Category: Classical

Joseph Haydn and The Value of the Steady Gig

I remember one of the first things early in my Music History study was the stunning output of Franz Joseph Haydn. Drink this in:

108 symphonies; 68 string quartets; 32 divertimenti for small orchestra; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello; 29 trios for piano, violin, and cello; 21 trios for two violins and cello; 47 piano sonatas; about 20 operas; 14 masses; 6 oratorios; and 2 cello concerti. And this is pared down from a larger number! I went through several sources and the number averages around 800 total pieces!

So, how did he write so much? The answer is…he had a gig.

haydn_esterhazy
Haydn directing an opera at the Esterhazy Theatre in 1775.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s life was like many of ours. He started with many musical pursuits, including singing in a choir, then picking up odd music jobs where could find them. He eventually found himself though leading the musical affairs for a large estate of the very rich and powerful Esterhazy famîly.

This steady gig, while sometimes taxing and demeaning, brought something to Haydn’s life that only a few of us get to enjoy. He had time. He was given funds and authority. And he had also deadlines.

Anyone who knows the pressure of putting together a church service or lesson plan every single week, knows how it also spurs creativity. Many times just the act of having to write a new song, arrange a song for your group, or come up with ideas on how to teach a subject can bring new works from your mind that wouldn’t have ever existed otherwise.

He had to write symphonies, and quartets, and operas, and even specialty trios and works when his benefactor took up the baryton (similar to a viol) and wanted music written for it. Kind of like when your pastor who is also a singer wants that perfect song to sing and has you write it. Or an amazing wunderkind on flute wanders into your orchestra. You need music, and if you are a composer, you write for that!

Haydn had weekly things he had to prepare for and since they lived out in the country, it was just easier to write it himself.

“I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” – Joseph Haydn

Nevertheless, Haydn flourished and grew through these years and eventually became known throughout all of Europe as he defined the symphony style.

Why This Matters

Sometimes it’s easy to think of our music jobs as a hassle, or a step towards something else, or perhaps we have found ourselves in a staid job we have been doing for years, if not decades. But this gig you have had, that you were blessed to find, could be the way the sum total of your output is measured.

Like Haydn, you may move past your “Esterhazy” phase into a “Vienna” or “London” phase where you bloom even more. But without the season of work and growth, the next season of opportunity might now ever present itself.

Got a steady gig? Have some autonomy? Maybe it’s time to take more advantage of it. Haydn the heck out of your position, and write, write, write. Sometimes we forget when we are the boss, we have the opportunity to actually do what we love.

Have a great week!


John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, but he is studying to be, and for now he plays one on the Internet. Be sure and join this blog to receive more writings like this, as well as our Facebook and Twitter followings for daily inspiration and news.

Beethoven, Fidelio, and Refusing to Give Up

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

fidelio posterBeethoven was a lot of things, but he was certainly not a quitter. In life, in love, or in his work, he often kept on in the face of defeat, heartbreak, and in the case of his only opera Fidelio, lukewarm reception.

It was a complicated process that started with another opera he was commissioned to write, which was eventually abandoned. He then found another libretto he liked better and switched over to that. The first production was first performed to an audience consisting mostly of French soldiers that had recently occupied Vienna. Tepid reviews and the French occupation shuttered the opera soon after.

Beethoven was then moved to shorten the opera from three acts to two, and saw more success for several performances before a dispute with the theatre. Many years went by, and after finding a new librettist, Georg Friedrich Treitschke, the opera was finally finished to Beethoven’s liking.

During the process of the last rewrite he recounted his difficulty with the process in a letter to Treitschke saying, “I assure you, dear Treitschke, that this opera will win me a martyr’s crown. You have by your co-operation saved what is best from the shipwreck. For all this I shall be eternally grateful to you.”

So, why did Beethoven work so hard to get his only opera just right? Why did he agree to come back to the work two more times? Beethoven was known as a composer who left copious drafts behind of much of his work. So first, second, and third drafts weren’t unusual for him. Maybe he got in and couldn’t let it go until it was up to snuff with the other operas of the day. He didn’t write any other works of this kind, and perhaps he felt it important to make sure his opera would be remembered as a great work.

Whatever the reason, Beethoven would not rest for ten years, four overtures, three librettists, and some very tepid reviews, until the opera was a hit and eventually a staple in the opera world.

Why This Matters

We all have those projects, those goals, and those jobs we are given to do in our musical life that are like a mountain we continue to climb. We fall, we get back up, and sometimes it takes a whole career to get where we are going. But with every try, even if it’s a failure, or not exactly as we pictured it, we get closer to the success we always wanted.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Whether it’s that symphony you keep toiling on, never knowing if it will be realized or even performed. Or the album project that seems to be in production forever. Or the music program that you’ve been trying to build that seems like pushing a boulder up a mountain with a stick.

