Classical KUSC


Classical Dogs

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 11/8/2015 1:24:00 PM

Listen closely and soon you will hear, coming from out back of the timpani, the sound of dogs in classical music. Many of the Great Composers kept dogs. Some put dogs into their music.

The Mozart family dog, a fox terrier, was named Bimbes, though the prodigy Wolfy changed her name to the southern German diminutive Bimperl. So pleased was he with this clever dog-eared ornamentation that he similarly re-christened his sister Anna to Nannerl.

Correspondence by the Mozart family is tracked with mentions of Bimberl. Whenever traveling, Wolfy seldom failed to send "a thousand kisses to Bimberl."

At twenty-one, Mozart went with his mother to Paris where the young genius hoped to land a job. But his was a long, dark stay in the City of Lights, and turned tragic when Frau Mozart died.

Back in Salzburg, Nannerl kept her brother informed as to his dear Bimberl, describing how ...

Beethoven Photo Essay

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 10/8/2015 2:12:00 AM

The thirteen year old Ludwig Beethoven (sans "van" which he added later once he moved to Vienna). Beethoven was assistant harpsichordist in the Electoral Kapelle, in Bonn. He also composed three keyboard sonatas at this time, posthumously published as WoO47. A notice in the Almanach likened his first published works to those of "a third or fourth-form student."


This is Beethoven at age twenty, still living in Bonn. He had been granted half his father's salary in order to act as the head of the family. He was playing viola in an opera orchestra. Joseph Haydn came through Bonn during that year on his way to London. On his way back two years later he was shown one of Beethoven's cantatas and he agreed to take him as a pupil in Vienna, a decision that would lead to Beethoven moving to the Imperial City.


This is Beethoven in ...

Top Ten Classical Works for Truck Drivers

Posted By: Bartel's Blog · 9/17/2015 3:00:00 AM

As part of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, I and several KUSC listeners compiled this essential list for the cab of the thinking truck driver's 18-wheeler.


10. Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overpass

9. George Frideric Handel’s Semi-ram-us

8. Ferde Grofe’s On the Trail

7. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Procession of the Nobles

6. Roy Harris’ Folksong Symphony (the only Great Composer who was a trucker)

5. Alan Hovhaness’ Mysterious Mountain (for routes over Donner Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, and Sherman Summit)

4. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peterbilt and the Wolf

3. Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man

2. Edvard Grieg’s Haul of the Mountain King

1. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Trucks May Safely Graze

More Encounters with Brahms

Posted By: Bartel's Blog · 8/11/2015 1:35:00 AM

  Franz Liszt

It was the spring of '53. Liszt was a pianistic phenom and middle-aged poseur, seeking to widen his New German circle and transform himself from iridescent celebrity to Great Composer. Brahms was a twenty-year-old accompanist with the face of an acolyte, touring the provinces with the flashy Hungarian violinist Eduard Remenyi. Brahms carried a letter of introduction from the virtuoso Joachim. The two young musicians arrived in Weimar at Liszt's palatial villa, The Altenburg. That Liszt was openly living in sin with the Princess Wittgenstein was of no account to Brahms. He'd seen worse in his youth, in the Hamburg harbor side brothels.

A gaggle of peacocks scattered as Brahms and Remenyi crossed the lawn and approached the gaudy yellow building. A manservant greeted them and led them to a stuffy anteroom, where they waited for nearly an hour. At last, the manservant led them down two ...

Encounters with Brahms

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 7/26/2015 12:20:00 PM

   Johannes Brahms

By this time in his life, but really all his life, Brahms (Doktor Brahms) was absolute master of his world, a world which included many of the most astute & serious-minded ladies and gentlemen in artistic Vienna. Unmarried to the end, Brahms had collected in his over-stuffed apartment the treasured objects of a lifetime. He had privately resolved to retire, and was in the process of destroying all his work that he determined to be incomplete or unsatisfactory. He had even retrieved his letters to his late mother and erased them from posterity. Putting his house in order. Late this spring afternoon, Brahms was expecting a visit from young Josef Suk.

Suk had recently graduated from the Prague Conservatory, where he’d been a favorite pupil of Brahms’ friend Antonín Dvořák. At the Conservatory, Suk enjoyed a goodly share of student success as a violinist, but he had ...

Boléro: A Perfect Ten

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 7/14/2015 2:26:00 PM

1. The dancer Ida Rubinstein commissioned Boléro, originally asking for Ravel to orchestrate pieces from Albéniz's Iberia. Instead, Ravel composed an original piece, which received its premiere at the Paris Opéra, November 22, 1928 by Mme Rubinstein's troupe, Walther Straram conducting.

2. In an interview published in London's Evening Standard, February 24, 1932, Ravel said, "I love going over factories and seeing vast machinery at work. It is awe-inspiring and great. It was a factory which inspired my Boléro. I would like it always to be played with a vast factory in the background."

3. The first recording of Boléro, on four 78-rpm sides, was made in January 1930 at the Salle Pleyel, by a pick-up Paris orchestra under Piero Coppola, an Italian conductor and composer active in Paris in the 1920s and 30s who lived to sing the praises of Boléro into the 1970s. Ravel supervised the recording session, ...

The Child is Father to the Papa

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 4/21/2015 2:25:00 PM

Beethoven, on his deathbed, was shown a painting of Joseph Haydn’s birthplace in the village Rohrau. This market town was set down in the monotonous marshlands along the Leitha River in Lower Austria. (Rohrau is translated from the German for reedy meadow.) Every few years in spring the river flooded the low-lying countryside. In the dry season the townspeople were fearful of their thatched roofs catching fire. When the mosquitoes rose from the swamps they were plentiful, and disease was never far behind. Rohrau also had a history haunted by invasions. The town was near the Hungarian border, so the military tug & pull of 18th century Central Europe often wrenched the lives of the modest citizens of Rohrau, whom history records as honest Croatian rubes.

In 1732, born among them, there was baby Franciscus Josephus Haydn; and ninety-five years later, here was Beethoven, looking back through the intersecting planes ...

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