Happy Birthday, Franz Liszt!

liszt-quote

Franz Liszt was born in Raiding, near Ödenburg, October 22, 1811 and died in Bayreuth, July 31, 1886. He was a Hungarian composer and pianist who was a major influence during the romantic period. Liszt was an outstanding pianist at seven, composed at eight and made concert appearances at nine. In addition to being a piano virtuoso, he was also a critic, conductor, city music director, literary writer and transcriber of the works of other composers. He transcribed Beethoven’s Symphonies for the piano.

Franz Liszt began his career as the outstanding concert pianist of the century, who, along with the prodigious violinist Niccoló Paganini (1782-1840), created the cult of the modern instrumental virtuoso. To show off his phenomenal and unprecedented technique, Liszt composed a great deal of music designed specifically for this purpose, resulting in a vast amount of piano literature laden with dazzling, and other technical marvels. In this vein, Liszt composed a series of virtuosic rhapsodies on Hungarian gypsy melodies, the best-known being the all too familiar Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. Liszt developed the rhapsody as a form of serious music. This kind of music is worlds apart from the generally more introspective, poetic music of pianist-composer Frédéric Chopin.

Liszt was wildly handsome and hugely talented. He was extremely popular in Paris during the 1830’s. It is said that women actually fainted at his piano recitals. He was the first to position the piano so that its lid reflected the sound and the audience could see his profile as he performed.

Liszt was the first to write a tone poem, which is an extended, single-movement work for orchestra, inspired by paintings, plays, poems or other literary or visual works, and attempting to convey the ideas expressed in those media through music. Such a work is Les Préludes, based on a poem in which life is expressed as a series of struggles, passions, and mysteries, all serving as a mere prelude to . . .what? The Romantic genre of the symphonic poem, as well as its cousin the concert overture, became very attractive to many later composers, including Saint-Saëns, TchaikovskyDvorák, Sibelius, and Richard Strauss.


     Liszt’s birthday

     anniversary of Liszt’s death

    Listen to Liszt’s transcription of Meyerbeer’s Hellish Waltz from Robert du Diable, which probably caused more public commotion than any other piano piece in history.


     Read quotes by and about Liszt

     Liszt was the first recitalist

     In Praise of Pianos and the Artists Who Play Them

     History of the Piano

     Franz Liszt

October 9 ~ This Day in Music History

columbus
The day signifies Christopher Columbus’ arrival to America on October 12, 1492

 

OCMS 1813 ~ Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer
Read quotes by and about Verdi
More information about Verdi

OCMS 1835 ~ Camille Saint-Saëns, French composer, organist and conductor Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals is featured in Disney’s Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
Read quotes by and about Saint-Saëns
More information about Saint-Saëns

• 1931 ~ Russ Columbo’s Prisoner of Love was recorded on Victor Records.

OCMS 1940 ~ John Lennon, British rock singer, songwriter and guitarist
More information about Lennon

• 1935 ~ Cavalcade of America was first broadcast on radio this very day. The CBS show featured some of Hollywood and Broadway’s most famous stars in leading roles in the half-hour radio dramas. Thomas Chalmers narrated the stories about obscure incidents and people in American history. The orchestra (yes, radio shows had live orchestras back then) was led by Donald Voorhees. The show aired from 1935 to 1953, changing from CBS to NBC in 1939; with one sponsor for its entire duration. The DuPont Company introduced its slogan on Cavalcade of America …”Better things for better living through chemistry…”

• 1941 ~ Helen Morgan passed away

OCMS 1944 ~ John Entwistle, Bass, French horn with The Who
More information about Entwistle

• 1947 ~ “High Button Shoes”, opened on Broadway in New York City with an entertainer named Phil Silvers in the lead. The popular show ran for 727 performances.

• 1948 ~ Jackson Browne, Songwriter, singer

• 1967 ~ “And now…heeeeeeeeerrrree’s the Doctor!” Coming out of the NBC Tonight Show Orchestra to become musical director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Doc Severinsen replaced Skitch Henderson on this night. Doc became famous for an eccentric wardrobe, quick wit, great trumpet solos and fabulous charts. Tommy Newsome became Doc’s backup arranger for many of the tunes the band played. Later, Doc and the band would move to solo albums, group CDs and incredibly successful concert tours. Doc went on to play with various symphony orchestras and even became the owner of a custom trumpet company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

• 1973 ~ Priscilla Presley, was divorced from Elvis in Santa Monica, CA. Ms. Presley got $1.5 million in cash, $4,200 per month in alimony, half interest in a $750,000 home plus about 5% interest in two of Elvis’ publishing companies.

• 1973 ~ Paul Simon got a gold record this day for his hit, Loves Me like a Rock.

• 1975 ~ John Lennon turned 35. To celebrate, Yoko Ono Ono presented John with a newborn son, Sean Ono Lennon.

