Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style
Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by contemporaries such as Antonín Dvořák. His later, mature works incorporate his earlier studies of national folk music in a modern, highly original synthesis, first evident in the opera Jenůfa, which was premiered in 1904 in Brno. The success of Jenůfa (often called the “Moravian national opera”) at Prague in 1916 gave Janáček access to the world’s great opera stages. Janáček’s later works are his most celebrated. They include operas such as Káťa Kabanová and The Cunning Little Vixen, the Sinfonietta, the Glagolitic Mass, the rhapsody Taras Bulba, two string quartets, and other chamber works. Along with Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, he is considered one of the most important Czech composers.
Composer full Name: GRIEG, Edvard Hagerup Date of Birth: 15 June 1843 Date of Death: 04 September 1907 Nationality: Norwegian Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions brought the music of Norway to international consciousness, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius and Bedrich Smetana did in Finland and Bohemia, respectively.
Grieg is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen, with numerous statues depicting his image, and many cultural entities named after him: the city’s largest concert building (Grieghallen), its most advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg Museum at Grieg’s former home, Troldhaugen, is dedicated to his legacy.
Biography:: Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway. His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and vice-consul in Bergen; and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of solicitor and politician Edvard Hagerup. The family name, originally spelled Greig, is associated with the Scottish Clann Ghriogair (Clan Gregor). After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Grieg’s great-grandfather, Alexander Greig, travelled widely, settling in Norway about 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen.
Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical family. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play at the age of six. Grieg studied in several schools, including Tanks Upper Secondary School.
In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who was a family friend; Bull’s brother was married to Grieg’s aunt. Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy’s talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory, the piano department of which was directed by Ignaz Moscheles.
Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano, and enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. He disliked the discipline of the conservatory course of study. An exception was the organ, which was mandatory for piano students. In the spring of 1860, he survived two life-threatening lung diseases, pleurisy and tuberculosis. Throughout his life, Grieg’s health was impaired by a destroyed left lung and considerable deformity of his thoracic spine. He suffered from numerous respiratory infections, and ultimately developed combined lung and heart failure. Grieg was admitted many times to spas and sanatoria both in Norway and abroad. Several of his doctors became his personal friends. Career | Later years | Music
Composer full Name: Gabriel Urbain Fauré Date of Birth: 12 May 1845 Date of Death: 04 November 1924 Nationality: French Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Fauré was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, nocturnes for piano and the songs “Après un rêve” and “Clair de lune”. Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his most highly regarded works in his later years, in a more harmonically and melodically complex style.
Fauré was born into a cultured but not especially musical family. His talent became clear when he was a small boy. At the age of nine, he was sent to a music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, who became a lifelong friend. After graduating from the college in 1865, Fauré earned a modest living as an organist and teacher, leaving him little time for composition. When he became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist of the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire, he still lacked time for composing; he retreated to the countryside in the summer holidays to concentrate on composition. By his last years, Fauré was recognised in France as the leading French composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the president of the French Republic. Outside France, Fauré’s music took decades to become widely accepted, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime.
Fauré’s music has been described as linking the end of Romanticism with the modernism of the second quarter of the 20th century. When he was born, Chopin was still composing, and by the time of Fauré’s death, jazz and the atonal music of the Second Viennese School were being heard. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which describes him as the most advanced composer of his generation in France, notes that his harmonic and melodic innovations influenced the teaching of harmony for later generations. During the last twenty years of his life, he suffered from increasing deafness. In contrast with the charm of his earlier music, his works from this period are sometimes elusive and withdrawn in character, and at other times turbulent and impassioned.
Composer full Name: Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet Date of Birth: 12 May 1842 Date of Death: 13 August 1912 Nationality: French Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Massenet was a French composer of the Romantic erabest known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty. The two most frequently staged are Manon (1884) and Werther (1892). He also composed oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, piano pieces, songs and other music.
While still a schoolboy, Massenet was admitted to France’s principal music college, the Paris Conservatoire. There he studied under Ambroise Thomas, whom he greatly admired. After winning the country’s top musical prize, the Prix de Rome, in 1863, he composed prolifically in many genres, but quickly became best known for his operas. Between 1867 and his death forty-five years later he wrote more than forty stage works in a wide variety of styles, from opéra-comique to grand-scale depictions of classical myths, romantic comedies, lyric dramas, as well as oratorios, cantatas and ballets. Massenet had a good sense of the theatre and of what would succeed with the Parisian public. Despite some miscalculations, he produced a series of successes that made him the leading composer of opera in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Like many prominent French composers of the period, Massenet became a professor at the Conservatoire. He taught composition there from 1878 until 1896, when he resigned after the death of the director, Ambroise Thomas. Among his students were Gustave Charpentier, Ernest Chausson, Reynaldo Hahn and Gabriel Pierné.
