Musical Portraits Part 9

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Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig on May 22nd, 1813. He died in Venice February 13th, 1883. The facts of his career are too well known to justify rehearsal.

The dates of the composition and first performances of his operas are: "Rienzi," 1838-40; premiere in Dresden, 1842. "Tannhauser," 1843-45 (Paris version, 1860); Dresden, 1845. "Lohengrin," 1845-48; Weimar, 1850. "Das Rheingold," 1848-53; Munich, 1869. "Die Walkure," 1848-56; Munich, 1870. "Tristan und Isolde," 1857-59; Munich, 1865. "Siegfried,"

1857-69; Bayreuth, 1876. "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg," 1861-67; Munich, 1868. "Die Gotterdammerung," 1870-74; Bayreuth, 1876.

"Parsifal," 1876-82; Bayreuth, 1882.


Richard Strauss was born in Munich June 11th, 1864. His father, Franz Strauss, was first horn-player in the Munich Court Orchestra. His mother was the daughter of the beer brewer, Georg Pschorr. He began composing at the tender age of six. From 1870 to 1874 he attended the elementary school at Munich. In 1874 he matriculated at the Gymnasium, and remained there until 1882. During the next year he attended lectures at the University of Munich. From 1875 to 1880 he studied harmony, counterpoint and instrumentation with Hofkapellmeister F. W. Meyer. His compositions were performed publicly from 1880 on. In 1885 he made the acquaintance of Alexander Ritter, who, together with Hans von Bulow, is supposed to have converted young Strauss, until then a good Brahmsian, to Wagnerism and modernism. In 1885 at Bulow's invitation, Strauss conducted a concert of the Meiningen Orchestra. In November of that year he succeeded Bulow as conductor of the organization. In 1886 he become third Kapellmeister at the Munich Opera; in 1889, director at Weimar.

1892-3 was spent in Egypt and Sicily after an attack of inflammation of the lungs. In 1894 he became chief Kapellmeister at Munich. In 1895 his European concert-tours commenced. He conducted in Budapest, Brussels, Moscow, Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Paris, Zurich and Madrid. In 1898 he became conductor of the Berlin Royal Opera. In 1904 he came to America to conduct at four festival concerts given in his honor in New York. In one month he gave twenty-one concerts in different cities with nearly as many orchestras. The tour ended with the hubbub over the fact that Strauss had conducted a concert in John Wanamaker's. Since 1898 Strauss has resided chiefly in Charlottenburg and, in the summer, at Marquardstein near Garmisch.

The dates of the composition of his princ.i.p.al works are:

"Serenade for Wind Instruments," Opus 7, 1882-83; "Eight Songs," Opus 10, 1882-83; "Aus Italien," Opus 16, 1886; "Don Juan," Opus 20, 1888; "Tod und Verklarung," Opus 24, 1889; "Four Songs," Opus 27, 1892-93; "Till Eulenspiegel's l.u.s.tige Streiche," Opus 28, 1894-95; "Three Songs,"

Opus 29, 1894-95; "Also Sprach Zarathustra," Opus 30, 1894-95; "Don Quixote," Opus 35, 1897; "Ein Heldenleben," Opus 40, 1898; "Feuersnot,"

Opus 50, 1900-01; "Taillefer," Opus 52, 1903; "Sinfonia Domestica," Opus 53, 1903; "Salome," Opus 54, 1904-05; "Elektra," Opus 58, 1906-08; "Der Rosenkavalier," Opus 59, 1909-10; "Ariadne auf Naxos," Opus 60, 1911-12; "Josef's Legende," 1913; "Eine Alpensymphonie," 1914-15; "Die Frau ohne Schatten," 1915-17.


Modest Petrovitch Moussorgsky was born March 16th, 1839, in the village of Karevo in the government of Pskow, Russia. His parents were members of the lesser n.o.bility. His mother gave him his first piano lessons. At the age of ten he was sent to the School of St. Peter and St. Paul in Petrograd. His piano-studies were continued with a certain Professor Herke. At the age of twelve he played in public a _Rondo de concert_ by Herz. In 1852 he matriculated at the school for ensigns, and the same year had his first composition, a polka, published. In 1856, while serving as an officer in the Preobrajensky Guards, he made the acquaintance of Borodin. Soon after, he met Dargomyjski. It was with him that, in his own words, "he for the first time lived the musical life." Later, he became acquainted also with Cui, Balakirew and Rimsky-Korsakoff. He took lessons in composition of Balakirew, and finally realized what his direction really was. A nervous malady prevented him from working in 1859. But directly after his convalescence, he resigned from the guards, and set to work in earnest.

In order to support himself, he accepted a position in the government service. He lived in Petrograd with five friends. In 1865 he was once more attacked by his malady, and had to retire to the country for three years. In 1869 he returned to Petrograd, living with his friends the Opotchinines. His moment of success came in 1874, with the performance of "Boris." Directly after, his health commenced to fail. In 1879 he resigned his office, and sought to support himself by playing accompaniments. He died in 1881 in a military hospital.

