Beethoven did not die of lead poisoning. So what—precisely—killed Beethoven? Even by the standards of his day, Beethoven cannot have been considered a particularly healthy man. The list of possible causes is a lengthy one… […]
Thus, the “Pope Gregory listened to the birdie” story, which was created to legitimize Roman chant as being of “divine” origin, was a key component in convincing northern churches to abandon their regional practices in favor of those used by the Roman See. […]
Born Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, Henry Steinway’s life and accomplishments are a textbook example of the great American success story: of an immigrant and his family who by dint of the hardest work, ambition, sacrifice, artistry, and no small bit of genius created something of true and lasting import. […]
That event took place in September of 1831, when Chopin was 21. He might have been a small, slim, young, physically unprepossessing provincial from Warsaw, but by the time he arrived in Paris to seek his fame and fortune he was a fully formed composer and already one of the best pianists in the world.
On this day 131 years ago—February 5, 1887—Giuseppe Verdi’s 25th and penultimate opera, Otello, received its premiere at the Teatro alla Scala (“La Scala”) in Milan. The premiere was the single greatest triumph in Verdi’s sensational career. But it was a premiere—and an opera—that almost didn’t happen. […]
At the beginning of the song, it is cast in D minor as a funeral march, one that invokes the impending death of the maiden. But when the passage returns to conclude the song, it is set in D major. The effect is so powerful as to make us gasp: with this seemingly simple switch from minor to major, everything is transfigured… […]
No one likes to be criticized. And no major composer ever received more damning criticism than did Peter Tchaikovsky. Given his incredibly sensitive nature, and the fact that he was, as a homosexual in Tsarist Russia, leading virtually a double life, well, you’ve got a prescription for a most challenging emotional life. […]
And then, in early November of 1717, Bach lost his temper. And while we’re not exactly sure who he mouthed off to—it might have been the Prince himself or it might have been one of his ministers—whomever it was, Bach’s tantrum must have been a doozy, because on November 6, 1717 he was summarily tossed into jail. […]