Stern’s family moved to the United States and settled in San Francisco when he was one year old. His mother, a professional singer, gave him his first music lessons. He began studying the violin at the San Francisco Conservatory in 1928. In 1932 he became the third immensely talented San Francisco-area boy to train with the San Francisco Symphony concertmaster Louis Persinger (the others were Menuhin and Ruggiero Ricci). However, he considered Naoum Blinder, with whom he studied until the age of 15, his only true teacher. Stern made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony on February 18, 1936, with Pierre Monteux conducting the Third Concerto by Saint-Saëns.
However, Stern was to become as famous internationally for his contribution to public causes as he was for his concert performances and recordings. His social contributions took many forms: his most noted involvement as a cultural activist was his pivotal role in the 1960 salvation of Carnegie Hall, then facing demolition. Elected president of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, he guided the affairs of the edifice he called “our country’s affirmation of the human spirit” (Stern and Potok, p. 141) until the end of his life. He was chairman of the board of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and founder and chairman of the Jerusalem Music Center, and in the United States he campaigned for and became a founding member of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1964. In 1975 he received the first Albert Schweitzer Award for “a life’s work dedicated to music and devoted to humanity” and two years later was made a member of the French Légion d’Honneur.
Obituary, New York Times~ http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/23/nyregion/violinist-isaac-stern-dies-at-81-led-efforts-to-save-carnegie-hall.html
Willie Dixon was born July 1, 1915, in Vicksburg, MS.
Illustration: William Stout / Legends of the Blues
James Cotton was born July 1, 1935, in Tunica, MS.
Illustration: Jack Coughlin / A Brush with the Blues: 26 Portraits
Willie Dixon and James Cotton with Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Spann, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Mable Hillery in 1966 at the Canadian CBC Television studio, recording a portion of a CBC “Festival” series:
1978 SPECIAL CITATION for distinguished service to the arts (Posthumous)~
NAXOS: George Szell~ http://www.naxos.com/person/George_Szell_38224/38224.htm
“Szell stories”—tales of his irascibility, hauteur and genius—are still popular when musicians gather to drink and dish after concerts. Pianist Glenn Gould referred to Szell’s “Dr. Cyclops” reputation and nearly walked out of his one and only collaboration with the conductor. (“That nut’s a genius” was Szell’s personal appraisal of Gould.) In 1946, his first year as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, Szell fired 22 of the 94 musicians in the group, and he later dismissed his brilliant principal oboist of almost two decades for a single insubordinate comment at a rehearsal. Most of his players were terrified of him; some frankly despised him. After Szell’s death, one Cleveland violinist refused to cut his hair, letting it grow down to his waist in posthumous rebuke to the martinet who could no longer object.
And yet Szell’s accomplishments in Cleveland cannot be overstated. He summed up his approach succinctly three years before his death. “My aim in developing the Cleveland Orchestra has been to combine the finest virtues of the great European orchestras of pre-World War II times with the most distinguished qualities of our leading American orchestras,” Szell wrote. “We put the American orchestra’s technical perfection, beauty of sound, and adaptability to the styles of various national schools of composers into the service of warmhearted, spontaneous music-making in the best European tradition.” And indeed, such was his legacy.
Early in his career, Wagner learned both the elements and the practical, political realities of his craft by writing a handful of operas which were unenthusiastically, even angrily, received. Beginning with Rienzi (1838-40) and The Flying Dutchman (1841), however, he enjoyed a string of successes that propelled him to immortality and changed the face of music. His monumental Ring cycle of four operas — Das Rheingold (1853-54), Die Walküre (1854-56), Siegfried (1856-71) and Götterdämmerung (1869-74) — remains the most ambitious and influential contribution by any composer to the opera literature.
The Brilliant, Troubled Legacy of Richard Wagner
A great music lover, Renoir was one of the first admirers of Wagner in France. At the beginning of 1882, when the painter was travelling in the south of Italy, he had the opportunity to visit Palermo where Wagner was staying. After two fruitless attempts, Renoir was finally introduced to the “maestro” who, the day before, had put the final notes to Parsifal.
The course of this meeting is well known thanks to a letter from Renoir to one of his friends, dated 15 January 1882:
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
African American Composer, Arranger, Conductor & Oboist
Dean of African American Composers
On this date in 1895, William Grant Still was born. He was an African American musician and composer.
Still was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first African-American to have an opera, “Troubled Island” (1949) performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera, “A Bayou Legend,” performed on national television (1981).
The period from 1926 to the early 1940s was Still’s most prolific. During this time he wrote “Levee Land” (1925), a suite for orchestra and soprano that combines traditional western musical elements with jazz; “From the Black Belt” (1926), a work for chamber orchestra based on seven short character sketches; “Sahdji” (1930), a choral ballet based on an African story, and “Afro-American Symphony.”