Category: Education & research

  • Satie’s day

    Satie wrote that “An artist must organise his life.” In 1913, he set said out a schedule in which he stated he would be inspired between 10:23 and 11:47am, and 3:12 to 4:10pm. The timetable allowed for daily house riding, and various other activities such as fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, swimming, etc. The day […]

  • Tchaikovsky on Arensky

    “Arensky is a man of remarkable gifts, but morbidly nervous and lacking in firmness—altogether a strange man.” Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, in a letter to N. F. von Meck, Frolovskoe, July 2nd (14th), 1890. Cited in Modest Tchiakovsky, The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, np., Outlook Verlag, 2018, p. 477.

  • Mahler’s bowing instructions

    Rachmaninoff played his Third Concerto in January 1909 in New York, conducted by Gustav Mahler. Rachmaninoff recalled the rehearsal: Suddenly, Mahler, who had conducted this passage a tempo, tapped his desk: “Stop!  Don’t pay any attention to the difficult bowing marked in your parts. … Play the passage like this,” and he indicated a different […]

  • A lesson with Beethoven

    One fearful winter’s day in Vienna, in 1794, the snow standing deep and still falling fast, the traffic almost entirely suspended in the streets, Countess Teresa Brunswick, then a girl of fifteen, was waiting for Beethoven’s arrival, to give her her pianoforte lesson. Weather never stopped him; but when he appeared it was obvious that […]

  • Borodin transposing

    Excerpts from Borodin’s Prince Igor were to be performed by the Free College of Music. Rimsky Korsakov recalled: At this epoch, Prince Igor advanced slowly, but advanced nevertheless. How many prayers I addressed to dear Borodine that he might finally decide to orchestrate a few numbers for the concert! His numerous occupations at the Medical […]

  • Saint-Saëns defending virtuosity

    It is virtuosity itself that I want to defend. It is the source of the picturesque in music, it gives the artist wings with whose help he escapes platitudes and the everyday. The conquered difficulty is in itself a beautiful thing. Theódphile Gautier, in Émaux et camées, considered this issue in immortal verses. . . […]

  • Rachmaninoff on the culminating point in performance

    This culmination may be at the end or in the middle, it may be loud or soft; but the performer must know how to approach it with absolute calculation, absolute precision, because, if it slips by, then the whole construction crumbles, and the piece becomes disjointed and scrappy and does not convey to the listener […]

  • An experiment in the colours of keys

    The relativity of all these key-colour associations was illustrated during a debate on the whole subject organised in London in 1886 by the Journal “Musical Opinion”. That section of the audience that maintained the definite existence of “key colour” by which it could aurally identify a key was submitted to a test, a well known […]

  • Tchaikovsky’s Work Ethic

    We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can […]

  • Tchaikovsky’s compositional process

    “You ask if in composing this symphony I had a special programme in view. To such questions regarding my symphonic works I generally answer: nothing of the kind. In reality it is very difficult to answer this question. How interpret those vague feelings which pass through one during the composition of an instrumental work, without […]

  • Nick Cave on the creative process

    What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work. Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past. It is those dangerous, heart-stopping departures that catapult […]

  • Convey to others what we are

    There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song – but in this […]

  • Music: the product of feeling and knowledge

    Music is at once the product of feeling and knowledge, for it requires from its disciples, composers and performers alike, not only talent and enthusiasm, but also that knowledge and perception which are the result of protracted study and reflection. Hector Berlioz, A Travers Chants. Cited in I. Lipsius, Thoughts of Great Musicians, London, Augener, […]

  • Brahms on Schubert

    My love for Schubert is a very serious one, probably because it is no fleeting fancy. Where is genius like his, which soars heavenwards so boldly and surely, where we see the few supreme ones enthroned. He is to me like a son of the gods, playing with Jupiter’s thunder, and also occasionally handling it […]

  • Bernstein on composing

    “There is something very satisfying about composing…you are letting yourself go, you write in a kind of trance, feeling you are doing very well. The next day you are quite capable of seeing that it wasn’t all that good, but that doesn’t matter so much.” Leonard Bernstein, 1971 Cited at: Leonard Bernstein (@LennyBernstein) “There’s something […]

  • Karajan and direction

    Seiji Ozawa recalls Karajan’s overarching concept of music: I really shouldn’t start comparing Karajan and Bernstein. I’m thinking of the word “direction” – the direction of the music. In Maestro Karajan’s case, he had it from birth – the ability to make long phrases. It was something he taught us, the ones who studied with […]

  • Liszt on the piano

    In its span of seven octaves [the piano] embraces the range of an orchestra; the ten fingers of a single man suffice to render the harmonies produced by the combined forces of more than 100 concerted instruments. We make arpeggios like the harp, prolonged notes like wind instruments, staccatos, and a thousand other effects which […]

  • The line and the harmony

    Phrases have their own topography—they move forward with the line but also remain wedded to the ground with each change of harmony, and this is where the battle lies, why each piece of music grapples with its own destructive potential, why beauty is never what it appears to be. — Simon Tedeschi S. Tedeschi, Fugitive, […]

  • Art is an immense forest

    In the world, in life, and in nature, there is nothing but beautiful tales, and when the door opens, enter and accept it with all your soul. Art is an immense, eternal forest, where the trees stand as sparsely or as densely as you wish. The moon, sun and all kinds of glittering stars move […]

  • Hans Zimmer on the musical experience

    Everybody tells you that the youth of today, whoever they are, have a short attention span, and you can’t give them anything decent. That’s complete crap. The youth of today, just like anyone else, like a good story and want to be transported, and to have an experience. They don’t want to be bored, so […]

  • Hans Zimmer on writing pop songs

    Ask him to write a song, though, and he’ll likely turn you down on the basis that he has a problem with “any form of authority, and the authority that is put upon you of writing a song”. “Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight…” he says. “It’s always the same bloody structure. I end up […]

  • The need for books

    We wouldn’t need books quite so much if everyone around us understood us well. But they don’t. Even those who love us get us wrong. They tell us who we are but miss things out. They claim to know what we need, but forget to ask us properly first. They can’t understand what we feel […]

  • The role of an interpreter

    The interpreter is really an executant, carrying out the composer’s intentions to the letter. He doesn’t add anything that isn’t already in the work. If he is talented, he allows us to glimpse the truth of the work that is in itself a thing of genius and that is reflected in him. He shouldn’t dominate […]

  • Musicians’ response to violence

    This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.  — Leonard Bernstein, 25 November 1963 Christopher Buchenholz, “An Artist’s Response to Violence”, Leonard Bernard Office, Accessed 18 March 2022.

  • Start from scratch every time

    Benjamin Appl on working with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: When people ask me about what I learned from Fischer-Dieskau, that’s what I always come back to: of course I could say a hundred things about technique and his reputation, but what I found most inspiring was how he created everything afresh. Whenever he was teaching he’d prepare […]

  • Nick Cave on the creative process

    Worry less about what you make — that will mostly look after itself, and is to some extent beyond your control, and perhaps even none of your business — and devote yourself to nourishing this animating spirit. Bring all your enthusiasm to bear on the development of that good and essential force. This is done […]

  • What is imagination?

    What is Imagination? We talk much of Imagination. We talk of Imagination of Poets, the Imagination of Artists &c; I am inclined to think that in general we don’t know very exactly what we are talking about. Imagination I think especially two fold. First: it is the Combining Faculty. It brings together things, facts, ideas, […]

  • Pieces to belong to performers

    “That’s what I find wonderful about music: there is always a secret left, pieces don’t belong to performers, you rent them!” – Joseph Moog, Pianist W. Boon, “Joseph Moog”, Pianistique, 5 November 2016,, accessed 17 January 2022.

  • Uniqueness

    “The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.” — Walt Disney L. Howes, “20 Lessons from Walt Disney on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Chasing Your Dreams”, Forbes, 17 July 2012,, accessed 13 January 2022.

  • New art and the old formulae

    An art gathers new material usually by an original rejection of old formulae, a gesture of negation. At the beginning, this gesture is conscious, defiant, it lacks any other reason for existence than the very healthy one that dogma is death. In the turmoil of growth and expansion, this negation and denial loses its identity […]

  • What an artist can do for another

    The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration. – Steven Pressfield S. Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, New York, Black Irish Entertainment, 2002, p.18

  • Music better than it can be performed

    Now I am attracted only to music which I consider to be better than it can be performed. Therefore I feel (rightly or wrongly) that unless a piece of music presents a problem to me, a neverending problem, it doesn’t interest me too much. For instance, Chopin’s studies are lovely pieces, perfect pieces, but I […]

  • Positive change through creativity

    You need something like Sesame Street to sort of increase the volume of good in the world. And also to know that through creativity, you can make change. Positive change can occur if you’re willing to see a problem and try to fix it and do it creatively. — Trevor Crafts Steve Rose, “The Secret […]

  • The career of a musician compared to other arts

    The career of a musician out to be — it is, actually, and in many ways — different from the careers of artists in other fields of art.  All comparisons of the other arts with music are necessarily somewhat superficial.  The art of music needs, essentially, not much contact with social groups, or concern with […]

  • Obedience and liberty in creativity

    A great work, I believe, is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty. Such a work satisfied the mind, together with that curious thing which is artistic emotion. Stravinsky said, “If I were permitted everything, I would be lost in the abyss of liberty.” On the one hand he knew the limits, on […]

  • Searching for expression

    When my students compose, I prefer them to be mistaken if they must make mistakes, but to remain natural and free rather than wishing to appear other than what they are. I remember a day when Stravinsky was dining here. He took his neighbor at the table by the lapels, violently! His neighbor crushed, said […]

  • Bernstein as a counterpoint student at Harvard

    The composer Harold Shapero, who lived a few doors away from Bernstein in Newton and was a year behind him at Harvard, also noted Bernstein’s cavalier approach to counterpoint studies. “Lenny didn’t come to class at all. I was a dutiful little student. I did my Palestrina stuff and I got an ‘A.’ . . […]

  • The importance of melody

    I have never questioned the importance of melody. I love melody, and I regard it as the most important element in music. I have worked on the improvement of its quality in my compositions for many years. To find a melody instantly understandable even to the uninitiated listener, and at the same time an original […]

  • Feed the inner beast

    Lou Dorfsman, design chief for CBS Radio and later the CBS Television Network for over 40 years, once said, “In reality, creativity is the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” However, nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires. I […]

  • Appreciating beauty

    Music exists only in a passing of time, racing past us like the mid-nineenth-century trains Ruskin so hated. It is utterly non-fixed, and to focus on one moment is to destroy the whole. It is a forest that we have to pass through, not a single tree that we can contemplate or capture. But, if […]

  • Beauty captivates the flesh

    Beauty captivates the flesh, seeking permission to pass directly to the soul. — Simone Weil S. Weil, G Panichas (ed.) The Simone Weil Reader, New York, McKay, 1977, p. 378.

  • Debussy on Metronome markings

    You know what I think about metronome marks: they’re right for a single bar, like “roses, with a morning life”. Only there are “those” who don’t hear music and who take these marks as authority to hear it still less! But do what you please. — Debussy, Letter to Jacques Durand of 9 October 1915 […]

  • Debussy on pedalling in Chopin

    Despite my respect for Saint-Saëns’ age, what he says about Chopin’s pedalling isn’t entirely true. I have very clear memories of what Mme Mauté de Fleurville told me. He (Chopin) recommended practising without pedal and, in performance, not holding it on except in very rare instances. It was the same way of turning the pedal […]

  • Debussy improvising

    Debussy would sit himself down without speaking at the piano of the little study-cum-library and start to improvise. Anyone who knew him can remember what it was like. He would start by brushing the keys, prodding the odd one here and there, making a pass over them and then he would sink into velvet, sometimes […]

  • Quantity of practice

    In the matter of practice, I never urge a student to work so many hours a day. One may be enough. The musician is like a painter, who frequently spends his time in looking at the work he has done, and in thinking what he will make of it, without so much as touching the […]

  • The artist’s soul

    There is, behind the soul and the whole life of the artist, perhaps a suffering soul … The moment one day will come in which perhaps yourself – if you possess a soul as I wish to believe – you will be able to see through feeling without any explanation. – Dimitri Mitropoulos to Leonard […]

  • The double life of an artist

    People are mistaken thinking that the creative artist uses art to express what he feels at the very moment of experience. Joy and sorrow are feelings expressed retrospectively. Without any particular cause for rejoicing I can be immersed in a mood of happy creativity and, conversely, I can produce, when cheerful, a piece saturated in […]

  • “Didn’t you like it?”

    Leonard Bernstein and Mildred Spiegel attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra season in 1933. They sat, she remembers, in the second balcony “under one of the male Greek nude statues.” One evening, during a standing ovation for the orchestra’s music director, Serge Koussevitzky, Lenny “just sat there” clapping very softly. “What’s the matter,” I asked, “didn’t […]

  • Hough and Schnabel on piano rolls

    I want to believe in piano rolls. The idea that we can insert an object into a present-day piano and hear long-dead pianists and composers perform again as if they were in the same room is a tantalisingly attractive prospect. It has a magical aura about it. But, I’m afraid, it’s a conjuring trick, or […]

  • Mozart: the myth versus the man

    We often focus too much on the myth of Mozart, the myth of the prodigy and the myth of the genius – but as he writes in some of his letters, he often feels totally misunderstood and that people don’t give him credit for all the tireless work which he does. In one letter he […]

  • Music as an emotional science

    Music sets up a certain vibration which unquestionably results in a physical reaction. Eventually the proper vibration for every person will be found and utilized. I like to think of music as an emotional science. — George Gershwin Daniel Albright. Modern and Music: An Anthology of Sources. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, p. 388.

  • Waiting for inspiration

    The composer does not sit around wait wait for inspiration to walk up and introduce itself … Making music is actually little else than a matter of invention aided and abetted by emotion. In composing we combine what we know of music with what we feel. — George Gershwin Isaac Goldberg. Tin Pan Alley. New […]

  • Music in the very heart of noise

    I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise. — George Gerswhin Goldberg, Isaac, and Garson, Edith. George Gershwin: A Study in American Music. United Kingdom, F. Ungar Publishing Company, 1958, p.139.

  • Focus

    Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. – Alexander Graham Bell Orison Swett Marden, (1901) “Bell Telephone Talk”, How They Succeeded. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Company, p. 38. Digitally archived at, accessed 11 September 2021.

  • Pavel Kolesnikov on historical instruments

    For me, one of the ultimate goals of a performance is to make pieces come across as something new, something unexpected and fresh. As soon as you start working with historical instruments, you are jeopardising this aspect. It is very difficult to get away from that; some performers manage it magically, but I don’t see […]

  • Pavel Kolesnikov on the Goldberg Variations

    “Like climbing an infinite stairway, one step at a time.” —Pavel Kolesnikov, working on Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Jeal, Erica, “Pavel Kolesnikov, the pianist making ‘a palace of sound built by your own imagination’”, The Guardian, 9 September 2021,, accessed 11 September 2021.

  • Never use a score

    I never use a score when conducting my orchestra. Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion? — Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor Zographos, Achilleas (2017) Music and Chess. Milford: Russell Enterprises Inc.

  • Weeds

    But weeds have this virtue: they are not easily discouraged; they never lose heart entirely; they die game. If they cannot have the best, they will take up with the poorest; if fortune is unkind to them today, they hope for better luck tomorrow; if they cannot lord it over a corn-hill, they will sit […]

  • Look under your feet

    The lesson which life constantly repeats is to ‘look under your feet.’You are always nearer to the divine and the true sources of your power than you think.The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive.The great opportunity is where you are.Do not despise your own place and hour.Every place is under the stars.Every […]

  • Each day, according to Goethe

    Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and–if at all possible–speak a few sensible words. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Goethe, Johann (translated by Frederick Ungar & Heinz Goethe, Johann W., Frederick Ungar, and Heinz Norden). Goethe’s world view : presented in his reflections […]

  • Write over improvise

    If Heaven has bestowed on you a fine imagination, you will often be seated at your piano in solitary hours, as if attached to it; you will desire to express the feelings of your heart in harmony, and the more clouded the sphere of harmony may perhaps be to you, the more mysteriously you will […]

  • Practice slowly

    “One must practice slowly, then more slowly and finally slowly.” – Camille Saint-Saëns Cited in: The Piano Quarterly, 1974, p. 24.

  • Saint-Saëns on composing

    “I produce music as an apple tree produces apples.” — Camille Saint-Saëns Musical Heritage Review. Musical Heritage Society, volume 1, issues 13-18, p.47.

  • Saint-Saëns on the art of music

    The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, by harmonious colours, and by a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music. — Camille Saint-Saëns Cited in Milton Cross David Ewan, Encyclopedia of Great Composers and Their Music, volume 2. Double Day, 1969, p.819.

  • Jan Lisiecki on interpretation

    My approach is to sit with the score and make my decisions about what Andante means or what piano means in a certain context; often you go back to recordings and find that nobody’s ever really played it that way. You ask yourself ‘Why is that? Did I misread or misinterpret something? Or is this […]

  • Ashman’s directions for “Something There”

    While writing the lyrics to songs in Beauty and the Beast, Howard Ashman’s health was deteriorating. The composer, Alan Menken, recalls: By a certain point, he wasn’t well enough to travel. Once Disney knew, they brought a lot of the production over to the east coast; he made it through all the last recording sessions. […]

  • Satie on La Mer

    At the 1905 premiere of La Mer, one of whose movements is called “From Dawn to Midday on the Sea”, Debussy received the usual post-performance congratulations. Satie’s deflating comment was, “Ah, my dear friend, there’s one particular moment between half past ten and a quarter to eleven that I found especially stunning.” Levison, B. (2015). […]

  • A poet is a nightingale

    A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why. Percy Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 1821

  • ‘Real’ instruments in popular music

    “We’re seeing a big evolution of production, of recording techniques, and of the actual sounds. Everything’s getting sampled and synthesized…. When we do have an acoustic instrument like a saxophone, it tends to get processed to where [it’s] almost unrecognizable.” Jeff Harrington, saxophonist. Cited in, Kelsey McKinney, “Where Did All the Saxophones Go?”,, accessed 29 […]

  • Don’t loaf and invite inspiration

    Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. […]

  • A performance can be greater than them

    I remember a few years ago being at a summer academy in the south of France, with Dominique Merlet. The whole atmosphere was great there, as we were a group of like-minded people, keen to learn, work and share ideas in the gorgeous setting of a little medieval French village. The concert at the end, […]

  • A good performance

    A good performance is one that moves me. But it is not only the passion and emotion expressed in a performance that move me, it is also allowing the clarity of the structure, as well as the different characters, to shine through, a well-judged balance, a sense of architecture of the whole piece and, at […]

  • Brahm’s introduction in Vienna

    in 1862, Brahms called to see Julius Epstein, a professor at the Vienna Conservatory. “Joachim tells me – ha! – that you have written some really interesting music. Sent me your piano sonata in F minor to look over. Bring any new compositions with you?” he added, noticing Johanne’s portfolio. “I have two piano quartets […]

  • Art is a crucial, dangerous operation

    If a man teaches composition in a university, how can he not be a composer? He has worked hard, learned his craft. Ergo, he is a composer. A professional. Like a doctor. But there is that doctor who opens you up, does exactly the right thing, closes you up—and you die. He failed to take […]

  • Shedding light on what is invisible

    When we create something, whether it’s a one-woman show, a video animation, a poem, a song, whatever—we’re taking what’s inside of us and stepping it out. Now it can be shown or heard. Now it can be experienced, transmitted. Now it can be shared. When it’s shared, parts of us that were once invisible, hidden, […]

  • The healing power of creativity

    So creativity helps us to be seen, expressed, and healed. This is fantastic! But I just recently had a bit of an epiphany and tapped into a deeper truth while talking with my old love. Being expressed, healed, and seen is actually a service to humanity. A gift to the world. When we are expressed, […]

  • Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy

    One of the most magical passages in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. The featured instrument, the celeste, was a relatively new invention, having only been developed by a Parisian harmonium builder, Auguste Mustel, in 1886. The French word “céleste” translates to “heavenly”. Tchaikovsky first discovered the celeste while visiting Paris […]

  • The source of inspiration

    For me, inspiration comes from a bunch of places: desperation, deadlines… A lot of times ideas will turn up when you’re doing something else. And, most of all, ideas come from confluence — they come from two things flowing together. They come, essentially, from daydreaming. . . . And I suspect that’s something every human […]

  • Whatever we are faced with, people will continue to create

    Gus Fairbairn (aka Alabaster dePlume) on the challenges of the 2020 pandemic: There is an invitation for me to respond to this pandemic with frustration, but it has allowed me the time to not spend all summer playing festivals and actually focus on my own creativity. It’s all gold. Go forth in the courage of your love as […]

  • You don’t need permission to create

    Gus Fairbairn (aka Alabaster dePlume) on the success of his album, To Cy & Lee: I was not expecting that with this piece of work. I made them not thinking that anyone would want to listen to them. It all goes to show that no one will give you permission to make the great things […]

  • An artist’s personal growth

    Funnily, my deep conviction is that no idea or concept of true artistic importance can be imparted or transferred. The real things are those that you grow yourself in your own garden, without anyone overseeing. In that sense art is the land of absolute sole responsibility. There is nothing that cannot be challenged, but in […]

  • How we decorate space and time

    “Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.” Jean-Michel Basquiat,  street artist

  • Put creativity into everything

    “When you put creativity into everything, everything becomes available to you.” – Robert Rodriguez, filmmaker Cited in: Nathalie Sejean, “30 Piece of Advice from Robert Rodriguez to Lead a Creative Life”, Mentorless, 4 September 2015,, accessed 28 October 2020

  • The meaning of American Pie

    When questioned about the meaning of American Pie, Don McLean would quip. “It means I’ll never have to work again.” Rob Walker, “Don McLean on the tragedy behind American Pie: ‘I cried for two years’”, The Guardian, 22 October 2020,

  • Achieving great things

    “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

  • Arthur Rubinstein’s youthful practice habits

    Interviewer: So many children hate to take music lessons. Can you understand this? Rubinstein: Oh, yes, I was one of them. You see, music lessons mean always this horrible dictatorial attitude of the professors. They slap four fingers and aarh; they shout at you: “Can’t you learn that? You must practice scales!” I mean, it […]

  • First impressions of Schindler’s List

    When renowned composer John Williams first watched a rough cut of Schindler’s List at director Steven Spielberg’s home in Los Angeles, he got so choked up he couldn’t speak. “I had to walk around the room for four or five minutes to catch my breath,” Williams recalls. “I said to Steven, ‘I really think you […]

  • The Jankó Keyboard

    The Hungarian mathematician, Paul von Jankó developed an alternate layout to the traditional piano keyboard. In July 1888, upon seeing a performance in London by John Carlowitz Ames, The Musical Times reported: The clever idea, which suggested itself to the inventor as a means for overcoming the difficulty of stretching long intervals on the pianoforte […]

  • Chopin and counterpoint

    With regard to counterpoint in Chopin’s music, you might be interested in the conversation that Chopin had not long before his death with the painter Eugène Delacroix. Delacroix was one of a handful of quite intimate friends of Chopin’s. In his diary, he mentions how he had picked up Chopin in a carriage, and they […]

  • A young Josef Hoffmann

    The Polish pianist, Josef Hoffmann may have been a child prodigy. Upon hearing him play, Anton Rubinstein, who typically disliked child prodigies said told his manager, “This prodigy I believe in. Hear him!” (1) Yet in 1908, The Daily Graphic looked back on having seen the young pianist: When Joseph Hoffmann was an infant prodigy, […]

  • Busoni on invention

    I came to think that every notation is already the transcription of an abstract invention. From the instant the pen takes hold of it, the idea loses its original feature. … The invention (Einfall) becomes a sonata, a concerto: it is already an arrangement of the original. From this first transcription to the second, the […]

  • The reach of art

    “Art — reaches out to one specific person (even and especially if that person is imaginary.” Todd Brison, “A Warning Letter to All Writers”, Medium, 25 August 2020,, accessed 4 September 2020.