By the time of his death, Massenet was regarded by many critics as old-fashioned and unadventurous although his two best-known operas remained popular in France and abroad. After a few decades of neglect, his works began to be favourably reassessed during the mid-20th century, and many of them have since been staged and recorded. Although critics do not rank him among the handful of outstanding operatic geniuses such as Mozart, Verdi and Wagner, his operas are now widely accepted as well-crafted and intelligent products of the Belle Époque.
Composer full Name: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Date of Birth: 07 May 1840 Date of Death: 06 November 1893 Nationality: Russian Period/Era/Style: Romantic Contribution(s): Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. He was honored in 1884 by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension.
Although musically precocious, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant. There was scant opportunity for a musical career in Russia at that time and no system of public music education. When an opportunity for such an education arose, he entered the nascent Saint Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1865. The formal Western-oriented teaching he received there set him apart from composers of the contemporary nationalist movement embodied by the Russian composers of The Five, with whom his professional relationship was mixed. Tchaikovsky’s training set him on a path to reconcile what he had learned with the native musical practices to which he had been exposed from childhood. From this reconciliation he forged a personal but unmistakably Russian style—a task that did not prove easy. The principles that governed melody, harmony and other fundamentals of Russian music ran completely counter to those that governed Western European music; this seemed to defeat the potential for using Russian music in large-scale Western composition or for forming a composite style, and it caused personal antipathies that dented Tchaikovsky’s self-confidence. Russian culture exhibited a split personality, with its native and adopted elements having drifted apart increasingly since the time of Peter the Great. This resulted in uncertainty among the intelligentsia about the country’s national identity—an ambiguity mirrored in Tchaikovsky’s career.
Despite his many popular successes, Tchaikovsky’s life was punctuated by personal crises and depression. Contributory factors included his early separation from his mother for boarding school followed by his mother’s early death, the death of his close friend and colleague Nikolai Rubinstein, and the collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life, which was his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck who was his patron even though they never actually met each other. His homosexuality, which he kept private, has traditionally also been considered a major factor, though some musicologists now downplay its importance. Tchaikovsky’s sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera; there is an ongoing debate as to whether cholera was indeed the cause of death, and whether his death was accidental or self-inflicted.
While his music has remained popular among audiences, critical opinions were initially mixed. Some Russians did not feel it was sufficiently representative of native musical values and expressed suspicion that Europeans accepted the music for its Western elements. In an apparent reinforcement of the latter claim, some Europeans lauded Tchaikovsky for offering music more substantive than base exoticism and said he transcended stereotypes of Russian classical music. Others dismissed Tchaikovsky’s music as “lacking in elevated thought,” according to longtime New York Times music critic Harold C. Schonberg, and derided its formal workings as deficient because they did not stringently follow Western principles.
Composer: Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov Date of Birth: 18 March [O.S. 6 March] 1844 Date of Death: 21 June [O.S. 8 June] 1908 Nationality: Russian Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five. He was a master of orchestration. His best-known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects.
Rimsky-Korsakov believed, as did fellow composer Mily Balakirev and critic Vladimir Stasov, in developing a nationalistic, “Moscalski” style of classical music. This style employed Russian folk song and lore along with exotic harmonic, melodicand rhythmic elements in a practice known as musical orientalism, and eschewed traditional Western compositional methods. Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated Western musical techniques after he became a professor of musical composition, harmony and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1871. He undertook a rigorous three-year program of self-education and became a master of Western methods, incorporating them alongside the influences of Mikhail Glinka and fellow members of The Five. His techniques of composition and orchestration were further enriched by his exposure to the works of Richard Wagner.
For much of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov combined his composition and teaching with a career in the Russian military—at first as an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, then as the civilian Inspector of Naval Bands. He wrote that he developed a passion for the ocean in childhood from reading books and hearing of his older brother’s exploits in the navy. This love of the sea might have influenced him to write two of his best-known orchestral works, the musical tableau Sadko (not to be confused with his later opera of the same name) and Scheherazade. Through his service as Inspector of Naval Bands, Rimsky-Korsakov expanded his knowledge of woodwind and brass playing, which enhanced his abilities in orchestration. He passed this knowledge to his students, and also posthumously through a textbook on orchestration that was completed by his son-in-law, Maximilian Steinberg.
Rimsky-Korsakov left a considerable body of original Russian nationalist compositions. He prepared works by The Five for performance, which brought them into the active classical repertoire (although there is controversy over his editing of the works of Modest Mussorgsky), and shaped a generation of younger composers and musicians during his decades as an educator. Rimsky-Korsakov is therefore considered “the main architect” of what the classical music public considers the Russian style of composition. His influence on younger composers was especially important, as he served as a transitional figure between the autodidactism which exemplified Glinka and The Five and professionally trained composers which would become the norm in Russia by the closing years of the 19th century. While Rimsky-Korsakov’s style was based on those of Glinka, Balakirev, Hector Berlioz, and Franz Liszt, he “transmitted this style directly to two generations of Russian composers” and influenced non-Russian composers including Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas and Ottorino Respighi.
