Sunday, 26 June 2016


...who passed away this morning, June 26, 2016, and in honor of those who remain:

Dad, your suffering is over and you are now at rest - may you remain in an eternal state of peace. 

I love you very much...

You will be missed.

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace..."

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Folks, the countdown is on to plunge NASA's solar powered spacecraft Juno deep into the orbit of gas giant Jupiter.

Strap yourselves in, this is going to be epic:

As the world waits with bated breath for the outcome of NASA's latest behemoth endeavor into further discovering the heavens and that of mankind's origins, I present to the reader "Eine Kleine Mozart" (A little Mozart) in the form of the maestro's symphonic masterpiece Jupiter[1] - a fine compliment to this most impressive display of human ingenuity.

Enjoy below another astonishing human feat: the highly prized Molto Allegro from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony no. 41 in C major "Jupiter," performed by the English Chamber Orchestra under maestro Jeffrey Tate:


A final portrait of
Herr Mozart to
accompany the
 composers final
symphony. Left
unfinished at his
death, this portrait,
painted by Mozart's
brother in law, was
said to be the
composers' best
[1] The name “Jupiter” to Mozart’s 41st symphony – the composer’s last, and most lengthy – was a later attribution to the work, possibly coined by Mozart’s son, Franz Xaver, or, more likely, by 18th century composer and musical impresario Johann Peter Salomon.

The Symphony is widely regarded by many Mozart aficionados as Mozart’s finest, with the esteemed Sir George Grove, founding editor of the music scholars’ most referenced Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, famously praising the work and it’s composer thusly: 

"it is for the finale that Mozart has reserved all the resources of his science, and all the power, which no one seems to have possessed to the same degree with himself, of concealing that science, and making it the vehicle for music as pleasing as it is learned. Nowhere has he achieved more…It is the greatest orchestral work of the world which preceded the French Revolution.”
Nearly 230 years after Herr Mozart put his finishing touches on his monumental work, "Jupiter" continues to impress audiences and astonish even the seasoned musicians who perform it. Notoriously demanding in execution, Jupiter was ground-breaking at it's premiere for it's use of employing five individually unique melodies simultaneously - making the work a laborious feat for the orchestra and a delightful treat for audiences around the globe!

Discover more: 
  • NASA's Press release for "Juno Mission Arrival at Jupiter" at (NASA)


Monday, 20 June 2016


"Le Mozart des Champs-Elysées" 
("The Mozart of Champs-Elysées")

Jacques Offenbach turns 197 today.
Today’s featured duet comes to us from 19th century German-turned French composer Jacques Offenbach’s final unfinished grand opera Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).

The gorgeous barcarolle for soprano and mezzo soprano, from the opera’s third act, 
“Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour" (Beautiful night, o night of love), and the entire work itself have become staple pieces in the West, with the famous barcarolle often finding itself enhancing many and varied soundtracks of mainstream and independent film, and Les Contes itself greatly assisting in the dogged quest of making for it’s creator a household name.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann’s popularity is especially notable, as both the work and it’s composer would have experienced many roadblocks along the journey to success.

Jacques Offenbach, born 
Jacob Offenbach 197 years ago today on June 20, 1819 at Cologne in Prussia (in what is present day Germany), was the 7th child of a family of 10 by Jewish parents. Although young Jacob showed signs of musical prodigalism as early as the age of nine years, having already mastered the violin with astonishing and “terrifying” ability,  and having begun the practice of composition and had recently taken up the cello, Prussian musical society in the early 19th century would prove problematic for musicians of Jewish origin looking to advance in their practice or trade and make a name for themselves across the continent.

Jacob’s father 
Isaac, would send his son west, to France by the age of fourteen alongside elder brother Julius, aged 18 - also musically gifted - to study in Paris.

An esteemed Italian in Paris:
composer and Paris Conservatoire
Director Luigi Cherubini

It would be in Paris, at the prestigious Paris Conservatoire that young Jacob would shatter his way through the first of his obstacles with remarkable ease: running the exclusive Conservatory was one of the early 19th centuries’ most prominent Italian masters of Opera in France, composer 
Luigi Cherubini. So exalted a station held Cherubini as Director of the conservatoire, and so particular were his refinements, even the likes of (a young) Franz Liszt had applied for, and had been refused admission within it’s hallowed ranks. Jacob’s tender age was but just one factor working against the young hopeful: unlike in Prussia, where the musician’s Judaism would prove a hindrance to himself, in Paris - which was more accepting of Jewish talents - it was Offenbach’s status as a Prussian national that was viewed by Cherubini and the Conservatoire as most distasteful.

It would only be after much persuasion on the part of Isaac Offenbach that the pubescent Jacob would be made allowed to audition. Moments into the young prodigy’s performance, Cherubini abruptly called for silence, allegedly remarking to Isaac’s most gifted son

“Enough, young man! You are now a pupil of this Conservatoire!"

