March 29 in Music History

 

Piano Day, an annual worldwide event founded by a group of like-minded people, takes place on the 88th day of the year – in 2018 it’s the 29th March – because of the number of keys on the instrument being celebrated.

 

. 1788 ~ Charles Wesley, writer of over 5,500 hymns and, with his brother John, the founder of Methodism, died.

. 1871 ~ The Royal Albert Hall in London opened

. 1878 ~ Albert Von Tilzer, Composer.  He was the composer of “Take Me out to the Ball Game” among other old favorites.
More information about Von Tilzer

. 1879 ~ “Eugene Onegin”, best-known opera by Russian composer Tchaikovsky, was first performed at the Maliy Theatre in Moscow

. 1888 ~ Charles-Valentin Alkan died.  He was a French composer and pianist.

. 1902 ~ Sir William Walton, British composer
More information about Walton

. 1906 ~ E. Power Biggs, English Organist

. 1918 ~ Pearl Mae Bailey, American jazz singer, lead in black cast of Hello Dolly

. 1936 ~ Richard Rodney Bennett, British composer

. 1943 ~ Vangelis, (Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou), composer/keyboardist (Chariots of Fire)

. 1947 ~ Bobby Kimball (Toteaux), Singer with Toto

. 1949 ~ Michael Brecker, Jazz musician, reeds with The Brecker Brothers

. 1951 ~ The King and I, the wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein musical based on Margaret Langdon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, opened this night in 1951 on Broadway. The King and I starred Yul Brynner in the role of the King of Siam. The king who, along with his subjects, valued tradition above all else. From this day forward, the role of the King of Siam belonged to Yul Brynner and no other. Brynner appeared in this part in more than 4,000 performances on both stage and screen (the Broadway show was adapted for Hollywood in 1956). Anna, the English governess hired to teach the King’s dozens of children, was portrayed by Gertrude Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence and Mr. Brynner acted, danced and sang their way into our hearts with such memorable tunes as Getting to Know You, Shall We Dance, Hello, Young Lovers, I Whistle a Happy Tune, We Kiss in a Shadow, I Have Dreamed, Something WonderfulA Puzzlement and March of the Siamese Children. The King and I ran for a total of 1,246 outstanding performances at New York’s St. James Theatre.

. 1952 ~ Roy Henderson’s last singing performance was on this date in the role of Christus in Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at Southwark Cathedral, the Anglican cathedral on the south bank of the Thames in London.

. 1958 ~ W.C. (William Christopher) Handy, Composer passed away
More information about Handy

. 1963 ~ M.C. Hammer (Stanley Kirk Burrell), Grammy Award-winning singer

. 1973 ~ Hommy, the Puerto Rican version of the rock opera Tommy, opened in New York City. The production was staged at Carnegie Hall.

. 1973 ~ After recording On the Cover of ‘Rolling Stone’, Dr. Hook finally got a group shot on the cover of Jann Wenner’s popular rock magazine. Inside, a Rolling Stone writer confirmed that members of the group (Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show) bought five copies of the magazine for their moms – just like in the song’s lyrics!

. 1980 ~ Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, Anglo-Italian conductor and arranger, died. Created the “Mantovani sound” that made him a highly successful recording artist and concert attraction.

. 1982 ~ Carl Orff, German composer of “Carmina Burana,” died.

. 1982 ~ Ray Bloch passed away

. 1999 ~ Legendary U.S. jazz and blues singer Joe Williams died aged 80.

. 2001 ~ John Lewis, a pianist who masterminded one of the most famous ensembles in jazz, the Modern Jazz Quartet, died at the age of 80. The M.J.Q., as the quartet was known, remained mostly unchanged from the mid-1950’s to the 90’s. It began recording in 1952 with Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke. When Clarke moved to Paris in 1955, Connie Kay replaced him and the quartet continued until Kay’s death in 1994. Lewis contributed the bulk of the group’s compositions and arrangements, including Django and Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West, and he insisted members wear tuxedos to dignify jazz as an art. He was born in LaGrange, Ill., in 1920, and grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. His entree to the jazz world came during World War II, when he met Kenny Clarke, an established drummer in the nascent bebop movement. At Clarke’s urging, Lewis moved to New York after his discharge and eventually replaced Thelonious Monk as Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist. He also performed or recorded with Charlie ParkerLester Young and Ella Fitzgerald. In 1952 he formed the M.J.Q. with Clarke, Jackson and Heath. The quartet was a steady seller of records and concert tickets well into the 1970’s. Lewis also taught music at Harvard and the City College of New York, and in the late 1950’s helped found the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts.

