Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Johann Strauss II was an Austrian composer of light classical dance music and operettas. He was the son of Johann Strauss Sr. who was also known for his dance music and operettas. Johann Strauss II was known as the “Waltz King” during his lifetime and was responsible for popularizing the waltz in Vienna, Austria in the 19th Century. Some of his most famous compositions include: the “Blue Danube Waltz”, Tales from the Vienna Woods”, and the operettas “die Fledermaus” and “der Zigeunerbaron”.
Lucia Popp – soprano (1939-1993)
Lucia Popp was a Slovak operatic soprano. During her career she performed at the Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and La Scala. She was also a highly regarded recitalist and lieder singer. She died of brain cancer in 1993. Lucia was 54 years old.
Here is a filmed performance of Lucia Popp in 1965 singing Johann Strauss II’s Voices of Spring Op. 410. She was 25 at the time of this performance.
Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901)
Joseph Rheinberger was a German organist and composer who lived most of his life in Germany. He was a child prodigy and was already serving as the organist for his local parish church when he was only 7 years old. He also wrote his first composition at the age of 7 or 8. Rheinberger was very particular about the music he liked and the music he disliked. One day, people outside his church noticed smoke coming from the chimney of the church. They went inside the church and discovered Rheinberger tossing sheetmusic into the fireplace.
Rheinberger was a prolific composer. Today he is best known for his elaborate and challenging organ music. He composed 36 solo pieces, 22 trios, 20 sonatas, and several pieces for violin and organ which are quite beautiful. Here is the Praeludium from his Suite for Violin and Organ, Op.166 from a Naxos recording played by violinist Line Most and organist Marie Ziener. Enjoy!
Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880)
Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer. In 1843 (when he was only 8 years old) he was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire. Wieniawski was a violin virtuoso and toured quite extensively during his career. He composed several pieces for violin and piano that he often played in recitals when on tour. Wieniawski was a wonderful melodist, but his pieces are often very challenging to play and require a virtuoso technique. A violin competition was named after him. He is to the violin what Chopin is to the piano.
Here is a video clip of violinist Itzhak Perlman (accompanied on the piano by Janet Guggenheim) playing Wieniawski’s Etude Caprice Op. 18 No.4. This video clip was taken from a film of a tour Perlman did in Russia. As you will see in the video, this piece is extremely difficult to play. Perlman is such a master of his instrument that he makes it look easy.
Witold Małcużyński (1914-1977)
Witold Małcużyński was a famous Polish pianist who specialized in playing the music of Chopin. He studied piano with Margarite Long and Isidor Philipp. He received some coaching from the famous pianist Paderewski and competed in the Third International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland in 1937. He won third prize in that competition. Małcużyński’s piano playing had great passion and poetry.
Here are two recordings of him playing the Chopin Waltz in D Flat Major, Op. 70, No. 3, and the Chopin Waltz in c sharp minor Op. 64, No. 2. Enjoy!
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Johannes Brahms was a 19th century German composer, pianist, and conductor. Today he is best known for his German Requiem, his 4 symphonies, piano concerto, violin concerto, and many pieces for solo piano.
On December 2, 1889, Johannes Brahms was recorded playing two pieces on the piano at the home of Dr. Fellinger and his wife in Vienna, Austria by Theo Wangemann (a associate of Thomas Edison who was the world’s first recording engineer). Brahms played a segment of his Hungarian Dance No. 1 in g minor, and a paraphrase of a Josef Strauss Polka called die Libelle. The wax cylinder was made of soft wax and the earliest cylinders were damaged after each play rendering them unplayable after they had been used only a few times. The Fellinger family no doubt cherished this historic recording and played it many times. It became cracked and badly worn. The recording was played many years later on a radio station and somebody recorded the broadcast. The recording was later transferred onto a disc and many people tried to get rid of the surface noise to better expose the music hidden underneath. Musicologists and mathematicians are still working on it to try and de-noise the recording but it is proving to be very difficult. What they most likely will end up doing is using a clean modern recording of the music and figuring out approximately what is being played where and adjust the tempo and the note lengths. This recording is important because it is a time capsule into the past and can tell musicologists and performing musicians how people in the 19th century may have played the piano. They didn’t play the way pianists play now with a strict unbending tempo. There was a lot of tempo variation and the right and left hands didn’t always play strictly together. Enjoy this rare recording.
