Thursday, October 11, 2012

Conductor Hans von Bülow presented the premiere of Tristan und Isolde around the same time as his wife Cosima gave birth to Wagner’s baby.

"Hans von Bülow was chosen to conduct the production at the Munich Opera, despite the fact that Wagner was having an affair with his wife, Cosima von Bülow. Even then, the planned premiere on 15 May 1865 had to be postponed because the Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, had gone hoarse. The work finally premiered on 10 June 1865. Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld sang the role of Tristan and Malvina, his wife, sang Isolde."

Tristan und Isolde. (2012, September 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:58, October 11, 2012, from

In 1864 Wagner's financial position was transformed by his new patron, the 18-year-old King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who paid off the composer's debts and awarded him a generous annual stipend.[33] Ludwig also provided Wagner with a lakeside retreat at Lake Starnberg, and a grand house in Munich.[34] At Wagner's instigation, Bülow accepted a post as Ludwig's "royal pianist";[35] he and Cosima moved to Munich, and took a house conveniently close to Wagner's, ostensibly so that Cosima could work as the composer's secretary.[34] From 29 June 1864 Cosima spent more than a week alone with Wagner at Lake Starnberg, before Bülow joined them on 7 July. According to Wagner's housekeeper, Anna Mrazek, "it was easy to tell that something was going on between Frau Cosima and Richard Wagner". Mrazek said that later in the visit Bülow found his wife in Wagner's bedroom, but nevertheless made no demands for an explanation, either from Wagner or from his wife.[36] Nine months after this visit, on 10 April 1865, Cosima gave birth to a daughter, Isolde. Such was Bülow's devotion to Wagner that he accepted the child as his own, and registered her as "the legitimate daughter" of Hans and Cosima von Bülow.[37][n 2] Wagner attended the Catholic baptism on 24 April. On 10 June 1865, at the Munich Hofoper, Bülow conducted the premiere of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.[39]

Cosima Wagner. (2012, August 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:01, October 11, 2012, from

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jean-Baptiste Lully died a victim of his own conducting.

"On 8 January 1687, Lully was conducting a Te Deum in honor of Louis XIV's recent recovery from illness. He was beating time by banging a long staff (a precursor to thebâton) against the floor, as was the common practice at the time, when he struck his toe, creating an abscess. The wound turned gangrenous, but Lully refused to have his toe amputated and the gangrene spread, resulting in his death on 22 March."

Jean-Baptiste Lully. (2012, October 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:02, October 10, 2012, from

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Satie only ate foods that were white.

"My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, moldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuchsia. I have a good appetite, but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself."

Satie, Eric. Memoirs Of An Amnesiac. Third Step, 1981.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beethoven was a terrible conductor, though entertaining to watch.

"Though he was not a gifted conductor, his perpetual motion of extravagant, eccentric gestures on the podium was colorful to witness. In a diminuendo passage he indicated the most gradual decrease possible, by crouching down on his knees as low as possible during the pianissimo.

To the contrary, during a crescendo he would rise up gradually into the air, so that on a fortissimo he would stand on his toes and reach up with his arms to their full extent. Beethoven often gave a downbeat on the false accent of the bar, and frequently lost tempo with the orchestra, so that he was forced to find his way back by observing the bowing of the strings."

"Little wonder then that musicians would tremble at the thought of partaking in a performance with Beethoven, who was not only deaf and eccentric, but also stubborn, absent-minded, forgetful, and spiced with a volatile temper."

Davies, Peter J. The Character of a Genius: Beethoven in Perspective. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

"Among the violinists was the composer Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859), who was astounded by Beethoven's conducting style, noting how he used "all manner of singular bodily movements. As a sforzando occurred, he tore his arms, previously crossed upon his breast, with great vehemence asunder. At piano he crouched down lower and lower to show the degree of softness. If a crescendo entered he gradually rose again and at a forte jumped into the air."

Drummond, Ron “Aperçu of Apotheosis.” Program Notes. Northwest Sinfonietta: All Beethoven. Town Hall, Seattle, October 3, 2003.