The dates of composition of his princ.i.p.al works are:

"Boris G.o.dounow," 1868-71; "Khovanchtchina," 1872-81; "The Marriage"

(one act), 1868; "The Fair at Sorotchinsk" (fragment), 1877-81; "The Defeat of Sennacherib," 1867-74; "Jesus Navine," 1877; "Sans Soleil,"

1874; "La Chambre d'Enfants," 1874; "Chants et Danses de la Mort," 1875; "Marcia all Turka," 1880; "La Nuit sur le Mont-Chauve," 1867-75; "Tableaux d'une Exposition," 1874; "Hopak," 1877.


Franz Liszt was born near Odenburg, Hungary, October 22nd, 1811. He died in Bayreuth, July 31st, 1886. He played in public for the first time at the age of nine, in Odenburg. In 1829 he came to Vienna, remaining there eighteen months studying piano under Czerny, and composition with Salieri. He then was taken to Paris, where he studied under Reicha till 1825. In 1831 he heard Paganini play. It is supposed that he was so impressed that he decided to become the Paganini of the piano. He was very much in demand in Paris as an artist. In 1835 he carried the Comtesse d'Agoult off from a ball, and went with her to Geneva. He remained in Geneva until 1839, when his triumphal progresses through Europe commenced. In 1848 he became Kapellmeister in Weimar. Here, he caused "Lohengrin" to be produced, and had "Der Fliegende Hollander" and "Tannhauser," as well as operas of Berlioz and Schumann, revived. It was while he was in Weimar that he formed a relationship with the Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. In 1859 he went to Rome, where he remained till 1870.

In 1866 Pius IX made him an Abbe. After 1870 he returned to Weimar, living there and in Budapest and in Rome.

His princ.i.p.al orchestral works are: "Eine Faustsymphonie," "Dante,"

"Bergsymphonie," "Ta.s.so," "Les Preludes," "Orpheus," "Mazeppa,"

"Hungaria," "Hunnenschlacht," "Die Ideale," "Two Episodes from Lenau's Faust," etc.

His princ.i.p.al choral works are "Die Legende von der Heiligen Elisabeth" and "Christus."

His princ.i.p.al compositions for the pianoforte are: "Sonata in B-minor,"

"Concerto in E-flat," "Concerto in A," "Annees de pelerinage,"

"Consolations," "Two Legendes," "Liebestraume," "Six Preludes and Fugues (Bach)," etc., etc. Also innumerable transcriptions.


Louis Hector Berlioz was born at La Cote Saint-Andre near Gren.o.ble on December 11th, 1803. His father was a physician, and wished his son to follow his profession. So Hector was sent to Paris to study. Instead of studying medicine he commenced to compose. A ma.s.s of his was performed at Saint-Roch in 1824. In 1826 he sought to enter the Conservatoire, but failed in the preliminary examination. In 1827, 1828 and 1829, he competed for the Prix de Rome, and failed. In 1830 he finally secured it. While in Rome in 1831, he composed the "Symphonie Fantastique" and "Lelio." In 1833 he married his adored Miss Smithson. In 1834 "Harold"

was performed for the first time. "The Requiem" was composed in 1836, "Benvenuto Cellini" in 1837, "Romeo" in 1839. In 1840 Berlioz made his first journey to Brussels; in 1842-43 he toured Germany. The "Carnaval Romain" was performed in 1844. In 1845-46 Berlioz gave numerous concerts in France, and toured Austria and Hungary. In December of the latter year "La d.a.m.nation de Faust" failed at the Opera Comique. In 1847 Berlioz went to Russia and to England for the first time. In 1849 he began work on his "Te Deum"; in 1850 on "L'Enfance du Christ." The next years were spent in conducting. In 1854, on the death of his wife, he married Mlle. Recio. In 1856 we find Berlioz in North Germany, Brussels and London. He began the composition of "Les Troyens" the same year. At its performance in 1863, the work failed. His last years were darkened by the death of his wife and son. He died March 8th, 1869, in Paris.


Cesar-Auguste Franck was born at Liege, Belgium, December 10th, 1822.

His father hoped to make a piano-virtuoso of him, and supervised his musical education. At the age of eleven the young Franck was touring Belgium as a pianist. In 1835 the family emigrated to Paris, and two years later Cesar was admitted to the Conservatoire. He studied composition with Leborne and the piano with Zimmermann. He took the first prize for fugue in 1840. In 1842 his father compelled him to leave the Conservatory and return to Belgium, but two years later he was once more in Paris, seeking to gain his living by teaching and playing.

"Ruth" was performed in 1846. He was married in 1848. In 1851 he was appointed organist at the church of Saint-Jean-Saint-Francois, later of the church of Sainte-Clotilde, which post he occupied during the remainder of his years. In 1872 he was appointed professor of organ-playing at the Conservatoire. "Redemption" was performed in 1873.

