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Old films of Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius at home in different years: the footage begins in 1945. This is followed by varied material from 1927, including footage of Heidi, Margareta and Aino Sibelius. The film ends with the funeral in 1957.

Puccini on Film!

Just under 9 minutes of home movies of Puccini. He passed away in 1924, but was sick for quite a while before that. Notice how many times you see him either with cigarette in hand or mouth, or not too far away. Those little devils are what killed him.

Adoration of the Magi

This painting by Sandro Botticelli called Adoration of the Magi was one of three paintings that inspired Ottorino Respighi's Botticelli Triptych. Some experts contend that this painting has a self-portrait in it. The man furthest on the right, looking over his shoulder right at you, is Botticelli himself.

Rossini late in life

A surprising number of photos were taken of Rossini before he passed away in 1868. He retained his fame the last several decades of his life, even though he retired at 38. I found a photo of him taken 3 years before he died. He was a great gourmet chef, and enjoyed the finished product too. By late in life, he was severely overweight and was having difficulty getting around.

Brahms and friends speak and play

For years, I have been looking for the voices or performances of great musicians long passed.

After a lot of searching, I stumbled onto Brahms speaking and playing his Hungarian Dance No. 1, even though I could barely decipher it through the century-old technology and the degeneration of the recording over time.

I've found other voices and performances as time has gone on but I've never found them all together -- until now. Not only does YouTube have the recordings I've already mentioned, it also has many more century-old recordings. They include Isaac Alb?niz, Sir Arthur Sullivan speaking, Joseph Joachim, Camille Saint-Sa?ns and others performing. It?s fascinating stuff.

Eug?ne Ysa?e on film

According to this YouTube clip, Eug?ne Ysa?e is playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That could very well be true, but the performance you hear does not match up with the 1912 film of his playing.
However, it's fun to watch one of the greatest violinists of all time on film.

Leroy Anderson's 100th

Despite serious musicianship, Leroy Anderson never forgot his sense of humor. How else could he create such hits as Syncopated Clock, The Typewriter Song and Sleigh Ride?

The music world recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth. We've just received this new CD, and it shows more of what Anderson accomplished. He was a student of Walter Piston and Georges Enescu at Harvard, as he also dove into the studies of German and Scandinavian languages. Later, he was an arranger for the Boston Pops and Arthur Fiedler. Here's NPR's story on his anniversary.

Girl at the Piano (Overture to Tannh?user). Portrait of the Artist's Sister and Mother

When I hear Richard Wagner?s Tannhauser, I don?t automatically find myself thinking of Paul C?zanne. But believe it or not, there is a C?zanne painting called "Girl at the Piano (Overture to Tannh?user), Portrait of the Artist's Sister and Mother."

Historical tunings

You may have read that Bach's Well Tempered Clavier was written for an instrument in equal temperament. That's not quite accurate. This document explains the difference, and what "well tempered" really means.

60 Minutes El Sistema

The reason we do this.

Emmanuel Chabrier

Emmanuel Chabrier was employed by the French government of France for about 20 years in the Ministry of Interior, basically as a lawyer.

But he didn't socialize with his fellow workers. Instead, he was friends with the likes of the poet Paul Verlaine, and the composers Gabriel Faur?, Ernest Chausson, and Vincent d'Indy. But wait, we're not done. He was also close to painters such as Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and ?douard Manet. As a matter of fact, Manet literally died in his arms. Here is a painting of Chabrier by his friend Manet.

David Oistrakh on the tube

A television appearence by David Oistrakh in 1962, accompanied by Frieda Bauer. They play Debussy's Claire de lune.

Mussorgsky at the end of his losing battle with alcoholism

That famous portrait of Mussorgsky by Ilya Repin was painted literally a few days before the composer died. It says a lot about Mussorgsky's condition. He was completely overtaken by alcoholism. You will even see that he is wearing a robe ? after apparently having had a rough night.

J. S. Bach

He looked a lot like this before we knew it. In other words, I'll bet you won't be surprised when you see this...he looks a lot like the paintings we've seen of the man for over 250 years.

Lots and lots of Berlioz photographs

Just a bunch of black and whites or sepia tones of one of the most colorful musicians who lived in the 19th century...Hector Berlioz

Ravel and Gershwin together

I found a photo in Wikipedia and stuffed it here for you to see. It was taken when Maurice Ravel was on a tour of America in 1928 (the exact date of the photo was March 7th). He was the one with the cigarette in his mouth, playing the piano. Sitting next to him was ?va Gauthier, the famous Canadian mezzo-soprano. But there was someone else in that photo that was maybe more famous than even Ravel at the time. Among the 8 people standing behind them, almost unnoticeable, is George Gershwin. He was the one on the very right. It?s in

A photo of Gioacchino Rossini late in life

He started composing early, but ended early as well, retiring at the age of 37. When Rossini died at the age of 76 in 1868, he was the most famous person in most of the western world (except for maybe the US because we were still remembering A. Lincoln), even though he had been retired for 39 years! In this photo, you might notice how he spent his retirement ... he loved to cook and eat, and his doctor was worried about his obesity.