March 4 in Music History

 

March Forth is also known as Marching Music Day.  Find out more at http://www.maryo.co/march-forth-on-marching-music-day/

Today is also  National Grammar Day.

. 1678 ~ Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, Italian baroque composer. The creator of hundreds of spirited, extroverted instrumental works, Vivaldi is widely recognized as the master of the Baroque instrumental concerto, which he perfected and popularized perhaps more than any of his contemporaries. A group of four violin concerti from Vivaldi’s Op. 8, better known as “The Four Seasons”, may well be the most universally recognizable musical work from the Baroque period. Perhaps the most prolific of all the great European composers, he once boasted that he could compose a concerto faster than a copyist could ready the individual parts for the players in the orchestra.
More information about Vivaldi

(MaryO’Note:  Spring from The Four Seasons is available in the Piano Maestro App for piano students)

. 1801 ~ The U.S. Marine Band performed for the first time at a presidential nomination. That president was Thomas Jefferson.

. 1839 ~ Ignace Antoine Ladurner, pianist/composer, died at the age of 72

. 1875 ~ Bizet’s Carmen premier, Paris

. 1877 ~ The ballet of Swan Lake, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was performed for the first time in the famous Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia

and

. 1915 ~ Carlos Surinac, Catalan Spanish-born composer and conductor

. 1918 ~ Frank Wigglesworth, American composer

. 1925 ~ Enzo Stuarti, Opera singer

. 1928 ~ Samuel Adler, German-born American composer

. 1929 ~ Bernard Haitink, Dutch conductor

. 1932 ~ Miriam (Zensile) Makeba, South African born singer who was the first black South African to attain international stardom.

. 1934 ~ Barbara McNair, Singer, TV hostess of The Barbara McNair Show, actress

. 1942 ~ Dick Jurgen’s orchestra recorded One Dozen Roses on Okeh Records in Chicago.

. 1942 ~ The Stage Door Canteen opened on West 44th Street in New York City. The canteen became widely known as a service club for men in the armed forces and a much welcomed place to spend what would otherwise have been lonely hours. The USO, the United Service Organization, grew out of the ‘canteen’ operation, to provide entertainment for American troops around the world.

. 1943 ~ Irving Berlin picked up the Best Song Oscar for a little ditty he had written for the film, Holiday Inn: White Christmas at the 15th Academy Awards.

. 1944 ~ Bobby Womack, Songwriter, singer

. 1948 ~ Chris Squire, Bass with Yes

. 1948 ~ Shakin’ Stevens (Michael Barratt), Singer, actor

. 1951 ~ Chris Rea, Guitarist with these groups Chris Rea Band and Ambrosia; singer, songwriter

. 1969 ~ Chastity Bono, Singer, daughter of Sonny & Cher

. 1978 ~ Andy Gibb reached the top of the music charts as (Love is) Thicker ThanWater reached #1 for a two-week stay. The Bee Gees also set a record on this day as their single, How Deep Is Your Love, from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack stayed in the top 10 for an unprecedented 17 weeks.

. 1981 ~ Lyricist E.Y. ‘Yip’ Harburg died in an auto accident in Hollywood, CA at the age of 82. Two of his most successful hits were Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz and It’s Only a Paper Moon, popularized by Nat King Cole and many others.

. 2001 ~ Glenn Hughes, a singer who performed as the mustachioed, leather-clad biker in the disco band the Village People, died at the age of 50. The group, which was the brainchild of producer Jacques Morali, featured men dressed as an Indian, a soldier, a construction worker, a police officer, a cowboy and Hughes’ character, a biker. The band released its first single, San Francisco (You’ve Got Me), in 1977. It followed the next year with its first hit, Macho Man. The band then produced a string of hits, including Y.M.C.A., In the Navy and Go West. Collectively the Village People sold 65 million albums and singles. Although disco fell out of fashion in the 1980s, Hughes stayed with the band until 1996, when he left to sing in Manhattan cabarets.

. 2003 ~ Fedora Barbieri, a mezzo-soprano whose passionate singing sometimes stole the scene from opera diva Maria Callas, died. She was 82. Born in Trieste in 1920, Barbieri performed on stages ranging from Milan’s La Scala to New York’s Metropolitan Opera House to London’s Covent Garden. Barbieri’s career started in 1940 and for her 80th birthday, she sang the role of Mamma Lucia in Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” in Florence. Her repertoire included roles in operas by Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. Barbieri died in Florence, which she had adopted as her home and where she gave many performances.