  • Relationship with the muse

    I need time to be idle in order to experience and romance my muse, Music, my lifelong partner. In some ways, when I think about the enforced thirty minute practice sessions and much-resented violin lessons during Friday recess which introduced us during my early childhood, our story feels a bit like the plot of a […]

  • Jan Lisiecki on Chopin

    Schumann described Chopin’s works as “cannons buried in flowers”.  Contained in Chopin’s music are painful moments, suffering, longing and much drama. Similarly to Mozart, the external impression may be one of pure beauty, elegance, exuberance or joy but, deep down, there is something else entirely, a sort of imprecise discomfort, a certain malaise. The contrast […]

  • Rafal Blechacz on interpretation

    Most of all, I give myself plenty of time to get familiar with the composition, to “grow into” its concepts. The composition “congeals” under your fingers and in your heart; each phrase becomes yours, and the artistic expression, which emanates from the piece, becomes your expression. Artistic intuition also plays an important role, although it […]

  • The mannerisms of Pachmann

    The Russian pianist, Vladimir von Pachmann was known for his funny mannerisms: Everyone knows that the Russian pianist has funny ways of his own, which the public tolerate for the pleasure he affords them as an artist. On this occasion, we read, he remarked, first of all, “Too few people; I cannot play. This is […]

  • Paderewski, the dandy

    Overheard in a New York street car:— Average Young Man (to neighbour): “Everything they say about Paderewski is true. He’s a perfect genius. Why, he played fourteen pieces and did not once look at the programme. Yet he played straight ahead and never once forgot what piece was to come next. I tell you the […]

  • Stravinsky and Charlie Parker

    There is a story that Igor Stravinsky went to the New York jazz club Birdland one evening in 1951. Whispers went round that the great composer was in the house. When Charlie Parker came on with his quintet, he didn’t acknowledge Stravinsky in person, but seamlessly quoted The Firebird in his first number, the furiously […]

  • Schnabel on recording

    Having spent five days recording five Beethoven sonatas and two concertos, Schnabel wrote to his wife: This week was an ordeal, a torture chamber. “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” says Nietzsche. Hopefully (probably) this is true. I had no idea of how outrageous a process the recording on discs could be. Like […]

  • Harbouring doves and crocodiles

    Beethoven, who is often bizarre and baroque, takes at times the majestic flight of an eagle, and then creeps in rocky pathways. He first fills the soul with sweet melancholy, and then shatters it by a mass of shattered chords. He seems to harbor together doves and crocodiles. A review of Beethoven’s First Symphony, Tablettes […]

  • Arthur Schopenhauer on music

    Now the nature of man consists in this, that his will strives, is satisfied and strives anew, and so on for ever. Indeed, his happiness and well-being consist simply in the quick transition from wish to satisfaction, and from satisfaction to a new wish. For the absence of satisfaction is suffering, the empty longing for […]

  • Form your own interpretation

    I have often made the point in masterclasses that students should not listen to lots of recordings of a piece they are learning. I’m always a little horrified when I hear a student say, “My teacher told me to learn the Chopin G minor Ballade, so I went to the library and took out eight […]

  • Active listening

    Listening to music should always be an active process, and those who attend – pregnant verb – concerts, who listen, who respond, who treasure what they hear there, are musicians. They are the ones who do not let music wash over them like a bubble bath but who actively swim in the water. When vibrations […]

  • Stravinsky on Verdi’s Rigoletto

    “I say that in the aria ‘La donna è mobile’, for example, which the elite thinks only brilliant and superficial, there is more substance and feeling than in the whole of Wagner’s Ring cycle.” – Igor StravinskyCited in Brandenburg, Daniel (2012). Verdi: Rigoletto. Bärenreiter.

  • A pen and a hen

    “A pen is to me as a beak is to a hen.” John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, in an interview with Philip Norman. “The Prevalence of Hobbits”, The New York Times, 15 January 1967, (accessed 20 July 2020)

  • The benefits of musical instruments

    Many studies are now discovering that learning a musical instrument is something positive in itself – a discipline that helps a person to acquire skills of co-ordination. concentration, and perseverance. It shares these with sport, of course, but there is more. What makes playing a musical instrument worthy of special attention is that its physical […]

  • Horowitz’s stringent requirements

    When Vladimir Horowitz performed in Japan: …. a kitchen had to be built in his suite because he insists that all his meals – fish or chicken only – be taken there. The electrical wiring ran afoul of Tokyo fire laws, requiring new wallpaper and a special floor. Several critics suggested in a music journal […]

  • Horowitz’s practice regime

    The piano technician, Franz Mohr, observed: Horowitz was consistent in all that he did. His rehearsal was always on Saturday at 4:00 p.m., his performance was on Sunday. And I always had plenty of time to prepare his piano for the concert. Of course Horowitz would have never stolen my preparation time in order to […]

  • Vladimir Horowitz on encores

    ”You see,” he said, ”I have a very substantial program, and after a substantial program, you can’t play a substantial encore. You play a little … ” at this, he strummed the air with his fingers, tinkling an imaginary piano. ”It is,” he said, ”anticlimactic.” Clyde Haberman, “3,500 Japanese Applaud Horowtiz for 14 Minutes”, The […]

  • Matheson and Handel’s duel

    Two flamboyant young musickers leave the town of Lübeck as soon as can be. For they have learned that the successful candidate must marry the daughter of the man in whose shoes they would fain have trodden the pedals. One look at the daughter was enough. She was not fair to see, and her years […]

  • Handel’s dinner for three

    Handel certainly liked to eat: A story is told of him that he once ordered up enough dinner for three. Noting that the servant dawdled about, Handel demanded why; the servant answered that he was waiting for the company to come, whereupon Handel stormed, in his famous broken English, “Den print up der tinner prestissimo. […]

  • A lock of Beethoven’s hair

    Once a devoted admirer, wife of a Vienna pianist, longed for a lock of the composer’s outrageously unkempt hair, and asked a friend to get her one. At his suggestion, Beethoven, who was a practical joker of boorish capabilities, sent her a tuft from the chin of a goat. The trick was discovered, and the […]

  • Claudio Arrau in Newcastle

    While the Century Theatre in Broadmeadow (Australia) primarily operated as a cinema, it was also hosted concerts, including by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. On one occasion, Claudio Arrau performed in the theatre, as recalled by Harry Armstrong: With only a few minutes to go before the famous pianist was scheduled to commence his performance, which […]

  • Why we read

    We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel—or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel—is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become. A person who had never known another human […]

  • I live in a world of my imagination

    I confess that I live only in my surroundings and in myself. I can conceive of no greater pleasure than sitting in my chair at this desk and looking at the walls around me day by day and night after night. In these pictures I do not see what you see; in the trees outside […]

  • Silence, expression, and music

    From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death—all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence that which comes […]

  • The art of playing the triangle

    George Plimpton, a writer and sportsman, asked if he could play in the New York Philharmonic for a month to write about the workings of an orchestra.  Leonard Bernstein assigned him to the percussion section.  The principal percussionist, Walter Rosenberg, recalled his experience: During rehearsals I would lean over and point to where we were […]

  • Bernstein on immersive performance

    It happens because you identify so completely with the composer, you’ve studied him so intently, that it’s as though you’ve written the piece yourself. You completely forget who you are or where you are and you write the piece write there. You just make it up as though you never heard it before. Because you […]

  • The ideal and the played performance

    Some conductors put all the emphasis on the melodic line, while others are fanatics about rhythm, but there are very few conductors who are uniquely able to look at the score and hear every part before it actually happens. With the very best of conductors, it’s as though there are two performances going on simultaneously. […]

  • The land knows of its own beauty

    What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.” – Kazuo Ishiguro

  • Dostoyevsky on beauty

    “Beauty will save the world.” – The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  • Creative people produce being

    “Creative people, as I see them, are distinguished by the fact that they can live with anxiety, even though a high price may be paid in terms of insecurity, sensitivity, and defenselessness for the gift of the “divine madness,” to borrow the term used by the classical Greeks. They do not run away from non-being, […]

  • The creative learning process

    “Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” — Arthur Koestler

  • There’s a crack in everything

    There is a crack, a crack in everythingThat’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen, “Anthem Related: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”: The story of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”

  • Without music

    “Without music, life would be a mistake.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols

  • They who dream

    “They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” — Edgar Allan Poe

  • The worker and his object

    “In all types of creative work the worker and his object become one, man unites himself with the world in the process of creation.” — Erich Fromm

  • Einstein as a musician

    “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.” – Albert Einstein Cited in: Lyth, David (2019) The Road to Einstein’s Relativity. Boca Ranton: […]

  • Einstein on Mozart

    Einstein wrote that Mozart’s music “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.” Lyth, David (2019) The Road to Einstein’s Relativity. Boca Ranton: CRC Press, p.131.

  • Capturing the experience of being alive

    In attempting to capture something of the experience of being alive, the words themselves must be alive. Words, when living and breathing are like musical chords. The full resonance of the chord or phrase must be allowed to be heard in all of its suggestive imprecision. We must attempt in our use of language in…our […]

  • Performance anxiety

    “There is no anxiety in the present. Anxiety is either in the past, worrying about what was just played, or in the future, worrying about what you are about to play. Nothing can be done about either! Don’t judge or evaluate while you’re performing.” — Charles Schlueter, principal trumpet with the Boston Symphony. Cited in: […]

  • Technique is not music

    “Technique is not music. Music is the thousandth of a millisecond between one note to the other—that’s where the music is.”  — Isaac Stern, in an interview with Mark Stryker Cited in: Green, Barry (2003) The Mastery of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry. New York: Broadway Books, p. 2.

  • The essence of music

    I believe that there is no one the world so insensitive, so leaden, that he is not moved by song. Theophrastus rightly said in the second book concerning music that the essence of music is the movement of the soul, driving away the evils and troubles that have invaded it. If music did not have […]

  • Composing in the bath

    Gustav Mahler recalled: After an illness, Bruckner was ordered by his doctor to take a daily hip-bath.  Loath to waste time, he would take music paper and compose while in the tub.  While absorbed in his work one day, the mother of Rudolf Kryzanowski, one of his pupils, knocked at the door.  “Come in!” called […]

  • A courteous conductor

    The notoriously absent-minded composer Anton Bruckner was once invited by Hans Richter to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the performance of one of his symphonies. Bruckner agreed, duly arrived for a rehearsal, and stood on the conductor’s platform, beaming but motionless for several minutes without lifting the baton. At last, the orchestra’s leader, Arnold […]

  • A dog with musical taste

    “Anton Bruckner had a chubby, fat pug dog named Mops,” Fritz Kreisler, a former pupil of Bruckner’s once recalled. “He would leave us with Mops munching our sandwiches while he himself hastened off to luncheon. We decided we’d play a joke on our teacher which would flatter him. So while the Meister was away, we’d […]

  • It’s the page turner’s fault

    Several years ago, Mr. Kalichstein hired a young music student who kept reaching across the score to turn pages from the bottom right corner, in the process obscuring several measures of the concerto. “Take it from the top!” the frustrated Mr. Kalichstein finally hissed; reflexively, the page turner flipped the score back to the beginning. […]

  • A new take on the harpsichord sound

    Harpsichordist  Jane Chapman performs both early music and Avante music, including using techniques to use distortion on the harpsichord! “Many early music people are interested in contemporary music, too, and many composers are also interested in early music instruments because they don’t have the baggage of the [classical and romantic periods]. Increasingly, younger generation composers […]

  • A world of emotions

    “We find a world of emotions and ideas created with only the simplest of materials.” – Laurence Lesser, cellist Cited in: Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. p.3.

  • There’s one way to get him to play

    People often begged him to play a little air on the violin, but he refused great lords and his fellow de-bauchers alike.  The only person who succeeded in making him play was the Marshal de Grammont.  He had a footman called La Lande who later became one of the best violinists in Europe.  After a […]

  • Difficult music is the easiest to play

    Scriabin’s fiery D#-minor Etude, with its relentless triplets and huge leaps, used to just fall under my fingers, while the Lento final movement of the Copland Sonata was a minefield of wrong notes. Why is that? Is it just because we practice hard music 20 times as much as easy music, or is it psychological, […]

  • Born for music

    “I was born with eyes closed listening to my heartbeat from my mother’s womb… There, without knowing it, I discovered that I would be born and would die for music…” – Alicastro Source: Peer Music.‘

  • The two faces of an art work

    “Every great work of art has two faces: one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.” — Daniel Barenboim. Cited in: Barenboim, Daniel & Said, Edward (2002) Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. New York: Pantheon Books.

  • Waste not, want not

    While attending school in Lüneberg, J. S. Bach used to travel to Hamburg (50km away) to hear the organist of the Catharinekirche: J. A. Reincken.  Marpurg describes how Bach, returning almost penniless to Lüneberg, once rested outside an inn; how someone threw two herring heads out on the rubbish heap; how Bach – a Thuringian, to […]

  • Music which never leaves

    ‘”Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty.  Magical music never leaves the memory.” Sir Thomas Beecham Speech, c.1950, quoted in The Sunday Times, 16 September 1962

  • Saint-Saens on Bach and Mozart

    “What gives Sebastian Bach and Mozart a place apart is that these two great expressive composers never sacrificed form to expression. As high as their expression may soar, their musical form remains supreme and all-sufficient.” – Camille Saint-Saëns, from a letter to Camille Bellaigue, 1907 Cited in: Fisk, Josiah (ed.) (1997) Composers On Music: Eight […]

  • Widmann on Brahms

    Widmann, a Swiss poet, describes Brahms’ performing at the piano: The broad leonine chest, the Herculean shoulders, the mighty head which the player sometimes threw back with an energetic jerk, the pensive, handsome brow that seemed to radiate an inner illumination, and the Germanic eyes which scintillated with a wondrous fire between their fair lashes […]

  • The Poet and the Muse

    Poet, you are no liar. The world that you imagine is the real one. The melodies of the harp alone know truth, and in this life they can be our only true guides. Cavafy, “The Poet and the Muse”

  • The Anecdote to Distraction is Art

    “If you are on a mission to discover what you have to offer, and to bring it out into the world, every moment you spend distracted is a moment you aren’t following your art. It’s a moment you aren’t pursuing your true potential.” — David Kadavy David Kadavy, “The Anecdote to Distraction is Art”, […]

  • A Cantata for Dogs

    Between 1911 and 1914, Nicolas Medtner stayed at Khlebnikovo, a house on the Osipov estate in the village of Trakhaneyevo. There were visits by the family, brothers Karl and Alexander and sister Sofiya, with their children. Karl’s daughter Vera brought her dachshund with her and would join her uncle Kolya [Nicolas] and Flix [Nicolas’ fox […]

  • Practising an art

    Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You […]

  • Understanding the rules

    “We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch

  • Brahms’ reaction to Wagner’s Music

    Brahms attended a Wagner concert in Vienna: All through the concert Johannes sat in stony silence. At the close, when everyone was applauding vigorously, he still made no move or comment.  Finally his companion – beside himself with enthusiasm – cried: “What music! Wasn’t it marvellous?” The composer raised his eyebrows a little.  Then he […]

  • Rachmaninoff on interpretation

    As the talented student grows older he must seek within himself his interpretation.  Does he wish to know how to play the cantilena of Beethoven or Chopin? He must feel it himself!  Talent is feeling, the feeling that every player experiences in his innermost consciousness… It takes years of work to understand and think out […]

  • Dividing the concert takings

    In 1866 Brahms and the violinist Joachim gave a concert tour through Switzerland.  One of their concerts was in Aarau. After the program, Brahms and Joachim went to a tavern, where they opened several bottles of the best vintage Swiss wine, including the popular vin mousseux of Lausanne.  Brahms felt decidedly genial. “How did we […]

  • The London Proms in the 1930s

    A recollection of the London Proms in 1936: The behavior of the Promenaders was more genteel in those days … there wasn’t the same degree of shouting as now.  During the famous hornpipe in Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs people tapped with their umbrellas and sticks, rather than stamping.  As the applause went […]

  • This music is too hard

    In 1862 Brahms went to Vienna: Although he been in Vienna only a few weeks, Brahms was already making a name for himself.  After the first performance of  his First Serenade, Hanslick wrote more favorably, calling the work “one of the most charming of modern compositions.” A few months later, the leading Viennese orchestra played […]

  • Comfort in the score of Saul

    In 1862 Brahms left Hamburg for Vienna. Brahms was not at all sure that he would remain long in Vienna; but he must have had some premonition that his Hamburg life was nearly over.  He found it hard to say goodbye to his old father and mother; though this time he could leave secure in […]

  • Art isn’t your pet

    "Art isn't your pet – it's your kid.  It grows up and talks back to you."  Joss Whedon, screenwriter

  • The art of pedalling

    The one bee in my bonnet is over-pedalling, and I give my students a hard time about that. It’s the lack of being able to play a true legato with the fingers.  People rely on the pedal for that, and the pedal is not there for that.  The pedal is for putting the gloss on.  […]

  • The tone of the piano at the turn of the nineteenth century

    In 1796, the piano maker Johann Andreas Streicher sent Beethoven one of his pianos as a gift.  Beethoven's reply sheds some interesting light on the tone of the piano at this time: There is no doubt that so far as the manner of playing is concerned, the pianoforte is still the least studied and developed […]

  • A subtle way of changing the tempo

    Brahms was rehearsing his F minor piano quintet. But when they reached the Andante, the strings played too fast to suit Brahms. This had happened once before in an early rehearsal of the same work, and the composer had discovered a tactful way of handling the situation.  Instead of criticizing, he called: "Just a moment, […]

  • Wisdom is perishable

    "Wisdom is perishable. Unlike information or knowledge, it cannot be stored in a computer or recorded in a book. It expires with each passing generation." – Sid Taylor Cited at: Quotations book  

  • How to get an audience

    Johannes Brahms and the violinist Eduard Remenyi had been concertizing to great success in Cello and Lüneberg.  By this time the two musicians were so elated over their success that they decided to try a concert in the city of Hildesheim entirely on their own.  They had no one there to herald their coming, write […]

  • Schiff on Schumann

    "I know of no work by Schumann that is not wonderful and inspiring.  One must leave every note just as he wrote it and experiment in order to find the correct balance and equilibrium.  With Schumann there is always this burning inventiveness, this unbelievable inspiration." – András Schiff.  Cited in Julian Haylock ""The Music of […]

  • Diderot on good music

    “Good music is very close to primitive language.” Denis Diderot (Elements of Physiology, 1875)

  • After music from a bridge, why not a tower?

    To mark the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up the Hudson river in New York, composer Joseph Bertolozzi sampled sounds of percussively hitting various parts of the bridge.  He now has his sights set on using the Eiffel Tower.  Wakin, Daniel, ""After Music from a Bridge, Why Not A Tower?"", Arts Beat, 8 July […]

  • Tchaikovsky on Don Giovanni

    Tchaikovsky, later in his life, reflected on hearing Mozart's Don Giovanni as a boy: The music of Don Giovanni was the first to conquer me completely.  It awoke an ecstasy in me of which the consequences are known.  It gave me the key to the spheres of pure beauty in which the greatest geniuses soar.  […]

  • Knowledge represents inner strength

    “Knowledge is not a passion from without the mind, but an active exertion of the inward strength, vigor and power of the mind, displaying itself from within.” – Ralph Cudworth, Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality (1731)

  • Dreaming of Figaro

    By 1790, Haydn has become dissatisfied with life at Eszterhaza.  On 9th February he wrote: Well! I sit in my wilderness; forsaken, like some poor orphan, almost without human society; melancholy, dwelling on the memory of past glorious days.  Yes; past, alas! And who can tell when these happy hours may return?  Those charming meetings? […]

  • It must be resolved

    Bach, a master of harmony and counterpoint, would not settle for imperfect sounds, no matter where he was.  Johann Reichardt recalled: Johann Sebastian Bach once came into a large company while a musical amateur was sitting and improvising at a harpsichord.  The moment the latter became aware of the presence of the great master, he […]

  • A little help with a fugue

    Rachmaninoff had a little help with a fugue exam at the Moscow Conservatory in 1891: By mistake the examinations of Rachmaninoff in both piano and fugue were scheduled for the same day and hour, so his fugue examination was transferred to the following day, when he was to be examined alone, the rest of the […]

  • Art constructs, not deconstructs

    “Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction.” Simone Weil, French philosopher & mystic. Simone Weil, The Pre-War Notebook (1933-1939), published in First and Last Notebooks (1970) edited by Richard Rees.

  • Artificial by nature

    Burnett James describes how in the 1920s Ravel was preoccupied with decorating "Le Belvédère" [his house] and in laying out the garden with many small exotic plants and miniature Japanese trees. To see that house and garden today is to experience a feeling of direct contact with Ravel. He deliberately made it an accurate reflection […]

  • The creative urge

    “The creative urge is the demon that will not accept anything second rate.” —Agnes de Mille (1905-1993), American dancer and choreographer. Gardner, Kara Anne. Agnes de Mille: Telling Stories in Broadway Dance. United States, Oxford University Press, 2016.

  • Some curious devices

    In the late nineteenth-century, some quite curious mechanical inventions were created to deal with the body with relation to pianists and conductors.    The following is an account of a presentation by T. L. Southgate on The Physiology of Pianoforte Piano. The paper presented was written by W. Macdonald Smith.  This account appeared in the […]

  • Gramophone: no substitute for live performance

    British conductor Thomas Beecham was not too impressed with early recording technology (the gramophone): It was put to him that for people who lived in remote districts, far from orchestral concerts, the gramophone was an alternative: "It is no alternative to this," he said, waving his arm towards the hall, where the orchestra was waiting […]

  • You can’t own the tuning

    This account of a bizarre law suite on May 6 at Bow St. against the Associated Board of Musical Examinations appeared in the English journal The Musical Times (June 1932).  The board was accused of obtaining money under false pretences: Mr. Lennox Atkins, F.R.C.O., asked on behalf of the Equal Temperament Committee for a process […]

  • Steering the audience’s taste

    The following advice appeared in the British Journal the Musical Times in January 1879: A young student wishes us to tell him what to do under the following circumstances: He has been carefully educated in music, for which he has considerable aptitude and an intense love; he is an efficient pianist, and knows most of […]

  • The price of an encore

    At a concert in London in December 1911, Rachmaninoff was received to great acclaim: perhaps a little too much from the orchestra's view point, who wanted to play the rest of their program: The London Philharmonic Concert given on November 7, provided an object lesson in this study of the relation of applause to encores.  […]

  • Fresh ideas of building arts communities

    "Music is its own language, and, while that language is universal, it is also intensely personal. There are many ways of building communities around the arts. Sometimes you just do it very quietly – with a few people at a time." This blog outlines a touching correspondence between a family and pianist Andre Watts. "Creative […]

  • The importance of rejuvenation

    "Human beings, by change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden." Johann Wolfgang Goethe, German writer, philosopher and scientist.

  • Trust yourself

    All this, my friend, will time provide, And of itself, itself will give; Soon as you in yourself confide, You know the way to live! — Mephistopheles to Faust Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: A Tragedy, translated by Lewis Filmore, (London: William Smith, 1847), p. 79. First published in the German as Faust: eine Tragödie, […]

  • A hunch

    Logically, a hunch makes as much sense as saying, horses have tails; therefore, all tails have horses.”  But in the zany world of films you don’t explain hunches — you just live and die by them. Frank Capra (1971) The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography.  Macmillan, p. 123. 

  • Examination findings

    Some curious answers for the Society of Arts published in the Musical Times (English Journal), July 1888: The Examiner’s report on the papers worked by the candidates in the recent Theoretical Examinations of the Society of Arts shows some very curious facts. … Mistakes in spelling have not been accredited with loss to to the […]

  • Figaro and an egg

    “I always have a hard-boiled egg. A three-minute egg. Do you know how I time it? I bring it to the boil and then conduct the overture to The Marriage of Figaro. Three minutes exactly.” Sir John Barrirolli Cited in: The Music Lover’s Quotation Book. Ed. Kathleen Kimball, Robin Peterson & Kathleen Johnston. Toronto (Canada): […]

  • A bewitched recording

    Early phonograph recordings were a little rough.  In 1889, pianist Hans von Bülow was asked to play into a phonograph in America: After playing upon a pianoforte, from which issued sounds compared to the soft and dreamy gurgle of a brook, the far-off sighign of the night wind and the roar of the cataract, he […]

  • Ode to Music and Moonlight

    We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems. With wonderful deathless ditties We build up the world’s great cities, And […]

  • I am not highbrow

    After writing his opera Porgy and Bess, producers in Hollywood started to think that Gerswhin was turning “highbrow”.  George and Ira Gerswhin’s agent told Ira :”They think George is too highbrow.  Can’t he write a few words and explain to them?” George wired: “Rumours about highbrow music ridiculous.  Am out to write hits.” – George […]

  • Capturing the pulse of the time

    "I try to put the pulse of my times into my music and do it in a lasting way." – George Gerswhin Cited in: Greenberg, Rodney (2008) George Gerswhin.  New York: Phaidon Press, p.216.   '

  • George and Ira Gershwin preview Porgy and Bess

    The stage director of the first Porgy and Bess production recalls hearing the score in Gerswhin's New York apartment: They both blissfully closed their eyes before they continued with the lovely "Summertime" song.  George played with the most beatific smile on his face.  He seemed to float on the waves of his own music with […]

  • Music is a mysterious form of mathematics

    Music is a mysterious form of mathematics whose elements are derived from the infinite. Music is the expression of the movement of the waters, the play of curves described by changing breezes. There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in […]

  • The power of critics

    “Critics sometimes say, about this or that new work – it should betaken up by all our major orchestras and recorded.  It never is.  Critics have great power, but they have no power.” Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary 1986-1999.  Cambridge: MA: Da Capo Press, p.27.

  • Rorem’s affinity with French music

    “Bartók’s music as a whole is a music I never think about when its not around.  It’s impeccable, it’s theatrical, it’s even great.  It dazzles, thrills, horrifies, sometimes irritates, but also moves me.  But I’m not touched by it, as by, for instance, the outset of the quartet by Ravel – Ravel, supposed to be […]

  • What Cage couldn’t stand

    “John Cage once said he couldn’t abide the Dominant Seventh, and the saxophone.” Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary 1986-1999.  Cambridge: MA: Da Capo Press, p.65.

  • The necessity of the serial method

    Boulez declares: “Any composer of our time who has not felt the necessity of the serial method is worthless.”  Omit the word “not,” and I agree. Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary 1986-1999.  Cambridge: MA: Da Capo Press, p.69.

