Category: Music

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.

Stamp of the Month: December 2021


Austria 23.2.2004
 
José Carreras

The Catalan opera singer Josep Maria Carreras i Coll (Spanish form: José Carreras) was born on December 5, 1946 in Barcelona. He will celebrate his 75th birthday in December 2021.
 
In 1963 Carreras broke off his chemistry studies and began to study singing at the Conservatori Superior de Música in Barcelona. In 1970 he made his debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu there in Verdi’s „Nabucco“.
After winning the Verdi competition in Busseto, he received an engagement at the Madrid Opera in 1971 and made his debut with Montserrat Caballé in London in Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda” that same year. From 1972, numerous guest appearances took him to the opera houses in New York, Buenos Aires, Chicago, London, Vienna and Milan. After his international breakthrough as a lyric tenor, other invitations followed, including to Salzburg, Hamburg, Munich, Brussels, Tokyo and San Francisco. Since appearing in the 1990 Football World Cup, he has formed the vocal trio “The Three Tenors” with Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.
In May 2009 Carreras announced his retirement from the opera stage, but continued to give concerts and celebrated a triumphant comeback on the opera stage in Bilbao in 2014 with the world premiere of Christian Kolonovits’ opera “El Juez”. José Carreras, one of the outstanding tenors of the second half of the 20th century, celebrated his departure from the Vienna State Opera at a gala in September 2021.
 
The video shows José Carreras with Cavaradossi’s aria “E lucevan le stelle” from Puccini’s opera “Tosca”. The recording was made at a concert of the “Three Tenors” on July 16, 1994 in Los Angeles. Zubin Mehta conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the L.A. Music Center Opera Chorus.


At the height of his career, Carreras fell ill with leukemia in 1987. Despite a bad prognosis, he was able to resume his singing career after a bone marrow transplant, which was hardly widespread at the time. Out of gratitude for the medical help, he founded the José Carreras Leukemia Foundation in 1988, for which he has raised over 200 million euros with benefit galas over the past twenty years.

Stamp of the Month: November 2021


USA 10.9.1997
Lawrence Tibbett

The American baritone Lawrence Mervil Tibbett was born on November 16, 1896 in Bakersfield / California. He died on July 15, 1960 in New York as a result of a car accident. November 2021 will mark his 125th birthday.
 
Tibbett studied singing in Los Angeles and began his career as a concert singer. In 1921 he failed at an audition at the Metropolitan
Opera. In 1923 he finally received a contract for the 1923/24 season. He made his debut in the role of Lowitzki in “Boris Godunow” alongside Fyodor Chalyapin in the title role. A week later he was back on stage as Valentin in Gounod’s “Faust” next to Chaliapin. It was an indescribable success for the young singer, who then received a contract extension for another season and finally belonged to the MET ensemble until 1950. He played 50 different roles in 396 performances.
 

The video shows Lawrence Tibbett as Escamillo in Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen”, in which he is also depicted on the stamp. The excerpt comes from Richard Boleslawski’s 1935 film “Metropilitan” with Virginia Bruce as Carmen. “Metropilitan” was the first film produced by the newly formed 20th Century Fox Film Studios after the merger of Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film Corporation.

Stamp of the Month: October 2021

Georges Brassens

The French poet, writer and chansonnier Georges Brassens was born in Sète on October 22, 1921. He died on October 29, 1981 in Saint-Gély-du-Fesc near Montpellier. October 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birthday and the 40th anniversary of his death.
 
George Brassens began writing chansons at the age of 14. In 1942 he published his first poems. The well-known chanteuse Patachou was the first to perform Brassen’s chansons at the beginning of the 1950s and who enabled him to make his first public appearances in her Parisian cabaret.

France 16.6.1990
The first recordings soon followed. Although Brassens became one of the most popular and influential representatives of French chanson during the 1950s and 1960s, he lived a rather secluded life without any starry hype. In addition to his own texts, he also set numerous poems by French authors from several centuries to music. His simple presentation and the sparse instrumentation (mostly just guitar and double bass) created a feeling of intimacy and authenticity in the audience.
To date, more than 30 million CDs and LPs of his chansons have been sold. In 1967 he was awarded the Grand Prix de Poésie by the Académie française.
 

The video shows Georges Brassens with his chanson “La complainte des filles de joie”
(The lament of the maidens ) from 1961.



50 Years ago …

On September 9, 1971 the album “Imagine” by John Lennon (1940-1980) was released.
The title song is still one of his most famous songs to this day. The song was a statement against the Vietnam War at the time, but for many it has become a kind of ultimate peace hymn and an ode to idealism.
“Imagine that there was nothing more worth waging war for …”

 

UN New York 21.9.2021
 

 
More anniversaries …

In Memoriam: Mikis Theodorakis

On September 2, 2021, the Greek composer, writer and politician Mikis Theodorakis died in Athens at the age of 96.

