good in 1954, at the age of eighty-seven, and died at his home in Riverdale (Bronx, New York) on January 16, 1957, a few weeks before his ninetieth birthday.

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  Daniel Barenboim  November 1942 -

 

 

   Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to parents of Russian Jewish descent. He started piano lessons at the age of five with his mother, continuing to study with his father, who remained his only teacher. On 19 August 1950, at the age of seven, he gave his first formal concert in his hometown, Buenos Aires.

   In 1952 Barenboim moved to Israel with his family. Two years later, in the summer of 1954, his parents took him to Salzburg to take part in Igor Markevitch's conducting classes. During that summer he also met and played for Wilhelm Furtwängler, who has remained a central musical influence and ideal for Barenboim.

   Furtwängler declared the young Barenboim a "phenomenon" and invited him to perform the Beethoven First Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, but Barenboim's father considered it too soon after the Second World War for a child of Jewish parents to be performing in Berlin. In 1955 Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

  On 15 June 1967, Barenboim and the talented British cellist Jacqueline Du Pré were married in Israel at a Western Wall ceremony, Du Pré having converted to Judaism. Acting as one of the witnesses was the conductor Zubin Mehta, a long-time friend of Barenboim. Zubin related; ?Since I was not Jewish, I had to temporarily be renamed Moshe Cohen, which made me a 'kosher witness.'"

  In 1973 tragedy struck when Jacqueline Du Pré was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and had to retire from music. Their marriage lasted until Jacqueline died in 1987. In the early 1980s, Barenboim began a relationship with the Russian pianist Elena Bashkirova, with whom he has two sons born in Paris prior to Du Pré's death: David Arthur, born 1983, and Michael, born 1985. Barenboim tried to keep his relationship with Bashkirova hidden from Jacqueline, and believed he had succeeded. He and Bashkirova married in 1988. Their son David is a manager-writer for the German hip-hop band Level 8, and Michael is a classical violinist. Barenboim holds citizenship of Argentina, Israel, Palestine, and Spain. He lives in Berlin.

  Daniel Barenboim is considered one of the World?s foremost musical experts on Beethoven?s music as well as a distinguished Concert Pianist and Conductor, and has served as music director to several world famous Symphony and Operatic Orchestras. He has also made hundreds of recordings as both as a Concert Pianist. Currently he is general music director of La Scala in Milan, the Berlin State Orchestra, and Staatskapelle Berlin. Past appointments have been as Music Director of the Chicago Symphony and the Orchestra de Paris. He is also famous for his work with the West-East Divan Orchestra; a Seville based gathering of young Israeli and A brought together and trained by Barenboim to cement good relations. Over the past three years this orchestra became famous for touring the World with Barenboim at the helm as Musical Director, performing all nine symphonies by Beethoven.

  Daniel Barenboim has received many awards and prizes, including an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, The Legion d? honneur from France, and several other awards from Germany and with the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, along with Spain?s Prince of Asturias Concord award. In addition, he has won seven Grammy Awards for his work and recordings.

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   Great  Tenor Voices


 Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

 Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy, on October 12, 1935, the first child and only son of a baker. As a boy, sports occupied much of his time. In fact, he earned his first local fame as a member of the town's soccer team, excelling at the game he has followed passionately ever since. He first sang in the Modena chorus with his father, a fervent lover of opera and gifted amateur tenor. When the chorus won first prize in an international competition, the youngster was hooked.

    His debut came on April 29, 1961, as Rodolfo in La Boheme, at the opera house in Reggio Emilia. That success led to engagements throughout Italy and the World, where he conquered audiences in Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich, and London. His American debut came in February 1965, in a Miami production of Lucia di Lammermoor with Joan Sutherland, the beginning of what would become their historic partnership.

   Debuts in La Boheme, at La Scala, San Francisco, and New York won the hearts of fans around the world. But it wasn't until February 17, 1972, that the Pavarotti phenomenon was born, in a production of La Fille du Regiment at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Responding to Pavarotti's aria containing nine effortless high Cs, the audience erupted in a frenzied ovation, and the young tenor's reputation soared into the stratosphere.

   Long associated with London/Decca Records, his recordings are consistent best sellers, and include collections of arias and recital programs, a live concert from Carnegie Hall, and anthologies of Neapolitan and other Italian songs. The most recent is Verdi's Il Trovatore.  His frequent television appearances in performance as well as in documentaries and on talk shows continue to add to his musical renown. His performance as Rodolfo thrilled America in the first Live from the Met telecast in March of 1977, which attracted one of the largest audiences ever for a televised opera. And from that same stage, he and Plácido Domingo together celebrated their 25th anniversaries with an Opening Night Gala performance in the fall of 1993.

   He consistently draws record-breaking audiences to sold-out arena concerts in many countries and shares his music with huge audiences in the great public parks of the world. His televised concert in London's Hyde Park, in the presence of Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, was the first concert in the history of the park featuring classical music and drew a record attendance of some 150,000 people.

   In June 1993, more than 500,000 fans gathered to enjoy his performance on the Great Lawn of New York's Central Park, while millions more around the world watched on television. The following September, singing here in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, he thrilled the hearts of an estimated 300,000 music lovers. Maestro Pavarotti is also dedicated to the development of the careers of young singers, and conducts standing-room-only master classes at conservatories around the world.

   In 1982, he initiated an ongoing international vocal competition culminating with prestigious final performances in Philadelphia. The second competition in 1986 coincided with the 25th Anniversary of his career. To celebrate, he brought the winners of that competition to Italy for gala performances of La Boheme in Modena and in Genoa that resulted in his historic visit to China, chronicled in the film Distant Harmony. Illuminated by his radiant personality and propelled by his zest for life Luciano Pavarotti's golden voice transcends the walls of the opera house to reach inside every human heart and mind.

