Franz Liszt and “Les Preludes”

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Franz (Hungarian: Ferencz) Ritter von Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, teacher and Franciscan tertiary. The earliest known ancestor of Liszt, his great-grandfather Sebastian List, was one of the thousands of German migrant serfs locally migrating within the Austrian Empire’s territories around the area now constituting Lower Austria and Hungary in the first half of the 18th century. Franz was born to Anna Liszt (née Maria Anna Lager) and Adam Liszt on October 22, 1811, in the village of Doborján (German: Raiding) in Sopron County, in the Kingdom of Hungary. Liszt’s father played the piano, violin, cello, and guitar. He was employed as a steward in the service of Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy and knew Haydn, Hummel and Beethoven personally. At age six, Franz began listening attentively to his father’s piano playing and showed an interest in both sacred and Romani music. Adam began teaching him the piano at age seven, and Franz began composing in an elementary manner when he was eight. He appeared in concerts at Sopron and Pressburg (Hungarian: Pozsony; present-day Bratislava, Slovakia) in October and November 1820 at age 9. After the concerts, a group of wealthy sponsors offered to finance Franz’s musical education abroad.

In Vienna, Liszt received piano lessons from Carl Czerny and studied composition with Antonio Salieri, who was then music director of the Viennese court. Liszt’s public debut in Vienna on December 1, 1822, at a concert at the “Landständischer Saal,” was a great success. He was greeted in Austrian and Hungarian aristocratic circles and also met Beethoven and Schubert. In spring 1823, when the one-year leave of absence came to an end, Adam Liszt asked Prince Esterházy in vain for two more years. Adam Liszt therefore took his leave of the Prince’s services. At the end of April 1823, the family returned to Hungary for the last time.

At the end of May 1823, the family went to Vienna again. Towards the end of 1823 or early 1824, Liszt’s first composition to be published, his Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli (now S. 147), appeared as Variation 24 in Part II of the anthology Vaterländischer Künstlerverein, commissioned by Anton Diabelli. Liszt’s inclusion in the Diabelli project—he was described in it as “an 11 year old boy, born in Hungary”—was almost certainly at the instigation of Czerny, his teacher and also a participant. Liszt was the only child composer in the anthology. At the age of 12, Liszt traveled with his father to Paris to seek admittance to the Paris Conservatory. The admissions council denied him a place in the school on the grounds that he was a foreigner. His father, ever determined, turned to Ferdinando Paer and Anton Reicha to teach his son advanced composition. It was during this time that Liszt wrote his first and only opera, the one-act Don Sanche, along with some bravura piano pieces. A visit to London in 1824 was a triumph, crowned by a private concert before George IV. The next two years brought constant travel through much of Europe, financial rewards, and the premieres of a stream of juvenile works.

After his father’s death in 1827, Liszt, just sixteen,remained in Paris; for the next five years he was to live with his mother in a small apartment. He gave up touring. To earn money, Liszt gave lessons in piano playing and composition, often from early morning until late at night. His students were scattered across the city and he often had to cover long distances. Because of this, he kept uncertain hours. The following year he fell in love with one of his pupils, Caroline de Saint-Cricq, the daughter of Charles X’s minister of commerce. However, her father insisted that the affair be broken off. Liszt fell very ill, and he underwent a long period of religious doubts and pessimism. During this period, Liszt read widely to overcome his lack of a general education, and he soon came into contact with many of the leading authors and artists of his day, including Victor Hugo, Alphonse de Lamartine, and Heinrich Heine. He composed practically nothing in these years. Nevertheless, the July Revolution of 1830 inspired him to sketch a Revolutionary Symphony based on the events of the “three glorious days,” and he took a greater interest in events surrounding him. He met Hector Berlioz on December 4, 1830. Berlioz’s music made a strong impression on Liszt, especially later when he was writing for orchestra. He also inherited from Berlioz the diabolic quality of many of his works.

After attending an April 20, 1832, charity concert, for the victims of a Parisian cholera epidemic, by Niccolò Paganini, Liszt became determined to become as great a virtuoso on the piano as Paganini was on the violin. In 1833 he made transcriptions of several works by Berlioz, including the Symphonie fantastique. He was also forming a friendship with a third composer who influenced him, Frédéric Chopin; under his influence Liszt’s poetic and romantic side began to develop. In 1833, at the age of 22, Liszt began his relationship with the Countess Marie d’Agoult. In 1834, Liszt debuted his piano compositions “Harmonies poétiques et religieuses” and a set of three “Apparitions.” In 1835 the countess left her husband and family to join Liszt in Geneva; their daughter Blandine was born there on December 18. Liszt taught at the newly founded Geneva Conservatory, wrote a manual of piano technique, and contributed essays for the Paris Revue et gazette musicale. For the next four years, Liszt and the countess lived together, mainly in Switzerland and Italy, where their daughter, Cosima, was born in Como, with occasional visits to Paris. On May 9, 1839, Liszt’s and the countess’s only son, Daniel, was born.

