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Live, Laugh, Love: The Strauss Family of Great Composers (Part III)

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 1/24/2015 12:01:00 AM

The Sons

What was to become of the Strauss Orchestra, or rather, The World Famous Johann Strauss Orchestra? Jean, with his mother’s guidance, stepped forward quickly. Within days of the funeral, he conducted his father’s orchestra at a memorial service in the Mozart Requiem. There could hardly have been any objections among the orchestra to such a gesture. When the artists’ association of which Senior had been a member proposed a statue to the Master, Junior volunteered to captain the effort, and, leaving no doubt that he was his father’s son, quickly staged a benefit concert with his own orchestra, playing nothing but his father’s music. In a bold act of redemption he saved the Radetsky March for the moment of the statue’s unveiling. In private conversations Junior made no secret of his wish to merge the two orchestras and step to the podium as their Maestro.

Was there resentment ...

Live, Laugh, Love: The Strauss Family of Great Composers (Part II)

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 1/15/2015 9:03:00 AM

And so to England they went, crossing the English Channel the night of a full moon, April 11, aboard the S.S. Princess Victoria. While making the crossing Strauss learns from a passenger that the new Queen enjoys dancing. Indeed, she dances the waltz. It is the first sign that their trip will be prosperous. In London, Strauss goes immediately to the Austrian Embassy and meets with the Ambassador, Prince Esterhazy, who knows Strauss’ reputation well from Vienna and permits Strauss to head all the announcements of his concerts with the official stamp: “Under the patronage of His Serene Highness, Prince Esterhazy and several other distinguished persons.” This opened the doors to private parties all over London in the three-week run-up to the coronation. The Strauss Orchestra played garden parties and balls, gave concerts, some days as many as three gigs. When Baroness Rothschild threw her ball at her home three ...

Live, Laugh, Love: The Strauss Family of Great Composers

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 1/6/2015 6:35:00 PM

The Father

The story of The Strauss Family of Great Composers begins one snowy January night in 1825, at the inn Zum Rotten Hahn in the Viennese suburb of Lichtenthal, in a tiny room with chintzy Biedermeier knock-off furniture, including a plainly detailed bed, where a determinedly lustful, raven-haired, pale, and intoxicated Johann Strauss, on the cusp of his twentieth birthday is butt-naked atop the innkeeper’s daughter. It is not the first time the dark-eyed girl, Anna Streim, has so arranged a rendezvous with her fiery friend (to use the descriptive term most people most often applied to Johann), right beneath her father’s nose. Johann’s breath reeks of the fine Austrian brew Stiegl, a Märzen, like an English lager.

Though the couple is likely unaware of it, this harmonious, sweaty union perfectly illustrates the larger changes taking place in Vienna, which was then serving as the fertile womb for the ...

The Nutcracker: Dark Spirits in the Christmas Lights

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 12/10/2014 1:17:00 PM

Showing the rosy health of a ballet half its age, The Nutcracker, still comes around every Christmas, arriving in a flourish of pizzicato strings and tinkling triangles, exuding homey warmth, innocence, and sugary good cheer.  It proceeds to the holiday’s center stage and dances for audiences in the millions.  And yet -- kind reader, beware -- beneath its divertissement (shimmering!), beneath its perfumed pageantry, The Nutcracker also harbors a disconsolate spirit.

Before embarking on the ballet, Tchaikovsky was enjoying a rare period of fleeting happiness.  It was the summer of his fiftieth year.  Peter Ilyich told his friends he felt more at ease and sure of his talents than at any time in years.  His music, including five symphonies, was receiving praise across Europe.  Recently, Sleeping Beauty had scored a great success at the Imperial Theatre in St.  Petersburg.  He was flattered, as one is flattered by the praise of ...

Le Duel! (A Free Transcription)

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 11/19/2014 11:24:00 AM

Liszt snorted and stomped.  He vowed to cross swords with a man he’d never met, and in so doing bandy with the Parisian salonisti.  At the stoked-pipe age of twenty-five, Liszt considered himself the undisputed pianistic champ of Europe, 1836.  Had he not achieved greatness in Paris but eighteen months ago?  Now Paris had turned her back on him in favor of another virtuoso, and to this affront he, Franz Liszt, the virtuoso, would respond with all due harshness.

He gave the salonisti this much.  He had been away from Paris too long, traveling Europe with the Countess he stole on his way out of town – the calm and alabaster Marie d’Agoult, wife of the Count.  Theirs was a wondrous thing of naught, the two lovers electric with sin, triumph and amore.  Or could it be, thought Liszt, the salonisti had tossed him over for the love of the ...

Tomorrow’s Singer Was Here Yesterday

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 10/13/2014 3:23:00 PM

Hi friends. The recent production of Tosca staged by Pacific Opera Project marked the Los Angeles debut of tenor Brian Cheney. Stage and Cinema gave his Cavaradossi a rave. "Brian Cheney really blew me away. Cheney has that terrific tenor sound: the power, richness, and vocal color of a high baritone combined with ringing, awe-inspiring high notes." Such a response to Cheney is common today, where yesterday it was rare, for here is a tenor who after years of developing has found his voice and the opera world is discovering him even as you read these words, and mark my words, Brian Cheney is a tenor fast rising.

“This excellent singer revealed a voice of amazing power and great beauty,” writes one critic, while another writes, “Cheney sang with lustrous radiance that illuminated the text at every point. One became hypnotized with both his tone and expression.” A third writes, ...

Ravel Photo Essay

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 10/1/2014 12:30:00 AM
Ravel's family heritage can be traced to the Collogessous-Saleve, a village in France's Haute-Savoie, home to Ravel's grandfather Aime Ravel. Aime moved his family to Versoix, outside of Geneva, and became a Swiss citizen. Ravel's father, Pierre Joseph Ravel, was born there in 1832, one of five children. He pursued a career as an engineer, and would eventually play a role in France's developing automobile industry. He also maintained an interest in music. Ravel's mother, Marie Delouart, was of Basque descent. She spoke French well, but never learned to write it. Ravel was her first child, born when she was thirty-five. Her second and final child was Edouard, and it was no secret in the Ravel home that Maurice was his mother's favorite. She is said to have sung Spanish folk melodies to him in his cradle, and mother and child were very close all their life together. Three years ...
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