Ludwig van Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony

Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770 –March 26, 1827) was a German composer and pianist who is a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music and remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven was the grandson of Lodewijk van Beethoven (1712–73), a musician who came from Mechelen in present-day Belgium and moved at the age of twenty to Bonn. Lodewijk, the cognate of German Ludwig, was employed as a bass singer at the court of the Elector of Cologne, eventually rising to become Kapellmeister or music director. Lodewijk had one son, Johann (1740–1792), who worked as a tenor in the same musical establishment, and gave lessons on piano and violin to supplement his income. Johann married Maria Magdalena Keverich in 1767; she was the daughter of Johann Heinrich Keverich, who had been the head chef at the court of the Archbishopric of Trier.

Beethoven was born of this marriage in Bonn. There is no authentic record of the date of his birth; however, the registry of his baptism, in a Roman Catholic service at the Parish of St. Regius on December 17, 1770, survives. As children of that era were traditionally baptized the day after birth in the Catholic Rhine country, and it is known that Beethoven’s family and his teacher Johann Albrechtsberger celebrated his birthday on December 16, most scholars accept December 16, 1770, as Beethoven’s date of birth. Of the seven children born to Johann van Beethoven, only Ludwig, the second-born, and two younger brothers, Caspar Anton Carl and Nikolaus Johann , survived infancy.

Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age. and his first music teacher was his father, but the boy had other local teachers: the court organist Gilles van den Eeden (d. 1782); Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer, a family friend, who taught Beethoven the piano; and Franz Rovantini, a relative, who instructed him in playing the violin and viola. Beethoven’s musical talent was obvious at a young age. Johann, aware of Leopold Mozart’s successes in this area with son Wolfgang and daughter Nannerl, attempted to exploit his son as a child prodigy, claiming that Beethoven was six when he was seven on the posters for Beethoven’s first public performance in March 1778.

Some time after 1779, Beethoven began his studies with his most important teacher in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was appointed the Court’s Organist in that year. Neefe taught Beethoven composition, and by March 1783 had helped him write his first published composition, a set of keyboard variations (WoO 63). Beethoven soon began working with Neefe as assistant organist, at first unpaid (1781), and then as a paid employee (1784) of the court chapel conducted by the Kapellmeister Andrea Luchesi. His first three piano sonatas, named “Kurfürst” (“Elector”) for their dedication to the Elector Maximilian Frederick (1708–1784), were published in 1783. Maximilian Frederick noticed Beethoven’s talent early, and subsidized and encouraged the young man’s musical studies.

In March 1787 Beethoven traveled to Vienna for the first time, apparently in the hope of studying with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The details of their relationship are uncertain, including whether or not they actually met. After just two weeks Beethoven learned that his mother was severely ill, and returned home. His mother died shortly thereafter, and his father lapsed deeper into alcoholism. As a result, Beethoven became responsible for the care of his two younger brothers, and he spent the next five years in Bonn. Beethoven was introduced to several people who became important in his life in these years, including Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, who became a lifelong friend and financial supporter. In 1789 Beethoven obtained a legal order by which half of his father’s salary was paid directly to him for support of the family.

From 1790 to 1792, Beethoven composed a significant number of works (none were published at the time, and most are now listed as works without opus) that demonstrated his growing range and maturity. Beethoven was probably first introduced to Joseph Haydn in late 1790, when the latter was traveling to London and stopped in Bonn around Christmas time. They met in Bonn on Haydn’s return trip from London to Vienna in July 1792, and it is likely that arrangements were made at that time for Beethoven to study with the old master. With the Elector’s help, Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying with Haydn. Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna in November 1792, amid rumors of war spilling out of France, and learned shortly after his arrival that his father had died.

Beethoven did not immediately set out to establish himself as a composer, but rather devoted himself to study and performance. Working under Haydn’s direction, he sought to master counterpoint. He also studied violin under Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Early in this period, he also began receiving occasional instruction from Antonio Salieri, primarily in Italian vocal composition style; this relationship persisted until at least 1802, and possibly 1809. By 1793, Beethoven established a reputation as an improviser in the salons of the nobility, often playing the preludes and fugues of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. With Haydn’s departure for England in 1794, Beethoven was expected by the Elector to return home. He chose instead to remain in Vienna, continuing his instruction in counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger and other teachers.

Although his stipend from the Elector expired, a number of Viennese noblemen had already recognised his ability and offered him financial support, among them Prince Joseph Franz Lobkowitz, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, and Baron Gottfried van Swieten. Beethoven’s friend Nikolaus Simrock began publishing his compositions; the first are believed to be a set of variations (WoO 66). Establishing a reputation in Vienna as a piano virtuoso, Beethoven apparently withheld works from publication so that their publication in 1795 would have greater impact following his first public performance in Vienna in March 1795, a concert in which he first performed one of his piano concertos. Shortly after this performance, he arranged for the publication of the first of his compositions to which he assigned an opus number, the three piano trios, Opus 1. Around 1796, by the age of 26, Beethoven began to lose his hearing.

In May 1799, Beethoven taught piano to the daughters of Hungarian Countess Anna Brunsvik. He composed his first six string quartets (Op. 18) between 1798 and 1800, commissioned by, and dedicated to, Prince Lobkowitz. They were published in 1801. He also continued to write in other forms, turning out widely known piano sonatas like the “Pathétique” sonata (Op. 13). He also completed his Septet (Op. 20) in 1799, which was one of his most popular works during his lifetime. With premieres of his First and Second Symphonies in 1800 and 1803, Beethoven became regarded as one of the most important of a generation of young composers following Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven had few other students. From 1801 to 1805, he tutored Ferdinand Ries, who went on to become a composer. The young Carl Czerny studied with Beethoven from 1801 to 1803. In the spring of 1801 he completed The Creatures of Prometheus, a ballet.

As early as 1801, Beethoven wrote to friends describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings. On the advice of his doctor, Beethoven lived in the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, from April to October 1802 in an attempt to come to terms with his condition. There he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide due to his growing deafness and records his resolution to continue living for and through his art. Perhaps Beethoven’s most important aristocratic patron was Archduke Rudolph, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II, who in 1803 or 1804 began to study piano and composition with Beethoven. Over time, his hearing loss became profound. Beethoven’s hearing loss did not prevent his composing music, but it made playing at concerts—a lucrative source of income—increasingly difficult. His position at the Theater an der Wien was terminated when the theater changed management in early 1804, and he was forced to move temporarily to the suburbs of Vienna with his friend Stephan von Breuning.