For the next eight years Liszt continued to tour Europe, spending holidays with the countess and their children on the island of Nonnenwerth on the Rhine in summers 1841 and 1843. In spring 1844 the couple finally separated. This was Liszt’s most brilliant period as a concert pianist. After 1842, “Lisztomania” swept across Europe. . In his travels he also met many musicians and composers, from Clara and Robert Schumann in Leipzig to Mikhail Glinka in Moscow and Richard Wagner (then penniless and virtually unknown) in Weimar. The reception Liszt enjoyed as a result can be described only as hysterical. Women fought over his silk handkerchiefs and velvet gloves, which they ripped to shreds as souvenirs. Adding to his reputation was the fact that Liszt gave away much of his proceeds to charity and humanitarian causes. In fact, Liszt had made so much money by his mid-forties that virtually all his performing fees after 1857 went to charity. In February 1847, Liszt played in Kiev. There he met the Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who was to become one of the most significant people in the rest of his life. She persuaded him to concentrate on composition, which meant giving up his career as a travelling virtuoso. After a tour of the Balkans, Turkey and Russia that summer, Liszt gave his final concert for pay at Elisavetgrad in September.

The following year, Liszt took up a long-standing invitation of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia to settle at Weimar, where he had been appointed Kapellmeister Extraordinaire in 1842, remaining there until 1861. During this period he acted as conductor at court concerts and on special occasions at the theatre. He gave lessons to a number of pianists, including the great virtuoso Hans von Bülow, who married Liszt’s daughter Cosima in 1857; years later, she would marry Richard Wagner. He also wrote articles championing Berlioz and Wagner. Finally, Liszt had ample time to compose and during the next twelve years revised or produced those orchestral and choral pieces upon which his reputation as a composer mainly rested. His efforts on behalf of Wagner, who was then an exile in Switzerland, culminated in the first performance of Lohengrin in 1850. Liszt began to concentrate on a higher mission, the creation of new musical forms. His most famous achievement during this time was the creation of what would become known as the symphonic poem, a type of orchestral musical piece that illustrates or evokes a poem, a story, a painting, or other nonmusical source. For the next 10 years, Liszt’s radical and innovative works found their way into the concert halls of Europe, winning him staunch followers and violent adversaries. Princess Carolyne lived with Liszt during his years in Weimar. She wished to marry Liszt, but eventually she declined.

On June 23, 1857, Liszt joined the Third Order of St. Francis. The 1860s were a period of great sadness in Liszt’s private life. On December 13, 1859, he lost his 20-year-old son Daniel, and on September 11, 1862, his 26-year-old daughter Blandine also died. In letters to friends, Liszt afterwards announced that he would retreat to a solitary living. He found it at the monastery Madonna del Rosario, just outside Rome, where on June 20, 1863, he took up quarters in a small, Spartan apartment. On some occasions, Liszt took part in Rome’s musical life. On March 26, 1863, at a concert at the Palazzo Altieri, he directed a programme of sacred music. On April 25, 1865, he received the tonsure at the hands of Cardinal Hohenlohe. On July 31, 1865, he received the four minor orders of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. After this ordination he was often called Abbé Liszt. On January 4, 1866, Liszt directed the “Stabat mater” of his “Christus-Oratorio”, and on February 26, 1866, his “Dante Symphony”.

In 1866, Liszt composed the Hungarian coronation ceremony for Franz Joseph and Elisabeth of Bavaria (Latin: Missa coronationalis). The Mass was first performed on June 8, 1867 at the coronation ceremony in the Matthias Church by Buda Castle in a six-section form. Liszt was invited back to Weimar in 1869 to give master classes in piano playing. Two years later he was asked to do the same in Budapest at the Hungarian Music Academy. From then until the end of his life he made regular journeys between Rome, Weimar and Budapest, continuing what he called his “vie trifurquée” or threefold existence. By the end of the decade Liszt had written a series of devotional works, including The Legend of Saint Elizabeth, and had permanently adopted the wearing of a cassock. On August 14, 1879, he was made an honorary canon of Albano. Liszt fell down the stairs of a hotel in Weimar on July 2, 1881. Though friends and colleagues had noted swelling in his feet and legs when he had arrived in Weimar the previous month (an indication of possible congestive heart failure), he had been in good health up to that point and was still fit and active. He was left immobilized for eight weeks after the accident and never fully recovered from it. A number of ailments manifested—dropsy, asthma, insomnia, a cataract of the left eye and heart disease.