• 1976 ~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony number 5 in c minor” landed for a twenty-two-week stop in the first spot on the Top 5. Beethoven is dead and this isn’t a ghost story. It’s simply a case of Beethoven being updated with a disco-rock beat and a catchy new title: A Fifth of Beethoven.

• 1985 ~ A 2½ acre garden memorial was dedicated to John Lennon by his widow,Yoko Ono, this day. The memorial in New York City’s Central Park is named Strawberry Fields.

• 1988 ~ Elmer J. ‘Mousey’ Alexander passed away

• 2000 ~ Yoko Ono Opened John Lennon Museum in Japan

• 2001 ~ Herbert Ross died at the age of 76. He was a director and choreographer whose credits include the hit movies “The Goodbye Girl,” “The Sunshine Boys” and “The Turning Point.”

• 2003 ~ Don Lanphere, a saxophone player who came on strong at the dawn of bebop, nearly succumbed to drugs and drinking, then recovered to become the city’s jazz “grandpop,” died of hepatitis C. He was 75. As lead tenor in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and in smaller groups, Lanphere’s versatility and virtuosity ranged from blazing riffs on the tenor to a solo jazz rendition of the Lord’s Prayer on the soprano sax. Many who were born long after Lanphere’s boyhood gigs with such legends as Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro and Max Roach hailed him as a jazz patriarch or, as his Web site proclaimed, “Seattle jazz grandpop.” Born in the apple country of central Washington about 95 miles east of Seattle, Lanphere played as a teenager with touring bands in Seattle, then studied music briefly at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. By the time he got to New York, captivated by the post-World War II bebop revolution, he was hooked on heroin. By his early 20s he had recorded with Navarro and Roach and played gigs with Parker, Woody Herman and top big bands, including one led by Artie Shaw. He could write a chart, the chord arrangement on which jazz improvisation is based, from the sound of water dripping in a tub. Battling alcohol and narcotics addictions that resulted in at least one arrest, he was back at his father’s store in Wenatchee – “from the Big Apple to the little apple,” he once said – by 1960. Only after he and his wife Midge became born-again Christians in 1969 did he dust off his horn. In an interview in 1998, he said that without the conversion, “I would be dead by now.”

Happy Birthday, Vladimir Horowitz!

Vladimir Horowitz

 

 

Destined to become one of the world’s greatest pianists, Vladimir Horowitz was born in 1903 in Kiev, Russia. While most young children were playing games, Vladimir was playing with the ivories. His time was well spent as he was fully capable of performing publicly by the time he was sixteen.

Within four years, the young piano virtuoso was entertaining audiences at recitals throughout Leningrad – 23 performances in one year, where he played over 200 different works of music, never repeating a composition. After Leningrad, Horowitz played in concerts in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris.

In 1928, the Russian pianist traveled to the United States to play with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Arturo Toscanini chose Horowitz to perform his first solo with the New York Philharmonic. It was there that Horowitz met his bride-to-be, Toscanini’s daughter, Wanda. The two were wed in Milan in 1933. New York became Horowitz’ permanent home in 1940. He became a U.S. citizen a few years later, devoting the rest of his career to benefit performances, and helping young, aspiring artists.

His return to the concert stage in May of 1965 was a triumphant success, as was his television recital, Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall.

Just three years before his death, Vladimir Horowitz returned to his homeland to perform once again for the Russian people on April 20, 1986. They felt he had been away far too long … close to sixty years.

     Horowitz’s birthday

     anniversary of Horowitz’s death

     History of the Piano

     News Item including Horowitz

 

Even JS Bach Celebrated International Coffee Day!

bach-coffee

 

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was also apparently a coffee enthusiast. So much so that he wrote a composition about the beverage. Although known mostly for his liturgical music, his Coffee Cantata (AKA Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211) is a rare example of a secular work by the composer. The short comic opera was written (circa 1735) for a musical ensemble called The Collegium Musicum based in a storied Zimmerman’s coffee house in Leipzig, Germany. The whole cantata seems very much to have been written with the local audience in mind.

Coffee Cantata is about a young vivacious woman named Aria who loves coffee. Her killjoy father is, of course, dead set against his daughter having any kind of caffeinated fun. So he tries to ban her from the drink. Aria bitterly complains:

Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
and, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

The copywriters at Starbucks marketing department couldn’t have written it any better. Eventually, daughter and father reconcile when he agrees to have a guaranteed three cups of coffee a day written into her marriage contract.

 

New for Fall: LIstening and Coloring Pages

 

I have just purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.

Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook.  After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.

After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.

If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I’ll print you a set.

From the website:

The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.

This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.

Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.

My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.

The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:

  • Totentanz by Liszt
  • Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
  • Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
  • Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
  • Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
  • Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
  • Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
  • Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
  • The Banshee by Henry Cowell
  • Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlist to listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).

 

Happy Birthday, George Gershwin!

