Georg Böhm

Composer: Georg Böhm
Date of Birth:  2 September 1661
Date of Death: 18 May 1733
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Baroque
Contribution(s):  Böhm was a German Baroque organist and composer. He is notable for his development of the chorale partita and for his influence on the young J. S. Bach.

Biography: Böhm was born in 1661 in Hohenkirchen. He received his first music lessons from his father, a schoolmaster and organist who died in 1675. He may also have received lessons from Johann Heinrich Hildebrand, Kantor at Ohrdruf, who was a pupil of Heinrich Bach and Johann Christian Bach. After his father’s death, Böhm studied at the Lateinschule at Goldbach, and later at the Gymnasium at Gotha, graduating in 1684. Both cities had Kantors taught by the same members of the Bach family who may have influenced Böhm. On 28 August 1684 Böhm entered the University of Jena. Little is known about Böhm’s university years or his life after graduation. He resurfaces again only in 1693, in Hamburg. We know nothing of how Böhm lived there, but presumably he was influenced by the musical life of the city and the surrounding area. French and Italian operas were regularly performed in Hamburg, while in the area of sacred music, Johann Adam Reincken of St. Katharine’s Church (Katharinenkirche) was one of the leading organists and keyboard composers of his time. Böhm may have also heard Vincent Lübeck in the nearby Stade, or possibly even Dieterich Buxtehude in Lübeck, which was also close.

In 1698 Böhm succeeded Christian Flor as organist of the principal church of Lüneburg, the Church of St. John (Johanniskirche). Soon after Flor died in 1697, Böhm applied for an audition for the post, mentioning that he had no regular employment at the time. He was promptly accepted by the town council, settled in Lüneburg and held the position until his death. He married and had five sons.[1] From 1700 to 1702 he must have met and possibly tutored the young Johann Sebastian Bach, who arrived in Lüneburg in 1700 and studied at the Michaelisschule, a school associated with the Church of St. Michael (Michaeliskirche).[2] Practically no direct evidence exists to prove that Bach studied under Böhm, and indeed studying with the organist of the Johanniskirche would have been difficult for a pupil of the Michaelisschule, since the two choirs were not on good terms. Yet this apprenticeship is extremely likely. Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, writing to Johann Nikolaus Forkel in 1775, claimed his father loved and studied Böhm’s music, and a correction in his note shows that his first thought was to say that Böhm was Johann Sebastian’s teacher. On 31 August 2006 the discovery of the earliest known Bach autographs was announced, one of them (a copy of Reincken’s famous chorale fantasia An Wasserflüssen Babylon) signed “Il Fine â Dom. Georg: Böhme descriptum ao. 1700 Lunaburgi”. The “Dom.” bit may suggest either “domus” (house) or “Dominus” (master), but in any case it proves that Bach knew Böhm personally. This connection must have become a close friendship that lasted for many years, for in 1727 Bach named none other than Böhm as his northern agent for the sale of keyboard partitas nos. 2 and 3.

Böhm died on 18 May 1733 at the advanced age of 71. His son Jakob Christian, who would have inherited his post, died young. The position eventually went to Ludwig Ernst Hartmann, Böhm’s son-in-law.

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Engelbert Humperdinck

Composer: Engelbert Humperdinck
Date of Birth: 1 September 1854
Date of Death: 27 September 1921
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic-era
Contribution(s): Humperdinck was a German composer, best known for his opera Hansel and Gretel.

Composer Bio: Humperdinck was born at Siegburg in the Rhine Province in 1854. After receiving piano lessons, he produced his first composition at the age of seven. His first attempts at works for the stage were two singspiele written when he was 13. His parents disapproved of his plans for a career in music and encouraged him to study architecture. Nevertheless, he began taking music classes under Ferdinand Hiller and Isidor Seiss at the Cologne Conservatory in 1872. In 1876, he won a scholarship that enabled him to go to Munich, where he studied with Franz Lachner and later with Josef Rheinberger. In 1879, he won the first Mendelssohn Award given by the Mendelssohn Stiftung (foundation) in Berlin. He went to Italy and became acquainted with Richard Wagner in Naples. Wagner invited him to join him in Bayreuth, and during 1880 and 1881 Humperdinck assisted in the production of Parsifal. He also served as music tutor to Wagner’s son, Siegfried.

