Pupils of famous composers

Who was this composer’s teacher?

Many composers taught pupils in a kind of apprenticeship scheme.  Composers often needed the money and no doubt the son or daughter of a wealthy family brought in a useful income.  Some pupils went on to have promising careers – others did not have sufficient talent to succeed.

In last night’s meeting Alan Forshaw played pieces by a variety of composers and asked us to guess who had been their teacher.  A combination of style, dates and where they lived or studied gave us a clue in some cases, especially the earlier ones, but it became steadily more difficult as we approached modern times.  Once again in a Society evening, we heard examples of music by long forgotten composers who’s music is worthy of a hearing.  Many were prolific in their day turning out operas, symphonies and concertos by the dozen.  The pieces we heard were:

  • a piano sonata in C by Johann Muthel a pupil of JS Bach
  • the Adagio from the Symphonie Concertante in A by Ignaz Pleyel, who’s name survives on pianos and music scores.  He wrote 41 symphonies. He was taught by Haydn and his influence was audible
  • Thomas Attwood (pictured) studied in Vienna under Mozart and his remains are buried in St Pauls.  We heard his Rondo from a Trio fo
    Thomas Attwood

    r Piano, Violin and ‘cello

  • this was followed by a Fantasia by Steven Storace who was born in London and also studied in Vienna
  • Carl Czerny is slightly better known and was a pupil of Beethoven.  The master’s influence could clearly be heard in his Theme and Variations for Horn and Piano
  • another pupil of Beethoven was Ferdinand Reis, a native of Bonn (a clue) and his Rondo from a Piano Concerto in C# minor showed a lot of talent
  • Franz Liszt needs no introduction and was a pupil of Czerny in Vienna.  We heard his Hungarian Rhapsody No 13
  • the immensely talented but almost unknown Carl Filtsch from Romania led Liszt to say when he heard him play, he would give up performing.  Tragically, he died in his teens but his Impromptu in Gb Major showed what a loss he was to music
  • another pupil of Czerny was Thomas Tellefsen from Norway who also studied in Paris.  Waltz in Db Major
  • Valsa Caprichosa from 3 Portuguese Scenes was composed by a pupil of Liszt, Jose Vianna da Motta who was born on the island of Sao Tome off the coast of Africa
  • Carl Reinecke has almost disappeared from view and is rarely heard today.  His Finale from Wind Octet in Bb Major was a delight
  • Gabriel Fauré needs no introduction who was a pupil of  Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns.  We heard the famous Paradisum from the Requiem
  • Someone less famous, or even unheard of, is Eugene Gigout also from France who studied in Paris under Saint-Saëns.  His Toccata in B Minor is exciting and worth listening to.  He was a famous organist in his day (born 1844)
  • Josef Suk was part of a large musical family and studied under Antonín Dvořák famous for his Symphony from the New World.  Suk does sometimes make it onto present day concerts and last night we heard the Andante from the Serenade for Strings Opus 6, a fine piece
  • Glazunov was a pupil of  Rimsky-Korsakov and studied in St Petersburg.  A prolific composer and we heard the preamble from Scenes de Ballet
  • another pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov was Igor Stravinsky one of the composers who had an enormous influence over the course of 20th century musical history and famous for his ballets.  His Piano Sonata No 2 was special and well worth a listen if you can
  • the Australian Percy Grainger had several teachers and studied in Berlin and elsewhere.  We heard the extraordinary Zanzibar Boat Song – six hands on one piano
  • Busoni was the teacher of Frederick Loewe famous for his musicals with Alan Lerner and it was The Rain In Spain from My Fair Lady we heard to illustrate his talent
  • Lennox Berkeley was a pupil of the enigmatic Maurice Ravel who’s influence could just be heard in Polka Opus 5a

    Vaughan Williams
  • Finally, another pupil of Ravel was Vaughan Williams (and we will be hearing more of him later in the season with a talk from the Vaughan Williams Society coming).  We heard part of March ‘Seventeen Come Sunday from the Folk Song suite (1924)

Alan had put in a lot of work to track down some of the more obscure pieces especially in the first half which made it an interesting and worthwhile evening.

Peter Curbishley


Next meeting on 30 October

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