    

Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29, 1925 on the island of Chios. He studied music in Athens and Paris, among others with Olivier Messiaen. During the Second World War he was politically active in the resistance movement and was imprisoned several times. In the 1950s he mainly composed chamber music, ballet music, some symphonic works and his first film scores. He became known worldwide in 1964 for his film music for “Zorba the Greek”.
Mikis Theodorakis was a member of the Greek Parliament from 1964 to 1967 and was arrested again after the 1967 military coup. In 1970 he managed to escape into exile in Paris, from where he went on numerous concert tours. After his return to Greece in 1974 he worked primarily as a composer and conductor. His extensive compositional oeuvre includes more than 1000 works, including symphonies, cantatas, church music, oratorios, operas, film music and numerous songs.

For his services to music he received the Sibelius Prize (1963), the Gold Medal for Film Music (London 1970) and the Socrates Prize (Stockholm 1974). For his commitment to peace and international understanding, Mikes Theodorakis was awarded the IMC UNESCO Music Prize in 2005.

The video shows Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates in the famous dance scene from the film “Zorba the Greek” by Michael Cacoyannis with “Sirtaki” composed by Mikis Theodoraki.



In Memoriam: Charlie Watts

On August 24, 2021, the British musician Charles Robert “Charlie” Watts died in London at the age of 80.

        

Charlie Watts was born in Bloomsbury on June 2, 1941. At the age of ten he discovered his passion for American jazz and built his first drum from an old banjo. He played in various youth bands and became a member of the Rolling Stones in January 1963. Because of his dry, direct drum style, he was considered the rhythmic basis of the band and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Rolling Stones in 1989. Since the 1980s he has also been on tour with his own big band and a smaller jazz formation.
In 2016, the Rolling Stone magazine listed Charlie Watts as twelfth of the 100 best drummers of all time.

The video shows Charlie Watts at a live concert by the Rolling Stones.


Stamp of the Month: September 2021

Engelbert Humperdinck

The German composer Engelbert Humperdinck was born on September 1, 1854 in Siegburg. He died on September 27, 1921 in Neustrelitz. September 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of his death.

Germany 9.9.2004
 

Engelbert Humperdinck received piano lessons at a very early age and began to compose at the age of 12. From 1872 he studied with Ferdinand Hiller at the Cologne Conservatory. The Mozart Prize of the City of Frankfurt (1876) enabled him to study with Franz Lachner and Josef Rheinberger in Munich. On a trip to Italy he visited Richard Wagner, who offered him the opportunity to work on the world premiere of “Parsifal”. Humperdinck accepted the offer and worked closely with him until Wagner’s death in 1833. After a job as Kapellmeister in Cologne and teaching assignments in Barcelona and Frankfurt, he achieved an initially surprising but lasting success in 1893 with the opera “Hansel and Gretel”, which enabled him to devote himself entirely to composing in the following years. Unfortunately, however, none of his other five operas had the similar success of “Hansel and Gretel”. In December 1900, Humperdinck moved to Berlin, where he took a master class for composition at the Musikhochschule and, in close collaboration with Max Reinhardt, composed several pieces of drama for the German Theater.
 

The video shows the final scene of the opera “Hansel and Gretel” with Daniela Sindram (Hansel), Ileana Tonca (Gretel) and the children’s choir of the opera school of the Vienna State Opera. The recording is from a live broadcast by the 3Sat TV channel in 2016.

Stamp of the Month: August 2021

Rafael Kubelik

The Czech conductor and composer Jeroným Rafael Kubelík was born on June 29, 1914 at the Bohemian Castle of Horskyfeld in Býchory. He died on August 11, 1996 in Kastanienbaum in the Swiss canton of Lucerne. August 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
 
As the son of the violinist Jan Kubelík, Rafael Kubelik’s musical talent was encouraged at an early age. He studied violin, conducting and composition at the Prague Conservatory and first appeared as a conductor in 1934. From 1936 to 1939 he conducted the concerts of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague.

Czech Republic 27.5.1998
From 1939 to 1941 he was chief conductor of the National Theater in Brno and, in 1941, succeeded Václav Talich as chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. In 1946 he conducted the opening concert of the first “Prague Spring” festival. After the Communists came to power, he left Czechoslovakia in 1948. 1950 to 1953 he was conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and 1955 to 1958 musical director of the Covent Garden Opera in London. After a few concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic, Rafael Kubelik was chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1979, with whom he toured numerous times.
Kubelík was primarily regarded as a specialist in the works of Czech composers and set standards with his interpretations of the works of Dvořák and Janáček. He also stood up for the work of Gustav Mahler and began in the 1960s as the first with a complete recording of Mahler’s symphonies. In 1984 he retired from conducting, but conducted Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic poem “My Fatherland” again at the opening concert of the Prague Spring in 1990 at the request of the Czech President Václav Havel.
As a composer, Rafael Kubelik is assigned to neo-romanticism. He created a mass, stabat mater, 3 Requiem settings, 5 operas, 3 symphonies and a few other orchestral works. In addition, violin and cello concerts, chamber music and a number of songs.
 

The video shows Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Smetana’s “My Fatherland” (Ma vlast), recorded on May 3rd and 4th, 1984 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residence.