All our goals take trying and retrying to make them a success. It’s the most important lesson I teach people who want to make music their career – just do not quit. Find the next gig, the next teaching post, the next music project, or the next great work.

I think even in my own success story, the only way I succeeded was because I refused to give up. I kept trying and retrying ideas. When something wasn’t working I retooled it until it did work, and to some extent that has been secret to my success.

“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” – W. Clement Stone

Have a good week, and keep up the good work!

JEC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he keeps trying. Hope you will too!

Links:

YouTube

Beethoven – Fidelio (Leonore), Op. 72 – COMPLETE OPERA – 432 Hz.
https://youtu.be/Zzo2TTlm55U

Related Quotes from Beethoven

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“A true artist is expected to be all that is noble-minded, and this is not altogether a mistake; on the other hand, however, in what a mean way are critics allowed to pounce upon us.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Bringing Up Mozart

Let’s face it, parenting just isn’t an easy job. But the job is even harder when you are rearing a creative child with an incredible amount of talent.

themozarts

No one ever faced a tougher job than Leopold Mozart, known in music history as the driving father who put his children, especially his son Wolfgang, on a grueling tour of Europe. What is interesting is that Leopold didn’t face anything much different than what we face each day as parents. Especially if you have or are a talented creative child.

Worry

OK, so as a parent you know you have something special on your hands. It may not be talent the kid was born with as I’m not sure that is even possible (see “Talent is Overrated”), but there certainly is aptitude there, and they keep surpassing your expectations and even your own ability.

Leopold saw this in Wolfgang, and tried his best to keep his son disciplined and on the right path. But that wasn’t so easy with the precocious Wolfie. His carefree, playful spirit can be found at the end of a letter to his sister Nannerl.

“Well, farewell. I kiss you 1000 times and remain, as always, your little old piggy wiggy.  (signed) Wolfgang Amade Rosy Posy”

Leopold worried his talented and free-spirited son would wind up married to someone poor, and that was not what Leopold had hoped for.

“Leopold had a graphic view of his son’s possible fate as an impoverished musician. ‘ Utterly forgotten by the world, captured by some woman,’ he wrote, ‘you will die bedded on straw in an attic full of starving children.’ His anxiety was justified to some extent but he could see his son’s future only in extremes: success and glory or misery and starvation.” – Francis Carr, Mozart & Constanze

I think many of us fear the destiny of our own talented children like that: they will either be world renown and rich, or destitute doing their own thing.

Disappointment

There is a time in every parent’s life when they are let down by their kids. You know the drill. They understand the parameters of what is allowed, yet they still choose to break them. Wolfgang did this repeatedly and sometimes even gleefully!

When Wolfgang began to write of being enamored with Aloysia Weber, Leopold did not approve. In fact, when his son wrote about accompanying the Webers to Paris, Leopold went ballistic.

“As for your proposal to travel about with Herr Weber and his two daughters, it has nearly made me lose my reason?…a horrible idea! Could you really make up your mind to go traveling about the world with strangers?” – Letter to Wolfgang, February 11th, 1778

It almost sounds like a modern day parent warning their guitar player adolescent son about going on the road with a rock band.

Why This Matters

Well, it’s pretty obvious we all share Leopold’s struggle. Just like we have to treat disadvantaged or struggling kids special, it’s a struggle to be good, strong parents to those who are on the other end of the spectrum (especially with “adult” kids).

In all likelihood, Leopold meant well, and Wolfgang likely didn’t make it easy. In the end, you could say Mozart’s talent won out despite his folly, personality, spending habits, marriage, and competition. His tremendous catalog and output still happened regardless of things that were in or out of his father’s control.

Your kid may not be Mozart, but you can still help him navigate the waters of an artistic life with good guidance, a patient hand, and consistent discipline.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but he plays one of the Internet. We’d love any and all thoughts you may have on this post, but since this is a blog meant to (hopefully) encourage real life application, please make them positive and on topic. However, corrections as always are welcome.

Rivals

“One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.” – Abraham Maslow

rivals
I learned something recently, and that was I shared a birthday with Antonio Salieri. Most know this name as the supposed “rival” to Mozart in Vienna, and of course from the movie Amadeus which suggests he was a jealous rival composer to the heroic and uber-talented Mozart.

Now, I will tell you unequivocally that Mozart is my favorite composer, so don’t take my comments in this post as critical of Wolfgang. However, after some time as a student of music history, hearing from professors and others on the subject, reading Mozarts letters, and the surprising small amount written on Salieri, I am starting to think we may have had it backwards.

Mozart seems much more perturbed and bothered by Salieri (and other Italian composers at the time) than Salieri felt about Mozart. Witness this quote from a letter to Leopold from Wolfgang.

“These Italian gentlemen are very civil to your face. Enough—we know them!” – Mozart

Wolfgang was complaining that Italians got more operas produced than his own German ones. This gives us much more evidence of consternation on Mozart’s part than Salieri’s. In fact, Salieri was already quite a celebrity as a composer, especially of Italian opera both before and after Mozart came to Vienna. Mozart also complains that Salieri was the local favorite saying, “the only one who counts in [the Emperor’s] eyes is Salieri”.

As current music listeners, and with the benefit of time, we are able to look back and weigh the output of each composer. I’d say most of us would choose Mozart’s amazing repertoire. But at the time, he was certainly not the only game in town.

“From a pretty wide examination of the annual reports of the principal German theaters of those days, I draw the conclusion that in the original Italian or in German translations, the more important works of Salieri were far more popular and much oftener given than those of Mozart, while the Grotta di Trofonio was at least as much performed as Mozart’s EntführungIn other words, with the exception of the Entführung, Mozart’s operas were less to the taste of the monarch and the public in Vienna than those of Salieri, and it was the same way all through Germany. Whatever the appreciative few may have thought of The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni, to the general operatic public Salieri was certainly the greatest of then living composers!” – Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Salieri: Rival of Mozart

Why This Matters

We all have to deal with people who we may feel are rivals to our musical success. We could be like Mozart, whose output was heralded is his own time and has become legendary through the centuries. Or we are like Salieri, who was a well-respected composer in his time, teacher of such greats as Schubert, Liszt, and Beethoven, and (much to Mozart’s chagrin) the big cheese locally (Kapellmeister).

In the movie Amadeus, Salieri is portrayed as a much less talented and envious man. It’s easy to see someone we work with who is more talented than we ever will be, and we want to hate them. But their talent is so beautiful that all we can hope for is to be close to them and work with them.

“Rivalry” or not, there are also plenty of letters of Mozart’s that talk of supporting Salieri, as well as examples of Salieri using Mozart pieces at functions instead of his own.

The truth is that rivals can serve to make us better at what we do. They can challenge us and spurn us towards greater works than we would have done without them.

So when you meet someone better than you, maybe better than you ever could be, relax and know your place. There’s no use in bitterness in such a short life, especially when we have such a beautiful job in music to do.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Life on the Fringe

lachnerMany of us in music will not become well known. We will perhaps meet important people in music, perhaps even be an influence on them. In fact, we may teach, guide, or lead folks that do indeed become very famous. But as for our lives, we will do well to find our niche, excel in it in an area, and have a long career in music.

Many composers through time have fallen into this category. One such composer, who I picked solely because he was born on this day, is Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893).

He was the younger brother of another and better known composer, Franz Lachner who was quite prolific and well-known is his day and whose work would go on to influence Beethoven and Schubert.

Vinzenz would scratch out a living teaching music in Augsberg, Germany until his brother Franz would arrange for him to become conductor and house musician for Earl Mycielski of Coscevitz in the Grand Duchy of Poznań. Eventually, he would replace his older brother in Mannheim and was highly valued for 37 years as court conductor.

As a teacher, he encouraged many, including Fritz Steinbach, Max Bruch, Hermann Levi, and Carl Wolffson. Of particular interest (to me!) was his distaste of the cult of Wagner, even going so far as to conduct a mutilated version of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (much to Wagner’s chagrin! In fact, Wagner would eventually campaign for Vinzenz to be retired from the court conductor role.)

Vinzenz retired after 30+ years and settled down for a quiet life of teaching until his death at 81. He lived a nice long life of music work, taught, encountered, and hobnobbed with many famous musicians, some who are known as masters hundreds of years later. Yet his life and work is lost to most in the modern music world.

Why This Matters (Or why maybe it doesn’t)

Many of us toil away in seeming obscurity; composing, teaching, singing, performing, and doing other things that have made some famous, but outside the limelight except for our own little local role. We have tangential relations with some who are well known locally, nationally, or even worldwide, but we ourselves are known only to a few.

What’s funny is that many people in the world would describe what we call living on the fringe of greatness as their life’s dream! We look to the greats and dream of that level of work, but there are just as many that we lead who look at us as “living the dream.”

As in the case of Vinzenz Lachner, our place in music history does matter. We are influencing, teaching, and yes even challenging many more folks that we know. We are making a difference in people’s lives and doing the work that has to be done in our area. We may even be highly respected in our little corner of the world. Even though Vinzenz Lachner is not regarded as a major composer, his work and output was valued greatly in Mannheim for many decades. His life in music mattered, and so does yours.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is a very casual musicologist, and continues his search through music history to teach and show all of us who work in music today that yesterday is important. For more examples of why Music History Matters, check out http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org and find your place in history.

Why You Are Like Bach, Mozart, or Schoenberg

I think the really amazing thing about studying music history for me has been the way it has shown the similarities between the masters, and myself and other artists I work with daily. While most musicologists focus on musical forms, genres, and theoretical tendencies, what interests me is how I am like Mozart, or Bach, or Miles.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not compare myself to them technically or musically. They would all laugh at my MIDI accomplishments and “producer” title. Bach would shake his head, Miles would turn his back, and Mozart would just giggle I imagine.
But comparing how they lived and worked, how they loved and dealt with daily life, that is where we can see who we are. Because we, as current artisans, are just reflections of those before us. They dealt with fame, work, and love (or the lack of them) just as we must.

So whom do you resemble? Let’s use a short list here and see if you fit in one of these three types:

1. Maybe you’re Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach was the equivalent of today’s modern church music director. If you have a steady music gig at a church or school, then you and Bach have lived similar lives.

Bach served as “Cantor” or music leader of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany from 1723 until his death in 1750. He was also musical director at the principal churches in town.

As you may know, his output was voluminous, but you would expect him to have written a lot when he had to have music ready for the week’s services for 27 years! Plus he had similar jobs back to 1708. Dude had a resume!

You may work on a lot of songs too every week, getting things ready for Sunday services or for classes. It may seem overwhelming, and it may seem somewhat under-appreciated.

But so was Bach. Although he was highly respected in Europe as an organist during his lifetime, he really didn’t become infamous as “Bach, the composer that defines the Baroque period we all know and love” until a revival of his music in the 19th century.

So take heart, Bach-ites. Maybe somewhere in 2123 is when your genius will be discovered and revered for all time.

(In the meantime, enjoy some Bach and get back to your planning…)

2. Maybe you’re Mozart.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was simply the Michael Jordan of music history. I mean yes, you have Bach, and Beethoven, and many that are masters without doubt. But Mozart was the natural. The prodigy that would never be denied even as a child or on his deathbed. His works are varied, and original, and striking.

But despite the unique and powerful works, his financial life and personal life were kinda iffy. Like many musicians, especially the really crazy gifted ones, he put way more emphasis on creating than he did a steady gig. Especially since that meant having to “be” what princes or other possible benefactors wanted from him. He taught piano to rich ladies, and wrote operas and other things on demand for folks, but truly just wanted to write songs to his own liking, not what others wanted.

You may fall into this kind of thinking sometimes. I know I do. My whole creative life has been about doing things my way. I skipped piano lessons, scoffed at a music degree, and never really embraced traditional music gigs or jobs. Instead I built a music business I could totally do my way.

But at what cost!

This kind of attitude, a decision that you want to live as a creative musician doing art your way has it downsides. And one downside is that money can slow to a trickle fast. It did for Mozart. He liked to live with his wife in a big fancy house with servants and buy pianos, but the truth was he went into debt doing it and was still trying to get out of debt at the time of his death.

Being like Mozart is a two-sided coin. You have a talent for music, but yet demand music fit into life the way you feel it should rather than more traditional means.

(Hide your bills, and enjoy some Mozart, and then write something amazing whether it sells or not…)

3. Maybe you’re Schoenberg.

Arnold Schoenberg probably isn’t as known to you, but he is a very important figure in the history of music, not that you’d probably care for his music. Well, maybe you’d feel comfortable with his early music, which just echoed and continued the tradition of Wagner and Brahms.

But Schoenberg developed the “twelve-tone” technique, which kind of put western music on its ear. The random sounding music can kind of sound a little like a horror movie score on acid. It purposely went away from the harmonics and tonality of the previous two centuries. A whole way of thinking (the Second Viennese School) with other composers following Schoenberg’s evolution came next, and the 20th century started out with a crash. At least that’s kind of what it sounded like.

How could this relate to you? I hear folks all the time declaring how music, or any genre, is stale and the same old, same old. So, they break away from what everyone else is doing, and try something radically different, often breaking the established rules of musical taste of the time. At first people may not like it, but sometimes new music has to cause a revolt before it becomes famous. (See Disco.)

Some of his early concerts of the new atonal stuff actually caused fights in the audience. Schoenberg himself tried to physically escort troublemakers out of the concert hall.

Now hopefully you won’t have to do this, but you may come up against criticism or haters when you are trying to do something different.

(Tune them out and listen to some Schoenberg. Or send it to them for torture…)

WHY THIS MATTERS:

Each of us can read the history of the lives of composer and find traits that reflect us today. That’s the beauty, and real value of studying music history. We learn from the masters, who were just real, frail, vulnerable people, like you.

Have a great week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is a producer, composer, and paid artist nurturer. Whether he’s right or not, he firmly believes the knowledge of music history can help musicians and artsy types in the present. Be part of the fun by joining the Blog, Twitter, Facebook, or…Telegram.