Composer: Christian August Sinding Date of Birth: 11 January 1856 Date of Death: 03 December 1941 Nationality: Norwegian Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Sinding was a Norwegian composer. He is known for his lyrical works for piano, such as Frühlingsrauschen (Rustle of Spring, 1896). He was often compared to Edvard Grieg and regarded as his successor.
Biography: Personal Life: He was born in Kongsberg to mine superintendent Matthias Wilhelm Sinding (1811–1860) and Cecilie Marie Mejdell (1817–86). He was a brother of the painter Otto Sinding and the sculptor Stephan Sinding. He was a nephew of Nicolai Mejdell (1822–1899) and Thorvald Mejdell (1824–1908), and through the former a first cousin of Glør Thorvald Mejdell, who married Christian’s sister Thora Cathrine Sinding. Christian Sinding was also a first cousin of Alfred Sinding-Larsen and the three siblings Ernst Anton Henrik Sinding, Elisabeth Sinding and Gustav Adolf Sinding. Through his brother Otto he was the uncle of painter Sigmund Sinding.
In November 1898 he married actress Augusta Gade, née Smith-Petersen (1858–1936). She had been married to Fredrik Georg Gade for seventeen years, and was a daughter of Morten Smith-Petersen and maternal granddaughter of Jacob von der Lippe.
Career: He studied music first in Christiania before going to Germany, where he studied at the conservatory in Leipzig under Salomon Jadassohn and fell under the musical influences of Wagner and Liszt. He lived in Germany for much of his life, but received regular grants from the Norwegian government. In 1920–21 he went to the United States of America to teach composition for a season at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. In 1924 he was given Henrik Wergeland’s former home, “Grotten” (“The Grotto”), as an honorary residence. He died in Oslo.
Sinding’s publishers required from him piano and chamber music, which has broader sales than the symphonic works he preferred. His own instrument was the violin. The large number of short, lyrical piano pieces and songs that Sinding wrote has led to many seeing him as the heir to his fellow countryman, Edvard Grieg, not so much in musical style but as a Norwegian composer with an international reputation. After his first piano sonata was premiered, a critic complained that it was “too Norwegian”. Though Sinding is said to have replied that the next one would be even more so, specifically Norwegian folk-elements are not prominent in his richly contrapuntal post-Wagnerian orchestral style.
Sinding is best remembered today for one of his piano works, Frühlingsrauschen (Rustle of Spring, 1896). Among his other works are four symphonies, three violin concertos, a piano concerto chamber music, songs and choral works to Norwegian texts, and an opera, Der Heilige Berg (The Holy Mountain, 1914).
Sinding was appointed a Commander of the Order of Vasa. In 1916, he became a Commander, and in 1938, received the Grand Cross, of the Order of St. Olav.
Eight weeks before his death in 1941, Sinding joined the Norwegian Nazi party, Nasjonal Samling. Because it was official practice for the postwar national broadcasting monopoly to boycott people seen as Nazi sympathisers, Sinding’s reputation in Norway is now relatively obscure. The circumstances surrounding the composer’s membership continue to raise controversy. Sinding had made several remarks against the occupation had fought for the rights of Jewish musicians during the early 1930s, was a close friend of Nordahl Grieg, and had suffered from severe senile dementia since the late 1930s. The Nazis had strong motivation to recruit Sinding, as he was tremendously popular before the war – particularly in Norway and Germany, and the party paid his fees.
Composer: Franz Xaver Scharwenka Date of Birth: 06 January 1850 Date of Death: 08 December 1924 Nationality: German/Bohemian-Polish descent Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): was a German pianist, composer and teacher of Bohemian-Polish descent. He was the brother of (Ludwig) Philipp Scharwenka (1847–1917), who was also a composer and teacher of music.
Biography: Franz Xaver Scharwenka was born in Samter, Prussia (Polish: Szamotuły; until 1793 and since 1919 part of Poland) in 1850. His paternal ancestors originally came from Prague, then moved to Frankfurt on the Oder in 1696 – probably for reasons of faith – and settled thereafter in Samter. His father, August Wilhelm, was a gifted master-builder but decidedly did not have an ear for music. His mother, née Golisch, was an ethnic Pole from a family of some means, who was musically inclined and early on instilled in her children a love of music. Although he began learning to play the piano by ear when he was 3, Scharwenka did not start formal music studies until he was 15, when his family moved to Berlin and he enrolled at the Akademie der Tonkunst. Under Theodor Kullak, his pianistic skills developed rapidly, and he made his debut at the Singakademie in 1869. He taught at the academy until entering military service in 1873. Upon his discharge in 1874, Scharwenka began touring as a concert pianist. Praised for the beauty of his tone, he was a renowned interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin.