  • Seeking challenges

    Pianist Artur Schnabel was asked at a public forum why his repertoire was so restricted: My answer is that now I am attracted only to music which I consider to be better than it can be performed.  Therefore I feel (rightly or wrongly) that unless a piece of music presents a problem to me, a […]

  • To fool, or be fooled, by a name

    One of Tchaikovsky’s favorite anecdotes resulted from his nearly losing the sketches for the Little Russian on the way back to Moscow. To persuade a recalcitrant postmaster to hitch the horses to the coach in which he and his brother Modest had been travelling, Tchaikovsky presented himself as “Prince Volkonsky, gentleman of the Emperor’s bedchamber.” […]

  • Greatness

    Greatness means the construction of an inner world, and the communication of this inner world to the physical world of humanity.  The two belong together; neither is thinkable without the other.  The strongest feeling and the most vivid imagination are worthless to humanity if they do not manifest themselves; the greatest constructive talent is worthless […]

  • Conditions stipulated for the Imperial Court Chapel

    The Imperial Chapel Choir was founded in Vienna in 1498 and performed exclusively for the court.  Composers that worked with the choir included Musicians like Heinrich Isaac, Paul Hofhaimer, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Joseph Fux, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Caldara, Antonio Salieri and Anton Bruckner.  Schubert was a chorister.  After the dissolution of the […]

  • A mystery instrument created

    Mozart’s Magic Flute uses a glass harmonica or keyed glockenspiel to represent a set of magic bells. “Mozart’s original score for the 1791 opera The Magic Flute called for a glass harmonica or keyed glockenspiel to represent a set of magic bells. The instruments were obscure even in Mozart’s day but more than 200 years after his […]

  • The ghost of Paganini

    The Belgian violinist Eugène Yasÿe frightened Busoni by playing the Bach Chaconne and Paganini Caprices on a kit violin in the darkened passages of a hotel.  ”It was like the ghost of Paganini, purposely exaggerating all the worst mannerisms of the typical virtuoso, and Busoni could never forget the sight of Ysaÿe’s vast bulk and […]

  • As good as Paderewsky

    “At the end of a dinner he was attending by a lady in Liege, Ysaÿe was asked to listen to a young violinist. Although he felt tired and was longing to go back home he could not but accept his hostess’s request. The young man played several pieces from his repertoire. Then, after a long […]

  • Borge on Borodin

    "My favorite Russian composer is Borodin, mainly because he had the shortest name. Except for Cui, who was just showing off. […] Cui wrote an opera called A Feast in Time of Plague. Shows you what kind of guy HE was." (Victor Borge, My Favorite Intermissions, New York, 1971, p133)  

  • Music acting as a spirit resonance

    My purpose is to create music not for snobs, but for all people, music which is beautiful and healing.  To attempt what old Chinese painters called "spirit resonance" in melody and sound. – Alan Hovhaness. Cited at The Alan Hovhaness Website:

  • The potential of music to spread peace

    A German proverb says: Bose Menschen haben keine Lieder (bad men don't sing) . It is not impossible that out of a tremendous movement of amateur community music a peace movement could spread over the world. Could it not be supported by our high dignitaries? Instead of the president of the United States solitarily playing […]

  • Artists and originality

    Is genius original? What is original? Originality wasn't a must in Mozart's day. He was like everyone else, only more so. Like everyone else – but no one was like him. Artists don't necessarily feel more deeply than you or me; it's just that they can take the fugitive feelings we all recognize and congeal […]

  • 1.2: The Fundamental Vibration of Music

    1 1 1   For Pythagoras (c. 570 BCE – c. 495 BCE), the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician, numbers were not merely a mathematical phenomena, but were representative all levels of existence, from the individual, to society, to the universe as a whole. In Metaphysica (Metaphysics), Aristotle wrote: Pythagoreans applied themselves to mathematics, and […]

  • 1.1: The Fundamental Vibration of Nature

    1In 1994, Dr. Masaru Emoto began taking photos of ice crystals. What he found was that environmental surroundings had different effects on the nature of the crystals. The crystals formed at Mt. Fuji, for example, had a different structure to those found at the Rocky Mountains. He then extended this study to include a study […]

  • An artist’s job is not for small talk

    Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, once told me a story about a reception she was at where Bob Dylan was in attendance. The business people there were quietly commenting on how unsociable Dylan seemed to them, not what they imagined an encounter with Dylan would be like. When that observation about Dylan's behavior and disposition were […]

  • Arnold on culture

    “Culture, the acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world, and thus with the history of the human spirit.” Matthew Arnold (poet and scholar), Preface to Literature and Dogma (1873 edition),, accesssed 29 August 2021.

  • Playing by the mood of the audience

    Rachmaninoff sent fellow composer/pianist Medtner his Corelli Variations.  He wrote: I played them here about fifteen times, but of these fifteen performances, only one was good.  The others were sloppy.  I can't play my own compositions!  And it's so boring! Not once have I played these all in continuity.  I was guided by the coughing […]

  • Beethoven and food

    When he [Beethoven] came to Vienna, he knew nothing at all of the fine art of cooking.  He cared little about good food, his favorite dish being a mess of macaroni with plenty of cheese on top.  He liked, too, the simplest kind of stew, and fish from the Danube.  Ignaz Seyfried reported that Beethoven […]

  • Sight singing with Handel

    When Handel travelled through Chester, on his way to Ireland, this year, 1741 (to give the first performance of Messiah), I was at the Public School in that city and very well remember seeing him [Handel] smoke a pipe, over a dish of coffee, at the Exchange Coffee House; for being extremely curious to see […]

  • Just a few variations

    Tchaikovsky was an enthusiastic student at the St. Petersberg Conservatoire.  Anton Rubinstein asked Tchaikvosky to write a series of contrapuntal variations on a given theme.  "I expected that he would present me with about a dozen.  But Tchaikovsky turned up the next class day with more than two hundred!" Cited in: Hanson, Lawrence and Elisabeth […]

  • Teddy Bear’s Picnic

    American composer John Bratton wrote the music for “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in 1907. It was first published by M. Witmark & Sons as a piano work titled “The Teddy Bears Picnic. Characteristic Two Step”. Irishman Jimmy Kennedy added the lyrics in 1932. Dance Band leader Henry Hall hosted a radio program on the BBC which […]

  • The purpose of the theater

    “Do you know why I abandoned all my personal affairs and took up the theater? Because the theater is the most powerful pulpit, more powerful in its influence than books or the press. This pulpit fell into the hands of the rabble of humanity, and they turned it into a place of depravity. … My […]

  • Part of Your World

    “Any Broadway musical would be lucky to include a single number this good.” — Janet Maslin, in The New York Times on Alan Menken/Howard Ashman’s “Part of Your World,” from The Little Mermaid.  Darryn King, “Alan Menken: The Man Who Relaunched Disney’s Fortunes with Songs,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July, 2016. Accessed 16 July 2016.

  • Menken on the the strength of music

    “It’s like, why move to Florida if you don’t like the sun?” says Menken when I visit his home in North Salem, an hour out of New York. “Music is a viscerally powerful medium, both on a bodily level and on an emotional level. There are intellectual components about it, but its basic strength comes […]

  • Performance practice issues in Russian Piano Music

    ABSTRACT The nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed the rapid growth of musical culture in Russia. This resulted in a large repertoire of piano music — ranging from miniatures to virtuosic etudes and sonatas. Growing out of the nineteenth century romantic tradition, and highly influenced by the social conditions of the time, Russian composers developed a distinctive style which […]

  • Philosophy

    “Philosophy is doubt.” – Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, French writer Rosenberg, Max (1955) Introduction to Philosophy.  New York: Philosophical Library, p. 14.

  • Encouraging progress

    “I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” – Charles M. Schwab, American businessman Cited at Quotd.

  • Recipe for success

    “A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.”— Charles M. Schwab, American businessman Peale, Norman (2003) Enthusiasm Makes the Difference. New York, Fireside, p.4

  • Personality

    “Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower.” – Charles M. Schwab, The Ten Commandments of Success

  • Talent is best used

    “The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet

  • Try, try, try

    “Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” – W. Clement Stone, American businessman

  • There is no failure

    “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard, American author, artist, and philosopher

  • You cannot hope for substance

    “You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance.” – Charles Ives, American composer

  • Context and beauty

    “When you’re young, you can be taken with the impulse of the moment and the beauty of a phrase, but the older you get, the more you see that the phrase is only beautiful because of the context within which it works.  The melody is only the outward manifestation of something quite deep inside and […]

  • Murray Perahia

    “It’s a very reactionary viewpoint and I’m slightly ashamed, but I find it very difficult to access contemporary music. I am not prejudiced, but my work in tonal music leads me to believe nothing can be organic if it doesn’t have a [sense of] “home.”  This idea of belonging, or home, can’t be an intellectual […]

  • Perahia on Beethoven

    Murray Perahia initially found Beethoven hard to understand: “I was always working on Beethoven, but I couldn’t feel close to him.  For nearly ten years I didn’t altogether like his music because I felt it showed an aggressive, up-front personality.”  But after studying, performing, and recording Beethoven (Appasionata,op. 2, op. 101 and the Piano Concertos), […]

  • Early music discovered on carving

    A craftsman replicating large medallions has discovered medieval Scottish notation of instrumental music.  The notation is sequences of 0s, Is and IIs. Barnaby Brown, a specialist in early Scottish music, notated that, “This discovery is potentially of great significance to our understanding of medieval and Renaissance instrumental music – the normally ‘unwritten’ practice of the elite court […]

  • Loyalty to a lead

    John Sublett (stage name, John Bubbles) was a tap dancer unable to read music.  He was chosen by Gershwin to perform the role of Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess.  However…. Rehearsing as Sporting Life, John Bubbles was a special problem.  He was so laid back as to be often absent when needed.  At one […]

  • Gershwin’s playing (and sense of humour)

    The composer Burton Lane describes George Gershwin’s playing: You could feel the electricity going through the room when he played.  He could transpose into any key with the greatest of ease.  He had total command of what he was doing.  Musical surprises, unusual changes of keys.  He was one of the few composers who had […]

  • What about me?

    Songwriter Johnny Green recalled Gershwin bragging about his achievements after a concert, eventually to stop and say: “That’s enough about me.  Now what did you think about how I played?” Cited in: Greenberg, Rodney (2008) George Gershwin.  New York: Phaidon Press, p.46.

  • Gershwin’s romantic side

    Rodney Greenberg describes a side of George Gershwin’s “romantic side”: He wrote a little waltz-song, which he would sing and play to his current dating partner.  It was, in effect, what his friend Kitty Carlisle (who later married playwright Moss Hart) described as his “mating call”, because he left a blank space in the lyrics […]

  • Transforming Bach’s Cantatas into an opera

    Theatre director Herbert Wernicke has taken six of Bach’s Cantatas dealing with the frailty of the human condition and presented them in a staging of mundane human activities.  Albrecht Puhlmann, the general director of Stuttgart Opera, states that “From the woman with the baby to the coffin being carried out, life and death is being […]

  • Gershwin conducting

    Isaac Goldberg described Gershwin’s enthusiasm when conducting: He conducted not just with his baton, but with his cigar, his shoulders, his hips, his eyes and whatnot.  Nothing but a sense of propriety keeps him from leaping over the footlights and getting right into the show himself. Cited in: Greenberg, Rodney (2008) George Gershwin.  New York: Phaidon […]

  • Gershwin: the life at the party

    Gershwin was often the life of a party, entertaining on the piano.  He said: “The trouble is, when I don’t play at a party I don’t have a good time.” Cited in: Greenberg, Rodney (2008) George Gershwin.  New York: Phaidon Press, p.47.

  • George Gershwin at the piano

    The theatre director Rouben Mamoulian describes Gershwin’s playing: George at the piano was George happy … like a sorcerer celebrating his Sabbath.  He would draw out a lovely melody like a golden thread, then juggle it, twist it and toss it around mischievously, weave it into unexpected intricate patterns, and hurl it into a cascade […]

  • Rachmaninoff scares me

    Cyril Smith recounts Rachmaninoff’s stage presence: Those who were fortunate enough to hear him play will almost certainly remember this very tall, melancholy figure, with his graying hair in a crew cut and his deeply-lined face set in a somber expression, walking unwillingly to the piano as though he hated the very sight of  it.  […]

  • Maurice Ravel: Menuet sur le dom d’Haydn; Menuet Antique; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Sonatine

    Ravel’s style — elegant, and refined — was highly influenced by eighteenth classicism (e.g., Mozart) and the early French keyboard composers (e.g., Couperin). Stravinsky once described Ravel as a “Swiss watchmaker”, due to Ravel’s attention to detail. Ravel wrote: “I never put down a work until I have made absolutely certain that there is nothing […]

  • Franz Schubert: Six Moments Musicaux (Musical Moments), op.94

    (i) Moderato (C major) (ii) Andantino (A-flat major) (iii) Allegro moderato (f minor) (iv) Moderato (c-sharp minor)/ (v) Allegro vivace (f minor) (vi) Allegretto (A-flat major) In 1929, Oscar Bie reflected on Schubert: That face! . . . It is the face of a teacher, but not of a strict one. The hair curls about […]

  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 67

    I. Andante-Moderato II. Allegro non troppo III. Largo IV. Allegretto Having recently finished his Eighth Symphony, Shostakovich stated work on his second Piano Trio in late 1943: Chamber music demands of a composer the most impeccable technique and depth of thought. I don’t think I will be wrong if I say that composers sometimes hide […]

  • Eugène Ysaÿe: Violin Sonata No. 4

    Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931) was a Belgian violinist, conductor and composer. Carl Flesch described him has “the most outstanding and individual violinist I have ever heard in my life.” Franck’s Violin Sonata, Chausson’s Poem and violin concerto, and Debussy’s string quartets were all dedicated to Ysaÿe. Ysaÿe wrote six sonatas for solo violin, each dedicated to […]

  • Claude Debussy: Rêverie

    Fromont published Rêverie years after Debussy had given it to them. By this time, Debussy’s opinion of it had changed: “I regret very much your decision to publish Rêverie… I wrote it in a hurry years ago, purely for material considerations. It is a work of no consequence and I frankly consider it no good.” […]

  • Claude Debussy: Suite Bergamasque

    I. Prélude II. Menuet III. Claire de Lune IV. Passepied The term “bergamasque” refers to the ancient city of Bergame, located forty kilometres east of Milan. The character of its citizens (“rustic and clumsy”) was personified by a series of dances and the Italian comic character Harlequin (1572). This comic character is evident particularly in […]

  • Franz Joseph Haydn: Piano Trio (Hob. XV, No. 25) “Gypsy Trio”

    I. Andante II. Poco Adagio III Rondo all’Ongarese Chamber music in the eighteenth century was written for and performed for the aristocracy. Music was an aesthetic pleasure: thus an emphasis was placed on musical balance and clarity in the context of an expressive style: evident particularly in the first two movements of this trio, which […]

  • Anton Arensky: Trio in D minor for violin, cello, and piano (op. 32)

    I. Allegro moderato II. Scherzo: Allegro molto-Meno Mosso-Allegro molto III. Elegia: Adagio IV: Finale: Allegro non troppo Accounts of Arensky are of a juxtaposed nature. On the personal level, he was described by Tchaikovsky as incredibly nervous, and he was never known to have a romantic attachment. He was considered “the most delicate person by […]

  • Frédéric Chopin: Nocturnes

    Op. 9, no. 2 (Eb major)Op. 15, no. 3 (G minor)Op. 27, no. 1 (C-sharp minor)Op. 27, no. 2 (Db major) Chopin, while Polish by birth established his career in Paris, where his music was well received in intimate venues. In an article in Revue Musicale in 1832, François-Joseph Fétis wrote that Chopin “has found, […]

  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata for violin and obbligato keyboard in A major (BWV 1015)

    I. Dolce II. Allegro assai III. Andante un poco IV. Presto Prior to J. S. Bach, the harpsichord in ensemble music was primarily a means of harmonic support. The harpsichordist would read from a figured bass—in other words, the part was rarely written out in full. Bach raised the level importance of the harpsichord to […]

  • Jean Sibelius: Bagatelles (op. 97)

    (i) Humoresque I (ii) Song (iii) Little Waltz (iv) Humorous March (v) Impromptu “Never write an unnecessary note. Every note must live”.1 — Sibelius The miniature is the perfect genre to master this philosophy. Sibelius wrote the Opus 97 Bagatelles in 1920, in between his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. The quirky nature of these Bagatelles […]

  • The excitement of all possibilities

    “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of all possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem, writer  

  • Fightened of ideas

    “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage Cited in: Richard Kostelantez. Conversing with Cage (New York : Limelight Editions, 1988).

  • Hoffman on technique

    Technic  represents the material side of art, as money represents the material side of life.  By all means achieve a fine technic, but do no dream that you will be artistically happy with this alone.  There is a technic which liberates and a technic which represents the artistic self.  All technic ought to be a […]

  • The musician’s quest

    The violinist Ivan Galamian describes the musician’s quest for a goal greater than mere technical accomplishment: A complete technique .. implies the ability to do justice, with unfailing reliability and control, to each and every demand of the most refined musical imagination.  It enables the performer, when he has formed an ideal concept of how […]

  • It’s not hard work

    “Talent labors, genius creates.” Florestan (one of Schumann’s characters) Robert Schumann,Gesammelte Schriften über Musik und Muisker  (Leipzig, 1854), IV.  Cited in Weiss, Piero & Taruskin, Richard (2008) Music in the Western World: A History in Documents.  California: Thomson, p. 306.

  • A noisy neighbour

    The Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev was evicted from his lodgings on several occasions on account of the noise which accompanied his endeavors. Eventually he stopped composing at the piano, using it only to test certain harmonic combinations. This practice proved adequate until his work was interrupted one day by the arrival of a policeman: “You […]

  • Music stirred him

    “Music had stirred him like that.  Music had troubled him many times.  But music was not articulate.  It was not a new world, but rather another chaos, that it created in us.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey.

  • Bernstein’s response to violence

    This will be our response to violence To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.  – Leonard Bernstein.

  • Not up to form, because …

    Harvey Sach’s comments on pianist Author Rubinstein at age 13: …it is clear that Arthur’s practising began to deteriorate when he was about fourteen years old.  He would mechanically play through one-handed exercises and use his free hand to feed himself chocolates or cherries, while he read a book that he had propped up on […]

  • The significance of the individual

      “You are an extremely valuable, worthwhile, significant person even though your present circumstances may have you feeling otherwise.” – James Newmann, American mathematician

  • The value of preparation

    “Be ready when opportunity comes…. Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.” — Roy D. Chapin Jnr., Chariman American motors association J. Roberts, The Big Book of Business Quotations: Over 1,400 of the Smartest Things Ever Said about Making Money, Simon and Schuster, 2016.

  • Be a dreamer

    “Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.” – Jim Valvano, American basketball coach

  • The cycle of masterpieces

    “Only mediocrities progress. An artist revolves in a cycle of masterpieces, the first of which is no less perfect than the last.” – Oscar Wilde, in a letter to the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, 22 September 1894

  • Writing music is easier than words

    "I would rather write 10,000 notes than one letter of the alphabet."' Beethoven.  Letter, 28 November 1820.  Cited in: Kelly, Henry & Foley, John (1998) Classic FM: Musical Anecdotes.  London: Hodder & Stouhgtan, p.68.

  • A specialized skill set

    “You know I’m a useless kind of man apart from my music.” – Tchaikovsky Cited in: Hanson, Lawrence and Elisabeth (1965) Tchaikovsky: A New Study of the Man and His Music.  London: Cassell & Company, p.179.

  • Inner-most feelings can be expressed in music

    Taneyev was critical of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. Tchaikovsky’s response ended with: “I can see you laughing as you read all of this, you sceptic and mocking-bird.  In spite of your great love of music it seems you still can’t believe that a man can express his inmost feelings in his compositions.  You just wait!” Cited […]

  • The effect of Tchaikovsky’s music on his patroness

    Nadyezhda Filaretovna von Meck was Tchaikovsky’s patroness.  In March 1877 she wrote of the effect of Tchaikovsky’s music on her.  The work being described is a Marche Funèbre on a theme from Oprichnik (this work is now lost).    It is so superb that, as I had hoped, it elevates and transports me into a […]

  • Tchaikovsky as a teacher

    Tchaikovsky disliked teaching at the best of times, but he particularly didn’t enjoy teaching female students, most of whom, in this period of history, were of an amateur status: Although it is a dreary business to have been forced to explain to my young men’s classes for eleven consecutive years what a triad consists of, […]

  • Older version of Molly Malone discovered

    A tiny 18th-century book has turned up in Hay-on-Wye containing the earliest known version of Sweet Molly Malone, almost a century older than Dublin’s unofficial anthem. Maev Kennedy, “Tart with a cart? Older song shows Dublin’s Molly Malone in new light”, The Guardian, 18 July 2010. Click here to view article

  • An insight into the “Happy Birthday” tune

    “Happy Birthday to You” is not an accidental success. It is not a traditional song nor did it appear ex nihilo. It originated with the Hill sisters, Patty and Mildred, and was first sung in a kindergarten classroom in Louisville, Kentucky in the late 19th century, back when kindergarten was a social experiment. Patty Smith […]

  • Berlioz on editorial license

    “You musicians, you poets, prose-writers, actors, pianists, conductors, whether of third or second or even first rank, you do not have the right to meddle with a Shakespeare or a Beethoven, in order to bestow on them the blessings of your knowledge and taste.” – Hector Berlioz, on tampering with fine creations (in this case, […]

  • We can’t all play first violin

    “If all would play first violin, we could not obtain an orchestra. Therefore esteem every musician in his place.” — Robert Schumann Robert Schumann (translated by Henry Hugo Pierson), Advice to Young Musicains [Musikalische Haus- und Lebens-Regeln]. New York: J. Schuberth & Co., accessed 29 August 2021.

  • The role of the arts in society

    The Eighteenth Weimar Classicists’ (e.g., Goethe, Shiller) conception of art expanded past the arts themselves, but also embraced all elements of society.  John Armstrong states: The aim of art is to ennoble us, to make us whole and balanced; then we can engage maturely and sensibly  in political processes.  The aim of their “classical art” […]

  • Puccini’s hangout

    Puccini was a very sociable man, quote often putting this before his composing.  Even when he was working hard, he maintained an active social life: With the opening of the 1894-1895 season not far way, Puccini began steady work on La Bohème in Torre.  But he also needed a place to relax, so his “second […]

  • What we play

    “What we play is life.” Louis Armstrong, Jazz musician Cited at: Satchmo, “Louis Armstrong Quotes and Tributes.”, accessed 6 September 2021.

  • It’s my apartment and I’ll play if I want to

    Prokofiev and his family moved into a small top floor-apartments in Paris.  Prokofiev spent much time practicing a revised version of his second piano concerto (which was to be premiered 8 May 1924).  The apartment manager demanded that Prokofiev cease playing.  His wife Lina recalled Prokofiev’s response: All right then, you don’t want to hear […]

  • Brahm’s first meeting with Schumann

    He [Brahms] sat down and began the sonata which had so impressed Joachim [a violinist].  As he played, a swift change transformed [Robert] Schumann’s impassive features.  The Master listened with growing interest, then suddenly sprang to his feet. “Please”, he cried.  “Will you wait just a moment? Clara -” He hurried to the door and […]

  • Rachmaninoff the examiner

    In 1900, Rachmaninoff worked at the Yekaterininsky Girls’ Institute.  One of his students recalled her experience of examination day: The lessens after luncheon seem an eternity – the examination is to begin at 4.I straighten the front bow of my apron, gather my music together, and run to the music room.  The students to be […]

  • Liszt meets Beethoven

    I was about eleven years old when my respected teacher Czerny took me to see Beethoven.  Already a long time before, he had told Beethoven about me and asked him to give me a hearing some day.  However, Beethoven had such an aversion to infant prodigies that he persistently refused to see me.  At last […]

  • Beethoven’s shutters

    Beethoven moved often, and his landlords were not always keen to have him back. While he was working on the Ninth Symphony in 1923, Beethoven couldn’t stand his present lodgings in Hetzendorf, as the landlord, Baron Pronay, constantly bowed to him when they met.He sought lodgings where he had previously stayed in Baden.  The landlord […]

  • Half a sonata

    Sergei Prokofiev was once asked to give a piano recital. He declined, offering this explanation: “It would cost me half a sonata.” Source: Samuel, Prokofiev

  • Too much pedal

    Johannes Brahms could be incredibly rude, even to his friends. While playing a Beethoven sonata with a cellist friend one day, he applied his piano’s pedals with more enthusiasm than the friend had hoped. “Softer,” he pleaded, “I can’t hear my cello.” “You are lucky,” Brahms replied. “I can.” Source: N. Slonimsky, Book of Musical […]

  • Any room for me?

    “Arthur Rubinstein was standing in the lobby of a concert hall proudly watching the audience filing in to hear one of his recitals.  Finally, when the last one had gone in, Rubinstein made a move to enter.  An usher blocked his way.  ‘Sold out, mister’, he said, and to reinforce his words he pointed to […]

  • Finding the voice of Piazzolla

    I was writing symphonies, chamber music, string quartets. But when Nadia Boulanger analyzed my music, she complained that she couldn’t find any Piazzolla in there. She could find Ravel and Stravinsky, maybe Bela Bartok or Hindemith, but never Piazzolla. The truth is I was ashamed to tell her that I was a tango musician, that […]

  • Beethoven and the candlesitcks

    Beethoven once gave a performance of a new piano concerto in which he forgot he was the soloist and began to conduct instead.  At the first sforzando he threw out his arms so vehemently that he knocked both candlesticks off the piano.  The audience burst out laughing, which enraged Beethoven.  He made the orchestra start […]

  • A simple request

    Humorists Ilf and Petrov described a concert by Rachmaninoff In New York (November 1935): The night we went to hear him he appeared tall, bent, and thin, with a long sad face, his hair closely clipped; he sat down at the piano, separated the folds of his old-fashioned back swallowtail, adjusted one of his cuffs […]

  • Beyond the comfort zone

    I believe one shouldn’t be too comfortable when listening to really great music.  To appreciate good music, one must be mentally alert, and emotionally receptive.  You can’t be that when you are sitting at home with your feet on a chair. No, listening to  music is more strenuous than that.  Music is like the poetry;  […]

  • A motorboat experience

    Rachmaninoff was a great lover of motorboating and used to go out every day.  He always steered himself.  Often he went out alone.  This hobby of his nearly proved fatal during that stay of ours.  About an hour before dinner he said: “I think I shall go for a spin on the lake.” He got […]

  • A mushroom anyone?

