On the day of Hitler’s suicide, a squad of American soldiers found themselves face to face with the eighty-year-old composer and conductor Richard Strauss. Alex Ross reflects on the story of the encounter: http://nyr.kr/UqKUES
“Why do I find these tales mesmerizing? Perhaps it has to do with the awkward relationship that any child of the postwar American empire has with the old European colossus of classical music. No matter how deeply we bow before it, we feel like intruders, pulling into the driveways of the great composers and threatening them with eviction.”
Photograph by AP.
Nowadays we might think of classical composers as old-school dandies, possibly sporting genius hairdos. Not always true! Some of your favourite music was written by small child and adolescent rebels. Here are some young people who were so talented they will ruin your day.
Chopin: Polonaises in G Minor and B-flat major
Chopin composed his these two charming pieces when he was an over-achieving 7-year-old. They were published posthumously and are frequently performed today.
Mozart: Symphony No. 1 in E-flat major, K16
At an age when most us probably could only name a few instruments, Mozart had already been composing for four years and turned his attention to his first symphony.
Schubert: Gretchen am Spinnrade
The song “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel” is from 1814, when Schubert was a not-so-average 17-year-old. Had Schubert been Australian, he’d have been P-plater, unable to legally drink or vote, yet here he is re-inventing the Western art song.
Bizet: Symphony in C
Composed as a class assignment, the Symphony in C has ]been hailed has a youthful masterpiece but Bizet expressed little interest in having it performed — it was only premièred in 1935 (60 years after his death)
Pergolesi: Stabat Mater
Stabat Mater was Pergolesi’s final work before expiring due to tuberculosis. It has gone on to become one of the most loved and famous vocal works in history. It’s a sombre piece, depicting the Virgin Mary’s sorrow during the Crucifixion.
Frederick Delius was a uniquely English impressionist, whose spellbinding music is all delicate watercolour washes and soaring folk-like melodies. His work even inspired another quirky impressionist: Kate Bush (in her song, ‘Delius’).
Watch Kate Bush’s ‘Delius’