Beethoven’s return to Vienna from Heiligenstadt was marked by a change in musical style, and is now designated as the start of his “Middle” or “Heroic” period. The first major work employing this new style was the Third Symphony in E flat, known as the “Eroica” (1805). The middle period work includes the Third through Eighth Symphonies, the Rasumovsky, Harp and Serioso string quartets, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, Christ on the Mount of Olives, the opera Fidelio, the Violin Concerto and many other compositions. The French occupation of Vienna slowed work on Fidelio, his largest work to date, for a time. It was delayed again by the censors, and finally premiered in November 1805. In the Autumn of 1808, after having been rejected for a position at the royal theatre, Beethoven received an offer from Napoleon’s brother Jérôme Bonaparte, then king of Westphalia, for a well-paid position as Kapellmeister at the court in Cassel. To persuade him to stay in Vienna, the Archduke Rudolph, Prince Kinsky and Prince Lobkowitz, after receiving representations from the composer’s friends, pledged to pay Beethoven a pension of 4000 florins a year.

During May 1809, when the attacking forces of Napoleon bombarded Vienna, according to Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven, very worried that the noise would destroy what remained of his hearing, hid in the basement of his brother’s house, covering his ears with pillows. In the spring of 1811 Beethoven became seriously ill, suffering headaches and high fever. On the advice of his doctor, he spent six weeks in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz. The following winter, which was dominated by work on the Seventh symphony, he was again ill, and his doctor ordered him to spend the summer of 1812 at the spa Teplitz. After a failed attempt in 1811 to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor”), which was premiered by his student Carl Czerny, he never performed in public again. Despite his obvious distress, Czerny remarked that Beethoven could still hear speech and music normally until 1812. In early 1813 Beethoven apparently went through a difficult emotional period, and his compositional output dropped, but was finally motivated to begin significant composition again in June 1813, when news arrived of the defeat of one of Napoleon’s armies at Vitoria, Spain, by a coalition of forces under the Duke of Wellington. This news stimulated him to write the battle symphony known as Wellington’s Victory which was performed in early 1814.

The following summer he composed a piano sonata for the first time in five years (No. 27, Opus 90). This work was in a markedly more Romantic style than his earlier sonatas. By 1814, Beethoven was almost totally deaf. As a result of Beethoven’s hearing loss, his conversation books are an unusually rich written resource. Used primarily in the last ten or so years of his life, his friends wrote in these books so that he could know what they were saying, and he then responded either orally or in the book. The books contain discussions about music and other matters, and give insights into Beethoven’s thinking; they are a source for investigations into how he intended his music should be performed, and also his perception of his relationship to art. Beethoven was also one of many composers who produced music in a patriotic vein to entertain the many heads of state and diplomats who came to the Congress of Vienna that began in November 1814. His output of songs included his only song cycle, “An die ferne Geliebte,” and the extraordinarily expressive second setting of the poem “An die Hoffnung” (Op. 94) in 1815.

Between 1815 and 1817 Beethoven’s output dropped again. Beethoven attributed part of this to a lengthy illness (he called it an “inflammatory fever”) that afflicted him for more than a year, starting in October 1816. About this time, Beethoven began a renewed study of older music, including works by J. S. Bach and Handel, that were then being published in the first attempts at complete editions. He composed the overture The Consecration of the House, which was the first work to attempt to incorporate these influences. A new style emerged, now called his “Late period”. He returned to the keyboard to compose his first piano sonatas in almost a decade: the works of the Late period are commonly held to include the last five piano sonatas and the Diabelli Variations, the last two sonatas for cello and piano, the late string quartets, and two works for very large forces: the Missa Solemnis and the Ninth Symphony.

By early 1818 Beethoven’s health had improved, and his nephew moved in with him in January. On the downside, his hearing had deteriorated to the point that conversation became difficult, necessitating the use of conversation books. Two commissions in 1822 improved Beethoven’s financial prospects. The Philharmonic Society of London offered a commission for a symphony, and Prince Nikolas Golitsin of St. Petersburg offered to pay Beethoven’s price for three string quartets. The first of these commissions spurred Beethoven to finish the Ninth Symphony, which was first performed, along with the Missa Solemnis, on May 7, 1824, to great acclaim at the Kärntnertortheater. The fourth movement of this Ninth Symphony features an elaborate choral setting of Schiller’s Ode An die Freude (“Ode to Joy”), an optimistic hymn championing the brotherhood of humanity. There is a well-attested story that, at the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience; hearing nothing, he wept.

Beethoven then turned to writing the string quartets for Golitsin. This series of quartets, known as the “Late Quartets,” went far beyond what musicians or audiences were ready for at that time. Beethoven wrote the last quartets amidst failing health. In April 1825 he was bedridden, and remained ill for about a month. The illness—or more precisely, his recovery from it—is remembered for having given rise to the deeply felt slow movement of the Fifteenth Quartet, which Beethoven called “Holy song of thanks (‘Heiliger Dankgesang’) to the divinity, from one made well.” He went on to complete the quartets now numbered Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth. The last work completed by Beethoven was the substitute final movement of the Thirteenth Quartet, which replaced the difficult Grosse Fuge. Shortly thereafter, in December 1826, illness struck again, with episodes of vomiting and diarrhea that nearly ended his life. Beethoven was bedridden for most of his remaining months, and many friends came to visit. He died on March 26, 1827, at the age of 56 during a thunderstorm.

Beethoven is acknowledged as one of the giants of classical music; occasionally he is referred to as one of the “three Bs,” along with Bach and Brahms, who epitomize that tradition. He was also a pivotal figure in the transition from the 18th century musical classicism to 19th century romanticism, and his influence on subsequent generations of composers was profound. Beethoven composed in several musical genres and for a variety of instrument combinations. His works for symphony orchestra include nine symphonies (the Ninth Symphony includes a chorus), and about a dozen pieces of “occasional” music. He wrote seven concerti for one or more soloists and orchestra, as well as four shorter works that include soloists accompanied by orchestra. His only opera is Fidelio; other vocal works with orchestral accompaniment include two masses and a number of shorter works.

His large body of compositions for piano includes 32 piano sonatas and numerous shorter pieces, including arrangements of some of his other works. Works with piano accompaniment include 10 violin sonatas, 5 cello sonatas, and a sonata for French horn, as well as numerous lieder. Beethoven also wrote a significant quantity of chamber music. In addition to 16 string quartets, he wrote five works for string quintet, seven for piano trio, five for string trio, and more than a dozen works for various combinations of wind instruments. In his Early period, Beethoven’s work was strongly influenced by his predecessors Haydn and Mozart. His Middle (Heroic) period began shortly after Beethoven’s personal crisis brought on by his recognition of encroaching deafness. Beethoven’s Late period began around 1815. Works from this period are characterized by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal expression.

