Tag Archives: Music Box

Felix Mendelssohn, musical prodigy

Oil portrait of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, painted in 1846 by Eduard Magnus. From the Berlin State Library. Via Wikimedia. Felix Mendelssohn made his musical debut at age nine. Born in Hamburg in 1809, he came from a distinguished German family that moved to Berlin in 1902. His grandfather and father had been successful businessmen who […]

Franz Liszt, best piano player in Europe

Composer and pianist Franz Liszt. Photo by Franz Hanfstaengl. 1858. Via Wikimedia. Like Mozart and Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt was a musical prodigy. He played the piano when he was five years old. At eight, he could read difficult music, and two years later he was composing music himself. By age twelve he was ranked one […]

The life and death of Franz Schubert

Nicolas Robles Badajoz, Spain   Figure 1. Pencil-on-paper caricature of singer Johann Michael Vogl (left) and composer Franz Schubert (right). The caption (in German) reads: Michael Vogl and Franz Schubert go out for battle and victory. Attributed to his friend, Franz von Schober – Original is in the Historic Museum of the City of Vienna. […]

Ode to baroque and other musical genres

George Christopher Ada, Michigan, United States   The Lute Player. Caravaggio. 1596. Wildenstein Collection. Via Wikimedia. Imagine a musical style that is emotionally evocative yet highly organized, thereby conferring structure to emotion; that gives artistic expression of the fusion of emotion and reason; that mimics biology at cellular through ecological levels through its organized complexity; […]

Hector Berlioz: from medical school to music conservatory

Michael Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Portrait of Hector Berlioz. Gustave Courbet. 1850. Musée d’Orsay. Via Wikimedia Louis-Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was born in La Côte-Saint-André, France. His father was a well-known physician in his hometown in the French Alps and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. At the age of eighteen, Hector […]

Maria Callas—her inner voice revealed

Eelco Wijdicks Lea Dacy Rochester, Minnesota, United States   Cover: Prima Donna: The Psychology of Maria Callas. In Prima Donna: The Psychology of Maria Callas, Paul Wink convincingly concludes—based on largely secondary sources—that Maria Callas was not only a wildly ambitious operator who was not known for an emollient manner, but a prime example of […]

The finality in their voices II: physiology-defying violent opera death

Lea C. Dacy Eelco F. M. Wijdicks Rochester, Minnesota, United States   The title character in Werther bleeding profusely from a self-inflicted gunshot wound but still able to sing an extended aria, used with permission from Alamy. In a previous article, we reviewed the plausibility of opera deaths in wasting diseases such as that of […]

The finality in their voices: death, disease, and palliation in opera

Lea C. Dacy Eelco F. M. Wijdicks Rochester, Minnesota, United States   Figure 1: Violetta’s deathbed in La Traviata, from 2009 Glimmerglass Opera production directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. Photo by Richard Termine, used with his permission. I know she had tuberculosis! She was coughing her brains out . . . but still she kept […]

Ludwig van Beethoven: music and medicine

Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Beethoven home and surrounding area. Photos by Michael Yafi. December 2020 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. The causes of the composer’s deafness and his death at the age of fifty-six have remained unknown, even after an autopsy carried out soon […]

Sergei Rachmaninoff: the dichotomy of life and music

Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Rachmaninoff. Photo by Bain News Service. between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920. Library of Congress Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), a Russian composer, was known for having very large hands. With a span that covered twelve white keys on the keyboard (the interval of a thirteenth), he could […]