Immortals Beloved
Garden of Eden

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A little Boy Who played the Second Violin

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Perhaps the greatest musical genius who ever lived, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 27, 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart, concertmaster at the archiepiscopal court, and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. He began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9. His father took him on a series of concert tours. Mozart's greatest success was The Marriage of Figaro (1786), composed for the Vienna Opera. The great piano concertos and the string quartets dedicated to his "dear friend" Joseph Haydn. Mozart's fame began to wane after Figaro. In 1791, Mozart was commissioned to write a requiem (unfinished). He was at the time quite ill. He died on Dec. 5, 1791 and was buried in an unmarked grave at the cemetery of Saint Marx, a Vienese suburb.

Was Ludwig Joking?

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Beethoven was born in the provincial court city of Bonn, Germany, probably on Dec. 16, 1770. Beethoven never held an official position in Vienna. He supported himself by giving concerts, by teaching piano, and the sale of his compositions. The last 30 years of Beethoven's life were shaped by a series of personal crises, the first of which was the onset of deafness. A second crisis was the breaking off of a relationship with an unnamed lady known to us as the "Immortal Beloved". Beethoven's music has never lost its central place in the concert repertory. Some works had an immediate and specific impact on the next generation of composers. He died on Mar. 26, 1827 in Vienna.

What a Family!

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest composers in Western musical history was born in Eisenach, Germany, on Mar. 21, 1685, into a family of musicians. His parents died when he was nine years old, and in 1695 he went to live with his brother Johann Christoph, who was an organist at Ohrdruf. He remained there until 1700. In 1707, Bach married his first cousin Maria Barbara and was appointed organist in Muhlhausen. Later that year he moved back to Weimar, where he served as court organist for nine years. One considerable body of Bach's music is his cantata series, of which more than 200 survive. Bach died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750.

Uno, Duo, Trio Quatro . . . Keep Counting

Franz Josef Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Franz Josef Haydn, b. Rohrau, Lower Austria, Mar. 31, 1732, d. May 31, 1809, was one of the greatest composers of the Classical Period of Music. He is most renowned for taking the established forms of the symphony and string quartet. He brought symphonic traits to the piano sonata, as well, and was a master of chamber music in general. His operas, although now less frequently performed, are of great musical value. Although much of Haydn's time was spent at Esterhaza and Eisenstadt, he maintained contact with the musical life of nearby Vienna. The friendship between Haydn and Mozart was influential and productive for both composers. Haydn also briefly taught Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna. Their different personalities made this meeting unrewarding, but Beethoven was a great admirer of Haydn's works.

Vegetarian and Antisemite or the German Spirit

Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
Wagner was the youngest of nine children of Friedrich and Johanna Wagner. His father died 6 months after he was born. Wagner was attracted to the theater at an early age. His first creative effort was a spoken tragedy, Leubald and Adelaide (1828). He decided at once, however, that he must also write music, and he proceeded to teach himself the rudiments of composition. Although Wagner's early training was slight by the standards of most major composers, he had an uncanny ability to copy the various styles he encountered in the music of his time. Wagner remains a controversial figure long after his death. He was a noted anti-Semite; after his death his second wife continued to promote these views along with his music.

Turbulent Lives
One Composer     Three Czars

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
The eminent Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840, in the Ural Mountains. His marriage in 1877 to Antonina Miliukova triggered an emotional crisis, perhaps related to his homosexuality, that brought him near suicide. Tchaikovsky lived sometimes in Russia, sometimes in western Europe. During his last years he lived in or near Moscow. It had been believed that the composer contracted cholera by drinking unboiled water. But in the 1970s, a Russian scholar found evidence that Tchaikovsky had been caught in a liaison with the nephew of a prominent official. According to this theory, he was then secretly tried by a private court that decreed he should commit suicide. Since homosexual activity was punishable by death in Russia.

Where in Heaven is Antonio Vivaldi?

Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741)
The Italian composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi, b. Venice, Mar. 4, 1678, d. July (buried July 28), 1741, was a major figure in Baroque music and exercised a considerable influence on the development of the Concerto. He entered the priesthood, and because of his red hair he was known as "The Red Priest." He traveled widely, producing operas in various European cities. His reputation diminished in later years, and he died destitute in Vienna. Vivaldi's music was forgotten for a century after his death but began to arouse interest with the discovery of its influence on J. S. Bach, who arranged a number of Vivaldi's concertos for keyboard. Large quantities of his works have been found since the 1920s, and they are now widely published, performed, and recorded.

Catch the Thief

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
George Frideric Handel, one of the greatest composers of the baroque period, was born in Halle, Germany, on Feb. 23, 1685. He died in London on Apr. 14, 1759, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the age of 12, Handel became the assistant organist at the cathedral of Halle, where the principal organist was his teacher. About 1706, Handel went to Italy, where he remained until 1710. His Italian travels took him to Florence, Venice, Rome, and Naples. In 1710, Handel returned to Germany and became musical director to the elector of Hanover. Late in the same year he visited England, where his opera Rinaldo was performed with great success. Today Handel is far better known as a composer of English oratorios than of Italian operas.

He Left Poland for Paris but His Heart is Still There

Frederic Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Chopin was born on Mar. 1, 1810, in Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw, Poland. His father was French, and his mother Polish. He was a precocious child, and he demonstrated a talent for the piano at a very early age. Chopin began composing while still a child, and a number of his early works survive. He gave his first public concert in 1818. In 1837, Franz Liszt introduced Chopin to the writer George Sand. She spent the winter of 1838-39 on the island of Majorca with Chopin, who was suffering from a respiratory ailment. Their relationship continued until 1847, and after they separated, Chopin's ailment was diagnosed as tuberculosis. Exhausted by a concert tour of England and Scotland in 1848, Chopin returned to Paris, where he died on Oct. 17, 1849.

Self Confidence or Modesty

Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, on May 7, 1833. He first studied music with his father. Brahms was a talented pianist, giving his first public recital at the age of 14, and making a living by playing in taverns and dance halls. After Brahms was rejected for a post as conductor in Hamburg in 1862, he visited Vienna and later (1868) made his home there. Brahms's work as a choral conductor in Vienna prepared him for the composition of A German Requiem, based on biblical texts rather than on the Roman Catholic requiem mass. Although most of his music is serious, his intimate folk-song settings and his dazzling Hungarian-style finales, reveal lighter sides of his musical personality. Brahms never married, although he had a large circle of friends and patrons.

Even a Divine Spark Has a Short Life

Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)
Schubert was born in Vienna, January 31, 1797 and died in Vienna on November 19, 1828. Unlike most of his predecessors, Schubert was not a virtuoso performer, though from his piano writing one must assume that he was a very fine player. This denied him from the kind of public exposure that had helped the early careers of Mozart and Beethoven. He never had much money and lived hand-to-mouth. Despite the hardships he endured, he was exceptionally prolific. He wrote his first masterpiece when he was only sixteen. His greatest contribution is arguably his huge output of songs. Schubert contracted syphilis sometime in his twenties and was ravaged by its symptoms in his last years. He died at the age of thirty-one, before his genius had even been recognized.

Only the Son of a Sailor Can Write About the Sea

Achille Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
Achille Claude Debussy, b. Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Aug. 22, 1862, d. Paris, Mar. 25, 1918, was the creator and leading exponent of French musical impressionism. He had his first piano lesson at the age of 9. In 1873, Debussy entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano. His cantata L'enfant prodigue won the Prix de Rome in 1884. In 1899, Debussy married Rosalie Texier, a dressmaker. He left her in 1904 for Emma Bardac, wife of a Parisian banker. He married Bardac in 1908; they had one daughter, Claude-Emma, the "Chouchou" to whom the Children's Corner suite (1906-08) was dedicated. About 1910 Debussy developed cancer, which sapped his strength during his last years. His sadness during World War I hastened the deterioration of his health. He died during the bombardment of Paris by German artillery.

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