As a kid, I enjoyed the syndicated column of Sidney J. Harris (1917-1986), which appeared on the same page with Ann Landers and Erma Bombeck. Like those writers, Harris helped you navigate the real world with insight and humor. One of his regular features was a list of things he had learned incidentally, which he called “Things I Learned En Route to Looking Up Other Things.”
Here are ten things I learned en route to writing this month’s set of program notes for concerts by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, soprano Renée Fleming and the Hill House Chamber Players.
- One of the most telling spots in Schubert’s Trio in E-flat, a passage where the second theme of the finale combines with the walking cello tune of the Andante, was cut by the composer because his friends thought the piece was too long. It’s only too long if you’re impatient.
- Schubert’s song “Auf dem Strom” makes reference both to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and to the “Eroica” funeral march. The song appeared on a Beethoven memorial concert a year after LvB died.
- Chamisso, the poet of Frauenliebe und -leben, was also a botanist. Several species are named in his honor, including Camissonia brevipes, the Mojave suncup.
- Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben contains an imitation—not a quotation, but a paraphrase in the same key—of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”
- Mendelssohn was invited to visit the U.S., but declined, pleading ill health.
- Louis Spohr, a conductor like Mendelssohn, invented the orchestral rehearsal mark. (E.g., “Let’s begin at letter O, gentleman.”)
- The officiant of the wedding of Mrs. H.H.A. Beach (Composer Amy Beach) to H.H.A. Beach was the Rev. Phillips Brooks, author of the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
- Beach based her Piano Quintet on a theme from the Finale of Brahms’s Piano Quintet, seen below.
- Oscar Straus was not related to any other Strauss. Not at least, to the famous ones. He stole his most famous tune, the song “Je t’aime quand m’eme,” from the inside of a waltz by Johann the Younger.
- La morena = Sp. brunette
Reneé Fleming, soprano; Helmut Höll, piano • October 5, 7:30 PM • 6:30 pre-concert talk by DET. Ticket purchase required. • Schubert Club International Artist Series • Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota