Category Archives: Music

Creative Juice #159

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Creative Juice #159

Lots of good stuff here, folks.

The Red Priest

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The Red Priest

On March 4, 1678, in Venice, Italy, a little red-headed boy was born, and was immediately baptized by his midwife, though the exact reason for the haste is no longer remembered. It could have been because he was such a sickly little infant; or it could have been due to the earthquake that shook Venice that day.

It’s likely that the condition which afflicted him was asthma, but it didn’t prevent him from exercising his gifts, particularly his musical ones. Fortunately for us, he learned to play the violin and to compose music, because he was Antonio Vivaldi.Vivaldi; the Red Priest

He also studied for the priesthood (possibly the result of a deal made by his mother with God during the ordeal of delivering him in the midst of the earthquake) and he was ordained in 1703. He became known as the Red Priest because of his vivid hair, which ran in his family.

Vivaldi was granted a dispensation from saying daily Mass because of his ill health. Instead of parish work, he accepted the position of Master of violin at an orphanage, Ospedale della Pietá (Devout Hospital of Mercy). The boys at the orphanage learned a trade; the girls studied music, and the most talented were invited to perform with the orphanage’s famous orchestra and chorus. Over the years he was assigned additional musical duties at the orphanage. He was devoted to the girls and composed a large body of work for them, including sacred music, such as this Gloria:

His relationship with the board of directors of the orphanage was often contentious. His contract had to be reviewed and renewed every year, and one year the board voted 7 to 6 against him. Vivaldi freelanced for the year, and the next year the board voted unanimously to hire him back, apparently recognizing his valuable contributions to the girls’ education. Again, lucky for us, because he continued to compose beautiful music for them.

Perhaps Vivaldi’s most famous work is The Four Seasons, a group of four violin concertos. Here is Summer, with soloist Mari Silje Samuelsen:

At the height of his career, Vivaldi received commissions from various European royalty. In addition to more than 60 pieces of sacred music, he also wrote over 500 concertos, 46 operas, 90 sonatas, and assorted sinfonias and chamber music.

In his later years, Vivaldi’s work fell out of fashion, and he fell on hard times. In 1740, he relocated to Vienna, hoping to receive financial support from Emperor Charles VI, but the Emperor died before that could happen. Vivaldi died in poverty on July 28, 1741.

“Cessate, omai cessate” performed by countertenor Andreas Scholl:

This is a “Best of Vivaldi” two-hour playlist. I have embedded it to start with his Concerto for Two Horns. (You can also watch it on Youtube navigating from the description below the screen; then you’ll be able to read the names of the selections. Click “Show More.”)

Creative Juice #150

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Creative Juice #150

An eclectic collection of inspiration:

Video of the Week #213: For the Theremin Lovers

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Cool, huh?

Monday Morning Wisdom #218

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Jong quote

Franz Schubert

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Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert (January 31, 1797 – November 19,1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert created a vast quantity of compositions, including more than 600 vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music. His most famous works include the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 (Trout Quintet), the Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 (Unfinished Symphony), the three last piano sonatas (D. 958–960), the incidental music to the play Rosamunde (D. 797), and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795) and Winterreise (D. 911).

Born in the Himmelpfortgrund suburb of Vienna, Schubert’s musical gifts were evident from an early age. At the age of five, Schubert began to receive regular instruction from his father, and a year later was enrolled at his father’s school. Franz was given piano lessons by his brother Ignaz, but they lasted for a very short time as Franz surpassed him within a few months.

His father gave him his first violin lessons when he was eight years old, training him to the point where he could play easy duets proficiently. Soon after, Schubert became the student of Michael Holzer, organist and choirmaster of the local parish church, who did not give him any real instruction, as the boy already knew anything he tried to teach him. The boy seemed to gain more from an acquaintance with a carpenter’s apprentice who took him to a neighboring piano warehouse where Schubert could practice on better instruments. Franz also played viola in the family string quartet, with his brothers Ferdinand and Ignaz on first and second violin and his father on the cello. Schubert wrote his earliest string quartets for this ensemble.

Young Schubert first came to the attention of Antonio Salieri, then Vienna’s leading musical authority (and rival of Mozart), in 1804, when his vocal talent was recognized. In the meantime, Schubert’s genius began to show in his compositions; Salieri instructed him in music theory and composition.

In November 1808, he entered the Stadtkonvikt (Imperial Seminary) on a choir scholarship. There he was introduced to the overtures and symphonies of Mozart, the symphonies of Joseph Haydn, and the overtures and symphonies of Beethoven, a composer for whom he developed a special admiration.

At the end of 1813, Schubert left the Stadtkonvikt and returned home for teacher training at the St Anna Normal-hauptschule. In 1814, he entered his father’s school as teacher of the youngest pupils. For over two years young Schubert endured the teaching profession for which he cared little. He continued to take private lessons in composition from Salieri, who gave Schubert more actual technical training than any of his other teachers, before they parted ways in 1817. His teaching job and private musical lessons earned him enough money for only his basic needs. Schubert’s unhappiness contributed to his depression, from which he suffered throughout his life.

In 1821, Schubert was granted admission to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as a performing member, which helped establish his name among the Viennese citizenry. He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career.

Schubert

Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder

In the midst of this creative activity, his health deteriorated; Schubert confided to some friends that he feared that he was near death. Some of his symptoms matched those of mercury poisoning (mercury was then a common treatment for syphilis, suggesting that Schubert suffered from it). At the beginning of November, he again fell ill, experiencing headaches, fever, swollen joints, and vomiting. He was unable to retain solid food and his condition worsened. Schubert was only 31 years old when he died.

Appreciation of Schubert’s music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, and other 19th-century composers and performers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the 19th century, and his music continues to be included in popular repertoire.

Creative Juice #142

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Creative Juice #142

A collection of creative genius.