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-year reign). Nero famously played the lyre (and not the “fiddle”, which only came into existence some 1500 years after his death). Whether he actually “lyred” as Rome burned on the night of July 18 and 19, 64 we’ll never really know. What we do know is whatever other issues he had (and Nero had issues), artistic self-doubt was not among them. Anticipating his death, he paced up and down, muttering “Qualis artifex pereo” (“What an artist dies in me”). Harry Truman (1884-1972), the 33rd President of these United States, was a competent pianist. Richard Nixon (1913-1994), the 37th President of the United States, was an even more accomplished pianist than Truman, and an equally accomplished violinist (he studied both instruments from […]
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