Liszt continued, however, to work on new compositions, and in later years, he established the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest. Liszt’s works in his later years were simpler in form, yet more extreme in harmony. His heart problems eventually contributed to Liszt’s death. He became increasingly plagued by feelings of desolation, despair and preoccupation with death—feelings which he expressed in his works from this period. He died in Bayreuth, Germany, on July 31, 1886, at the age of 74, officially as a result of pneumonia, which he may have contracted during the Bayreuth Festival hosted by his daughter Cosima. He was buried on August 3, 1886, in the municipal cemetery of Bayreuth in accordance with his wishes. Composer Camille Saint-Saëns, an old friend, whom Liszt had once called “the greatest organist in the world”, dedicated his Symphony No. 3 “Organ Symphony” to Liszt; it had premiered in London only a few weeks before his death.

Liszt was a prolific composer. By his death, he had written more than 700 compositions. He is best known for his piano music, but he wrote extensively for many media. Because of his background as a technical piano virtuoso, Liszt’s piano works are often marked by their difficulty. Liszt is very well known as a programmatic composer, or an individual who bases his compositional ideas in extra-musical things such as a poetry or painting. Liszt is credited with the creation of the symphonic poem, which is a programmatic orchestral work that generally consists of a single movement. The best known of the symphonic poems are Ce qu’on entend sur la montagne, based on Victor Hugo; Les Préludes, based on Lamartine; works based on Byron’s Tasso and Mazeppa; and Prometheus, along with the so-called Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches after Goethe and the Symphony to Dante’s Divina Commedia. Other orchestral works include two episodes from Lenau’s Faust, the second the First Mephisto Waltz (to which a second was added 20 years later, in 1881). Liszt wrote two piano concertos, and, among other works for piano and orchestra, Totentanz (‘Dance of Death’) and Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies. Six of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, written for piano, were effectively arranged for orchestra by Franz Doppler and revised by Liszt.Liszt’s compositional style delved deeply into issues of unity both within and across movements. For this reason, in his most famous and virtuosic works, he is an archetypal Romantic composer. Liszt pioneered the technique of thematic transformation, a method of development which was related to both the existing variation technique and to the new use of the Leitmotif by Richard Wagner.

My collection contains the following works by Franz Liszt:

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Piano Concerto) No. 1 in EbM, S. 124 (1855).
Concerto for Piano (Piano Concerto) No. 2 in AM, S. 125 (1861).
Fantasy on Beethoven’s The Ruins of Athens for Piano and Orchestra (1846).
From the Cradle to the Grave, Symphonic Poem No. 13 (1882).
Grand Fantaisie symphonique on Berlioz’s Lelio for Piano and Orchestra (1834).
Hungarian Battle March.
Hungarian Fantasy [for piano and orchestra], S. 123.
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1 in fm (orig. 14).
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in dm.
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 3 in dm (orig. 6).
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 in dm (orig. 12).
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 in em.
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 in DM (orig. 9), Carnival of Pest.
Le Triomphe Funebre du Tasse: Epilogue to Tasso, No. 3 of Trois Odes Funebres (1866).
Les Preludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3 (1854).
Malediction for Piano and Orchestra (1827).
Mazeppa, Symphonic Poem No. 6.
Mephisto Waltz after Lenau’s Faust.
Orpheus, Symphonic Poem No. 4.
Rakoczy March.
Tasso: Lamento e trionfo, Symphonic Poem No. 2 (1849).
Todentanz, Paraphrase on the Dies Irae [for piano and orchestra], S. 126 (1859.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Franz Lehar and “The Merry Widow”

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Franz (Hungarian: Ferenc) Lehár (April 30, 1870–October 24, 1948) was an Austro-Hungarian composer, the most prominent figure of the early twentieth century Viennese operetta revival, ranking among history’s greatest composers in the genre. While he composed other kinds of music, he is mainly known for his operettas, of which the most successful and best known is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe). Lehár was born on April 30, 1870, in the northern part of Komárom, Kingdom of Hungary, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Komárno, Slovakia), the eldest son of Franz Lehár senior (1838–1888), an Austrian bandmaster in the Infantry Regiment No. 50 of the Austro-Hungarian Army, composer, and horn player with roots in the Czech-German Sudetenland, and Christine Neubrandt (1849–1906), a Hungarian woman from a family of German descent. He grew up speaking only Hungarian until the age of 12. Later he put a diacritic above the “a” of his father’s name “Lehar” to indicate the long vowel in Hungarian phonology.