It would be during this period that Jacob would become Jacques, and where the former singer and violinist would begin to hone his skills as a virtuoso of the cello. Although having spent only a year within it’s precincts, it would be at the Conservatoire that Jacques would find himself rubbing shoulders with classical music’s elite, and instilling within himself a very powerful sense of his own self worth as a musician. Very soon after voluntary withdrawing from the Conservatoire, Offenbach would enter into the cello tutelage of one Louis-Pierre Norblin, and join the Opéra-Comique orchestra as a cellist where he would even further refine his skills earn the distinction of one of the finest cellists on the continent. Jacques would also study composition under maestro Fromental Halévy of La Juive fame.

French composer Fromental Halévy
would prove instrumental in young
Jacques early foray into the art of
musical composition.

Around this period of self-discovery and burgeoning success, Offenbach would develop a taste for the musical theater, leasing a small property in the Champs-Élysées (which he named Bouffes-Parisiens) wherein he would test out some of his own compositions. In spite of the odds working against him as a Prussian Jew in Paris, the now 36 year old musician would find his latest venture a smashing success, with his small-scale productions earning him a reputation as a pioneer and master of the operetta, allowing him to branch out into in creating larger performances, in even grander venues. This was no small feat for the newly established composer given the Parisian government’s notorious restrictions on musical productions: such stageplays were to be limited to single acts, with a maximum of three characters, with a strict prohibition on the implementation of chorus.

Within three years of Jacques indoctrination into musical theater, the Prussian prodigy would find himself for the first time beginning to build a reputation outside of Cologne and Paris, as his satirical 1858 operetta 
Orphée aux enfers causes a sensation in France and eventually attracts the attention of the Second French Empire under Napoleon III, who would later grant the Prussian émigré French citizenship and the much prestiged Légion d'Honneur (a distinction shared by former tutor Luigi Cherubini). Offenbach’s reputation as a master of the operetta would extend to Vienna, which enabled the former Prussian national to introduce into musical Viennese society several of his successful works then unknown to it's high art-loving patrons.

Unfortunately for the newly minted Frenchman, nationalistic pride spurned on by the revolution combined with an ill-suited business sense would plunge the composer into bankruptcy as the European populous divided into sects following France's defeat by the Prussians in 1871. Once more, 
Jacques was viewed by the public as JacobPrussian intruder.

18th/19th century Prussian author and
polymath E.T.A. Hoffmann's short stories
would provide the base for Offenbach's
ultimate success and lifelong dream of
musical infamy. Sadly, Jacques did not
survive to revel in his posthumous notoriety.

It would only be following the death of Offenbach, 9 years later at the age of 61, that Jacques, through his second attempt at a grand opera 
Les Contes d’Hoffman (The Tales of Hoffmann, based on three short stories penned by author and composer E.T.A. Hoffmann) would finally achieve international fame, although, household name status would arguably not be seen until well after the composer’s passing, at the height of the twenty-first century, following a series of incomplete performances (said to have involved the much beloved barcarolle and the opera’s third act), a gas explosion and resulting fire at a separate, full-feature performance in 1881, and a further fire 6 years later in 1887 at the Opéra-Comique which had destroyed much of the orchestral parts – and the onset of the second world war, wherein composers and
works created by musicians of Jewish origin found themselves frowned upon and/or had been made the subject of bans in many parts of Europe.

It would only be in a post-war Europe that Jacques Offenbach’s magnum opus would be re-introduced into high musical society and made allowed to flourish, unhindered by the many historical roadblocks that had been forced upon it’s composer.

Sadly, it was a level of infamy unknown to Offenbach during his lifetime. 

Enjoy below the beautiful “Belle Nuit…” by Jacques Offenbach featuring mezzo soprano Elīna Garanča and soprano Anna Netrebko, and
marvel at the acoustic beauty that may have never been:


Saturday, 18 June 2016

TRIVIA & HUMOR (Fun Opera Facts part V) Feat. DID YOU KNOW?

It’s time for another installment of Mayhem Behind the Music: TRIVIA & HUMOR!

Today’s entry features a sizeable entrée of paranoia with a side of superstition for starters:

Good luck charms and trinkets, rituals, and an occasional dabbling in the occult has long been associated with the great operas and masters of classical music: from famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti’s famous handkerchief, which the dynamic singer employed as a good-luck charm; to Tchaikovsky’s fear over losing his head and his compulsive ritual of conducting with one hand clasped about his baton, and the other relegated to supporting his chin – to the desperate and depraved measures of Scriabin and 16th–17th century murderer-prince Carlo Gesualdo’s involvement with witchcraft, the history of Western Classical Music carries with it a motley brew of magumbo and sorcery.

Gustav Mahler
Superstition was the name of the game at the dawn of the twentieth century for famed Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. It was the year 1909, and Mahler had just put the finishing touches on his final [1] symphony Das Lied von der Erde.

