Friday, December 28, 2007

Great Composers...

I have never taken the opportunity to learn about the lives of renowned musical composers until this month. I and Gove recently finished "Spiritual Lives of Great Composers".
There is certainly a theme weaving it's way among these musicians. All 20 composers knew their missions from youth or young adulthood. A few like Mozart knew they would compose as children.
Interestingly many parents tried to prevent their sons from entering or continuing with music as a career all together, yet these musical genius's could not deny what God had granted. Many lived with poverty and illness related to poor living conditions. Each knew they must perform for God alone even at the expense of being rejected by the world.
I learned how central Vienna, Austria was within the musical world. Vienna would make or break a composer. Anton Bruckner, once asked by the King of Austria what he wanted, said to stop the critic Hanslick from continuing his wretched reviews of his music.
It is easy to find many interesting points about each of the twenty creators. I found it surprising to learn that Olivier Messiaen, a Christian and citizen of France was captured by the Germans in WWII. Messiaen felt his greatest and most appreciated composition was the one he wrote while a prisoner at Stalag. He entitles it “Quartet for the End of Time”. For many captured, listening to this concert with the broken instruments was the last time they would ever hear music on this earth. To long for beautiful music in such a n ugly place, brings tears to my eyes and pain to my heart for the suffering of others. Igor Stravinsky composed a polka for Ringling Brothers /Barnum& Bailey Circus and a clarinet concerto for Benny Goodman of all music genre.
I appreciate that Antonin Dvorak came to America and learned the music of the American Indians and American Blacks. He was a devoted husband and suffered greatly when 3 of his children died close together. Antonin composed a great symphony called "From the New World" in honor of his experience in the United States.
I like what Brahms said while being interviewed. He said he always prayed to God and asked three questions-whence, wherefore, whither. The ideas would start pouring in and the creating would begin. Johannes said that if there was a block for him he would make a personal inventory, repent of wrong doings and then present himself again to God in prayer before he could go on...

Do you know your musical B's? Beethoven, Back, don't forget Brahms please. Listen to Beethoven's Wig 2 (

The one American composer mentioned was successful before he embarked on his musical vocation. Charles Ives of Connecticut was an insurance executive, athlete, political idealist, a hymn signing advocate and winner of the Pulitzer Price for Music.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was the grand nephew of The Origin of Species author, Charles Darwin. Vaughan is accredited with his lifelong mission of collecting English folk music from the countryside. I would love to hear his Symphony no.1, when the chorus sings out with “Behold the sea itself!”
Franz Liszt is an interesting character to have in this book which is trying to show the spiritual side of composers. Liszt may have felt God's call to him for creating music but his personal life did not show it as he fathered many illegitimate children, was quite the womanizer and closes his life entering into the Order of St. Francis. One daughter married Richard Wagner but not without intrigue.
France was a country of low morals during the Baroque era. Frederic Chopin found himself caught up in the life style. Sadly Chopin died from Tuberculosis. Felix Mendelssohn suffered from the prejudice of his day as a Jewish youth. He turned to Christianity and is noted as the man who brought back the almost forgotten works of Bach.
“ The judgment of a man's greatness is not only to be measured in the mission he accomplishes but in the obstacles he has overcome in the process.” This quote exemplifies the mission that Ludwig van Beethoven accepted as he lost his hearing, becoming completely deaf, yet persevered for the glory of God.

Spiritual Lives of great Composers has been an easy way to 'wet my appetite'. Now to something bigger...

Our children have listened attentively when they have been around for our reading. Interestingly they are asking to listen to a few tapes we have about the lives and music of composers so this has turned into a learning experience for all of us.

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