While his younger brother Anton entered cadet school in Vienna to become a professional officer, Franz studied violin and composition at the Prague Conservatory, where his violin teacher was Antonín Bennewitz, but when he was tempted to pursue a career as a soloist he was advised by Antonín Dvořák to focus on composing music. After graduation in 1888 he was hired as a violinist in a Rhineland theater orchestra, then was drafted into the military and joined his father’s band in Vienna, first as violinist and then as assistant bandmaster, and following in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps, he began a long career as a military bandmaster, composing marches, waltzes, and dances. His first opera, produced in 1896, was a failure, but in1902 he became conductor at the historic Vienna Theater an der Wien, where his first operetta Wiener Frauen was performed in November of that year.

Lehar’s first operettas, with the exception of Der Rastelbinder (The Tinker), were not terribly successful. Though most famous for his operettas, he also wrote sonatas, symphonic poems, marches, and a number of waltzes, the most popular being Gold und Silber, composed for Princess Pauline von Metternich’s “Gold and Silver” Ball, January 1902, some of which were drawn from his famous operettas. His greatest success on the stage came with The Merry Widow in 1905 with libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, that created a new style of Viennese operetta. Individual songs from some of the operettas have become standards, notably “Vilja” from The Merry Widow and “You Are My Heart’s Delight” (“Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”) from The Land of Smiles (Das Land des Lächelns). Der Mann mit den drei Frauen (The Man with Three Wives), Der Graf von Luxemburg (The Count of Luxembourg), and Zigeunerliebe (Gypsy Love) were all given in 1908 and cemented Lehár’s success.

As Lehár became better known, his stage works became ever more ambitious, and he began to draw on the musical resources of contemporary grand opera, particularly the works of Puccini, in his scores. During the First World War he again conducted music for the military. After the war, Viennese opera declined in popularity as new kinds of popular music took over the scene, including blues and American popular dance tunes. Instead of acknowledging defeat, Lehár tried to incorporate these new elements into the Viennese genre. The result was more successes, leaving the world a legacy of some thirty stage works, besides numerous songs and orchestral items.

Lehár’s success in the 1920s was also due to his association with the operatic tenor Richard Tauber, who sang in many of his operettas, beginning with Zigeunerliebe (in 1920) and Frasquita (1922), in which Lehár once again found a suitable post-war style. Lehár made a brief appearance in the 1930 film adaptation The Land of Smiles starring Tauber. Between 1925 and 1934 he wrote six operettas specifically for Tauber’s voice. Lehár’s best operettas from the postwar period include Der Zarewitsch (The Tsarevitch) of 1927 and Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles) of 1929. Lehár also began composing film scores and producing filmed versions of his operettas. Giuditta, based upon the biblical story of Judith, was his final opera, produced in 1934. Written for the Vienna Staatsoper, its dramatic content and music helped blur the distinction between serious opera and the lighter genre, which was on the wane. An ambitious work, it was broadcast by 120 radio companies.

By 1935 Lehaar decided to form his own publishing house, Glocken-Verlag (Publishing House of the Bells), to maximize his personal control over performance rights to his works. Lehár’s relationship with the Nazi regime was an uneasy one. He had always used Jewish librettists for his operas and had been part of the cultural milieu in Vienna which included a significant Jewish contingent. Further, although Lehár was Roman Catholic, his wife, Sophie (née Paschkis) had been Jewish before her conversion to Catholicism upon marriage, and this was sufficient to generate hostility towards them personally and towards his work. In 1929 and 1934, Lehar had conducted for Odeon records creator recordings from The Land of Smiles and Giuditta, starring Richard Tauber, Vera Schwarz and Jarmila Novotna. A 1942 Vienna broadcast of his operetta Paganini conducted by the composer has survived, starring soprano, Ester Rėthy and tenor, Karl Friedrich. A 1942 Berlin radio production of Zigeunerliebe with Herbert Ernst Groh, conducted by Lehár, also survives.

