Category Archives: Composers

Who Knew????

THE FIERY ANGEL Prokofiev

Not many classical composers are known for their religious inclinations, including any general awareness of Prokofiev’s penchant for Christian Science:  A vaguely Protestant, cultish religion developed in the USA by Mary Baker Eddy and her published text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875).  His diary indicates that from about 1924 both Prokofiev and his wife Lina  followed Christian Science principles, particularly the tenet that sickness was an illusion.  Meditation around this tenet had a calming effect.

But, did it affect his music?  Sources claim that it did.  He heavily condemned his own opera The Fiery Angel for its moral heresy, for example, and subsequently wrote mainly of characters with high moral virtues and a spiritual attitude.

Fortunately all his confusion between spiritual urges and sensual text occurred well after the creation of Overture on Hebrew Themes (1919) in New York. That many (reform-progressive) Jews promoted Christian Science in the late 19th century, suggests the Overture never provoked spiritual condemnation from its composer,

Prokofiev left America in 1920 for life in Paris (and later a short stay in  Bavaria, where he wrote the “heretical”  Fiery Angel).  He returned permanently to Russia in 1936.

As for Christian Science, he remained convinced of the faith for the rest of his life.

Sources

Journal of Religion and Society, Vol 15 (2013).  Rolf Swensen,  “Israel’s Return to Zion” – Jewish Christian Scientists in the United States, 1880 – 1925.

Bathtub Bulletin (July 19, 2017).  Mike Zonta. Prokofiev the Christian Scientist (Search-for-emes.blogspot.com).  Accessed 10.1.2018.

Wikipedia.  Sergei Prokofiev.  Accessed 10.1.2018

Wikipedia. Overture on Hebrew Themes.  Accessed 10.1.2018

 

 

 

 

 

Prokofiev: A Surprising Commission

PROKOFIEV

The Russian émigré ensemble Zimro approached Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953)  during his USA period with a commission and a book of Jewish folk tunes for guidance! The result was a charming sextet with Klezmer influences:  Overture on Hebrew Themes opus 34 (1919), for clarinet, piano and string quartet.  It was premiered in New York City in 1920, with Prokofiev as guest pianist.  The Overture was later grudgingly transcribed for chamber orchestra (1934):   “I don’t understand what sort of obtuse people could have found it necessary to reorchestrate….”cropped-east-windies-logo-small-jpg3

Neilsen’s childhood Home in Fumen, Denmark

odense-mapCarl Nielsen grew up in the village of Norre Lyndelse, south of Odense on the Island of Funen, Denmark.  carl-nielsen-homenielsen-childhood-home

 

 

 

 

 

 Nielsen’s Funen home, now a museum

 

 

 

                                     

Sources: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=map+funen&biw…; https://www.google.com.au/search?q=image+carl+nielsen+home&biw….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

East Windies Players begin 2017 by embarking on 20th Century music with Carl Nielsen’s famous Wind Quintet Op 43.  Here is some generic info about Nielsen (for starters):

carl_nielsen-age-14-in-odense

 

 

Carl Nielsen age 14, 16th  Battalion, Odense
  • Denmark’s most prominent composer (orchestral and chamber music)
  • Works are organized by CNW (Carl Nielsen Works) numbers
  • Generally well-received during his lifetime, although his 5th Symphony was described by one critic as:         

“Filthy music from [the] trenches” and “Bloody, clenched fist in the face of an unsuspecting snob audience.”

Nielsen’s Wind Quintet Op 43 (1922)

  •  Written specifically for members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet
  • Opus 43 has become a major “staple” of the modern wind quintet repertoire
  • Structure: 3 movements a) Allegro  b) Minuet  c) Prelude/Theme & Variations.
  • Variation theme based on Nielsen’s melody for his hymn:
    • My Jesus Let my heart receive
  • Performed at Nielsen’s funeral in 1931

Style

  • Influenced by song; background interest in folk music
  • Energetic rhythms and generous orchestration
  • Ambiguous re: late Romanticism and nationalistic theme

Life Events 

  • Raised in modest circumstances on Island of Funen
  • Father worked as a house painter and occasional musician (played “fiddle” and cornet)
  • Played violin (at first self-taught/age 6) and bugle/trombone; Joined army band age 14  (16th Battalion near Odense)
  •  Played in the Violin 2 section, Royal Danish Orchestra (1889 – 1805)
  • Tempestuous marriage (open relationship) to Danish sculptor, Anne Marie Broderson (1891)            
  • Fathered five children (only 3 with Anne Marie)
  • Died of heart attack, age 66.   

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Nielsen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_Quintet_(Nielsen)

 

 

Some Bits about Briccialdi

briccialdi Guilio Briccialdi (1818-1881)

19th century Italian flute virtuoso;  dubbed “Paganini of the flute”

Born in Terni Italy, later moved to Rome

Selected a musical career over the priesthood (his family’s preference)

First appointment:  Academia di Santa Cecilia Rome, age 17

Flute teacher to the king’s brother

Director of Rudall and Rose (instrument makers):   made mechanical innovations still used today

1870  Professor of Flute,  Florence Conservatoire

Wrote three wind quintets:  Bb major, Series 10, nos 2 & 3; and  D major, Op 124

His many other compositions were mostly for flute and piano, one of the better known being Il Carnevale di Venezia

academy-santa-cecilia-rome

Information above from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulio_Briccialdi

 

“Our French Beethoven”

 academie-des-beaux-arts Academie des Beaux-Arts, Paris

Dubbed “Our French Beethoven”, George Onslow’s (1784-1853) musical output was dominated by the stringed instruments (for example:  36 String Quartets and 34 Quintets) According to Robert Schumann, Onslow and Mendelssohn were the only contemporary composers equivalent to Beethoven for the mastery of string quartet form. Onslow was unique in France for concentrating on small ensemble works, at a time and place when grand opera captured the imagination of most composers (and the concert public). But in 1850 Onslow, aged 66,  wrote a single Wind Quintet (F Major, Opus 81) for which he is now remembered.  That Wind Quintet, however, was not Onslow’s sole use of wind instruments.  He wrote several pieces which combined winds and strings, and which immediately preceded his famous Opus 81.  These were:

  • Opus 77a. Nonet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 77b. Sextet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 79a. Septet for Piano, Winds, and contrabass. 1849

  • Opus 81. Wind Quintet. 1850

Onslow was community-minded and publically active in the first half of the 19th century; he was awarded numerous honours, including:

More on George Onslow

galeried-des-compositeurs-nicolas-eustache-maurin

Titled “Galerie des compositeurs dramatiques modernes“,  this charming postcard was created by French lithographer Nicolas Eustache Maurin (1799-1850). It depicts the leading composers working in Paris at mid-19th century. Featured, among others, are GEORGE ONSLOW (back row, 3rd from left), HECTOR BERLIOZ (back row, far left), FELIX MENDELSSOHN (back row 2nd from right), and GIOCOMO MEYERBEER (front row, 2nd from left?). It was published in the French music journal, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris in 1844:  A weekly journal owned and produced by music publisher Maurice Schlesinger.  The journal featured articles about music by such notables as:  Franz Liszt, Georges Sand, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner. In a supplementary issue, the Revue published a collection of hundreds of onslow-signature-revueetgazettemu1844pari_0019signatures of “compositeurs“.  Gorge Onslow’s appears on page 11  (middle – lower page).