Today we’re going to listen and learn about the opera Carmen.
I chose this for today since it’s the anniversary of French composer Georges Bizet‘s death.
Georges Bizet was born in Paris, France. Both his parents were musicians, and they actually wanted their son to become a composer when he grew up! Bizet loved music, but he also loved to read books. His parents wound up hiding his books so that he would spend more time on his music.
When Georges was 10 years old, his father enrolled him in the Paris Conservatory. While he was there, he wrote his only symphony, but it wasn’t performed until many years after he died. Bizet graduated from the Conservatory with awards in both composition and piano.
Bizet also composed operas. His most famous opera is Carmen. When Carmen first opened in Paris, the reviews were terrible. Many critics said there were no good tunes in it, so audiences stayed away.
In the middle of the night during the first round of Carmen performances, Bizet died. He was only 36. Four months later, Carmen opened in Vienna, Austria, and was a smash hit. It is now one of the most popular operas ever written. Bizet never knew that audiences would come to consider it his masterpiece.
Vladimir Horowitz made Carmen his own by turning it into a fantasy (or the more musical spelling – fantasie).
The fantasia (Italian; also English: fantasy, fancy, fantazy, phantasy, German: Fantasie, Phantasie, French: fantaisie) is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, like the impromptu, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form.
When you play wrong notes for an audience, just tell the audience it’s a “Fantasie”, not the original work!
As you can see, Carmen is a popular work. Here it is for two pianos, played by Anderson and Roe.
The Canadian Brass tell the story of Carmen in their own humorous words.
• 1750 ~ Johann Valentin Rathgeber, German Composer, died at the age of 68
• 1806 ~ Isaac Strauss, Composer
• 1807 ~ Robert Fuhrer, Composer
• 1830 ~ Olivier Metra, Composer
• 1831 ~ Jan G Palm Curaçao, Bandmaster/choirmaster/composer
• 1857 ~ Sir Edward Elgar, British composer Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, usually heard at graduations, was featured in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
Read quotes by and about Elgar
More information about Elgar
• 1858 ~ Harry Rowe Shelley, Composer
• 1863 ~ Paul Felix Weingartner, German conductor
• 1873 ~ François Hainl, Composer, died at the age of 65
• 1876 ~ Hakon Borresen, Composer
• 1891 ~ Ernst Kunz, Composer
• 1897 ~ Alexander Tansman, Composer
• 1900 ~ David Wynne, Composer
• 1909 ~ Robin Orr, Composer
• 1913 ~ Bert Farber, Orchestra leader for Arthur Godfrey and Vic Damone
• 1915 ~ Robert Moffat Palmer, American composer
• 1927 ~ Carl Butler, Country entertainer, songwriter
• 1927 ~ Freidrich Hegar, Composer, died at the age of 85
• 1929 ~ Alcides Lanza, Composer
• 1929 ~ Frederic Devreese, Composer
• 1932 ~ Sammy Turner (Samuel Black), Singer
• 1934 ~ Johnny Carter, American singer
• 1937 ~ Louis Vierne, Composer, died at the age of 66
• 1939 ~ Charles Miller, Saxophonist and clarinetist
• 1941 ~ William Guest, Singer with Gladys Knight & The Pips
• 1941 ~ Charlie Watts, Drummer with Rolling Stones
• 1944 ~ Marvin Hamlisch, American pianist, composer and arranger of popular music
More information about Hamlisch
• 1947 ~ Hermann Darewsky, Composer, died at the age of 64
• 1949 ~ Dynam-Victor Fumet, Composer, died at the age of 82
• 1949 ~ Ernest Ford, Composer, died at the age of 91
• 1960 ~ For the first time in 41 years, the entire Broadway theatre district in New York City was forced to close. The Actors Equity Union and theatre owners came to a showdown with a total blackout of theatres.
• 1964 ~ The original cast album of “Hello Dolly!” went gold — having sold a million copies. It was quite a feat for a Broadway musical.
• 1964 ~ “Follies Bergere” opened on Broadway for 191 performances
• 1972 ~ Franz Philipp, Composer, died at the age of 81
• 1977 ~ Henri D Gagnebin, Swiss organist and composer, died at the age of 91
• 1982 ~ “Blues in the Night” opened at Rialto Theater NYC for 53 performances
• 1983 ~ Stan Rogers, musician, died in aircraft fire
• 1985 ~ The Huck Finn-based musical “Big River” earned seven Tony Awards in New York City at the 39th annual awards presentation.
• 1986 ~ Daniel Sternefeld, Belgian conductor and composer died at the age of 80
• 1987 ~ Andres Segovia, Spanish classical guitarist, died at the age of 94. He established the guitar as a serious classical instrument through his numerous concerts and by his transcriptions of many pieces of Bach and Handel.
More information on Segovia
• 1987 ~ Sammy Kaye, Orchestra leader (Sammy Kaye Show), died at the age of 77
• 1994 ~ Prima Sellecchia Tesh, daughter of John Tesh and Connie Sellecca
• 1997 ~ Doc Cheatham, Jazz musician, died of stroke at the age of 91
• 2001 ~ Imogene Coca, the elfin actress and satiric comedienne who co-starred with Sid Caesar on television’s classic “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s, died at the age of 92. Coca’s saucer eyes, fluttering lashes, big smile and boundless energy lit up the screen in television’s “Golden Age” and brought her an Emmy as best actress in 1951. Although she did some broad burlesque, her forte was subtle exaggeration. A talented singer and dancer, her spoofs of opera divas and prima ballerinas tiptoed a fine line between dignity and absurdity until she pushed them over the edge at the end. With Caesar she performed skits that satirized the everyday – marital spats, takeoffs on films and TV programs, strangers meeting and speaking in cliches. “The Hickenloopers” husband-and-wife skit became a staple.
• 2015 ~ Paul Karolyi, Hungarian composer, died at the age of 80
This is the month for graduations of all sorts, college, high school, even preschool. Perhaps you know someone who is graduating this year. Maybe it’s you!
This piece by Sir Edward Elgar is called Pomp and Circumstance and usually heard at graduations. It was featured in Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
Edward Elgar’s father was a musician who tuned pianos, owned a music shop and was employed as a church organist. The young Edward learned to play the organ and violin at a young age and composed his first short piece at the age of 10. His first job was as assistant organist to his father. His main love was composition, although his music was not successful until his Enigma Variations were published in 1899. This work made him famous.
Until Elgar, there had not been a major creative composer in England since Handel’s death in 1759. He became known as England’s greatest composer and was widely recognized in his day. Unfortunately, Elgar’s fame waned at the end of his life – he composed little music during his last fifteen years and withdrew from almost all musical contact. It was not until the 1960’s that his music again became popular.
