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Archive for the ‘Artist Anecdotes’ Category

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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Michelangelo’s Broken Nose

by Leticia Marie Sanchez  As a teenager, Michelangelo Buonarroti suffered a blow at the hands of a green-eyed bully. Two different accounts of the story exist. In Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, Pietro Torrigiano, an artist studying with Michelangelo under the patronage of Lorenzo De ‘Medici, grew jealous of Michelangelo’s undeniable talent. Resentful of his former pal’s new status as teacher’s pet, Torrigiano delivered a blow that knocked the 15-year-old genius out cold. In the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Torrigiano defended himself by saying that Michelangelo was teasing the other artists working in the Church of the Carmine. He admitted the viciousness of his attack: “I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit beneath my knuckles; and this mark of mine he will carry with him to the grave.”  Torrigiano should have taken Anger Managment 15th Century style: I’m

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Howard’s End or Venice Beach?

No doubt, the re-release of Howard’s End has inspired readers to pick up E.M. Forster’s brilliant novel only to discover amusing gems that never made the film. In one such scene, protagonist Margaret Schlegel tells her soon-to-be fiancé Henry Wilcox about a place she recently visited where “it’s all proteins and body-building, and people come up to you and beg your pardon, but you have such a beautiful aura.” Margaret then adds teasingly: “Never heard of an aura? I scrub at mine for hours!” This dialogue seems more befitting to the juice fanatics and Kombucha-swillers of modern-day Santa Monica or Venice Beach rather than the tea-sipping denizens of Edwardian England. Ah…Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

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Life of an artist…Philip Glass..

Philip Glass, the creative and celebrated modern composer, courageously blazed a trail despite all the absurdities facing artists. According to Elizabeth Lundy, in Secret Lives of Great Composers, Mr. Glass took on sundry jobs to pay the bills during the 60′s and 70′s, even while his operas were being performed at the Met in Lincoln Center: Shortly after the New York premiere of Einstein on the Beach, Glass was driving a taxi. A well-dressed woman got into the cab, looked at his name [tag], and said in surprise, ‘”Young man, do you realize you have the same name as a very famous composer?’” [Secret Lives of Composers, 278]

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Rossini’s Risky Business

“Please don’t throw me out the window!! I’m a MAESTRO!” Does Procrastination lead to Defenestration? Professor Robert Greenberg, in a wonderful lecture for the Teaching Company, read a letter in which opera composer Gioachino Rossini (nicknamed “The Italian Mozart”) confessed his last minute habits. According to Rossini: “Wait until the evening before opening night- nothing primes inspiration more than necessity! Whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing at his hair (In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald by 30). I wrote the overture to La Gazza Ladra the day of its opening- in the theater itself- where I was imprisoned by the director and under the direct surveillance of the stage hands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page,

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American opera singer Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding

Lillian Nordica

Soprano Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding Crime of Passion or Fairly Typical Operatic Engagement? * You Decide. by Leticia Marie Sanchez Lillian Nordica, the first American opera singer to perform at Bayreuth, gives a whole new meaning to the phrase shot gun wedding. While performing in New York, Lillian attracted the attentions of an American suitor which vexed her beau in Hungary. The gossipy hotel maid in the opera singer’s New York hotel suite reported the soprano’s every move to her boyfriend back home. Upon getting the scoop of the new suitor from the Chatty-Patty-cleaning-lady, Lilian’s Hungarian beau set sail for New York. As soon as he arrived in Manhattan, he showed up at the opera diva’s hotel room, not with a bouquet of freshly fragrant Magnolias for his lady, but brandishing the cold, steel barrel of a pistol. He pointed the

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