You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
Today I have a classical chain. This is a matter of who knew whom through the years. I thought this would be a piece of cake, that each would know the next one, but upon further research I was proved wrong in a couple of instances.
Some of the links in the chain are a little weak but we’ll skate over those for the purpose of having some great music.
I have an arbitrary starting position with J.S. Bach and a similarly arbitrary finish in Schubert. I could have gone back further or continued on probably to the present day but we have to draw the line somewhere. Besides, within these limits are the finest composers who ever lived, and my favorites as well.
I originally was going to start with Vivaldi as he had a great influence on Johann Sebastian BACH’s works. Indeed, Jo transcribed a number of Vivaldi’s works for other instruments (they were both proficient on different instruments).
They overlapped to a considerable degree as well, but they didn’t meet. Old Jo was a stay at home sort of person, even if Vivaldi wasn’t so we’re skipping him and he’ll appear in another column.
Incidentally, I initially tried for a link between Bach and Handel. I thought that it would have been easy. Just goes to show how wrong I can be.
It’s odd that they didn’t meet as they were born in the same year and only 80 miles apart at that. Handel studied at the university in Hamburg and then hightailed it to Italy. After a bit of composing there, and some hanky panky as well, he moved to London where he spent the rest of his life.
Bach pretty much hung around where he was born, finishing up in Leipzig. At one stage, Bach’s work took him to Halle, Handel’s birthplace where by coincidence he was also visiting. Alas, Handel left the day before Bach arrived.
You wouldn’t read about it. Well, you would, you just have. They apparently tried to meet again some time later but nothing came of it. In spite of their not meeting, they certainly knew each other’s works.
Let’s begin with the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for 2 violins in D minor BWV 1043.
Georg Philipp TELEMANN was an early starter, learning to play keyboard instruments by the age of 10. He also taught himself to play the violin, recorder and zither. The zither? Not much call for that any more. He and Bach certainly knew each other.
Getting back to Handel, he and Georg met in Leipzig when he, Georg, was about 20. He admired Handel’s work greatly. While in the city he was offered a post as cantor but he turned it down.
After a couple more rejections the post eventually went to Bach. Telemann and Bach became friends. Indeed, Georg was godfather to one of Bach’s sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel.
This is the first movement of the Sonata for Trumpet.
We’ve already established that Telemann and HANDEL met. They remained friends for 50 years or so. Meeting with Telemann spurred Handel’s operatic ambitions and he said that he "wrote like the very devil."
This ability proved valuable as so many demands were put upon him during his lifetime. Of course, he was royally rewarded for it all and died one of the richest composers whoever put quill to paper.
I’m not using one of the operas today though, maybe another time. This is the Sonata for Flute in D major, HWV 378.
There’s a bit of a gap here. Handel and HAYDN overlapped by 27 years but there is no evidence that they ever met. I thought with all the “Handel and Haydn Societies” that are around there would have been some connection, but I was wrong.
Haydn certainly knew of Handel’s works; his great oratorio, The Creation, was inspired by such works by Handel. We’re not going there, though; it’s a part of one of his symphonies that interest us today. Well, interests me, I hope it does you as well.
Haydn’s Symphony No 45, the “Farewell Symphony,” was written as a protest when his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, had brought Haydn and the court orchestra to the prince's summer palace leaving their wives and families back home in Eisenstadt.
The stay was longer than expected so Haydn wrote this one as a subtle protest wherein during the final movement each musician stopped playing, snuffed out the candle on his music stand and left in turn.
At the end there were just two violins left (played by Haydn himself and the concertmaster, Alois Tomasini). Old Nik apparently got the message and the court returned to Eisenstadt the next day. This is that final movement.
We have two links now, Haydn was a close friend of Mozart’s and MOZART wrote some string quartets in the style of Haydn called the Haydn Quartets. Clever title.
Haydn was also Beethoven’s teacher for a while but they had a falling out. Not unusual for Beethoven; later he claimed that he learned nothing from Haydn. After he stopped being his pupil, they were on fairly good terms, well, as good terms as anyone could be with Beethoven.
Haydn, though, was generally on good terms with everyone. Getting back to Mozart, and for something a little different from the rest of the tracks today, here is the marvelous Cecilia Bartoli with the aria Batti, batti, o bel Masetto from his opera Don Giovanni.
Did Mozart and BEETHOVEN meet? This is uncertain. There are only six weeks when they were both in the same place at the same time. This was in Vienna in 1787 when Beethoven was 17.
Beethoven returned to Bonn after that time as his mother was seriously ill. There are a couple of accounts from the 19th century that suggest a meeting but they give no provenance for such a claim. Beethoven was a great admirer of Mozart’s work so it’s not beyond possibility that he sought him out. He was a headstrong lad.
The Grove Dictionary of Music suggests that there “seems little doubt that he met Mozart and perhaps had a few lessons from him.” That’s good enough for me.
This is the first movement of his Sextet in E flat major, Op 81b for 2 violins, viola, cello and 2 French horns.
In 1822, Beethoven made the acquaintance of SCHUBERT but little came of it. Some say that Beethoven recognized the younger man's gifts but this is probably legend because he could not have known the real scope of Schubert's music as so little of it was printed or performed in Beethoven's lifetime.
However, Schubert did dedicate one set of works to the master and presented them to him. It seems he was so nervous in his presence he completely lost his composure, particularly when Beethoven pointed out a minor error in the work.
On his deathbed, Beethoven is said to have acknowledged Schubert as his likely successor but again, this is probably made up. However, as mentioned, they certainly met and knew each other’s works to some extent.
It’s pretty obvious listening to Schubert’s compositions that he was influenced by Beethoven. The next piece is, to my ears, definitely Schubert though. It is the second movement of the Piano Trio No 2 Op 100 D 929.