The solar eclipse may be the biggest news story of this week… but what was the big story in years past? Ether Game brings you the a look at some of the big events that happened on August 20-26th, this week in music history!
August 20, 1882: Under a tent on the grounds of the unfinished Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture premieres. Both the cathedral and the work were meant to commemorate the 1812 defense of Russia against Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Tchaikovsky scored the overture for a huge orchestra and a (now famous) volley of cannon fire, so it was much more suited to the outdoor setting of its premiere, rather than inside a concert hall.
August 22, 1862: Claude Debussy was born in the Western suburbs of Paris. He came from humble beginnings, but later enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire in his teenage years. When he was 22, Debussy won the famed Prix de Rome, the highest honor for a young French composer. This kickstarted his career.
August 25, 1830: The French Grand Opera La Muette De Portici by Daniel François Auber premieres in Brussels. It was a big deal, featuring complicated stage machinery and an on-stage volcanic eruption. The plot was about a revolution that took place in the 17th century, which inspired the contemporary audiences to start their own revolution. The Belgian Revolution of 1830 began with the riots at this premiere!
August 25, 1870: Richard Wagner marries Cosima Liszt, the daughter of Franz Liszt and the ex-wife of conductor Hans von Bülow. However, Richard and Cosima’s relationship was already well-established before they were married. He had already written Siegfried Idyll to her as a birthday present. And they already had three children together: Isolde, Eva, and Siegfried!
August 26, 1846: Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah premieres to great acclaim at the Birmingham Music Festival in Birmingham, England. Shortly after the premiere, Felix’s sister Fanny passes away. A year later, a heartbroken Felix passes away himself. Elijah is played at his memorial.
August 21, 1912: Edward Elgar completes his choral work The Music Makers, based on the poem Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. It was commissioned by the Birmingham Music Festival and premiered there in October that year (the same place that premiered Mendelssohn’s Elijah). However, Elgar’s premiere was far less successful, and the festival (then the longest-running classical music festival) was forced to shut down in 1912 due to financial difficulties.
August 22, 1928: The provocative master of avant-garde composition Karlheinz Stockhausen was born. He became associated with the Darmstadt School, a group of composers known for expanding the ideas of Arnold Schoenberg by organizing all aspects of music—pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, articulation—in the same serial technique put forward by Schoenberg.
August 22, 1599: The Italian madrigalist Luca Marenzio dies after returning to Italy from a trip. He was one of the most successful and prolific composers at the time, with over 500 works to his name.
August 26, 1995: The song “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal hits number one on the Billboard charts, after being featured in the closing credits to the summer blockbuster Batman Forever. The song would later go on to win the Grammy for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.