George GershwinGeorge Gershwin lived between September 26, 1898 and July 11, 1937. He is considered to be a twentieth century composer.

If you hate homework but like roller skating, you have something in common with American composer George Gershwin. Born in Brooklyn, New Yord to Russian immigrant parents, George loved to play street hockey, ‘cat’, and punch ball. He didn’t even have an interest in music until his family got him a piano when he was twelve. Nine years later he had his first hit, “Swanee”, with lyrics written by Irving Caesar. No one else in the Gershwin family was musical, but George was fascinated by music. When he heard a schoolmate play the violin, George struck up a friendship with the boym who introduced him to the world of concert music.

Gershwin’s American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue (featured in Disney’s newly released Fantasia 2000) proved that jazz was powerful enough to combine will with symphonic music. Gershwin was only 26 years old at the time when he composed Rhapsody in Blue. No matter how you hear it, “Rhapsody in Blue” will remain the signature of one of the most influential of composers, songwriters and pianists in American music history.

His play Porgy and Bess has been produced as both a film and an opera.

 

September 4 ~ This Day in Music History

OCMS1824 ~ Anton Bruckner, Austrian composer and organist
More information about Bruckner
Read quotes by and about Bruckner

OCMS 1892 ~ Darius Milhaud, French composer
More information about Milhaud

• 1905 ~ Meade “Lux” Lewis, American jazz pianist

• 1907 ~ Edvard Grieg passed away
More information about Grieg

• 1928 ~ Wingy Manone recorded Downright Disgusted for Vocalion Records. Playing drums for Wingy was a young sideman named Gene Krupa.

• 1930 ~ Mitzi Gaynor (Franchesca Mitzi Marlene de Charney von Gerber), Singer, dancer, actress

• 1942 ~ Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight, Singer with Gladys Night and the Pips

• 1944 ~ Gene Parsons, Drummer with The Byrds

• 1946 ~ Gary Duncan (Grubb), Musician, guitar with Quicksilver Messenger Service

• 1946 ~ Greg Elmore, Musician, drums with Quicksilver Messenger Service

• 1950 ~ Ronald LaPread, Bass with Commodores

• 1951 ~ Martin Chambers, Drummer with The Pretenders

• 1959 ~ Mack the Knife was banned from radio – at least from WCBS Radio in New York
City. Teenage stabbings in the city had people pretty uptight; therefore, the ban.

• 1971 ~ The Lawrence Welk Show was seen for the last time on ABC~TV. ABC felt the show attracted “too old an audience … not good for attracting advertisers.” Syndication allowed the champagne music to continue until 1982 as a weekly favorite for millions of people. Welk charted a half-dozen tunes on the pop music charts between 1956 and 1961, including the number one song, Calcutta, in 1960.
More information about Welk

• 1982 ~ After six weeks, Eye of the Tiger, by Survivor, dropped out of the top spot on the music charts. The song, from the movie, Rocky III, dropped all the way to number 2 (for two weeks), then to number 3 for one week and to number 4 for two weeks before starting to fade. That’s what we call a hit, folks! It was the group’s biggest, earning them a platinum record.

• 2001 ~ Robert Pagent, a dancer and choreographer who appeared in the original productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel died at the age of 87. Born Robert Weisser in Pittsburgh, Pagent began his career in European classical ballet troupes in the 1930s. In 1942 he adopted the stage name Robert Pagent and was square-dance caller in the premier of Agnes de Mille’s cowboy-themed ballet, Rodeo. It was the start of a long friendship and collaboration with DeMille and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The following year he replaced an injured dancer in the original cast of Oklahoma! a night after its opening. Two years later he appeared in the premiere of Carousel. Pagent was a choreographer for television in the 1950s and 60s, including the Miss America Pageant. He staged Rudolph Nureyev’s first U.S. television appearance.

• 2003 ~ Susan Chilcott, one of Britain’s leading opera singers, died. She was 40. Chilcott, a soprano, had performed across Europe and with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Chilcott made her Royal Opera House debut in Covent Garden June 2003 to glowing reviews, playing Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s “Queen Of Spades” oppositePlacido Domingo.

• 2003 ~ Tibor Varga, a conductor and violinist known for his teaching and for his performances of Béla Bartók and other modern masters, died. He was 82. Varga was born in Hungary and made his public debut with Mendelssohn’s E minor concerto when he was 10. He began touring in Europe while a teenager and studied in Budapest and in Berlin. After World War II he performed widely as a violin virtuoso. In 1947 he moved to England, where he obtained British citizenship. He founded the Tibor Varga Chamber Orchestra in Detmold, Germany, in 1954, then moved to Switzerland, where he was based the rest of his life. He continued to conduct the Detmold-based orchestra until 1988. His repertoire covered baroque, classical and romantic works, but he was best known for his performances of modern composers including Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Berg.