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PLACIDO DOMINGO  1941 -

 

Plácido Domingo was born in the Barrio de Salamanca section of Madrid, Spain, and

 moved to Mexico at age 8 with his family, who ran a zarzuela company. In Mexico City he studied music at the National Conservatory. He provided backup vocals for Los Black Jeans in 1958, a rock-and-roll band lead by César Costa. He learned piano and conducting, but made his stage debut acting in a minor role in 1959 (May 12) at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara as Pascual in Marina. It was followed by Borsa in Rigoletto (with Cornell MacNeil and Norman Treigle also in the cast), Padre Confessor (Le dialogue des Carmelites) and others. He made his operatic debut acting as a leading role at Monterrey as Alfredo in La Traviata and then in 1962 spent 2 and a half years with the Israel National Opera in Tel Aviv, singing 280 performances of 12 different roles.

On September 19, 1985, the biggest earthquake in Mexico's history devastated the whole Mexican capital. Domingo's aunt, uncle, his nephew and his nephew?s young son were killed in the collapse of the Nuevo León apartment block in the Tlatelolco housing complex. Domingo himself labored to rescue survivors. During the next year, he did benefit concerts for the victims and released an album of one of the events.

In what has been called his 'final career move', Placido Domingo announced on January 25, 2007 that in 2009 he would switch ranges to baritone by taking on one of Verdi's most demanding baritone roles, as the Doge of Genoa, Simon Boccanegra, in the opera of the same name.

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JOSE CARRERAS 1946-

 

   Josep Carreras i Coll (born December 5, 1946), better known as José Carreras, is an operatic tenor. One of the most prominent singers of his generation, and particularly eminent in the operas of Verdi and Puccini, his operatic career has encompassed over 60 roles on stage and in the recording studio. He gained fame with a wider audience as one of The Three Tenors along with Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti in a series of mass concerts that began in 1990 and continued until 2003. Carreras is also known for his humanitarian work as the president of the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation (La Fundació Internacional Josep Carreras per a la Lluita contra la Leucèmia), which he established following his own recovery from the disease in 1988. Definately one of the top opera tenors in the world renowned for his magnificent voice.

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MARIO LANZA 1921 -1959

 

   Mario Lanza's life, sadly, has all the markings of an epic Shakespearean tragedy. The story is truly incredible: a wild, incendiary Philadelphia kid who can sing better than Caruso, sets out to become the greatest dramatic opera singer who ever lived, is detoured by Louis B. Mayer and vixen Hollywood, is remade into a fiercely handsome box office champ with 50 inch chest, his own national radio show, 1951 TIME Magazine cover idol, and king of the pop record world.

   He was besieged on cross-country concert tours and appearances years before Elvis and the Beatles, a true 'superstar' before the word was invented and the first singer to ever earn Gold Records with million sellers in both classical and popular categories.

   His MGM masterpiece - 'The Great Caruso' - was the top-grossing film in the world in 1951. The Lanza voice was so incredible, so powerful, so golden, so dazzling that an awestruck Maestro Toscanini called it, simply and correctly, the 'voice of the century'. Among the multitudes of stunned admirers worldwide included the likes of: Koussevitsky, Sinatra, Presley, Schipa, Tebaldi, Tucker, Kirsten, Albanese, and countless others. Lanza's voice has been called the 'Northern Lights in a throat' and passed through a heart of peerless sensitivity, passion. and vulnerability .

Fired by MGM during production of 'The Student Prince' in 1952 after the German director Curtis Bernhardt assailed him over the 'excess' passion of one song in his stunning recording of the soundtrack, his career began a downturn that would never be reversed. Lanza never fully recovered from the emotional catastrophe of 'The Student Prince' fiasco and losing his MGM contract, and declined slowly in a pattern of near-alcoholism, food-binging, huge weight gains and losses, and professional tempestuousness.

Fed up with not being able to get film roles - save 'Serenade' for Warners in 1956 - and a savage press, Lanza quit Hollywood and moved his family to ancestral Italy to rebuild his life and career. He made two mediocre European-produced films, enjoyed generally successful concert performances, and then died of an alleged heart attack on October 7, 1959, only seven years after 'The Student Prince' nightmare at the terribly young age of 38, leaving behind four children and his shattered wife, who died five months later of a drug overdose after returning to Hollywood.

Lanza's seven films and scores of astonishing recordings continue to stun and inspire singers and the public 40 years after his death. He is celebrated and honored with film festivals, a steady flow of new CDs, and constant worldwide musical tributes, most notably by Domingo-Carreras-Pavarotti, and a multitude of lesser vocal lights. People Magazine, in 1998, summed up the Lanza voice as 'Magnificent'. Simply put, there will never be another Mario Lanza.

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Beniamino Gigli 1890-1957

 

   The self-declared 'people's singer', Gigli was more than ready to add popular tunes and love songs to his concert repertoire. The sentimentality these added to his interpretations notwithstanding, Gigli still had no trouble whatsoever pleasing audiences: his voice was simply that beautiful.

   At the tender age of 24, he already had the judges of the Parma International Competition declaring, 'At last we have found the tenor!' This triumph marked the meteoric rise of the shoemaker's son to the pinnacle of the opera world in a few short years. By the time Gatti-Casazza engaged Gigli in 1919, the justly deified Caruso's health had begun its downward spiral. Gigli was destined to be the next rising star, and in spite of the ever-present shadow of Caruso he established his own artistry.