. 2003 ~ Emilio Estefan Sr., father of the Latin music mogul, died at the age of 83. Estefan Sr. played the plump and comical ambassador in a music video for the Miami Sound Machine’s hit song Conga, which featured singer Gloria Estefan, wife of Estefan Jr. The Miami Sound Machine’s office was once located in Estefan Sr.’s garage. His son later built a home for his parents on his Star Island compound. Estefan Sr. was born in Santiago de Cuba and moved to Spain with Estefan Jr. in 1966. His wife and another son stayed in Cuba because the boy was of military draft age and couldn’t leave until 1980. Estefan Sr. came to Miami in 1968, a year after Estefan Jr., and opened a clothing business in Hialeah.

. 2009 ~ Joseph Bloch died. He was an American concert pianist and professor of piano literature at the Juilliard School in New York City. During a career at Juilliard that spanned five decades, Bloch’s students included Emanuel Ax, Van Cliburn, Misha Dichter, Garrick Ohlsson, Jeffrey Siegel and Jeffrey Swann.

Leonard Bernstein: What Does Music Mean?

On January 18, 1958 Leonard Bernstein began presenting his television series What does music mean?  The series ran for 53 programs.  Some of the episodes can be found below:

Part 1 What is Classical Music?

Plot: Bernstein conducts Handel’s Water Music and cites it as an indisputable example of classical music. “Exact” is the word that best defines classical music, Bernstein says and he demonstrates with musical illustrations from Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major and The Marriage of Figaro, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102.

The decline of classical music at the end of the eighteenth century is tied to Beethoven’s innovations and the Romantic movement, and Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.


Part 2 What is Melody?

Plot: Bernstein discusses the different forms melody can take, including tune, theme, motive, melodic line and musical phrase. He illustrates by conducting the orchestra in excerpts from Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Hindemith, and Brahms.


Part 3 What is a Mode?

Plot: Bernstein discusses scales, intervals, and tones, and analyzes several pieces, including Debussy’s Fêtes, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and music from the Kinks and the Beatles, to illustrate different modes.

An excerpt from Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free is also performed.

 

January 15 in Music History

martin-luther-king

 

Martin Luther King, Jr Day.

. 1775 ~ Giovanni Battista Sammartini, composer, died

. 1890 ~ Premiere of The Sleeping Beauty, ballet by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky. After the less-than-promising 1877 debut of Swan Lake, marred by a largely amateur production, over a decade lapsed before the composer was commissioned by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg to supply music for a ballet on the Perrault fairy tale, The Sleeping Beauty. Tchaikovsky threw himself arms-deep into the project. Not only was the composer again on happy turf, he was currently in a state of delight by the occasional presence of a three-year old little girl; children seemed to tap a joyful vein in Tchaikovsky. The little girl’s proximity fed a spirit of fantasy which transmitted to this most lighthearted of the composer’s scores. Most musicologists and historians concede that Sleeping Beauty is the most perfectly wrought of Tchaikovsky’s three ballet scores, classic in its restraint, yet possessing the right amount of color and panache to render it pure Tchaikovsky; its waltz remains a Pops favorite.

. 1896 ~ Alexander Scriabin made his European debut as a pianist at the Salle Erard in Paris

. 1904 ~ Ellie Sigmeister, Classical composer

. 1905 ~ Weldon Leo ‘Jack’ Teagarden, died of pneumonia
More information about Teagarden

. 1909 ~ Gene Krupa, American Jazz bandleader and drummer

. 1925 ~ Ruth Slenczynska, pianist, born in Sacramento, California

. 1941 ~ Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Singer with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, artist

. 1942 ~ Kenny Sargent vocalized with the Glen Gray Orchestra on Decca Records’ It’s the Talk of the Town.

. 1948 ~ Ronnie Van Zandt, Singer, songwriter with Lynyrd Skynyrd

. 1951 ~ Charo (Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza), ‘The Hootchy Cootchy Girl’, actress, singer, wife of Xavier Cugat

. 1951 ~ Martha Davis, Singer with The Motels

. 1959 ~ Peter Trewavas, Bass with Marillion

. 1964 ~ The soundtrack album of the musical, “The King and I”, starring Yul Brynner, earned a gold record.