After winning another prize, Humperdinck traveled through Italy, France, and Spain and spent two years teaching at the Gran Teatre del Liceu Conservatory in Barcelona. In 1887, he returned to Cologne. He was appointed professor at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt in 1890 and also teacher of harmony at Julius Stockhausen’s Vocal School. By this time he had composed several works for chorus and a Humoreske for small orchestra, which enjoyed a vogue in Germany.

Hänsel und Gretel

Humperdinck’s reputation rests chiefly on his opera Hänsel und Gretel, which he began work on in Frankfurt in 1890. He first composed four songs to accompany a puppet show his nieces were giving at home. Then, using a libretto by his sister Adelheid Wette rather loosely based on the version of the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, he composed a Singspiel of 16 songs with piano accompaniment and connecting dialogue. By January 1891 he had begun working on a complete orchestration.

The opera premiered in Weimar on 23 December 1893, under the baton of Richard Strauss, who called it: “a masterpiece of the highest quality… all of it original, new, and so authentically German.”[this quote needs a citation] With its highly original synthesis of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs, Hansel and Gretel was an instant and overwhelming success.

Hansel and Gretel has always been Humperdinck’s most popular work. In 1923 the Royal Opera House (London) chose it for their first complete radio opera broadcast. Eight years later, it was the first opera transmitted live from the Metropolitan Opera (New York).

Later career
Engelbert Humperdinck
 In 1896, Kaiser Wilhelm II made Humperdinck a Professor and he went to live at Boppard. Four years later, however, he went to Berlin where he was appointed head of a Meisterschule of composition. His students included the Basque composer Andrés Isasi. Among his other stage works are:

  • Die sieben Geißlein (The Seven Little Kids), 1895
  • Königskinder (King’s Children), 1897, 1910
  • Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty), 1902
  • Die Heirat wider Willen (The Reluctant Marriage), 1905
  • Bübchens Weihnachtstraum (The Christmas Dream), 1906
  • Die Marketenderin (The Provisioner), 1914
  • Gaudeamus: Szenen aus dem deutschen Studentenleben (Gaudeamus igitur: Scenes from German Student Life), 1919

While composing those works, Humperdinck held various teaching positions of distinction and collaborated in the theater, providing incidental music for a number of Max Reinhardt’s productions in Berlin, for example, for Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in 1905.

Although recognized as a disciple of Wagner rather than an innovator, Humperdinck was nevertheless the first composer to use Sprechgesang—a vocal technique halfway between singing and speaking—in his melodrama Königskinder (1897).

In 1914, Humperdinck seems to have applied for the post of director of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia, but with the outbreak of World War I it became unthinkable for a German to hold that position, and the job went instead to Belgium’s Henri Verbrugghen. Also in 1914, Humperdinck signed the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three, declaring support for German military actions during early World War I.

On 5 January 1912 Humperdinck suffered a severe stroke. Although he recovered, his left hand remained permanently paralyzed. He continued to compose, completing Gaudeamus with the help of his son, Wolfram, in 1918. On 26 September 1921 Humperdinck attended a performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz in Neustrelitz, Wolfram’s first effort as a stage director. He suffered a heart attack during the performance and died the next day from a second heart attack. The Berlin State Opera performed Hansel and Gretel in his memory a few weeks later. He was buried at the Südwestkirchhof (de) in Stahnsdorf near Berlin.

For a list of Humperdinck’s pupils, see this list. In 1965, British singer Arnold Dorsey named himself after the composer. The main belt asteroid 9913 Humperdinck, discovered in 1977, was named after the composer as well.

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  1. Overture to Hansel & Gretal
  2. Overture to Königskinder (King’s Children), 1897, 1910

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Johann Pachelbel

66541e10affb467cc6579def30939db7Composer: Johann Pachelbel
Date of Birth: baptised 1 September, 1653
Date of Death: buried 9 March, 1706
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: middle Baroque era
Contribution(s): Pachelbel was a German composer, organist, and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era.