• 1755 ~ Frederico Fiorillo, Italian Violist and composer
• 1757 ~ Ignaz Playel, Austrian Composer and piano builder
• 1763 ~ Johann Caspar Vogler, Composer, died at the age of 67
• 1765 ~ Friedrich Ludwig Seidel, Composer
• 1769 ~ Joseph Antoni Frantiszek Elsner, Composer
• 1771 ~ Ferdinando Paer, Composer
• 1776 ~ John George Schetky, Composer
• 1804 ~ Mikhail Glinka, Russian composer; “The Father of Russian Music”
More information about Glinka
• 1810 ~ Johann Paul Wessely, Composer, died at the age of 47
• 1826 ~ Carl Bechstein, German piano inventor
• 1826 ~ Hermann Zopff, Composer
• 1848 ~ Otto Valdemar Malling, Composer
• 1886 ~ Ernst Kurth, Austrian/Swiss musicologist
• 1892 ~ Samuel L M Barlow, Composer
• 1893 ~ Opera “Falstaff” was produced in Berlin
• 1898 ~ Edgar “Cookie” Fairchild, Bandleader for the Jerry Colonna Show
• 1898 ~ Lieb Glantz, Composer
• 1903 ~ Percy William Whitlock, Composer
• 1905 ~ Dinora de Carvalho, Composer
• 1909 ~ Szymon Goldberg, Polish/American violinist and conductor
• 1909 ~ Giuseppe Martucci, Composer, died at the age of 53
• 1918 ~ Friedrich Richard Faltin, Composer, died at the age of 83
• 1918 ~ Jaroslav Novotny, Composer, died at the age of 32
• 1919 ~ Boris Lazarevich Klyuzner, Composer
• 1921 ~ Nelson Riddle, Grammy Award-winning orchestra leader and arranger of popular music for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole
• 1926 ~ Vasily Mikhaylovich Metallov, Composer, died at the age of 64
• 1929 ~ Yehudi Wyner, Composer
• 1934 ~ Pat (Charles Eugene) Boone, Singer, married to Red Foley’s daughter, Shirley
• 1935 ~ Alberto Cametti, Composer, died at the age of 64
• 1941 ~ Edo de Waart, Dutch conductor
• 1942 ~ Ernest Pingoud, Composer, died at the age of 53
• 1943 ~ Ely van Tongeren, Dutch guitarist and singer
• 1943 ~ Richard Goode, concert pianist. In 1980 he won the Avery Fisher Award
• 1945 ~ Frederica Von Stade, American mezzo-soprano
• 1945 ~ Linda Scott, Singer
• 1946 ~ Carol Neblett, American soprano with the NYC Opera
• 1947 ~ Ron Wood, Guitar with Rolling Stones after 1975
• 1949 ~ Mike Levine, Rock keyboardist/bassist
• 1950 ~ Graham Russell, Singer with Air Supply
• 1955 ~ F Melius Christiansen, Composer, died at the age of 84
• 1959 ~ Celebrating a solid year at the top of the album charts was “Johnny’s Greatest Hits” on Columbia Records. The LP stayed for several more years at or near the top of the album charts. It became the all-time album leader at 490 weeks.
• 1960 ~ “Finian’s Rainbow” closed at 46th St Theater NYC after 12 performances
• 1961 ~ There was a new sound in the air this day. FM multiplex stereo broadcasting was enjoyed for the first time by listeners to FM radio in Schenectady, NY, Los Angeles and Chicago. The FCC adopted the standard a year later.
• 1964 ~ Rutkowski Bronislaw, Composer, died at the age of 66
• 1966 ~ George Harrison was impressed by Ravi Shankar’s concert in London
• 1967 ~ The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released. One of the first critically-acclaimed rock albums, “Sgt. Pepper’s” became the number one album in the world and was at the top of the U.S. album list for 15 weeks.
• 1968 ~ Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson hit #1
• 1970 ~ Everything was Beautiful by Ray Stevens hit #1
• 1971 ~ “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” opened at Golden NYC for 31 performances
Today, we start with Spring from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Many OCMS students have played this already in one of their Piano Pronto books. It’s also available in Piano Maestro.
If you have it in your piano book, today would be a great day to review it. (HINT – there might be a quick review at your next lesson!)
Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy, March 4, 1678 and spent most of his life there. His father taught him to play the violin, and the two would often perform together.
He taught at an orphanage for girls and wrote a lot of music for the girls to play. People came from miles around to hear Vivaldi’s talented students perform the beautiful music he had written.
Many people think Vivaldi was the best Italian composer of his time. He wrote concertos, operas, church music and many other compositions. In all, Antonio wrote over 500 concertos.
His most famous set of concertos is The Four Seasons which is a group of four violin concerti. Each of which gives a musical expression to a season of the year. They were written about 1721 and were published in 1725 in Amsterdam.
Here’s a piano version similar to the one in Movement 1 but in a different key.
