Category: Music

Stamp of the Month: July 2022

Ignacio Cervantes

The Cuban pianist and composer Ignacio Cervantes Kawanag was born on July 31, 1847 in Havana. He died in his hometown on April 29, 1905. July 2022 will be his 175th birthday.

Cuba 15.9.1997

Cuba 27.6.1959
Cervantes was considered a child prodigy and was taught by the American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, among others. Gottschalk encouraged him to study at the Conservatoire de Paris (1866-1870), where he received first prizes for composition (1866) and harmony (1867) and gave concerts with Christina Nilsson and Adelina Patti.
Cervantes was one of the first musicians to emphasize the special character of the Central and South American peoples in their music.
As a supporter of the Cuban rebels, he had to leave the country temporarily in 1875 and lived in Mexico and the United States for several years. Ignacio Cervantes composed an opera, various pieces of chamber music, zarzuelas and the famous forty-one “Danzas Cubanas”. He wrote his “Fusión de Almas” for his daughter María Cervantes (1885-1981), who became a well-known pianist, composer and singer.

The video shows the Orquestra De Guiarres De Barcelona conducted by Sergi Vicente performing a medley of Ignacio Cervantes’ “Danzas Cubanas”. All members of the orchestra are teachers, graduates or master students of the Conservatorio Superior de Mùsica del Liceo in Barcelona.

Stamp of the Month: June 2022

Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson

The Icelandic composer Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson was born on June 28, 1847 in Seltjarnarnes, he died on February 2, 1927 in Copenhagen. June 2022 will be his 175th birthday.
Sveinbjörnsson showed musical talent from an early age. However, since his father died early and a career as a professional musician in Iceland was practically impossible at the time, he trained as a pastor. In 1868 he decided to study music, majoring in piano and harmony. He was a member of the choir of Niels Gade’s music association and took piano lessons from Carl Reinecke in Leipzig in 1872/73. From 1873 to 1919 he lived in Edinburgh as a pianist and music teacher.

Island 11.12.1979
In addition to a number of choral works, Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson’s compositional oeuvre mainly includes piano and chamber music, which reveals a clear connection to the British salon music of the time. As early as 1874 he composed the melody of the later Icelandic national anthem “Lofsöngur” to the text by the poet Matthías Jochumsson. Icelandic music is rarely found in his work, e.g. in the two “Icelandic Rhapsodies”, in which he combined melodies from Icelandic folklore into one piece of music.

The video shows the Icelandic pianist Nína Margrét Grímsdóttir (*1965) with Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson’s “Minuet & Trio” from 1873, the first musical work composed by an Icelander. The recording was made in March 2011 at the Icelandic Music Museum in Kópavogur.

In Memoriam: Andrew Fletcher

The British musician Andrew Fletcher died on May 26, 2022.
Andrew Fletcher was born in Nottingham on July 8, 1961. He first played electric bass and was a member of the group “No Romance in China” with his school friend Vince Clarke. In 1979 he switched to synthesizers and formed the band “Composition of Sound” together with Clarke and Martin Gore. The band was later renamed “Depeche Mode”.
“Depeche Mode” is considered the most popular synth rock and synth pop group. With over 100 million records sold worldwide, it is one of the most successful bands in the world. Andrew Fletcher was the only member of the band who never wrote a song. As the band’s keyboardist, however, he had a decisive influence on the band’s style. In addition, he took on many of the organizational tasks and was heavily involved in the band’s studio work.

In Memoriam: Vangelis

On May 17, 2022, the Greek composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known by his stage name Vangelis, died in Paris at the age of 79 as a result of a COVID-19 disease. Born on March 29th, 1943 in Agria, Greece, Vangelis was one of the pioneers of electronic music. Vangelis was largely self-taught in music and had only a basic knowledge of reading or writing music throughout his career. In the early 1960s he founded his first band. In 1968 he formed the progressive rock group Aphrodite’s Child with Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras, which had several hit singles. In 1973 he started his solo career with his first film scores. In the 1980s he shared several international hits with Jon Andersen. In 1982 Vangelis won the first Oscar for an all-synthesizer film score with the music for the strip “Chariots of Fire”. Other film music hits followed, such as “Blade Runner”, “Bounty” and “1492 – Conquest of Paradise”, the background music for many documentaries by Jacques Cousteau, as well as the anthem for the 2002 World Cup.