My collection contains the following orchestral works by Beethoven:

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage cantata, op. 112.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in CM, op. 15.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano Concerto) No. 2 in BbM, op. 19.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in cm, op. 37.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano Concerto) No. 4 in GM, op. 58.
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano Concerto) No. 5 in EbM, op. 73, “Emperor.”
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano Concerto) No. 6 in DM, op. 61a, version of Violin Concerto in DM.
Concerto in CM for violin, cello, and piano, op. 56, “Triple.”
Consecration of the House: Overture, Chorus.
Coriolan: Overture to in cm, op. 62.
The Creatures of Prometheus ballet, op. 43: Overture and Selections
Egmont Overture in fm, op. 84.
Fidelio Overture, op. 72b.
Lenore Overture No. 1, op. 138.
Lenore Overture No. 2, op. 72.
Lenore Overture No. 3, in CM, op. 72a.
Leonore Prohaska, Wo0 96: Funeral March.
Minuet of Congratulations, Wo0 3.
“Namensfeier” Overture, op. 115.
Romance for Violin No. 1 in GM, op. 40.
Romance for Violin and Orchestra (Violin Romance) No. 2 in FM, op. 50.
The Ruins of Athens: Overture, op. 113′ Turkish March, op. 113 no. 4; March and Chorus, op. 114.
St. Stephen, op. 117: Overture.
Symphony No. 1 in CM, op. 21.
Symphony No. 2 in DM, op. 36.
Symphony No. 3 in EbM, op. 55, “Eroica.”
Symphony No. 4 in BbM, op. 60.
Symphony No. 5 in cm, op. 67.
Symphony No. 6 in FM, op. 68, Pastoral.
Symphony No. 7 in AM, op. 92.
Symphony No. 8 in FM, op. 93.
Symphony No. 9 in dm, op. 125, “Choral.”
Tarpeja, Wo0 2: Triumphal March.
Violin Concerto in DM, op. 61.

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Bela Bartok and the Concerto for Orchestra

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Béla Viktor János Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer and pianist who is considered one of the most important composers of the twentieth century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary’s greatest composer. Béla Bartók was born in the small Banatian town of Nagyszentmiklós in the Kingdom of Hungary, part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, but since 1920 in Romania, on March 25, 1881. His family reflected some of the ethno-cultural diversities of the country. The father, Béla Sr., considered himself thoroughly Hungarian, but his mother, born Paula Voit, was from a Roman Catholic Serbian family. Béla displayed notable musical talent very early in life: according to his mother, he could distinguish between different dance rhythms that she played on the piano before he learned to speak in complete sentences. By the age of four, he was able to play forty pieces on the piano, and his mother began formally teaching him the next year.

Béla was a small and sickly child and suffered from severe eczema until the age of five. In 1888, when he was seven, his father, the director of an agricultural school, died suddenly. Béla’s mother then took him and his sister, Erzsébet, to live in Vinogradiv, Ukraine, and then to Bratislava, Slovakia, where Béla gave his first public recital at age eleven to a warm critical reception. Among the pieces he played was his own first composition, written two years previously: a short piece called “The Course of the Danube.” Shortly thereafter László Erkel accepted him as a pupil. From 1899 to 1903, Bartók studied piano under István Thomán, a former student of Franz Liszt, and composition under János Koessler at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest. There he met Zoltán Kodály, who influenced him greatly and became his lifelong friend and colleague. In 1903, Bartók wrote his first major orchestral work, Kossuth, a symphonic poem which honored Lajos Kossuth, hero of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

The music of Richard Strauss, whom he met in 1902 at the Budapest premiere of Also sprach Zarathustra, strongly influenced his early work. When visiting a holiday resort in the summer of 1904, Bartók overheard a young nanny, Lidi Dósa from Kibéd in Transylvania, sing folk songs to the children in her care. This sparked his lifelong dedication to folk music. From 1907 he also began to be influenced by the French composer Claude Debussy, whose compositions Kodály had brought back from Paris. Bartók’s large-scale orchestral works were still in the style of Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss, but he wrote a number of small piano pieces which showed his growing interest in folk music. The first piece to show clear signs of this new interest is the String Quartet No. 1 in A minor (1908), which contains folk-like elements.

In 1907, Bartók began teaching as a piano professor at the Royal Academy. This position freed him from touring Europe as a pianist and enabled him to work in Hungary. Among his notable students were Fritz Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, György Sándor, Ernő Balogh, and Lili Kraus. In 1908, he and Kodály traveled into the countryside to collect and research old Magyar folk melodies. Their growing interest in folk music coincided with a contemporary social interest in traditional national culture. They made some surprising discoveries. Magyar folk music had previously been categorised as Gypsy music. The classic example is Franz Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano, which he based on popular art songs performed by Romani bands of the time. In contrast, Bartók and Kodály discovered that the old Magyar folk melodies were based on pentatonic scales, similar to those in Asian folk traditions, such as those of Central Asia, Anatolia and Siberia.

Bartók and Kodály quickly set about incorporating elements of such Magyar peasant music into their compositions. They both frequently quoted folk song melodies verbatim and wrote pieces derived entirely from authentic songs. An example is his two volumes entitled For Children for solo piano, containing eighty folk tunes to which he wrote accompaniment. Bartók’s style in his art music compositions was a synthesis of folk music, classicism, and modernism. His melodic and harmonic sense was profoundly influenced by the folk music of Hungary, Romania, and other nations. He was especially fond of the asymmetrical dance rhythms and pungent harmonies found in Bulgarian music. Most of his early compositions offer a blend of nationalist and late Romanticism elements.

