Clara Schumann (1819-96) was much more than the wife of composer Robert Schumann. She was, quite simply, one of the greatest pianists of all time. A child prodigy, her technique and musicianship as a mature artist led to her being regarded as the equal of giants of the keyboard such a Franz Liszt, Sigismond Thalberg and Anton Rubinstein.
And from her girlhood until the end of her marriage she composed wonderful music, mostly solo piano music, but other works as well, including a concerto, a large number of songs and a sublime piano trio.
In her later years, she was an internationally famous teacher, and her performing career lasted more than six decades. She was, quite simply, a phenomenon.
Redditor NeokratosRed had an idea: depict the hands of great composers and pianists, according to the characteristics of their music. He shared it on the social media site, and also punted for suggestions of more. It has since received over 300,000 images views, and lots of further suggestions from fellow Redditors and piano geeks.
Whisks for Chopin’s elegant pianistic souffles, feather dusters for the gentle impressionism of Debussy, instruments of trade for the composer of the thunderous Hammerklavier sonata.
Piano, and the internet – top marks to the both of you.
Today’s piece is a favorite in cartoons as you’ll see below. Hungarian Rhapsody number 2 by Franz Liszt is the second in a set of 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies and is by far the most famous of the set. They are all based on Hungarian folk tunes, or what Liszt assumed were Hungarian folk tunes. Even though Liszt’s nationality was Hungarian, he wasn’t familiar with the language.
So he ended up making some assumptions. Some of these Hungarian Rhapsodies were not actually gypsy folk tunes at all, but tunes composed by middle-and-upper-class folk, which the gypsies integrated into their own music.
These Rhapsodies are very difficult for pianists since Liszt was a virtuoso musician and liked to compose pieces only he could play.
• 1911 ~ George Liberace, Violinist, conductor; administrator of Liberace Museum; brother of pianist/entertainer Liberace
• 1918 ~ Jan La Rue, American musicologist
• 1918 ~ Hank Jones, Pianist. He accompanied Billy Eckstine and Ella Fitzgerald. He led the Hank Jones Trio
• 1919 ~ Mornam Del Mar, British conductor
• 1923 ~ Ahmet Ertegun, Recording Executive
• 1939 ~ John West, Musician, guitarist with Gary Lewis and the Playboys
• 1942 ~ Harry James and his band recorded the classic I’ve Heard that Song Before, for Columbia Records. Helen Forrest sang on the million-seller.
• 1943 ~ Lobo, Singer
• 1946 ~ Gary Lewis (Levitch), Singer with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, entertainer Jerry Lewis’ son
• 1946 ~ Bob Welch, Guitarist and singer with Fleetwood Mac
• 1947 ~ Karl Green, Musician, guitar and harmonica with Herman’s Hermits
• 1964 ~ Jim Reeves, popular U.S. country music singer, died in an air crash near Nashville.
• 1985 ~ Prince was big at the box office with the autobiographical story of the Minneapolis rock star, Purple Rain. The flick grossed $7.7 million in its first three days of release on 917 movie screens. The album of the same name was the top LP in the U.S., as well.
• 2019 ~ Hal (Harold Smith) Prince died at the age of 91, He was an American theatrical producer and director associated with many of the best-known Broadway musical productions of the 20th century.
Over the span of his career, he garnered 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, including eight for directing, eight for producing the year’s Best Musical, two as Best Producer of a Musical, and three special awards.
Today, we’ll listen to the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, of Ludwig van Beethoven. It was written between 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies. As is typical of symphonies in the classical period, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in four movements.
I’m sure you’ve heard the first 8 notes before…
Since it was written for orchestra, each instrument has its own line:
A piano version, transcribed by Liszt
From Disney’s Fantasia 2000:
Pink learns to play the violin, and interrupts a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Pink Panther theme played on various instruments.
Arrangements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can be found in Piano Maestro and lots of books including Piano Pronto’s Movement 2, Movement 5 (Victory Theme) and Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music.
Today’s assignment is Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor. It is the second in a set of 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies by composer Franz Liszt, and is by far the most famous of the set.
In both the original piano solo form and in the orchestrated version this composition has enjoyed widespread use in animated cartoons. Its themes have also served as the basis of several popular songs.
Above, Danish comedian and pianist Victor Borge gives every impression of having been asked to play a duet with someone whom he not only doesn’t know but doesn’t particularly like. Forced to come up with a mutually agreeable way of sharing the musical workload, he settles on the most difficult route possible.
It’s not clear why two pianists were needed for this performance of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, S.244/2. I think that they did it just for the fun of it. The result is hilarious.
They’re not the only ones to tackle Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 as a piano duo.
We also have these guys:
The “history” of this piece in several cartoons:
This is very interesting:
As he often did, Horowitz arranged it more for his liking:
Since we had the Bridal Chorus a couple days ago, it’s time to march the bride and groom back up the aisle with the Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn.
This Wedding March comes from Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It became customary to play this at marriage ceremonies from about the mid 19th Century, and particularly after the daughter (also called Victoria) of Queen Victoria chose the piece for her own wedding in 1858.
Notice all the triplets (3)! If you don’t know what they are, be sure to ask at your next lesson.
Find this in Movement 2 and Piano Maestro.
Franz Liszt and Vladimir Horowitz added some variations
National Donald Duck Day is observed annually on June 9th. This day commemorates the birthday of the funny animal cartoon character, Donald Duck. Donald made his first screen debut on June 9, 1934, in The Wise Little Hen.
• 1991 ~ Claudio Arrau, Chilian/American pianist and composer, died at the age of 88
• 1991 ~ Bruce Springsteen wed his backup singer Patty Scialfa
• 1991 ~ Max van Praag, Dutch singer, died at the age of 77
• 1992 ~ Clarence Miller, Blues/jazz vocalist, died at the age of 69 of a heart attack
• 1993 ~ Arthur Alexander, Singer/songwriter, died at the age of 53
• 1995 ~ Frank Chacksfield, Conductor/arranger, died at the age of 81
• 2000 ~ Jazz bassist Burgher “Buddy” Jones, who played in big bands behind Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra and toured with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, died at the age of 76.
A native of Hope, Ark., Jones was a childhood friend of the late Virginia Kelley, mother of President Clinton. At 17, Jones went to the University of Kansas City, where he met and befriended saxophonist Charlie Parker. Jones later introduced Parker to his wife, Chan. Jones played in the Elliot Lawrence band, when its arrangers included Al Cohn, Tiny Kahn and Johnny Mandel. As a staff musician for CBS in New York in the 1950s and 1960s,
Jones played for the Jack Sterling radio show and in bands behind Lee and Sinatra. In 1996, Jones was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.
• 2020 ~ Bonnie Pointer, who rose to fame as a member of the Pointer Sisters, died at age 69.
Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.
It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.
“Happy Birthday to You”, more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.
Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing. The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.
“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. Find the melody!
Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…
None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”
In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.
One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.