Hitler enjoyed Lehár’s music, and hostility diminished across Germany after Goebbels’s intervention on Lehár’s part. In 1938 Mrs. Lehár was given the status of “Ehrenarierin” (honorary Aryan by marriage). Nonetheless, attempts were made at least once to have her deported. On January 12, 1939, and April 30, 1940, Lehár personally received awards by Hitler in Berlin and Vienna, including the Goethe-Medaille für Kunst und Wissenschaft. The Nazi regime was aware of the uses of Lehár’s music for propaganda purposes: concerts of his music were given in occupied Paris in 1941. Even so, Lehár’s influence was limited: it is said that he tried personally to secure Hitler’s guarantee of the safety of one of his librettists, Fritz Löhner-Beda, but he was not able to prevent the murder of Beda in Auschwitz. Lehár remained in Vienna during the Second World War, staying aloof from politics, and thus only briefly attracted the attention of Allied anti-fascist investigators after the war. In 1947, Lehár conducted the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich in a series of 78-rpm recordings for English Decca of overtures and waltzes from his operettas. Lehár died, aged 78, on October 24, 1948, in Bad Ischl, near Salzburg, and was buried there.

The following works by Franz Lehar are included in my collection:

Ballsirenen Waltz, on themes from The Merry Widow (1905).
Eva Waltz.
Giuditta (1934) Waltz.
Gold and Silver Waltz (1902).
Gypsy Love Waltz.
Luxenbourg Waltz, on themes from The Count of Luxembourg (1909).
Where the Lark Sings Waltz.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Be informed: What Girl Scouts USA does with their cookie ‘dough’

On January 28, 2014, the American Family Association reported the following:

As Girl Scouts USA begins its annual cookie sale, I am asking you to consider what the organization supports with all that dough.

Christy Volanski is the mother of two former Girl Scouts who created the website Speak Now Girl Scouts to expose the link between the group and the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

Recently, Christy wrote a very telling article for LifeSiteNews, What Every Pro-Lifer Needs to Know About The Girl Scouts’ Link to Planned Parenthood.

(The article can be read at http://www.lifenews.com/2013/12/04/what-every-pro-lifer-needs-to-know-about-the-girl-scouts-link-to-planned-parenthood/ )

As Christy clearly outlines in her article, “GSUSA will try to assure you that all the proceeds from cookie sales stay local to benefit girls in their community.” What they fail to mention is that GSUSA makes millions of dollars each year through licensing fees paid by the baker. It’s money like this that goes to promote the Girl Scout’s partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Just this month, the Girl Scouts came under fire for tweeting a link to a news story and video that praises pro-abortion Texas state senator Wendy Davis (D-Texas.)

It’s hard to say no to those little girls in the green and brown sashes, but buying Girl Scout cookies serves only to further facilitate a very liberal pro-abortion agenda.

When they knock on your door, just say, “No, thank you.” No explanation is needed.

Wayne here: I’m not necessarily advocating any particular action, just passing along this information for everyone’s benefit.

Ernesto Lecuona and “Malaguena”

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Ernesto Lecuona y Casado (August 6, 1895 [some sources give 1896] – November 29, 1963) was a Cuban composer and pianist of worldwide fame, the most important musician in Cuban musical life during the first half of the 20th century, who composed over six hundred pieces, mostly in the Cuban vein, and was a pianist of exceptional skill. His father was Canarian and his mother was Cuban. Born at Guanabacoa, a small suburban village across the bay from Havana, Cuba, on August 6, 1895, but for an unexplained reason he actually observed his birthday as August 7, 1896, he started studying piano at an early age, under his sister Ernestina Lecuona, a famed composer in her own right, and gave a public recital at the age of five. All five children in the Lecuona family were musically gifted, four as pianists and one son as a violinist. At just seven years old, the sudden disappearance of his father, director of the periodical “El Comercio”, forced him to help contribute to his family’s income by playing piano in the first silent theatres of the capital.

As a child prodigy, Ernesto composed his first song at the age of 11, a two-step titled Cuba y America. From 1904 to 1907, he studied at the Peyrellade Conservatoire under Antonio Saavedra and the famous Joaquin Nin, where he struck up a strong friendship with the young Rita Montaner, who would soon become a central figure of Cuban poetry. Between 1908 and 1909 he worked at the Teatro Martì, where, particularly attracted to opera, he put on his first musical comedy, Fantasia Tropical. In 1912 he composed his first ballet, La comparsa, which marks the beginning of his most original musical pursuits. Lecuona graduated from the National Conservatory of Havana, where he studied piano and composition with Hubert de Blanck, the Dutch composer who migrated to Havana, receiving a Gold Medal for interpretation when he was sixteen. And he performed outside of Cuba at the Aeolian Hall in New York City, NY in 1916, making his first public appearance outside of Havana. A year later he recorded his first record, which included Vals España and La comparsa.