Pachelbel’s music enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime; he had many pupils and his music became a model for the composers of south and central Germany. Today, Pachelbel is best known for the Canon in D, as well as the Chaconne in F minor, the Toccata in E minor for organ, and the Hexachordum Apollinis, a set of keyboard variations.

He was influenced by southern German composers, such as Johann Jakob Froberger and Johann Caspar Kerll, Italians such as Girolamo Frescobaldi and Alessandro Poglietti, French composers, and the composers of the Nuremberg tradition[citation needed]. He preferred a lucid, uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasized melodic and harmonic clarity. His music is less virtuosic and less adventurous harmonically than that of Dieterich Buxtehude, although, like Buxtehude, Pachelbel experimented with different ensembles and instrumental combinations in his chamber music and, most importantly, his vocal music, much of which features exceptionally rich instrumentation. Pachelbel explored many variation forms and associated techniques, which manifest themselves in various diverse pieces, from sacred concertos to harpsichord suites.


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Amilcare Ponchielli

AmilcareponchielliComposer: Amilcare Ponchielli
Date of Birth: 31 August 1834
Date of Death: 16 January 1886
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic-era
Contribution(s): Ponchielli was an Italian composer, mainly of operas. He was married to the soprano Teresina Brambilla.

Composer Bio: Ponchielli was born in Paderno Fasolaro (now Paderno Ponchielli) near Cremona, then Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, Ponchielli won a scholarship at the age of nine to study music at the Milan Conservatory, writing his first symphony by the time he was ten years old.

Two years after leaving the conservatory he wrote his first opera—it was based on Alessandro Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed (I promessi sposi) — and it was as an opera composer that he eventually found fame.

His early career was disappointing. Maneuvered out of a professorship at the Milan Conservatory that he had won in a competition, he took small-time jobs in small cities, and composed several operas, none successful at first. In spite of his disappointment, he gained much experience as the bandmaster (capobanda) in Piacenza and Cremona, arranging and composing over 200 works for wind band. Notable among his “original” compositions for band are the first-ever concerto for euphonium (Concerto per Flicornobasso, 1872), fifteen variations on the popular Parisian song “Carnevale di Venezia”, and a series of festive and funeral marches that resound with the pride of the newly unified Italy and the private grief of his fellow Cremonese. The turning point was the big success of the revised version of I promessi sposi in 1872, which brought him a contract with the music publisher G. Ricordi & Co. and the musical establishment at the Conservatory and at La Scala. The role of Lina in the revised version was sung by Teresina Brambilla whom he married in 1874. Their son Annibale became a music critic and minor composer. The ballet Le due gemelle (1873) confirmed his success.

The following opera, I Lituani (The Lithuanians) of 1874, was also well received, being performed later at Saint Petersburg (as Aldona on 20 November 1884). His best known opera is La Gioconda, which his librettist Arrigo Boito adapted from the same play by Victor Hugo that had been previously set by Saverio Mercadante as Il giuramento in 1837 and Carlos Gomes as Fosca in 1873. It was first produced in 1876 and revised several times. The version that has become popular today was first given in 1880.

In 1876 he started working on I Mori di Valenza, although the project dates back to 1873. It was an opera that he never finished, although it was completed later by Arturo Cadore and performed posthumously in 1914.

After La Gioconda, Ponchielli wrote the monumental biblical melodrama in four acts Il figliuol prodigo given in Milan at La Scala on 26 December 1880 and Marion Delorme, from another play by Victor Hugo, which was presented at La Scala on 17 March 1885. In spite of their rich musical invention, neither of these operas met with the same success but both exerted great influence on the composers of the rising generation, such as Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni and Umberto Giordano.

In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Cathedral, and from the same year he was a professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where among his students were Puccini, Mascagni and Emilio Pizzi.

He died of pneumonia in Milan in 1886 and was interred in the city’s Monumental Cemetery.