Clara Schumann late in life

A series of photos of Clara Schumann (and her husband, Robert)

Folk song from Somerset: Sheep-Shearing Song

Text to the folksong also known as Rosebud in June, collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp. Holst used its tune in his Somerset Rhapsody.

Claude Debussy at the piano

Debussy is playing the piano surrounded by some admirers, including Ernest Chausson. Chausson is the one with the grey beard sitting almost behind him.

Only photo of Glinka I have ever seen

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka lived from 1804 to 1857, and though the science of photography had been around for a good two decades, until December, 2007), I had never seen a photo of the man. I thought he had missed his chance to pose in for the camera.

La Folia

The history of La Folia, widely used as a theme for variations by generations of composers from the 17th century to the present.

The Kangaroo Pouch Free Music Machine

Percy Grainger was one of the most brilliant people ever to compose music, with many interests beyond music. One was the "Kangaroo Pouch Free Music Machine." Read what led to this invention and see a detailed diagram of the machine here.

Grieg's Tomb

If you want to see something rather out of the ordinary, this is it. It?s a photo of Edvard Grieg?s tomb and it?s cut out of the side of a stone mountain, seemingly by itself. It fits with his last words when he died in 1907 at the age of 64. Supposedly he said, "Well, if it must be so."

Sibelius Monument

When someone once asked Jean Sibelius what he should do if a critic was particularly malicious in an attack toward his music, Sibelius said, "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic." Here is a Sibelius "statue" of sorts.

Simone Dinnerstein's 2005 Goldberg Variations recital

A New York Times review of Dinnerstein's November 2005 New York recital in which she played the Bach Goldberg Variations. Note: Free registration required to view article.

Telarc Releases Simone Dinnerstein's Goldbergs Recording

Simone Dinnerstein recorded the Bach Goldberg Variations over 2 years ago. She did it on her own, without any recording contract, covering the $15,000 cost with the help of friends. In a development unusual for artists and for the company, Telarc has licensed the recording and recently released it.

Dinnerstein's path to this stage in her career has been atypical, to say the least.

Her start was a bit rocky. At 4, she wanted piano lessons; her parents gave her a recorder. When she was 15, they refused to let her study in London. They made her turn down a chance to attend the Curtis Institute.

Yet, in the long run, her muse has prevailed.

This New York Times article traces the path from her childhood dreams to the Goldberg recording - and a full engagement calendar. Note: free registration is required to view the article.

Anton Weidinger's Keyed Trumpet

The natural trumpet could play only the harmonic series in its lowest register. In the highest register it could play other notes of the scale, but only the most capable players could reliably produce these notes. Even then, the pitch and timbre were inconsistent. Composers had to "write around" the natural trumpet's limitations.

Already by the late renaissance, the cornetto had provided some of the trumpet's timbre with the versatility of fingered notes. But although it used a small trumpet-like mouthpiece, the cornetto was made of leather covered wood and didn't have the same effect as the brass trumpet.

Thus, some 18th century instrument makers tried to improve the brass trumpet's flexibility and consistency of tone by adding keywork. Here's the story of the most famous and successful attempt, the instrument for which the Haydn and Hummel concertos were composed.

Controversy over the themes Dvorak used in his Hussite Overture

Medieval reformer Jan Hus used Ye who are God's warriors as his battle hymn. Dvorak took phrases from it as themes in his Hussite Overture, and also used the chorale St Wenceslaus. He thought of them as patriotic emblems of his nation's history. Religious partisans saw it differently. Scroll to the bottom of this page for more information.

Vysehrad, the old fortress of Prague

Here are some pictures and a bit of history of Vysehrad, the 10th century castle which inspired Smetana's tone poem of the same name.

Interview with Tatty Theo, director of the Brook Street Band

Theo discusses the founding of the Brook Street Band, playing the cello in Baroque music, her interest in Handel, and her introduction to the Oxford Water Music.

Scandinavia's Summer Solstice Celebration

Hugo Alfven's Swedish Rhapsody bears the subtitle "Midsommarvaka" - usually translated as "Midsummer Night Vigil," but probably more accurately rendered as "Midsummer All-Nighter." Here's a brief description of the ways Scandiavia celebrates the longest day of the year - on which, for them, daylight lasts until 3am!