In 1918, having returned to Cuba, Lecuona opened the “Instituto Musical de La Habana”. Also in 1918 Lecuona collaborated with Luis Casas Romero, Moisés Simons, Jaime Prats, Nilo Menéndez, and Vicente Lanz in setting up a successful player piano music roll factory in Cuba producing Cuban music and also copies from masters made by QRS in the USA. The brand label was “Rollo Autógrafo.” In 119, he wrote his first professional opera, Domingo de Piñata, which was performed at the Teatro Martì with lyrics by Mario Vitoria. A few years later, Lecuona achieved international success as a pianist in 1923, once more in New York. Also in 1923, Lecuona performed the Concierto Tipico Cubano for the first time at the “Teatro Nacional.” However, thanks to the huge success of pieces like Malaguena from his Andalucía Suite (1927) and Siboney, composition superceded pianism as Lecuona’s primary activity

Still, Lecuona continued to actively tour and perform widely as pianist and conductor for most of his life. Among Lecuona’s many achievements was the founding of the Havana Symphony (with Gonzalo Roig). Lecuona also formed a dance band called Orquesta Cubana, which mainly performed arrangements of popular Cuban dance pieces and songs. The group quickly became well known and made many tours of the United States, Europe, and South America. Ironically, Lecuona was not the band’s pianist. That role was left to Armando Fichin Oréfiche, a skilled artist and composer in his own right who also did some of the group’s musical arrangements. Lecuona first travelled to Spain in 1924 on a concert tour with violinist Marta de la Torre. His successful piano recitals in 1928 at Paris in the “Gaveau Hall”, an exclusive space for famous composers and performers, coincided with a rise in interest in Cuban music. He then decided on further musical studies, taking in France, from Maurice Ravel. Lecuona was a prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film, writing a great deal of film music in the ’30s and ’40s for such major studios as MGM, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers. In 1931 alone, he turned out three: Under Cuban Skies, Free Soul, and Susana Lenox, all for MGM.

Besides eleven film scores, Lecuona’s works consisted of zarzuelas such as Rosa la china (1932), 170-odd piano pieces, Afro-Cuban and Cuban rhythms, 37 orchestral works including suites, five ballets, an opera, six pieces for piano and orchestra, three violin works, a trio, a number of incidental arrangements, and many songs–over 400, which are still very famous. They include Siboney (Canto Siboney), Malagueña and The Breeze And I (Andalucía). In 1934, during a tour in Spain, following a lengthy bout of pneumonia, Lecuona was forced to withdraw from the dance band on the advice of doctors and return to Cuba for health reasons. The group was thereafter known as the Lecuona Cuban Boys, a popular touring group to which Lecuona gave not only the use of his name but other help as well. Though he did not play as a member of the band, he did sometimes play piano solos as the first item on the bill. In 1942, his great hit, Always in my heart (Siempre en mi Corazon) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song; however, it lost to White Christmas. Lecuona was a master of the symphonic form and conducted the Ernesto Lecuona Symphonic Orchestra, employing soloists including Cuban pianist and composer Carmelina Delfin. The Orchestra performed in the Cuban Liberation Day Concert at Carnegie Hall on October 10, 1943. The concert included the world premiere of Lecuona’s Black Rhapsody. One of his more popular postwar film efforts was for the 1947 movie Carnival in Costa Rica.

Lecuona’s talent for composition has influenced the Latin American world in a way quite similar to George Gershwin in the United States, in his case raising Cuban music to classical status. He wrote in an approachable, often popular style, especially in his songs, and exhibited Latin and Afro-Cuban elements in his music. In some of his later compositions, he wrote in a more serious, somewhat neo-Classical style. He returned to Cuba after living for a long period in New York City, but following the Communist takeover, in 1960, Lecuona, thoroughly unhappy with Castro’s new régime, moved to Tampa and lived with relatives in the home of singer Esperanza Chediak. Lecuona lived his final years in the US. Three years after settling in America, on November 23, 1963, he died at the age of 68 while on a trip in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, as a result of an attack of asthma, a disorder which had persecuted him his entire life. He was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY, but his will instructs that his remains be repatriated once the current régime runs its course. A great deal of Lecuona’s music was first introduced to mass American audiences by Desi Arnaz, a fellow Cuban and Lucille Ball’s spouse.

