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 […]

Q. When is a string quartet not a string quartet?

A. When it’s a song cycle(??) Schönberg’s second quartet breaks boundaries. It starts respectably enough in its home key of f-sharp, and then (within the freedoms of late romantic form and chromatic harmony) proceeds in a fairly orderly quartetish manner until the end of the second movement, the scherzo; it’s then that the real revolution […]

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 […]

1st Viennese School?

Mugshots of some of the most famous musicians to grace our planet. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and (sometimes) Schubert are frequently lumped together under the blanket heading of the First Viennese School. But, unlike the Second Viennese School (Schönberg, Berg and Webern – of whom more next week), in the case of these four mostly Vienna […]

Stephansdom

St. Stephen’s Cathedral – the heart of Vienna: here Haydn was a chorister and later got married; here, too, Mozart married his Constanze and later christened his children; Johann Strauss the younger was also married here, while the cathedral’s register of deaths contains many illustrious musical names including those of Vivaldi and Schubert. The importance of […]