10-17a: Chopin Bonanza! Cortot | Lipatti | Rachmaninoff | Richter - Janácek / Haas / Szymanowski Quartets arr. Tognetti 2002 - Hummel Mandolin & Trumpet Concertos : Stephens / Agnes / Shelley 2001

1825 – Peter Winter (German opera composer & violinist)
1837 – Johann Nepomuk Hummel (Austrian composer & pianist)
1849 – Frédéric Chopin (Polish composer & pianist)
1890 – Prosper Sainton (French violinist))
1910 – Julia Ward Howe (American abolitionist, author & poet, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic")
1944 – Pavel Haas (Czech composer, pupil of Janáček, perished at Auschwitz)

1972 – Billy Williams (American R&B & pop singer)
1979 – Karel Reiner (Czech composer & pianist, the only classical composer to survive Theresienstadt)
1981 – David Guion (American composer & arranger, inspired by soundscape of the American West)

Another uncanny coincidence, in that Karel Reiner should have died on the 35th anniversary of the day the promising composer Pavel Haas was murdered at Auschwitz. Both of them had been been housed at Theresienstadt, a somewhat less hellish concentration camp, which the Nazis had established in a Polish Jewish ghetto, in part to make a propaganda film demonstrating that their musically gifted "detainees" were being treated well and allowed to flourish musically (in fact, the orchestra in the film were surrounded by flowerpots to hide the fact their shoes had been taken away). Reiner was the only classical composer at Theresienstadt to survive the war. But the story of Haas's untimely demise was later related by another survivor, conductor Karel Ančerl, who claimed he was standing next to Haas at Auschwitz the day they both arrived (many of the Theresienstadt prisoners having been transported there as soon as the filming was finished), and that originally it was he, Ančerl, who had been among those chosen for the gas chambers, but that Haas had a bad cough which caused the commanding officer to change his mind and send him instead. Ančerl went on to have a brilliant career with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. We can only guess at what great things Haas would have accomplished had he lived a full life, as Reiner and Ančerl did.

Well, Chopin is one of those composers it's hard to have too much of in your record collection. His works are open to so many interpretive possibilities, making it difficult to decide on just one version of the Ballades, or the Mazurkas, or the Scherzi, or what have you. Plus, all his works are so gorgeous, so emotionally satisfying, and so amazingly well-crafted - all things that make Chopin perhaps the piano composer par excellence. The only others who might come close are Schumann, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff, but even they seem to fall short of the almost universal appeal of Poland's greatest composer. And Chopin's life was a good six years shorter than Pavel Haas's was. Tuberculosis, you know. So, he was also coughing shortly before the end. How many more of those perfect little masterpieces he might have had inside him. Keep reading about him!


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