Lili Kraus (1905-1986)
Lili Kraus was born in Budapest Hungary in 1903. She studied at the Franz Liszt Academy. At 17 years of age she studied at the Budapest Conservatory under Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. She later studied piano with the famous pianist Artur Schnabel.
During the 1930s, Lili toured Europe, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Lili and her family were captured by the Japanese and interned in separate concentration camps from June 1943 until August 1945. After the war Lili moved to New Zealand where she played, performed, and taught piano. She became a citizen of New Zealand and toured a lot and taught many students. From 1967-1983 Lili taught piano at the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. She then moved to Asheville, North Carolina and died in 1986.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Franz Schubert was an Austrian composer, pianist, and violinist. He is known today for his famous ‘Trout’ Quintet, Unfinished Symphony, piano sonatas, and his more than 600 lieder, or German Art Songs. Schubert was an extremely prolific composer during his short life (he lived to be 31 years old and died from Syphilis). Schubert was one of the pallbearers at Beethoven’s funeral in 1827. He died the following year.
Here are selections from Franz Schubert’s Valses Sentimentales op. 50 played by Lili Kraus. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
On September 13, 1889 violinist Herr Krahmer and pianist Herr Schmalfuss recorded Beethoven’s Romance in F Major, op.50. Here is that recording.) First you will hear an extract from the piece played by Louise Chisson (recorded in 2010). Then you will hear the 1889 recording which will be followed by a recording of the whole piece played by Jascha Heifetz with the RCA Victor Orchestra.
The 1889 recording is in very bad shape and it is hard to make out the violin and piano. If you listen carefully you can hear the instruments. In December of 1889 Johannes Brahms was recorded playing the piano. A historic year indeed! Enjoy.
Here is a recording of ‘Két Gitár’ (a traditional gypsy tune called Two Guitars) and Brahms Hungarian Dance no.5 performed in a gypsy style by gypsy violinist Roby Lakatos and pianist Frantisek Janoska for ABC Radio.
Roby Lakatos is a gypsy violinist who has a family that goes back seven generations of gypsy musicians all the way back to the “King of Gypsy violinists” Janos Bihari. He can play in just about any style (gypsy music, classical, and jazz) and has performed with many of the world’s great orchestras as well as his own ensemble. He makes playing the violin look effortless and doesn’t even break out in a sweat when he plays.
Frantisek Janoska is an up and coming pianist who is comfortable playing gypsy music as well as jazz. He often performs with Roby Lakatos’ ensemble and his brother Roman (a jazz violinist). Frantisek Janoska has his own group which performs gypsy music as well as jazz and classical music in a gypsy style.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Franz Schubert was an Austrian composer. He composed piano sonatas, waltzes,various other dances, symphonies, string trios, piano trios, quartets, quintets, and more than 600 German Art Songs (or lieder). Today Schubert is known for his ‘Trout’ Quintet, his chamber music, and his more than 600 songs.
In 1826 Schubert was at Mr. Kupelweiser’s wedding. He played a waltz but never wrote it down. The waltz was passed down by ear for several generations. In the 20th century Richard Strauss (a friend of a distant relative of Kupelweiser) was asked to transcribe the waltz. He wrote down the melody and harmonized it adding a few of his own harmonic touches to the music.
Here is the ‘Kupelweiser’ waltz played by a pianist from a youtube recording. I don’t know the name of the pianist who is playing the waltz.
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)
Frederic Chopin was a Polish composer and piano virtuoso. Chopin wrote almost all of his compositions for solo piano. He wrote concertos for piano, etudes, preludes, nocturnes, waltzes, impromptus and mazurkas, polonaises, and much more. Most of his music is simple in texture with an accompanied melody. His music is often very expressive and full of ornamental flourishes. There is always a slight melancholic emotion in Chopin’s music.
Jorge Bolet (1914-1990)
Jorge Bolet was a Cuban pianist that was born in America. Bolet has been described by many pianists as a great pianist. It took him a long time to get recognition as a pianist. It wasn’t until a recital at Carnegie Hall in 1974 that Bolet got major recognition. Bolet is especially known for his expressive interpretations of Franz Liszt’s piano music, but he recorded music by many other composers. Here is a recording of Chopin’s Nocturne op.15, no.2 played by Jorge Bolet. The playing is very expressive and full of emotion. He gets colors out of the piano that many pianists (including great pianists) don’t always get in their interpretations (for example Vladimir Horowitz). Jorge Bolet often performed on Baldwin pianos instead of Steinways.