    …everybody was possessed by the Russian passion for gathering mushrooms.  Rivalries ran high, mushrooms were counted and compared, their beauty was discussed.  Rachmaninoff was an early riser and often went alone for a walk in the woods.  He used to return contented and start teasing (he was a great teaser).  One day he badgered us […]

  • Tchaikovsky and mushroom collecting

    Like so many Russians, he was a madly keen collector of mushrooms and could indulge his passion freely at Klin; the woods and fields around his house were filled with them.  However, as anyone will know who has taken to the sport, there are mushroom collectors and mushroom collectors; some have the eye for it, […]

  • A carriage of flowers for Tchaikovsky

    Tchaikovsky’s favourite flower was lilies of the valley.  The local musical society at Tiflis was extremely enthusiastic to have the presence of Tchaikovsky at a gala concert of his works at the Opera House: Ippolitov-Ivanov had thought of everything, even finding out by devious means what his favourite flower was.  This flower did not grow […]

  • Tchaikovsky and the village children

    Tchaikovsky lived in a village Maidanovo.  When Tchaikovsky would go for works, he would also be hailed by groups of village children.  As Sofya Nikolayevna recalled: “They had discovered the times he went out and, as he always liked to gave them something, sweets or a coin, they used to lie in wait for him.” […]

  • True greatness

    Life is made up of little things. It is very rarely that an occasion is offered for doing a great deal at once. True greatness consists in being great in little things. – Charles Simmons (1852) A Laconic Manual and Brief Remarker: Containing Over a Thousand Subjects.  North Wrentham: Charles Simmons, p. 315.  Digitally archived […]

  • The forgotten aspect of music

    “One of things that’s been forgotten in music for a long time is the ability to be nakedly emotional”. David Lang, composer Cited in “When Opera Is New and Unproved”, Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 7 September 2008.

  • Discovery

    “Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.” Albert Szent-Györgyi , American bio-chemist.

  • The James Bond theme

    John Barry did not get the chance to see any footage and he had not read any of Ian Fleming’s books when he was called in to work on the music for the first James Bond film, Dr No (1962), for which Monty Norman had originally been commissioned to write the score.  “I was just […]

  • The best music

    “The best music is the music that persuades us that there is no other music in the world.” – Alex Ross, music critic  Cited in: Ross, Alex, “From Classical to punk”, Limelight, January 2011, p.29.

  • Feel creates thought

    Feeling creates thought, men willingly agree; but they will not so willingly agree that thought creates feeling, though this is scarcely less true. — Nicolas Chamfort (Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort) S. Chamfort, Maxims and Considerations of Chamfort, Volume 2, Trans. E. Mathers, Golden Cockerel Press, 1926, p. 22.  

  • Technology and the future of music

    The future direction of music demands that musicians today lose themselves in technology and learn from their mistakes. In the past, musicians tended to view technology as a nuisance—something someone else did so they could be left alone to create. But technology and music are merging rapidly—forcing musicians to view software as part of their […]

  • Art is meant to be uplifting

    “Art,” announces Pat Buchanan to Charlie Rose, “is meant to be uplifting.” What a relief!  After all these years I’d never realized that Art had a moral purpose.  No more need now to be upset by Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, Picasso and Goya, Stravinsky and Berg, Sophocles and Williams.  Pat has clarified the rules, set the […]

  • Cure for the common chord

    He [John Holmes] entered my room around midnight and said, “‘Eureka!’ shouted Arnold Schoenberg. ‘I’ve found the cure for the common chord.’” Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary 1986-1999.  Cambridge: MA: Da Capo Press, p.104.

  • What is an artist?

    “What is an artist? An artist is a tortured being who, when he opens his mouth to scream, only beautiful sounds emerge.” (Or something like that.)… Do I believe this at all?  It was John Cage who first exposed us to this gorgeous phrase.  In 1945?  Cage the Romantic? Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary […]

  • A hundred violins may play softer than one

    John Holmes “reiterates that only with a large group can you get a truly soft sound. Sure, a solo fiddle can hold its own against a hundred fiddles: a hundred fiddles are never a hundred times louder than a solo at the same dynamic, since there’s no such animal as “a same dynamic,” or even […]

  • Underrated and overrated composers

    “Polls of various musical personalities (but not me) in the Times about who’s underrated and who’s overrated.  Naturally Vivaldi is deemed overrated in the light of Bach.  Since everyone knows he’s overrated.  I’d have said he’s the most underrated of overrated composers.” Ned Rorem (2000) Lies: A Diary 1986-1999.  Cambridge: MA: Da Capo Press, p.82. […]

  • The musician’s role: maintain our trust in the world

    “I feel that tolerance, love and social harmony can and should be the by-products of an artist’s way of life and creation.  I would like to believe that beauty and truth, two great disciplines, when combined as they are in music, where order is based on self-restraint and a better understanding of repose, will lead […]

  • Music as a means of common meditation

    “There is also in this music an extraordinary sense of control over the passage of time; a moment will be held still as if suspended, and then released, with a rush.  Einstein has told us that time is relative, flexible and elastic; I have noticed these qualities whenever I have tried to play to the […]

  • The limits of imagination

    You’re travelling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound… but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land, whose boundaries are only that of the imagination… you’re entering… the Twilight Zone… – Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone

  • Smooth jazz finds new way to reach audiences

    With shifts in the commercial music industry away from smooth jazz, musicians are finding new niches for smooth jazz such as cruises. Twenty years ago, of course, smooth jazz wasn’t a code to be cracked so much as a wave to be caught. Like most species of pop, it felt ubiquitous and maybe a little […]

  • The cleansing power of music

    Each art endeavors to isolate itself, to remain independent of all others. But a play without music is like a feast without wine. Music cleanses the soul from the dust and dross of every day life and seems to say to every one: ‘You are no longer in your office, in the barracks, or in […]

  • On thinking

    “If you make people think they’re thinking they’ll love you: but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.” Don Marquis, American writer, poet & artist. Creator of the characters such as Archy (1916), a cockroach who had been a poet in a previous life, who supposedly left poems on Marquis’ typewriter by jumping […]

  • Hope

    “Hope is the dream of a soul awake.”— French proverb. R. A. Krieger, Civilization’s Quotations: Life’s Ideal, New York, Algora Publishing, 2002, p.151. 

  • The orchestra as a symbol of unity

    “You see behind me a symphony orchestra.  Every single one of the instruments has an entirely different background and history; they come from different places …; they’ve had different developments; they sound different… And so, the next time your soul sings, assailed with some sort of horrid indication that people can’t get along together, please […]

  • Following the crowd

    “The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” Alan Ashley-Pitt (Francis Phillip Wernig) Cited in: Eda LeShan (1973) The Wonderfujl Crisis of Middle Age.  New York: Warner Books, p. 304.

  • Aim above the mark

    “If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it; Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), American poet.

  • To be a good player

    Bach was once complemented on his organ playing: “There is nothing remarkable about it.  All one has to do is hit the right notes at the right time, and the instrument plays itself.” Quoted by Johann Friedrich Köhler, Leipzig, after 1776.  Hans-Joachim Schulze, ed. Dokumente zum Nachwirken Johann Sebastian Bachs, 1750-1800. Bach-Dokumente, III. 1972, no. […]

  • Go for long walks

    Rachmaninoff once urged Horowitz to go for long walks.  “If you don’t walk, your fingers will not run.” Abram Chasins, “The Return of Horowitz”, The Saturday Evening Post, October 22, 1966, p.102-3. Cited in: Gerig, Reginald (1974) Famous Pianists and Their Technique.  Washington: Robert V. Luce, p.307.

  • Bunking down in the Philharmonic

    Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, after running into some problems with his accommodation, was spending a cold November day in the Tiergarten, Berlin, in 1923. Throughout the course of the day, he was approached by Paul Bose to play Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. It began to rain. In Moscow it probably is snowing now, I thought absently, making […]

  • Pierrot Lunairre

    A performance of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was given by Artur Schnabel (piano), Boris Kroyt (violin), Gregor Piatigorsky (cello), Paul Bose (flute), Marie Gutheil-Schoder (speaker), conducted by Fritz Stiedry. Gregor Piatigorsky was amused at the need for a conductor, given the size of the ensemble: The half-spoken, half-sung voice indicated in the score was partly filled […]

  • Stokowski playing Bach on the organ

    Stewart Warkov, assistant manager of the Symphony of The Air in 1961 described Stokowski playing Bach on the organ: Stokowski played Bach on the organ for me, each time one of the great pieces he had arranged. The sound, the phrasing, and the registration, the ritards and the accelerandos, gave me the impression of hearing […]

  • A practice regime

    After a year’s sabbatical in 1953, the pianist Horowitz found a routine and rebuilt his technique: I realized I had to work out new daily schedules for myself – so much time for study, for rest, for reflection, for exercise … Soon my days had a new rhythm, a new serenity.  Every day I start […]

  • A very specific error indeed

    The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow: The newspaper critics Bülow continued to despise because of their self-importance, and he lost no opportunity to expose their musical ignorance.  On one occasion, Bülow, at a public rehearsal in the Philharmonie, remarked upon a printing error in the second horn part of the […]

  • Don’t wish me luck

    “From here on out, I declare that no one ever wish me again to ‘break a leg’”. Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo soprano, shortly after having broken a leg on stage in a production of The Barber of Serville at the Royal Opera House. DiDonato insisted on continuing the performance in a wheel chair. Source: Kirkup, […]

  • Here’s a pencil … and an eraser

    ‘The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow: Young composers whom Bülow decided to feature in the concerts were encouraged to present themselves at the rehearsals, and even to direct the orchestra themselves, whenever it was deemed to be helpful.  We can only admire the resourcefulness of the budding symphonist who, in […]

  • Where to curse the orchestra

    The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow: Bülow’s close relationship with his Berlin audience was not achieved without some stress and strain along the way.  At a Philharmonic concert in January 1892, a half-dozen latecomers, who had been held up at the cloakroom during the intermission, made a noisy entrance in […]

  • Form and content

    “I think that one way toward a more intelligent and involved appraisal is through a connection with the pieces, and that one way to develop that connection is to talk about what the pieces mean to people who have spent a lot of time with them: the content, if you will. This approach can also […]

  • Szymanowski’s dogs

    The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski was brought up in  very musical environment: he had a dogs named “Scherzo” and “Crotchet”. Source: Palmer, Christopher (1983) Szymanowski.  London: BBC, p. 9.

  • Adding quality music to the world

    “My music is melodic.  After all, why add to the world’s problem’s with bad music.” Alexander Prior, composer. Source: Classic FM, December 2009, p.9

  • Baroque they are not

    Between 1910 and 1938 the Austrian violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler produced some arrangements of works by Boccherini, Martini, Couperin, Vivaldi and Porpora. They were positively achieved by the crticis.  In 1935, Kreisler revealed that there were not arrangements at all, but in fact works which he had written from scratch.  Suddenly critic’s attitudes to the […]

  • Who needs four strings anyway?

    In his work Le Streghe (The Witches), the virtuoso violinist Paganini would use scissors to reduce the number of strings on his violin throughout the piece, until he would be left playing the work on just the G string. Source: Haylock, Julian, “Nicolo Paganini”, Classic FM, December 2009, p. 41.

  • That which precedes success

    “I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.” — Thomas Edison, American inventor A. R. Calhoun How to Get On in the World; or, a Ladder to Pratical Success, New York, 1895, p.137.  Digitally archived at:, accessed 18 September 2021. 

  • A man is not a failure until …

    What is luck?  Is it being in the right place at the right time?  I think it is something more.  Luck is the active process of creating the life you want.  So don’t just sit back and hope that good things will happen to you.  Be courageous and go after what you want.  Commit to […]

  • Baudelaire on inspiration

    “Inspiration is merely the reward for working every day!” – Charles Baudelaire (French poet).  According to Roland-Manuel, Ravel would often recite this phrase.  Source: Nichols, Roger (1987) Ravel Remembered.  London: Faber & Faber, p. 143.

  • Ravel’s fashion sense

    Ravel was always particular about his sense of fashion.  As Léon-Paul Fargue recalled: Even when he was wasted by illness, Ravel never appeared unkept even among his closest friends.  All his life he kept the perfect, discriminating taste which led him to match his braces to his blue or pink silk shirts, much to the […]

  • It’s two-four … It’s three-four

    Chopin had a free sense of rhythm.  In 1842, Chopin was giving a lessen to Wilhem von Lenz when Meyerbeer walked in.  The Mazurka (op. 33 no. 3) was being played.  von Lenz recounts: Meyerbeer had seated himself; Chopin let me play on. “That is two-four time,” said Meyerbeer. For reply, Chopin made me repeat, […]

  • The effort is better than rest

    “Writing music is seventy-five per cent an intellectual activity.  This effort is often more pleasant for me than having a rest.” Conversation with Ravel, recalled by Robert de Fragny, Echo liberté, 7 November 1950. Cited in: Nichols, Roger (1987) Ravel Remembered.  London: Faber & Faber., p. 61.

  • Knowledge and Wisdom

    “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” Martin H. Fischer, German born American physician and author. Encore : A Continuing Anthology‬ (March 1945) edited by Smith Dent, “Fischerisms” p. 309.

  • A man’s money

    “Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything is always a portrait of himself and the more he tries to conceal himself the more clearly will his character appear in spite of him.” Samuel Butler, The Way of the Flesh  (1903). Forgotten books, p. 60. Cited at Google […]

  • The role of schooling

    You go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits, for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual position, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to […]

  • First class regardless

    The composer Karol Szymanowski was born into a landowning class family.  Even, later in life, when short for money, he always retained the mindset of this class: At one time in Vienna, Szymanowski discovered that he did not have enough money to travel to Cracow, so some friends of him lent him the required sum. […]

  • Ravel’s compositional process

    Robert de Fragny recalled a conversation with Ravel about his compositional process: The G major Concerto took two years of work, you know.  The opening theme came to me on a train between Oxford and London. But the initial idea is nothing.  The work of chiseling then begun.  We’ve gone past the days when the […]

  • Start with one note

    Ravel in conversation with Mme André Bloch: “I don’t have ideas.  To begin with, nothing forces itself on me.” “But if there’s no beginning, how do you follow it up? What do you write down first of all?” “A note at random, then a second one and, sometimes, a third.  I then see what results.  […]

  • Bernstein’s television appearances

    Bernstein is intent on demonstrating that the inevitable doesn’t just happen. It comes from intense work. To show this, he restores a handful of Beethoven’s discarded sketches to the score so that we can hear how the Fifth would have sounded if Beethoven had retained his first (or second or 10th) thought. Some discarded passages […]

  • Our modernized world needs music

    “Our modernized minds need to be musicalized. We have defied the intellect … and developed only half of man’s possibilities. There is no other human activity that asks for such a harmonious cooperation of “intellect” and “soul” as artistic creation, especially music.” Ernst Levy, Swiss composer, musicologist, pianist and conductor. Cited in: Kimball, K., Petersen, […]

  • People must hear me

    “I cannot tell you how much I love to play for people. Would you believe it – sometimes when I sit down to practice and there is no one else in the room, I have to stifle an impulse to ring for the elevator man and offer him money to come in and hear me.” […]

  • Study music profoundly

    “The advice I am giving always to my students is above all to study the music profoundly.  Because the music is like the ocean, and the instruments are little or bigger islands, very beautiful for the flowers and trees, or the contrary.” Andrés Segovia, guitarist.  Cited in: Cited in: Kimball, K., Petersen, R., Johnson, K. […]

  • Art and patience

    “Good art is nothing more than infinite patience.” William Wallace Kimball, founder of Kimball Piano Company Cited in: Cited in: Kimball, K., Petersen, R., Johnson, K. (1990) The Music Lover’s Quotation Book. Toronto: Sound and Vision, p. 85.

  • Just as we checked the tuning …

    In 1853, Brahms went on a tour of German cities with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi.  In the town of Celle, they were scheduled to play Beethoven’s Sonata in c minor (op. 30, no. 2): but it was found that the piano in the hall was tuned a half tone too low.  Reményi refused to […]

  • Understanding the world

    “If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances.” Jean Sibelius, in conversation with Gustav Mahler, 1907. Cited in: Henry Thomas & Dana Lee Thomas Living Biographies of Great Composers. Garden City (NY): Blue Ribbon, [1940] 1946) p. 309.  [Cited at Wikiquote.]

  • The framework of a symphony

    The framework of a symphony must be so strong that it forces you to follow it regardless of the environment and circumstances: [it is] an “ethical necessity”. Jean Sibelius, to Jussi Jalas, 1 October 1939 Cited at: [accessed 31 Mar 2010].

  • The musical mosaic

    “Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.” Jean Sibelius, quoted by Jalmari Finne to Anna Sarlin, 28th June 1905. Cited at: [accessed 31 Mar 2010].

  • Music is richer than words

    “If I could express the same thing with words as with music, I would, of course, use a verbal expression. Music is something autonomous and much richer. Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.” Jean Sibelius, in an interview with Berlingske Tidende, 10th June 1919. Cited at: […]

  • Waste no note

    “Never write an unnecessary note. Every note must live.” Jean Sibelius, in a radio interview with Kalevi Kilpi, 1948) Cited at: [accessed 31 Mar 2010]. 

  • Misprints remain

    “Some misprints remain on my scores, because for some reason I have always been in a rush to get the proofs to the publisher by the deadline. In the orchestral parts everything has usually been corrected.” Jean Sibelius, to Jussi Jalas, 27th July 1942 Cited at: [accessed 31 Mar 2010].

  • Liberation from formalism

    “The present time has to a great extent liberated itself from symphonic form – from formalism. This started when the concert halls became empty, because that form has nothing to do with human beings. I believe that the present time is progressing.” Jean Sibelius, to Jussi Jalas, 17th July 1946 Cited at: [accessed 31 […]

  • Sibelius’ punch recipe

    “Punch recipe (for Satu’s christening party) 1 l water + sugar + jam + brandy or spirit. Add 2 bottles of wine when everything is completely cold. Add a few drops of Bergamot oil in a lump of sugar, which must be melted in the water. (N.B. All mineral waters make the punch black.” Jean […]

  • Rossini’s salad recipe

    “Take the oil from Provence, English mustard, vinegar from France, a little ‘lemon, pepper, salt, beat and mix together; then add a few truffles, cut into thin slices. Truffles gives this dressing a sort of halo, made especially to fascinate a glutton. The Cardinal Secretary of State, who I met in recent days, gave me […]

  • Rossini and food

    “After doing nothing, I know no more delightful occupation of eating, eat properly, I mean. The appetite is for the stomach what love is for the heart. The stomach is the choirmaster who governs and operates a large orchestra of the passions. An empty stomach is the bassoon or flute in which discontent grumbles or […]

  • Brahms’ stingy side

    Musicologist Richard Leonard describes a stingy side to Brahms’s personality: It is true that at times he was generous, giving away large sums to persons in need, and often imposing a strict secrecy; but about his own affairs he was as congenitally stingy as a peasant.  He bought only the cheapest clothes, wore the same […]

  • A “small” concerto

    “I don’t mind telling you that I have written a tiny, tiny pianoforte concerto with a tiny, tiny wisp of a scherzo.  It is in B flat, and I have reason to fear I have worked this udder, which has always yielded good milk before, too often and too vigorously.” – Brahms on his Second […]

  • Life is green

    “All theory is grey, but the precious tree of life is green.” Maurice Ravel to Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, describing Schoenberg’s intellectualism.  Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, Ravel et nous (Geneva, 1945), p. 104.  Cited in:  Nichols, Roger (1987) Ravel Remembered.  London: Faber & Faber., p. 61.

  • Love your music

    When I was 19 years old I joined Columbia Artists in New York.  It was my first management and a momentous event in my life.  All of a sudden here I was, part of what was perceived to be one of the most prestigious such organizations in the country.  It was a big time and […]

  • Two hands or one

    American pianist Seymour Lipkin, a student of Rudolf Serkin recalled a performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata Back in the 1970s I gave a recital at Curtis at Mr. Serkin’s invitation.  I was playing the Hammerklavier in those years.  Why, in my right mind … I should never have … but I did.  There, sitting in […]

  • Out of practice

    “All I have left is a long nose and a fourth finger out of practice.” Chopin, in Scotland, unable to visit his friend Julian in London because of ill health. Cited in: Zaluski, Iweo & Pamela (1993) The Scottish Autumn of Frederick Chopin. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, p.23.

  • Hogarth on Chopin

    “He accomplishes enormous difficulties, but so quietly, so smoothly and with such constant delicacy and refinement that the listener is not sensible of their real magnitude.  It is the exquisite delicacy, with the liquid mellowness of his tone, and the pearly roundness of his passages of rapid articulation which are the peculiar features of his […]

  • Art to be virtuous

    Any artist knows that the space between the stage where the work is too unformed to have committed itself and the stage where it is too late to improve it can be as thin as a needle.  Genius perhaps consists in opening out this needle-like area until it covers almost the whole of the working […]

  • Mozart’s masterpieces

    “Mozart makes you believe in God – much more than going to church – because it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and then passes after thirty-six years, leaving behind such an unbounded number of unparalleled masterpieces.” Sir Georg Solti Source: Kelly, Henry & Foley, John (1998) Classic FM […]

  • Guiding concepts of artistic creation

    “…few of us talk and write about the bigger picture of how our musical and tactical efforts are guided by three distinctly non-musical concepts that don’t get talked and written about often or openly enough: positive vision, abundant thinking, and a sense of self-worth. Thanks to technology, we now live in a world of vast […]

  • The demise of the music critic

    “…Moon, a 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia Inquirer before he left to write his new book, “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die,” believes the biggest difference between old reviews and reviews now is that in the past, the critic’s job was to give readers a deeper sense of the work. But blogs’ rise has […]

  • It is cruel that music should be so beautiful

    “It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful.  It has the beauty of loneliness and of pain: of strength and freedom.  The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love.  The cruel beauty of nature, and everlasting beauty of monotony.” Benjamin Britten

  • A democratic orchestra

    In 1920s Soviet Russia, musicians experimented mirroring the political state: “Just as the government didn’t need a tsar, so the orchestra didn’t need a director,” says Pyotr Aidu of the School of Dramatic Art, which will revive the long-dead form at a premiere concert Thursday. Miriam Elder, “1920s Orchestra Without a Conductor Revived”, The Moscow […]

  • Why Israel still shuts Wagner out

    Since its establishment in 1948, Wagner’s music has customarily not been played in Israel’s opera houses and concerts halls due to Wagner’s anti-Semitism.    Terry Teachout writes: “The case of Israel is, of course, unique. I don’t think that Wagner’s anti-Semitism would justify removing his works from the repertoire of, say, the Seattle Opera or […]

  • Two paths for the future of classical music

    Greg Sanders ponders the position of classical music and describes the need for it to catch up with culture, without simply “dumbing it down”: “Of course, I think that if we really understand current culture, we’ll want to go the other way, and make classical music smarter.” Greg Sanders, Arts Journal Blog, February 2, 2009. […]

  • A $1.2 million piano

    “Spotlights dance down on 216 jewels of lead crystal, set in dazzling diamond patterns into the piano’s black lid, sides, legs, fallboard and bench. Each jewel features several hundred to several thousand intricately cut, ground and polished pieces of crystal — nearly a half-million in all.” Glass artist Jon Kuhn has collobarated with Bosendorfer to […]

  • Determination not to be hurried

    “Nothing can be more useful to a man than the determination not to be hurried.” – Henry David Thoreau

  • Silence, slowness, clarity, reinvigorate

    “No matter if you’re an artist, a desk jockey, or anything in between – give yourself permission to include regular (dare I say daily?) reinvigoration in your work ethic. Silence. Slowness. Clarity. The machine doesn’t work so well without them.” Kim Pensinger, from Living and Singing on Interest in the WTO Blog

  • At the core of Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, an esoteric and astonishing piano piece lasting some 50 minutes, is one of the intriguing mysteries of music history. Why did Beethoven, during the difficult last decade of his life, when he was deaf, chronically ill and often in financial straits, become nearly obsessed with writing an extensive […]

  • Bernstein’s Workroom

    Leonard Bernstein’s children have donated the contents of his main composing studio to Indiana University.   The contents include “Bernstein’s stand-up composing table; a conducting stool that may have been used by Brahms, given as a gift by the Vienna Philharmonic; an electric pencil sharpener; a telephone; an ashtray and disposable lighters; Grammy-nomination plaques; and […]

  • First we make music

    “…the nature of music is inherently social. Blackburn argues, ” … we need to remind ourselves that music in itself does not exist. Despite evidence to the contrary (scores, analytical charts, music stores, CD shelves, etc.) music exists only in performance. … It is therefore a social and political act.” The performance of music corresponds […]

  • Rachmaninoff’s concert routine

    Reporters described Sergei Rachmaninoff on a concert tour (c. 1940): His punctuality is a legend.  If a reporter asks for two minutes of his time, two minutes and no more are given.  Consequently he arrives at a concert hall on the dot of 8 and goes on the stage precisely at 8:30.  If the concert […]

  • It must be worth the effort

    Martinu on creating beautiful music: “It must be beautiful, or it wouldn’t be worth the effort.” Cited in: Calum MacDonald, “Bohuslav Martinu: Cosmopolitan Dreamer”, BBC Music, August 2009, p.45.

  • Bacharach’s teachers

    Burt Bacharach was a student of Darius Milhaud, Bohusalv Martinu, and Henry Cowell. Bacharach’s hits included Magic Moments, Walk on by, The Look of Love, and Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head.

