The Philidor Dynasty


                       Francois-Andre Danican Philidor

In the 17th & 18th centuries, the family Philidor served as court musicians and composers to French royalty over several generations. Their original surname, Danican, became Philidor when Louis XIII so-dubbed his oboist Michel Danican, after an Italian virtuoso named “Filidori”.  Michel was Grandad to a number of prominent musicians, among them two Philidors famous for rather divergent interests:  Anne Danican Philidor (1681 – 1728), who started the celebrated concert series Concert Spirituel (he was also an accomplished composer); and Francois-Andre Danican Philidor (1726 – 1795)—the very late younger brother of Anne Danican—who was a celeb chess master, renoun for “the Philidor defence” (opening) and “the Philidor position” (endgame).  Above is a picture of the chess master, Francois-Andre (Image search “Philidor”. 27.3.16).

This post based on “Philidor”. 30.3.2016.

Start of the Concert Spirituel

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpg The famous Opera House of Paris (Academie Royale de Musique) traditionally closed during religious festivals. This offered an opportunity for Anne Danican Philidor (1681 – 1728) to promote a new series of concerts:  the so-called Concert Spirituel.  The opportunity cost M. Philidor 1000 francs per year and a promise to present neither French nor operatic music, compliments of the Opera’s Impresario M.Francine.  Hugely successful between 1725 and 1791, the annual rent rose to 9000 francs by 1755.  The Concert Spiritual provided a huge boon for orchestral and instrumental music in France, as well as vocalists. Interestingly the celebrated older sister of Franz Danzi, Madame Francesca Danzi Lebrun, was among those who sang at the venue.  Next post:  more on the Philidor dynasty of musicians.  Just for now, here’s an image of Anne Danican (“Anne_Danican_Philidor”. En. 27.3.2016)


This post based on :  “A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Concert Spirituel”. 27.3.2016.

Franz Danzi’s Disappointments

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgFranz Danzi (1763 – 1826) had all the trappings of a successful musical career. He was born into and lived his entire life within a family of professional musicians:  His father, older sister, wife, brother-in-law, and nieces were all publically recognized musicians and/or composers.  Danzi himself was a gifted cellist, joining the famed Mannheim orchestra at a mere age 15 and replacing his own father as principal Mannheim cellist at the age of 21. Danzi did receive court appointments, for example as Kapellmeister at Stuttgart in 1807 and later at Karlsrughe in 1812.  And yet there were so many disappointments:

1.     His first love was opera, and he sought fame therein;  but Danzi’s operas were never popular and he struggled to achieve recognition (even performance) in that genre.

2.    Danzi’s older sister Franziska Danzi Lebrun was a sensation on the Continent and in England, as a vocal star and composer—Charles Burney, for example, wrote about Franziska; and her portrait was painted by Charles Gainsborough. This was a level of recognition never achieved by her younger brother Franz.

3.    His famous sister died at age 35 of a broken heart, following the early death of her own husband.

4.    His marriage was disappointingly brief: his wife Margarethe Marchand Danzi (a successful opera star in her own right) died just 10 years after their wedding of lung disease.  She was only 31.

5.    His Kapellmeister duties apparently kept him overworked to the extent he did little composing during his Stuttgart period, after which he produced much of the instrumental and chamber music for which we now remember him best.

6.    His final appointment to Karlsruhe was a professional struggle, as Danzi tried to shore up an inexperienced and weak group of musicians.

So Danzi’s would seem a life of professional disappointments and early deaths. All of which  might explain his rush to publish his late wind quintets in the wake of Reicha’s Paris success (see our earlier post “More a Matter of Getting in on the Act…” 8.03.2016)

     Francesca Lebrun (1756-1791) Sister of Franz Danzi
The Gainsborough Portrait
Image Search “Francesca Lebrun”. 23.03.2016
Francesca Lebrun disc pic.jpg
Recording cover for Lebrun’s music
Image search “Francesca Lebrun”. 23.03.2016

This post is based on the following articles:

a ) “Franz (Ignaz) Danzi”.  www.oxfordmusiconline.com23.3.2016
b)  Uncle Dave Lewis, “Francesca Lebrun Artist Biography”. 23.03.2016


The Inexorable Rise of Concert Pitch

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpg                  tuner korg
Image Search: Music Tuner.  “A Rough Guide to Compact Stage Tuners”. 21.03.2016