And the original with Itzhak Perlman playing and conducting!
Want to play a version of this but aren’t using these books? Just ask!
This summer, I’ve decided to add a new feature to piano lessons. I know that many families travel during the summer months and it’s sometimes difficult to practice.
These daily assignments, June through August will help you and your students learn a bit more about the pieces they’re learning during the year – or maybe give ideas for something that they’d like to learn.
Each piece has a bit of composer info and several different interpretations, some of which are very humorous. Some of the assignments appear in Piano Maestro so be sure to have that handy, if your student uses that.
Some days give hints that the assignment of the day may be played (or reviewed) at the next lesson so please be sure that your student takes note of that (no pun intended!)
• 1974 ~ William DeVaughn, a soul singer, songwriter and guitarist from Washington, DC, received a gold record for his only hit, Be Thankful for What You Got.
• 1976 ~ Ear doctors didn’t have to drum up business this day. There were plenty of walk-ins as The Who put out a total of 76,000 watts of power at 120 decibels. They played the loudest concert anyone had ever heard, making it into “The Guinness Book of World Records”.
• 1977 ~ “Beatlemania” opened at Winter Garden Theater NYC for 920 performances
• 1989 ~ First presentation of rock n roll Elvis awards
• 1994 ~ Herva Nelli, Soprano, died at the age of 85
• 1997 ~ “Once Upon a Mattress,” closed at Broadhurst Theater NYC after 187 performances.
• 2002 ~ Mario Lago, an influential composer, actor and political dissident, died of lung failure. He was 90. Throughout a multifaceted career, Lago wrote more than 200 popular songs and appeared in 20 films and more than 30 telenovelas, Brazil’s version of television soap operas. He was also an active member of Brazil’s Communist Party, and was imprisoned six times during Brazil’s 1964-86 military regime. One of Lago’s most successful songs, Amelia, sang the praises of a woman happy with very little from her husband. The name came to signify a submissive woman in Brazilian slang. Lago continued acting until January, 2002 when he was hospitalized for a month with emphysema.
• 1746 ~ Giovanni Antonio Pollarolo, Composer, died at the age of 69
• 1778 ~ Voltaire, (François-Marie Arouet), French writer of Candide, died at the age of 42. Candide was later set to music by Leonard Bernstein
• 1791 ~ Ildephons Haas, Composer, died at the age of 56
• 1797 ~ Johann Christian Lobe, Composer
• 1797 ~ Carl Ludwig Junker, Composer, died at the age of 48
• 1808 ~ Joaquim Casimiro Jr, Composer
• 1833 ~ Josef Slavik, Composer, died at the age of 27
• 1844 ~ Louis Varney, Composer
• 1853 ~ Karl Fritjof Valentin, Composer
• 1866 ~ Opera “Die Verkaufte Braut” premiered in Prague
• 1870 ~ Gustave Vogt, Composer, died at the age of 89
• 1883 ~ Riccardo Zandonai, Composer
• 1887 ~ Gino Tagliapietra, Composer
• 1906 ~ William Yeates Hurlstone, Composer, died at the age of 30
• 1909 ~ Benny Goodman, American jazz clarinetist, composer and bandleader. He became a leading player with his own bands during the 1930’s and also commissioned works from classical composers including Bartok and Copland.
More information on Goodman
• 1913 ~ Pee Wee (George) Erwin, Trumpet with Tommy Dorsey Band and Isham Jones Band
• 1913 ~ Cedric Thorpe Davie, Composer
• 1917 ~ The jazz standard “Dark Town Strutters Ball” by Original Dixieland Jass Band was first recorded
• 1920 ~ George London, Baritone singer with Bel canto Trio (with Frances Yeend and Mario Lanza); member: Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera; Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Director: National Opera Institute; head of the Washington Opera and established the George London Foundation for Singers in 1971.
• 1922 ~ ‘Smilin’ Ed McConnell debuted on radio, smiling and playing his banjo. McConnell quickly became a legend in the medium.
