08-14: Strauss Zarathustra Böhm - Hawkwind Windsor Free Festival 1973 - Drowning Pool Sinner

Ordered chronologically. Trouble identifying them? Click here for a somewhat tagged image.
1587 – Guglielmo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (Italian patron of Palestrina & de Wert)
1727 – William Croft (English composer, organist & singer)
1763 – Giovanni Battista Somis (Italian violinist & composer)
1834 – Friedrich Christian Ruppe (German composer, pianist & violinist)
1867 – Niccola Benvenuti (Italian composer)
1904 – Arnold Krug (German composer & music teacher)
1938 – Landon Ronald (English conductor, composer, pianist & singing teacher)
1961 – Guido Alberto Fano (Italian composer, conductor & pianist)
1964 – Johnny Burnette (American rockabilly singer & guitarist)
1970 – Vano Muradeli (Georgian composer)
1981 – Karl Böhm (Austrian conductor)
1984 – Peter Wishart (English composer)
1987 – Vincent Persichetti (American composer, teacher & pianist)
1988 – Roy Buchanan (American blues & rock guitarist)
1988 – Robert Calvert (South African rock singer & poet, Hawkwind)
1992 – Tony Williams (American R&B & doo-wop singer, The Platters)
2002 – Dave Williams (American alt-metal singer, Drowning Pool)
2007 – Tikhon Khrennikov (Russian composer & pianist)

The wealthy and powerful Gonzaga family ruled the Lombard duchy of Mantua (Màntova) between 1328 and 1708. During the Renaissance and Early Modern periods, their famed patronage of the arts made Mantua one of the prime cultural destinations in Northern Italy. Guglielmo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat from 1550 to 1587, was an especially noted patron of sacred vocal music. He built a large new church in Mantua, the Basilica of Santa Barbara, and devoted much attention to developing a unique musical repertory for it, commissioning numerous masses and motets by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Giaches de Wert, and others. The letters he exchanged with Palestrina, stipulating his requirements for the works he commissioned, are considered priceless by music historians, as they include the only epistolary texts from Palestrina which have survived. They consider Duke Bill Gonzaga to be pretty priceless too, since there are a number of magnificent Palestrina masses we would not have if it hadn't been for him.

In his day, Arnold Krug was known mainly for his choral works, although he also wrote symphonies, operas, chamber music, and piano works. But today he is remembered most for a single work of chamber music for strings, his Preis-Sextett in D major, Op.68, so-called because in 1896 it won a prize given out by instrument builder Alfred Stelzner for the best chamber music work employing two instruments Stelzner had invented. You see, an ordinary string sextet (not that it's all that ordinary an instrumental combination) consists of 2 violins, 2 violas, and 2 cellos. The best-known examples of its use are all gorgeous and rich-sounding works:  the Opp. 18 & 36 of Brahms, Tchaikovsky's late Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70, and Arnold Schoenberg's early masterpiece Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4.

But Krug's sextet used only one each of the viola and cello, and also one each of Stelzner's inventions - the violotta and cellone - which are tuned, respectively, one octave below and two octaves below the violin. Thus, the violotta is intermediate in pitch between the viola and the cello, and the cellone is intermediate in pitch between the cello and the double bass. Stelzner's venture enjoyed some success at first, receiving endorsements from famous string players such as Joseph Joachim, Eugène Ysaÿe, David Popper, and August Wilhelmj. Stelzner was convinced these inventions would cause a revolution in string-writing. But he was wrong. His business failed in 1900, and six years later he killed himself. We'll be hearing about him again next July! As for Krug's Preis-Sextett, when it is played today (which is almost never), it's done using an arrangement for conventional string sextet made by Krug's publisher. Very few of Stelzner's originals survive, and the ones from his personal collection were destroyed in 1945 - as luck would have it, he lived in Dresden! But it appears there has been some renewed interest in his work.

Well, another Georgian composer... yesterday it was Dimitri Arakishvili, and today it's Vano Muradeli. Have you ever seen what the Georgian language looks like? They use a completely different alphabet than Russians do. Here's an example of it. I like this, because it has Cyrillic letters, Arabic numerals, and Roman numerals mixed in for comparison. Pretty weird, huh?
Vincent Persichetti was a very important American composer, and a very influential teacher of composition at the Juilliard School, where his students included Philip Glass, Richard Danielpour, Peter Schickele, Lowell Liebermann, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Toshi Ichiyanagi, and Thelonious Monk. His work is difficult to pigeon-hole and involved a large number of disparate influences - Big Band as much as Bartók and Berg. His Hymns and Responses for the Church Year is a standard setting for church choirs. Persichetti's numerous works for youth orchestra and concert band provide many high school musicians with some of their earliest experience at playing contemporary music. Why don't you head on over to Art of the States and listen to his beautiful Night Dances, Op. 114 (1970)? The Juilliard Orchestra is led by James DePriest, another Persichetti student.

See, now we were just remembering Les Paul, and his great invention for the Gibson company, and now along comes Roy Buchanan, master of the Telecaster. Of course, the Stratocaster has always been the more popular of the Fender solid bodies (Teles tend to weigh quite a bit more!), but the point is that the Gibson-Fender debate over guitars is a lot like the Ford-Chevy debate over trucks, or the Coke-Pepsi debate over sodey pop, or the Marlboro-Camel debate over ciggies. And it's one nobody will ever win, because people like what they like, and that's that. The Telecaster was popular as a country guitar in the 60s, and also found favor with more blues and R&B-based players like Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Mike Bloomfield, Steve Cropper, and Eric Clapton. Jimmy Page did much of his early work with Led Zeppelin on a Telecaster, although he moved to mostly Gibson instruments in the 70s. (The "Stairway to Heaven" solo is on a Tele, though!) Other famous Telecaster users have included Bruce Springsteen, Andy Summers, Joe Strummer, Jeff Buckley, and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.

Karl Böhm was one of the most celebrated conductors of the last century, respected in both symphonic literature and opera. Although his recordings of Viennese masters - Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, Brahms - are highly regarded, he is probably best remembered for his successes with Wagner at Bayreuth during the 60s, and most especially, for his lifelong association with his colleague Richard Strauss. Böhm premiered Strauss's late operas Die schweigsame Frau (1935) and Daphne (1938), and was the dedicatee of both works. He led revivals of Strauss operas many times, with fine casts. And he gave due attention to Strauss's orchestral works as well... (Read more below)



  1. Ahh Strauss. Has anyone out there read Don Quixote while listening to Don Quixote? I would have, but I'm not a fast enough reader.

  2. I'm not sure even Evelyn Wood could read that fast! Same goes for Also Sprach Zarathustra, for that matter. But here's how I think about it. A really big piece of music, like an opera, or a very long symphony, can take up hundreds of pages, the same as a really big novel. But you could never get through a 500-page novel in the same time it takes to listen to an orchestral score that takes up 500 pages. The latter might take you 3 or 4 hours, the former more like 3 or 4 days (including breaks for silly things like eating and sleeping). I think what it boils down to is that reading is, in many ways, a completely different activity from listening to music, and the way we notate music is also a lot more intricate than the way we notate a spoken language.