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The University of Hartford

Thursday Evening Classics
Composer Capsules for May/June 2004

Presented by Steve Petke

May 13
Arthur Sullivan
Birth: May 13, 1842 in London, England
Death: November 22, 1900 in London, England

Sullivan was the son of a bandmaster. He was encouraged to pursue his musical talent from an early age. He learned the wind instruments of his father's band and joined the choir of the Chapel Royal. At 14, he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy, and in 1858 he went to study in Leipzig. While Sullivan is known today for his partnership with William Gilbert, he was active in other compositional forms throughout his career. One of his best-known compositions in his day was The Lost Chord, a song to a text by Adelaide Proctor written at the time of his brother Fred's untimely death. Sullivan was acclaimed for his oratorios, including The Prodigal Son, and hymns, of which "Onward, Christian Soldiers” was particularly popular.

May 27
Joachim Raff
Birth: May 27, 1822 in Lachen, Switzerland
Death: June 24, 1882 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Raff was the son of a German organist from Württemberg. The family had modest resources, and Raff's only formal education consisted of teacher-training studies at a Jesuit school. But he was focused on a musical career and taught himself composition. In 1845, he met Liszt and the great virtuoso-composer took Raff back to Germany and got him a job in a music shop in Cologne. Raff also became a critic, and his writings so antagonized certain local personalities that he was forced to leave the city. Raff's music was very highly regarded during his lifetime. Some contemporaries ranked him with Wagner and Brahms. His music is well-crafted, with brilliant orchestration and strong melodies; in fact, its entertaining qualities, it is now clear, damaged the music's durability by resembling too closely the salon music of the time. He was highly prolific, writing 11 symphonies (most of which have programs), and numerous other symphonic works and concertos. He wrote six operas, four of which have never been performed, and a huge amount of piano and chamber music.

June 17
Charles Gounod
Birth: June 18, 1818 in Paris, France
Death: October 18, 1893 in St. Cloud, France

Gounod began his musical studies early in life under his mother, who was a fine pianist. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in the hopes of becoming a composer. In 1837, he won the second place Prix de Rome for his composition Marie Stuart et Rizzio. In 1839 he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata Fernand, and went to study in Italy. His early years were influenced by the music of Palestrina, as well as the music of Schumann and Berlioz. When he returned to Paris he acquired a position as an organist at the Mission Etrangeres. His early operas were failures before Gounod finally composed one that was popular with the public - Faust. By the end of his life, Gounod had again become very religious, turning into something of a mystic.

Igor Stravinsky
Birth: June 17, 1882 in Orianenbaum, Russia
Death: April 6, 1971 in New York, NY
Stravinsky was the son of a leading bass in the Imperial Opera Company. He prepared for the legal profession and never attended a musical school or earned a degree in music. He took private studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, rapidly learning to be a master orchestrator. Ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev heard his early Fireworks and Scherzo Fantastique. When Anatol Lyadov was unable to complete a score on time for the ballet Firebird, Stravinsky took over the project, creating a score of great orchestral splendor and becoming an overnight sensation. His next two works, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, stretched concepts of harmony and rhythm to the extent that the latter score provoked a literal riot at his premier and virtually overnight created a new definition of modernism. Following the Russian Revolution he settled in Paris. Later, with the threat of World War II, he moved to Los Angeles and took American citizenship. From the early 1950s he engaged the American conductor Robert Craft as musical secretary, rehearsal leader, and co-author of a witty series of memoirs. Craft prepared the exemplary series of Columbia LPs, with Stravinsky conducting, covering virtually all his significant works.


Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2002

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