December 30, 2017

The Secret Facts of Composers

Piano teachers need to know their music, and it’s useful to know about the composers themselves. Tomoko likes to read biographies – especially those of composers. And she relates stories about them to her students, providing context for the compositions as well as making those composers more human. Here are some of the lesser known facts about some of them.

Vivaldi became a priest when he was 25, and served as a master of violin at an orphanage. Vivaldi suffered from bronchial asthma throughout his life, which kept him from playing wind instruments.

Liszt was very popular when young, and he was quite the playboy. One of his illegitimate daughters become Richard Wagner’s wife. Nevertheless, throughout his life he considered becoming a priest, and took four minor religious orders when 54.

Schubert was famous for his musical parties, which sometimes lasted until dawn. Yet he was very prolific; he wrote more than 20,000 bars of music, including 600 songs. He wrote 8 songs in one day. 

Rachmaninoff's fingers could span 12 keys.  On the other hand 😉, Schumann ruined his performing career by practicing with a homemade finger-stretching device; then he would plunge his hands into slaughtered animals’ entrails to heal himself.

Frederic Handel loved rich food and wine. He would order enough food for three people – for himself. The food caused him gout, and the wine may have caused him lead poisoning. 

Johann Sebastian Bach frequented Leipzig’s Café Zimmermann where he would drink several cups of coffee (which was a luxury beverage at the time). He liked coffee so much he wrote the Coffee Cantata about a woman who was trying to stop her coffee drinking habit.  Bach was also an amateur mathematician, which is evident in his compositions, especially his canons.

Speaking of coffee, Beethoven was so meticulous that he would measure exactly 60 beans when making coffee.

Mozart’s life included many interesting facts. He could write music before he could write words. He could listen to a piece of music just once and be able to write it down from memory perfectly. He wrote half of his symphonies between the age of 8 and 19. was a big cat fan. He would imitate cats when bored during rehearsals. In fact, he liked cats so much that he wrote a song called "The Cat Duet,” in which the husband asks his wife questions and she answers back in meows.