Stamp of the Month: May 2022

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

The Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold was born on May 29, 1897 in Brno, he died on November 29, 1957 in Los Angeles. May 2022 will be his 125th birthday.
Korngold was considered a musical prodigy in Vienna. As early as 1910, a ballet music by the 13-year-old was premiered at the Vienna Court Opera. Some of his early works were frequently performed by prominent conductors such as Bruno Walter,

USA 16.9.1999

Austria 31.3.1997 
Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Richard Strauss. Korngold’s operas “Der Ring des Polykrates”, “Violanta” (both 1916), “Die tote Stadt” (1920) and “Das Wunder der Heliane” (1927) were great successes and made him – alongside Richard Strauss – the most frequently performed opera composer in Germany and Austria. In 1934 he followed Max Reinhardt’s invitation to Hollywood to compose the film music for his film “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. With the work on this film, in which a symphony orchestra was used for the first time, he set new standards in the still young history of film music. Because of his Jewish heritage, he stayed in the United States and worked as a film composer for Warner Brothers. By 1946 he had composed the music for
19 films, of which “Anthony Adverse” (1936) and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) each received an Oscar for the best film score.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold considered himself a representative of modern classicism. In addition to film music and six operas, his compositional output includes piano works, songs, orchestral and chamber music, choral works, incidental music and an operetta.

The video shows Jeffrey Schindler and the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute performing the overture to the 1940 film “The Sea Hawk” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The recording was made in 2010 during the final concert of the summer course at the University of Tasmania’s Conservatory of Music.

Stamp of the Month: April 2022

Toots Thielemans

The Belgian jazz musician Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922 in Brussels. He died in his hometown on August 22, 2016. April 2022 will be his 100th birthday.
Under his stage name “Toots” Thielemans was an outstanding representative of modern jazz. He learned to play the accordion and guitar and eventually discovered the chromatic harmonica.

Belgium 21.3.2022
Like no other, he helped the harmonica to gain respect in jazz. As early as 1950 he was a member of the “All-Star Band” on Benny Goodman’s European tour. Later he made music with, among others, Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Paul Simon and Billy Joel. In the 1980s he was a frequent member of the all-star cast around Dizzy Gillespie. He can also be heard with his instrument in the soundtrack of several film scores such as “Asphalt Cowboy”, “The Getaway” or “French Kiss”.
One of his most famous works as a composer is the background music for the children’s television series “Sesame Street”.
In 2004, Toots Thielemans was honored with the German Jazz Trophy for his life’s work, and in 2009 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, the highest award for jazz musicians in the USA. In 2001, King Albert II of Belgium made him a baron.

Belgium 18.11.2000 

The video shows Toots Thielemans at the “Night of the Proms” 2009 in Rotterdam. He performs his jazz standard “Bluesette”. This title was composed and first recorded in 1961 and has since been covered by more than 100 artists.

Stamp of the Month: March 2022

Ukraine 4.3.2015
Shche ne vmerla Ukrainy i slava, i volia
(Ukraine hasn’t parished yet, nor her glory, nor her freedom)

In the autumn of 1862, long before Ukraine existed as an independent state, the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Chubynsky, wrote the patriotic poem “Never perished is Ukraine’s glory and freedom”. The background was the revival movement of the Slavic peoples under foreign rule. The poem quickly spread and resulted in Chubynsky being placed under police surveillance “because of his harmful influence on people’s minds” and being resettled in Arkhangelsk. In 1863, the poem was first published in the Lviv magazine “Мета”. The Catholic priest and composer Mykhailo Verbytsky, was so enthusiastic about the text that he first composed the singing part and later an orchestral accompaniment. In 1865 the poem set to music was published with sheet music.
In 1917 the anthem was sung as the national anthem of the young Ukrainian People’s Republic; however, during the period of brief independence between 1917 and 1920, it was not officially designated as the state anthem.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the founding of an independent Ukraine, Verbytsky’s music was written into the constitution as an anthem in 1991. The words to be sung were laid down by law in 2003. The original text of the first line “Never perished is Ukraine’s glory and freedom” was changed by a small grammatical correction and now reads: “Ukraine hasn’t parished yet, nor her glory, nor her freedom”.


Ukraine hasn’t parished yet, nor her glory, nor her freedom.
Upon us, fellow kin, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish, like dew in the morning sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
We’ll lay down our souls and bodies to attain our freedom,
And we’ll show that we, brothers, are of the Kozak nation.

