RAY DOTORATOS ~ GARY HAMMOND

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Music Trivia

(Please check back periodically for new added trivia)

Did you know -

* On a visit to the French royal court, Mozart as a young child proposed marriage to Marie Antoinette.


*
Because of advances in science, recent DNA testing of a preserved lock of Beethoven's hair and bone fragments revealed that he died from lead poisoning. Lead was in a cream that was used for accepted medical treatments in Beethoven's day thus his doctor used this cream for his ailments and inadvertently contributed ultimately to his death.


*
Vivaldi was an accomplished violinist, violin teacher and composer who lived in Venice, Italy. He was also a priest at the Ospedale della Pieta which was a school for orphaned girls.
Vivaldi had long red hair and was nicknamed Il prete rossa, or "the red priest."


*
J.S. Bach once asked permission from his employers in Arnstadt, Germany to travel to Lubeck so he could hear the great Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude. They weren't terribly happy about the idea but gave him 4 weeks. Bach traveled 200 miles by foot. The trip ended off taking 4 months to the dismay of Bach's employers.


*
George Frederic Handel's father had no interest in music and wanted his son to become a lawyer.  Handel's mother, Dorthea, encouraged his music so she smuggled a keyboard instrument called a clavichord into the attic so Handel could practice late at night while his father was asleep.


* Franz Joseph Haydn
worked at the Eszterhaza Castle in Austria which was far away from Vienna, the cultural center of Europe. Haydn wanted to move to Vienna but needed to politely break his contract with Nicolaus the Magnificant at Eszterhaza.  This situation led Haydn to compose one of the best-known symphonies, No. 45 in F-sharp Minor.  The joke comes at the end when the instrumental parts drop away, each player was told to snuff out his candle and leave the stage. By the end there were only two violins playing, Hadyn and Luigi Tomasini. Thus the symphony was called "The Farewell." Nicolaus got the message and everyone packed to leave the next day.


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The famous composer Franz Schubert, who lived during the time of Beethoven, was not too well known in his own lifetime. People say he lived in Beethoven's shadow. Few of his great compositions were published while he was alive and those that were did not sell very well. Ironically, one of his most famous works is the "Unfinished Symphony." No one really knows why he did not finish it but one theory goes that he thought it was not good enough.


*
Having some of the finest restaurants at his disposal in Vienna, did you know that one of Beethoven's favorite foods was plain old macaroni and cheese. He also loved strong coffee - exactly 60 coffee beans to one cup.


* Chopin gave few public concerts and his large-scale works - the later polonaises, scherzos and ballades, he wrote for himself and a small circle of admirers.


* Tchaikovsky
began piano at age 7 after becoming fascinated with a small music box that played excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni. He later studied law and for a while was employed as a legal clerk for the Russian government. He gained his fame as a composer and even tried some conducting. Although he was not too successful as a conductor, he did conduct the very first concert at Carnegie Hall's opening in New York City.


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The Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was actually a navy man. He composed famous pieces like the Scheherazade suite, Capriccio Espagnol and the opera, Tale of the Tsar Saltan (which includes his very popular The Flight of the Bumblebee).


* One of the most famous disasters that accompanied a premiere performance was that of Gioacchino Rossini's  Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). Rossini composed the opera in little more than 2 weeks. Time to prepare for the first performance was limited so he borrowed the plot of a story that had earlier been used in an opera by Giovanni Paisiello. Paisiello was quite angry at this so he sent a group of loyal friends to disrupt the opening night of the opera. They booed and hissed and threw things on the stage. This made the singers nervous and caused one to trip on his robe; another broke a guitar string; and a third fell through a trapdoor. Someone even let a cat loose on the stage. The opera ended up even funnier than Rossini had intended. The second night went much smoother.


* Opera composer Giuseppe Verdi wrote 26 operas including La Traviata and Aida. The respected music historian Donald Jay Grout describes Verdi as follows: "Verdi is the only eminent composer in history who was also a successful farmer."


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Fond of talking down his own accomplishments, Ravel referred to his famous Bolero as "seventeen minutes of orchestra without any music."


* In 1913, the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring became one of the greatest scandals in music history. There were boos and hisses from the audience. Soon fights broke out and there was as much mayhem in the seats as there was on the stage. It made its way out onto the streets where riots broke out. Stravinsky was lucky to escape alive.


* George Gershwin, essentially self-taught, was first a song plugger in Tin Pan Alley and an accompanist. He also greatly admired classical composers, Ravel and Debussy.


* Jerome Kern was, in his day, a rarity: a composer of popular songs who had a solid musical training.

 

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