  • Improvising a fugue

    On 1 May 1747, Bach met Friedrich II, King of Prussia, in the Potsdam city palace (where chamber music was usually played from 7-9pm daily).  Johann Forkel recalled: in 1802 The king used to have every evening a private concert, in which he himself generally performed some concertos on the flute.  One evening, just as […]

  • The sole purpose of art is infinite

    E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote in 1813 that instrumental music is the most romantic of all the arts  – one might almost say, the only genuinely romantic one – for its sole subject is the infinite.  The lyre of Orpheus opened the portals of Orcus – music discloses to man an unknown realm, a world […]

  • Streisland’s instinct

    [Barbara Streisand’s] early voice training amounted to one lesson with a voice teacher. At that session Ms. Streisand sang “A Sleepin’ Bee,” the Harold Arlen song that she performed in her first television appearance, on “The Jack Paar Show” in 1961, just before turning 19. During the lesson Ms. Streisand got as far as the […]

  • Growing up in a bell tower

    Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů was born and spent most of his childhood in a church tower in Polička, on the borders of Bohemia and Moravia.  Martinů recalled that the panoramic view encapsulated “the vast and boundless space I am always searching for in my music.” Source: Calum MacDonald, “Bohuslav Martinů”, BBC Music, August 2009, p.44.

  • Brian Wilson to complete Gershwin songs

    In a surprise union of two quintessentially American composers from different eras, one the 1960s mastermind of “Good Vibrations,” the other the Jazz Age creator of “Rhapsody in Blue,” former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has been authorized by the estate of George Gershwin to complete unfinished songs Gershwin left behind when he died in 1937. […]

  • Mozart and Beethoven

    “Mozart has the classic purity of light and the blue ocean; Beethoven the romantic grandeur which belongs to the storms of air and sea, and while the soul of Mozart seems to dwell on the ethereal peaks of Olympus, that of Beethoven climbs shuddering the storm-beaten sides of a Sinai. Blessed be they both! Each […]

  • Art and the strength of the former times

    In 1824, Schubert wrote a letter to his friend Schober concerning a general complacency about the role of art at the time: The idle time, which hinders the fulfillment of all greatness, destroys me too. Even golden verse is foolishly mocked by the people, no longer attentive to its powerful message. Only by the gift […]

  • It is imperative to learn music

    The philosopher Nietzsche noted: “Our emotional life is least clear to ourselves.” For this reason, it is imperative to listen to music, because music makes the strings of our inner life resonate. Even if the result is not complete self-realization, at least we can still feel our essence in the “resonance”. Safranski, Rüdiger (2002) Nietzsche: […]

  • Ravel and food

    Ravel was touring America, in 1928, but was having some interesting experiences with food. One on occasion: The Mason & Hamlin Company not only provided a piano for Ravel’s use at his hotel, and another for his tour, but also sent him a piano-tuner capable of acting as a courier, interpreter, and general assistant.  This […]

  • Ravel’s fine attributes as a composer

    On his tour to America in 1928, Ravel was highly praised by music critics.  In the New York Times, Olin Downeswrote: Never to have composed in undue haste; never to have offered the public a piece of unfinished work; to have experienced life as an observant and keenly interested beholder, and to have fashioned certain […]

  • Gershwin and Ravel

    Ravel, touring America in 1928, was approached by George Gershwin for composition lessons.  Ravel refused, stating “you would only lose your own spontaneity and end up by writing bad Ravel!” Cited in:  James, Burnett (1983) Ravel: His Life and Times.  New York: Midas Books, p.120

  • The cleansing power of music

    “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water-bath is to the body.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, American physician, lecturer and author.

  • Against Gregorian

    In Anglican England in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was considerable opposition to the Roman Catholic Gregorian chant.  The Parish Choir or Church Music Book, published by the Society for the Promoting of Church Music (October 1847), applauds those who “deal heavy blows at Romanism and every other form of dissent.” (1)  Part […]

  • My tempo must be followed

    Ravel was very particular about how his works were performed.  Ravel always insisted that the tempo for Boléro should be moderate and rigorously maintained throughout.  He made a recording of that, too establishing his requirement.  Toscanini took it much faster and made an accelerando towards the end.  Ravel, who was in the audience, objected.  He […]

  • Szymanowski on Ravel

    The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski wrote of the French composer Maurice Ravel in 1925: Whether he writes a “Rapsodie espagnole”, “Mélodies grecques”, or the almost Viennese “La Valse”, he always remains one of the foremost fascinating representatives of the genius of his race.  He assembles all the fundamental elements of that most beautiful culture in […]

  • The background to Bolero

    Ravel’s infamous Boléro was somewhat created by chance: Shortly before Ravel left for America, the Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein had asked him for a ballet to be based on orchestrations of parts of Albéniz’s Iberia. To this he agreed; with so much on his plate he was not anxious to undertake further commitments for wholly original composition. […]

  • Beethoven on music

    “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.  Although the spirit be not master of that which it creates through music, yet it is blessed in this creation, which, like every creation of art, is mightier than the artist. — Beethoven Edwards, Tyron (1891) A Dictionary of Thoughts.  New York: Cassell Publishing […]

  • Music is the real life

    In modern life electricity plays a great part.  Sometimes it is used destructively – sometimes creatively – but there is another power which is like electricity, only far more subtle and penetrating.  This power is all-pervading.  It is omnipresent.  If we understood this power we would know the secret of the magical influence of music.  […]

  • The influence of music

    Conductor Leopold writes: There are millions who find solace in music – it opens for them the sun-bathed gates of inspiration – through music they know that behind the sordid, grim surface of life there nevertheless exists an ideal and external Beauty. Music powerfully stimulates the growth in us of impulses we had never suspected […]

  • I write for all ears

    When Mozart was writing his opera Idomeno, his father warned him to make sure it was accessible to all the audience. Mozart replied: As far as the so-called Popular style is concerned, don’t worry about it; in my Opera you’ll find Musick for every kind of listener = except for those with the long ears […]

  • Sondheim on the language of music

    American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has released a book Finishing the Hat: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes.  The following is an extract from interview an article on Sondheim by Emma Brockes: Initially a maths student at Williams College in Massachusetts, the young Sondheim took […]

  • Mozart’s Pranks

    Mozart’s sense of mischief is evident in his behaviour at a performance of The Magic Flute.  Thisis from a letter to his wife Oct 8 & 9 1791: … (1) had a box [in the theatre] this evening and applauded everything vigorously; but He, that Know-it-all, proved to be a real Bavarian; I couldn’t stay […]

  • A little poem by Mozart

    Dearest Stroll! good old troll! you sit in your hole drunk as a Mole! – But you’re touched in your soul by music’s sweet flow. – Mozart, in a letter to Anton Stoll Cited in: Spaethling, Robert (2000) Mozart’s Letters; Mozart’s Life.  London: Faber and Faber, p.438.

  • Stokowski and his audience

    The conductor Leopold Stokowski had a love hate relationship with his audience: He wooed them and cajoled them, flattered them and then gently reproved them.  When they grew fidgety, he shamed them into attentiveness and concentration.  “Please don’t do that,” he once admonished an audience of program shufflers.  “We work hard all week to give […]

  • Stokowski as a sound engineer

    The conductor Stokowski (who was the conductor of Disney’s Fantasia) was a pioneer of orchestral recording.  This was not without its problems: Stokowski was moving more and more toward what is recognized as his most significant achievement – the broadening of popular interest in serious music.  He developed a firm conviction that radio, recordings, and […]

  • Concentrate on the performance

    Daniel Saidenberg ws the first cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.  He recalled: Stoki’s ability to exert disciplines was occasionally matched by a sense of humor.  After a concert at which I had played the Saint-Saëns A-minor Concerto, one of my buddies said, “Watch your step, Danny.  All through the second movement, […]

  • A conductor’s hair style

    In Halina Rodzinski’s book Our Two Lives she describes how on the very first day Artur Rodzinski came to assist Stokowski in 1929, his boss immediately restyled his hair without a part and combed straight back from the brow.  “That’s how a conductor should look,” said Stokowski, pointing Rodzinski at a mirror in his dressing […]

  • The silent bass clarinet

    During a rehearsal of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony: Stokowski had inserted a gratuitous part for bass clarinet. “It so happens,” wrote O’Connell, “that the player of this instrument was a quite temperamental gentleman as well as a composer, and when he saw Stokowski’s addition to Schubert’s score, he was possessed by fury.”  When he expressed his […]

  • Memory

    Andrew Lloyd Webber originally composed the melody that is now known as “Memory” from Cats for a miniature opera about Puccini and his wife. The opera was never performed, but the melody was brought out of retirement as possible song for Juan Peron in Webber’s Evita.  That show was certainly performed but the melody in […]

  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow

    “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, from The Wizard of Oz, is now a classic, inspiring song, but its had to believe the beginnings were not so smooth: …it was decided that standard melodies of a popular accessible kind , without gimmicks, would best suit the story, and its star [Judy Garland].  Harold Arlen and E. Y. […]

  • Learn my name

    Stokowski’s ability to inspire musicians was sometimes balanced by the ability to turn them off.  Saidenberg altered me to a remarkable violinist who quit the Philadelphia Orchestra and went on to become America’s greatest authority on constitutional law.  “Raoul Berger was a wonderful violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra.  One day at rehearsal, Stoki stopped the […]

  • Stokowski’s rehearsal

    Raoul Berger (who eventually had a fall out with the conductor Stokowski and left The Philahrmonic Orchestra) described Stokowski’s rehearsal process: In rehearsal Stoki was given to the methods of a marine drill-sergeant, brutal and insulting.  In those days he was accustomed to make sweeping changes every season, so that those who were dependent on […]

  • Ringo Starr

    Is Ringo Starr the best drummer in the world? He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles. Reporter and John Lennon. Source: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Witt.  London: Ebury Press, p.257.

  • O Danny Boy

    Long before the tune Danny Boy even had words the tune existed as an Irish folk melody.  A study in 1979 revealed that Londonderry Air was related to Aislean an Oigfear (The Young Man’s Dream), which had been collected in 1792 from harpist Denis O’Hampsey  He was over ninety at the time and had played […]

  • I am Beethoven

    An account of Beethoven being lost in his creative world: Thayer tells us of a conversation he had with a Professor Blasius Höfel, a teacher of fine arts at Weiner Neustadt, a little town near Vienna.  one evening, Höfel was in a tavern with some of his colleagues, the Commissioner of Police being a member […]

  • Beethoven in 1821

    In his book, A Tour in Germany, and some of the Southern Provinces of the Austrian Empire, in 1820, 1821, 1822, published in Edinburgh in 1824, Sir John Russell describes Beethoven in 1821: The neglect of his person which he exhibits gives him a somewhat wild appearance.  His features are strong and prominent; his eye […]

  • Britten on composing

    “Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house.  Slowly you see more details of the house – the colour of the slates and bricks, the shape of the windows.  The notes are the bricks and mortar of the house.” – Benjamin Britten. Cited in: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Wit.  London: Ebury […]

  • The English and music

    “The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes.” – Sir Thomas Beecham Cited in: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Wit.  London: Ebury Press, p. 198.

  • Adequate musicians

    How do you rate your music? We’re not good musicians.  Just adequate. Then why are you so popular? Maybe people like adequate music. – Interviewer and the Beatles. Cited in: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Wit.  London: Ebury Press, p. 203.

  • Britten on The Rake’s Progress

    “I liked everything about the opera but the music.” – Benjamin Britten on Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress Cited in: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Wit.  London: Ebury Press, p. 203.

  • Pavarotti

    “Pavarotti is like someone who has swalled a Stradivarious.” – Peter Ustinov Cited in: Jarski, Rosemarie (2005) Great British Wit.  London: Ebury Press, p. 203.

  • Stokowski’s orders

    A letter from the conductor Leopold Stokowski to Sylvan Levin gives an insight into his sense of humour: Caro Maestro Illustre, Now that you have not a thing to do!!!!! Do you think you would have time to do me a favor and time the whole of Parsifal without cuts?  I suggest you do this […]

  • Part of the bigger picture

    Leopold Stokowski conducted the American premier of Berg’s opera Wozzeck in 1930 (a joint effort of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Phildelphia Grand Opera, and Curtis Institute).  Abram Chasins recalls a rehearsal: I attended his second rehearsal with the orchestra in the pit and singers on the stage.  After some twenty minutes of singing and acting, […]

  • Stokowski’s rehearsal process

    Abraham Chasin performed the premier of his Second Piano Concerto with the Philharmonic Orchestra in March 1933.  It was conducted by Leopold Stokowski: At the first one [rehearsal], as I walked to the piano I was surprised to see Stokowski’s assistant, Artur Rodzinski, on the podium; Stokowski was sitting in solitary elegance in one of […]

  • Mozart on Clementi

    “Now I need to say a word to my sister about the Clementi sonatas.  – Anyone who plays them can hear or feel that as compositions they aren’t very much. – There are no remarkable striking passages, except the sixth and the octaves; – and even those I am asking my sister not to spend […]

  • Do everything promptly

    “During a very busy life I have often been asked, How did you manage to do it all? The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.  Procastination … is fatal.” Richard Tangye (1833-1903), British manufacter of engines and other heavy equipment. Thomas Sharper Knowlson, The Art of Success, London: F. Warne […]

  • We arrived here safely yesterday morning at 9 o’clock. – We spent the first night at Vögelbruck; – on the following morning we reached Lambbach – just in time for me to accompany the Agnus Dei on the organ during the mass. – The prelate was most delighted to see me again … We stayed […]

  • Work so that you don’t have to work

    Herr Richter, the pianist, is going on a tour that will take him back to Holland, his native country – I have given him a letter introductionto the Countess Thun at Linz. – He also wishes to visit Salzbourg, so I gave him a 4-line note for you, my dearest father … He plays well […]

  • Mozart the philosopher

    On February 19 1786 Mozart attended a masked ball disguised as an Indian philosopher. He distributed pamplets with riddles. One of the riddles was: If you are poor but clever, arm yourself with patience, and work hard. If you do not become rich, you will at least remain clever. – If you are an ass […]

  • Stokowski rebukes

    The conductor Stowkoski was always in complete control of his orchestra: He never lost his tempoer with the orchestra, never raised his voice.  On the contary, he would lower his voice for a subtle rebuke or a sarcastic comment. Schwar recalled Stokowski saying, “Second clarinet, don’t play notes – sing them.”  To the first violist, […]

  • Stokowski’s first rehearsal with the Philadelphia Orchestra

    On Stokowski’s first rehearsal with the Philadelphia Orchestra: From Oscar Schwar, a fellow faculty member at Curtis who became my friend, I heard the details of Stokowski’s first contact with the orchestra.  He would never forget, he said, that Monday morning of October 7, 1912, when an amazingly young and handsome Stokowski, wearing a light […]

  • Rehearsal conditions must be suitable

    Strengthened by his initial triumph and by daily evidences of the ever-mounting appreciation and support of the Philadelphia’s new claim to artistic fame, Stokowski tried once again to convince the board that first-class musical results were impossible unless the orchestra rehearsed exactly where they performed.  The men engrossed in the financial problems of balancing budgets […]

  • Mozart on aesthetics

    Mozart’s musical aesthetics are revealed in a letter to his father about Osmin’s first aria in The Abduction of the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail).  The Eighteenth century classical ideals of balance and refinement are evident: I have sent you only the beginning and the end of the aria.  I think it will prove […]

  • Success is a staircase

    “Success is not a doorway, it’s a staircase.” — Dottie Walters

  • I do not choose my listeners

    “I do not choose my listeners. What I mean is, I never write for my listeners. I think about my audience, but I am not writing for them. I have something to tell them, but the audience must also put a certain effort into it. But I never wrote for an audience and never will […]

  • Wagner’s observations on the English and oratorios

    Wagner attended a performance of Messiah at Exeter Hall in London with a chorus of 700 voices. He recorded in his autobiography: It is here that I came to understand the true spirit of English Protestantism. This accounts for the fact that an oratorio attracts the public far more than an opera. A further advantage […]

  • Handel on Purcell

    An account by R. L. Stevens (1775): When Handel was blind, and attending a performance of the Oratorio Jephtha, Mr [William] Savage, my master, who sat next to him said, “This movement, sir, reminds of me of some of old Purcell’s music.” “G got te teffel”, said Handel, “if Purcell had lived, he would have […]

  • Handel’s speedy method

    Morrell gave Handel the words of Cleopatra’s air “Convey me to some peaceful shore” in Alexander Balus, he cried out “Damn your Iambics!”. Morell offered to change them to trochees and went into the next room to do so, only to find about three minutes later that Handel had set them as they stood.” Dean, […]

  • Rachmaninoff on music

    “What is music? How can one define it?  Music is a calm moonlit night, a rustling of summer foliage.  Music is the distant peal of bells at eventide.  Music is born only of the heart and it appeals to the heart.  It is love.  The sister of music is poetry and the mother – sorrow!” […]

  • Reactions to classical music

    The only way to take classical music out of the museum is to stop playing it in a museum.  The adventurous cellist Matt Haimovitz said as much recently, when he toured dive bars, pizza parlours, and roadhouse juke joints with the [Bach] Cello Suites.  “People were reaction to the music as it was going by,” […]

  • Review of Pablo Casals

    A Review written in El Alcance of the cellist Pablo Cassals: His bow, sometimes sweet as a voice from heaven, at other times vibrant and robust, produces such a sonorous combination of voices and tones that it seems that the body of his violincello is the magic secret of sublime harmonies capriciously transformed at the […]

  • Climbing Mount Fuji with a cello in hand

    “In 2007 Italian cellist Mario Brunello climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji and played selections from Bach’s cello suites, declaring that “Bach’s music comes closest to the absolute and to perfection.” Source: Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin. p.6.

  • Music is for me to play

    “You claim that I write monstrosities which only the composer can play. What if they were meant only for the composer?” Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji to his friend Peter Warlock. Cited at: Wikipedia

  • Schubert’s progress

    Schubert’s report card in in the Music of the Court Chapel Choir-Boys in the I. & R. Seminary, 1st term, 1809: Name Morals Studies Singing Pianoforte Violin Remarks Schubert Franz v. good good v. good good v. good A musical talent Report card for the Scholars of the First Grammar Class at the University Preparatory […]

  • The here and now

    “It is a mark of soulfulness to be present in the here and now. When we are present, we are not fabricating inner movies. We are seeing what is before us.” – John Bradshaw (1992) Creating Love: The Next Great Stage of Growth.  United States: Bantam Books, p.127.

  • The progress of an artist

    What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. – T. S. Elliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919)

  • Is it worth writing?

    “Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you.” Gustav Holst Cited in: Classic FM, May 2011

  • The human voice

    O, how wonderful is the human voice! It is indeed the organ of the soul! The intellect of man sits enthroned visibly upon his forehead and in his eye; and the heart of man is written uponhis countenance. But the soul reveals itself in the voice only; as God revealed himself to the prophet of […]

  • Patience

    An ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains — Dutch proverb Henry Bonn. A polyglot of foreign proverbs.  London, Henry G. Bohn, 1857, p.315.

  • Nietzche on Art

    “We have art in order not to die of the truth.“ Friedrich Nietzsche, notebook from the Spring-Summer of 1888, 16 [40]

  • Oysters and champaign before a concert

    “Sibelius and his wife Aino were in Gothenburg for a concert, the composer disappeared shortly before he was due to conduct.  Aino found him, immaculately dressed in his white tie and tails, drinking champagne and eating oysters at a nearby cafe.  Returning with him to the venue, she thought her husband was fine until he […]

  • The musician’s contribution to the world

    “As musicians, we are already doing something for the world … We make it more flowing? … Through music”. Pianist Lang Lang Shirley Apthorp, “Piano Man”, The Australian, May 14 2011.

  • Harmony

    “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd, editorial editor of The Spokesman Review

  • How piano wires have changed throughout history

    While piano wire has changed over the centuries from iron to steel of varying qualities, researchers were surprised to find that the sound produced by the instruments’ wires has remained largely unchanged. “I thought as the wire evolved — as the tension evolved — harmonicity would also change over time,” Purdue University physics professor Nicholas […]

  • Prokofiev is evicted

    Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by the downstairs tenant. Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) Swooning.  Sydney: Random House, p.69.

  • Prokofiev is evicted

    Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by the downstairs tenant. Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) Swooning.  Sydney: Random House, p.69.

  • Prokofiev is evicted

    Sergey Prokofiev was once evicted from his apartment for playing the same chord 218 times.  A tally was kept by the downstairs tenant. Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) Swooning.  Sydney: Random House, p.69.

  • Bruckner the count

    Anton Bruckner developed a condition call numeromania that compelled him to count everything – cathedral gables, stars, leaves on the trees; even the number of bars in his lengthy symphonies. Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) Swooning.  Sydney: Random House, p.70.

  • How not to get an audience

    Satie’s ballet Relâche (1924) had trouble pulling a crowd: the title translates as “this performances is cancelled”. Source: Lawrence, Christopher (2001) Swooning.  Sydney: Random House, p.70.

  • Reincken on Bach’s playing

    The famous organist Reincken heard Bach play. Bach improvised for half an hour on the hymn “By the Waters of Babylon”.  Reincken said: “I thought such art was dead, but I see it still lives in you.” Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 58.

  • Mattheson on the allemande

    An allemande is a stately processional couple dance. The dances formed lines of couples, extended their hands, and moved forward and backward throughout the ballroom. It was a common stylised dance in baroque music. Johann Mattheson described it in 1739: Now the allemande is a broken, serious, and well constructed harmony, which is the image […]

  • Bach’s reputation

    “The difference between the reputation that Bach enjoyed in his lifetime and that which accumulated posthumously is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of music.” Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 65.

  • Shaw on the cello

    In the nineteenth century, the cello was regarded as an important solo instrument.  George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1890 “I am not fond of the violoncello: ordinarily I had as soon hear a bee buzzing in a stone jug.” Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 71.

  • Musicians in Dresden in 1720s

    ”There was rivalry among the musicians in Dresden in the 1720s.  Daniel Heartz describes some incidents: Silvius Weiss, the famous lutenist, saw his livelihood threatened when he was attacked by a French violinist named Petit, who attempted to bite off the top joint of his right thumb.  On 13 August 1722 Veracini jumped to the […]

  • Transformation of art

    “Art does not progress – it transforms itself.” – François-Joseph Fétes Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 191.

  • Mattheson on the courante

    “The passion or affection which should be performed in a courante is sweet hopefullness.” – Johann Mattheson. Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 103.

  • Maiky’s recording of Bach’s cello suites

    “The Latvian cellist Mischa Maisky recorded the Bach’s cello suites “at a small guest house he converted into a studio and called Sarabande, he had a fence built around it with all the notes of the fifth sarabande crafted on the metalwork.  He gleefully points out that the studio’s address is 720, his Montagnana cello […]

  • Bach’s wedding

    Johann Sebastian Bach married Anna Magdelena, 3rd December 1721. They married at home, by command of the Prince of Saxe-Weissenfels. It was Bach’s second marriage. Bach purchased a 264 quarts (about 250 litres) of wine, worth 84 thalers and 16 groschen (about one fifth of his annual salary). Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows […]

  • The essential part of creativity

    “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Edwin Land, American scientist and inventor.

  • Violoncello piccolo

    A violoncello piccolo is a violin-sized instrument tuned like a cello.  It is held horizontally, slung from a from a strap over the shoulder lika guitar.  Some of Bach’s cantatas specifically written for this instrument.  It is possible that Bach wrote the cello suites for the instruments (no instrument was specified on the manuscripts). Source: […]

  • Bach’s preferred instrument

    Johann Sebastian Bach’s preferred to play the viola when conducting an orchestra. Source: Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites.  Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 216.

  • Be a work of art

    “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” Oscar Wilde, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young

  • Beethoven’s piano

    Franz Liszt owned Beethoven’s Broadwood piano.

  • Individuality

    “I may not be better than other people, but at least I’m different.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Franco-Swiss philosopher and writer.

  • Steps

    “There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” — Peter A. Cohen Ford Saeks, Superpower!  How to Think, Act, and Perform with Less Effort and Better Results, New Jersey, John Wiley & Sons, 2012, p. 198

  • Mack the Knife

    Bobby Darin’s 1959 recording of “Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera (Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht; Music: Kurt Weill) not only hit number one on the charts, but was also the first non-R&B pop hit for Atlantic Records and helped establish the label’s future. Source: Creswell, Toby (2005) 1001 Songs: The Great Songs Of All Times. […]

  • It’s Oh So Quiet

    In 1995, Bjork released a big band jazz cover of Betty Hutton’s 1948 hit “Blow a Fuse”. This was a cover of an Austrian song “Und jetzt ist es still” by Hans Lang and Erich Meder. Bjork said of the song: Isn’t that the best song you’ve heard for five years? In a way it […]

  • When precision isn’t enough

    Debussy was well known for wanting precision in performance. However, it was not always quite enough: Some time in 1917 Debussy went to hear the Suite played by a famous pianist. ‘How was it?’ I asked him on his return. ‘Dreadful. He didn’t miss a note.’ ‘But you ought to be satisfied. You who insist […]

  • A musician’s canvas

    “A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” -Leopold Stokowski, conductor

  • Tears in art

    In art there are tears that do often lie too deep for thoughts. – Louis Kronenberger L. Kronenberger, Company Manners: A Cultural Inquiry into American Life, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1954, p. 42.

  • Give music to those who love it

    “Music must be given to those who love it. I want to give free concerts; that’s the answer.” -Sviatoslav Richter, pianist Bruno Monsaingeon: Introduction to Sviatoslav Richter — Notebooks and Conversations p. XX. Cited at: Wikipedia

  • Beethoven in code

    The first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are the morse code for the letter V.