Legacy: Although in his lifetime Ponchielli was very popular and influential, in introducing an enlarged orchestra and more complex orchestration, the only one of his operas regularly performed today is La Gioconda. It contains the great tenor romanza “Cielo e mar”, a superb duet for tenor and baritone “Enzo Grimaldo”, the soprano set-piece “Suicidio!”, and the ballet music “The Dance of the Hours”, known even to the non-musical from its use in Walt Disney’s Fantasia in 1940, Allan Sherman’s novelty song, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, and other popular works.


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Albert Dietrich

Composer: Albert Hermann Dietrich
Date of Birth: 28 August 1829
Date of Death: 20 November 1908
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Middle Romantic-era
Contribution(s): Dietrich was a German composer and conductor, remembered less for his own achievements than for his friendship with Johannes Brahms.

Biography: Dietrich was born at Golk, near Meissen. From 1851 he studied composition with Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf, where in October 1853 he first met Brahms and collaborated with Schumann and Brahms on the ‘F-A-E’ Sonata for Joseph Joachim (Dietrich composed the substantial first movement). From 1861 until 1890 he was the musical director at the court of Oldenburg, where Brahms often visited him and where he introduced many of Brahms’s works. It was in Dietrich’s library that Brahms discovered the volume of poetry by Hölderlin that furnished him with the text for his Schicksalslied, which he began composing while visiting Wilhelmshaven dockyard in Dietrich’s company. Dietrich was also instrumental in arranging for the premiere of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem at Bremen in 1868. Dietrich’s own works include an opera Robin Hood, a Symphony in D minor (1869, dedicated to Brahms),[1][2] a Violin Concerto in the same key (composed for Joseph Joachim but premiered in 1874 by Johann Lauterbach), a Cello Concerto, Horn Concerto, choral works and several chamber compositions including two piano trios.

Dietrich’s Recollections of Brahms, published in Leipzig in 1898, was translated into English the following year and remains an important biographical source. The Brahms scholar David Brodbeck has theorized (The Cambridge Companion to Brahms, 1999) that Dietrich is the most likely author of the anonymous Piano Trio in A major, discovered in 1924, which some scholars have attributed to Brahms; but Malcolm MacDonald (Brahms, 2nd ed, 2001) has maintained that, if any specific composer is to be sought for this work, Brahms remains the more likely candidate on balance of stylistic probabilities.

Albert Dietrich died in Berlin. One of his students was Ernst Eduard Taubert.

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Eric Coates

Composer: Eric Francis Harrison Coates
Date of Birth: 27 August 1886
Date of Death: 21 December 1957
Nationality: English
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Coates was an English composer of light music and a viola player.

Biography: Eric Coates was born in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire. His father was William Harrison Coates (d. 1935) who was a surgeon, and his mother was Mary Jane Gwynne, hailing from Usk in Monmouthshire. After studying at home with a governess, Eric enrolled (1906) at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received viola lessons from Lionel Tertis and studied composition with Frederick Corder. From 1910 he played in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Henry J. Wood, becoming principal violist in 1912, “… which post I held for seven years,” he said, speaking in a 1948 BBC radio interview, “until, I regret to say, I was dismissed through sending deputies to take my place when I was conducting my works elsewhere. Henry Wood little knew what a great help he had been to me by dispensing with my services, for from that day I never touched my viola again and was able to devote all my time to my writing.”

In February 1913 he married Phyllis Marguerite Black (1894-1982). He had an early success with the overture The Merrymakers (1922), but more popular was the London Suite (1933). The last movement of this, “Knightsbridge”, was used by the BBC to introduce its radio programme In Town Tonight. Amongst his early champions was Sir Edward Elgar.

Coates’s autobiography, Suite in Four Movements, was published in 1953. He died in Chichester in 1957 aged 71, having suffered a stroke and was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium. His son, Austin Coates (1922–1997), was a writer who lived much of his life in Asia.

Eric Coates was not related to Albert Coates, the contemporary conductor and composer.


