This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I thought this series, named initially by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to highlight lesser known composers who are seldom heard on radio or in concert, would end after two or three, but that's not the case. There are always interesting composers around that aren't very well known.
Giacomo Puccini is one of the most famous classical composers; he created a bunch of the best loved (and best) operas ever, so he doesn't belong in this column. I just mentioned him because his dad was a bit of a composer as well.
Dad was MICHELE PUCCINI.
The only thing I have of Mich's work is a Concertone for flute, clarinet, horn and keyed trumpet so I'll use that (well, that's pretty obvious).
The first two movements of this sound awfully like the overture to an opera. Maybe that's where young Gia got his inspiration. Instead, I'm using the third movement of that work. Actually, parts of this one also sounds a bit like opera music too.
Speaking of Puccinis, here's another one. This time it's DOMENICO PUCCINI.
Dom was Mich's dad and his music is more in the mold of late classical – Haydn and early Beethoven – than the later operatic style of son and grandson. He was pretty much a contemporary of Beethoven's, although Ludwig outlived him by a bit over a decade.
Dom's contribution is the second movement of the Piano Concerto in B-flat major.
Continuing the theme (which is a rather grand term for what is really a loose association), the next two composers were both princesses of Russia. I suppose if you were one of those you needed something to pass the time, particularly if you have the talent for it.
They both wrote singing things and we have the same singer in each case and the same instrumentalists as well. Not too surprising as they came from the same record.
Starting with NATALIA IVANOVA DE KOURAKINE (or Kourakin or Kourakina, take your pick). She hung around from 1755 to 1831, and apparently didn't stand still long enough to have her photo taken or picture painted.
Nat started out as Natalia Golovina and she married Prince Aleksei Borisovich Kurakin (when she was 16, but I guess that was the thing back then). He was a bigwig in the administration of Tsar Paul the first (until he fell out with him).
Nat was very well educated, spoke several languages, played the harp and guitar and sang. She also composed music, usually vocal with those two instruments accompanying.
Today we have Je Vais Donc Quitter pour Jamais. The soprano is ANNE HARLEY, guitarist OLEG TIMOFEYEV and violinist ETIENNE ABELIN.
VARVARA DOLGOROUKY was also a Russian princess of some sort and lived from 1769 to 1849. That's about the sum total of information I've been able to find. Also, no picture of her either.
Her music is called Thémire Fuit and it has the same performers as the previous one.
You'd think there was a connection between the next two, after all, they both have the same surname, both were born in Germany about roughly the same time, but that's it I'm afraid. No relation that I can find, but I'm including them both anyway.
The first is GEORG SCHNEIDER, born the same year as Beethoven.
Georg's main instrument was the horn, but he was proficient on others, particularly the violin, as well. He started out as court composer for Prince Frederick Henry Louis of Prussia, but when Napoleon invaded, he (Georg), fortuitously, was in Vienna where he decided to stay.
In spite of being contemporaneous with Beethoven, his music is much closer to the earlier composers Haydn and Mozart. That's fine by me. This is the first movement of his Flute Quartet in G minor, Op. 69 No. 3.
The other is FRIEDRICH SCHNEIDER.
Boy, old Fred looks like a rock musician from the sixties. He was an organist and a pianist, and he played piano at the premier performance of Beethoven's fifth piano concerto (the Emperor).
He wrote music for the piano, operas, masses, cantatas and symphonies (amongst a lot of other things). From his Symphony No 17 in C minor, this is the second movement.
You'd imagine that poor old ANTON FERDINAND TITZ would have been teased mercilessly when he was at school, he certainly would have been if he lived in Australia or America.
However, we're above that sort of thing. So, old Titzie (sorry, I mean Anton) was from Nuremburg and he started out as a painter. He switched to music and became the organist at the local church. He also played the violin and viola d'amore.
For the last 40 years of his life he lived in St Petersburg where he was in the employ of Catherine II. A lot of his music has been lost and little of the remaining has been recorded. This is one of those, the fourth movement of the String Quartet in C minor, Op. 1 No. 4.
Now we have an interesting pair of instruments, the horn and cello. The person who put those together is FRÉDÉRIC DUVERNOY.
Fred hit his peak around the time of the French revolution, probably not an auspicious time to do that. However, he survived and was in the orchestra that Napoleon had for his delectation along with his brother (that's Fred's brother) who played the clarinet.
He wrote quite a bit of music, mostly concertos and chamber works, but others as well. Here is the third movement of his Sonata No. 1 for Horn & Cello
You can tell by all the consonants in her name that MARIA SZYMANOWSKA was Polish.
Rather surprisingly for the time (late 18th, early 19th century), she made her living as a concert pianist and toured extensively throughout Europe. She eventually retired to St Petersburg where she spent the rest of her life composing music, performing and giving piano lessons.
Her compositions were mostly for the piano, and often quite short. Here is an example, Waltz No 1 in E-flat major.
ANTONIO XIMÉNEZ was born into a family of musicians in Spain. Sorry, we don't know what he looks like. He toured extensively playing violin for an opera company, but they got into trouble because they were considered too frivolous.
Antonio wasn't affected by this and he was invited by King Carlos III to play for him. He remained there for the rest of his life, playing and composing. One such composition is his Guitar Trio No. 1 in D major, the first movement.