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Thursday Evening Classics
Composer Capsules for March / April 2008

Presented by Steve Petke

March 13

Hugo Wolf
Birth: March 13, 1860 in Windischgraz, Austria
Death: February 22, 1903 in Vienna, Austria

Like Austria’s first great composer of lieder, Schubert, Hugo Wolf died tragically young, a victim of syphilis. Like Schumann, the other great composer of German lieder, Wolf died in an insane asylum after trying to drown himself.  Also like Schumann, he composed in manic bursts between periods of depression. A child prodigy, Wolf was taught piano and violin by his father beginning at age four, and once in primary school studied piano and music theory. However, subjects other than music failed to hold his interest and he was dismissed from secondary school for being "wholly inadequate." He left another school over his difficulties in compulsory Latin studies, and after a falling-out with a professor who commented on his "damned music", quit the last. From there, he went to the Vienna Conservatory to the disappointment of his father, who had hoped Wolf would not try to make his living from music. Again, however, he was dismissed for "breach of discipline", though the often-rebellious Wolf would claim he quit in frustration over the school's conservatism.  After eight months with his family, he returned to Vienna to teach music. Though his fiery temperament was not ideally suited to teaching, Wolf's musical gifts, as well as his personal charm, earned him attention and patronage. After a brief and undistinguished tenure as second Kapellmeister at Salzburg, he again returned to Vienna to teach once more. For three years he was an outspoken critic in Vienna's weekly Salonblatt. Pro-Wagner and anti-Brahms, he made powerful enemies who exacted their revenge later on. Despite his irregular education, Wolf possessed the talent to write some 300 songs, the finest of them both emotionally penetrating and musically profound. Mörike, Goethe, Kleist, Lenau, and Heine were his favorite German poets, then Eichendorff when Wolf reached his artistic summit in 1887. In October 1889, Wolf turned his attention from German poetry to translations of Spanish poets. Between November and the following May, he composed 44 songs collectively known as the Spanish Songbook. Then, between September 1890 and December 1891, he composed 22 song translations comprising Part I of an Italian Songbook. Thereafter he didn't write a note of original music until March 1895, when he undertook Der Corregidor, completing all four acts in piano score within twelve weeks. After laboriously scoring it, he wrote twenty-four songs in isolation between 25 March and 30 April 1896 — Part II of the Italian Songbook. He spent the next months revising Der Corregidor. After setting his last songs in March 1897, Wolf worked tirelessly on another Spanish opera, Manuel Venegas, which amounted to 60 pages of piano score. By then, however, the syphilis had entered its third stage, and his mood swings alienated many who cared deeply for him. On September 19, 1897, he cracked — blaming Mahler, his friend of 20 years and former roommate, of sabotaging Der Corregidor.  Following Wolf’s death, he was buried alongside Beethoven and Schubert in Vienna's Central Cemetery, impoverished but nonetheless a national hero.

March 27

Vincent d'Indy
Birth: March 27, 1851 in Paris, France
Death: December 2, 1931 in Paris, France

Vincent d'Indy, the son of a French nobleman, was one of the leading figures in Parisian musical society during the closing years of the 19th century. He composed in a variety of genres, including orchestral, chamber, piano, vocal, and opera. His legacy rests also on his activities as an author and a teacher. He wrote two biographies, a book on his experiences in the Franco-Prussian War, numerous essays, and criticisms. His influence as a teacher can be heard in the works of many of his students, particularly composers of opera, such as Madetoja and Roussel. D'Indy was an uncompromising classicist, a position that frequently brought conflict with contemporary composers of the period. He was often described "as stubborn to the point of fanaticism." His religious beliefs ran deep, as did his anti-Semitism. He was considered a child prodigy, but to please his family, studied law. He began piano lessons in 1864 and, in 1865, began instruction in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration. In 1872, d'Indy began studying privately with his most influential teacher, César Franck. He later audited Franck's organ class at the Paris Conservatory and subsequently enrolled there. Vincent d'Indy would go on to be one of Franck's most ardent followers, champion, and biographer. His musical education was further developed through playing percussion and keyboard and by conducting. Franck was the greatest influence on d'Indy, but others, Wagner in particular, also influenced the young composer. D'Indy attended the premiere of Wagner's Bayreuth theater in the summer of 1876 and the second Bayreuth festival in 1882, for the premiere of Wagner's Parsifal. D'Indy also became acquainted with Liszt and Brahms. D'Indy was a great admirer of Beethoven, so much so that he wrote a biography of the composer that was published in 1911. D'Indy began composing in the late 1860s and had his first work published in 1870. He began his first grand opera, Les burgraves in 1869, but never finished it. His orchestral trilogy, Wallenstein premiered in 1880 under his direction. He won the Prix de Paris in 1884 with the cantata Le chant de la cloche. However, Symphonie sur un theme montagnard français (Symphony on a French Mountain Air) is his only work that remains in the standard repertoire. Teaching occupied a great deal of d'Indy's time. In 1894, dissatisfied with the standard of teaching at the Paris Conservatory, d'Indy along with Bordes and Guilmant, founded the Schola Cantorum. He taught composition at the school beginning in 1897 and from 1912 to 1929, he taught orchestration and conducting at the Paris Conservatory. D'Indy ultimately became the victim of his conservatism and his inability to accept contemporary trends in music that were so prevalent in France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The modernists prevailed and his music was forced out of favor. D'Indy, however, remained true to his artistic ideals until his death.