My collection contains the following works by Ernesto Lecuona:

Andalucia, Suite Espagnola (1919): Gitanerias, Andalusia, Malaguena, Cordoba, and Guadalquivir.
Danza Lucumi.
Danzas Afro-Cubanos (Set III, 1930).
In ¾ Time.
Jungle Drums.
La Comparasa (1913).
La Tierra de Venus: Siboney.
Rhapsodias Negra (1943).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Oscar L. Fernandez and “Batuque”

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Oscar Lorenzo Fernández (November 4. 1897- August 27, 1948) was a Brazilian composer and leading academic, born of Spanish descent in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 4, 1897, and considered one of the most prominent and promising of the generation of Brazilian composers following the great Heitor Villa-Lobos. As a child he received music lessons from his sister. In 1917 he entered the Instituto Nacional de Música where he took harmony, counterpoint, and fugue lessons with Francisco Braga, Frederico Nascimento, and Henrique Oswald. In 1923, Nascimento was taken seriously ill, and Fernández was designated his temporary substitute in the chair of upper-level harmony, an appointment which became permanent two years later. In the early 1920s he helped found the Sociedade de Cultura Musical. His early style, from 1918 to 1922, was originally a form of Impressionism (i.e., the French-based style developed by Claude Debussy). Among his output of this period are the award-winning Noturno Op. 3 and Prelúdios do Crepúsculo Op. 15. However, during the 1920s, Fernandez abandoned writing music based on the European style and delved deeply into Brazilian folk traditions as the basis for a musical nationalism encouraged by the example of Villa-Lobos and the institution of a strongly nationalist government in Brazil.

The second period of Fernandez, from 1922 to 1938, was the period of his high production. Some of Fernandez’s most engaging works are mestizo in style, combining European and native Brazilian elements. Examples of his mature nationalism are Suite sinfônica, which makes use of material from two Bahia folksongs and a well-known known Brazilian lullaby; and Imbapara, using melodies collected from the Parecis Indians of Mato Grosso. Fernandez composed a three-act opera, Malazarte (1931-33), a nationalist work in both its subject matter and its musical content, to a libretto by José Pereira Graça Aranha, who adapted it from his own play of the same title. For the premiere at the Teatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro, the libretto was translated into Italian. It is considered the first successful Brazilian opera of this type with the characters based on types found in traditional Brazilian stories.

In 1936 Fernandez founded the Conservatório Brasiliero de Música in Rio de Janeiro, which he directed until his death. From 1939 onward, he also served as Professor of Choral Singing at the Conservatório Nacional de Canto Orfeônico. In 1941 Fernández extracted a three-movement suite from Malazarte, which was titled Reisado do pastoreio (Pageant of the Manger). The last movement, “Batuque,” a Brazilian folk dance of African origin, became very popular and gained an independent musical life. The dance involves singing and dancing, with rhythms being marked by stamping, clapping and slapping, and drumming. (Some sources say that there are actually two different pieces called “Batuque”—one from the opera and the other from the suite.) His third period, from 1942 to 1948, was a synthesis of the previous ones, being more universalist than nationalist. He also composed one ballet named Amaya, two symphonies, five symphonic poems, two orchestral suites, one concerto each for piano and for violin, chamber music, about 80 compositions for piano, choral music, and 36 songs for voice and piano the best most-known of which is Toada pra Você. He composed music for a wide range of ensembles, becoming most noted for his vocal music, both songs and opera. He died on August 27, 1948, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The following work by Oscar L. Fernandez is included in my collection:

Batuque (finale from Reisado do pastoreio).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

“Snow days!”

According to the local newspaper, because of all the winter weather that kicked off the new year, Salem Community High School District has already used up all of the emergency snow days that were built into the 2013-2014 school calendar, so Superintendent Brad Detering reported to the board that the final day of student attendance this year will be on June 5!

Ugh! I realize that no one has any control over the weather (global warming alarmists notwithstanding), but I would hate to be in school on June 5, after having started early the previous August almost a year earlier. The nice thing about homeschooling is that we can take “snow days” for fun whenever we want to, but we can also stay home during really bad weather and still get our schoolwork done while traditional schools are out of session. And we don’t have to worry about “make up” days!

Joseph Lanner and “Die Romantiker”

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Joseph Lanner (April 12, 1801–April 14, 1843) was an Austrian dance music composer, regarded by many as being the inventor of the Viennese Waltz as we know it today. He was born at St. Ulrich in Vienna. Largely self-taught on the violin and as a composer, he joined at the age of twelve the small string orchestra of Michael Pamer at about the same time as Johann Strauss I did, although at age sixteen in 1818, he decided to venture into the music business himself and left to form a trio partnered with Karl and Johann Drahanek. With Strauss I on viola, five years later they formed a quartet that bore Lanner’s name. The success of this string quartet led to its gradual expansion, and in 1824 Lanner was able to conduct a small string orchestra playing Viennese dance music. Such was the success of his orchestra that it was a regular feature in many Vienna carnivals, popularly known in the local dialect as the Fasching. It was in 1825 that Lanner allowed his soon-to-be rival Johann Strauss I to deputize in a second, smaller orchestra that was formed that year to meet the busy schedule of the Carnival activities.

