Saturday, March 15, 2014

Micro-biographies of Great Composers

I hope everyone will take this in good humor. Occasionally I do "catty micro-reviews" of pop music videos on YouTube. But I haven't done anything similar with classical music. You can't really. But what you can do is poke gentle fun at the biographies of composers. So here goes:

Anton Bruckner

Very long-winded late 19th century Austrian symphonic composer with a tendency to fall in love with 17-year-old peasant girls.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Late 18th century Austrian composer who was a bit of a slacker. He didn't start composing until he was five, didn't compose his first symphony until he was eight and got a really late start on opera. He didn't compose his first opera until he was eleven!

J. S. Bach

Very devout Lutheran composer who got so carried away writing music for the church that, in a fit of absent-mindedness, he wrote an entire Catholic mass even though he wasn't Catholic. In another accidental moment, he invented the keyboard concerto.

Dmitri Shostakovich

Used to call himself "Stalin's monkey" and kept a packed suitcase by the door to his apartment in Moscow in case Stalin needed him to go on a spontaneous get-away to Siberia. Also wrote symphonies and string quartets.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Was a tirelessly devoted composer who worked and worked on his music until it was perfect, or he ran out of manuscript paper. Kept a chamber-pot underneath his piano and sometimes forgot to empty it.

Joseph Haydn

Known as the "Father of the Symphony" but since this was in the days before paternity suits, it didn't affect his career. Could also be called the Father of the String Quartet, but never is for some odd reason.

Leoš Janáček

Was a rather dull organ teacher and choral composer until, at age 63, he met the young (38 years younger) Kamila Stösslová who became his muse. After that he wrote all the music, such as a song cycle, several operas, a big mass and his Sinfonietta, that he is famous for. Go, Kamila!

Richard Wagner

Was the proud owner of twelve, pink, silk, dressing gowns. He is also known for having written a few operas.

John Cage

( ... ... ... )

Philip Glass

Wrote the same phrase, the same, the same phrase, of music, music, music. Over and over and over and over and over. Again. Again. Again.

Arnold Schoenberg

Is particularly famous for being George Gershwin's tennis partner. They lived in the same neighborhood in Hollywood as Igor Stravinsky, but never invited him over to play. Both George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg were amateur painters. Here is George with his portrait of Arnold. Sadly, there is no photo of them playing tennis together.

Let's end with a couple of tunes. First Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue in one of the only two (abbreviated) recordings made by Gershwin himself:

And here is the first part of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto with Mitsuko Uchida:

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