You never know who you’re going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter’s not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By – or, better, that TGB needed his column – which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
This is continuing my series on classical folks whose CDs I hadn’t played for a while but, upon listening to them, wondered why I haven’t. The first of these can be found here. There are some composers from the 18th century but several from much earlier.
It looks as if JOHANN NEPOMUK HUMMEL knew everyone in the musical business of his time, and a pretty handy bunch they were as you’ll see.
He was born in Hungary, then part of the Hapsburg empire, in 1778. His father was a musician and conductor.
When he was eight he was given lessons from Mozart. Indeed, he lived with the Mozarts for two years and his first concert appearance was at the age of nine at one of Wolfgang’s concerts.
Like the Mozarts before him, Johann’s dad took him on a European tour where, in London, Haydn composed a sonata for him and had young Jo play it at its premier. It was decided to skip France when the terror erupted and they returned to Vienna where he had some more lessons from Haydn and Salieri.
At the same time, the young Beethoven arrived and took lessons from the same people. He and Jo struck up a friendship that lasted their lifetime. Beethoven’s ability put a big dent in Jo’s self-confidence, well it would, wouldn’t it? He eventually got over that.
He succeeded Haydn at the Esterházy’s joint where he stayed for seven years until being fired for neglecting his duties. He toured Russia and went to Germany where he married and had a couple of kids and pretty much settled down there.
Years later, he visited the dying Beethoven who asked him to play at his memorial concert. It was there he met Schubert and they became friends. Although essential a Classical player, he had an influence on the Romantic pianists who followed him. Chopin and Schumann both heard him play and were influenced by his style.
This is the second movement from his Piano Concerto in B min, Op 89. The first and third movements are more in the Romantic style, quite bombastic, but I like this one.
I mentioned a number of composers in the previous tale and I’ve decided to go with one of them next. It’s the most unlikely, ANTONIO SALIERI.
Poor old Salieri, he’s had a bad press these last few decades, libeled in books and films, accused of murdering Mozart. He didn’t, of course.
They actually quite liked each other and generally supported each others’ works. The myth probably grew up after Salieri selected others rather than Wolfie for various positions. Old Leopold Mozart wasn’t too happy about this but his son took it with equanimity.
Salieri was born in 1750 in a Venetian town. He first had music lessons from his older brother and later from the organist at his local cathedral. As a kid he had a passion for sugar, reading and music. Sounds normal to me.
He also took off from home a couple of times to hear his brother in concert. He lost his sugar privileges for this.
When he was about 13, both his parents died and he was taken in by a local monk. Uh oh. This didn’t last long before he became the ward of a Venetian nobleman, a friend of his father. It was there he continued his musical studies.
In his day, he was most noted for his vocal compositions, operas, church music and the like. His instrumental works were more modest in number but they are the ones that have mostly survived. This is one of them, the third movement of his Concerto for Oboe and Cello D maj.
JOHANNES HIERONYMUS KAPSBERGER was a German-Italian virtuoso performer and composer of the early Baroque period.
He is most remembered today for his works for lute, theorbo and chitarrone. Nope, I didn’t know either.
A theorbo is a long-necked lute with two sets of tuning pegs, one at the top and the other half way up the neck as far as I can tell from the picture. A chitarrone is another name for a theorbo. I don’t know why it needs two names.
He was born around 1580 somewhere in Austria or maybe Venice. It is known that he moved to Rome in his early twenties where he gained a reputation as a brilliant virtuoso, sort of the Eric Clapton of his day.
He lived in Rome for the rest of his life where he worked with composers of the time such as Frescobaldi (who thought he was brilliant) and Landi (who wasn’t so taken with his music).
This is a piece he composed for the lute, Gagliarda.
And one for the chitarrone, Canario.
Speaking of GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, he was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1583.
His family was wealthy and it seems his father and brother were noted organists, so Girolamo went into this business as well. He was a bit of a prodigy and, as often happens in such cases, his dad dragged him around Italy performing for all who’d pay.
He met many of the famous composers of the day – Monteverdi, Dowland, de Lassus and, most importantly, Gesualdo. All favorites of this column.
In his twenties he headed for Rome where he pretty much remained from then on. He joined the musical establishment there until he fell out with the Medicis (not a healthy thing to do). There may have been a young woman involved, or that could have been a separate scandal.
In spite of that, he married and had five kids, some of whom preceded the wedding. Among all this, he had time to write numerous compositions. He was employed by various cardinals, popes and dukes around the place.
He is considered the most important of the early Italian instrumental composers. His compositions were known to have influenced numerous major composers, including Purcell, Pachelbel and the great Bach.
This is a Sonata for Harpsichord, Violin and Viola da Gamba.
Now we have “the mystery composer,” UNICO WILHELM VAN WASSENAER.
Unico was born into a very wealthy Dutch family of soldiers and diplomats in 1692. He studied law and he carried on the family diplomating trade at which he was very successful.
He was also a musician and composer of considerable ability but, because of his trade or his noble family or maybe just because he didn’t think much of his ability, his works were published under the name of Carlo Ricciotti, an Italian violinist.
It seems that his friends weren’t fooled by this and knew who wrote them. Later, they were attributed to Johann Birkenstock and Fortunato Chelleri and finally to Pergolesi. I guess everyone who knew who wrote them had died off by then.
The Pergolesi attribution lasted well into the 20th century when manuscripts in Unico’s handwriting were discovered around 1980. These were the “Concerti Armonici” and this is what we have today – well, one of them, Concerto No 4 in F maj.
As we were speaking of Pergolesi, we might as well have something of his too.
GIOVANNI BATTISTA PERGOLESI was born in Jesi, Italy in 1710 and studied music there. He went to Naples to further his musical education.
He was an important early composer of opera buffa (a fancy way of saying comic opera). Apparently his piece in this style, La Serva Padrona, caused a riot in Paris between supporters of serious opera and those who like a bit of a laugh.
He wrote a lot of religious music and some orchestral works as well. He died at the age of 26 of tuberculosis.
To see (or hear) what the fuss was about, here is a duet from La Serva Padrona. The singers are Jeanne Bima and Petteri Salomaa.