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Music History: March 2008 Archives

Haydn's Creation

Michelangelo's Creation

The quiet master behind the masterpiece

By Dr. David MacKenzie
The Sentinel

Franz Joseph Haydn's great oratorio The Creation is acknowledged as one of the greatest musical achievements of Western Civilization. It is certainly the crowning glory of a composer whose creative output was immense – more than 1,000 works – and who is credited as the creator of the Classical-era symphony and string quartet.

The Creation will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, April 4 at the Fireman Center for the Performing Arts at Tabor Academy in Marion, and will feature as soloists soprano Rebecca Grimes, tenor Thomas Oesterling, and Baritone, John Murelle. There will be a pre-concert prelude for ticket holders, which will take place one hour prior to each concert. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by calling 508-999-6276, or in person at the Marion General Store, Seaport Village Ice Cream and Coffee, Sail Away Studio, and Bev Loves Books.

Haydn's life spanned a period of enormous changes in the world, in the arts, and especially in music, and most musical trends during the 18th Century were pioneered and perfected by him. Born in 1732, he was 18 years old when J. S. Bach died. He outlived Mozart and was still a revered musical figure in Vienna when Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, a work considered by many as ushering in the Romantic era, was performed in 1805. Both Mozart and Haydn owed great debts to Haydn. Indeed, Haydn was the only contemporary composer for whom Mozart held any regard, acknowledging that it was from Haydn he had learned how to write string quartets, and commenting at one point "Haydn alone has the secret both of making me smile and of touching my innermost soul."

For all of that, most concert-goers today can more readily name and recognize works by Haydn's older contemporaries Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel, or his much younger colleague and friend W. A. Mozart or his student Ludwig van Beethoven. Why is this?

Read more about this at the The Sentinel website:

Stravinsky - The Second Exile

Stravinsky: The Second Exile: France and America, 1934-1971 by Stephen Walsh

In glorious discord over Stravinsky

Few things are more fun to savour than a good old artistic feud, says Rupert Christiansen

The fallout can take several forms, from the vitriolic spat (Vidal v Capote, Oasis v Blur) to a purely intellectual combat (Wilson v Nabokov), to the serious lawsuit (Ruskin v Whistler), to the soured friendship (Lennon v McCartney, Vargas Llosa v Márquez, Theroux v Naipaul).

But the most interesting variety is the one that pitches competing conceptions of the truth, as when Mary McCarthy denounced "every word" of Lillian Hellman's account of her communist fellow-travelling as "a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."

Stephen Walsh and Robert Craft haven't gone quite that far over the matter of Igor Stravinsky, but they've come pretty close.

There's something of All About Eve to the story of Craft's attachment to the great Russian composer, and something of Boswell's relationship to Dr Johnson. A brilliant American music student, Craft latched on to Stravinsky in the late 1940s, becoming his secretary, minder, gatekeeper, amanuensis, conducting assistant and surrogate son.

Read more about this at the Telegraph website:

Earliest Sound Recording Found

Phonautograph 1857

Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison

By Jody Rosen
New York Times

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words "Mary had a little lamb" on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison's invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable – converted from squiggles on paper to sound – by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

"This is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound," said Samuel Brylawski, the former head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress, who is not affiliated with the research group but who was familiar with its findings. The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Read more about this, including audio excerpts, at the New York Times website:

Most Expensive Violin

1741 Vieuxtemps Guarneri

Prized violin plays again for Moscow's elite

By Helen Womack in Moscow
The Guardian

The most expensive musical instrument in the world was played in public for the first time for more than 70 years to 160 guests in Moscow on Saturday in a demonstration of Russia's growing economic and cultural status.

Lawyer Maxim Viktorov invited the cream of Moscow society to the private concert at Pashkov House to show off the Guarneri del Gesù violin he bought at Sotheby's in February for a record-breaking $3.9m (nearly £2m).

The Israeli virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman performed a programme of Bach, Mozart and Bruch with the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre. "I tried out the instrument a little in London before I bought it," said Viktorov, 35, a violin collector who likes to play to the piano accompaniment of his wife, Anastasia. "But since then, I haven't been able to touch it. This instrument cannot bear any agitation. I want the maestro, who lives by his art, to be the first to play it so that the violin feels it is receiving the respect it deserves. Then I might find the strength to play it myself because it's a great source of energy."

Read more about this at the Guardian website:,,2267686,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=39

Authentic Portrait Of Mozart

A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

True face of Mozart revealed

Dalya Alberge,
Arts Correspondent
A portrait of Mozart painted in 1783, during his early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze

His image in curled wig, embroidered red tunic and lace ruff stares out from kitsch portraits, decorative porcelain and chocolate boxes without number, but nobody really knew what Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looked like – until now.

To the great excitement of musical scholars, two previously-unknown oil portraits painted from life – and which can be traced back to a close friend of the composer's father – have been discovered.

They were identified by Cliff Eisen, Professor of music history at King's College London, who has found documentary evidence that links them to letters written by Mozart and his father, Leopold.

One was painted in 1783, during the composer's early years in Vienna when he was in buoyant mood after his marriage to Constanze. Measuring about 19in by 14in (47x35cm), it is by Joseph Hickel, painter to the imperial court. It is now considered so important that it has been insured for £2 million.

Read more about this at the Times website:

The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You

John Work III

Exhibit revives musicologist's work

By John Gerome
Associated Press

When people say John Work III had "big ears," they're not being unkind.

Work, who died in 1967 at age 65, had a gift for finding and collecting black folk music. He traveled the South recording blues singers, work songs, ballads, church choirs, dance tunes, whatever struck him as showing the evolution of black music.

And yet what might be his greatest achievement went largely unnoticed for 60 years, stashed in a file cabinet at Hunter College in New York. Now, with the opening of a new exhibit on Work's life at Fisk University and a companion CD, some say Work is finally getting his due.

"He was seeking out music that many African-American academics at the time had no use for," said Evan Hatch, a professional folklorist who helped compile the Fisk exhibit, "The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You," which runs through May 11.

A classically trained musician and composer, Work taught at Fisk University, a black college founded in 1865 to educate newly freed slaves. He also directed the school's famed Jubilee Singers and ran its music department.

Read more about this at the Louisville Courier-Journal website: