Category: Cultural Context

The 1840s in Berlin: Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer

There were few signs that the Berlin of the first half of the nineteenth century would become a world capital of music by century’s end. Musicians didn’t like the city, especially the ones who had lived there, such as Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn. Berlin was conservative, unwilling to try anything new. The people were formal and […]

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Let there be clapping

While paging through Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music yesterday, my eye caught an unexpected entry (between “Anzoletti, Marco” and “Apponyi, Count”): Waiting to applaud until the end of the work is called an innovation of late–and this book was published in 1929! Mr. Cobbett prefers clapping and even encores of individual movements of a […]

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An assessment of Joachim’s importance from 1931

The centennial of Joachim’s birth in 1931 was observed in Berlin and elsewhere with tributes recalling the important part he had played in so many aspects of musical life. Only a few years later the Nazi re-writing of Germany history began, in which Jewish artists and intellectuals were purged from the German culture they helped […]

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The stiff-upper-lip school of music

F. S. Kelly (1881-1916), pianist and composer Frederick Septimus Kelly is remembered today as one of the “lost” generation killed in World War I – specifically as part of the Hood Battalion of the Royal Navy, where so many of Britain’s young elite of talent and birth served as officers before being killed. But he […]

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Arthur Lourié on Berlin as musical capital

Here are a few excerpts about Berlin at the beginning of the twentieth century from the book Sergei Koussevitzky and his Epoch by Arthur Lourié (1892-1966). The author of the second biography of Koussevitzky described this book in his preface: “There was available an earlier biography of Koussevitzky by his friend Arthur Lourié. The value of […]

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Fatal fantasy women

Do you know the story of the admirably accomplished Hofrat Dr. Alois Obrist? As a teenager in the 1880s, he studied at the conservatory in Weimar, where he fell under the spell of the Liszt circle, especially the composer Eduard Lassen. The serious Swiss excelled in many areas of music. He continued his composition lessons […]

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