  With his more youthful and lyrical sound, he became known for the sheer beauty of tone, as well as the dramatic intensity of his interpretations. Too bad he left the Met over a salary dispute; Gatti-Casazza evidently did not value Gigli's contribution to the operatic world enough to retain him. But then, Met General Managers have had a penchant for minimizing the importance of tenors. After all, it was Rudolph Bing who was quoted as saying, 'The reason tenors demand so much money is because the timbre of their voice is a sexual stimulant.' No other reason, Sir Rudolph?

 

Died aged 67 from Asian flu and diabetic problems.

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ENRICO CARUSO 1873-191

 

 

   One might say that 1921 was a red-letter one for tenors, being the year of the birth of Di Stefano, Corelli and Valletti. (What did they put in the Pellegrino that year?) It was as if they had been born with a karmic debt to Caruso, who died that same year - although it was actually Gigli who took up Caruso's legacy. To me it is simply amazing that Caruso could have been the 18th child out of 21 - and the first to live past infancy because of a cholera outbreak - and still made it to the top of the operatic ladder.

   Though born to a family of singers, he still managed to capture the attention of some of the musical luminaries of the time. In spite of his father's demands that he work at the local mechanic factory, and the three years of military service required by Italian law, young Enrico's talent prevailed; and he was able to hone his initially baritone-like quality into one of the greatest tenor vocal instruments of all time.

   A Baron heard Caruso entertaining his fellow soldiers with song and helped train Enrico for the performance of Fedora that launched his career at Milan's Opera Lirico. A frequent performer with the lovely Geraldine Farrar at the Met, Caruso experienced health difficulties at a relatively young age. Anxious not to disappoint his countless fans, he tended to perform when he probably shouldn't have and expired tragically after much suffering.

   Gatti-Casazza, the Met's General Manager at the time, wrote, "We may have now and later tenors possessing some of his qualitiesâ?¦ a beautiful voice, â?¦good singers or artistsâ?¦ but â?¦ it will almost be impossible to have the fortune to find again another personality who possesses in himself all the artistic and moral gifts that distinguished our poor and illustrious friend."

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Editor Note: There were many other great Opera tenors - too many to list here, but  you can research a few of them on the Internet by entering their names and 'biography' in Google Search engine.

 Here are just a few......New Stars are coming along every year in Opera.

 

MARIO DEL MANACO (1915-1982)   FRANCO CORELLI (1921-2003)  GIUSEPPE DI STEFANO (1921 -)  CESARE VALLETTI (1921-2000)  GIACOMO LAURI-VOLPI (1894-1979) Most of these great singers were of italian birth and sang in the major Opera House of the World.

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Great Sopranos

   Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE

 (born 7 November 1926) is an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution in the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire in the late 1950s and 1960s.

   One of the most remarkable female opera singers of the 20th century, she was dubbed La Stupenda by a La Fenice audience in 1960 after an Alcina performance. She possessed a voice of beauty and power, combining extraordinary agility, accurate intonation, a splendid trill and a tremendous upper register, although music critics often complained about the imprecision of her diction. Her friend Luciano Pavarotti once called Sutherland the "Voice of the Century", while Montserrat Caballé described the Australian's voice as being like "heaven".

   Joan Sutherland was born in Sydney, Australia, where she attended St Catherine's School. As a child, she listened to and copied the singing exercises of her mother, a mezzo-soprano who had studied but never considered making a career. Sutherland was 18 when she started studying voice seriously with John and Aida Dickens. She made her concert debut in Sydney, as Dido in Purcell's Dido and Æneas, in 1947. In 1951, she made her stage debut in Eugène Goossens's Judith. In 1951, after winning Australia's most important competition, the Sun Aria, she went to London to further her studies at the Opera School of the Royal College of Music with Clive Carey. She was engaged by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as a utility soprano, and made her debut there on 28 October 1952, as the First Lady in The Magic Flute, followed in November by a few performances as Clotilde in Bellini's Norma, with Maria Callas as Norma.

   During her early career, she was training to be a Wagnerian dramatic soprano, following the steps of Kirsten Flagstad, whom she greatly admired. In December 1952, she sang her first leading role at the Royal Opera House, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera. Other roles included Agathe in Der Freischütz, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Desdemona in Otello, Gilda in Rigoletto, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Pamina in The Magic Flute. In 1953, she sang in the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's Gloriana, and created the role of Jennifer in Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage, on 27 January 1955.

   Sutherland married Australian conductor and pianist, Richard Bonynge, on 16 October 1954. They had a son, Adam, born in 1956. Bonynge gradually convinced her that Wagner may not be her Fach after all, since she had such great ease with high notes and coloratura, and that she should perhaps explore the bel canto repertory.

   In 1957, she appeared in Handel's Alcina with the Handel Opera Society, and in Donizetti's Emilia di Liverpool, in which performances her bel canto potential was clearly demonstrated, vindicating her husband's judgement. The following year she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni in Vancouver.

   In 1959, she was invited to sing Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House in a production conducted by Tullio Serafin and staged by Franco Zeffirelli. The role of Edgardo was sung by her fellow Australian Kenneth Neate, who had replaced the scheduled tenor at short notice. It was a breakthrough for Sutherland's career, and, upon the completion of the famous Mad Scene, she had become a star. In 1960, she recorded the album The Art of the Prima Donna, which remains today one of the most recommended opera albums ever recorded: the double LP set won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance - Vocal Soloist in 1962. The album, a collection consisting mainly of coloratura arias, provides an opportunity to listen to the young Sutherland at the beginning of her international career. It displays her seemingly effortless coloratura ability, high notes and opulent tones, as well as her exemplary trill, which she is identified by and for which she is widely admired.

