1865: a vintage year

1865

Regular readers will have noticed that at about this time of year MusiCB3 usually posts something about upcoming anniversaries. This year, fear not, we are continuing our tradition, but with a slight twist in that we have picked one year to look at: 1865.  And, as always, we give thanks for the Wikipedia lists of music events year-by-year to provide inspiration. So, what have I picked out to highlight? Read on and find out….

1845 portrait of Berlioz by August Prinzhofer (public domain)

1845 portrait of Berlioz by August Prinzhofer (public domain)

Accounts of my life have appeared and from time to time still appear, so full of errors and inaccuracies that I have at length resolved to set down myself those things in my arduous and turbulent career which I believe may be of interest to lovers of art.

So wrote Berlioz in the preface to his Memoirs first published 150 years ago. Those of you who know me, will know of my delight in the music of this most original of composers, but his writing is just as imaginative. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you make 2015 the year you read this extraordinary, no-holds-barred work – and if you already have, then why not read it again to remind yourself of the treasures it contains?

On now to Scandinavia where in Denmark and Finland respectively there will be especial celebrations to mark the 150th anniversaries of Carl Nielsen (1865 – 1931)  and Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957). Sibelius was a composer with whose work Sir Colin Davis was particularly associated and his masterly recordings of the symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra bear repeated listening, as do his recordings of the symphonies of Nielsen, also with the LSO, made in the last few years of his life. My favourites? Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (who can fail to be moved by that most magical of openings?) and Nielsen’s Second Symphony, encapsulating the “Four temperaments” of the human personality, with its quirky, catchy finale.

Where now? Russia, I think, and to Alexander Glazunov (1865 – 1936). Best-known, surely, for his ballets The Seasons and Raymonda, but with works across all genres to his name, his music is certainly something that I shall resolve this year to get to know far better than I do.

For the violinists amongst you, I can offer Giuseppe Rocca (1807 – 1865), possibly the most important Italian violin maker of the 19th century. Based in Turin, he was known for modelling his instruments first on those of Stradivari and then Guarneri, finished with the deep orange brown varnish, typical of his output. You will need a bow to make music with your instrument: the French bow-maker François Xavier Bazin (1824 – 1865) is your man. He was the first generation of his family’s firm, based in Miracourt and learned his craft from those great bow-makers Peccatte and Vuillaume. However, you will have to search thoroughly as he died at the early age of 41 from cholera and his bows are scarce.

Opening of "Tristan und Isolde" / Wagner, Breitkopf und Härtel, vocal score (1914?), UL @ M260.b.90.569

Opening of “Tristan und Isolde” / Wagner, Breitkopf und Härtel, vocal score (1914?), UL @ M260.b.90.569

Across the border to Germany now, to Munich for the premiere of one of the greatest operas of all time: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. Which of us taking harmony lessons has not explored “that” chord with which the work opens. Wikipedia tells us that what makes the work such a watershed is “Wagner’s unprecedented use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension”, which I think covers just about all aspects. Impossible to encapsulate its impact and influence in this short post, but I remember being transfixed when I first heard it – the now classic recording by Furtwängler with Kirsten Flagstad and Ludwig Suthaus in the title roles.

Marching through Georgia by

“Marching through Georgia” by Henry Clay Work. [A1871.7326(4)]

Last, but not least, in this brief canter through anniversaries, and in complete contrast, this year we mark 150 years since the publication of Marching through Georgia, written by Henry Clay Work at the end of the American Civil War and which today remains popular the world over in many and various manifestations not least as the tune used for Sound the call for freedom boys, and sound it far and wide sung at many a Lib Dem gathering…

…you may also be interested to learn that the Pendlebury Library is preparing a little exhibition celebrating 1865 as well, so do make a note to drop in and have a look…

…and finally, coming soon to the Anderson Room exhibition cases: a close look at a selection of musical anniversaries associated with 1915.

SW

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