  • Chopin and touch

    If a student played with excessive tone, Chopin would say “What was that? A dog barking?” Source: Carter, Gerard (2008) The Piano Book. Ashfield: Wensleydale Press, p.68

  • Schoenberg’s composition class

    An account of Arnold Schoenberg teaching a composition class: Well, first of all there was composition class, in which he analyzed in brief the first sections of several Schubert sonatas. How he adores Schubert! “Many people say,” he remarked, “that Schubert is too long. He is long-yes-but for me he is always too short!” Such […]

  • Schumann as a student

    Schumann studied with Dorn, the conductor at the civic theatre. Dorn recalled: Having completed exercises in figured-bass realization, chorale harmonization, and canon, teacher and student moved on to double counterpoint. Intrigued by the mysteries of this discipline, and reluctant to tear himself away from his desk, Schumann once requested that his lesson take place in […]

  • Problem solving with creativity

    “Creativity can solve almost any problem — the creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” — George Lois, American art director, designer and author. G. Lois, Damn good advice (for people with talent!): how to unleash your creative potential by America’s master communicator, London: Phaidon Press, 2012.

  • Hoyt Curtain’s compositional process

    Hoyt Curtin (1922-2000) was the primary composer for the Hanna Barbara studios. Popular theme songs he composed include The Flintstones, Top Cat, The Jetsons, Johnny Quest, Superfriends, Josie and the Pussycats, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, and The Smurfs.  Of these, his favourite was The Flintsones, “I guess because it is a kick to hear musicians […]

  • The length of a rehearsal

    Rachmaninoff completed his Third Piano Concerto at his summer estate at Ivanovka in September-October 1909.  He then toured America, learning the piano part on a dumb piano aboard the ship.  The work was first performed in New York under Walter Damrosch in November 1909.  In January 1910, Gustav Mahler conducted the third New York performance. […]

  • The purpose of education

    “The purpose of education is to keep a culture from being drowned in senseless repetitions, each of which claims to offer a new insight.” — Harold Rosenberg, American writer, educator, philosopher and art critic. Harold Rosenberg, “On the New Cultural Conservatism”, Partisan Review, 1972, vol. 39, no. 3, p. 444.  Digitally archived at, accessed […]

  • Paul Simon on music today

    Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) on the future of the “album” concept: I don’t think the album is going to disappear for several reasons … It’s not that people aren’t listening to albums.  They’re just doing it on shuffle.  What that does is it makes albums more eclectic and more interesting.  But if an […]

  • Imagination disposes and creates

    “Imagination disposes of everything; it creates beauty, justice, and happiness, which is everything in this world.” — Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. Ramage, Craufurd Tait (1866) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors.  Liverpool: Edward Howell, p.232. Digitally archived at, accessed 12 September 2021.

  • The best of every man

    “I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.” – William Yeats, Deirdre

  • Communicating one’s dreams

    “Whoever communicates to his brothers in suffering the secret splendour of his dreams acts upon the surrounding society in the manner of a solvent and makes all those who understand him, often without their realisations, outlaws and rebels.” Pierre Quillard (symbolist poet), 1892.

  • George Sand on Chopin’s compositional process

    “His creation was spontaneous and miraculous. He found it without seeking it, without forseeing it. It came on his piano suddenly, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk when he was impatient to play it to himself. But then he began the most heart-rending labor I ever saw. It was a […]

  • Mozart on melody

    “Melody is the essence of music”, continued he; “I compare a good melodist to a fine racer, and counterpointists to hack post-horses; therefore be advised, let well alone, and remember the old Italian proverb – ‘Chi sa piu, meno sa – Who knows most, knows least’.” The Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, 1826. Cited in: Marshal, […]

  • Mozart on Craft

    “People are mistaken, if they think that my art has come easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has devoted so much effort in the study of composition as have I. There is scarcely a famous master in must whose works I have not diligently, and often repeatedly, studied.” – Mozart, in […]

  • Eighteenth century aesthetics

    Mozart was not at all a purely instinctive, intuitive artist. His remarks to the effect that he “loved to plan works, study, and meditate” and that “he preferred to work slowly and with deliberation” [demonstrate this] … On one level, Mozart’s musical aesthetic is informed by three fundamental and closely related principles that can be […]

  • Men of genius

    “Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1849), Kavanagh, London: George Slater, p.49., accessed 4 September 2021.

  • Hammerstein’s card games

    Music theatre writer Oscar Hammerstein loved to play games.  His nephew recalls: There’s a family story about his game-playing. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but it rings true. He was playing a very informal game of bridge with two of his collaborators, the composers Jerome Kern and Sigmund Romberg, and someone else one afternoon. […]

  • White Christmas

    Accounts vary on where Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas”. Berlin himself even recall differing circumstances on when it was penned. Some sources claim at was written at the poolside in Aizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix. Other accounts state that is was in Beverly Hills, California. In any case, the narration is set in […]

  • Escaping the every day world

    “Those around me refuse to accept that I could never live in the everyday world of things and people.  Hence the irrepressible need to have to escape from myself, and go off on adventures which seem inexplicable because no one knows who this man is – yet maybe he’s the best part of me!  Anyway, […]

  • Tin Pan Alley

    Tin Pan Alley refers to the concentration of music publishers in New York City, West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues.  It started around 1885 and lasted till the depression in the 1930s.  It’s title comes from the the sound of all the cheap, tinny pianos playing, being likened to the beating of  tin […]

  • Bruckner’s dog

    Some of Anton Bruckner’s students decided to play a trick on him. While he was out to  lunch, they played music on the piano for Bruckner’s dog. As one of them played a motive from Richard Wagner’s music, the others chased the dog around the room and slapped him. But when they played from Bruckner’s […]

  • Beethoven’s contest

    In 1800, an improvisation contest occured between Beethoven and the pianist Daniel Steibelt. It was agreed that Prince Lobkowitz would sponsor Steibelt and Prince Lichnowsky sponsor Beethoven, the improvisation contest to take place in Lobkowitz’s palace. As the challenger, Steibelt was to play first. He walked to the piano, tossing a piece of his own […]

  • A tribute to Beethoven

    “The Last Master of resounding song, the tuneful heir of Bach and Handel, Mozart & Haydn’s immortal fame is now no more. The harp is hushed. He was an artist – and who shall arise to stand beside him? He was an artist – thus he was, thus he died, and thus he will live […]

  • Schumann chasing a girl

    Schumann once attended a masquerade during the carnival of 1830, in company with his friend Rosen, for the purpose of paying some attention to a pretty but otherwise insignificant girl.He knew that she would be present at the ball, and, as a pretext for approaching her, put a poem in his pocket.Fortune favored him: he […]

  • Richter on Bach

    “It does no harm to listen to Bach from time to time, even if only from a hygienic standpoint.” – Sviatoslav Richter, pianist Monsaingeon, Bruno (2001). Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and Conversations. Princeton University Press, p.196. Cited at: Wikipedia

  • Richter on small concerts

    “Put a small piano in a truck and drive out on country roads; take time to discover new scenery; stop in a pretty place where there is a good church; unload the piano and tell the residents; give a concert; offer flowers to the people who have been so kind as to attend; leave again.” […]

  • Nino Rota on happiness and music

    “When I’m creating at the piano, I tend to feel happy; but – the eternal dilemma – how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others? I’d do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That’s what’s at the heart of my music.” Nino Rota, Italian composer. Cited at: Wikipedia.

  • Harmann on orchestration

    “To orchestrate is like a thumbprint. I can’t understand having someone else do it. It would be like someone putting color to your paintings.” – Bernard Hermann on orchestration. Hall, Roger L., A Guide to Film Music, p. 43.  Cited at Wikipedia.

  • Goldsmith on film scoring

    “Working to timings and synchronising your musical thoughts with the film can be stimulating rather than restrictive. Scoring is a limitation but like any limitation is can be made to work for you. Verdi, except for a handful of pieces, worked best when he was ‘turned on’ by a libretto. The most difficult problem in […]

  • Up close and personal with Glenn Gould

    A film has been made of the personal side of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould: During his lifetime Gould was often portrayed less as a real person than a collection of tics — perhaps even more so in the many books and films about him that have been issued since his death. At times he has […]

  • Brahms’ birthday

    After Robert Schumann was admitted to a mental assuming in 1854, Johannes Brahms stayed with Robert’s wife, Clara Schumann to support herself and her eight children. Although Robert’s sad condition was always present in the minds of those who loved him, there was occasional happy times at the Schumann’s home in Düsseldorf.   On the […]

  • Brahms’ ladies choir

    Brahms formed a Ladies Choir of about fifty singers: “Fix oder Nix” was the motto he coined for them – “Bang up or nothing”; and he promised to write all the music they could sing if they would meet regularly, and always on time.  He even drew up a set of humorous rules.  “Avertimento” it […]

  • The pros and cons of imagination

    “My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.” Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, American author. Cited at: Quotationsbook

  • Brahms at the tavern

    When Brahms was young, he had to play in rowdy taverns to help support his family. Dance music was what the people in the taverns wanted, and Hannes would sometimes relieve the monotony by improvising variations on the popular waltzes of the day.  But what finally made his work endurable was the discovery that while […]

  • Dee-da-dee-da-dee-da-splat

    “I also like to play the famous tunes because there’s nothing like inspiring a whole bunch of kids who are struggling to play these pieces on flute.  And then they see me ripping through them.  They all want to play Flight of the Bumblebee when they’re 11 years Old.  And it goes something like “dee-da-dee-da-dee-da-splat!” […]

  • Sondheim’s pass times

    Sondheim is a lover of games, and collects antique ones (many were destroyed in a fire that swept through the lower floors of the house in 1995). He has a passion for murder mysteries, puzzles (he once spent 18 months devising cryptic crosswords for New York magazine), word play and anagrams. His own name, he […]

  • Sondheim on expression

    Mike Brown interviewers musical theatre composer Stephen Sondhiem: When I venture that his songs might suggest that he has a somewhat jaundiced view of love, he momentarily flares into irritation. ‘How can you tell? Every single song I’ve ever written is sung by a character created by somebody else. Some might have a jaundiced view […]

  • Sondheim on audiences

    “I do think audiences become more sophisticated. You try something out on them and they say, “Ugh”. You try it a second time and they say, “Oh”. You try it a third time and they say, “Ooh”. You try it a fourth time and they say, “Oh, that’s awfully old hat.”’ He laughs. ‘That’s the […]

  • Theme from The Office

    The theme to the comedy series The Office is based on the 1967 song “Handbags and Gladrags” (written by Mike d’Abo). It was arranged by Big George in 2000.

  • Schumann on music

    As to what concerns the knotty question in general of how far instrumental music may go in the representation of thoughts and events, many are here too anxious in their attitude. We are certainly wrong if we believe that composers set out pen and paper to realize the miserable intention of expressing, describing, or painting […]

  • Accustomed to being ignored

    Josef von Spaun recalled the following incident involving Franz Schubert at a concert. Schubert had just accompanied Baron Schönstein, at the house of Karolina Maria Kinsky (Princess, née Baroness Kerpen) when everyone loudly acclaimed Schönstein for his performance while taking no notice of the composer who had accompanied him, the princess sought to make amends […]

  • Kreutzer’s Wanderlieder and Schubert

    Schubert was familiar with Kreutzer’s Wanderlieder song cycle (written in 1817). Spaun twice told the following anecdote of his friend’s reaction to the Wander-Lieder shortly after their publication: “We once found him playing through Kreutzer’s Wanderlieder, which had just appeared. One of his friends [ Anselm Hüttenbrenner] said ‘Leave that stuff alone and sing us […]

  • The development of concert life in London

    The public concert, as an institution, dates from England from the Restoration period [from the 1660s]; previously music, unless ecclesiastical or dramatic in character, had been essentially the art of a small circle.  The largess of aristocratic patronage and the profits of publication were the composers’ rewards.  But with the middle of the seventeenth century […]

  • Tchaikovsky at Cambridge

    In 1893, Tchaikovsky was awarded an honorary doctorate at Cambridge University. Charles Villiers Stanford was involved organising the occasion. He recalled: “In the spring of 1892 we set on foot the organization of the movement to celebrate the Jubilee of the University Musical Society in 1893. The first step taken was the invitation of Verdi […]

  • Stanford on Tchaikovsky

    “Tchaikovsky reminded me, in more ways than one, of his countryman Tourgéniew, whom I once met at Madame Viardot’s. He had none of the Northern roughness, was as polished as a Frenchman in his manner, and had something of the Italian in his temperament… For all the belief which he had in himself, he was […]

  • Beethoven and the spider

    Xaver Schydner von Wartensee, in the early days of meeting Beethoven, was curious about a tale he had heard about Beethoven and a spider. Before Schnyder had become acquainted with the immortal Master, he had read the well-known anecdote according to which, when Beethoven was practising the violin in his garret, a spider lowered itself […]

  • Beethoven’s handwriting

    Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee (1786-1868) was a composer who wanted lessons with Beethoven.  Beethoven would only look at his compositions. Schnyder often dined in the Mehlgrube, because he knew that Beethoven often went there at the same time in the evening. One lovely spring night Schnyder, on entering the restaurant, saw his friend Beethoven […]

  • A Beethoven fan

    In an interview with Beethoven scholar K. E. L. Nohl, Schubert’s friend, Moritz von Schwind revealed that Schubert sold his books so that he could get tickets to the third version of Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio. Ferdinand Luib In an interview with Ferdinand Luib, Anselm Hüttenbrenner stated that Schubert’s favourite works were Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Mass […]

  • Brahms’ pranks

    Hannes was not always solemn – far from it!  He could be as full of fun and wild pranks as any boy.  With Christian he worked out a scheme which they both found hugely entertaining.  They would knock at the door of a house where, perhaps a century before, some illustrious citizen of Hamburg had […]

  • Brahms on inspiration

    Johannes Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann. whom he greatly admired: It is from you that I am constantly learning that one cannot obtain vital force out of books, but only out of one’s soul.  One must draw inspiration not from without, but from within. Cited in: Goss, Madeleine & Schauffler, Robert (1943) Brahms The Master. […]

  • Brahms’ harmonic exercise

    It was during the summer of 1858 that Brahms met Agathe von Seibold.  He had gone to visit Ise Grimm at Göttingenm the university town where Joachim spent his holidays.  Ise had recently married, and his home was a meeting place for the younger musicians. I have invited some people in this evening,” he told […]

  • The state of opera: 1720s

    In 1720 in Italy, opera was largely dictated by the egos of the singers, rather than considering the text, or the composer: The satirical writer Marcello wrote that the opera composer will hurry or slow down the pace of an aria, according to the caprice of the singers, and will conceal the displeasure which their […]

  • The juggling jazz musician

    “A jazz musician is a juggler who uses harmonies instead of oranges.” – Benny Green, British saxophonist Benny Green (1975) A Reluctant Art: The Growth of Jazz.  Books for Libraries Press, p. 16.

  • Encouraging talent

    “What greater pleasure is there is life than giving young and beautiful talent a little lift in the direction of the stars though they will never reach them.” Sir Clifford Curzon – English pianist Pianist, No. 59, April-May 2011, Warner Group publications, p.10.

  • Bringing classical music to the people

    “Most performers pretty much ignore the audience – they play and go off … Don’t get me wrong. I worship these guys! But what will make someone who hardly knows about classical music listen to to Grigory Sokolov for two hours straight, and in total silence? you have to work your way up to that […]

  • A musical solution

    “Every disease is a music problem, its cure a musical solution.” Novalis, 18th century German author, mystic and philosopher. Cited in: Inge Kjemtrup, “The power of music therapy”, Pianist, Issue 59, April-May 2011. Warners Group Publications, p.66.

  • Music and health

    “Musical instruments are aids to the maintenance of health, and to the restoration of health once lost, according to the difference in the complexions of men. For this art of music was anciently ordained to draw the mind back into healthful habits, and thus doctors are dedicated to its use to cure bodies. Therefore they […]

  • Bad effects of music

    “By and large, though, there are few, if any, bad side effects of music, and music can often work where no medication can.” – Oliver Sacks Cited in: Inge Kjemtrup, “The power of music therapy”, Pianist, Issue 59, April-May 2011. Warners Group Publications, p.66.

  • American Western Film Soundtracks

    “Morricone brought the electric guitar to the western. The great thing, though, about the electric guitar in the western is that there were no electric guitars, but somehow he did it so committedly that nobody ever questioned it. It was only much later people started to say, ‘How come there’s an electric guitar part there?’ […]

  • Art and humanity

    “Writing and performing an opera, creating any work of art in a world of violence and ease, hunger and obesity, could seem to be an act of private withdrawal. But art isn’t about itself, it’s about how men relate to the world and each other … Asking artists to keep politics out of art is […]

  • Shostakovich on music

    “There can be no music without idealogy … We, as revolutionaries, have a different conception of  music from the composers of other [non Soviet-Russia] countries.  Lenin himself said the “Music is a means of unifying people”.  It is not a leader of the masses, perhaps, but certainly an organising force … I think an artist […]

  • A result of education

    “The highest result of education is tolerance.” – Helen Keller, Optimism (1903)

  • Preparation

    “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” — John Wooden, American basketball player. Wooden, John (1988) Modern Practical Basketball.  Macmillan, p.234

  • Tchaikovsky’s output

    “The secret of the vital power of Tchaikovsky’s music lies in the fact that there is virtually not a single province of his music–from the gems of Russian chamber music that issued from his pen to his greatest operas or symphonic poems–in which the appeal and effect of the music was less than in any […]

  • A matter of tempo

    Bruno Walter, Friedrich Buxbaum, and Arnold Rosé were to perform Erich Korngold’s Piano Trio in D in 1910. Korngold was only 13 at the time. These three great musicians were to remain Korngold’s devoted friends and admirers, and they frequently performed his subsequent works. Previous to this performance, Bruno Walter had known of the boy’s […]

  • Beethoven’s duet

    Beethoven was premiering his piano duet, March (op. 45) with duet partner Ferdinand Ries.  When a young count spoke loudly to a lady friend in the room next door, Beethoven jumped up and shouted “I will not play for such swine.” Source: Arganbright, Nancy (2007) “The Piano Duet: A medium for Today”, The American Music […]

  • A play for dogs

    “Satie said, ‘I want to make a play for dogs, and I [already] have the staging planned. The curtain rises to reveal a bone.’ Poor dogs! After all, it’s their first play. Later one will present more difficult shows to them, but one will always return to the bone.” – Jean Cocteau, playwright Cited in: […]

  • An artist can change his perspective

    An artist groping his way forward can open a secret door and never understand that this door hid an entire world. So it is that, if a man who passes for the father of a school, because he determined it, one day shrugs his shoulders and renounces it, that by no means discredits the school. […]

  • The soloist will get his way

    Pianist Freddy Kempf on the recording process: Solo recording is the most indulgent type … it’s 90 per cent down to me. The producer can shout at me all he likes, but if I am set on doing it my way, there’s few people who can stop me! – Freddy Kempf, in an interview with […]

  • Music of the people

    “True music … must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.” — George Gerswhin Edward Jablonski and Lawrence D. Stewart (1926) The Gershwin Years.  Garden City: Double Day.

  • Debussy’s recreational activities

    Often at the end of the day Gaby [Debussy’s lover] would discover that they had a little money left over and then they would go out to a café, or circus, or to watch a billiards match. Debussy was very fond of the game. At the circus he loved the clowns and was as excited […]

  • Haydn’s audition

    Karl Georg Reutter II was appointed choirmaster at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna in 1738.  The following year he went on tour to recruit choristers.  In the town of Hainburg, Joseph Haydn (at stage seven years of age) auditioned.  The contemporary biography Guiseppe Carpani recalled: Reutter gave him a tune to sing at sight. The […]

  • I need a better razor

    Haydn reached London in the opening days of 1791. He passed his first night at the house of Bland, the music publisher, at 45 High Holborn, which now, rebuilt, forms part of the First Avenue Hotel. Bland, it should have been mentioned before, had been sent over to Vienna by Salomon to coax Haydn into […]

  • How to win over an orchestra

    Haydn was in London in 1791 when he performed in a concert led by Johann Salomon (a violinist/composer).   Salomon played the first violin and led the orchestra, and Haydn sat at the harpsichord, keeping the band together by an occasional chord or two, as the practice then was. Great composers have not always been […]

  • Energy from work

    “The more work that you make, the more energy you have to make work.” – Garry Stewart, artistic director of the Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre. Edwards, Verity. “Dance maker with edge on top of world”, The Australian, 22 July 2011, p.7.  

  • The prerequisites of a genius

    “Of the three prerequisites of genius; the first is soul; the second is soul; and the third is soul.” – Edwin Whipple, American essayist and critic Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • Moving mountains

    “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Chinese proverb

  • Happiness

    “Very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life” — Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161-180 Marcus Aurelius (translated by George Long) The Thoughts of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Book VII, 67.  Digitally archived at:, accessed 10 September 2021. 

  • Reich on modernism and tonality

    American composer Steve Reich on Schoenberg and his compositional style: Schönberg is the beginning of the death of German Romanticism. It’s about deciding that we didn’t need harmonic organization. But this was music for a small cadre of listeners. I think Schönberg said, “In fifty years, the postman will whistle my tunes.” Well, it’s been […]

  • Reich on the accessibility of his music

    American composer Steve Reich on his compositional process: When I compose, I notice I’m the only one in the room. (laughs) I tend to be a somewhat self-critical person. I use my emotional faculties to judge whether I want to hear something again. Basically I have no one in mind except pleasing myself. And my […]

  • The effect of art

    “There’s a phrase I’ve often heard from audience members at popular musicals (but, oddly, never anywhere else): the show, they’ll say, “really took me out of myself”.  They are saying something basic and profound about the ecstasy of art, the act of being taken out of one’s normal state to a different level of being.  […]

  • The experience of beauty

    “The experience of beauty … consists of finding a spiritual value (truth, happiness, moral ideals) at home in a material setting (rhythm, line, shape, structure) and in such a way that, while we contemplate the object, the two seem inseparable.” – John Armstrong, The Secret Power of Beauty.

  • Growth by dreams

    We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them, nurse them through bad days till they bring them to […]

  • Water music

    A common theme in the music of French composers at pre world war I was water.  Debussy wrote En bateau (On the Boat), Sirenes (Sirens), Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in the Water), Voiles (Sails), and La Cathedrale engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral).  Ravel wrote Jeux d’Eau (The Water Fountain), and Ondine. So striking a peculiarity of […]

  • The soul and speech

    “There is no real teacher who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul, or in a magic that acts on it through speech.” Allan Bloom (1987) The closing of the American mind: How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students.  New York: Simon Simon and Schuster, […]

  • Everything affects music making

    ‘”…turning 40 and new fatherhood have other effects: ‘It opens things up emotionally’, he says.  ‘I find that my whole perspective on life and my whole emotional range generally has changed.  I laugh more easily and cry more easily.  And that probably has an impact on the music making in one way or another.  Everything […]

  • Leif Ove Andsnes on Beethoven

    “I feel a real need for Beethoven now.  It’s such important and spiritual music: it gives you strength, it gives you comfort. It’s just great!” – Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist. Source: Jessica (2011) “Top of the World”, Pianist, Issue 60. p.13.

  • Accomplishing great things

    “To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act!” – Alfred Montapert, Author Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • How caffeine can cramp creativity

    (250, 308, ‘How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity’, ‘how-caffeine-can-cramp-creativity’, ‘ Caffeine can boost energy, reduce fatigue, and increase short term concentration and problem solving skills. However, creativity is haboured in a less focused mind: Creative insights and imaginative solutions often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to […]

  • Mood lighting to boost creativity

    A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology has concluded that the level of lighting in a room can impact the level of creative thinking. Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth concluded that “darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity.” A dark environment “elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition, […]

  • The tragedy of music

    “The tragedy of music is that it begins with perfection.” – Morton Feldman, American composer. Cited in a May 1976 interview, Studio International, November 1976, pp. 244-248.

  • Music with no boundaries

    Music can imply the infinite if enough things depart from the norm far enough. Strange “abnormal” events can lead to the feeling that anything can happen, and you have a music with no boundaries. – Morton Feldman, American composer Cited in Tom Johnson, Remembrance, September 1987. Accessed 13 May 2013.

  • Proportion

    “The traditional sense of proportion is a hang-up. The usual Mozartean concept of how long an idea lasts becomes too predictable. Some of the composers who talk the most about avoiding predictability are the ones most victimized by this predictable traditional sense of proportion.” – Morton Feldman, American composer. Cited in: Tom Johnson, Remembrance, September […]

  • Music as a metaphor … or not

    “Most music is metaphor, but Wolff is not. I am not metaphor either. Parable, maybe. Cage is sermon.” – Morton Feldman, American composer Cited in Tom Johnson, Remembrance, September 1987. Accessed 11 May 2013.

  • The construction of music

    It appears to me that the subject of music, from Machaut to Boulez, has always been its construction. Melodies of 12-tone rows just don’t happen. They must be constructed…. To demonstrate any formal idea in music, whether structure or stricture, is a matter of construction, in which the methodology is the controlling metaphor of the […]

  • Freedom for music

    “In order for music to free itself, it will have to pass over to the other side – there where territories tremble, where the structures collapse, where the ethoses get mixed up, where a powerful song of the earth is unleashed, the great ritornelles that transmutes all the airs it carries away and makes return.” […]

  • The spice of music

    “Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.” Frank Zappa, composer Cited at QuotationsBook.  