   By the beginning of the 1960s, Sutherland had already established a reputation as a diva with a voice out of the ordinary. She sang Lucia to great acclaim in Paris in 1960 and, in 1961, at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera. Also in 1960, she sang a superb Alcina at La Fenice, Venice, where she was nicknamed La Stupenda ("The Stupendous One"). Sutherland would soon be praised as La Stupenda in newspapers around the world. Later that year (1960), Sutherland sang Alcina at the Dallas Opera, with which she made her US debut.

   Her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on 26 November 1961, when she sang Lucia. After a total of 217 performances in a number of different operas, her last appearance there was on 19 December 1987, when she sang in Il trovatore. During the 1978?? period, her relationship with the Met severely deteriorated when Sutherland had to decline the role of Constanze in Mozart's "Die Entführung aus dem Serail", more than a year before the rehearsals were scheduled to start. The opera house management then declined to stage the operetta The Merry Widow especially for her, as requested; subsequently, she did not perform at the Met during that time at all, even though a production of Rossini's "Semiramide" had also been planned, but later she returned there to sing in other operas, triumphally.

   During the 1960s, Sutherland had added the greatest heroines of bel canto ("beautiful singing") to her repertoire: Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata, Amina in Bellini's La Sonnambula and Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani in 1960; Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda in 1961; Marguerite de Valois in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots and Semiramide in Rossini's Semiramide in 1962; Norma in Bellini's Norma and Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare in 1963. In 1966 she added Marie in Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, which became one of her most adored roles, because of her perfect coloratura and lively, funny interpretation.

   In 1965, Sutherland toured Australia with the Sutherland-Williamson Opera Company. Accompanying her was a young tenor named Luciano Pavarotti, and the tour proved to be a major milestone in Pavarotti's career. Every performance featuring Sutherland sold out.

   During the 1970s, Sutherland strove to improve her diction, which had often been critizised, and increase the expressiveness of her interpretations. She continued to add dramatic bel canto roles to her repertoire, such as Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and Lucrezia Borgia, as well as Massenet's extremely difficult Esclarmonde, a role that few sopranos attempt. She even recorded a successful Turandot in 1972 under the baton of Zubin Mehta, though she wisely never performed that taxing, heroic role on stage.

   Sutherland's early recordings show her to be possessed of a crystal-clear voice and excellent diction. However, by the early 1960s her voice lost some of this clarity in the middle register, and she often came under fire for having extremely poor diction. Some have attributed this to sinus surgery; however, her major sinus surgery was done in 1959, immediately after her breakthrough Lucia at Covent Garden. In fact, her first commercial recording of the first and final scene of Lucia reveals her voice and diction to be just as clear as prior to the sinus procedure. Her husband, Richard Bonynge stated in an interview that her "mushy diction" occurred while striving to achieve perfect legato. According to him, it is because she earlier had a very Germanic "un-legato" way of singing. She clearly took the criticism to heart, as, within a few years, her diction improved markedly and she continued to amaze and thrill audiences throughout the world.

   In the late 1970s, Sutherland's voice started to decline and her vibrato loosened to an intrusive extent. However, thanks to her vocal agility and solid technique, she continued singing the most difficult roles amazingly well. During the 1980s, she added Anna Bolena, Amalia in I masnadieri and Adriana Lecouvreur to her repertoire, and repeated Esclarmonde at The Royal Opera House performances in November and December 1983. Her last performance was as Marguerite de Valois (Les Huguenots) at the Sydney Opera House in 1990, at the age of 63. Her last public appearance, however, took place in a gala performance of Die Fledermaus on New Year's Eve, 1990, at Covent Garden, where she was accompanied by her colleagues Pavarotti and the mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

   According to her own words, given in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, her biggest achievement was to sing the title role in Esclarmonde. She considers those performances and recordings made as her best, being particularly fond of the love lavished by fans upon her.

   Since her retirement, she has made relatively few public appearances, preferring a quiet life at her home in Switzerland. One exception was her 1994 address at a lunch organised by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. In that address, she complained at having to be interviewed by a clerk of Chinese or Indian background when applying to renew her Australian passport. Her comments caused considerable controversy at the time, and she has since publicly apologized for the remarks.

   In 1997 she published an autobiography A Prima Donna's Progress. While it received generally scathing reviews for its literary merits, it does contain a complete list of all her performances, with full cast lists.

   In 2002 she appeared at a dinner in London to accept the Royal Philharmonic Society's gold medal, and gave an interview to The Guardian in which she lamented the lack of

 technique in young opera singers, and the dearth of good teachers. She no longer gives

master classes herself and when asked why by Italian journalists in May 2007, she replied: "Because    I'm 80 years old and I really don't want to have anything to do with opera anymore, although I do sit on the juries of singing competitions. The competition that Sutherland has been most closely associated with since her retirement is the Cardiff Singer of the World. She began her regular involvement in the competition in 1993, serving on the jury five consecutive times and later, in 2003, became its patron.

   On 3 July 2008, she suffered a fall while gardening at her home in Switzerland. As a result, Dame Joan broke both of her legs, but remains in a stable condition.

