Monthly Archives: June 2015

Karol Maciej Szymanowski

Szymanowski was a Polish composer and pianist who lived from 1882 to 1937. He was born into a well off family and studied music with his father from 1889 until 1892 when he became a student at the Gustav Neuhaus Elisavetgrad School of Music. In 1901 he started as a student at the Conservatory in Warsaw. Many years later he would return as a director at the Conservatory from 1927 to 1930.

One of Poland’s most famous 20th century composers, he helped start the Company of Young Polish Composers (Young Poland) in 1905.  This small group promoted Polish music with the help of patron Władysław Lubomirski.

During his time as a director at the Conservatory, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He spent some time at sanatoriums in Austria and Switzerland in 1929 to recover before returning to the Conservatory and then taking a position at the Higher School of Music in Warsaw until 1932. He would return to a sanatorium in France for treatment again in 1936. Unfortunately this time the treatment was not enough and he passed in March of 1937.

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The Mozart Guys

A final instalment for this year of looking at fathers of composers with the Mozart family!  The male ancestral side of the Mozart family does not revolve around music in terms of profession early on. Let’s start with the great-grandfather of Wolfgang Amadeus, Franz Mozart. Franz was a master mason.  In that time period, children would often follow in their father’s profession. However, Franz’s son, Johann Georg, decided instead to become a master bookbinder. Johann Georg was born in 1679 and died in 1736. His son, Leopold (born in 1719), was the oldest of his five children who survived to adulthood.
Leopold was destined for the priesthood by his parents but that was not to be. His brother, Franz Aloys, did follow in his father’s footsteps and became a bookbinder. Leopold turned to the arts. In school, he performed in plays, sang, and learned to play the violin and organ. After dropping out, moving to Salzburg, and enrolling in a different university, he did earn a Bachelor of Philosophy upon graduating.
In 1740 he started his music career with a position as violinist and valet to Johann Baptist, Count of Thurn-Valsassina and Taxis and by publishing his first series of compositions. In addition to eventually becoming the father of Wolfgang Amadeus, Leopold taught and wrote music. He held the position of deputy Kapellmeister at the Salzburg cathedral for many years. He wrote a treatise on violin playing that is still consulted today.
Obviously he had a big influence on Wolfgang’s life. He was his first teacher and toured with him as a child. While the relationship between Wolfgang and Leopold would become more difficult over the years, Leopold offered much support to his daughter Nannerl later on in his life. In addition to emotional support during difficult times of her marriage, he helped raise her son for several years when he was small. He definitely seems like a father who put much of his on life on hold in an attempt to secure a better future for his children.

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Moses and Abraham Mendelssohn

Today we continue to look at fathers of composers as we head towards Father’s Day this month. We are looking at the Mendelssohn family this week. Felix and Fanny are the two famous musical names from this family. Let’s look at their grandfather and father.

German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was their grandfather. He was born Moses Ben Mendel Dessau in 1729. He was born into a poor family and due to an illness in childhood, Moses did much of his schooling at home and was self taught in several things over the years. In 1750, Moses met a wealthy silk merchant who hired him to teach his children. Eventually Moses became the book keeper and worked his way to partner in the business. It was in the textile industry that he built the base for his family fortune. At some point Moses decided to change his last name, feeling that his birth name could would hinder him. Moses’ father was named Mendel and Moses chose Mendelssohn (son of Mendel). He started on his path to becoming a known philosopher in 1756 with Friedrich Nicolai and became quite prominent before his death in 1786.

Abraham Mendelssohn was born in 1776. By the time he was born, the family was well off and it continued to flourish. Abraham studied banking and joined his brother Joseph as a partner in his banking company, which would later be renamed Mendelssohn & Co. Like their father, Moses, Abraham & Joseph also changed their last name. To fit in better with German society, Joseph had taken on the last name of Bartholdy, the name of a property he had purchased. Abraham did the same and encouraged his children to do likewise. While Abraham obviously did well in his life as a banker, history has overshadowed him with a famous father and two famous children.

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The Forefathers of Franz Liszt

As we approach Father’s Day, I thought I’d look at the paternal side of the life of some of our composers. Since we just wrapped up a look at Franz Liszt, let’s start with his patriarchal influences.

Franz definitely gets some of his good genes from his father’s side of the family. Liszt great-grandfather, Sebastian, was a farmer and lived until he was almost 90. Quite amazing for the 1700’s!

Franz’s grandfather, Georg, was the overseer for the Esterhazy estates. He also lived until he was almost 90 years of age, outliving Franz’s father, Adam. He played the piano, organ, and violin.

It is interesting to note that the original family name was List. Adam changed the spelling to Liszt, adopting the Hungarian spelling of their name. Once his grandson started to become famous, Georg started using Liszt as well.

Adam was born in 1776, Georg’s second child. Adam eventually worked for Prince Nokolaus II Esterhazy as well. In his teens, Adam played the cello in a summer orchestra directed by Haydn for the House of Eszterhazy. Adam was an amateur pianist as well. He also played the organ, violin, and sang. He knew both Haydn and Beethoven.

When Franz was a young boy, Adam took a one year leave from his position with the Prince in order to accompany Franz on several tours. At the end of the year, unable to secure Franz a place in the Conservatory in Paris, Adam asked for more time away. It was not granted and he decided to resign his position and continue instead to manage his son’s training and career.

Though a bit of a task master, Adam and Franz did have a good relationship. Franz was deeply pained when his father died of typhoid in 1827. Franz was just 15 years old and this would have a great impact on the next several years of his life as he became the sole support for his mother and himself.

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