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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: January 27, 2007 Archive

Composer visited by aliens, gives birth to two-headed sheep

Posted at 4:52 PM on January 27, 2007 by Alison Young

Musician, writer and creative writing professor Daniel Stern's final piece before he died last week was one of his typical short stories called The Advancer. An obituary writer has a scheme to charge people for writing positive advance obituaries about them and bad ones about their enemies. At one point the cringing narrator says "I can never read an obituary again with innocent eyes." Reading those lines gave me a bit of a chill and I'll definitely need to pick up a copy of The Kenyon Review where the piece was published last Spring.

It was mostly our Music Director Rex Levang's idea, but since today, January 27th marks the 251st birthday of Mozart and he seems to have raked in all the attention last year, we checked out just who else was born today. It turned out to be a good many from Edouard Lalo to Brazilian Radames Gnattali and flute virtuoso Emmanuel Pahud. Most of the composers and performers I presented on my program this morning are long dead, so the "obituaries" I gave were fairly positive and sanitized. But it did give me a little thrill when I'd find a National Enquirer-esque tidbit to tell that might give the music an extra zip like these:

The Symphony in G Minor by Edouard Lalo, born January 27, 1823, was championed ardently by Sir Thomas Beecham, but largely ignored by everyone else.

Operetta composer Eduard Künneke, born January 27, 1885 really didn't care much for music and only composed in order to make money.

Brazilian Radames Gnattali, born January 27, 1906, would give his right arm and his favorite cavaquinho to compose classical music, but the wild night-life of Rio and the need to make money meant writing pop music including Brazilian choros.

Jack Brymer, OBE, born January 27, 1915, a clarinetist and saxophonist who came to classical music by way of pop music, failed to drop his characteristic jazzy vibrato along the way.

Born January 27, 1885, Showboat composer Jerome Kern suffered a heart attack when he was 54 and was told by his doctors to concentrate on film scores since Hollywood was way less stressful than Broadway. It only took another six years, and lots of good songs including Pick Yourself Up before Kern was killed from the stress.

And then there's that so-called genius from Salzburg, Wolfgang Mozart, born January 27, 1756. Did you know he never found a solid post for himself in Vienna? Some genius; couldn't even hold down a job!

Oh, dear, I guess this looking for the dirt exercise has gotten totally out-of-hand! Well, it was fun to take a look at all the composers and performers who came into the world in the dead of winter and went on to great success. I hope it was good listening too!