Classical KUSC


Mozart's Bank Statements

Posted By: Bartel's Blog · 5/11/2016 7:29:00 AM

Among the many myths surrounding Mozart is the one that has him living hand to mouth in his final years and dying a pauper. But recent research and estimates made by scholars and economists reveal a different story. For instance, two such economists in New York, William and Hilda Baumol, estimate that Mozart’s income in the last decade of his life, when most wage earners lived at the edge of subsistence, was thoroughly middle class by today’s standards. Using the commonly held standard that the 1786 Austrian florin could buy roughly as much as $9 today, it can be estimated that Mozart earned $50,000-$60,000 in today’s money. Those figures look even better when one considers that the purchasing power of the average wage in Mozart’s Vienna was about one-seventh in America today, placing Mozart’s income solidly in Vienna’s upper middle class.

Mozartean scholar Volkmar Braunbehrens arrives at a similar conclusion, ...

Franck’s Fling-Woo F-Minor Quintet

Posted By: Bartel's Blog · 5/11/2016 12:05:00 AM

Why did Madame Franck "emphatically dislike" the Piano Quintet by her husband Cesar? She refused to attend performances of the work, the first of which took place on this date in 1880, and heard it only when he played it on the piano at their Boulevard St. Michel apartment. She told friends, "His organ pieces are everything that is admirable, but that Quintet! Ugh!"

Did she object to its densely packed texture, or the unnerving tonal curve early in the first movement – a theme centered on a B natural in the key of F-Minor? Did the aesthetically cautious Madame Franck consider her husband's radical use of cyclical form a small scandale musique?

No. What so perturbated Felicite Franck about the F-Minor Quintet was its inspiration: Franck's beautiful young student Augusta Holmès (pictured above.)

Many friends viewed Franck as an organist-mystic, wearing pants too short and box coat too long, ...

Beethoven - The Right Chemical Mix

Posted By: Bartel's Blog · 4/19/2016 4:34:00 PM

Here’s an item from the rear horizon, 1996. Cheers, Dennis


BAD NEWS FOR MUSIC LOVERS. We will soon know the levels of zinc and lead in Beethoven's body at the time of his death. Scientists in Illinois are studying a lock of Beethovean hair in search of the Great Composer's chemical structure.

The lock, one of several clipped upon his death in 1827 at age 56, was bought at auction by two Arizona Beethovenites and subsequently donated to the Health Research Institute in Naperville, near Chicago. The Institute is combing through the symphonist's righteous moss looking for various substances. William Walsh, its president, says, ''Over the past 20 years, we've observed an unusual pattern of trace elements -- high copper, low zinc and high sodium -- associated with high intelligence. We're definitely going to test for that.''

The Great Composer has already been tested for drugs, such as morphine, ...

Achille-Claude Debussy: Photo Essay

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 4/7/2016 2:45:00 PM

Of all the Great Composers, Debussy's personal life was among the most turbulent, that is, he scores among the highest in life-stress tests. One such episode involved Mme Emma Bardac, the wife of a wealthy banker and an amateur singer. Having just reached forty, and married four years, Debussy had a love affair with Emma Bardac.

    With Lily Lilo, a few months before
    his affair with Emma Bardac

His wife Rosalie Texier, whom Debussy called "Lily-Lilo," attempted suicide by shooting herself with a revolver, inflicting a wound near her heart. She was in the hospital when Debussy came to see her only once. He left as soon as he learned she would survive the gunshot wound. His friends were brutal in their criticism, and some became estranged from Debussy. He described this time as "strange and bizarre."

Debussy and Emma Bardac

Soon, Debussy moved into an apartment ...

The Child is Father to the Papa

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 3/30/2016 2:25:00 AM

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 ...

Everything is Possible with Bach

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 3/14/2016 6:09:00 AM

With his first wife Maria Barbara, his soul mate as history tells us, Sebastian Bach fathered seven children. The first child was a daughter, Catharina. Following her, a pair of twins died within days. The final son died within a year. Months later, Maria Barbara succumbed to disease.

         Maria Barbara Bach

Bach was then thirty-five and engaged in the full awakening of his genius. His workload was Herculean and mounting, and now there were five children at home without a mother, the oldest being twelve. Staggered by grief, Bach soldiered on. Hear the Old Master speak: "I was obliged to work hard; whoever works equally hard will succeed equally well."

I am hardly alone in observing that in ways indescribable, this forward-moving stoicism exists in Bach's music. To cite only one of countless examples, the strength of one instrument standing alone in the Cello Suites is ...

Knabe Pianos

Posted By: Dennis Bartel · 2/15/2016 2:11:00 AM

Lifetimes ago, Knabe pianos were among the finest in the land, manufactured in Baltimore by a venerable firm and played in home parlors, churches and school rooms, in the White House, and on the concert platform from Tennessee to Tokyo. Today, pianos – grand pianos, square pianos, and uprights – displaying the name "Wm. Knabe & Co." have nearly vanished from the cultural landscape, and a grand American contribution to music has disappeared with them.

The story of Wm. Knabe & Co. (pronounced Kah-nob-aye), is a 19th century tale of earnestness and pluck, salted with intelligence, taste and vision. It begins in 1803, in Germany, with the birth of Wilhelm Knabe in Kreuzberg, a small town near Berlin. Martin Friedrich Knabe, the town apothecary, and his wife Ernestine intended their son Wilhelm for a learned profession. But in 1812, Napoleon’s army marched through Germany, bringing the calamities of war. Like ...

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