By Charles Holloway
By Charles Holloway
Click the links below to listen to these episodes of Music Remembered. Most run 2 minutes or less.
The great American composer who, more than anyone else, created the “American” sound. He honed his craft while part of the Paris literary scene of the 1920s.
He and Rachmaninoff were on the same track at the Moscow Conservatory. Then Scriabin became a fan of the famous mystic, Madame Blavatsky, and their paths diverged.
A great baroque composer, though not the most prolific. In the days when musicians sought prestigious appointments, he was the first to owe his fortune and fame to music publishing.
He was the epitome of the romantic-era composer. Introverted, talented, suffering, and doomed to die at the young age of just 39-years-old.
She overshadowed her husband Robert during the early to mid-1800s. Her superior talent for performing and fame drove him to despair, paranoia, and eventually insanity.
The Faust Legend
It’s one of the most durable myths in all of the western literature and has been set to music countless times. It’s the story of a German sorcerer who sells his soul to the devil, through the devil’s agent Mephistopheles, for knowledge and power.
A contemporary of the psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, and painter, Gustav Klimt. He was the prototypical transitional composer from 19th-century German tradition to 20th-century modernist.
France’s counterpart to England’s Gilbert & Sullivan. He gave up the life of a simple Cantor, adopted Parisian ways, became that country’s greatest composer of light operas, and became even more French than the French themselves.
This baroque composer, called “The Father of French Opera,” was an exceptional musician, an adept social climber, and one of the music world’s greatest tyrants.
This Irish composer who invented the “Nocturne,” began his career as a piano demonstrator. He worked for Muzio Clementi’s warehouse, wrote incredible compositions to promote piano sales, and received no credit for it.
Joseph Haydn’s Early Years
He was born into poverty, in 1739, when Bach and Handel were at the height of their careers. He would struggle for decades before becoming one of the greatest and most famous composers who ever lived.
The first woman composer in history. From Byzantium, she pre-dated Hildegard von Bingen by seven hundred years. Her music is still played today, every year, as part of the standard Greek Orthodox Church service.
The first keyboard instrument in history appeared in Alexandria, Egypt, around 250 B.C.E., during the age of Archimedes and Euclid. Here’s the story of how the longest-lasting musical instrument in history developed.
She was born into a dynasty of famous French sculptors. The first in that family to not take up sculpting, she became one of the great female composers in history.
The greatest violin virtuoso of all time got off to a troubled start. His father was a cargo handler at the shipping docks. Young Niccolo had to fight to free himself from the old man’s tyrannical control.
He tried to conform to social norms, but it was no-go. Everyone who met him agreed he was enormously talented — and strange.
The Symphonic Poem
In the mid-1800s, Franz Liszt invented a new musical form, the “Symphonic Poem.” Critics argued, but professional musicians quickly adopted the idea and it became one of the most important forms in music literature.
The King of Ragtime was the son of an ex-slave from North Carolina. He spent years traveling the south as a vagabond until a famous piano player helped turn his life around.
The Classical Era
It was from roughly 1750 to 1820. It was the age of the Grand Tour. It was the time when young composers studied newly discovered Greek and Roman ruins, became inspired by the ancients and changed music forever.
Born in 1678 during an earthquake, he would grow up to become the most famous and influential composer of his era. Then, he would be forgotten for hundreds of years — until rediscovered by a 20th-century violinist.
What Is “Classical” Music?
The term “classical” is relatively new. It was invented in the early 19th century by music publishers to promote the era from Bach to Beethoven as a musical “Golden Age,” and stimulate sheet music sales.
Samuel Coleridge Taylor
An African-English composer, born in 1875, who just couldn’t get poetry out of his system. His most famous work was a setting of Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. He would even name his daughter “Hiawatha.”
Here’s something you didn’t know. In 1820, Prince Nikolas Esterhazy exhumed Joseph Haydn’s grave and was shocked to discover the great composer’s head was missing. Play this episode to find out what happened to it.
Young George Handel
He was born in 1685, the same year as J. S. Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, a great year for music. But much of Handel’s early life is filled with mystery. Here’s what scholars know.
The earliest form of the word “symphony” was used by the ancient Greeks. It referred to “sounding together,” especially people singing in parallel octaves, fourths or fifths. From that insignificant beginning, the symphony would become the greatest form in all of classical music.
The Well-Tempered Clavier
In the 1720s, composers argued over the tuning systems musical instruments should use. J.S. Bach campaigned for Equal Temperament and wrote a set of pieces to test his preferred system out. It would become one of the most important pieces ever written — The Well-Tempered Clavier.