David Bruce: Create, Then Take a Break — Music


• Some music trivia: 1) Q: Who wrote Henry Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary? A: Jeremiah Clarke (1670?-1707) composed the Trumpet Voluntary, but many people thought it was too good to have been written by him, so Henry Purcell (1659?-1695) was given the credit for composing it. 2) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) took organ music seriously. He once walked 200 miles to hear the great organist Dietrich Buxtehude. 3) It helps to have long fingers if you are a pianist or an organist so that you can more easily reach widely separated keys. According to music historian Charles Burney, Johann Sebastian Bach sometimes used a stick in his mouth to strike keys he couldn’t reach with either hand. 4) George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed his Water Music for King George I of England. At its premiere, King George I sailed on a barge on the Thames, while another barge nearby played the Water Music. 5) Orlando di Lasso was a boy singer in Belgium in the 16th century. He was such a good singer that rival choirs kidnapped him three times.

• A few music anecdotes: 1) Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler once ordered the musicians of the London Philharmonic Orchestra not to cross their legs as he felt that it looked unprofessional. At the very next performance, without any planning, every member of the orchestra whose instrument permitted it had his or her legs crossed when Maestro Furtwängler came out to conduct. When he raised the baton, they all uncrossed their legs. Later, Maestro Furtwängler apologized to the orchestra. 2) Conductor Georg Solti once told singer John Lanigan, “John, dear, I beat it in twelve here.” Mr. Lanigan replied, “Don’t worry, Maestro. I never look.” Sir Georg laughed. (Don’t worry—this anecdote uses music jargon that doesn’t need to be censored.) 3) Sir Malcolm Sargent once publicly rehearsed a piece written by Vaughan Williams, making alterations as he went along. Suddenly, a voice came from the audience, “Hey! What are you doing to my piece?” The voice belonged to Mr. Williams himself.

• A few jazz music anecdotes: 1) Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis believes that it takes more skill to play jazz than it takes to play classical music. In 1984, he won Grammys for making both kinds of music—he won as Best Classical Soloist with Orchestra and as Best Jazz Soloist. He also decided that year to devote himself solely to playing jazz. 2) As a young boy, jazz musician Louis Armstrong frequently did not have enough food to eat. He sometimes scavenged through garbage cans looking for something edible. 3) Some musicians played for Duke Ellington for most of their careers. For example, Harry Carney joined Mr. Ellington’s band in 1927 when he was 17 years old and was still playing for him 47 years later, when Mr. Ellington died. 4) Charlie “Bird” Parker was a genius while playing the saxophone, but far from a genius while attending school. He once said that he had “spent three years in high school and wound up a freshman.”

• Famous violinist Eduard Reményi used to amaze audiences by seeming to play a long low note at the same time he played a series of high notes. Such a feat is impossible, and this is the trick he used: While he stood on stage playing the series of high notes, backstage an organist played the long low note. By the way, Niccolo Paganini was such a gifted violinist that after hearing him play, a professional musician by the name of Mori raised his own violin over his head and offered to sell it for only eighteen cents. Also by the way, famous violinist August Wilhemj knew how to make a violin sound good and how to make it sound bad. When he wanted to sell a violin, he played it and made it sound good, and when he wished to buy a violin, he played it and made it sound bad.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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