The composer, ecstatic at completing his monumental work, sat for a tête-à-tête with his beloved spouse, Alma. His opus was complete, he informed his wife, and, in a manner most unusual for the stalwart composer, would be recorded in his books as a composition without a numerical assignation. The reason for Mahler’s reluctance to number his symphony (which was structured as such, with the integration of song) as No. 9 lay in the composer’s superstition and very real fear of the number as it related to music: 19th century composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Anton Bruckner, after all, had both perished upon penning their ninth symphonies,[2]  with the latter composer failing to complete the work’s final movement before passing. Mahler, fearful of succumbing to the fates of his predecessors, subtitled his work as simply “Eine Symphonie für eine Tenor- und eine Alt- (oder Bariton-) Stimme und Orchester" ("A Symphony for Tenor, Alto and Large Orchestra”).

Fellow 20th century composer and triskaidekaphobic Arnold Schoenberg described for the public Mahler’s fear of the so-called “curse of the ninth” folklore in an essay on the superstitious composer:
“It seems that the Ninth is a limit. He who wants to go beyond it must pass away. It seems as if something might be imparted to us in the Tenth which we ought not yet to know, for which we are not ready. Those who have written a Ninth stood too close to the hereafter.”

Listen below to Das Lied von der Erde with mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig & tenor René Kollo and the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under maestro Bernstein:

[1] Completed.
[2] The so-called "Curse of the Ninth" was heavily based in folklore and highly problematic. Discover more at the following link: Curse of the Ninth (at Wikipedia)

Giuseppe Verdi
Speaking of curses popular in the world of western classical music, 19th century composer Giuseppe Verdi, himself a suspected target of malocchio, and the focal point for overzealous protection by an obsessed mob following a disastrous premiere of the composer’s early opera, Alzira, would find not only his own person and works assailed by a sinister invisible culprit during the composer’s lifetime, but would also fall victim to such subterfuge even in the many years following his death by stroke in late January of 1901. La Forza del Destino, Verdi’s famous 1862 Italian opera, would fall victim to superstition by chanteurs following an unfortunate incident at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House involving American baritone Leonard Warren in March of 1960, wherein the singer, upon readying himself to perform the cabaletta “Morir, tremenda cosa” (“To die, a momentous thing”) in the opera’s third act, abruptly broke out into a fit of coughing and gasping for air, before allegedly uttering a cry for help before collapsing dead to the floor.

Warren’s early death (he was 48 at the time of demise) by cerebral hemorrhage, prompted many a opera singer to conclude Verdi’s Forza to have been cursed, with tenor Luciano Pavarotti refusing the role of Don Alvaro altogether, and with others resorting to ritualistic 'means of protection:' famed Italian tenor Franco Corelli was said to have seized his genitals on an occasional performance (why that particular part of his anatomy was especially designated for protection remains unknown) as a means of warding off any bad magumbo.

Listen below to the aria that formed the basis of the Forza Curse, Morir, Tremenda Cosa, as performed by
baritone Renato Bruson:

Did you know?

Galileo Galilei
...that the celebrated 16th century Italian composer, lutenist and music theorist Vincenzo Galilei, master of the late Renaissance and revered as a revolutionary pioneer of the Baroque period had an even more famous, more venerated offspring? Galilei’s first-born son, sired in February in the year 1564, would grow up to become none other than world-renowned astronomer, physicist and household name Galileo Galilei – better known in the present era as simply “Galileo!”

Enjoy below Vincenzo Galilei's Contrappunto 24, Qual Miracolo Amore:

Orlando di Lasso

...that in spite of becoming the oracle of the mature polyphonic style of the so-named Franco-Flemish school and revered master musician of the late 16th century musical Europe, Netherlandish composer Orlando di Lasso (Roland/e de Lassus) endured very tempestuous first beginnings in the composer’s foray into the world of classical music?

Although much music and the unblemished reputation as an innovator survive into the present era, details of the early life of di Lasso remain somewhat obscure.

What is known to scholars of this period is that the late Renaissance composer suffered much indignity in his everyday life both on account of his many gifts and in spite of them. Entering into the realm of music at an early age,  Orlando di Lasso was encouraged by elders to join the choir of a local church. So polished was the young Orlando’s voice, it is said that the juvenile singer was twice kidnapped on account of it – perhaps to serenade those in whom he was held hostage, or to provide the criminals with an outlet to make a lucrative living as a performing act!

Things seemed to take a turn for the better when, by the age of 18, a teenage Orlando took up a post as maestro of music at Naples, which provided for the now young man a bridge to a more lucrative teaching position in Rome. His joy was however, short lived: shortly after arrival in the Italian capital Lasso was made aware of the poorly state his parents, who were both said to have been in ill health back in the Netherlands. Lasso set off for home immediately upon hearing the concerning news, but it was, alas, too late to bid his parents a fare thee well: both mother and father were discovered deceased on arrival.

Enjoy below the gorgeous Pslami Poenitentialis by late Renaissance master Orlando di Lasso:

Suggested Reading (External link): 


Discover even more Trivia and Humor from the Mayhem Behind the Music: Trivia & Humor archives!