  • The art of listening

    “It’s a challenge, for me at least, to do nothing but listen.  You need to set aside time for it.  You need to concentrate on the music alone (and not on your next deadline).  But when it works, you open yourself up to the transcendent ecstasy good music can bring.” Francis Merson, editor, Limelight, April […]

  • Golden rules for an orchestra

    ‘”There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn what goes on in between.” – Thomas Beecham, conductor.  Cited at: Quotationsbook

  • Autumn Leaves

    Pianist Roger Williams on his hit recording of Autumn Leaves (which was recorded three days after signing his contract with Kapp records): “I said, ‘You mean ‘Falling Leaves’? I didn’t even know the title,” Mr. Williams told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. “I stayed up Friday and then Saturday night working on an arrangement.” […]

  • Bacall on imagination

    “Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.” – Lauren Bacall, American actress Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • Real genius

    “Real genius is nothing else but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought.” Simone Wells, French philosopher and mystic. Cited at QuotationsBook

  • Can you teach resourcefulness

    Young musicians will need resourcefulness to make their way in the world. Music “jobs” in the future are likely to be less attached to institutions (many of which are troubled in one way or another), entrepreneurial, and varied beyond a straight performance career to include all manner of teaching, coaching,  and work we could loosely […]

  • Playing with fantasy

    “Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.” – Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and founder of Analytical Psychology Quoted at QuotationsBook  

  • Opportunities

    No man can tell what the future may bring forth, and small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises. —  Demosthenes, Ad Leptinem, 162 Harbottle, Thomas Benfield (1897) Dictionary of Quotations (Classical).  London: S. Sonnenschein & co, p. 51.  Digitally archived at, accessed 12 September 2021. 

  • Richard Bach on perseverance

    “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” — Richard Bach, American writer Applewhite, Ashton; William R. Evans, Tripp Evans, Andrew Frothingham (2003) And I Quote. Macmillan. Macmillan. 

  • The beginning and the end

    “Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.” – Joseph Joubert, French writer Joubert, J. (1983) The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection. Translated by Paul Auster. San Francisco: North Point Press, p. 76.

  • Salvation by imagination

    “An idea is salvation by imagination.” – Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect

  • No art is equal to music

    “I firmly believe, nor am I ashamed to assert, that next to theology no art is equal to music; for it is the only one, except theology, which is able to give a quiet and happy mind. This is manifestly proved by the fact that the devil, the author of depressing care and distressing disturbances, […]

  • Knowing is not enough

    “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet and philosopher Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • Beethoven’s letter

    A letter written by composer Ludwig van Beethoven has emerged in Germany after being left in a will. In the six-page document of Beethoven’s scrawled corrections, he complains about his illness and a lack of money. Experts were already aware of the 1823 letter’s existence, but say it is of historic value. BBC News, 11 […]

  • Joyous art

    Art that feels like a duty is probably bad art. But most of the art industry is geared towards foisting that kind of art on us. Bad art changes over the centuries far less than we think. Today’s theory-heavy video installations are often modern equivalents of pompous and moralising Victorian paintings. It’s the joyous, uninhibited […]

  • Delius on the role of music

    “The chief reason for the degeneration of present-day music lies in the fact that people want to get physical sensations from music more than anything else. Emotion is out of date and intellect a bore. Appreciation of art which has been born of profound thought and intensity of experience necessitates an intellectual effort too exhausting […]

  • Composing for elephants

    Igor Stravinsky’s Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant to be performed by young elephants (a collaboration with American choreographer George Balanchine. It ended up being performed by older elephants – the main star being Big Modoc (41 years of age). Each elephant wore a join pink tutu. Source: Dixon, Gavin “Igor Stravinsky’s pachyderm polka”, Classic […]

  • It is who you are

    “Face the facts of being who you are, for that is what changes what you are.” Søren Kierkegaard, Danish writer. Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • Elgar’s football team

    Elgar loved his football, particularly the Wolverhampton team.  His friend Dorebella recalled the first match he attended at Wolverhampton: It all delighted him. The dense crowd flowing down the road like a river; the roar of welcome as the rival teams came on to the ground; the shouts of men calling to their player friends […]

  • Popular classical music is great too

    “A lot of what you call the great repertoire is popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great work. I mean, come on. Rachmaninoff 3 is great. There shouldn’t be ‘If this work is so popular, then don’t do it.’ In the art world it is only what you feel right to perform.” Lang […]

  • A musical use for trash

    Favio Chávez, a technician at a Paraguayan landfill site, formed the the Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments: an orchestra comprising of the children of landfill works. The orchestra was designed to encourage musical education in an low socio-economic area. A violin would hold more value than a landfill worker’s house. However, by creating instruments out […]

  • Mastery

    “Mastery passes often for egotism.” — Johanne Goethe, German author Johanne Goethe (1906) The Maxisms and Relfections.  Translated by Bailey Saunders.  New York: The Macmillan Company.  Digitally archived at:, accessed 12 Setpember 2021

  • The life of a pianist

    My life involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom … punctuated by short moments of extreme pressure …perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with […]

  • The technique of conducting

    “Technique is communication: the two words are synonymous in conductors.” – Leonard Bernstein, conductor, composer and pianist. Cited at QuotationsBook.  

  • Musical taste in England in 1925

    A general perspective of musical taste in Britain in the 1920s can be seen in the letters to radio broadcasters. In 1926, the B.B.C. (at that time, the British Broadcasting Company) (1) compiled correspondence to the company. In the week ending December 4, of the 7600 letters received, 302 were critical: 125 condemned dance music […]

  • Perseverance

    “Edison failed 10, 000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.” – Napoleon Hill, American author

  • Content of art

    How can you expect a beholder to experience my picture as I experienced it? A picture comes to me a long time beforehand; who knows how long a time beforehand, I sensed, saw, and painted it and yet the next day even I do not understand what I have done. How can anyone penetrate my […]

  • The inner drama of man

    It is not what the artist does that counts. But what he is. Cézanne would never have interested me if he had lived and thought like Jaques-Emile Blanche, even if the apple he had painted had been ten times more beautiful. What interests us is the anxiety of Cézanne, the teaching of Cézanne, the anguish […]

  • Beauty

    The academic teaching on beauty is false. We have been misled, but so completely misled that we can no longer find so much as a shadow of a truth again. The beauties of the Parthenon, the Venuses, the Nymphs, the Narcisusses, are so many lies. Art is not the application of a canon of beauty, […]

  • The subject of art

    Abstract art is only painting. And what’s so dramatic about that? There is no abstract art. One must always begin with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality; there is no longer any danger as the idea of the object has left an indelible imprint. It is the object which aroused the artist, […]

  • Learn the rules like a pro

    “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” Attributed to Pablo Picasso, painter

  • Inspiration exists

    “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” -Pablo Picasso Cited at WikiQuote

  • Doing what I can’t do

    “I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it”. – Van Gogh, painter, in a letter to Anthon van Rappard, 1885  

  • The decentralization (or de-hallification) of classical music

    For generations, the main places to hear contemporary classical music have been the big institutions, primarily at downtown and university concert halls and opera houses, and sometimes in churches and other rather formal settings. That’s all changing. Young composers today are increasingly finding — or creating — outlets for their music in rock and jazz […]

  • The art within

    “Only art experienced within, in which the personality plays a creative role can be of interest …To achieve this, those of you who are not already in this sense dead, must die an expiatory death of all superficiality, of all that you have already learnt, of all encumbrances and of all that is false. Then, […]

  • Application of talent

    “…all talent, all application will not suffice if one’s whole life is not directed towards being a mediator of great thoughts and feelings. Every deed, yes, every thought leaves its trace on the personality. One must live a life of purity in every detail, even down to the morsel one is putting into one’s mouth. […]

  • Learning

    “Learning makes a man fit company for himself.”   —  La Harpe Day, E. P. (1884) Day’s Collacon: An Encylopaedia of Prose Quotations.  International Printing and Publishing Office, p. 498.  Digitally archived at:\_Mhkcu8iAC, accessed 8 September 2021. 

  • The power of enthusiasm

    “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money, power and influence.” Henry Chester

  • Man’s capacity

    “There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.” Henry Ford, American industralist Cited at: Quotations Book

  • Working hard for music

    “Now we know that you are gifted, very gifted, but you must work very hard, because someone who is gifted has to work harder than someone who is not, and you will see how boring it is to work hard at music.” Ravel to Manuel Rosenthal after a concert. Cited in: Nichols, Roger (1987) Ravel […]

  • The greatest applause

    “The silence that accepts merit as the most natural thing in the world, is the highest applause.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson “An address delivered before the senior class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday Evening, July 15, 1838”, The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 12 vols. Fireside Edition (Boston and New York, 1909). Vol. 1 […]

  • The making of heroes and cowards

    “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men.” – Brooke Westcott, Bishop of Durham, scholar, theologian Cited at Quotations Book

  • A great teacher

    “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Ward, author Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • A successful day

    “If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble, cited at Brainy Quote  

  • Success

    “Success is not the place one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” Alex Noble Cited at: Quotations Book

  • Music education helps to encourage empathy

    “In an age when many children experience music alone on iPods and computers, especially students at the upper elementary level, the research underscores the value of face-to-face musical interactions. “The Rabinowitch work [at Cambridge University] helps reinforce the intuitive notion that engagement in music is beneficial in terms of ethos, pathos, and logos,” said Jonathan […]

  • The experience of composition

    “I am not suited to ‘writing music’. All has to be experienced.” -Jean Sibelius Cited in:Goss, Glenda (2009) “Sibelius”. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 6.

  • Parry on choral music

    Hubert Parry, who taught Vaughan Williams composition, instructed the composer to “write choral music as befits and Englishman and a democrat.” Vaughan Williams recalled that “this attitude to art led to an almost moral hated of mere luscious sound…” Vaughan Williams, cited in Holmes, Paul (1997) Vaughan Williams. London: Omnibus Press, p.17.

  • Vaughan Williams on Hubert Parry

    Vaughan Williams studied composition with Dr. Hubert Parry at the Royal College of Music, London. Vaughan Williams recalled: Many … entirely misunderstood Parry; they were deceived by his rubicund bonhomie and imagined that he had the mind, as he had the appearance, of a country squire. The fact is that Parry had a highly nervous […]

  • Ravel’s influence on Vaughan Williams

    In 1908, after a period of intense period of immersion in English music due to his role as editor of Hymns Ancient and Modern, Vaughan Williams “came to the conclusion that I was lumpy and stodgy, had come to a dead-end, and that a little French polish would be of use to me.” (1) He […]

  • Vaughan Williams’ preparation of Hymns Ancient and Modern

    Vaughan Williams was commissioned to revise the hymn book of the Anglican Church: Hymns Ancient and Modern. This was amounted to a huge task, but beneficial to his compositional outlook. The study of folk music to ensure the “best” versions of tunes was stressed the importance of musical activity in all spheres of music. He […]

  • Vaughan Williams on an authentic performance of Bach

    Vaughan Williams gave a broadcast talk on Bach entitled “Bach the Great Bourgeois.” It was later published in The Listener. Vaughan Williams, who was involved in performances of works such as Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion as part of the Leith Hill Festival, offered some insight in contemporary approaches to Bach performance: WHEN I was a […]

  • The advantages of having a manager

    Vaughan Williams had asked Holst about his experience of having an agent. Holst, who was at Harvard University at the time, replied: I’m very glad I’ve made use of Duncan McKenzie (OUP) as an agent. He has been really helpful and I hope you’ll at least consider using him. The alternative would be to print […]

  • Jazz apprenticeships

    “Why are jazz apprenticeships so vital in the first place? For one thing the music essentially models a community, with every ensemble thriving on communication, a code of ethics and an implicit grasp of roles. Jazz is also still a young music, with about a century of precedent, imperfectly captured on record and poorly served […]

  • Music and identity

    “The more anonymous music is, the less likely people will be to feel attached it and to feel the need to support it. But when someone knows who you are, when you’re not just some disembodied vibrations in the air, they’re far more likely to stand behind you.” Isaac Schankler. “Beyond Sound and Science: Musicians, […]

  • That’s a wrap

    Electronic music composer Jeff Bryant never imagined that learning to knit would be part of his graduate coursework at California Institute of the Arts. But when his interface design instructor challenged him to build a non-boring MIDI controller device last fall, Bryant found an unlikely musical ally: red yarn. By weaving conductive thread into the […]

  • Spontaneity and art

    Alexander Gow, musician in the band Oh Mercy on spontaneity of artistic creation: [Spontaneity is] when art is expression, and that’s what I’m interested in. If, like you said, there’s a spontaneity to it and it’s an extension of a certain kind of moment or feeling, and if you’re clever enough to express that through […]

  • The shelf life of popular art

    “The fact is popular art dates. It grows quaint. How many people feel strongly about Gilbert and Sullivan today compared to those who felt strongly in 1890?” – Stephen Sondheim, composer. Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • The health benefits of tuning a piano

    “Tuning a piano also tunes the brain, say researchers who have seen structural changes within the brains of professional piano tuners.” BBC News, 29 August 2012. Click here to view article  

  • Anxiety

    “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”. — Chuck Jones, animator Goleman, D., Kaufman, P., & Ray, M. (1993) The Creative Spirit. New York: Plume.

  • Life experience

    “Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.” William James, American philosopher and psychologist Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • Instrumental stereotypes

    Insider jokes are not just for White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinners or ESPN kibitzers or Academy Awards emcees. They also crop up in discussions about symphony orchestra musicians — a society unto itself. There are jibes and even sober-minded studies that characterize personality types according to the instruments they play. Who are the string players? […]

  • The weird people

    “Blessed are the weird people–poets, misfits, writers, mystics…painters & troubadours–for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” — Jacob Nordby Jacob Nordby (2016) Blessed are the Wierd: A Manefesto for Creatives, Boise: Manifesto, Publishing House, p.8.

  • NAXOS and the recording industry

    “There was a time, not so long ago, that Klaus Heymann was accused of trying to destroy the classical music industry. That was around the same time that the world realized that Naxos, Heymann’s budget-record label, was not just another series of CDs in the bargain bin. At first, nobody really knew what to make […]

  • Imagination plus innovation

    “You have all the reason in the world to achieve your grandest dreams. Imagination plus innovation equals realization.” Denis Waitley, American author

  • The value of education

    “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok, American lawyer and educator Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • Evolving recordings

    Gwilym Gold has released an album that never plays the same way twice. Developed in collaboration with Lexxx and scientists from Goldsmiths University in London, Gold says the system, called Bronze, “makes the music more engaging, similar to a live performance. Every time it’s played, it’s renewing itself.” Mark Savage, “Gwilym Gold releases ‘constantly evolving […]

  • Rising after we fall

    “Our greatest glory is, not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Oliver Goldsmith (1762) The citizen of the world: or, letters from a Chinese philosopher, residing in London, to his friends in the east, Dublin: printed for George and Alex. Ewing, 1762, letter 7, p. 30.  Digitally archived at;view=fulltext, […]

  • The work of the individual

    “The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind forward.” – Igor Sikorsky, Russian aviator

  • The illiterate of the future

    “The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, relearn.” -Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist Cited at QuotationsBook

  • The Brainy Baboon

    “There once was a brainy baboon who always breathed down a bassoon for he said, It appears that in billions of years I shall certainly hit on a tune.” -Ezra Pound – American poet, musician and critic Cited at: QuotationsBook  

  • Self expression

    “My interest lies in my self-expression — what’s inside of me — not what I’m in.” – John Turturro, American actor Cited at: QuotationsBook  

  • Creativity

    “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook, American community activist and author Reagan, M., Phillips, B. (1995)  The All-American Quote Book. United States: Harvest House, p. 68.

  • A task no longer

    “Set me a task in which I can put something of my very self, and it is a task no longer. It is joy and art.” -Carman Bliss, Canadian Poet Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • The power of music

    “Music is a readily available, highly effective tool that you use to improve both your cognitive and physical abilities.” Arthur Winter, English priest and cricketer Cited at: QuotationsBook  

  • Quiet minds

    “Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.” Robert Louis Stevenson, author  

  • The status of classical music in Australia

    “I would like to see the emphasis in teaching shift from the performer to the three elements necessary for satisfying music-making: the composer/ improviser, audience and player. I would also like to see the intelligent, inspired exploration of the question of interpretation – in Indian classical music, for instance, it is the opening up of […]

  • Old into new

    An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it. — Robert Bresson, French filmmaker J. Butler, Star Texts: Image and Performance in Film and Television, Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1991, p. 170.

  • The potential of man

    “It is surprising what a man can do when he has to, and how little most men will do when they don’t have to.” — Walter Linn The Signalman’s Journal, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, vol. 29-30, 1948, p.188. 

  • Loneliness versus solitude

    “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” – Paul Johannes Tillich, German American theologian and philosopher

  • Focus on solutions

    Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems. Anthony J. D’Angelo, author Cited at QuotationsBook

  • Empty pockets

    “Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale, American author and preacher Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • The potential of an artist

    “How important is it to catch up with yourself? There are enormous forces lurking in each person, but many people die without having discovered this. Of course it was clear at first glance that Mozart was a genius. But we don’t know whether anybody suspected the great gifts of the young Wagner. Nobody could guarantee […]

  • Glinka’s compositional priorities

    “My earnest desire is to compose music which would make all my beloved fellow countrymen feel quite at home, and lead no-one to allege that I strutted around in borrowed plumes.” – Mikhail Glinka Cited in Jerremy Nicholas, “Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka”, Classic FM, April 2012, p.35.

  • Accessibility for kids

    Benjamin Britten wrote the score to Instruments of the Orchestra, which would become the concert work, Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra. The theme to the score was based on a hornpipe from Purcell’s Abdelzer. Britten commented to the producer, Basil Wright, that “I was never really worried that it was too sophisticated for kids […]

  • The current state of the recording industry

    Founder Klaus Heymann, founder of the successful NAXOS label, on the current state of the classical music recording industry: “We can’t live off CD sales anymore,” says the German-born Heymann, 75, speaking by phone from his base in Hong Kong. When Naxos began, Heymann proved that you could make money selling tens of thousands of […]

  • Bugs Bunny can save classical music

    “The future of classical music lies with the younger generation, which must be weaned away from the cacophony of rock and the neon glitter of “American Idol”-type TV shows. Instead of dragging children to concerts, where they squirm with boredom, rent some old movies featuring soundtracks of classical music. Even toddlers can be exposed to […]

  • The musical memory

    “Of course, almost anybody can memorize things, especially music. It’s like the ABCs and, for most, fun to do. I’ve taught music in middle school programs and have been surprised at the hefty repertoires of popular music that 12- to 16- year olds commit to memory. To boot, they knew when I made a mistake […]

  • Mozart’s piano returns to his home

    “The piano that Mozart used for the last 10 years of his life and which he used to compose much of his music was returned to his former home in Vienna for a performance of his music. ‘A big, positive shock was how good the instrument is,’ said Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov after the concert […]

  • Skepticism

    “Great intellects are skeptical.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Antichrist, 54.  Digitally archived at, accessed 12 September 2021

  • Emerging from suffering

    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Kahlil Gibran, Broken Wings

  • Knowledge of truth

    This knowledge of truth, combined with proper regard for it, and its faithful observance, constitutes true education. The mere stuffing of the mind with a knowledge of facts is not education. The mind must not only posses a knowledge of truth, but the soul must revere it, cherish it, love it as a priceless gem; […]

  • Valley of shadows

    “When walking through the valley of shadows, remember, a shadow is cast by a Light.” – H. K. Barclay Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • LA no longer the center for film scoring

    “…a panel of experts warn that film, TV and videogame scoring continues to leave L.A. because producers are unwilling to meet union demands. “If work continues to dry up at the current rate, they speculated, one or more of the three remaining large scoring stages (Fox, Sony, Warner Bros.) could close “within the next two […]

  • Culture is our fuel

    “‘Culture is our petrol,’ says Toumani Diabaté, the Malian kora player who has collaborated with Damon Albarn and Björk, to name but a few. ‘Music is our mineral wealth. There isn’t a single major music prize in the world today that hasn’t been won by a Malian artist.’ ‘Music regulates the life of every Malian’, […]

  • Abstract art

    “The more horrifying this world becomes, the more art becomes abstract.” Paul Klee, Swiss painter Cited at QuotationsBook

  • Simon on improvisation

    “Improvisation is too good to leave to chance.” -Paul Simon, singer & composer Cited at Accessed 31 March 2013. 

  • Applause

    “Applause is a receipt, not a bill.” – Artur Schnabel, pianist Cited at Cited 30 March 2013. 

  • The fire of knowledge

    “When teaching, light a fire, don’t fill a bucket.” – Dan Snow, television presenter. Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • It is best to do it well

    “It takes less time to do a thing right than to explain why you did it wrong.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet

  • Entertaining to educate

    “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.” — Walt Disney L. Howes, “20 Lessons from Walt Disney on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Chasing Your Dreams”, Forbes, 17 July 2012,

  • The voice of life

    “Is there not an art, a music, and a stream of words that shalt be life, the acknowledged voice of life?” – William Wordsworth, writer Cited at QuotationsBook  

  • Tips for composers

    Rob Deemer highlights several aspects needed for a composer to survive in the artistic community: – ability to accept “failure” (entering competitions, etc.) – maintaining a “stubbornness” to achieve recognition – promoting not only your best works, but also occasionally enjoying the success of your “foibles” – having a sense of “who you are” as […]

  • I dream …

    “I dream, therefore I exist.” —August Stringberg, A Madman’s Defence (Le plaidoyer d’un fou)

  • From the heart

    “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.” — Samuel Coleridge Taylor, English poet, critic and philosopher. Coleridge, Samuel (1856) Seven Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton. London: Chapman and Hall, page xlv

  • James Levine on Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

    Conductor James Levine on Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin: Eugene Onegin is very special, an incredibly successful piece; there is nothing quite like it. The character of Tatyana is so extraordinary. Tchaikovsky absorbed certain things from Pushkin’s original poem, and then composed his own opera, which of course angered some other great Russian artists, like Stanislavsky […]

  • A concise rehearsal

    Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was a German conductor. However, he had a dislike of rehearsals. Karajan recalled: One time he was going over Tchaikovsky’s Fifth with the Vienna Philharmonic. He came to the second movement, with the horn solo, and said, “Let’s start.” He did a few bars, stopped, and said, “See you this evening. You […]

  • Boyd Neel on Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

    Boyd Neel was the first conductor to record Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in 1935. He wrote: I often feel that this wonderful work is perhaps the greatest of all achievements in string orchestral composition. Boyd Neel (1986) The Story of an Orchestra. London: Vox Mundi, p.22. Cited in: Holmes, John […]

  • Malcolm Sargent on Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony

    Conductor Malcolm Sargent on Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony: A frightening symphony. For a symphony to be frightening is perhaps a good thing. Here we have the complete testament of a man who, in his seventies, looks back on the human sufferings of his time. I never conduct the Sixth without feeling that I am walking […]

  • The origin of the interval

    Plays in the Jacobean period (16th century England) were divided into acts to enable the theatre company to manage the candles. Source: Martin White, University of Bristol. “Shakespeare by Candlelight”, The Times, Cited in The Australian, 30 November 2012.

  • Music and time

    “There is also in this [nineteenth-century romantic] music an extraordinary sense of control over the passage of time; a moment will be held still as if suspended, and then released with a rush. Einstein has told us that time is relative, flexible and elastic; I have noticed these qualities whenever I have tried to play […]

  • Creativity between now and Tuesday

    “Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.” – Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s corporation  

  • The two faces of art

    “Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.” – Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor Cited at: QuotationsBook  

  • Hilary Hahn on technique, practise mentality, and performance

    Violinist Hilary Hahn on practice and technique: I’ve always worked hard at my technique … But I’ve worked hard at my musicality as well. When I was doing my etudes my teachers always made sure I didn’t go onto the next until I had the first really good. But it wasn’t good unless it was […]

  • Vassily Primakov on the role of the arts

    “[Art] certainly takes us some place unobtainable. We can go on to say that it enriches our lives – as it has my own. There are many classical musicians I’ve met who are, in my opinion, snobs. They are only involved in certain types of music, seeing nothing beyond ‘classical music’. I think this is […]

  • Elgar on his Violin Concerto

    “It’s good! Awfully emotional! Too emotional, but I love it…” Edward Elgar on his own Violin Concerto Jeremy Pound, “First Violin”, BBC Music Magazine, October 2010, p. 36.

  • Nikolaj Zainder performs Elgar’s Violin Concerto on the original violin

    In 2010, Violinist Nikolaj Znaider performed Elgar’s Violin Concerto on the same 1741 violin in which Kriesler premiered the work on a hundred years before. Znaider was not worried about comparisons to Kriesler’s original performance: “he way I think of music is that it really is something that is played in the moment – it’s […]

  • Elgar’s distractions

    In a radio interview in 1937, Edward Elgar’s violinist friend William H. Reed described Elgar’s “distractions” while composing the violin concerto: I can never play the last movement without seeing the River Wye flowing past the meadow at Hereford where Sir Edward and I used to practise throwing a boomerang in our “off-time” between working […]

  • Hilary Hahn on the “story” behind the music

    I think the back stories [behind the creation of a work] are interesting … But for me the first aim is to look at the notes, and see how I might interpret them … No offence to the media, but I’ve seen stories told about people I know – and about me – that are […]

  • Liszt’s account of a performance by Chopin

    Franz Liszt described one of Chopin’s concerts in the Gazette musicale, May 2 1841. Last Monday, at eight o’clock in the evening, M. Pleyel’s rooms were brilliantly lighted up; numerous carriages brought incessantly to the foot of a staircase covered with carpet and perfumed with flowers the most elegant women, the most fashionable young men, […]

  • Piotr Anderszewski on interpretation

    To me it’s all about how you read and translate the music you play: the most important thing is to reach the point where you feel you understand what happened in the composer’s mind before he actually wrote it. Musical notation is a very sophisticated yet imperfect system; it was the only way for the […]

  • Vaughan Williams on sense of musical citizenship

    Vaughan Williams wrote a series of articles for the Royal College of Music magazine entitled “Who Wants the English Composer?”. In these, he expresses his advocacy for an exploration of the English musical style: We English composers are always saying, “Here are Wagner, Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, what fine fellows they are, let us try and […]

  • Motion and art

    “The statue is concentrated in one moment of perfection. The image stained upon the canvas posses no spiritual element of growth or change. If they know nothing of death, it is because they know nothing of life, for the secrets of life and death belong to those, and those only, whom the sequence of time […]

  • Glenn Gould on recording

    Pianist Glenn Gould discussed the recording process with Yehudi Menuhin completing the playback of a Bach gigue: Now, Yehudi, you’ve got to admit that you would not be likely to encounter a sound like that in the concert hall… The point is that, if I were to play that piece in a concert hall, as […]

  • Frank Churchill in production meetings

    After joining the Disney studios in 1930, Frank Churchill composed music for animated shorts and feature films. His output includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and The Three Little Pigs (featuing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf). Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston recalled in Disney Animation: Walt [Disney] used to claim […]

  • The first soundtrack: Snow White

    The first soundtrack to be commercially released was Disney’s 1938 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The songs were written by Frank Churchill (music) and Lary Morey (lyrics). The score was written by Churchill and Leigh Harline, with some additional music by Paul Smith. Although Churchill and Morey originally wrote 25 songs for the […]

  • Ashkenazy on Richter

    Pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy on his colleague Sviatoslav Richter: Richter magnetized me, like he did so many others, and I wouldn’t have missed his concerts for anything. I think he communicated more than anyone else complete devotion and sincerity to his art. When I look back, this is what attracted me most to him […]

  • Liszt on Beethoven

    Liszt on Beethoven’s music, in a letter to Wilhelm von Lenz in 1852: To us musicians the work of Beethoven parallels the pillars of smoke and fire which led the Israelites through the desert, a pillar of smoke to lead us by day, and a pillar of fire to light the night, so that we […]

  • Inspiration

    “Our happiness in this world depends on the affections we are able to inspire.” – Duchess Prazlin Cited at QuotationsBook

  • The creative person

    The thing that makes a creative person is to be creative and that is all that there is to it. — Edward Albee, American playwright  Kolin, Philip (ed.) (1988) Conversations with Albee.  Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, p.35.