Stamp of the Month: February 2022

Belgium 21.1.2006
The stamp depicts a posthumous miniature from 1523 showing Johannes Ockeghem as “premier chappellain” with his singers.
Johannes Ockeghem
The singer and composer Johannes Ockeghem was born between 1420 and 1425 in Saint-Ghislain in Belgium. He died in Tours on February 6, 1497. February 2022 marks the 525th anniversary of his death.
Ockeghem probably received his musical training at the Saint-Germain collegiate church in Mons. He is personally documented for the first time in 1443 as the first of seven chapel singers at the court of Duke Charles I of Bourbon. From 1451 he was a singer in the court orchestra of the French king Charles VII. Numerous documents show that he held this position for more than 40 years, even during the reigns of the two following kings Louis XI. and Charles VIII of France. In parallel with his duties at court, Ockeghem was appointed by the king in 1459 as treasurer of the church of
Saint-Martin in Tours, which was then one of the most influential and best-paid offices in France. As an acclaimed composer, Ockeghem also made use of his travel opportunities. Several stays in different places in France as well as trips to Milan and Spain are documented.
Johannes Ockeghem is considered one of the most important composers of the early Renaissance. He was the first composer to devote special attention to the cyclic chants of the mass. His Requiem is the first complete setting of the requiem mass and he was probably the first giving the bass part in vocal music the importance it retained for the next 400 years. His compositions – numerous masses, motets and other sacred and secular works – show a remarkable stylistic range. Particularly noteworthy is his contrapuntal ability, which astonished connoisseurs such as Erasmus of Rotterdam even during his lifetime. For example, among the works by Ockeghem that have been proven to be lost is a 36-part motet (hardly any work by other 15th-century composers has more than 15 parts). In his works, Johannes Ockeghem developed the polyphonic style of Franco-Flemish music into the classical vocal polyphony that has shaped European music for more than a century.

The video shows a performance of Johannes Ockeghem’s “Ave Maria” at the Chelsea Music Festival at St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church, New York City, on June 8, 2019. The “Ghostlight Chorus” is a New York chamber choir founded in 2010 by conductor Evelyn Troester DeGraf.

In Memoriam: Elza Soares

On January 20, 2022, Brazilian samba singer Elza Soares died in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 91. Born on June 23, 1930 in Rio de Janeiro, Elza Gomes da Conceição was one of the most important interpreters of samba. In 1953 she won a singing competition by the composer Ary Barroso and was subsequently engaged as a singer in an orchestra. She appeared as a musical and pop singer and worked for a radio station for several years. After the success of her first album, she was hired in 1960 for the television show Primeiro festival nacional de bossa nova, where she appeared regularly. She became internationally known, among other things, through her appearance at the World Cup in Santiago de Chile alongside Louis Armstrong. Her life story was the basis for the 2000 musical “Crioula” (“Creole”).

The video shows the artist performing on television in 1981.

Stamp of the Month: January 2022

USA 10.9.1997

Nicaragua 22.1.1975
Rosa Ponselle

American opera singer Rosa Ponselle was born on January 22, 1897 in Meriden, Connecticut, and died on May 25, 1981 in Baltimore, Maryland. January 2022 will mark her 125th birthday.
Rosa Ponselle (actually Rosa Melba Ponzillo) appeared from 1915 with her older sister Carmela as the Ponzillo Sisters in New York cinemas and cabarets. The impresario William Thorner recognized her talent and brought her into contact with the Metropolitan Opera, where she was promoted by Enrico Caruso. In 1918 she made her stage debut alongside Caruso as Leonore in “La forza del destino” by Giuseppe Verdi. The performance made Ponselle famous overnight. From 1918 to 1937 she was part of the Met ensemble for 19 seasons in a row.
Rosa Ponselle is one of the most outstanding coloratura sopranos in opera history. Her repertoire included 23 roles in operas by Mascagni, Weber, Rossini, Ponchielli, Spontini, Mozart and Verdi. Her star role, however, was the title role in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. Her last role at the Met was Georges Bizet’s Carmen.
After the end of her active career, she took on a managerial position at the newly founded Baltimore Civic Opera. There she also gave singing lessons. One of her students was Plácido Domingo.
The video shows Rosa Ponselle as Carmen in 1936 during test shoots in the MGM film studios.