08-15: Marin Marais Gamba - Brahms Szigeti Ormandy Schnabel Szell - Big Bill Broonzy One Beer One Blues - Dusty Springfield in Memphis

Ordered chronologically. Trouble identifying them? Click here for a tagged image.
1576 – Bálint Bakfark (Hungarian composer & lutenist)
1728 – Marin Marais (French composer & gambist)
1798 – Felice Alessandri (Italian composer & harpsichordist)
1848 – Timothy Olmstead (American composer, psalmodist & Revolutionary War fifer)
1853 – Giovanni Battista Polledro (Italian violinist & composer)
1907 – Joseph Joachim (Austro-Hungarian violinist, conductor & composer)
1918 – Peter Gast (German writer & composer, friend & colleague of Nietzsche)
1935 – Gerard von Brucken Fock (Dutch composer & painter)
1936 – Stanisław Niewiadomski (Polish composer, conductor & music critic)
1951 – Artur Schnabel (Austrian pianist & composer)
1958 – Big Bill Broonzy (American blues singer, songwriter & guitarist)
1968 – Edward Kilenyi, Sr. (Hungarian-born American film composer & violinist, teacher of Gershwin)
1972 – Alf Thorbald Hurum (Norwegian composer)
1978 – Harrison Kerr (American composer & music editor, co-founder of American Music Center)
1985 – Richard Yardumian (American composer)
1995 – Erbie Bowser (American blues pianist)
1995 – Jesse "Babyface" Thomas (American blues guitarist & singer)
2003 – Gösta Sundqvist (Finnish rock singer, songwriter & guitarist & radio personality)
2004 – Semiha Berksoy (Turkish soprano & painter, early Turkish opera singer)
2007 – Richard Bradshaw (English opera conductor, active in Canada)
2008 – Jerry Wexler (American studio producer & journalist, coined term "rhythm and blues")

Gerard von Brucken Fock and Bálint Bakfark. Gerard von Brucken Fock and Bálint Bakfark. I have nothing to say about these guys, I just think saying their names is fun.

Well, it was a blue day (not a Blue Monday, though - it was a Tuesday) in Texas on August 15th, 1995 when Dallas guitarist Jesse "Babyface" Thomas and Austin pianist Erbie Bowser passed away within hours of one another. Hm, maybe I got that wrong. They were bluesmen, right? So if they died, maybe Texas got less blue that day. The complementary color of blue is orange. Maybe that day was really an orange day in Texas. That's it. It was an Orange Tuesday in Texas. Hook 'em Horns, or whatever. However, August 15th is really a lot more orange than that, because Babyface & Erbie in fact passed away on the 37th anniversary of the day one of the true all-time legends of blues pooped. That was Big Bill Broonzy. But that didn't happen on a Tuesday. August 15th fell on a Friday in 1958, so I guess that day was an Orange Friday in Chicago. I think Babyface & Ernie would both have been pleased to know they went to the Lord on the same day Big Bill did. Unfortunately, they didn't live to see it. More about Big Bill after the jump across the open grave...

Marin Marais was a splendid composer who studied with Jean-Baptiste Lully, and also a virtuoso of the bass viol who worked as a court musician at Versailles for Louis XIV, being named "ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole" in 1679. He wrote a few magnificent operas, but the bulk of his music is for his own instrument, the viola da gamba. His gamba pieces, usually arranged in suites with a thoroughbass accompaniment, are often descriptive in character, and bear the colorful titles which French composers of the time often gave to such pieces. Some of the pieces are considered early examples of program music, in which the composer uses specific musical passages to describe some sort of extra-musical circumstance. One particularly alarming, yet humorous example of this is "Le Tableau de l'Operation de la Taille" ("The Gallbladder Operation"), which is thought to describe a surgery Marais himself endured for the removal of gallstones. The score is peppered with indications of what the music is supposed to represent at a given moment, such as "The patient is bound with silken cords" and "He screameth"... (Read more below)

August 15th also saw the passing of two of the world's greatest classical performers, violinist Joseph Joachim and pianist Artur Schnabel.

Joachim, aside from being one of the most important violinists of the 19th century, was related to the wealthy Wittgenstein family; Fanny Wittgenstein, the grandmother of philosopher Ludwig and pianist Paul (who commissioned all those works for the left hand after he lost his right in WWI) was his first cousin. Joachim is best remembered for his association with Johannes Brahms, but as a youth he was a protégé of Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig, with whom he traveled to London in 1844, where they performed Beethoven's Violin Concerto to great acclaim. The young Joachim also sat in the first desk of violins in the Gewandhaus Orchestra alongside Ferdinand David, for whom Mendelssohn had written his Violin Concerto in E minor.

Later, he was concertmaster of Franz Liszt's orchestra in Weimar, but he soon became disenchanted with the music of the progressive 'New German School' (Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz, and their followers), and it was then, in 1852, that he moved to Hamburg and began his association with Robert and Clara Schumann, and the young Brahms, who at 19 was two years Joachim's junior. The two became lifelong friends, and Brahms was to write a number of works for Joachim, most notably his Violin Concerto in D major, whose solo part involved a collaborative effort between composer and soloist, much as had been the case with Ferdinand David and Mendelssohn's concerto.

Joachim also composed a number of original works, although his best-known compositions are the cadenzas he wrote for the Brahms and Beethoven Concertos, as well as the 4th and 5th violin concertos by Mozart. Although a few intrepid performers these days are reviving the practice of composing or improvising their own cadenzas, the vast majority of violinists still play Joachim's cadenzas to these concertos as if they are an integral part of them. Joachim also had some famous pupils, some of which themselves went on to teach famous violinists. Joachim's pupils included Leopold Auer (who taught Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Efrem Zimbalist, and Oscar Shumsky) Will Marion Cook, Willy Hess (who taught Arthur Fiedler and Adolf Busch), Jenő Hubay (who taught Joseph Szigeti, Eugene Ormandy, and Franz von Vecsey), Iosif Kotek, Charles Martin Loeffler, Maud Powell, and Franz von Vecsey... (Read more below)

Pianist Artur Schnabel eschewed the pyrotechnical approach of many of his contemporaries in the early 20th century, and became revered worldwide for the energy and probing spirituality of his performances. Unlike devotees of the Russian school of pianism - in which one must, at all costs, never play a wrong note - Schnabel's performances were not always technically flawless. As in the case of his contemporary Alfred Cortot, there were occasional lapses of memory and 'finger slips.' But as someone once famously remarked of Schnabel's playing, "His wrong notes sound better than other pianists' right notes."

Schnabel's bread and butter were the Viennese masters, most especially the solo works of Beethoven and Schubert. He was no stranger to ensemble work, however, and during his career he played solo and chamber works with violinists Carl Flesch and Joseph Szigeti, violist Paul Hindemith, and cellists Gregor Piatigorsky, Pablo Casals, and Pierre Fournier, as well as concerted works with conductors Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, George Szell, Willem Mengelberg, and Adrian Boult. Schnabel also became famed for the many master classes he gave. Among his many pupils were Clifford Curzon, Rudolf Firkušný, Lili Kraus, Leon Fleisher, Leonard Shure, Jascha Spivakovsky, Noel Mewton-Wood, Maria Curcio, and radio personality Karl Haas. Although known best for his Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, Schnabel had other composers in his repertoire during the early part of his career, notably Chopin, Weber, and Liszt. And he could also do a mean Brahms... (Read more below)



  1. Love that olde time music like Bill Broonzy.

  2. Heck, yeah. Big Bill was right on the edge there, when blues was evolving from its early roots into the electric stuff that came along in the 40s & 50s. He's a pivotal figure, to be sure!