  • Feeling a bond with your instrument

    “Research in Finland has uncovered the benefits of feeling a bond with your instrument. 51 per cent of musicians surveyed reported that they were united with my instrument/voice during performance that there is no difference between us. When this bond is complete, performers may enter in a state of intense concentration, causing them to lose […]

  • Believe in Luck

    “I am a great believer in luck and the harder I work the more of it I have.”— Stephen Leacock, Canadian author American Opinion, volume 2, issues 8-11, page 20

  • The logic of opera in English

    “Opera in English, is about as sensible as baseball in Italian.” – H. L. Mencken, twentieth century American journalist, critic, and satirist. Peter, Lawrence J. (ed) (1977) Quotations for Our Time

  • The most powerful drugs

    “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling, British author and poet. Quoted in The Times, 15 February 1923.

  • The possibilities of creativity

    “The possibilities of creative effort connected with the subconscious mind are stupendous and imponderable. They inspire one with awe.” – Napoleon Hill, American author Quotations Book  

  • Structure and disharmony

    “I need to start from the assumption that the world of spirit is ordered, structured by its very nature, that everything  which causes disharmony in the world, all that is monstrous, inexplicable, and dreadful … And the formula for world harmony is most likely linked not to the blurring of evil but to the fact […]

  • The piano, as distinct from the harp

    Beethoven on the development of the piano as an instrument in its own right: There is no doubt that so far as the manner of playing it is concerned, the pianoforte is still the least studied and developed of all instruments; often one thinks that one is merely listening to a harp.  And I am […]

  • Attaining great heights

    “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Ladder of St. Augustine

  • Beethoven distracted

    A student of Beethoven’s, Ferdinand Ries, went on a walk with his teacher in the country: Beethoven muttered and howled the whole time, without emitting any definite notes.  When I asked him what he was doing he answered, “A theme for the last allegro of the sonata [the Appassionata] has occurred to me.”  When we […]

  • The personality of George Gershwin

    Isaac Goldberg, a friend of George Gershwin, described the composer’s personality: HE was as simple, as unaffected, as modest, and as charming a youth as one could desire to meet. There was nothing about him that was forbidding. He wore his unprecedented celebrity as lightly as if it were a cane – that cane which […]

  • George Gershwin on American music

    George Gershwin, a pioneer of the fusion of jazz, musical theater and classical idioms, wrote two essays on the significance of jazz for American music: THE great music of the past in other countries has always been built on folk-music. This is the strongest source of musical fecundity. America is no exception among the countries. […]

  • The evolution of the jazz tradition

    American jazz music is, in many ways, rooted in its “traditional” repertoire – the American “Songbook” of “standards”. There are, however musicians who emphasise the importance of a fresh approach: If jazz has a future, musicians like Matt Mayhall could help it get there. A lanky, bespectacled Reno native and graduate of Cal Arts, where […]

  • Debussy’s reception in England

    In 1908-9, Claude Debussy made two appearances conducting his own works in England.  The Musical Times reported on the occasions. The report on the first concert: Nothing could have been heartier than the applause which greeted M. Claude Debussy as he stepped on to the platform at Queen’s Hall on February 1.  The warmth of […]

  • The effects of Brahms’ music

    James Huneker, a critic with the New York Courier, wrote about the impact of Brahms’ music on him: Brahms dreams of pure white staircases that scale the infinite. A dazzling, dry light floods his mind, and you hear the rustling of wings – wings of great terrifying monsters; hippogrifs of horrid mien; hieroglyphic faces, faces […]

  • A note about Chopin

    The following appeared in the Musical Times in 1913: An amusing story, for the truth of which we can vouch, comes to us from Toronto. An organist had drawn up the order of a Sunday service, and it was in type ready for printing, when the death of an important personage made a change necessary. […]

  • What drives the wise

    “There is hardly any treatise which could be too learned for me. I have not the slightest pretension to what is properly called erudition. Yet from my childhood I have striven to understand what the better and wiser people of every age were driving at in their works. Shame on an artist who does not […]

  • Practising at every opportunity

    The conductor Stokowski was co-conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  He was rehearsing his own orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  The orchestra, however, was used to playing Ravel’s exuberant orchestration. Charles O’Connell recalled: “In the midst of the rehearsal, one of the second violinists busied himself practising the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, which […]

  • Environmental soundscapes

    In the 1960s, the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer founded the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University.  The research group explored the sonic environment.  Later projects would include  The Vancouver Soundscapes of Canada (1973), European Sound Diary, and Five Village Soundscapes.  In his book on the subject, The Tuning of the World, Schafer wrote […]

  • The code of honor in great art

    “In higher art, only that is worth being presented which has never before been presented.  There is no great work of art which does not convey a new message to humanity; there is no great artist who fails in this respect.  This is the code of honor of all the great art, and consequently in […]

  • The addictive nature of song writing

    “You know it’s sort of addictive because there is all this gold just floating in the ether around you. The process of song writing is this process of just discovering and putting together these beautiful animals that live on their own and run around the world and make people feel good or go on trips […]

  • The importance of music in pantomime

    “In pantomime every single episode, each movement in each episode (its plastic modulations)—as well as the gestures of every character and the groupings of the ensemble—are determined precisely by the music, by its changes in tempo, its modulations, its overall structure. In pantomime the rhythm of the movements, gestures, and groupings synchronized precisely with the […]

  • An author’s perogative to be critical

    “A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.”— Marianne Moore, American poet Donoghue, Denis (1988) Reading America.  University of California Press, p. 244

  • Puccini’s rain machine

    Puccini custom built a villa in the seaside resort of Viareggio. Here, Puccini had a “rain machine that sprinkled water from the trees, beneath which he would stand with an open umbrella, cooling himself from the summer heat. Source: Wilson, Conrad (2008) Giacomo Puccini. London: Phaidon Press, p.205.

  • The importance of reading

    “Whoever wishes to play well must not only practice a great deal, but must also read a great many books.” – Johannes Brahms. Cited in: Goss, Madeleine (1943). Brahms: The Master. New York: Hery Holt & Company, p.157

  • Brahms’ post-concert adventure

    Brahms was invited to the family of one of his students, Fräulein von Meyensbug, in Detmol : The Meysenbug ladies proved very prim and conventional. Brahms was ill at ease. He was so afraid of shocking his aristocratic hostesses that he hardly knew what to say or how to behave. Their young nephew Carl, however, […]

  • Stokowski on contemporary music

    Leopold Stokowski was a champion of contemporary music. He conducted music without judgement, believing judgement to be the public’s job. During the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra’s 1915-16 season,he programmed orchestral suites from Stravinsky’s Firebird and Petrushka, Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, and Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie No. 1. “This last, very cerebral work, although not […]

  • Copland on film music

    American composer Aaron Copland on the role of film music: I was very fascinated by the medium because a composer can be a real help in the making of a film. The way you can prove that, of course, is to see a film before the public has seen it, in the studio room, and […]

  • Copland on the integration of jazz into art music

    American composer Aaron Copland discusses the influence of Jazz on his musical style: was a very important influence at one time. I wrote a Piano Concerto in 1927 which was largely based on jazz materials. Jazz, of course, is for us a very typical American musical expression, which we have not so successfully been able […]

  • The importance of good texts

    Mozart described the importance of good operatic texts in a letter regarding The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) in a letter to his father in 1781: …the Poesie is totally in tune with the character if this stupid, coarse, and malicious Osmin [the servant character] – and I am well aware […]

  • Mozart’s daily schedule

    “…at 6 o’clock in the morning I’m already done with my hair; at 7 I’m fully dressed; – then I compose until 9 o’clock; from 9 to 1 o’clock I give lessons. – Then I Eat, unless I’m invited by someone who doesn’t eat lunch until 2 or 3 o’clock as, for instance, today and […]

  • Mozart on rubato in adagios

    In 1777, Mozart visited Heir Stein in Ausburg (1). According to Mozart, Stein had stated that no-one has ever played his Piano Forte as well as I have, and, besides, I always keep correct time. They are all wondering about that. They simply can’t believe that you can play a Tempo rubato in an Adagio, […]

  • Mozart improvising

    In 1777, Mozart was having lunch with his uncle at the Holy Cross Convent in Ausburg. Mozart played a sinfoni and Vanhall’s Violin Concerto in B. In the evening, at supper, he performed his Strasbourg concerto, a keyboard prelude and his Fischer Variations (K179). It was suggested to the deacon of the Holy Cross Conen, […]

  • What a difference an audience makes

    Mozart was in Paris in 1778. He visited the duchess of Chabot, Elisabeth-Louise de la Rochefoucauld, wife of Louis-Antoine-Auguste de Rohan. Mozart described the visit in a letter to his father: A week went by without any reply, but she had informed me to see her in a week’s time, so kept my word and […]

  • In the event of a lack of singers

    In a letter to his friend Abbé Joseph Bullinger, Mozart jokes about the musical environment in Salsburg. One of his subjects is the search for an additional final principle singer. “I can hardly believe it!” he wrote “A female singer!? When we have so many already! – and all of them first rate…” (1). Mozart […]

  • Mozart’s musical aesthetics

    Mozart’s comments on the musical style of his piano concertos (K. 413-415) portray his underlying aesthetic principle that music should be clear and accessible: I still have 2 concertos to write to complete my subscription concerts. – These concertos are a happy medium between what’s too difficult and too easy – they are Brilliant – […]

  • The political function of music

    “There can be no music without an idealogy. The old composers, whether they knew it or not, were upholding a political theory. Most of them, of course, were bolstering the rule of the upper classes. Only Beethoven was a forerunner of the revolutionary movement.” – Dmitry Shostakovich Cited in: Nettl, Paul (1969) The Book of […]

  • Stokowski and singers

    Leopold Stokowski was staging a concert version of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Natalie Bodanya, one of the finest singers at Curtis at the time, refused to audition, noting how “impersonal and impossible Stokowski was. Stokowski had filled all the roles, with the exception of that the Princess. “Is it possible” Stokowski asked Sylvan [Sylvan Lenin, a […]

  • Word of mouth encore

    Leopold Stokowski gave the Philadelphia premiere of Ravel’s Bolero as an “encore” at a Friday afternoon concert. The newspaper critics had all left the hall, and so once again word of mouth had to prove its effacy, for at the Saturday night concert, after the last number, the audience applauded with unusual fervour and would […]

  • Heard but not seen

    In 1926, conductor Leopold Stokowski inserted the following into the Philadelphia Orchestra programs: The great conviction has been growing in me that the orchestra and conductor should be unseen, so that on the part of the listener more attention will go to the ear and less to the eyes. The experiment of an invisible orchestra […]

  • Gillparzer’s tribute to Beethoven

    …He who lies here was possessed. Seeking one goal, caring only for one result, suffering and sacrificing for one purpose, those did this man go through life… If there are some of us who can still feel a sense of total dedication in these fractured times, let us meet at his grave. Has it not […]

  • Dress regulations for Handel’s Messiah

    In the eighteenth century, hooped skirts were a popular choice of ladies dress attire as they enabled a dramatic entrance, and also flattered the figure when pregnant. They did take up considerable space though. For the performance of the Messiah Handel instructed the ladies to come without hooped skirts, and gentlemen without their swords. The […]

  • Advice to opera performers

    In the early 18th century, the standard of Italian opera performances had become somewhat questionable. In 1720, The satirical writer Marcello offered some advice to those involved in opera performance: [The opera performer] will hurry or slow down the pace of an aria, according to the caprice of the singers, and will conceal the displeasure […]

  • The development of keyboard technique

    Before the time of Bach, keyboardists would often only use the middle three fingers of each hand and tended to keep their hands flat. Bach taught his students under the new principle of using all the fingers. Beethoven asked his pupils to curve the hand. Source: Marek, George (1969) Beethoven: Biography of a Genius. London: William […]

  • Mozart’s magic ring

    When Mozart was in Naples, he so impressed his audience that they suspected “musical sorcery”. They ordered him to play without wearing his ring, the apparent source of his “magic”. Source: Marek, George (1969) Beethoven: Biography of a Genius. London: William Kimber, p.20.

  • Origins of the name Beethoven

    The Beethoven family tree can be traced back to the mid 13th century. The name appears in chronicles of Flemish cities, in parts of northern France, in Mechlin and Antwerp. Two possible theories of the origins of the name are: – van (the) Hof (Beet-Garden) – grower of Beets – after the Belgium town of Betouwe (“be” […]

  • Beethoven as a boy

    In his Beethoven: Biography of a Genius, Marek provides an insight into Beethoven as a boy: The boy was looking out of the window, his head cradled in his hands.  His mien was serious, his glance rigid. Cäcilia Fischer came along the courtyard and saw him. “How are you, Ludwig?” she shouted up to him.  […]

  • Beethoven’s prank

    Beethoven was a musician for the Electoral court and chapel in Bonn. Franz Wegeler, a friend of of Beethoven’s, recounted an incident where the young Beethoven was to accompany a singer, Ferdinand Heller, in a church service. Heller prided himself on being able to sing in tune, no matter how complicated the accompaniment. Beethoven asked Heller if he […]

  • The path of an artist

    “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” – Lao Tzuo, Chinese philosopher. Cited at: QuotationsBook

  • Imagination

    “Imagination decides everything.” – Pascal Blaise, French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. Cited at: QuotationsBook.

  • Beethoven’s compositional process

    Beethoven was revising Fidelio when he wrote to Georg Freiedrich Treitschke (who was helping to revise the libretto) (1): Now, of course, everything has to be done at once; and I could composer something new far more quickly than patch up the old with something new, as I am now doing. For my custom when I […]

  • A new overture – fast

    Beethoven’s revised version of Fidelio was due to be premiered on the 23rd May 1814. Beethoven had planned to write a new overture for the performance. He was still yet to complete it before the final rehearsal on the 22nd May. The night before, he was dining out with his physician (Dr. Bertolini). After dinner, he took a menu, […]

  • The artist should not be shabbily treated

    “I like honesty and sincerity; and I maintain that an artist should not be shabbily treated.” – Beethoven, in a letter to C. F. Peters, 5 June 1822 E. Anderson, Letters of Beethoven (1961), cited in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. United Kingdom, Oxford, OUP Oxford, 2014.

  • Beethoven our artistic brother

    It is the function of art to bring to us emotions, thoughts, states of mind and heart which are larger and more exalted and more intense than those we can produce ourselves, but which we can still recognize as possible within the compass of our imagination, still lying within our capacity for thinking and feeling. […]

  • Page turning for Beethoven

    Ignaz Xaver Seyfried was asked to turn pages for Beethoven in a performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (5 April 1803). He recalled: In the playing of the concerto movements he asked me to turn the pages for him; but – heaven help me! – that was easier said than done. I saw almost nothing […]

  • Beethoven conducting

    On 5 April 1803 Beethoven conducted an concert of his own works: the First and Second Symphonies; The Third Piano Concerto, and his oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. It is likely that the he directed the piano concerto (which he played) from the piano. Ignaz von Seyfried gave an account of Beethoven’s conducting […]

  • The delicate nature of Chopin’s pianism

    Chopin gave a recital in the Gentlemen”s Concert Hall, Manchester, on 28 August 1848. The audience of 1,200 people was the largest Chopin had ever performed to, but Chopin’s delicate playing was not really suited to such a large venue. Conscious of this fact, Chopin requested that another pianist, George Osborne, who was also performing […]

  • Chopin’s pianistic style

    While in London, Chopin frequently gave performances at soirées and matinées where he performed Nocturnes, Waltzes, Mazurkas and the Berceuse George Hogarth reported in the Daily News (10 July 1848): He accomplishes enormous difficulties, but so quietly, so smoothly and with such constant delicacy and refinement that the listener is not sensible of their real […]

  • Quotes

    QUICK LINKS: Audience reception Composers General Performance practice Performers Style Symbolism Teaching methods The creative process The experience of art The purpose of the arts Work ethic Works See also: ANECDOTES AUDIENCE RECEPTION Quick links COMPOSERS Quick links GENERAL Quick links PERFORMANCE PRACTICE Quick links PERFORMERS Quick links STYLE Quick links SYMBOLISM Quick links TEACHING […]

  • Anecdotes

    QUICK LINKS Composers Instruments Interesting facts Performers and performances Personalities of the musicians See also: QUOTES COMPOSERS Quick links INTERESTING FACTS Quick links INSTRUMENTS Quick links PERFORMERS AND PERFORMANCES Quick links PERSONALITIES OF THE MUSICIANS Quick links

  • Achieving your aims

    “Those who have achieved all their aims probably set them too low.” – Herbert von Karajan, conductor Herbert von Karajan – Official Homepage. Accessed 20 March 2016.

  • One way to get a doctorate

    Robert Schumann aspired to be awarded a doctorate degree. On January 31 1840, Robert Schumann asked a friend to appeal to the University of Jena to give him an honorary degree, or set him a degree to pass, on the grounds of: “My sphere of action as an editor on a high-class paper, which has […]

  • Luther on music

    “I am not satisfied with any man who despises music. For music is a gift of God. It will drive away the devil, and makes people cheerful. Occupied with it, man forgets all anger, unchastity, pride, and other vices. Next to theology, I give music the next place and highest praise.” – Martin Luther Cited […]

  • Teaching in Kabul

    Emma Ayres, a violist and former ABC Classic FM radio presenter, discusses her experience in teaching in Kabul at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. CP: You teach viola, cello, and violin as well? EA: A little bit of violin and a little bit of double bass, although I’m not a very good double bass […]

  • Art cannot change events. But it can change people.

    “The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may […]

  • Not just a one hit wonder … but there was an audience favorite

    Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor proved very popular with the public. At times, it was programmed “by request” (1), and if not was freqently expected as an encore. In 1922, Rachmaninoff performed in the Queens Hall (London). A critic in the Musical Times described the event: It was clear that the bulk of those who filled Queen’s Hall […]

  • A replacement conductor

    The following appeared in the Musical Times, August 1890: We read that “a Saxon engineer has invented an automatic machine, the object of which is to save conductors the physical part of their duties. By pressing a button the apparatus, which is provided with an arm holding a conducting-stick, can be made to beat with the […]

  • Conducting gloves

    The practice of wearing white gloves whilst conducting was common in the nineteenth century. The Musical times reported in July 1884 that: “A German conductor,” we are told, “in order that the public may be more deeply impressed with the feeling of grief intended to be produced by the Funeral March in Beethoven’s ‘Eroica Symphony,’ wears […]

  • Work joyfully and peacefully

    If you will become possessed of this faith you will not need to bother about your success or failure, for success will come.  You will not need to be anxious about the results, and will work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results. — James Allen […]

  • Many an Orpheus and Arions make up a Bach

    Johann Matthias Gesner was a colleague of Johann Sebastian Bach at St. Thomas’ School, Leipzig. He later worked on a commentary of the Roman author Quintilian (c. 35-100 A. D.). He included a comparison of Bach with the Classical lyre player: All these (outstanding achievements) … you would reckon trivial could you rise from the dead and […]

  • In critique, then in praise of Bach

    The dilemma of “old” versus “new” style is evident in the comments of the Johann Adolf Scheibe in reference to his elder fellow musician, Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1737, 29-year old Scheibe write in The Critical Musician: A musical composition must naturally be pleasant and tickle the ear, it must also please the reason … […]

  • Remembering J. S. Bach

    Carl Philip Emanuel Bach recalled his father’s (Johann Sebastian) talents as a musician: The exact tuning of his own instruments, and of the whole orchestra, had his greatest attention. No one could tune and quill his instruments to his satisfaction; he did it all himself. The positioning of an orchestra he understood perfectly. He made good use of […]

  • A monkey on his shoulder

    Cellist Walter Joachim spend some time in Calcutta, India. He recalled: “I bought a monkey with which to amuse myself. We played. He was sitting on my shoulders for hours when I was practising.” Joachim practised at least one or two movements of a Bach suite. “I started my day usually with Bach or a […]

  • The key of E-flat

    “[The key of E-flat] was reserved mostly for moments of sublime seriousness, appropriate for dying thoughts, or of love unto death, whether human or divine.” – Heartz, Daniel (2003) Music in European Capitols. New York: Norton. Cited in: Siblin, Eric (2009) The Cello Suites. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, p. 144.

  • Paper and matches for maintenance

    When Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was in his seventies, he retired from the concert stage and lived in Prades, Southern France. Casals began each day by playing from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier on the piano (1), then heading out for a walk with his German shepherd, cocking an ear for birdsong and saluting the snow-capped peak […]

  • Pablo Casals’ obligation

    “I am a very simple man. I am a man first, an artist second. My first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow man. I will endeavour to meet this obligation through music, since it transcends language, politics and national boundaries.” – Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist. Source: Accessed 22 Jan 2013.

  • The nature of music

    “A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think. Music is immediate, it goes on to become.” – W. H. Auden, English Poet Auden, Wystan Hugh ‎(1988) The Complete Words of Auden, Princeton University Press, vol. 3, p. 251.

  • The true success of the journey

    To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour. — Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881 Stevenson, R. L. (1895). Works. United States: P. F. Collier, Vol. 2, p. 119

  • World order

    “The world is not to be put in order; the world is order, incarnate. It is for us to harmonize with this order.” – Henry Miller, American writer and painter

  • Bach’s method of keyboard teaching

    The teaching methods of Johann Sebastion Bach are recounted by his son, Philip Emanuel Bach: The first thing he did was to teach his pupils his special ways of touching the keyboard. For this he made them practice for months nothing but separate exercises for all the fingers of both hands, with constant attention to […]

  • Einstein on creativity

    “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein.

  • Warmed pianos

    There was soon to be no excuse for not practising in the chill of the winter. This excerpt is from The Musical Times, April 1869: WARMED PIANOS (G. Price’s Patent) – These Instruments invite playing in Winter, when the coldness of the keys of all others makes it unnecessarily uncomfortable, if not painful, to many, […]

  • The piano as furniture

    In the ninteenth century, the piano was not only regarded as a musical instrument but as a part of the decor a room. An article in The Musical Times in February 1893 describes some possible applications: Placed near a bay window, it shuts in the cosiest lovers’ next imaginable. Soft-cushioned window seats that have room […]

  • The art of whistling

    In mid-nineteenth century England, whistling was a common source of entertainment and as part of the general reception to a piece of music. An article in March 1854 in The Musical Times reported: We were sorry to hear the vile practice of whistling again carried on to some extent at the concert; were the well-meaning […]

  • The effect of audience reception on Stravinsky’s compositional process

    Stravinksy on the public not particularly liking his music: Their attitude certainly cannot make me deviate from my path. I shall assuredly not sacrifice my predilections and my aspirations to the demands of those who, in their blindness, do not realize that they are simply asking me to go backwards … I could not follow […]

  • Communication with the audience

    Igor Stravinsky contemplates the ultimate goal of an artist versus reality: “Art postulates communion [between the artist and the audience], and the artist has an imperative need to make others share the joy which he experiences himself. But in spite of that need, he prefers to direct and frank opposition to apparent agreement which is […]

  • Arthur Schnabel

    “Artur Schnabel is a pianist unlike any other. One is conscious in listening to him of a powerful and original mind revealing unsuspected meanings and complications in music as familiar as Brahm’s Intermezzi and Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata. His tone is as a rule dry in anything above a piano, but a sudden touch of pedal […]

  • A little ahead … or a little behind

    Samuel Sebastian Wesley received great reviews for his conding at Gloucester’s annual Three Choir Festivals in 1865. An critic in The Musical Times wrote in the October issue: We have said nothing of the orchestra during these performances, for in truth the perfect manner in which the whole of the instrumental portions of the works […]

  • Stravinsky on composition

    “For me, as a creative musician, composition is a daily function that I am compelled to discharge. I compose because I am made for that and cannot do otherwise … I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every […]

  • Education and research

    Education & research services in the fields below are offered both: – online – face to face Skill areas: – Aural and harmony – Analysis – Music history – Piano tuition How can Emotemuse help you? – Tuition – Research and analysis Contact   THE CRAFT OF THE MUSICAL LANGUAGE Greg Smith completed a Bachelor […]

  • Music is a moral law

    Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. – Plato