. 1967 ~ Ed Sullivan told the Rolling Stones to change the lyrics and the title to the song, Let’s Spend the Night Together, so it became Let’s Spend Some Time Together.

. 1972 ~ Elvis Presley, who was also censored from the waist down by Ed Sullivan, reportedly drew the largest audience for a single TV show to that time. Elvis presented a live, worldwide concert from Honolulu on this day.

. 1987 ~ Ray Bolger died.  He was an American entertainer of vaudeville, stage and actor, singer and dancer best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

. 1993 ~ Sammy Cahn passed away.  He was an was an American lyricist, songwriter and musician.

Happy Birthday, Victor Borge!

Victor BorgeVictor Borge was born in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was an entertainer and pianist – a deliciously funny performer. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, and in Vienna and Berlin.

He made his debut as a pianist in 1926, and as a revue actor in 1933. From 1940 until his death in 2000 he worked in the USA for radio, television, and theatre, and has performed with leading symphony orchestras on worldwide tours since 1956.

He was best known for his comedy sketches combining music and narrative. He used his classical training to skew serious music and performers.

From his obituary:

Pianist Victor Borge, died in his sleep Dec 23, 2000 at his Greenwich, Connecticut home, was known as the unmelancholy Dane of international show business. He would have turned 92 on Jan. 3, 2001.

“The cause of death was heart failure,” his daughter, Sanna Feirstein, told Reuters.

“He had just returned from a wonderfully successful trip to Copenhagen … and it was really heartwarming to see the love he experienced in his home country,” she said.

Borge was one of five performers selected for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999.

“He went to sleep, and they went to wake him up this morning, and he was gone,” said his agent, Bernard Gurtman.

“He had so much on the table, and to the day he died he was creative, and practicing piano several hours a day,” Gurtman told Reuters. “He was just a great inspiration.”

Funeral services will be private, his daughter said.

Borge made a career of falling off piano stools, missing the keys with his hands and getting tangled up in the sheet music.

One of his inspirations was a pianist who played the first notes of the Grieg A Minor Concerto and then fell on the keys dead.

He said that the only time he got nervous on stage was when he had to play seriously and adds that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler he probably would never have pursued a career as a concert-hall comedian.

Until he was forced to flee Denmark in 1940 he was a stage and screen idol in his native country.

Lampooned Hitler

But as a Jew who had lampooned Hitler, Borge — his real name was Boerge Rosenbaum — was in danger and fled first to Sweden and then to the United States, where he arrived penniless and unknown and by a fluke got booked on the Bing Crosby radio show. He was an instant success.

He became an American citizen in 1948, but thought of himself as Danish. It was obvious from the numerous affectionate tributes and standing ovations at his 80th birthday concert in Copenhagen in 1989 that Danes felt the same way.

In the concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens, Borge played variations on the theme of “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, BrahmsWagner and Beethoven — all executed with such wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter that a woman performing a piccolo solo was unable to draw breath to play.

“Playing music and making jokes are as natural to me as breathing,” Borge told Reuters in an interview after that concert.

“That’s why I’ve never thought of retiring because I do it all the time whether on the stage or off. I found that in a precarious situation, a smile is the shortest distance between people. When one needs to reach out for sympathy or a link with people, what better way is there?

“If I have to play something straight, without deviation in any respect, I still get very nervous. It’s the fact that you want to do your best, but you are not at your best because you are nervous and knowing that makes you even more nervous.”

His varied career included acting, composing for films and plays and writing but he was best known for his comic sketches based on musical quirks and oddities.

Unpredictable Routine

His routines were unpredictable, often improvised on stage as his quick wit responded to an unplanned event — a noise, a latecomer in the audience — or fixed on an unlikely prop — a fly, a shaky piano stool.

Borge was born in Denmark on January 3, 1909, son of a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra.

His parents encouraged him to become a concert pianist, arranging his first public recital when he was 10. In 1927 he made his official debut at the Tivoli Gardens.

Borge’s mischievous sense of humor was manifest from an early age. Asked as a child to play for his parent’s friends he would announce “a piece by the 85-year-old Mozart” and improvise something himself.

When his mother was dying in Denmark during the occupation, Borge visited her, disguised as a sailor.

“Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening,” he said in later years. “He saved Europe and I saved myself.”

From 1953 to 1956, he appeared in New York in his own production “Comedy in Music,” a prelude to world tours that often took him to his native Scandinavia.