Coates’s music, with its simple and memorable melodies, proved particularly effective for theme music. As well as “Knightsbridge”, the BBC also used Calling All Workers (1940) as the theme for the radio programme Music While You Work, and By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930) is still used to introduce the long-running radio programme Desert Island Discs. Coates’ “Halcyon Days”, the first movement of the suite The Three Elizabeths, was used as the theme to the popular 1967 BBC TV series The Forsyte Saga, although he received no credit. This piece was originally written in the early 1940s. It was later used as a celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It has had a recent resurgence in popularity, featuring on a number of CDs.

Coates also wrote a number of pieces that were used as television start-up music: the BBC Television March (for BBC-TV), was used daily from 1946 to the end of 1958 and occasionally from then until 1960, the Rediffusion March (written as Music Everywhere; for Associated-Rediffusion, from 1956 to 1957), Sound and Vision (for ATV in London from 1955 to 1968 and in the Midlands from 1956 to 1971), and the South Wales and the West Television March (for TWW from 1958 to 1968).

Coates is also well known for his contribution to the film score for The Dam Busters (1955); he composed the famous main title march. He was unwilling to write the entire score when asked by the film’s producers, but warmed to the idea of writing a signature march around which the rest of the film’s score was based – in fact, he submitted a piece that he had recently completed, so the famous Dam Busters March was not itself composed with the film in mind. The final film score was completed by Leighton Lucas.

His songs, some with lyrics by Arthur Conan Doyle and Fred E. Weatherly, are less well remembered, despite their initial success. He wrote some thirty songs before turning his attention to orchestral works.

Miniature Suite was the first of many orchestral works by Coates. It was written in 1911, and consists of three movements – Children’s Dance, Intermezzo and Scene du Bal.

Coates made a number of 78 rpm recordings of his music, initially for The British Columbia label and then for Decca Records (released in the U.S. on the London Records label). He recorded his London Suite and London Again Suite for Columbia. Some of his recordings were later issued on LP and CD. From the surviving recordings, it is clear that he was a very competent conductor, who benefited from advances in high fidelity recording.

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Rebecca Clarke

Rebecca Clarke (27 August 1886 – 13 October 1979) was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola. She was born in Harrow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music in London, later becoming one of the first female professional orchestral players. Stranded in the United States at the outbreak of World War II, she settled permanently in New York City and married composer and pianist James Friskin in 1944. Clarke died at her home in New York at the age of 93.

Although Clarke’s output was not large, her work was recognized for its compositional skill and artistic power. Some of her works have yet to be published (and many were only recently been published); those that were published in her lifetime were largely forgotten after she stopped composing. Scholarship and interest in her compositions revived in 1976. The Rebecca Clarke Society was established in 2000 to promote the study and performance of her music.

Clarke was an English classical composer and violist best known for her chamber music featuring the viola.

Biography: Early life    |    Later life and marriage   |   Music   |   Rebecca Clarke Society   |   Selected works

Composer: Rebecca Clarke
Date of Birth: 26 August 1886
Date of Death: 13 October 1979
Nationality: English/American
Period/Era/Style: 20th-century


Chamber Works Vocal Works

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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard_Bernstein_by_Jack_MitchellComposer: Leonard Bernstein
Date of Birth: August 25, 1918
Date of Death: October 14, 1990
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th-century, jazz-influenced and pop-influence; also a composer of popular songs, under pseudonym “Lenny Amber”
Contribution(s): Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”

His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world’s leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side StoryPeter Pan, CandideWonderful TownOn the TownOn the Waterfront, his Mass, and a range of other compositions, including three symphonies and many shorter chamber and solo works.

Bernstein was the first conductor to give a series of television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. He was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.

As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and critical success of West Side Story.


Early Life: He was born Louis Bernstein in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Ukrainian-Jewish parents Jennie (née Resnick) and Samuel Joseph Bernstein, a hairdressing supplies wholesaler originating from Rovno (now Ukraine).

