The end of days

John Martin’s terrifying vision of the apocalypse has several musical equivalents. Apart from the many settings of the Requiem Mass’s Dies irae (think Berlioz, think Verdi), there are two famous musical Judgement Days that are the work of composers very much associated with Vienna: Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (Symphony No. 2 in c) and Franz Schmidt’s […]

SchmWaltzing it

Schmaltz? Sure, but great schmaltz! Apfelstrudel, Sachertorte, Waltz, Esterhazytorte — which is the odd one out? Why, Esterhazytorte of course! (They’re all sweet and delicious confections, but Esterhazytorte comes from Budapest.) The Viennese waltz took the musical world by storm, and it wasn’t just the Strausses and the Lehárs who had a monopoly. Beethoven, Schubert, […]

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 […]

Getting (and keeping) it together

You’ve studied the score, understood the ‘topography’ of the piece, decided on the ‘correct’ tempo for each movement, and so on. Now it’s time to put the whole thing together and, working with the orchestra, sort out details of articulation, dynamic, ensemble and balance, and how to negotiate any difficult corners that the work presents. Here, […]