Lanner was already gaining a reputation at the end of the 1825 Carnival season and Strauss I was frustrated at having to deputize when necessary and as a result, his works were not getting the recognition he thought they deserved. Two years later, Strauss I parted company with Lanner after a concert at one of the Viennese dance establishments, Zum Schwarzen Bock (The Black Ram). Although many press reports stated a furious encounter between the two composers including a rumor that Strauss forcibly departed the orchestra with a few of Lanner’s talented musicians, these remained largely unsubstantiated as Lanner dedicated a waltz to Strauss entitled “Trennungs-Walzer” (“Separation Waltz”), Op. 19, which indicated a decent level of goodwill and respect for the craft of the two composers. Further, Lanner and Strauss I worked together often despite having severed their partnership and even gave a benefit concert for their former employer, Michael Pamer who was taken ill, at the same establishment where they separated.

For their charity work Strauss and Lanner also accepted the honorary citizenship of Vienna in 1836 and jointly took the Citizen’s Oath. The music-loving Viennese however were championing both of these two popular dance music composers, and individuals generally identified themselves as Lannerianer or Straussianer. In fact, it was believed that the ruling Habsburg dynasty was anxious to divert its Viennese populace from politics and the revolutionary ideas that were feverishly sweeping Europe, with many cities preparing to overthrow any unpopular monarch. The answer would be to distract the population with music and entertainment, and the musical positions that both Lanner and Strauss held were soon seen to be very important. In 1829 Lanner himself was appointed to the coveted post of Musik-Direktor of the Redoutensäle in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, of which his primary duties were to conduct concerts held in honor of the nobility and to compose new works for the Court orchestra, and two years later he was appointed bandmaster of the Second Vienna Militia Regiment

Strauss’s popularity soon overshadowed Lanner in the early 1840s. Strauss was eager to undertake extensive lucrative tours abroad including England, whereas Lanner held on in Vienna unconvinced that the other nationalities were prepared to listen to Viennese music. He is best remembered as one of the earliest Viennese composers to reform the waltz from a simple peasant dance to something that even the highest society could enjoy, either as an accompaniment to the dance, or for the music’s own sake. Lanner succumbed to a typhus infection that racked Vienna in 1843 and died at Döbling on Good Friday, April 14, in the same year at the tragically early age of just 42 years. The famous rivalry with Strauss I had ended. Lanner’s death marked the beginning of a period where the Strauss family was to dominate the Viennese dance music scene for well over a half a century and concluded an era of interesting and exciting developments for the waltz and other popular dance music.

Although his music was a bit more strict and formal than the Strauss family’s, Lanner was in some ways the more versatile musician. Lanner’s musical output totalled over 200 works, more than half of them waltzes. He also wrote galops, Ländler and other dances. His Op. 1 was the Neue Wiener (New Viennese). Ländler. Among Lanner’s more popular works are the “Pesther-Walzer”, Op. 93; “Die Werber” Waltz, Op. 103; “Hofballtänze Walzer”, Op. 161; “Die Romantiker” Waltz, Op. 167; and probably his most well-known work, “Die Schönbrunner” Walzer, Op. 200, probably the most famous of all waltzes before “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II in the mid-1860s. Most of Lanner’s waltzes were dedicated to members of the nobility as evidenced from the titles which was part of the nature of Lanner’s position at that time. His “Styrian Dances” (Steyrische-Tänze), Op. 165, was also played occasionally at the Vienna New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

My collection contains the following works by Joseph Lanner:

Abend-Sterne Waltz, op. 180.
Bruder Halt! Galop, op. 16.
Dampf (Steam) Waltz and Galop, op. 94.
Die Romantiker Waltz, op. 167.
Die Schonbrunner Waltz, op. 200 (1842).
Die Werber Waltz, op. 103.
Hofball Tanze Waltz, op. 161.
Jagers Lust Galop, op. 82.
Marien Waltz, op. 143.
Neujahrs Galop, op. 61 no. 2.
Pesther Waltz, op. 93.
Tarantel Galop, op. 125.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources