July 8, birthday of Percy Grainger: Free Music No. 1 (For Four Theremins) [1936]

Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882 – 1961) is probably best known as a champion of English folk songs, many of which he arranged for orchestra.  That’s all I really knew about him and it didn’t surprise me to learn he was friends with Delius and Grieg.  What did surprise me, however, was that he was a bit of an innovator, even writing pieces for the theremin, which you will know from 1950s and 60s sci-fi films like “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Free Music No. 1 (For Four Theremins) [1936]


July 7, birthday of Gustav Mahler and Gian Carlo Menotti

I’ve written about this Mahler piece before, and it still grips me every time I hear it. Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)
Third Symphony : 4th movement

Frightfully, I know very little about Gian Carlo Menotti (1911–2007) save that he was the life partner of Samuel Barber and founded the annual music festival in Spoletto.

Menotti’s Piano Concerto “Violin Concerto” (1.Mov.)

July 5, birthday of Joseph Holbrooke: Trio in D, Op. 28

Another “new” composer, for me at least, Joseph Holbrooke (1878-1958), received a traditional musical education from his father, a violent widower, and later at the Royal Academy of Music. He tried making it as a teacher, a music hall accompanist, and a Pantomime orchestra conductor. None were successful, and he had to return home a number of times or be supported by a benefactor. He loved Edgar Allen Poe’s works, and the second piece here, “Amontillado, Op. 123” is quite interesting.

Trio in D, Op. 28

Amontillado

July 4, birthday of Irving Caesar, “Tea For Two”

Irving Caesar (1895 – 1996) was a prolific American songwriter. He grew up in the same neighborhood (and was friends with) the Marx Brothers, and he wrote songs with George Gershwin and Victor Herbert among other, primarily for Broadway shows. Other songs include:

Tea For Two

July 1, birthday of Hans Werner Henze: Second Sonata on Shakespearean Characters

Hans Werner Henze (1926 – 2012) was born in Gütersloh, Westphalia.  His father was a World War I veteran injured in the Battle of Verdun. The father recognized the boys musical talents and provided the boy with a musical education.  But running up to WWI, his father became a Nazi and re-enlisted in the German Army, where, in 1943, he was killed on the Eastern Front.  Hans was sent to Hitler Youth camps, and later became a radio operator before being captured by the British in 1944.  After the war, he fled Germany to Italy in 1953 because of German intolerance of homosexuality.  There, in the town of Marino he flourished as a composer, and his political view became increasingly leftist.  He tried a stint in Cuba, but became disillusioned with Castro.  He was influenced by Stravinski, serialism, atonality, jazz and Arabic music.  You can hear the Stravinski in his “Elegy for Young Lovers.”

Second Sonata on Shakespearean Characters

Tristan (1973) – Preludes for piano, tape and orchestra

Elegy for Young Lovers

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