His family spent their summers at their vacation home in Sharon, Massachusetts. His grandmother insisted that his first name be Louis, but his parents always called him Leonard, which they preferred. He officially changed his name to Leonard when he was fifteen, shortly after his grandmother’s death. To his friends and many others he was simply known as “Lenny.”

His father, Sam Bernstein, was a businessman and owner of a hair product store in downtown Lawrence; it is no longer standing on the corners of Amesbury and Essex Streets. Sam initially opposed young Leonard’s interest in music. Despite this, the elder Bernstein took him to orchestral concerts in his teenage years and eventually supported his music education. At a very young age, Bernstein listened to a piano performance and was immediately captivated; he subsequently began learning the piano seriously when the family acquired his cousin Lillian Goldman’s unwanted piano. As a child, Bernstein attended the Garrison Grammar School and Boston Latin School. As a child he was very close to his younger sister Shirley, and would often play entire operas or Beethoven symphonies with her at the piano. He had a variety of piano teachers in his youth, including Helen Coates, who later became his secretary.

After graduation from Boston Latin School in 1935, Bernstein attended Harvard University, where he studied music with, among others, Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston. Although he majored in music with a final year thesis (1939) entitled “The Absorption of Race Elements into American Music” (reproduced in his book Findings), Bernstein’s main intellectual influence at Harvard was probably the aesthetics Professor David Prall, whose multidisciplinary outlook on the arts Bernstein shared for the rest of his life. One of his friends at Harvard was philosopher Donald Davidson, with whom he played piano four hands. Bernstein wrote and conducted the musical score for the production Davidson mounted of Aristophanes’ play The Birds in the original Greek. Bernstein reused some of this music in the ballet Fancy Free. During his time at Harvard he was briefly an accompanist for the Harvard Glee Club. Bernstein also mounted a student production of The Cradle Will Rock, directing its action from the piano as the composer Marc Blitzstein had done at the premiere. Blitzstein, who heard about the production, subsequently became a friend and influence (both musically and politically) on Bernstein.

Bernstein also met the conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos at the time. Although he never taught Bernstein, Mitropoulos’s charisma and power as a musician was a major influence on Bernstein’s eventual decision to take up conducting. Mitropoulos was not stylistically that similar to Bernstein, but he probably influenced some of Bernstein’s later habits such as his conducting from the keyboard, his initial practice of conducting without a baton and perhaps his interest in Mahler. The other important influence that Bernstein first met during his Harvard years was composer Aaron Copland, whom he met at a concert and then at a party afterwards on Copland’s birthday in 1938. At the party Bernstein played Copland’s Piano Variations, a thorny work Bernstein loved without knowing anything about its composer until that evening. Although he was not formally Copland’s student as such, Bernstein would regularly seek advice from Copland in the following years about his own compositions and would often cite him as “his only real composition teacher”.

After completing his studies at Harvard in 1939 (graduating with a B.A. cum laude), he enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. During his time at Curtis, Bernstein studied conducting with Fritz Reiner (who anecdotally is said to have given Bernstein the only “A grade” he ever awarded), piano with Isabelle Vengerova, orchestration with Randall Thompson, counterpoint with Richard Stöhr, and score reading with Renée Longy Miquelle. Unlike his years at Harvard, Bernstein appears not to have greatly enjoyed the formal training environment of Curtis, although often in his later life he would mention Reiner when discussing important mentors.

1940–1950  |   1951–1959   |   1960–1969   |   1970–1979   |   1980 – 1990 

Social activism   |   Philanthropy   |   Artful Learning   |   Influence and characteristics as a conductor   |   Influence and characteristics as a composer

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Moritz Moszkowski

Composer: Moritz (Maurice) Moszkowski
Date of Birth: 23 August 1854
Date of Death: 4 March 1925
Nationality:  German-Jewish
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic-era
Contribution(s):  Moszkowski was a German-Jewish composer, pianist, and teacher of Polish descent on his paternal side. His brother Alexander Moszkowski was a famous writer and satirist in Berlin.
Ignacy Paderewski said: “After Chopin, Moszkowski best understands how to write for the piano, and his writing embraces the whole gamut of piano technique.” Although less known today, Moszkowski was well respected and popular during the late nineteenth century.

Composer Bio: He was born in Breslau, Prussia (now the Polish city of Wrocław), into a wealthy Polish-Jewish family whose parents had come to Breslau from Pilica, near Zawiercie, in 1854. He was an ardent Jew at a time when many Jews downplayed their Jewishness. He showed early talent from a very tender age, beginning his musical training at home until 1865, when his family moved to Dresden. There he continued his piano studies at the conservatory. He moved to Berlin in 1869 to continue his studies first at the Julius Stern’s Conservatory, where he studied piano with Eduard Franck and composition with Friedrich Kiel, and then at Theodor Kullak’s Neue Akademie der Tonkunst, where he studied composition with Richard Wüerst and orchestration with Heinrich Dorn. There he became close friends with the Scharwenka brothers, Xaver and Philipp. In 1871 he accepted Kullak’s offer to become a teacher in his academy; as he was also a more than competent violinist, he sometimes played first violin in the orchestra.

In 1873 Moszkowski made his first successful appearance as a pianist, and soon began touring the nearby cities in order to gain experience and establish his reputation. Two years later he was already playing his piano concerto on two pianos with Franz Liszt at a matineé before a selected audience invited by Liszt himself.

Retaining his post as a teacher at the Berlin conservatory from 1875 he had among his pupils Frank Damrosch, Joaquín Nin, Ernest Schelling, Joaquín Turina, Carl Lachmund, Bernhard Pollack, Ernst Jonas, Wilhelm Sachs, Helene von Schack, Albert Ulrich and Johanna Wenzel. Moszkowski then travelled successfully throughout Europe under the reputation of being an exceptional concert pianist and brilliant composer, having also gained some recognition as a conductor. In 1884 Moszkowski married the younger sister of pianist and composer Cécile Chaminade, Henriette Chaminade, with whom he had a son named Marcel and a daughter named Sylvia. By the mid-1880s, Moszkowski began suffering from a neurological problem in his arm and gradually diminished his recital activity in favor of composing, teaching and conducting. In 1887 he was invited to London where he had the chance to introduce many of his orchestral pieces. There he was awarded honorary membership by the Royal Philharmonic Society. Three years later his wife left him for the poet Ludwig Fulda and a divorce was issued two years later.

In 1897, famous and wealthy, Moszkowski moved to Paris, where he lived on rue Blanche with his daughter.[n 4] In Paris he was frequently sought after as a teacher, and was always generous in investing his time on aspiring musicians. Among his Parisian students were Vlado Perlemuter, Thomas Beecham (who took private lessons in orchestration with him on the advice of André Messager in 1904), Josef Hofmann (of whom he claimed once that there was nothing anyone could teach him), Wanda Landowska, and, informally, Gaby Casadesus. In the summer he rented a villa near Montigny-sur-Loing owned by the French novelist and poet Henri Murger. In 1899 the Berlin Academy elected him a member. He was many times invited by piano manufacturers to appear in the United States to show off their pianos, but despite being offered massive fees, he always refused.

In 1908, by the age of 54, Moszkowski had already become a recluse as he began to suffer from poor health. His popularity began to fade and his career slowly went into decline. He stopped taking composition pupils because “they wanted to write like artistic madmen such as Scriabin, Schoenberg, Debussy, Satie …”.

His last years he spent in poverty for he had sold all his copyrights and invested the whole lot in German, Polish and Russian bonds and securities, which were rendered worthless on the outbreak of the war. Two of his former pupils, Josef Hofmann and Bernhard Pollack came to his aid. Through the intervention of Pollack, who sent new piano arrangements of Moszkowski’s opera Boabdil to Peters Publishing House in Leipzig, he collected an extra 10,000 francs camouflaged as royalties besides a gift of 10,000 marks and personal donations of 10,000 marks from Hofmann and 5,000 marks from himself.[4] On 21 December 1924, when he was ill and heavily in debt, his friends and admirers arranged a grand testimonial concert on his behalf at Carnegie Hall, involving 15 grand pianos on stage. Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Percy Grainger, Josef Lhévinne, Elly Ney, Wilhelm Backhaus and Harold Bauer were among the performers, and Frank Damrosch conducted (Paderewski telegrammed his apologies). The concert netted US$13,275 (the equivalent of US$187,793.67 in May 2017), with one part transferred to the Paris branch of the National City Bank of New York in order to provide immediate relief from his financial problems, and an annuity purchased at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, whereby he would receive US$1,250 annually for the rest of his life.However, Moszkowski’s illness lingered and he died from stomach cancer on 4 March of the next year, before the supply of funds could reach him. The money raised went instead to pay his funeral expenses and to his wife and son.

