Music History Monday

Music History Monday

Speaker, Composer, Author, Professor, Historian

Episodes

October 25, 2021 18 min

We mark the world premiere – on October 25, 1885, 136 years ago today – of Johannes Brahms’ fourth and final symphony.  Performed by the superb Meiningen Court Orchestra, the performance was conducted by Brahms himself.  It went well. We’ll get to Herr Doktor Professor Brahms in a bit.  But first, some gratuitous, auto back slapping. I began writing these Music History Monday posts in September of 2016.  That was when Melanie Smith...

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We mark the death on October 18, 1944 – 77 years ago today – of the composer and pianist Viktor Ullmann, in a gas chamber at the concentration and death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland. Last week’s Music History Monday focused on a soft-rock song entitled Je t’aime… Moi non plus by the French singer-songwriter, author, filmmaker, and actor Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991), and recorded in 1969 by Gainsbourg and the ...

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October 11, 2021 16 min

There was a time, in the not terribly distant past (in our days of relative musical innocence), when a little heavy breathing was all it took to get a recording banned from the airwaves. Today we celebrate just such an event. On October 11, 1969 – 52 years ago today – a song entitled Je t’aime… Moi non plus, which means “I love you . . . me neither” hit number 1 on the UK singles chart. Written by the French singer-songwriter, auth...

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October 4, 2021 16 min

Before moving on to the main topic for today’s post, I would like to announce a new feature here on Music History Monday, something called “This Day in Musical Stupid.” I explain. As regular readers of this post know, I will, occasionally, dedicate a post to the shenanigans and sometimes plain old idiocy of musicians as they go about their daily lives and business. More often (far more often!) than not, such antics are perpetrated ...

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September 27, 2021 16 min

We mark the arrival on September 27, 1892 – 129 years ago today – of the Bohemian-born Czech composer Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904) to the United States, here to take up the Directorship of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He retained the directorship for 2½ years – until March of 1895 – at which time he and his family returned to Prague. Antonin Dvořák in 1891 By 1891 – at the age of fifty – Dvořák was that rarest...

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We mark the death on September 20, 1957 – 64 years ago today – of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, in Järvenpää (yes, that’s a lot of umlauts), Finland. Born on December 8, 1865, in Hameenlinna, Finland, Sibelius was 91 years old when he died. Scandanavia Scandinavia is the Canada of Europe: a huge, climatically challenged area of extraordinary beauty that has produced an artistic community the breadth and depth of which is way ...

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September 13, 2021 24 min

We mark the death, on September 13, 1977 – 44 years ago today – of the British conductor Leopold Anthony Stokowski, in Nether Wallop, Hampshire, United Kingdom, 67.6 miles (give or take) southwest of London.  Born in London on April 18 (the maestro and I share that day and month of birth) 1882, Stokowski was 95 years old when he died.  He was still recording for Columbia Records at the time of his death; his contract with Columbia ...

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September 6, 2021 24 min

We mark the premiere on September 6, 1791 – 230 years ago today – of Wolfgang Mozart’s final opera La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency [or Mercy] of Titus), K. 621. Commissioned by the Prague-based opera producer and impresario Domenico Guardasoni (circa 1731-1806), the opera received its premiere at Prague’s Estates Theater, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni had been premiered as well in October 1787. (Put a visit to Prague’s Estates Thea...

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August 30, 2021 20 min

Every now and again, circumstances force us to plum the tawdry here in Music History Monday. Usually, those “circumstances” are a dearth of good topics to write about; today is such a day. (In fact, there is an excellent, August 30th-associated topic we could have focused on: the completion of Shostakovich’s extremely controversial Symphony No. 9 of 1945. But, alas, I wrote about Shostakovich’s death just three weeks ago, on August...

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August 23, 2021 25 min

We mark the birth on August 23, 1854 – 167 years ago today – of the German-Polish composer, pianist, and teacher Moritz Moszkowski in the Prussian/Silesian city of Breslau, today the Polish city of Wrocław. He died in Paris on March 4, 1925, at the age of 70. Moszkowski was one of the most famous pianist-composers of his time, someone who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Anton Rubinstein (1829-1...