• 1911 ~ Sir William Gilbert, English librettist who together with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan collaborated on many operettas, died of a heart attack after rescuing a woman from drowning. He was 74.
• 1911 ~ Carl M Story (1916) Fiddler
• 1912 ~ Fifteen women were dismissed from their jobs at the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, PA — for dancing the Turkey Trot while on the job!
• 1922 ~ Iannis Xenakis, Rumanian-born French theorist and composer
More information on Xenakis
• 1923 ~ Eugene Wright, Jazz musician, bass with Dukes of Swing, played with Brubeck
• 1935 ~ Josef Suk, Czech violinist and composer, died at the age of 61
• 1930 ~ Eleanor Fazan, Opera and show choreographer
• 1937 ~ Peter Kolman, Composer
• 1941 ~ Roy Crewsdon, Guitarist with Freddie and The Dreamers
• 1942 ~ The biggest selling record of all time was recorded. A little out of season, perhaps, but White Christmas, the Irving Berlin classic, was recorded by Bing Crosby for Decca Records. The song was written for the film “Holiday Inn”. More than 30-million copies of Crosby’s most famous hit song have been sold and a total of nearly 70-million copies, including all versions of the standard, have been sold.
• 1942 ~ “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, based on life of George M. Cohan, directed by Michael Curtiz, starring James Cagney and Joan Lesley, premiered in New York City (Academy Awards Best Actor 1943)
• 1943 ~ Hermann Hans Wetzler, Composer, died at the age of 72
• 1943 ~ “The Million Dollar Band” was heard for the first time on NBC radio. Charlie Spivak was the first leader of the band that featured Barry Wood as vocalist. The unusual feature of the show was the awarding each week of five diamond rings!
• 1945 ~ Gary Brooker, Keyboard player, singer
• 1948 ~ Linda Esther Gray, opera singer
• 1948 ~ Michael Berkley, Composer and broadcaster
• 1949 ~ Francis Rossi, Guitarist
• 1949 ~ Gary Brooker, Rock keyboardist with Procol Harum
• 1950 ~ Rebbie (Maureen) Jackson, Singer, oldest member of the Jackson family
• 1951 ~ Dimitrios Levidis, Composer, died at the age of 66
• 1996 ~ James George “Jimmy” Rowles, Jazz pianist, died at the age of 77
• 1997 ~ Jeff Buckley, Musician, drowned at age 30
• 2003 ~ Janet Collins, the first black prima ballerina to appear at the Metropolitan Opera and one of a few black women to become prominent in American classical ballet, died. She was 86. In 1951, Collins performed lead roles in “Aida” and Bizet’sCarmen and danced in “La Gioconda” and “Samson and Delilah” at the Met in New York City. That was four years before Marian Anderson made her historic debut as the first black to sing a principal role at the Met. Collins left the Met in 1954. During the 1950s, she toured with her own dance group throughout the United States and Canada and taught. Collins also danced in films, including the 1943 musical “Stormy Weather” and 1946’s “The Thrill of Brazil.” The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1974 paid homage to Collins and Pearl Primus as pioneering black women in dance.
• 1966 ~ Percy Sledge hit number one with his first, and what turned out to be his biggest, hit. When a Man Loves a Woman would stay at the top of the pop music charts for two weeks. It was the singer’s only hit to make the top ten and was a million seller.
• 1973 ~ Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, German composer and conductor, died at the age of 73
• 1975 ~ The Doobie Brothers went gold with the album, “Stampede”. The group, formed in San Jose, CA, recorded 16 charted hits. Two made it to number one, becoming million-selling, gold record winners: Black Water in March, 1975 and What a Fool Believes in April, 1979.
• 1977 ~ Jiri Reinberger, Composer, died at the age of 63
• 1981 ~ Mary Lou Williams, Musician, died at the age of 71
• 2014 ~ James K. Randall, American composer, died at the age of 84