In 1909 at the age of 28, Bartók married Márta Ziegler (1893–1967), aged 16. Their son, Béla III, was born on August 22, 1910. In 1911, Bartók wrote what was to be his only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, dedicated to Márta. He entered it for a prize by the Hungarian Fine Arts Commission, but they rejected his work as not fit for the stage. After his disappointment over the Fine Arts Commission competition, Bartók wrote little for two or three years, preferring to concentrate on collecting and arranging folk music. He collected first in the Carpathian Basin, then in the Kingdom of Hungary, where he notated Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian, and Bulgarian folk music. He also collected in Moldavia, Wallachia, and in 1913 in Algeria. The outbreak of World War I forced him to stop the expeditions; and he returned to composing, writing the ballet The Wooden Prince (1914–16) and the String Quartet No. 2 in (1915–17), both influenced by Debussy.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, by his early adulthood Bartók had become an atheist. He believed that the existence of God could not be determined and was unnecessary. He later became attracted to Unitarianism and publicly converted to the Unitarian faith in 1916. In 1917 Bartók revised the score of Bluebeard’s Castle for the 1918 première, and rewrote the ending. Following the 1919 revolution, he was pressured by the new Soviet government to remove the name of the librettist Béla Balázs from the opera, as he was blacklisted and had left the country for Vienna. Bartók wrote another ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin influenced by Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, as well as Richard Strauss. It was started in 1918, but not performed until 1926 because of its content. He next wrote his two violin sonatas, in 1921 and 1922 respectively, which are harmonically and structurally some of his most complex pieces. After nearly 15 years together, Bartók divorced Márta in June 1923. Two months later he married Ditta Pásztory (1903–1982), a piano student, ten days after proposing to her. She was aged 19, he 43. She had their son, Péter, born in 1924.

In 1927–28, Bartók wrote his third and fourth string quartets, after which his compositions demonstrated his mature style. Notable examples of this period are Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) and Divertimento for String Orchestra BB 118 (1939). The String Quartet No. 5 was composed in 1934, and the sixth and last string quartet in 1939. After the Nazis came to power in the early 1930s, Bartók refused to give concerts in Germany and broke with his publisher there. His anti-fascist political views caused him a great deal of trouble with the establishment in Hungary. In 1936 he travelled to Turkey to collect and study folk music. He worked in collaboration with Turkish composer Ahmet Adnan Saygun mostly around Adana. Bluebeard’s Castle received only one revival, in 1936, before Bartók emigrated. For the remainder of his life, although he was passionately devoted to Hungary, its people and its culture, he never felt much loyalty to the government or its official establishments.

In 1940, as the European political situation worsened after the outbreak of World War II, Bartók was increasingly tempted to flee Hungary. He was strongly opposed to the Nazis and Hungary’s siding with Germany. Having first sent his manuscripts out of the country, Bartók reluctantly emigrated to the U.S. with his wife Ditta in October that year. They settled in New York City. After joining them in 1942, their son, Péter Bartók, enlisted in the United States Navy where he served in the Pacific during the remainder of the war and later settled in Florida where he became a recording and sound engineer. His oldest son, Béla Bartók, Jr., remained in Hungary. Bartók never became fully at home in the US. He initially found it difficult to compose. Although well known in America as a pianist, ethnomusicologist and teacher, he was not well known as a composer. There was little American interest in his music during his final years. He and his wife Ditta gave some concerts, although demand for them was low. Bartók, who had made some recordings in Hungary, also recorded for Columbia Records after he came to the US.

Supported by a research fellowship from Columbia University, for several years, Bartók and Ditta worked on a large collection of Serbian and Croatian folk songs in Columbia’s libraries. Bartók’s economic difficulties during his first years in America were mitigated by publication royalties, teaching and performance tours. While his finances were always precarious, he did not live and die in poverty as was the common myth. He had enough supporters to ensure that there was sufficient money and work available for him to live on. Bartók was a proud man and did not easily accept charity. Despite being short on cash at times, he often refused money that his friends offered him out of their own pockets. Although he was not a member of the ASCAP, the society paid for any medical care he needed during his last two years. Bartók reluctantly accepted this.

The first symptoms of his health problems began late in 1940, when his right shoulder began to show signs of stiffening. In 1942, symptoms increased and he started having bouts of fever, but no underlying disease was diagnosed, in spite of medical examinations. Finally, in April 1944, leukemia was diagnosed, but by this time, little could be done. As his body slowly failed, Bartók found more creative energy, and he produced a final set of masterpieces, partly thanks to the violinist Joseph Szigeti and the conductor Fritz Reiner. Bartók’s last work might well have been the String Quartet No. 6 but for Serge Koussevitzky’s commission for the Concerto for Orchestra. Koussevitsky’s Boston Symphony Orchestra premièred the work in December 1944 to highly positive reviews. In 1944, he was also commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin to write a Sonata for Solo Violin. In 1945, Bartók composed his Piano Concerto No. 3, a graceful and almost neo-classical work, as a surprise 42nd birthday present for Ditta, but he died just over a month before her birthday, with the scoring not quite finished. He had sketched his Viola Concerto, but had barely started the scoring at his death. Béla Bartók died at age 64 in a hospital in New York City from complications of leukemia (specifically, of secondary polycythemia) on September 26, 1945.

My collection includes the following orchestral works by Bartok:

Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116/BB 123 (1944).
Dance Suite, Sz 77 (1923).
Divertimento, Sz 113 (1939).
Hungarian Sketches, Sz97/BB103.
The Miraculous Mandarin: Suite, Sz 73/Op. 19 (1919).
Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste, Sz 106 (1930’s).
Piano Concerto No. 1, Sz 83 (1926).
Piano Concerto No. 2, Sz 95 (1931).
Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz 119 (1945).
Romanian Folk Dances, Sz 68/BB 76.

Giuseppe Sammartini and his Harpsichord Concerto in AM

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Giuseppe Baldassare Sammartini (January 6, 1695 – November, 1750) was an Italian composer and oboist during the late Baroque and early Classical era. Born in Milan, Italy, he had a younger brother, Giovanni Battista Sammartini, who also became a particularly renown composer and oboist. Both brothers took oboe lessons from their French father Alexis Saint-Martin. Sammartini was an exceptionally skilled oboist. He also knew how to play the flute and recorder, as was customary at the time. Before moving to London, Giuseppe was the oboist at S. Celso in Milan around 1717. Then he became the oboist at the Regio Ducal Teatro in 1720.

Although he was born in Milan, Giuseppe found his success in other parts of Europe. His first trip was to Brussels, and from there he made his way to London where he would go on to spend the rest of his life. Giuseppe did return to Milan for his sister Madalena’s marriage on February 13, 1728. In July of 1728 Giuseppe also travelled again to Brussels with his pupil Gaetano Parenti. However, most of his professional life was spent in London and with Frederick, the Prince of Wales. He gained fame in London as “the greatest [oboist] the world had ever known,” performing in places such as Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Hickford’s Room, Castle concerts, and in the opera orchestra at the King’s Theatre. As an oboist, Giuseppe was unbelievably successful, and significantly advanced the level of oboe playing. Giuseppe was even able to make the oboe sound voice-like at times. One of his most notable students was the Englishman Thomas Vincent.