Carmina Burana Manuscript

The first page of the 13th century manuscript from the Benediktbeuern Monastery, from which Carl Orff took his texts for the scenic cantata Carmina Burana. The Canton Symphony performed Carmina Burana during In Performance, Sunday 13 May 2007.

The Baroque Chromatic Triple Harp

The modern orchestral harp has a mechanical lever action to create the sharps and flats of the chromatic scale. The 17th century harp builders used a different approach - they added more rows of strings. Here's a description and photo of a Baroque chromatic triple harp.

Bach's Chaconne

A brief analysis of one of Bach's most heartfelt compositions, the final movement from his d minor violin partita, S1004.

Joshua Bell: Pearls Before Breakfast

JOSH BELL, BUSKER - Noted violinist Joshua Bell plays a 45 minute mini-concert in a DC subway station. How much of a crowd does he draw? (From Washington Post Magazine - registration may be required)

Brahms's Lullaby lyrics

Have you ever wanted to know the real words to Brahms's famous lullaby? Here they are.

?douard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Berg?re

A painting that Emmanuel Chabrier bought from his dearest friend, ?douard Manet, when it was brand-new, and just before Manet died. Manet actually died in Chabrier's arms.

Hugo Alfven paintings

Many composers at least dabbled in painting, from Arnold Schoenberg to Mendelssohn. One of the most talented was Hugo Alfven. Here are some samples of his work.

Alfred Brendel

A very well done personal website for a great performer.

The REAL Pictures at an Exhibition

In 1874 Modest Mussorgsky lost a friend and was deeply moved. The painter and architect Victor Hartmann left behind a small body of works. They were to be viewed in a show, and Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition to accompany the viewing. Sadly, most of the paintings or drawings that inpired Mussorgsky are now lost. Here are the images that still exist.

Malcolm Arnold's web page

A very well thought out web page about one of the twentieth-century's best-known British composers.

Courtly Love

An introduction to the medieval concept of l'amour courtois.

A photo of Georges Sand

Georges Sand, famous for her relationships with Franz Liszt and Fr?d?ric Chopin, was a feminist before the term was invented. In a day when it was unthinkable, she proudly wore men?s clothes, because they were more comfortable. (And, yes, maybe she enjoyed shocking men and women of polite Parisian society.) This photo shows her as she was seen on more formal occasions.

The MacDowell Colony

A dream-come-true for artists who want to grow and need a nurturing environment. The Colony was founded by Edward MacDowell not long before he passed away, and has existed for nearly a century because of support from those committed to the arts. Impression

Claude Debussy was called an Impressionist, after a style of painting made famous by Renoir, Cezanne and others. The name came from Monet's painting, Sunrise - an Impression. An art critic of the time thought the Monet work appeared sketchy and unfinished. Maybe that?s one of the reasons Debussy hated being called an impressionist. Here is a photo of Monet's painting.

Bach's Art of Fugue

In 1747 J S Bach, by then old and in deteriorating health, paid a visit to Frederick the Great of Prussia. The result of that visit was The Art of Fugue. Many tales have been spun of his meeting with the flute-playing monarch. This page tries to determine what's verifiable fact and what's legend.

James Whistler's painting, Nocturne in Blue and Green

George Gershwin was going to call his new piece American Rhapsody. However, his brother Ira suggested Rhapsody in Blue after seeing an exhibtion of Whistler's paintings, with such titles as Harmony in Gray and Green and Nocturne in Blue and Green.

Mozart's Musical Game

On top of everything else, Mozart was an inventor of sorts, creating a musical dice game in 1787. By throwing the dice and correlating the numbers with the notes they represented, one could actually compose a piece of music. The little game was published in London several years after he died, and was a hit. You can play it now by clicking on this link.

The Sackbut or sacbutt

The top picture shows a sackbut. It looks very much like a modern trombone.

In Nomine

In the late Renaissance and early Baroque, many composers created works called "In Nomine." This page explains the origins of the form and its name.

The Finnish Civil War of 1917

The chaos in Helsinki in 1917 greatly affected Jean Sibelius, who was working on at least 2 and probably 3 of his symphonies at the time. This page describes the background of the conflict.

Origins of Haydn's

How and when Haydn composed the tune which became the Austrian (and later German) national anthem. It's the theme he used for the second movement of his "Emperor" quartet (Opus 76 #3). From Vienna Online.

A Handel on everything.

Maybe the best web page I have ever seen on Handel.

Fingal's Cave

The history of Fingal's Cave, and photos of the landmark that inspired the Mendelssohn work.


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