   During her career and after, Sutherland received many honours and awards. In 1961, Sutherland was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was named the Australian of the Year in 1961. On 9 June 1975, Dame Joan was made a Companion of the Order of Australia. She was further elevated from Commander to Dame Commander on 30 December 1978. On 18 December 1991, the Queen bestowed on Dame Joan the Order of Merit.

   In 2004, she received a Kennedy Center Honor for her outstanding achievement throughout her career. In January of that year she also received the Australia Post Australian Legends Award which honours Australians who have contributed to the Australian identity and culture. Two stamps featuring Joan Sutherland were issued on Australia Day 2004 to mark the award.

   Both Sutherland House and the Dame Joan Sutherland Centre at St Catherine's School, Sydney, and The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre (JSPAC), Penrith, are named in honour of her.

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     Maria Callas (1923-1977)

 

    One of the greatest and most versatile operatic singers in recent history. She sang an incredible variety of roles; from Wagnerian to light coloratura; from high soprano to mezzo. But it is not just the range of roles she was capable of singing, but how she sang them that makes her special. She had a distinctive vocal timbre which she could colour in a seemingly infinite number of manners. She could also act, a rarity with opera singers still today. She was a joy to listen to and watch.

   True her voice was flawed, but her artistry was unmatched. Of Callas's artistic pre-eminence there can be no doubt. Among her contemporaries she had the deepest comprehension of the Classical Italian style, the most musical instincts and the most intelligent approach. There was authority in all that she did on the stage and in every phrase that she uttered... [N]umerous recordings, including many complete operas, remain to show that her technical defects were outweighed by her genius.

Maria Callas was born in New York on 1923-12-04 (or 12-02) and died in Paris on 1977-09-16. Here is a brief biography from Encarta '95. Here is a longer but more interesting biography by Coen Steegeling.


There is a usenet group: alt.fan.maria-callas. In April 1996 a contributor to this newsgroup opined that Callas never sang the Wagnerian role of Brünnhilde, which elicited the following reply from [email protected]:

Callas did sing Brünnhilde .. in fact she was singing the role at the time [the Italian conductor] Serafin asked her to sing I Puritani [a Bellini opera] .... Carioso was scheduled to sing Elvira but got sick.... the story is that Serafin's wife heard Callas singing Qui la voce [an aria from I Puritani] and mentioned it to Serafin. He heard her sing it too, but said nothing. Then a few days later he woke her up after one of her Walküres and told her that he wanted her to replace Carioso.. she thought Serafin was crazy but was persuaded to do it ... Callas herself tells the story in an interview which has been recorded (might be available on CD) so she blew everybody's mind by singing Brünnhilde one day and then Elvira a few days later... the story is also mentioned in her biographies...

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 Great Film Composers

 John Williams (1932 - )

The most popular film composer of the modern era, John Williams created music for some of the most successful motion pictures in Hollywood history -- Star Wars, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park are just three of the credits in his extensive oeuvre. Born February 8, 1932, in Long Island, NY, he was himself the son of a movie studio musician, and he followed in his father's footsteps by studying music at UCLA and Juilliard; initially, he pursued a career as a jazz pianist, later working with Henry Mancini to compose the score for the hit television series Peter Gunn.

   Williams then went solo to pen a number of TV soundtracks for series including Playhouse 90, Wagon Train, and Bachelor Father; in 1959 he ventured into film with Daddy-O, and spent the majority of the 1960s alternating between the silver screen (The Killers, The Plainsman) and its smaller counterpart (Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space). In 1968 Williams earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work in Valley of the Dolls; in 1970, he garnered nods for both The Reivers and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and two years later finally won for Fiddler on the Roof.

   A batch of Oscar nominations followed, for features including The Poseidon Adventure, Images, Tom Sawyer, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974 he first teamed with a young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg on a movie titled The Sugarland Express; the two frequently reteamed over the years to come, with often stunning results -- Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler's List were just a few of the Spielberg/Williams pairings, with Jaws, E.T., and Schindler's List all winning the composer Academy Awards. Williams' other most frequent collaborator was George Lucas; beginning with 1977's Star Wars -- yet another Williams Oscar winner -- they later teamed for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi, with the composer agreeing to score Lucas' subsequent Star Wars films as they went into production in 1997.

    He even celebrated his 30th anniversary of working with Steven Spielberg with 2002's Minority Report soundtrack. Other scores of note included 1979's Superman, 1987's The Witches of Eastwick, 1988's The Accidental Tourist, 1991's JFK, and 1995's Nixon. In 1980, Williams also took over for the late Arthur Fiedler as the conductor of the Boston Pops.

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 John Barry (1933 -2011 )

   John Barry (born in York in 1933 as John Barry Prendergast) will forever be associated with those magnificent and exciting Bond Scores, but has an enormous reputation for delivering the musical goods in any number of film genres. In a way he was almost predestined to be a film composer, since his mother was a classical pianist and his father owned a number of theatres and cinemas in Lancashire and Yorkshire. As a young boy he would help his father in the cinema, no doubt watching a large number of movies, and developed a fascination for film music whose composition became his ambition. He also had the opportunity to meet many of the Classical and Jazz artists who came to perform in the theatre. While doing his National Service he joined the army band playing trumpet and learned how to arrange jazz. On leaving he formed his owned band "The John Barry Seven" with which he initially sang before the group moved into instrumental music. Following regular appearances on the BBC TV series "Drumbeat" the band became very successful with these (as the Shadows were to be later), and had a string of hits including "Black Stockings".

   At this time Barry met Adam Faith and suggested that he sing regularly on the programme. Faith went on to become very successful as a pop star singing numbers like "What do you want?" (This was in the days of Elvis Presley and the young Cliff Richard) while Barry wrote or arranged his songs. The relationship was to continue when Adam Faith starred in some movies like "Beat Girl" and having the same agent it was natural that John Barry be asked to compose the soundtracks to those movies. And "Beat Girl" in fact was the first soundtrack to be released on an LP in the UK. This then started his career as a film composer, but it was another event which became the turning point beyond which there was no looking back. Having been asked to arrange Monty Norman's theme for a new movie called "Dr. No" he established the unique soundscape of James Bond with the help of the John Barry Seven, and the rest is history.

   Nevertheless there were some elements of the Bond film style which were not yet quite right with that first film, but these elements soon fell into place with Barry as the resident composer for the series. Those elements included the big title song which was thereafter to accompany the super-spy on his adventures, and John Barry asked the singer Shirley Bassey to record the theme for "Goldfinger", but equally important was the confident, exciting brassy sound of the incidental music with its references to both the main theme and the theme song.

   Don't let the Bond associations lead you to conclude that all Barry's music is loud and bombastic. Far from it, the Bond scores are representative of his work only in so far as they illustrate Barry's unique talent for setting exactly the right mood. Time and time again Barry demonstrates that his insight and hard work can hit on just the right tone to convey the musical heart of a movie. More than other film composers, Barry's music has a readily identifiable style. Harmonically, Barry's music is primarily straightforward major and minor, with occasional use of Chromaticism and unusual scales for effect and colour. His style is partly on the small scale with "mannerisms" that re-appear in several scores such as the repeated phrases with little or no melodic change but sometimes building to a climax with increasingly intense accompaniment, his use of brass chords or even simply the way he will quiescent on a single chord. But mostly his style comes on the large scale, with broad sweeping lyrical themes and a deftly chosen accompaniment and orchestration, pulling on a wide range of influences from Classical to Popular, Jazz and Big Band sounds. These have also combined to give Barry a worthy sideline in song-writing with several examples (and not only the Bond songs) reaching the charts.

   Amongst his best scores are the expansive scores for "Born Free" and "Dances with Wolves" depicting majestic Savannahs or prairies respectively, the more claustrophobic themes for Midnight Cowboy and "The Ipcress File", the big love themes for "Out of Africa" and "Somewhere in Time", the jazz influenced "Body Heat" and of course "The Cotton Club" named after that hotbed of early Jazz development, and the historical dramas "The Lion in Winter", "Robin and Marian" and "Mary Queen of Scots". With such an illustrious career it is a little jarring to note that he also did "Howard the Duck"!

   In more recent years, Barry has produced a couple of albums of his own music, "Moviola" starting with an unused theme for the film of that title, and "The Beyondness of Things". These albums might be described as soundtracks without the intrusion of film visuals. His latest such album has only recently been released under the title "Eternal Echoes". And needless to say, John Barry's position as the sound of James Bond is still recognizable despite its modernization under the helm of the current Bond tunesmith David Arnold. At the age of 71 in February 2005, Barry received the BAFTA Fellowship Award in recognition of his services to film music.

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 Lalo Schifrin (1932 - )

 Lalo Schifrin was born as Boris Claudio Schifrin in Buenos Aires. His father, Luis Schifrin, led the second violin section of the orchestra at the Teatro Colon for three decades. Lalo Schifrin (born on June 21, 1932) is an Argentinean pianist and composer, most famous for composing the 'burning-fuse' theme tune for the ?Mission: Impossible? television series. At the age of six Schifrin began a six-year course of study on piano with Enrique Barenboim, the father of the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim. At age 16, Schifrin began studying piano with the Russian expatriate Andreas Karalis, former head of the Kiev Conservatory, and harmony with Argentinean composer Juan-Carlos Paz. During this time, Schifrin also became interested in jazz.

   Although Schifrin studied sociology and law at the University of Buenos Aires, it was music that captured his attention. At age 20, he successfully applied for a scholarship to the Paris Conservatoire. While there, he attended Olivier Messiaen's classes and formally studied with Charles Koechlin, a disciple of Maurice Ravel. At night he played jazz in the Paris clubs. In 1955, Schifrin represented his country at the International Jazz Festival in Paris. After returning home to Argentina, Schifrin formed a jazz orchestra, a 16-piece band that became part of a popular weekly variety show on Buenos Aires TV. Schifrin also began accepting other film, television and radio assignments. In 1956, Schifrin met Dizzy Gillespie and offered to write an extended work for Gillespie's big band. Schifrin completed the work, Gillespiana, in 1958. Later that year Schifrin began working as an arranger for Xavier Cugat's popular dance orchestra.

   Whilst in New York in 1960, Schifrin again met Gillespie, who had by this time disbanded his big band for financial reasons. Gillespie invited Schifrin to fill the vacant piano chair in his quintet. Schifrin immediately accepted and moved to New York City. In 1963, MGM, which had Schifrin under contract, offered the composer his first Hollywood film assignment with the African adventure, Rhino!. Schifrin moved to Hollywood late that year.To date, he has written more than 100 scores for films and television. Among the classic scores are Mission Impossible, Mannix, The Fox, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, The Cincinnati Kid, and The Amityville Horror. Recent film scores include Tango, Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, Bringing down the House, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, After the Sunset, and Abominable. Lalo Schifrin has won four Grammy Awards (with twenty-one nominations), one Cable ACE Award, and received six Oscar nominations, and is listed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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 Henry Mancini (1924 -1994)