Most musicians are aware that concert pitch has risen in recent years, with current practice more or less around 440+ Hz. They may not know, however, that from the beginning of modern orchestras  (circa 1670) concert pitch rose from 392 Hz to a high of 452 Hz by the end of the 19th century.  Things were reset by international convention in 1939, back to 440 Hz where it more or less remains, albeit straining to rise yet again. The question is:  Why does this happen?  Jeremy Montagu (1) provides us a convincing analysis.  Simplifying his argument:   Larger middle-class public audiences meant Larger concert venues demanding increased instrumental forces to supply sufficient sound/audibility.  At the limit of this spiralling process (how big can a concert venue get, and how can you pay for more than around 100 musicians and still make a profit???), the only way to increase audibility was to modify instruments, to wit by increasing pitch.  Increased pitch ipso facto increased sound and brilliance.  And that, dear readers, is what is still going on.  (Otherwise we must resort to electric amplification, which not coincidentally is happening in parallel!).

1.  Montagu, Jeremy. Origins and Development of Musical Instruments. London: Scarecrow Press, 2007. Page 117.

What to Wear to the Concert Spirituel?

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgIn 1820’s Paris, there was a “buzz” around the newly-fashionable wind quintet genre. So what would you wear to a Franz Danzi or Reicha concert at that most famous venue, the Concert Spirituel? (1)   Here are a couple of trending suggestions from the Empire Era:

EMPIRE FASHION 1812 OLD RAGS              Empire Fashion Men

(images above from 7.03.2016)


concert spiriturel

Tuileries Palace, site of the Concert Spirituel

 Image by Unknown. 19.03.2016
  1. The Concert Spirituel was a concert venue and one of the first public concert series in existence during the 18th Century (1725 – 1790). Later concerts were revived during the Restoration (1814 – 1830). “Concert Spirituel”. 10.3.2016.












The House of Schlesinger-Music Publishers

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgAdolf Martin Schlesinger (1769 – 1838) and Maurice Schlesinger (1798 – 1871) were a father and son music publishing business in Berlin and Paris, respectively.  In an earlier post we mentioned the Paris house of Schlesinger had published Franz Danzi’s early wind quintets (op 56) in 1821.  As a mark of the firm’s respectablilty and status, the Schlesingers also published works of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Berlioz.  Interestingly, Richard Wagner was employed by the Paris branch in the 1840’s, to write piano arrangements for the popular market.  That does seem ironic, considering in retrospect the well-known anti-semitic attitudes of Herr Wagner.  And speaking of such attitudes in 19th century Germany, the elder Schlesinger (Adolf Martin) had been the subject of anti-Semitic remarks by Beethoven himself (1).  However, that didn’t stop Beethoven from commissioning the Schlesingers to further publish his late quartets and sonatas (2).  Here’s a portrait of Adolf Martin from the collection of the Beethoven-Haus Archive in Bonn (3):

Anonym: Schlesinger, Martin - Foto nach anonymem Ölgemälde

 Adolf Martin Schlesinger (1769 – 1838)


    1. Anderson, Letters of Beethoven, 1961.
    2. “Adolf martin Schlesinger”. 4.03.2016; “Maurice Schlesinger”. 3.03.2016; and “Schlesinger”. 4.03.20163.
    3. MartinSchlesinger (Berlin). Digital Archives of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn.  Accessed via Google Search “Images – Adolf Martin Schlesinger”. 5.03.2016


Tips for Writing Your Next Wind Quintet

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgHats off to Zeke Hecker and his article:   “On Composing for Woodwind Quintet”. kalvos.ord/heckless1.html. 5.03.2016.  Here’s a potted version of his timely advice:

music notes composing

Image: “Tips for composing Piano Music” 6.03.2016

Remember wind players have to breathe

unlike string players

Wind players need to rest

constant blowing is tough!

Avoid too much of the “pastoral” sound

wind instruments can do a lot morethey like to move it

Avoid a fixed hierarchy

share the tune around

Don’t use all five instruments all the time

the occasional embedded solo, duet or trio is rather nice

Extreme register tones (highs & lows) require dynamic discretion

example: real soft is fairly hard to do

Play around with rhythm

wind players are good at it

Stretch the classical wind quintet concept

include other members of the family—ex. the Eb clarinet

Try combining winds with other instruments

Piano, or a few strings are nice

Try transcribing as a practice exercise

 Piano music is easiest to start with

 And finally:  “Listen to reams of quintet music”