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Archive for the ‘Artist Anecdotes’ Category

The Christmas fruitcake fiasco: Puccini versus Toscanini

In her revealing book, Secret Lives of the Great Composers, Elizabeth Lundy described a fruity fiasco between two rivals: opera composers, Giacomo Puccini and conductor Arturo Toscanini: “During the years of Puccini and Toscanini’s feud, they had very little contact- except for one Christmastime incident. That year Puccini forgot to remove the conductor’s name from the list of friends to whom he sent the traditional Italian holiday gift, a pannetone cake. When Puccini realized his error, he sent Toscanini a telegram reading: “PANNETONE SENT BY MISTAKE. PUCCINI.” Toscanini replied, “PANNETONE EATEN BY MISTAKE. TOSCANINI.”

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A truly Cultural Cocktail: The Bellini!

by Leticia Marie Sanchez Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark And now, for a delicious libation that epitomizes the Cultural Cocktail! You can share this trivia the next time you are at a cocktail party and become the toast of the fete! Did you know that the Bellini cocktail was named after the Venetian Renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini? The history of this popular drink harkens back to Harry’s Bar in Venice.  A Who’s Who of artistic luminaries frequented this bar including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Arturo Toscanini, Peggy Guggenheim, and Alfred Hitchcock. In 1948, Harry’s Bar owner Giuseppe Cipriani created a concoction blending peach puree and Prosecco. He named the refreshing cocktail a “Bellini,” after the sumptuous peach hue on the toga of a saint painted by Giovanni Bellini. This exquisite painting (Virgin and Child with Saint John the

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Mozart and the Barber Shop Chase

“Why Can’t you Sit Still? “Because I’m Mozart” In his delightful tome, The Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht reveals that the perpetually inspired Mozart led his Barber on a hair-cutting chase: “Every moment an idea would occur to him…he would run to the clavier, the barber after him, hair-ribbon in hand.” Luckily for Mozart, the barber had a steady hand.

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Wagner, Robber,and the Flying Dutchman

                                                        Wagner, Robber, and the Flying Dutchman By Leticia Marie Sanchez Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark He not have been an actual thief, but Richard Wagner’s Newfoundland dog Robber successfully stole the composer’s heart. In Wagner Without Fear, author William Berger regales us with colorful tales from Wagner’s life, including his tumultuous journey from Riga to Paris. When the debt-ridden Wagner and his wife Minna decided to escape from present-day Latvia, the composer insisted that Robber join them, despite the great risk. Cossack patrols guarded the Prussian border, with orders to shoot and kill the unlucky fugitives who caught their attention. Miraculously, the pooch did not make a peep as they dashed

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Schoenberg to Strauss– Thanks but No Thanks

schoenberg

If you don’t have anything nice to say…. Richard Strauss’ caustic jabs about Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg came back to haunt him. In his delightful Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht reveals that when Schoenberg was asked to compose a piece for his sharp tongued critic, he wrote back as follows: “Dear Sir, I regret that I am unable to accept your invitation to write something for Richard Strauss’s fiftieth birthday. In a letter to Frau Mahler…Herr Strauss wrote about me as follows: The only person who can help poor Schoenberg now is a psychiatrist…. I think he’d do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music paper. It seems to me that the opinion I myself and indeed everyone else who knows these remarks is bound to have of Herr Strauss as a man (for here is envy of a

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Beethoven: In a Stew Over Beef?

by Leticia Marie Sanchez According to Norman Lebrecht, author of “The Book of Musical Anectodes” (Simon & Schuster, 1985), Beethoven flew off the handle when a waiter at the Viennese restaurant “The Swan,” brought him the wrong meat dish. Some artists are particular about their piano benches (Gould) while others are particular about their beef.  An outraged Beethoven hurled the dish, gravy and all, over the waiter’s head. Just as the wrong meat could turn him into a raging bull, the right one could turn him into a loving lamb.  When his friend Ferdinand Ries sent him a particular type of roast veal, Beethoven kissed and embraced him, telling him “never had anything given him such pleasure as the roast veal, coming at the very moment when he so greatly longed for it.” (Lebrehct, 81) Beethoven also adored bread soup,

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Sibelius and the Cigar Royalty

According to Katerine Bakeless, in her book “Story Lives of Great Composers,” Jean Sibelius received minor ducats for one of his most famous compositions, Valse Triste. The payment for his work? A small sum and a box of cigars. Meanwhile, Valse Triste went on to be performed internationally, over and over. Yet, Sibelius did not receive one dime of royalties on the work he had composed. Bakeless revealed, “Years afterward, when Sibelius visited America, he remarked to his hostess, with tears in his eyes, that he could have used that money when his family of daughters began to grow up. “(39) The payment of a box of cigars for the beautiful, dream-like waltz, is, in fact, tres triste.

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Salvador Dalí and the Scuba Diving Fiasco

dali-and-scuba-diving

by Leticia Marie Sanchez Salvador Dalí, surrealist extraordinaire, decided to lecture at the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition dressed to the nines in scuba gear. He commenced giving his speech, Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques (authentic, paranoid, phantoms) when suddenly, he could not breathe. As Dalí waved his hands for help, the audience laughed uproariously. The more he suffocated and gesticulated, the louder they laughed. The audience mistook what could have been a tragedy for slapstick comedy. Luckily, Dalí was able to unscrew his scuba helmet without losing consciousness. As he gasped for air, Dalí exclaimed,” I just wanted to show that I was ‘plunging deeply’ into the human mind.”  

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Massenet and the crossed phone line: Dial M for Murder

by Leticia Marie Sanchez French opera composer Jules Massenet once experienced an untimely mix-up in phone lines at the precise moment he was dashing off the finishing lines to an opera.  Stuck on the last scene of his opera Thérèse he called up his collaborator from a hotel phone to brainstorm together. Unfortunately, the lines got crossed, and a terrified eavesdropper listened in on their conversation. Katherine Bakeless related the anecdote in her book, Story-Lives of Great Composers: “The last scene didn’t come out right. He called up his collaborator who had written the words, and said: ‘Cut Therese’s throat and it will all be all right.” The wires had crossed, and some total stranger heard him. The strange voice said,  ”Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoundrel, I would denounce you to the police.” The collaborator

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Rachmaninov’s Retort

According to author Norman Lebrecht, in his Book of Musical Anecdotes, virtuoso pianist Sergei Rachmaninov was in the midst of performing a violin and piano recital in New York when his partner, violinist Fritz Kreisler was struck by a memory block. A nervous Kreisler inched towards the piano, whispering intensely at Rachmaninov, “Where are we?” To which Mr. Rachmaninov cooly replied, “Carnegie Hall.”

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