   Mancini was probably the most successful film composer of his time. Between 1958 and 1964, Mancini so dominated the television and film music scene that everything else seemed to be either an attempt to clone his sound or a reaction against it. The secret to his success was simple, though: he wrote catchy tunes. If you set aside Mancini's hit tunes like "Peter Gunn" and "Moon River," you find music that's not dramatically different from, say, Elmer Bernstein's. Nelson Riddle once quipped, though, that he'd take the royalties from one Mancini song over everything he'd ever earned on his own arrangements. Mancini was raised in the mill town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His father taught him the flute and piccolo, and after some initial resistance, gave him perhaps his biggest break ever by setting him up with lessons from Max Adkins. Adkins, a Pittsburgh concertmaster and jazz fan, was a major influence on local musicians, and among Mancini's fellow students were the great Billy Strayhorn and Joshua Feldman (later known as Jerry Fielding). Adkins encouraged Mancini's efforts and even introduced him to Benny Goodman as a potential arranger for Goodman's band. After graduating from high school, he decided to study music, and he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology and later went to Juilliard in New York City. Among his jobs while attending Juilliard was ghosting for pianist and bandleader Vincent Lopez.

   Drafted into the Army in World War Two, Mancini was able get switched from infantry to band and worked with singer Tony Martin and others. He also made connections with Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps band, although he did not serve with them. After the war, though, he was hired as a pianist and arranger by Tex Beneke, who was leading the Miller band on behalf of Miller's widow. In 1947, Mancini married Ginny O'Connor, a singer with the Miller band, who'd previously worked with Mel Torme's vocal group, the Mellolarks, and the couple settled in Los Angeles. Mancini spent the next few years scraping by as a free-lance arranger and musician. He worked on radio shows, played in studio sessions, and took on the odd orchestration or conducting job. He even provided music for Billy Barty's vaudeville act. He hooked up with choreographer Nick Castle and provided backing arrangement for the nightclub acts of numerous Hollywood singers and actors. One such job led to his publishing the tune, "Soft Shoe Boogie" and earning his entry into ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Performers, which would later name an annual award after him.

   In 1952, Mancini was hired to do fill-in work for an Abbott and Costello movie, and ended up becoming a house arranger for Universal-International films. Much of the work was routine, but it proved an excellent school, as Mancini worked on over 100 films: ?I once referred to the music department at Universal as a salt mine. But it was a good salt mine, and younger composers in film today do not have access to that kind of on-the-job training. Being on staff there I was called upon to do everything. I mean, everything. Whenever they needed a piece of source music, music that comes from a source in the picture, such as a band, a jukebox, or a radio, they would call me in. I would do an arrangement on something that was in the Universal library, or I would write a new piece for a jazz band or a Latin band or whatever. I guess in every business you have to learn the routine--in film scoring, the cliches--before you can begin to find your own way.?

   With his big band background, Mancini was tapped to be the lead arranger for the two best-known swing biopics, "The Glenn Miller Story" in 1954 and "The Benny Goodman Story" in 1956. The real breakthrough came, though, on Orson Welles' film noir, "Touch of Evil," in 1958. Welles wanted a gritty, realistic tone for his film and insisted on using nothing but source music for the soundtrack. Although Mancini and Welles had virtually no interaction, the job inspired Mancini, and he convinced Universal to let him bring him some ace jazz performers--Shelley Manne, Conrad Gozzo, and Jack Costanzo--to supplement the studio players. Conflicts between Welles and his producer eventually led to the film being drastically altered from the director's cut, but Mancini always said that, "'Touch of Evil' was one of the best things I did in that period of my life. It's one of the best things I've ever done." It was also his last job for Universal.

   A former editor at Universal, Blake Edwards, remembered Mancini's work on this film and asked him to write music for a television series he was now directing: "Peter Gunn." Since he was working on a small budget, Edwards asked Mancini to write for a jazz ensemble of 11 players. Mancini's music--particularly the pounding, menacing theme--proved almost as popular as the series, and RCA rushed out an album featuring the title song and other pieces. Mancini credits Shorty Rogers for this opportunity, since he refused RCA, which first offered the recording job to him, and insisted they use the composer himself. Although television soundtracks had been released on albums before, Music from "Peter Gunn" was a phenomenon. It reached #1 on Billboard's chart, stayed there 10 weeks, and stayed on the list for the next two years. It was so successful, RCA put together a sequel soon after. Mancini received an Emmy nomination for the theme and won two Grammys for the album.

   Edwards hired him to repeat the trick for his new series, "Mr. Lucky." Although the series failed, the album sold well, and Mancini won two more Grammys. The title trackm featuring a distinctive organ lead played by Buddy Cole became a popular instrumental. RCA gave him a contract to record under his own name, and his first release, Blues and the Beat, also won a Grammy. With these successes, Mancini was able to operate as a freelancer. Beginning a long and very productive film partnership, Edwards hired him to do the music for his 1961 film, "Breakfast at Tiffany's". He and lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote "Moon River" for a reflective scene with Audrey Hepburn, and the song became a huge hit. Andy Williams' cover outsold the original, and "Moon River" eventually became one of the biggest sellers of the 1960s, with over 500 covers.