As a composer, Sammartini was well versed in the ways of counterpoint and proper harmony. This made him a very skilled composer of his time. One of Giuseppe’s first collections to be published was a set of 12 trio sonatas. It was published in London by Walsh & Hare. Sammartini’s career as a composer advanced when he was hired as the music master for the Prince of Wales, Frederick, and his wife Augusta. He worked for them and their children from 1736 until his death in 1750. While working for the family Sammartini dedicated many works to the different members of the family. His 12 sonatas op. 1 were dedicated to Frederick, and his 12 trios op. 3 to Augusta. Sammartini was clearly very attached to this family, writing everything from these wonderful collections to simple birthday tunes for the children.

Most of Sammartini’s chamber music was played and re-published regularly during his life. However, many of the concertos and overtures that Sammartini wrote were not published until after his death, but then gained wide acceptance, even more than other Italian composers such as Corelli. Although Sammartini wrote in a later Baroque style, he also incorporated many Classical elements. Sammartini was clearly forward thinking as a composer, and even used ideas such as a galant style and “Sturm und Drang,” (the idea of extreme and stormy emotions). Another example of this would be the number of movements in some of his concertos and symphonies. Being primarily an instrumental composer, Sammartini wrote a significant amount of solo sonatas. Due to his professional instrument, many of these sonatas were written for the flute, recorder, and oboe. One of his unique idioms was starting a sonata with a slow movement.

Sammartini’s larger orchestral works often featured four to five movements with slow transitional movements. Giuseppe Sammartini was one of the first composers to write keyboard sonatas in England, causing him to be an exceptionally influential composer for his time. His works include 24 sonatas for flute and bass, 30 trios for flutes or violins, 24 concerti grossi, 4 keyboard concertos, 1 oboe concerto, 16 overtures, some cello sonatas, some flute duets. His most famous piece is most likely his Recorder Concerto in F. My collection includes one piece by Sammartini:

Concerto in AM for Harpsichord, Strings, and Basso Continuo, op. 9, no. 1.

Samuel Barber and the Overture to School for Scandal

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Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. Barber was born in West Chester, PA, into a comfortable, educated, social, and distinguished American family, the son of Marguerite McLeod (née Beatty) and Samuel Le Roy Barber. His father was a physician, and his mother, called Daisy, was a pianist of English-Scottish-Irish descent whose family had lived in the United States since the time of the Revolutionary War. His aunt, Louise Homer, was a leading contralto at the Metropolitan Opera and his uncle, Sidney Homer, was a composer of American art songs. Louise Homer is known to have influenced Barber’s interest in voice. Through his aunt, Barber had access to many great singers and songs.

At a very early age, Barber became profoundly interested in music, and it was apparent that he had great musical talent and ability. He began studying the piano at the age of 6 and at age 7 composed his first work, Sadness, a 23 measure solo piano piece in C minor. Barber attempted to write his first opera, entitled The Rose Tree, at the age of 10. At the age of 12 he became an organist. When he was 14, he entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied piano with Isabelle Vengerova, composition with Rosario Scalero, and voice with Emilio de Gorgoza. He began composing seriously in his late teenage years. Around the same time, he met fellow Curtis schoolmate Gian Carlo Menotti . At the Curtis Institute, Barber was a triple prodigy in composition, voice, and piano. He soon became a favorite of the conservatory’s founder, Mary Louise Curtis Bok. It was through Mrs. Bok that Barber was introduced to his lifelong publisher, the Schirmer family. At the age of 18, Barber won the Joseph H. Bearns Prize from Columbia University for his violin sonata Fortune’s Favorite Child (now lost or destroyed by the composer).

From his early to late twenties, Barber wrote a flurry of successful compositions, launching him into the spotlight of the classical music world. His first orchestral work, the overture to The School for Scandal, was composed in 1931 when he was 21 years old. It premiered successfully two years later in a performance given by the Philadelphia Orchestra under conductor Alexander Smallens. Many of his compositions were commissioned or first performed by such famous artists as Vladimir Horowitz, Eleanor Steber, Raya Garbousova, John Browning, Leontyne Price, Pierre Bernac, Francis Poulenc, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In 1933, after reading the poem “Prometheus Unbound” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Barber composed the tone poem Music for a Scene from Shelley, Op. 7. In 1935, when the work was premiered at Carnegie Hall, it was the first time the composer heard one of his orchestral works performed publicly. That same year, at the age of 25, he was awarded the American Prix de Rome and was the recipient of a Pulitzer traveling scholarship which allowed him to study abroad in 1935-1936. He was later awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946.

When Barber was 28, his Adagio for Strings was performed by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Arturo Toscanini in 1938, along with his first Essay for Orchestra. The Adagio had been arranged from the slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet, Op. 11. Barber served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, where he was commissioned to write his Second Symphony, a work he later suppressed. Composed in 1943, the symphony was originally titled Symphony Dedicated to the Air Forces and was premiered in early 1944 by Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Barber revised the symphony in 1947, which was published by G. Schirmer, and recorded the following year by the New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by the composer, but Barber subsequently destroyed the score in 1964. It was reconstructed from the instrumental parts. Among his other works are his four concertos, one each for Violin (1939), Cello (1945) and Piano (1962), and also the neoclassical Capricorn Concerto for flute, oboe, trumpet and string orchestra. All of these works contain highly virtuosic writing.

Barber won the Pulitzer Prize twice: in 1958 for his first opera Vanessa, and in 1963 for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Barber garnered performances by the world’s leading conductors such as Artur Rodziński, Eugene Ormandy, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Bruno Walter, Charles Münch, George Szell, Leopold Stokowski, and Thomas Schippers, but spent many years in isolation after the harsh rejection of his third opera Antony and Cleopatra. The opera was written for and premiered at the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House on September 16, 1966. After this setback, Barber continued to write music until he was almost 70 years old. Barber’s music in his later years would be lauded as reflective and contemplative, but without the morbidity or unhappiness of other composers who knew they had a limited time to live. The Third Essay for Orchestra (1978) was his last major work, and his final opus was the Canzonetta for oboe and string orchestra (1979/1981). Barber died of cancer in 1981 in New York City at the age of 70.

