We celebrated National Teacher's Day this Tuesday with a show about classical music and education. Decide if you are a classical class clown or a trivia teacher's pet and browse our playlist below.
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Symphony No. 55 in E-flat 'The Schoolmaster' Haydn’s long career includes familiarity with nearly all musical genres of his time. This broad background made Haydn a natural teacher and perhaps helped him to earn his nickname of “Papa.” The selection we’ve just heard earned its own particular nickname from a lost divertimento titled The School Master in Love. One Haydn biographer also attributes the nickname to the dotted rhythms of the second movement, comparing it to the wagging finger of a disapproving teacher. Haydn’s most well known pupil was Ludwig van Beethoven. Haydn’s influence is clear in Beethoven’s early work, but even he couldn’t keep Beethoven from forging his own path. Beethoven was often antagonistic toward his teacher, but Haydn still admired his student’s compositions. The two were on good terms by the time of Haydn's death.
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) The High School Cadets One of Sousa’s most popular marches, you might think that “The High School Cadets” was written for a high school marching band. However, it was composed in 1890, about twenty years before marching bands became a widespread part of American highschool curriculums. The High School Cadets were a drill team in Washington D.C. Sponsored by Central High School, they were one of many patriotic young adult groups that were cultivated in the nation’s capitol in the years following the Civil War. In fact this march was commissioned in response to the popular National Fencibles March, which Sousa had written earlier for a rival cadet team. The work was premiered by the Marine Band with the High School Cadets in attendance. They liked the piece so much that they paid to have it copyrighted and published, a fee of $24, which would have been about $700 today.
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) Candide" The Best of All Possible Worlds Candide is based on Voltaire’s satire about a young, naïve man who takes a crazy journey around the world in search of “the best of all possible worlds.” This philosophy is espoused early in the operetta by the Westphalian court philosopher and Candide’s teacher Dr. Pangloss, whose theories of optimism are based on the real writings of German metaphysicist Gottfried Leibniz. The idea that Candide is living in the best of all possible worlds is challenged over and over again as he encounters hardship, carnage and destruction at each new locale. In the By the end of the second act, Candide is finally disillusioned with this eternally optimistic sensibility and, in the operetta’s grand choral finale, resolves to live life with a more practical mindset.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Academic March Sibelius’s Jubilee March for Small Orchestra otherwise known as the Academic March, never quite had the impact that Sibelius hoped. According to his own reports, the work was completely ignored by the press and everyone else, despite being lauded by the orchestra. That orchestra, led by conductor Robert Kajanus, performed this work on May 31, 1919 at the degree ceremony of Finland’s Helsinki University, the occasion for which the work was written. This wasn’t the first time Sibelius did this: he wrote a Cantata for Helsinki University ceremonies in 1894 as well. Perhaps the reason the 1919 Academic March was ignored had to do with the performance itself. Sibelius wrote in his diary that Kajanus, the conductor, “took it too fast, so that all the con grandezza (the “grandeur”) disappeared.”
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) In the Steppes of Central Asia It is likely most people know Borodin best for his contributions to Russian Romantic music. However Borodin was also a very gifted chemist and earned an advanced medical degree from the Medico-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg in 1858. He eventually became a professor of chemistry there, and lived on-campus for the rest of his life. Not only did he juggle his professorship with his music endeavors, he also participated in founding the first medical college for women in Russia in 1872, which became very successful after he completely re-developed the chemistry curricula, lectures and demonstrations in the laboratory. His musical and scientific legacy is substantial, and includes the Borodin Reaction, named for the chemical reaction he first demonstrated in 1861.
Scott Joplin (1868-1917) Treemonisha: Act III No 24. A Lecture: When Villains Ramble Far and Near Famed ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha was composed in 1911, but was not officially staged until 1972. Joplin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously following the success of this work. The opera takes place on an abandoned plantation in rural Arkansas where former slaves Ned and Monisha raise their daughter, Treemonisha. So named because she was found by Monisha under a sacred tree, Treemonisha has been brought up to be educated, unlike the other cornhuskers on the plantation. Because of this, she is not easily fooled by charlatans and quack doctors who prey on the cornhuskers’ superstitions. Through the opera’s main character, Joplin stresses the importance of education and how Black Americans can use it to bring themselves out of poverty.Though Joplin’s original orchestration notes have been lost, numerous arrangements have been made from the surviving piano score.
Maria Theresia Paridis (1759-1824) Der Schulkandidat: Overture We just listened to the overture to a lost opera called The Prospective Student by Maria Theresia Paridis, a significant performer in the early Classical period. Blind almost from birth, after Paridis’s gift for memorization was recognized, she was trained in music by esteemed teachers such as Antonio Salieri, and became a regular presence in the salons and concerts of Vienna, Paris and London. She kindled friendships with Mozart, Haydn and Gluck, and some of their concertos were likely written for her. Later in life she turned to composition, taking advantage of inventions developed in the late 18th century by Wolfgang von Kempelen, which aided the blind in reading, writing and music composition. For many years, her original works were misattributed to composer Pietro Domenico Paradisi, but as research on Paradis has expanded, so has her body of work, with five operas, three cantatas, and numerous instrumental works for keyboard.