April 3

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Birth: April 3, 1895 in Florence, Italy
Death: March 17, 1968 in Hollywood, CA

Little of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's music has ever been published or performed. As a result, he is better remembered as a teacher of other well-known musicians – among them André Previn and Jerry Goldsmith – than as a composer in his own right. Castelnuovo-Tedesco studied piano and composition at the Florence Conservatory, eventually taking diplomas in both subjects. While primarily studying with Ildebrando Pizzetti, Castelnuovo-Tedesco also attracted the attention of Italian composer, pianist and conductor Alfredo Casella, who would become one of the young composer’s earliest champions. After successfully supporting himself as a freelance composer and pianist during the 1920s and 1930s, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a Jew, found it advisable to leave Europe in 1939 to avoid persecution under the Hitler and Mussolini regimes. Relocating to California, he spent the next decade and a half scoring films for major studios, including The Day of the Fox, while concurrently serving on the faculty of the Los Angeles Conservatory. In his later years Castelnuovo-Tedesco worked on an autobiography, which was left unfinished upon his death. While less than half of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's vast output has ever been published, his earlier works are his finest. Aside from a brief flirtation with serialism during his years in America, Castelnuovo-Tedesco's basic style of composition remained unchanged from the 1920s onward. Perhaps his most important contribution is to music for the guitar, for which he shows great fondness in his two concertos and many chamber works for the instrument.

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April 10

Eugen d'Albert
Birth: April 10, 1864 in Glasgow, Scotland
Death: March 3, 1932 in Riga, Latvia

Pianist and composer Eugen d'Albert was a key figure in German post-Romantic music. His German father, Charles Louis Napoléon d'Albert, was a popular orchestra leader in the U.K. who specialized in light music. Eugen began his musical training under his father and continued it with Sir Arthur Sullivan and others. In 1881, d'Albert went to Weimar to study with his idol, Franz Liszt, whose impact on d'Albert's work both as a pianist and a composer proved crucial. With endorsements from Liszt, Clara Schumann, and Anton Rubinstein, d'Albert went on to an enormously successful career as a concert pianist, which lasted for decades. His Piano Concerto No. 1 is one of the most ambitious keyboard concerti composed before that of Ferruccio Busoni. Like Liszt, d'Albert was a prolific transcriber of non-original works, and in his time d'Albert's editions of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach were held in the same regard as Busoni's. By the early 1890s, d'Albert began to turn his attention away from the keyboard in favor of opera, and he achieved his first success, Die Abreise, in 1898. In November 1903, d'Albert's masterwork, the opera Tiefland, opened in Prague. Tiefland was an alluring and innovative mixture of Italian verismo and Viennese operetta, and proved a success beyond d'Albert's wildest dreams. D'Albert devoted his remaining compositional activity to opera, and his output includes a number of projects that await revival. Notable works include Die Toten Augen written with the notoriously decadent novelist Hannes Heinz Ewers, the music drama Der Golem and the Zeitoper Die schwarze Orchidee, which like Brecht and Weill's Der Dreigroschenoper incorporated the style of continental jazz. D'Albert's final opera, Mister Wu, was left unfinished at his death and was completed by conductor Leo Blech. Portly, and short in stature, d'Albert was nonetheless quite a ladies' man and married six times. His most famous marriage was a brief and stormy union to the renowned Spanish concert pianist Teresa Carreño. D'Albert left behind a large number of recordings and piano rolls, both of his original compositions and those of others. D'Albert's posthumous reputation has suffered, owing to his deeply felt pro-German sentiments and his apparent unwillingness to adapt to 20th century trends. However, Tiefland remains popular in German-speaking lands and has kept d'Albert's name in high esteem.

April 17

Johann David Heinichen
Birth: April 17, 1683 in Krössuln, Germany
Death: July 16, 1729 in Dresden, Germany

A gifted child who composed and conducted sacred music in local churches before the age of 12, Johann was the son of a pastor in Krossuln. In 1695, Heinichen enrolled at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, which his father also had attended, studying with and impressing the composer Johann Kuhnau. Heinichen began studying law at Leipzig University in 1702, and completed his degree in 1706. However, law apparently held little attraction for Heinichen who began composing occasional music for Duke Johann Georg's court.  In 1709 he left his legal practice and moved to Leipzig to write for the opera house. While Heinichen was quite successful there, he left Leipzig for Venice in 1710 to learn how to write Italian opera firsthand. He met numerous composers in that city, including Vivaldi, and apparently picked up the Italian style quickly, writing two successful operas for the San Angelo Theater. His fame spread all the way to the Prince-Elector of Saxony, Augustus II, in Dresden. Augustus hired Heinichen to share Kapellmeister duties with Johann Christoph Schmidt at his court in 1717. Heinichen spent the rest of his life there. Augustus II's court was an ideal situation for a composer. It boasted the greatest orchestra in Europe, for which scores of composers (including Vivaldi, Telemann, and Albinoni) spontaneously wrote concerti. It employed numerous other eminent composers, like Quantz, Veracini, and Zelenka; and it had a patron who was determined to keep the music alive. Although he wrote only one opera there, Heinichen wrote much instrumental and sacred vocal music which combined elements of the Italian, French and German styles into a recognizable, coherent, personal style. His music exploited the instrumental colors the Dresden orchestra could create, and progresses with splendid rhythmic spring and vigor. While he was at Dresden, Heinichen also had the opportunity to rewrite his treatise Der General-Bass in der Composition, a manual for composition, a discussion of the proper expression of the affections in music. It was one of the most respected texts of its day, and it is still used by scholars seeking a better understanding of Baroque performance practice. Although Heinichen was well known and respected both as a theorist and as a composer during his lifetime, his name would not have been recognized by most classical music listeners until violinist/scholar/conductor Reinhard Goebel began championing his music during the 1990s.

Vaclav Jan Krtitel Tomasek
Birth: April 17, 1774 in Skute, Bohemia
Death: April 3, 1850 in Prague

Portly, sarcastic, and arrogant, Tomásek was not well liked, but he was the leading figure in turn-of-the-century Prague's musical life.  He was well known not only for his piano pieces and songs but also for his teaching, and his musical salons. Tomásek lived in a spacious, fashionable house in Prague, but he started out as the impoverished son of an unsuccessful provincial cloth merchant. He did manage to study violin and singing in school as a child. He attended secondary school in Prague and studied math, philosophy, and history at Charles University. He taught himself the fundamentals of music by reading treatises in his spare time. During his university years he began writing little dances and songs and playing piano at upper-middle-class salons, where he recruited music students. He continued these pursuits upon leaving the university, studying more formally with Vogler and Forkel, under whose influence he added Bach to Mozart as his list of most admired composers. Profoundly affected by a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, Tomásek would convey Mozart's style into 19th century Prague music, though with a slightly updated glitter akin to that of Hummel. The success of his setting of Bürger's ballad Lenore landed him a position as composer and family music tutor to Count Georg Buquoy in 1806. His duties were none too demanding, and for the next 18 years he would compose and travel widely. In 1824, Tomásek left the count's service to marry Wilhelmina Ebert and start a music school. The marriage failed within two years, although it did not formally end. Meanwhile the school thrived, but Tomásek became less productive and rather more reclusive. After his wife died in 1836, he resumed composing and his Monday evening salon concerts became a fixture of Prague's musical life. He performed his own music, supervised discussions, and welcomed such visitors as Berlioz, Paganini, and Wagner. Tomásek also became acquainted with those trying to develop a nationalistic Czech style of music, although he himself never really followed their guidance. Instead, he spent his last years continuing to teach and acting as a travel writer for local publications.

WWUH Classics Programming
Sunday Afternoon at the Opera: Sundays 1:00 - 4:30pm

Evening Classics: Weekdays 4:00 to 7:00/ 8:00pm
Drake's Village Brass Band: Mondays 7:00 - 8:00pm


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