10-02: Hazel Scott / Charles Mingus / Max Roach 1955 - Bola de Nieve 1950 - Violin Concertos Mendelssohn | Bruch 1 + Scottish Fantasy / Chung 1972 - Gene Autry 16 Country Classics

1559 – Jacquet de Mantua (French composer & cathedral music director, active in Italy)
1629 – Antonio Cifra (Italian composer & church music director)
1823 – Daniel Steibelt (German pianist & composer, active in France, England & Russia)
1842 – José Mariano Elízaga (Mexican composer, court music director, music theorist, pianist, organist, teacher & music publisher)
1915 – Russell Alexander (American composer, vaudeville entertainer & circus band euphonium soloist)
1920 – Max Bruch (German composer & conductor)
1943 – Robert Nathaniel Dett (Canadian composer, pianist, organist & choir director, active also in the United States)
1960 – Jaroslav Doubrava (Czech composer, painter & teacher)

1970 – Bo Linde (Swedish composer & conductor)
1971 – Bola de Nieve [Ignacio Jacinto Villa] (Cuban cabaret singer, pianist & songwriter)
1981 – Hazel Scott (Trinidadian-born jazz & classical pianist, singer & actress)

1983 – Gerald Strang (Canadian composer, teacher & author)
1996 – Frida Knight (English musicologist, author, pianist, violinist & socialist activist)

1998 – Gene Autry (American country singer, guitarist, actor, & entrepreneur)
2001 – Franz Biebl (German composer, "Ave Maria")
2007 – Tawn Mastrey (American hard rock disc jockey & music video producer, Hair Nation, Absolutely Live High Voltage)

2008 – Rob Guest (English-born New Zealander/Australian musical theater performer & television host)

October 2 saw the passing of two particularly famous musical notables: Gene Autry, everyone's favorite singing cowboy, both on the phonograph and on the Silver Screen; and Max Bruch, who with his three violin concertos and Scottish Fantasia was one of the 19th century's most prolific contributors to the standard repertoire of concerted works for the violin. Another one of Bruch's most famous works is his Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra, based on Hebrew themes. When the Nazis came to power and started banning public performances of works by Jewish composers, Bruch was one of the composers they targeted. Just one little problem: Bruch wasn't Jewish! In fact, there's no evidence of him having had any ancestors who were Jewish either. The Nazis merely assumed he was because of his Hebrew-themed and Hebrew-titled work. Clearly they were living by their usual maxim, "When in doubt, err on the side of extreme ignorance and stupidity."

We also remember two great Caribbean pianist-vocalists: Trinidadian jazz musician and actress Hazel Scott - like Mary Lou Williams, one of those all-too-rare lights in the "man's world" of instrumental jazz - and Cuban cabaret entertainer Ignacio Jacinto Villa, who went by the nickname of Bola de Nieve ("Snowball") because of his round head, and who was one of the gay men lucky enough to escape persecution under the Castro regime, thanks only to the great respect his pure talent afforded him.

Two musicians who are less well-known than they once were, but who have interesting stories to tell. Canadian-born composer, keyboardist & choirmaster Robert Nathaniel Dett was, in the 1920s, the first black student ever to complete the five-year course of study at Oberlin Conservatory. In 1929, he traveled to Paris to study with... guess who? That's right... like Virgil Thomson and Roy Harris, from the past two days' posts, Dett was also a pupil of Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleu. Then in 1932, he received his Masters degree from Eastman. Dett went on to have some considerable critical and public successes, most notably with the premiere in 1937 of his oratorio The Ordering of Moses by the Cincinnati Symphony under Eugene Goosens, at a festival where the chorus numbered 350. His last duties took him to Europe, contributing to the war effort as a choral advisor to the USO. He died of a heart attack there in 1943.

The German Daniel Steibelt was also a composer and pianist. His reputation hasn't held up quite as well as Dett's, however. His studies began with Johann Kirnberger, who himself had been a pupil of J. S. Bach. After Steibelt's father forced him to join the Prussian army, he soon deserted and became an itinerant musician, finally dividing most of his time between Paris and London, where his abilities as both a pianist and a composer gained recognition. In 1799, Steibelt embarked on a tour of German and Austria. It was when he arrived in Vienna in May 1800 that Steibelt made the unfortunate mistake of challenging Ludwig van Beethoven, 5 years his junior at the age of 29, to a trial of improvisational skill at the home of Count van Fries. Beethoven prevailed handily in the duel, delivering his coup de grâce with a lengthy improvisation on a theme from one of Steibelt's own works - which he read after turning the sheet music upside down on the music rack!

Steibelt cancelled the remainder of his tour after this public humiliation, but he went on to enjoy further success in his musical career, finally ending up comfortably in St. Petersburg, in the service of Tsar Alexander I as director of Russia's Royal Opera. Steibelt's last public success as piano soloist came in 1820, with the premiere of his own Concerto No. 8, which is remarkable as the first piano concerto ever written to feature a choral finale, and which predates Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - the first symphony to feature a choral finale - by four years (although with the composition of his concerto, Steibelt was quite likely influenced by Beethoven's one-movement Choral Fantasy for piano, orchestra, and chorus, which had appeared 12 years earlier). Later piano concerti to feature choral parts include the rarely-heard Concerto No. 6 (1858) by Henri Hertz, and the Piano Concerto of Ferrucio Busoni (1904).

Well, you have to give Daniel Steibelt some credit for trying, don't you? By 1800, Beethoven's reputation had certainly preceded him. But, it's like the late Jim Croce used to sing: "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and for God's sake, you don't challenge the most famous composer and pianist in history to a cutting contest!" I'm pretty sure that's how that song goes.



  1. My grandfather watched the Gene Autrey show every day on Encore Westerns until he died. He used to quiz me on what the different cowboy's horses were called. Champ, Trigger, and Silver are the only ones my faint memory has retained. I miss him.

  2. Yeah, I miss my Grampa too. He was a good man. From old North Carolina roots. Fought in the big war, kept the family together, led a simple life. Smoked though, that's what killed him. Wish I'd known my other grandfather, on my dad's side, but he died just a couple months before I was born. He was a guitar & banjo & mandolin picker. That's where I was supposed to have got my "talent" from.

  3. By using Car Rental 8 you can discover cheap rental cars at over 50,000 locations globally.