The Leviathan and the Boa Constrictor

George Bernard Shaw – author, among a few other things, of The Perfect Wagnerite — was rather uncomplimentary about Brahms, describing him as ‘the leviathan maunderer’. Eduard Hanslick – the eminent Viennese music critic and friend of Brahms – wrote of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony that it was ‘interminable, disorganised, and violent’ adding ‘it is not […]

Salieri

Among the entries in the death register of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s cathedral there are to be found two Italian names of some significance in musical history. One – Antonio Vivaldi – is justly famous; the other – Antonio Salieri –  unjustly infamous. Vivaldi had come to Vienna late in life, lured (possibly) by hopes of imperial patronage. The move […]

Rott

Vienna’s long musical history has encompassed a number of fascinating what-ifs. What if Mozart hadn’t died at only 35? Or Schubert at 31? Or Hans Rott at the even more tragically early age of 25? Hans Rott?? You can read his (perforce) short biography here. Together with Schubert and Schönberg, he was one of the few […]

Latin

Latin America’s rich but bewildering cultural mix of native, Spanish, Portuguese, African and a few other traditions has produced an astonishing variety of musics. From the dance rhythms of the Dominican Republic’s Bachata to the aerobics of the Zumba and from the Bach/Brazilian hommages of Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras… w …to the Argentinian, Astor Piazzolla’s  Nuevo Tango… […]

Contemporary conduct

The twentieth century, as it progressed, presented serious challenges for the listener. But not only audiences were tested by this complex ‘new  music’; the job of conducting these scores demanded a whole new raft of techniques. There were complicated cross-rhythms: strange new time signatures: There were aleatoric scores with their chance elements, graphic scores that sometimes […]