"Les Beat.i.tudes" was performed for the first time in 1880. Shortly after, the professorship of composition at the Conservatory was refused him, and five years later he was decorated with the ribbon of the Legion of Honor as "professor of organ-playing." In 1887 a "Festival Franck"

was given under the direction of Pasdeloup at the Cirque d'hiver. His symphony was performed for the first time in 1889. He died November 8th, 1890.

The dates of the composition of his princ.i.p.al works are as follows: "Ruth," 1843-46; "Six pieces pour grand orgue," 1860-62; "Trois offertoires," 1871; "Redemption," 1871-72 (first version), 1874 (second version); "Prelude, fugue et variation," 1873; "Trois pieces pour grand orgue," 1878; "String-quintet," 1878-79; "Les Beat.i.tudes," 1869-79; "Le Cha.s.seur maudit," 1882; "Les Djinns," 1884; "Prelude, choral et fugue,"

1884; "Hulda," 1882-85; "Variations symphoniques," 1885; "Sonate," 1886; "Prelude, aria et finale," 1886-87; "Psyche," 1887-88; "Symphonie,"

1886-88; "Quatuor," 1889; "Trois chorales," 1890.


Claude-Achille Debussy was born August 22nd, 1862, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He died at Paris March 22nd, 1918. He entered the Conservatoire at the age of twelve, studying harmony with Lavignac and piano with Marmontel. At the age of eighteen, he paid a brief visit to Russia. But it was not until several years later that he became acquainted with the score of "Boris G.o.dounow," which was destined to have so great an influence on his life, and precipitate his revolt from Wagnerism. In 1884 he gained the Prix de Rome with his cantata "L'Enfant prodigue." During his three-year stay at the Villa Medici he composed "Printemps" and "La Damoiselle elue." "Ariettes...o...b..iees" were published in 1888, followed, in 1890, by "Cinq poemes de Baudelaire"; in 1893 by the string-quartet and the "Prelude a 'l'Apres-midi d'un faune'"; in 1894 by "Proses lyriques"; and in 1898 by "Les Chansons de Bilitis." The "Nocturnes" were performed for the first time in 1899. "Pelleas," upon which Debussy had been working for ten years, was produced at the Opera Comique in 1902. In 1903, "Estampes" were published. "Masques," "L'Isle joyeuse," "Danses pour harp chromatique" and "Trois chansons de France"

were published in 1904. The following year saw the disclosure of the first book of "Images" for piano and of "La Mer." The second book of "Images" appeared in 1906; "Iberia" in 1907; "Trois chansons de Charles d'Orleans" and the "Children's Corner" in 1908. "Rondes de Printemps"

was performed for the first time in 1909. In 1910 there appeared "Trois ballades de Francois Villon" and the first book of "Preludes for piano."

It was in the incidental music to d'Annunzio's _Le Martyre de Saint-Sebastien,_ performed in 1911, that Debussy's genius showed itself for the last time in any fullness. In 1912 "Gigues" were performed; in 1913 there appeared the second book of Preludes for piano. The works produced subsequently are of much smaller importance.


Maurice Ravel was born in Ciboure, Ba.s.ses-Pyrenees, March 7th, 1875.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Paris. Henri Ghis was his first piano-teacher, Charles-Rene his first teacher of composition. He took piano-lessons of Ricardo Vines, and in 1891 was awarded a "premiere medaille" in piano-playing at the Conservatoire. In 1897 Ravel entered the cla.s.s of Faure. In 1898, his "Sites auriculaires" were publicly performed. In 1901 he failed for the first time to gain the Prix de Rome. His quartet was performed in 1904. In 1903 he failed for the fourth time to gain the Prix de Rome. "Histoires naturelles" were performed in 1907, the "Rapsodie espagnole" in 1908. "L'Heure espagnole"

was given at the Opera Comique in 1911. "Daphnis et Chloe" was performed by the Russian Ballet in 1912. During the war Ravel served as ambulance driver. He was wounded while serving before Verdun, and dismissed from service. He is living at present in Paris.

The dates of composition of his princ.i.p.al works are:

"Miroirs," 1905; "Sonatine," 1905; "Gaspard de la Nuit," 1908; "Valses n.o.bles et sentimentales," 1911; "Ma Mere l'Oye," 1908; "Histoires naturelles," 1906; "Cinq Melodies populaires grecques," 1907; "Trois Poemes de Mallarme," 1913; "Quatuor a cordes," 1902-03; "Introduction et Allegro pour harpe," 1906; "Rapsodie espagnole," 1907; "Daphnis et Chloe," 1906-11; "L'Heure espagnole," 1907; "Le Tombeau de Couperin,"



Alexander Porfirievitch Borodin was born in Petrograd November 12th, 1834, and died there February 27th, 1887.


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