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Henry Litolff

Composer: Henry Charles Litolff
Date of Birth: 07 August 1818
Date of Death: 05 August 1891
Nationality: French
Period/Era/Style: Early Romantic
Contribution(s): Litolff was a piano virtuoso, composer of Romantic music, and music publisher. A prolific composer, he is today known mainly for a single brief work – the scherzo from his Concerto Symphonique No. 4 in D minor – and remembered as the founder of the Collection Litolff, a highly regarded publishing imprint of classical music scores.

Biography: Litolff was born in London in 1818 to a Scottish mother, Sophie (née Hayes), and a father, Martin Louis Litolff, from the French province of Alsace. The father, a violinist, had been previously taken prisoner of war while serving as a band musician in the Napoleonic army during the Peninsular War.

His father taught the boy Henry the rudiments of music, and in 1830, when he was twelve, he played for the renowned virtuoso pianist Ignaz Moscheles, who was so impressed that he gave him free lessons starting that same year. Litolff began to concertize when he was fourteen. His lessons with Moscheles continued until in 1835, at the age of 17, Litolff abruptly married 16-year-old Elisabeth Etherington. The couple moved to Melun, and then to Paris.

He separated from Elisabeth in 1839 and moved to Brussels,. Around 1841, Litolff moved to Warsaw, where he is believed to have conducted the Teatr Narodowy (National Theatre) orchestra. In 1844 he travelled to Germany, gave concerts, and taught the future pianist-conductor Hans von Bülow.

The following year, Litolff returned to England with the idea of finally divorcing Elisabeth; but the plan backfired and he ended up not only heavily fined but imprisoned. He managed to escape and flee to the Netherlands — the escape said to have been accomplished with the assistance of the jailer’s daughter.

Litolff became friends with the music publisher Gottfried Meyer of Braunschweig (English: Brunswick), Germany; and, after Meyer’s death, he married the widow Julie in 1851 (having finally been granted a divorce from Elisabeth as a new citizen of Brunswick). Whilst married to Julie, the publishing firm G.M. Meyer (which she had been running successfully, and which was to become Litolff) grew substantially.[5] This second marriage lasted until 1858, when he divorced her and once again moved to Paris. After the divorce, the publishing firm was run by Litolff’s adoptive son, Theodor Litolff (1839-1912). In Paris he found a third wife, Louise de La Rochefoucauld; and, upon her death in 1873, a fourth (who had previously nursed him through an illness). Litolff died at Bois-Colombes, near Paris, in 1891, just shy of his seventy-third birthday.
  •  Concerto Symphonique No.3 (National Hollandais) for piano and orchestra in E major, Op. 45 (c.1846)
  • Concerto Symphonique No.4 for piano and orchestra in D minor, Op. 102 (1851-52)
  • Overture – Die Braut von Kynast, grand romantic opera in 3 acts (1847)
  • Les Girondins (Die Girondisten), drame symphonique No.2 (later styled Ouverture zum Trauerspiel), Op. 80 (c.1850-52)
  • Le Dernier Jour de la Terreur (later retitled Maximilien Robespierre), drame symphonique No.1 (later styled Ouverture zum Trauerspiel), Op. 55 (c.1850-52)
  • Chant des Belges, drame symphonique No.4 (later styled Ouverture dramatique), Op. 101 (c.1850-52)
  • Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 47 (1850)

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