On radio and television, Borge developed the comedy techniques of the bungling pianist that won him worldwide fame.

Many of his skits were based on real-life events. One of his classics evolved from seeing a pianist playing a Tchaikovsky concerto fall off his seat.

Borge’s dog joined the show after it wandered on stage while he was at the keyboard — an entrance nobody would believe had been unplanned.

One incident could not be repeated. A large fly flew on to Borge’s nose while he was playing. “How did you get that fly to come on at the right time?” people asked. “Well, we train them,” Borge explained.

Borge’s book, “My Favorite Intervals”, published in 1974, detailed little-known facts of the private lives of composers describing Wagner’s pink underwear and the time Borodin left home in full military regalia but forgot his trousers.

In 1975, Borge was honored in recognition of the 35th anniversary of his arrival in the United States and his work as unofficial goodwill ambassador from Denmark to the United States. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1984 with a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Copenhagen.

Borge received a host of honors from all four Scandinavian countries for his contributions to music, humor and worthy causes.

Borge, who had lived in Greenwich since 1964, is survived by five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His wife of many years, Sanna, died earlier that year.

Borge’s birthday

Anniversary of Borge’s death

 

Carnegie Hall

carnegie-hall

You’ve all heard it before.  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.

We took the easier route with the tour December 1, 2014.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t posting much on my travel blog yet so I don’t remember everything that happened.  I do highly recommend the tour if you’re in New York City.

If you want to go, other than  practicing, Carnegie Hall  is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

carnegie-hall-map

The tour was very inexpensive, maybe $10 each.  We were taken by elevator up to the Main Hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage) first.  The stories that were told were fascinating!  I don’t remember most but I remember the guide telling us that after renovations audience members complained of a buzzing sound.  The floor had to be removed…

From 1995:

SOURCE OF CARNEGIE HALL COMPLAINTS DISCOVERED: CONCRETE UNDER STAGE
MARY CAMPBELL , Associated Press
Sep. 13, 1995 11:53 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) _ For nine years, the people who run Carnegie Hall insisted there was nothing wrong with the acoustics at the famed concert hall.

Wednesday, they sang a different tune

This summer, a layer of concrete, apparently left over from a major renovation job in 1986, was discovered under the stage. The concrete was ripped out and a new floor was installed that administrators say should improve acoustics.
Since the renovation, musicians and critics have complained about the acoustics, saying the sound the hall was world famous for wasn’t the same, that the bass had become washed out and the higher instruments harsh.

Executive Director Judith Arron said Wednesday she had been assured there was no concrete under the stage since arriving at the hall in 1986.

But the tongue-in-groove maple stage floor, which usually lasts 20 years, had warped so badly after just nine years, it was difficult to push a piano across it.

The hall closed for repairs after three Frank Sinatra tribute concerts the last week in July. “As we tore the whole floor up,” Arron said, “we learned we had a lot more hard substance than we had anticipated.”

She speculated the concrete was added to reinforce the stage while scaffolding was on it during the 1986 renovation and then simply left there in workers’ haste to finish.

The concrete had been placed under two layers of plywood, on which the maple stage floor rests.

“Concrete retains moisture,” Arron said. “As the moisture collected in the concrete, it went into the plywood, which expands with moisture and pushed up the floor.”

Jim Nomikos, the hall’s director of operations, compared the removal of hundreds of pounds of concrete to “an archeological dig.”

Nomikos said the floor is now constructed the way it was from Carnegie Hall’s opening in 1891 until 1986.

“In my opinion we’re not reconstructing the floor. We just restored it,” he said. “I think what we have now is a floor that will have some resonance, as opposed to a floor that was dead.”

The project cost $180,000.

Aaron said there are no plans to sue anybody for the way the floor was laid in 1986. “We’ve been focused on doing the job right,” she said. “We think this is going to be great.”

The new floor will meet its first test Sept. 26, when the Philadelphia Orchestra plays. The hall’s official gala opening for its 105th season will be Oct. 5 by the Boston Symphony.

I remember the guide not being happy with us because I knew the answers to some of the questions she asked such as Tchaikovsky conducting at the opening.  When she mentioned that Ignacy Jan Paderewski had made his debut there,  Tom piped up that he had lived near Steinway Hall (and that Michael and I had just played there in the final concert in the old building).  She gave us the evil eye and we stopped talking so much 🙂

padereski-me

Plaque on Steinwall Hall (old building). This was just after Michael and I played there.