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We mark the birth on August 16, 1929 – 92 years ago today – of the jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He died, tragically and all-too-young on September 15, 1980 in New York City at the age of 51. Just a week before his death, Evans had completed a nine-day run (from August 31 to September 8, 1980) at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco. That run was recorded and issued on an 8-cd set e...

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We mark the death on August 9, 1975 – 46 years ago today – of the composer Dmitri Shostakovich at the age of 68, in Moscow. He was born on September 25, 1906, in St. Petersburg. Does Stress Kill? If stress kills, Dmitri Shostakovich should never have lived past the age of 30. In his early teens, as a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory (or what was then called, the “Petrograd” Conservatory), he and his classmates suffered se...

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August 2, 2021 13 min

We mark the death on August 2, 1978 – 43 years ago today – of the Mexican composer, pianist, conductor, music educator, and journalist Carlos Chávez at the age of 79, in Mexico City. What’s the Problem Here? Allow me, por favor, to express a pet peeve framed as a question: why has the concert music of twentieth century and early twenty-first century Central and South American composers been so rarely performed and discussed in Nort...

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Let us wish a happy birthday to three notable musicians, the third of whom will be the topic of today’s post. On July 26, 1785 – 236 years ago today – the composer, pianist, and teacher John Field was born in Dublin. His Nocturnes for piano powerfully influenced those of Frédéric Chopin. Field died far from home, in Moscow, on January 23, 1837, at the age of 51. We mark the birth on July 26, 1874 – 147 years ago today – of the cond...

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On July 19, 1941 – 80 years ago today – the BBC World Service began using the first four notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 of 1808 as a “linking” device on its broadcasts into Nazi-occupied Europe.  Why the BBC chose to use music by a German-born composer, and what those four notes meant makes for quite a story. Background The European phase of World War Two began on September 1, 1939, when Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded it...

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We mark the death on July 12, 1773 – 248 years ago today – of the German composer, flutist, and teacher Johann Joachim, or “J. J.” Quantz, in Potsdam Germany, at the age of 76.  Honchos Who Can Play We contemplate the musical abilities of some national leaders. The Roman Emperor Nero (that would be Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who lived from December 37 to June 68, when he was assasinated at the age of 30 after a 14-ye...

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We mark the birth on July 5, 1918 – 103 years ago today – of the American composer George Rochberg (pronounced ROCK-berg). He died at the age of 86 on May 29, 2005. Rochberg was of that generation of composers who, having served in the military during World War Two, found himself a radically changed person and artist by the war’s end in 1945. Like other composers of his generation – Milton Babbitt, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhau...

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June 29, 2021 22 min

On June 28, 1846 – 175 years ago today – Adolphe Sax patented the saxophone family as a group of eight (not seven, as is often erroneously stated) instruments. Of these eight “saxophones”, four remain in common use today: the soprano and tenor saxophones, both pitched in B-flat, and the alto and baritone saxophones, both pitched in E-flat. The invention of the saxophone was a stunning achievement. Never before or since has a single...

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We mark the premiere performance on June 21, 1868 – 153 years ago today – of Richard Wagner’s music drama The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. The performance took place at the National Theater Munich, which today is the home of the Bavarian State Opera. Conducted by Franz Liszt’s student (and son-in-law) and Wagner’s protégé Hans von Bülow, the performance was sponsored and paid for by none-other-than the mad king himself, Ludwig II of...

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June 14, 2021 13 min

We mark the death on June 14, 1994 – 27 years ago today – of the composer, songwriter, conductor, and arranger Enrico Nicola “Henry” Mancini in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of seventy. Known primarily for his film and television scores, Mancini received twenty Grammy Awards and four Oscars.  Today’s Music History Monday and Tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes posts are conceived as a single large unit. Here’s how they will play ...

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