From colonial times to the present, U.S. composers have lived on the fringes of society and defined themselves in large part as outsiders. This tradition of maverick composers illuminates U.S. tensions between individualism and community.
Three notably unconventional composers—William Billings in the eighteenth century, Anthony Philip Heinrich in the nineteenth, and Charles Ives in the twentieth—all had unusual lives, wrote music that many considered incomprehensible, and are now recognized as key figures in the development of U.S. music. Eccentric individualism proliferates in all types of U.S. music—classical, popular, and jazz—and it has come to dominate the image of diverse creative artists from John Cage to Frank Zappa.
This according to Mavericks and other traditions in American music by Michael Broyles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).
Above, a portrait of Heinrich, nowadays the lesser-known of the three composers; below, “Victory of the condor” from The ornithological combat of kings, or, the condor of the Andes (1847), which remained his favorite work throughout his life.
The stunning success of Der dumme Gärtner aus dem Gebürge, oder, Die zween Anton at Vienna’s Theater auf der Wieden (12 July 1789) led quickly to a sequel in the same year, Die verdeckten Sachen (26 September). Like its predecessor, the music was a collaborative composition by Franz Xaver Gerl, Benedikt Schack, Johann Baptist Henneberg, and probably Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist.
Mozart had high praise for what he called The Antons, and he composed his final set of piano variations on one of the most celebrated arias in Die verdeckten Sachen, “Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding auf der Welt”. This edition presents this aria for the first time in its original orchestration. With the recent identification of performing materials for Die verdeckten Sachen in Rudolstadt, Thuringia, we can now investigate this opera in detail.
A new critical edition, drawing on this new source, has recently been issued as Two operas from the series Die zween Anton. Part 2: Die verdeckten Sachen (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2016).
Above, a portrait of Schikaneder (click to enlarge); below, Mozart’s K.613, performed by Gerhard Puchelt.
BONUS: The imaginary Schikaneder production from Amadeus.
Among the forgotten but highly popular operas of the late 18th century, Der dumme Gärtner aus dem Gebürge, oder, Die zween Anton (The dumb gardener from the mountains, or, The two Antons ) seems particularly worthy of reexamination.
The Antons (as Mozart called it) was the subject of much commentary and praise; it was performed in almost every German theater over the next two decades, and it was translated into Czech. The success of the opera inspired six sequels and secured the place of its author, Emanuel Schikaneder, in the popular imagination of the Viennese public. This success also made possible the series of fairy-tale operas that included Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (1791).
Die zween Anton was also the first original opera by Schikaneder produced at the Theater auf der Wieden after he had taken over its direction; the music was a collaborative composition by Franz Xaver Gerl, Benedikt Schack, Johann Baptist Henneberg, and probably Schikaneder himself. With the recent recovery of a Viennese manuscript copy of Die zween Anton in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg we can now investigate this opera in detail.
A new critical edition, drawing on this new source, has recently been issued as Two operas from the series Die zween Anton. Part 1: Der dumme Gärtner aus dem Gebürge, oder, Die zween Anton (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2015).
Above, a portrait of Schikaneder (click to enlarge); below, the opera’s overture.
In the opening duet of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Figaro makes Freudian errors in counting and in singing. Susanna, needing emotional support and sensitive to Figaro’s psychology, directs his therapy in a manner both manipulative and helpful.
The brief scene is paradigmatic for the opera as a whole, and the duet’s dramatic action is projected by the music at every level, from small details to aspects of global structure.
This according to “Figaro’s mistakes” by David Lewin (Current musicology 57 [spring 1995] pp. 45–60).
Le nozze di Figaro is 230 years old this year! Above, Lydia Teuscher and Vito Priante as Susanna and Figaro; below, the scene in question.
Returning from Palermo to London in 1800 Lady Hamilton, the poet Cornelia Knight, the ambassador Sir William Hamilton, and Lord Nelson stopped on the way for a visit to Eisenstadt.
From 6 to 10 September the entourage was hosted by Nikolaus I, Prince Esterházy with receptions, dances, and concerts in their honor. Haydn organized a performance of his Te Deum and Nelson Mass (Missa in Angustiis), and composed Lines from the Battle of the Nile, to a text by Ms. Knight, for Emma Hamilton.
Hamilton repeated the cantata in Prague on 8 October, and in 1801 the work was published there with the dedication “The music composed and dedicated to Lady Hamilton.”