The following orchestral works by Barber are included in my collection:

Adagio for Strings, op. 11 (1936/7).
Capricorn Concerto, op. 21.
Cello Concerto, op. 22 (1945).
Commando March in EbM (1943).
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 38 (Piano Concerto, 1962).
Die Natale, op. 37 (1960).
Essay No. 1 for Orchestra, op. 12 (First Essay, 1938).
Essay No. 2 for Orchestra, op. 17 (Second Essay, 1942).
Essay No. 3 for Orchestra, op. 47 (Third Essay, 1976).
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for soprano and orchestra, op. 24 (1948).
Medea: Ballet Suite, op. 23 (1947).
Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, op. 29a (1955).
Music for a Scene from Shelley, op. 7 (1933).
Overture to The School for Scandal (School for Scandal Ov.), op. 5.
Serenade for Strings, op. 1 (1928).
Souvenirs, op. 28 (1952) : Ballet Suite.
Symphony No. 1 in one movement, op. 9 (1937).
Symphony No. 2, op. 19 (1943).
Toccata Festiva, op. 36 (1960).
Violin Concerto, op. 14 (1940).

Roy Douglas and his orchestrations of Chopin’s music for “Les Sylphides”

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Richard Roy Douglas (born December 12, 1907) is a British composer, pianist and arranger. He worked as musical assistant to Richard Addinsell, William Walton, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, made well-known orchestrations of works such as Les Sylphides (based on piano pieces by Chopin) and Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, and wrote a quantity of original music. Born at Royal Tunbridge Wells, Roy Douglas was self-taught in music. He gained experience writing film scores with Karma (1933) and Dick Turpin (1933). He also assisted people such as Mischa Spoliansky on The Ghost Goes West (1935), Arthur Benjamin on Wings of the Morning (1937), Anthony Collins on Sixty Glorious Years (1938), Nicholas Brodzsky on Freedom Radio (aka A Voice in the Night, 1941) and Tomorrow We Live (aka At Dawn We Die, 1943), Noël Coward in In Which We Serve (1942), John Ireland in The Overlanders (1946), and Walter Goehr in Great Expectations (1946).

In 1937 Roy Douglas first worked with Richard Addinsell, on the score for Dark Journey. They went on to work on such films as Victoria the Great (1937), The Lion Has Wings (1939), Gaslight (1940), Old Bill and Son (1941), Dangerous Moonlight (1941, aka Suicide Squadron, which contained the famous Warsaw Concerto), Love on the Dole (1941), This England (1941), This Is Colour (1942), The Big Blockade (1942), The Day Will Dawn (aka The Avengers, 1942) and The New Lot (1943). The extent of his involvement in Addinsell’s scores is somewhat unclear. Some sources suggest Addinsell had good musical ideas but no skills in orchestration, and that Douglas’s role was much more than a mere assistant or copyist.

Douglas also worked for a long period with William Walton. This collaboration started in November 1940, on the film score for Major Barbara. He later worked on Went the Day Well?, Next of Kin, The First of the Few (1942) and Henry V (1944). He generally orchestrated the shorter sections of Walton’s film scores, based on Walton’s jottings on two or three staves, and according to specific instructions or in Walton’s style. Walton was commissioned to write the score for The Bells Go Down, but declined and instead offered it to Roy Douglas to write his own music. Douglas and Ernest Irving helped Walton complete the ballet The Quest by his birthday, March 29, 1943, in time for its premiere performance only a week later. Walton arranged the Valse from Facade for piano, but all other piano arrangements from the score were made by others, including Douglas, Constant Lambert, Herbert Murrill, and Mátyás Seiber. Douglas worked with Walton on the revised version of Belshazzar’s Feast. The vocal score of Troilus and Cressida was largely the work of Roy Douglas, assisted by Franz Reizenstein in Act III.

From 1947 until the elder composer’s death in 1958, Roy Douglas worked as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s musical assistant and amanuensis. His job included producing legible copies of Vaughan Williams’s scores, and in the process he identified numerous issues of orchestration needing resolution, deciphered Vaughan Williams’s often illegible handwriting, and made various suggestions for improvement, most of which were accepted. They worked together on symphonies nos. 6-9, the opera The Pilgrim’s Progress, the Tuba Concerto, and other works. In this way he was able to produce manuscripts that were even more authoritative than the composer’s originals, since all issues of notation had been discussed and clarified with the composer himself. Sometimes Douglas’s involvement with Vaughan Williams’ works became more than that of a mere assistant, as in the orchestral suite arranged in 1952 from his 1949 cantata Folk Songs of the Four Seasons.

As composer, Douglas’s own works include some chamber music; Six Dance Caricatures for winds (1939); Two Scottish Tunes for strings (1939); Elegy for strings (1945); Cantilena for strings (1957); and Festivities and A Nowell Sequence for strings (1991); as well as scores for five feature and six documentary films and music for 32 radio programs. However, he is best known as the orchestrator of Frédéric Chopin’s piano pieces for the ballet Les Sylphides (1936). It is said that these arrangements were written to improve on what he considered “very bad orchestrations” of Chopin’s music.

My collection includes one work by Douglas:

Les Sylphides, ballet after Chopin.

Mily Balakirev and “Islamey”

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Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev (January 2, 1837–May 29, 1910) was a Russian pianist, conductor and composer known today primarily for his work promoting musical nationalism and his encouragement of more famous Russian composers. Born at Nizhny Novgorod into a poor clerk’s family, he received his first lessons in music from his mother and at the age of four was able to reproduce tunes on the piano. His non-musical education began at the Nizhny Novgorod Gymnasium. When he was ten his mother took him to Moscow during the summer holidays for a course of ten piano lessons with Alexander Dubuque, a pupil of the Irish pianist and composer John Field. After his mother’s death, Balakirev was transferred from the Gymnasium to the Alexandrovsky Institute, where he boarded. Balakirev’s musical talents did not remain unnoticed, as he soon found a patron in Alexander Ulybyshev (Oulibicheff), who was considered the leading musical figure and patron in Nizhny Novgorod as owner of a vast musical library and the author of a biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Balakirev’s musical education was placed in the hands of the pianist Karl Eisrach, who also arranged the regular musical evenings at the Ulybyshev estate. Through Eisrach, Balakirev was given opportunities to read, play and listen to music and was exposed to the music of Frédéric Chopin and Mikhail Glinka. Eisrach and Ulybyshev also allowed Balakirev to rehearse the count’s private orchestra in rehearsals of orchestral and choral works. Eventually, Balakirev, still aged only 14, led a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. At 15 he was allowed to lead rehearsals of Ludwig van Beethoven’s First and Eighth Symphonies. His earliest surviving compositions date from the same year—the first movement of a septet for flute, clarinet, piano and strings and a Grande Fantasie on Russian Folksongs for piano and orchestra.