   Mancini and Mercer repeated the feat in 1962 with the theme song to Edwards' "The Days of Wine and Roses." Both songs won Oscars. Mancini then provided two memorable instrumental singles for the films "Hatari" ("Baby Elephant Walk") and "The Pink Panther" ("The Pink Panther Theme"). By early 1964, Mancini had become the best known and most successful film composer around. Mancini's knack with songwriting often overshadowed his talents as a composer. He wrote for a wide variety of genres, from western to slapstick comedy, from sensitive dramas to musicals. He often experimented with unusual instrumentation, such as a steam-driven calliope for "Baby Elephant Walk," the cymbalum in "Experiment in Terror," sitars and fuzz guitars in "Arabesque," and aboriginal percussion in his score for the television miniseries, "The Thorn Birds." He continued to concentrate on film scoring until the early 1980s. He scored all of the Pink Panther sequels and most of Blake Edwards' other films. He also became active as a conductor, appearing with a number of symphonies and leading the Fourth of July concert on the Capitol grounds through most of the 1980s. He also recorded over 40 albums for RCA until 1978, winning a total of 20 Grammys, 7 gold records, and 4 Oscars. His cover of the "Theme from 'Romeo and Juliet'" was the #1 single of 1969 and won the Grammy for Best Song for that year.

   Henry Mancini's work has inspired many of today's generation of lounge musicians. Over 20 bands collaborated on the 1996 tribute CD, Shots in the Dark, and bands such as Oranj Symphonette, Joey Altruda, and Combustible Edison have covered and paid their own tributes to Mancini's music.

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 Ron Goodwin (1925 -2003)

   Ron Goodwin was born in Devonport, Plymouth on 17 February 1925, the younger son of James Goodwin (d 1952), a Metropolitan Police constable engaged in security work at the naval dockyard, and his wife Bessie Violet, née Godsland (d 1966). Ron Goodwin learned to play the piano from the age of five. When he was nine the family returned to London, and at Willesden County Grammar School he took up the trumpet and joined the school band. When War broke out, the family moved to Harrow, and Ron transferred to Pinner County Grammar School, where he formed his own band, The Woodchoppers. In 1943, after a brief spell as an insurance clerk, he joined the arranging department of music publisher Campbell, Connelly & Co. There he received invaluable help from arranger Harry G. Stafford, and he also took private conducting lessons from Siegfried de Chabot, a professor at the Guildhall School of Music. He subsequently worked as an arranger for Paramor-Gold Orchestral Services and played trumpet for Harry Gold and His Pieces of Eight. In 1945 he became head of the arranging department at Bron Associated Publishers, and very soon he was arranging for bands of the day including those of Ted Heath and Geraldo and the BBC Dance Orchestra.

   From 1949 Ron Goodwin conducted for the Polygon company, arranging and conducting recordings of Petula Clark and Jimmy Young, including the latter?s 1951 UK no 1 hit ?Too Young?. He then began an association with George Martin of Parlophone Records, which from 1953 saw him arranging and conducting more than 300 recordings for over fifty artists, including Peter Sellers in the series of three LPs that culminated in 1960 in ?Peter and Sophia? and its hit single ?Goodness, Gracious Me!?. He simultaneously made his own series of recordings and broadcasts as Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra, and in addition began to compose scores for documentary films at Merton Park Studios. In 1958 Ron Goodwin wrote his first feature film score for Whirlpool, with screenplay by Lawrence P. Bachmann. After Bachmann became executive producer at MGM British Studios in 1959, Ron composed and conducted the music for most of its productions, as well as working for other film studios. Especially successful was his music for Murder She Said (1961) and for other films featuring Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christie?s Miss Marple. However, he really made his name with the wider public with the film 633 Squadron, producing an ingenious main theme featuring six fast beats and three slow beats.

   Music for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) cemented Ron Goodwin?s high public profile, as did that for Battle of Britain (1969), commissioned to replace music composed by Sir William Walton that the studio deemed unsuitable. Others of over sixty feature films to use his music included The Trap (1966), which featured Oliver Reed and had a theme that became widely familiar through television coverage of the London marathon. Ron also composed the scores for Where Eagles Dare (1969), Alfred Hitchcock?s Frenzy (1972) and Force Ten from Navarone (1978) and comedies starring Morecambe and Wise, Charlie Drake and Norman Wisdom. Meanwhile Ron Goodwin?s highly successful LP albums on the Studio Two label, models of good taste in their integration of elements of jazz and swing into the classical orchestral format, earned him a gold disc to mark the sale of a million albums. In 1970 he first appeared as guest conductor of leading orchestras, with a repertory combining current popular music and film themes and with his own linking anecdotes. These concerts proved hugely popular, leading to invitations to conduct across the world.

   Ron appeared as guest conductor with many symphony orchestras at home and abroad including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Australian Pops Orchestra, Danish Radio Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Ron was guest conductor at the Royal Academy of Music's Festival of British and American Film Music in June 1996. Ron recorded internationally and has gold and platinum discs awarded by EMI. Goodwin?s more extended compositions included his Drake 400 Suite (1980) and Armada Suite (1988), both commissioned by his native Plymouth. His New Zealand Suite (1983) marked a long association with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which earned him a platinum disc from EMI New Zealand to mark two million sales of the album ?Going Places?. Goodwin earned three Ivor Novello Awards, including a lifetime achievement award, and was a Fellow of the City of Leeds College of Music and a Freeman of the City of London.

   Ron was a musical perfectionist who had a fine rapport with his fellow artists. He was recognized as a kind, caring man, with a wonderful sense of humour. He was a keen worker with young people, being much involved with the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, Worthing Youth Orchestra, City of Leeds College of Music and the City of Birmingham Schools? Concert Orchestra. For many years he conducted a series of light-hearted Christmas shows with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, In December 2002 he completed his 32nd consecutive year of these Christmas concerts in packed venues across the South of England. Ron died peacefully at his home at Brimpton Common, Berkshire, on 8 January 2003, aged 77.

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