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 …”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The American jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Daniel “Satchmo” Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 in New Orleans. He died on July 6, 1971 in New York City. July 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of his death, and August 2021 will mark the 120th anniversary of his birthday.
Louis Armstrong came from a poor background and grew up partly in a home for homeless youth, where he learned the basics of playing the cornet. From 1918 he first played in a band on a Mississippi steamer. In 1922 he became a member of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Oliver and Armstrong wrote music history with their two-part break improvisations. After a stopover in the Big Band of Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong founded his own formations in 1925, which became known as “Hot Five” and “Hot Seven”. From 1932, numerous tours took him to Europe and later to Asia and Africa. In the 1950s and 1960s he also became a world star as singer and entertainer. He achieved further increase in his popularity through his participation in Hollywood films, such as “The Glenn Miller Story”, “High Society” and “Hello, Dolly!”. Between 1926 and 1966 Armstrong was able to place 79 hits on the Billboard charts. His co-productions with numerous other world stars are also unforgettable.
Louis Armstrong played a key role in the development of New Orleans jazz. He founded the “star soloism” in jazz and, in the 1920s, set technical standards for jazz trumpeters. He is regarded as one of the most important instrumental soloists in jazz and, with his unmistakable voice, is one of the most famous jazz singers alongside Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.
The video shows an excerpt from the “Johnny Cash Show” in October 1970. Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash perform “Blue Yodel No. 9 (Standin’ on the Corner)”. This is the only song that Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Rodgers recorded together: 40 years earlier, on July 16, 1930.
The American jazz singer Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. She died on June 15, 1996 in Beverly Hills. June 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of her death.
Ella Fitzgerald made her debut as a singer in 1934 at the age of seventeen at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where she won an amateur competition. The band leader and drummer Chick Webb hired her in 1935 as a singer in his big band. After first recordings in 1936, the two finally landed a number 1 hit with the title “A Tisket a Tasket” in 1938, which made Ella Fitzgerald a star.
After Chick Webb’s death, Ella Fitzgerald began her solo career in 1941 and became one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. Her trademark was scat singing, which she introduced on the concert stage. Ella Fitzgerald’s repertoire ranged from swing to bebop, blues, bossa nova, samba, gospel and hip-hop to jazzed up Christmas carols and her records made it into the pop, R&B and country charts of the USA. Her outstanding recordings include the “Songbooks” with which Ella Fitzgerald memorialized the most important American composers, including Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. Another important recording is Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess”, which she recorded with Louis Armstrong.
Ella Fitzgerald won a total of 13 Grammys and in 1967 was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; In 1987 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
The Video shows Ella Fitzgerald together with Count Basie performing the song „A Tisket a Tasket“ at the Montreux Jazz-Festival 1979.
The Croatian composer Josip Slavenski was born on May 11, 1896 in Čakovec (then Austria-Hungary). He died in Belgrade on November 30, 1955. May 2021 will mark his 125th birthday.
After his first music lessons from his father, Slavenski studied from 1913 to 1916 at the Budapest Conservatory with Zoltán Kodály and
Béla Bartók, among others. After military service in World War I, he was a student in Vítězslav Novák’s master class at the Prague Conservatory. After completing his studies, he taught at various music schools in Zagreb and Belgrade and, from 1937, at the Belgrade Music Academy, where he was appointed professor for composition in 1945.
Slavenski first attracted attention as a composer in 1920 when his “Orchestra Notturno” op.1 was performed in Zagreb. His first string quartet was premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival in 1924 and Erich Kleiber conducted the world premiere of the symphony “Balkanophonia” in Berlin in 1927. Slavenski was the first composer from the former Yugoslavia to make a name for himself internationally.
His compositional work, in which he made
extensive use of indigenous folk music from his homeland, includes three symphonies, a symphonic poem, a violin concerto, dances from the Balkans for string orchestra, chamber music, cantatas, choral works, songs and drama music.
The video shows the accordion orchestra of the “Josip Slavenski” music school in Novi Sad with a folk dance by Josip Slavenski. The concert took place on May 11th, 2009 on the occasion of a school anniversary in the synagogue of Novi Sad.
On April 23, 2021, the Italian singer and actress Milva (actually Maria Ilva Biolcati)
died in Milan at the age of 81.
In 1961, Milva won a competition organized by the Italian television company Rai and in the same year came third at the Sanremo Festival. Since then she has been a star in Italy. She took part in the Sanremo Festival fifteen times and released more than 50 albums between 1961 and 2010, including co-operations with Mikis Theodorakis and Astor Piazzolla. Mikis Theodorakis, Ennio Morricone and Klaus Doldinger composed songs for her. In addition, Milva was considered an excellent interpreter of the songs by Edith Piaf and Kurt Weill/Bert Brecht. Milva has been a frequent guest on TV music shows across Europe and sang her songs not only in Italian, but also in English, German, French, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese and Japanese. In addition to chanson and tango, her great passion was theater. Between 1962 and 1995 she also was seen in several films.
The video shows Milva with the song “Alexanderplatz” by Alfredo Cohen, Franco Battiato and Giusto Pio, which Milva released in 1982 on the album “Milva e dintorni” and which has since become one of the most striking pieces at her live concerts.
The Australian harpist Alice Giles was born in Adelaide in 1961. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the first Australian Antarctic expedition in which her grandfather took part, she took part in an Antarctic expedition in spring 2011, during which she gave concerts at the Mawson and Davis research stations as part of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship.
Since Alice Giles won the 8th International Harp Competition in Israel in 1982 at the age of 21, she has been considered one of the world’s leading harp soloists. She has given solo concerts around the world, worked with many large orchestras and was a guest artist at numerous festivals. In the course of her career she was a member of the jury and artistic director of several international harp competitions and has an international reputation as a teacher. Alice Giles has given masterclasses at the Salzburg Mozarteum, in The Hague, London, San Francisco, Milan, Toronto, Bayreuth and at the Juilliard School in New York. She currently teaches at the Sydney Conservatory of Music.
The video shows Alice Giles performing a live performance at the Davis Research Station during the Antarctic expedition in 2011. She plays the composition “Ice” by the Australian composer Mary Doumany.