 

Paderewski

Plaque on Steinwall Hall (old building).

There were many, many pictures on the walls of people who had performed there.  All in all, a fantastic tour.  Take it if you’re in NYC!

1891 Andrew Carnegie’s new Music Hall opened

Andrew Carnegie’s new Music Hall opened with a five-day music festival beginning on May 5.

Guest of honor Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted his Marche Solennelle on Opening Night and his Piano Concerto No. 1 several days later.

William Tuthill’s design reflects Gilded Age architectural tastes and engineering.  Since the Hall was built shortly before the advent of structural steel construction, its walls are made of fairly heavy brick and masonry, to carry the full load of the structure without the lighter support that a steel framework soon made possible. The Italian Renaissance design of the exterior reflects the eclectic architectural tastes of the period, which look to European models of earlier centuries for inspiration.  Tuthill deliberately chose to keep the styling and decorative elements simple, elegant, and functional, focusing his energies on designing an excellent acoustic environment.

I came across this interesting 1947 movie about Carnegie Hall for my Music Studio Blog and I’m posting it here, as well.

Jascha Heifetz (violinist) Tchaikovsky – “Violin Concerto in D, First Movement” – New York Philharmonic, Fritz Reiner, conductor
Harry James (trumpeter)
Vaughn Monroe (band leader)
Jan Peerce (vocalist)
Gregor Piatigorsky (cellist)
Ezio Pinza (vocalist)
Lily Pons (vocalist)
Fritz Reiner (conductor)
Artur Rodzinski (conductor)
Arthur Rubinstein (pianist)
Rise Stevens (vocalist)
Leopold Stokowski (conductor)
Bruno Walter (conductor)
Walter Damrosch (conductor)
Olin Downes (music critic)
New York Philharmonic Quintette (John Corigliano Sr., William Lincer, Nadia Reisenberg, Leonard Rose, Michael Rosenker)
New York Philharmonic

Storyline:
A mother (Marsha Hunt) wants her son (William Prince) to grow up to be a pianist good enough to play at Carnegie Hall but, when grown, the son prefers to play with Vaughan Monroe’s orchestra. But Mama’s wishes prevail and the son appears at Carnegie Hall as the composer-conductor-pianist of a modern horn concerto, with Harry James as the soloist. Frank McHugh is along as a Carnegie Hall porter and doorman, and Martha O’Driscoll is a singer who provides the love interest for Prince. Meanwhile and between while a brigade of classical music names from the 1940’s (and earlier and later) appear; the conductors Walter Damrosch, Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner and Leopold Stokowski; singers Rise Stevens, Lily Pons, Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza, plus pianist Arthur Rubinstein, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and violinist Jascha Heifetz.

Christmas Music: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

nutcracker

A few years ago, we went to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

From http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/N/George-Balanchine-s-The-Nutcracker.aspx

During the holiday period, the entire Company is immersed in activities surrounding George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. All 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and two casts of 50 young students each from the School of American Ballet join forces to make each performance as magical as possible. Children of all ages from New York City and the nation fill the David H. Koch Theater to be captivated by the lure of Tschaikovsky’s music, Balanchine’s choreography, Karinska’s sumptuous costumes, and Rouben Ter-Arutunian’s magical sets. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, based on the Alexandre Dumas pere version of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), demands a full-scale production.

The elaborate stage elements and intricate lighting unleash the viewers’ imagination by providing visual effects that are extraordinarily grand. The most famous example is the one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 40 feet, evoking audible gasps of disbelief from the audience at each performance. Other notable feats include the comic figure of Mother Ginger — 85 pounds and nine feet wide, the costume requires handling by three people once it is lowered by pulley over the dancer’s head — as well as the continuous flutter of the purest, crystal-shaped snowflakes (which are swept up and conserved after each performance for reuse).

While these technical achievements are wonderful fun, it is Balanchine’s choreography that sustains the ballet through two acts. Act I introduces the characters — the Stahlbaum children, Marie and Fritz, Herr Drosselmeier and his Nephew — and also begins the transition from reality into fantasy with the concluding Snowflake Waltz. Act II offers the complete transformation. We have entered the “Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy” and there is no turning back.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is one of the most complex theatrical, staged ballets in the Company’s active repertory. The popularity of the ballet is immense and it provides an unforgettable spark to everyone’s holiday season.

Although the original production was not a success, the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. However, the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America. Major American ballet companies generate around 40 percent of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in the suite.