This according to “Eternal praise! Joseph Haydn komponiert für Lady Hamilton/Eternal Praise! Joseph Haydn compone per Lady Hamilton” by Dieter Richter, an essay included in Lady Hamilton: Eros und Attitüde–Schönheitskult und Antikenrezeption in der Goethezeit/Eros e attitude–Culto della bellezza e antichità classica nell’epoca di Goethe (Petersburg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2015, pp. 54–56).
Above, Lady Hamilton in a ca. 1782 portrait by George Romney; below, Emma Kirkby sings Lines from the Battle of the Nile.
Beethoven was known for his unwillingness to show subservience to the aristocracy, but sometimes others might do it for him, as when his friend and occasional librettist Aloys Weißenbach tried— without the composer’s knowledge and without success—to wangle him an Order of Merit from King Maximilian I of Bavaria. When Breitkopf & Härtel issued his 1811 Chorphantasie, op. 80, with an inscription to King Max, Beethoven wrote in protest:
“To what in Heaven’s name do I owe the dedication to the King of Bavaria? Explain it to me immediately. If you meant it as an honorable gift to me, then I want to thank you; for the rest, such a thing does not suit me at all. Did you dedicate the work yourself, personally, perhaps? How does this fit together? One cannot with impunity start dedicating things to kings.”
This according to “Ludwig van Beethoven: Verhinderter Träger eines bayerischen Verdienstordens” by Robert Münster (Musik in Bayern 73 [2007–2008] pp. 207–14).
Many thanks to David Bloom for bringing this to our attention and translating Beethoven’s letter! Above, Maximilian I; below, the Chorphantasie.
Arias for Stefano Mandini: Mozart’s first Count Almaviva (Middleton: A-R Editions. 2015) presents 13 arias that portray the voice of Stefano Mandini, who created the role of Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in 1786.
Dating from the peak of Mandini’s career in the 1780s, the arias were composed by Giuseppe Sarti, Giovanni Paisiello, Giuseppe Gazzaniga, Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi, Antonio Salieri, and Vicente Martín y Soler. Taken together, they show a versatile singer who sang serious and comical roles in both tenor and baritone ranges.
The arias are presented in the form of vocal scores, some taken from 18th-century editions and some made from orchestral scores. The edition and commentary are by Dorothea Link.
Below, Alessandro Safina sings Saper bramate from Paisiello’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (1782), one of the arias included in the collection.
Rovereto claims the distinction of being both the first stop in the series of trips that Mozart undertook in Italy—he arrived with his father on Christmas Eve in 1769—and the first city to erect a monument in Mozart’s honor.
The monument was designed by Giuseppe Antonio Bridi (1763–1836), a banker who had befriended Mozart and was passionate about music. Bridi’s relationship with Mozart and his family continued until his death, including a regular correspondence with Constanze that was carried out until 1833. The monument was erected in 1825 at Bridi’s villa in the suburbs of Rovereto.
This according to “Sulla via del ritorno: Il primo monumento alla gloria di Mozart” by Renato Lunelli, an essay included in Mozart in Italia: I viaggi, le lettere (Milano: Ricordi, 1956); the volume was issued to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Today is Mozart’s 260th birthday! Below, the symphony K.112, composed during his first Italian sojurn.
Beethoven’s last piano sonatas: An edition with elucidation (Oxford University Press, 2015) is the first English-language edition and translation of Heinrich Schenker’s landmark editions of Beethoven’s opp. 109, 110, 111, and 101 (Wien: Universal Edition, 1913).
Each of the four volumes incorporates references to corrections and other remarks entered by Schenker in his personal copies of the sonatas, many of which have not been presented in any of the previous German editions of the works.
Also included are supplements to the original text with explanations of certain points in the commentary and graphic presentations of several passages.
Below, Svâtoslav Rihter performs the op. 101 sonata.
The Inventur und Schätzung der Joseph Haydnischen Kunstsachen of 1809 is preserved in the Musiksammlung of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
One of the items listed therein is a living parrot, which used to call Haydn by his name and could sing the beginning of the national anthem. The parrot was sold for 1415 florins.
This according to “Haydn als Sammler” by Otto Erich Deutsch, an article included in Zum Haydn-Jahr 1959 (Österreichische Musikzeitschrift XIV/5–6 [May–June 1959] pp. 188–194).
Below, perhaps a descendant.