In 1881 Scharwenka organized a successful annual series of chamber and solo concerts at the Singakademie in conjunction with Gustav Holländer and Heinrich Grünfeld. That October he founded his own music school in Berlin. In 1886, he conducted the first in a series of orchestral concerts devoted to the music of Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Ludwig van Beethoven while continuing to tour extensively and play his works in collaboration with other artists such as the conductor Hans Richter and the violinist Joseph Joachim. This triple role as pianist, composer and educator would occupy Scharwenka for the rest of his career.
In 1891, Scharwenka made his first tour of America. Deciding to emigrate, he opened a New York branch of his Scharwenka Music School. In 1893 the Berlin Scharwenka Conservatory was united with the Klindworth Conservatory, and in 1898 he returned there as Director, from New York. In 1914, with W. Petzet, he opened a School of Music with a piano teachers’ seminary attached. Among pianists who received some instruction from him were José Vianna da Motta, Fridtjof Backer-Grøndahl and Selmar Janson. See: List of music students by teacher: R to S#Xaver Scharwenka. His Methodik des Klavierspiels was published in Leipzig in 1907.
Sometime in the very early 1900s he conducted Felix Mendelssohn’s G minor Concerto, at which the composer and pianist Marthe Servine made their debuts. Scharwenka made several recordings for Columbia Records in 1910 and 1913, including works of his own, as well as Chopin, Mendelssohn, Weber and Liszt: his account of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op. posth. 66) is admired. His playing is also preserved on Welte-Mignon and Hupfeld] piano rolls, including the Chopin A-flat Waltz, Op 42, and the F minor Fantaisie (Op. 49), his performance of which was famous. Some of his Hupfeld rolls were also converted for the American Ampico reproducing piano.
Composer: Giuseppe Martucci Date of Birth: 06 January 1856 Date of Death: 01 June 1909 Nationality: Italian Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic Contribution(s): Martucci was an Italian composer, conductor, pianist and teacher. As a composer and teacher he was influential in reviving Italian interest in non-operatic music. As a conductor he helped to introduce Wagner’s operas to Italy and also gave important early concerts of English music there.
Biography: Career: Martucci was born at Capua, in Campania. He learned the basics of music from his father, Gaetano, who played the trumpet. A child prodigy, he played in public on the piano when only eight years old. From the age of 11, he was a student at the Naples Conservatory, on the recommendation of professor Beniamino Cesi, the latter being a former student of Sigismond Thalberg. From Paolo Serrao, Martucci acquired his initial training in composition; his own composition students later on, when he worked and taught at Bologna, included Ottorino Respighi.
He died in Naples in 1909. His son Paolo, born in Naples in 1883, also became a pianist of note, briefly teaching at the Cincinnati Conservatory.
Martucci’s career as an international pianist commenced with a tour through Germany, France and England in 1875, at the age of 19. He was appointed piano professor at the Naples Conservatory in 1880, and moved to Bologna in 1886, replacing Luigi Mancinelli at the Bologna Conservatory; in 1902 he returned for the last time to Naples, as director of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
It was in 1881 that Martucci made his first conducting appearance. One of the earliest Italian musicians to admire Wagner, Martucci introduced some of Wagner’s output to Italy. He led, for example, the first Italian performance of Tristan und Isolde in 1888 in Bologna. Nor did his enthusiasm for foreign composers end with Wagner’s work. As well as performing Charles Villiers Stanford’s 3rd (“Irish”) Symphony in Bologna in 1898, he also conducted perhaps the only concert of all-British orchestral music on the European continent in the whole period 1851–1900.What is more, he included music by Brahms, Lalo, Goldmark and others in his programs.
Martucci began as a composer at the age of 16, with short piano works. He wrote no operas, which was unusual among Italian composers of his generation, but instead concentrated on instrumental music and songs, producing also an oratorio, Samuel.
Composer: Manuel de Falla y Matheu Date of Birth: 23 November 1876 Date of Death: 14 November 1946 Nationality: Spanish Period/Era/Style: Romantic-era/20th-century transition Contribution(s): Falla was a Spanish composer best known for The Three-Cornered Hat. Along with Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados, he was one of Spain’s most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century. His image appeared on Spain’s 1970 100-pesetas banknote.
Biography: Falla was born Manuel María de los Dolores Falla y Matheu in Cádiz. He was the son of José María Falla, a Valencian, and María Jesús Matheu, from Catalonia (Hess 2001a).
In 1889 he continued his piano lessons with Alejandro Odero and learned the techniques of harmony and counterpoint from Enrique Broca. At age 15 he became interested in literature and journalism and founded the literary magazines El Burlón and El Cascabel.