Balakirev left the Alexandrovsky Institute in 1853 and entered the University of Kazan as a mathematics student, along with his friend P.D. Boborikin, who later became a novelist. He was soon noted in local society as a pianist and was able to supplement his limited finances by taking pupils. His holidays were spent either at Nizhny Novgorod or on the Ulybyshev country estate at Lukino, where he played numerous Beethoven sonatas to help his patron with his book on the composer. Works from this period include a piano fantasy based on themes from Mikhail Glinka’s opera A Life for the Tsar, an attempt at a string quartet, three songs which would eventually be published in 1908 and the opening movement (the only one completed) of his First Piano Concerto.

After Balakirev completed his courses in the late autumn of 1855, Ulybyshev took him to Saint Petersburg, where he met Glinka. Glinka thought highly of his talent, encouraging him to take up music as a career. Their acquaintance was marked by discussions, by Glinka passing several Spanish musical themes to Balakirev, and with Glinka entrusting the young man with the musical education of his four-year-old niece. Balakirev made his debut in a university concert in February 1856, playing the completed movement from his First Piano Concerto. This was followed a month later with a concert of his piano and chamber compositions. In 1858 he played the solo part in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto before the Tsar. In 1859 he had 12 songs published. Nevertheless, he was still in extreme poverty, supporting himself mainly by giving piano lessons (sometimes nine a day) and by playing at soirees given by the aristocracy.

The deaths of Glinka in 1857 and Ulybyshev the following year left Balakirev without influential supporters. Nevertheless, his time with Glinka had sparked a passion for Russian nationalism within Balakirev, leading him to adopt the stance that Russia should have its own distinct school of music, free from Southern and Western European influences. He had also started meeting other important figures who would abet him in this goal in 1856, including César Cui, Alexander Serov, the Stasov brothers and Alexander Dargomyzhsky. He now gathered around him composers with similar ideals, whom he promised to train according to his own principles. These included Modest Mussorgsky in 1858; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in November 1861 and Alexander Borodin in November or December 1862. Together with Cui, these men were described by noted critic Vladimir Stasov as “a mighty handful,” but they eventually became better known in English simply as The Five.

Balakirev began a second piano concerto in the summer of 1861, with a slow movement thematically connected with a requiem that occupied him at the same time. He did not finish the opening movement until the following year, then set aside the work for 50 years. The formation of The Five paralleled the early years of Tsar Alexander II, a time of innovation and reform in the political and social climate of Russia. The Russian Musical Society (RMS) and the musical conservatories in St. Petersburg and Moscow were all established at this time. While these institutions had powerful champions in Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, others feared the influence of German instructors and musical precepts into Russian classical music. Balakirev’s sympathies and closest contacts were in the latter camp. Balakirev was outspoken in his opposition to Anton Rubinstein’s efforts. This opposition was partly ideological and partly personal. The pro-Conservatory followers publicly called The Five “amateurs”—a justified charge, as Balakirev was the only professional musician of the group.

To counteract these criticisms and to aid in the creation of a distinctly “Russian” school of music, Balakirev and Gavriil Lomakin, a local choirmaster, founded the Free School of Music in 1862. Like the RMS, the Free School offered concerts as well as education. Unlike the RMS, the Free School offered music education at no charge to students. The school also emphasized singing, especially choral singing, to meet the demands of the Russian Orthodox Church. Lomakin was appointed director, with Balakirev serving as his assistant. To raise funds for the school, Balakirev conducted orchestral concerts between 1862 and 1867, while Lomakin conducted choral ones. These concerts offered less conservative programming musically than the RMS concerts. They included the music of Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky, and the first works of The Five.

Balakirev spent the summer of 1862 in the Caucasus, mainly in Essentuki, and was impressed enough by the region to return there the following year and in 1868. He noted down folk tunes from that region and from Georgia and Iran; these tunes would play an important part in his musical development. One of the first compositions to show this influence was his setting of Alexander Pushkin’s “Georgian song”, while a quasi-oriental style appeared in other songs. In 1864, Balakirev completed his Second Overture on Russian Themes that same year, which was performed that April at a Free School concert. In 1866, Balakirev’s Collection of Russian Folksongs was published. He also started a Symphony in C major, of which he completed much of the first movement, scherzo and finale by 1866.

Balakirev sketched and partly orchestrated an Overture on Czech Themes. This work would be performed at a May 1867 Free School concert given in honor of Slav visitors to the All-Russian Ethnographical Exhibition in Moscow. He began the original version of Islamey in August 1869, finishing it a month later. Nikolai Rubinstein premiered the “oriental fantasy,” which Balakirev considered a sketch for his later symphonic poem Tamara, that December. Balakirev also intermittently spent time editing Glinka’s works for publication, on behalf of the composer’s sister, Lyudmilla Shestakova. Balakirev encouraged Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin to complete their first symphonies, whose premieres he conducted in December 1865 and January 1869 respectively. He also conducted the first performance of Mussorgsky’s The Destruction of Sennacherib in March 1867 and the Polonaise from Boris Godunov in April 1872.

When Lomakin resigned as director of the Free Music School in February 1868, Balakirev took his place there. When Anton Rubinstein relinquished directorship of the RMS concerts in 1867, Balakirev was suggested to replace him. The conservative patron for the RMS, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, agreed. However, Balakirev’s uncompromising nature caused tension at the RMS, and his preference for modern repertoire earned him the enmity of Elena Pavlovna. In 1869, she informed him that his services were no longer required. The week after Balakirev’s dismissal, an impassioned article in his defense appeared in The Contemporary Chronicle. The author was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Balakirev had conducted Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem Fatum and the “Characteristic Dances” from his opera The Voyevoda at the RMS, and Fatum had been dedicated to Balakirev. Balakirev helped Tchaikovsky produce his first masterpiece, the fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet. After Romeo and Juliet, the two men drifted apart as Balakirev took a sabbatical from the music world.

Once he had left the RMS, Balakirev concentrated on building attendance for concerts of the Free Music School. He decided to recruit popular soloists and found Nikolai Rubinstein ready to help. Elena Pavlovna was furious. She decided to raise the social level of the RMS concerts by attending them personally with her court. This rivalry caused financial difficulties for both concert societies as RMS membership declined and the Free Music School continued to suffer from chronic money troubles. Soon the Free Music School could not pay Balakirev and had to cut its 1870-71 series short. Balakirev then hoped that a solo recital in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod in September 1870 would restore his reputation and prove profitable. Neither happened.

In the spring of 1871, rumors circulated that Balakirev had suffered a nervous breakdown. He took a five-year break from music, and withdrew from his musical friends. In his mental state, he neglected to give up his post as director of the Free Music School, and the directors of the school were at a loss as to what to do. He finally resigned in 1874 and was replaced by Rimsky-Korsakov. Financial distress forced Balakirev to become a railway clerk on the Warsaw railroad line in July 1872. In 1876, Balakirev slowly began reemerging into the music world, but without the intensity of his former years. In 1881, Balakirev was offered the directorship of the Moscow Conservatory, along with the conductorship of the Moscow branch of the Russian Musical Society. Perhaps keeping in mind his experience with the Saint Petersburg branch of the Russian Musical Society years earlier, he declined the position. Instead, he resumed the directorship of the Free School of Music.

In 1882 Balakirev finished Tamara. In 1883, he was appointed director of the Imperial Chapel; Rimsky-Korsakov eventually became his assistant. He held this post until 1895, when he took his final retirement and composed in earnest. Between 1895 and 1910 he completed two symphonies, a piano sonata and two movements of his Second Piano Concerto, along with republishing his collection of folk-song arrangements. Balakirev resumed musical Tuesday gatherings at his home by the 1880s. Unlike his earlier days, when he played works in progress at gatherings of The Five, Balakirev composed in isolation. Balakirev died on May 29, 1910, and was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg.

The following works by Balakirev are included in my collection:

Islamey, Oriental Fantasy (1869/1902; orch. Liapunov).
Symphony No. 1 in CM (1897).
Tamara, Tone Poem (1882).

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and his oboe concerti

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Carl (or Karl) Philipp Emanuel Bach (March 8, 1714–December 14, 1788) was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara Bach. His second name was given in honor of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, a friend of Emanuel’s father. He was one of four Bach children to become a professional musician; all four were trained in music almost entirely by their father. Born at Weimar in 1714, he entered the St. Thomas School at Leipzig, where his father had become cantor in 1723, when he was ten years old. Like his brothers, Emanuel pursued advanced studies in jurisprudence at the University of Leipzig (1731) and continued further study of law at Frankfurt (1735). In 1738, at the age of 24, he obtained his degree but turned his attention at once to music.

A few months after graduation, Bach, armed with a recommendation by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, obtained an appointment at Berlin in the service of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, the future Frederick the Great. Upon Frederick’s accession in 1740 Emanuel became a member of the royal orchestra. He was by this time one of the foremost clavier-players in Europe, and his compositions, which date from 1731, include about thirty sonatas and concert pieces for harpsichord and clavichord. During his time there, Berlin was a rich artistic environment, where Bach mixed with many accomplished musicians, including several notable former students of his father, and important literary figures, such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, with whom the composer would become close friends.

In Berlin Bach continued to write numerous pieces for solo keyboard, including a series of character pieces, the so-called “Berlin Portraits”, including La Caroline. His reputation was established by the two published sets of sonatas which he dedicated respectively to Frederick the Great and to the grand duke of Württemberg. In 1746 he was promoted to the post of chamber musician, and served the king alongside colleagues like Carl Heinrich Graun, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Franz Benda. However, the composer who most influenced Bach’s maturing style was unquestionably his father. He also drew creative inspiration from his godfather Telemann, then working in Hamburg, and from contemporaries like George Frideric Handel and Joseph Haydn. In turn, Bach’s work influenced the work of, among others, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

During his residence in Berlin Bach composed a fine setting of the Magnificat (1749); an Easter cantata (1756); several symphonies and concerted works; at least three volumes of songs; and a few secular cantatas and other occasional pieces. But his main work was concentrated on the clavier, for which he composed, at this time, nearly two hundred sonatas and other solos, including the set Mit veränderten Reprisen (1760–1768) and a few of those für Kenner und Liebhaber. Also, while in Berlin Bach placed himself in the forefront of European music with a treatise, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments). Emanuel Bach married Johanna Maria Dannemann in 1744. Only three of their children lived to adulthood – Johann Adam (1745–89), Anna Carolina Philippina (1747–1804) and Johann Sebastian “the Younger” (1748–78).

In 1768 Bach succeeded his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann as director of music at Hamburg. Upon his release from service at the court he was named court composer for Frederick’s sister, Princess Anna Amalia. Her patronage and interest in the oratorio genre may have played a role in nurturing the ambitious choral works that followed. Thus, Bach began to turn more of his energies to choral music in his new position. The job required the steady production of music for Protestant church services at the Michaeliskirche (Church of St. Michael) and elsewhere in Hamburg. The following year he produced his oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste (The Israelites in the Desert). Between 1768 and 1788 he wrote twenty-one settings of the Passion, and some seventy cantatas, litanies, motets, and other liturgical pieces. In Hamburg he also presented a number of works by contemporaries, including his father, Telemann, Graun, Handel, Haydn, Salieri and Johann David Holland.

Bach’s choral output reached its apex in two works: the double chorus Heilig (Holy, Holy, Holy) of 1776, a setting of the seraph song from the throne scene in Isaiah, and the grand cantata Die Auferstehung Jesu (The Resurrection of Jesus) of 1774-1782, which sets a poetic Gospel harmonization by the poet Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725-1798). Widespread admiration of Auferstehung led to three 1788 performances in Vienna sponsored by the Baron Gottfried van Swieten and conducted by Mozart. Bach died in Hamburg on December 14, 1788. He was buried in the Michaeliskirche (Church of St. Michael) in Hamburg.

Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father’s baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’, stands in deliberate contrast to the more mannered rococo style also then in vogue. Through the later half of the 18th century, the reputation of C. P. E. Bach stood very high. His name fell into neglect during the 19th century, but the revival of Bach’s works has been underway since Helmuth Koch’s rediscovery and recording of his symphonies in the 1960s, and Hugo Ruf’s recordings of his keyboard sonatas. The works of C.P.E. Bach came to be known by their Wq numbers (from Alfred Wotquenne’s 1906 catalogue). They are now also known by their H numbers, from a new catalogue by Eugene Helm (1989).

I have the following works by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach in my collection:

Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepiano.
Concerto for Oboe, Strings, and Basso Continuo in EbM (#2), Wq 21, No. 165.
Concerto for Oboe, Strings, and Basso Continuo in BbM (#1), Wq 21, No. 164.
Sonata for Oboe, (Strings,) and Basso Continuo in gm, Wq 13, No. 135.