In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
Wait a minute…that sentence sounds awfully familiar. But I digress.
He said “Never judge a book by its cover”. Ah, that most familiar of platitudes, that wolfish yet wise advice in fleecy sheep’s clothing.
Today I’m going to toy with that advice a bit and reveal why we Revelers shouldn’t judge composers by their lacy cravats, their square-toed, brass-buckled kicks, their prim tailored tweedy suits, their fits of tubercular coughing (okay, maybe not that).
Why? Because they were mad men all. Here are some fascinating bits to absorb about composers you love.
Beethoven liked each cup of coffee he drank to be made with exactly 60 coffee beans. Today we affectionately call that “obsessive-compulsive disorder”. Eins, zwei, drei, vier…
Éric Satie wrote three short piano pieces called “Flabby Preludes For A Dog“. Surely he was being modest with his choice of adjective.
Mozart had a pet starling that could sing the theme of the last movement of his Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453. I mean really…are we surprised? Someone please buy me that bird for my birthday.
Bedrich Smetana spent his last months in the Prague Insane Asylum where he died of a progressive paralysis, possibly caused by complications from syphilis. And there’s really nothing more to say after that.
When American composer Paul Creston needed an extra boost of energy to stay up late, he would smoke coffee grounds in a pipe. Clearly, drinking from a mug was just too lowbrow; however, he did compose a concertino for the marimba, which is just amazing (?).
Berlioz wrote the majority of the Symphonie fantastique while high on opium. Did he not heed Nancy Reagan’s advice? I love the timpani and I love Leonard Bernstein, so here’s the fourth movement.
Tchaikovsky wrote the “Pas de deux” from The Nutcracker as a bet. He said he could write a piece whose main theme was a simple descending major scale. He did it and won. Na zdorovye!
Chopin‘s heart is buried in Warsaw…and the rest of him can be found in Paris at Père Lachaise Cemetery. Now THAT is true allegiance!
Rimsky-Korsakov heard/saw music as a stream of colors. I can only wonder if Flight of the Bumblebee gave him a gorgeous, staggering migraine.
Richard Wagner liked to wear pink silk underwear. Consequently, anyone singing the role of Isolde must don the same unmentionables. Oh, that heartrending Liebestod!!!!!!
And that’s your dose of random fascinating facts for the time being. You’ve missed me, haven’t you? Revel on!