My Passion with Classical Music

To be able to explain how I love classical music, need to go back to the very beginning with my Father.

To begin with, he didn’t like any genre of music.  A friend bought him a copy of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no 1.  He refused to listen but his friend made him.  Dad kept telling him that it was awful, horrible and made any excuse he could to justify not liking it.  Eventually, he succumbed, started to like it, gradually wanted to hear more and became addicted.

When I was six years old, remember being on holiday, staying in a caravan at Withernsea, North Yorkshire.   The third movement of Tchaikovsky Symphony no 6 (Pathetique) was going round in my head.  Found myself humming it, and think that was the start of my interest in classical music.

Was listening intently with my father until I reached my teens when I discovered Pop Music.  Unfortunately, that genre took over until my late twenties when became bored with the same old songs and started to listen to classical again.

Because my friends weren’t so keen, only had the opportunity to listen to it occasionally, which looking back, was a shame.

Around February 2014, took up Classical Music seriously after going to see a Chamber Orchestra performing

Bach  Violin Concerto in A Minor
Mozart  Violin Concerto in A Major
Vivaldi  Four Seasons

Gave me a “wake up call”.  Kept going over and over what was missing all these years and thinking that I wasn’t getting any younger.

Started by listening to small amounts of music, but then along came “You Tube” and found myself enjoying concerts on there and decided to attend live performances.

I had a small collection of vinyl records but started to build my music library.  Made it easier with box-sets of CDs becoming accessible, as I was able to buy whole symphony and concerto collections.

Around this time, musicians and orchestras began to stand out, was able to recognise different interpretations and having an opinion about them to the point of following some of them.

Well, with the invention of “social media” found it easier to communicate with other like-minded people who helped me to broaden my knowledge, develop my passion and through going to concerts, made some new friends.

Have come to a point now where I can never let “classical music” go.  Although sadly, Dad is no longer here, feel as though he has encouraged me to come this far and will never let him down.

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The Tragic Life of Robert Schumann

His full name was Robert Alexander Schumann. He was born on June 8th 1810, in Zwickau, Saxony (which is now in Germany). His parents were August (who was a bookseller, publisher and novelist), and Johanna Christianne (nee Schanabel). Robert spent his childhood surrounded by literature and music. He studied music at Zwickau High School, under Buccaleureus Kuntzsch.

His father passed away when he was sixteen, and he was encouraged to be a lawyer by his Mother and Guardian. He therefore left school in 1828, and went to Leipzig to study law in Heidelberg. It was thought that he hardly attended any lectures, as he was more devoted to music and literature, as well as women and drinking.

By 1830, he was back in Leipzig, and was having piano lessons from Frederich Wieck. Frederich was the head of the household, and he said Robert would be a successful concert pianist after a few years of study. Robert Schumann lived with the Wiecks, and there were three children living there. Alwin, Gustav and Clara were children from Frederich’s second marriage to Clementine.

Both Clara and Robert were talented pianists, until he damaged his hand so much that he could no longer play piano. One theory was that he used a mechanical device that was supposed to be designed to strengthen the weakest fingers. Other theories suggest it was a side effect of the medication that he was taking for syphilis (as a result of having had a string of lovers), and as a result of his promiscuity. But we do not know for sure how he was in that predicament.

In 1833, he had depression, which was a result of losing his brother Julius and sister-in-law Rosalie. It was then that he had first attempted suicide.

The year after, in 1834, he fell in love and got engaged to Ernestine von Fricken who was sixteen. Although she was the adopted daughter of a rich Bohemian Noble, he learnt that she was born illegitimate, so therefore wouldn’t have a dowry. He would be forced to be a “day labourer”.

He fell in love with Clara Wieck, but her father ordered them to break off the relationship. In 1837, he asked her father for permission to marry her, but was refused. They married in 1840, after going to court to overturn Frederich’s objections to their marriage.

After many compositions, Clara was encouraging him to branch out. In 1841, he composed the Symphony No 1 in B Flat Major (which he performed under Mendelssohn at Leipzig), and also composed many chamber works.

In 1844, he went on a tour with Clara, but it depressed Robert as he felt inferior. In autumn that year, after returning to Leipzig, he suffered nervous collapse. But his health was gradually restored, and he composed symphony no 2 in C Major. But this took ten months before the score was finished, because of aural nerve problems.

He tried to obtain posts in Leipzig and Vienna. He accepted the post of “Municipal Director of Music” at Dusseldorf. Things were going well between 1850 and 1851: he composed the Cello Concerto in A Minor, he wrote Symphony no 3 in E flat major (The Rhenish), and he and re-wrote Symphony in D Minor after ten years. This became known as no 4.

After many compositions, between 1850 and 1854, he started to display signs of mental illness (which showed in his works). He briefly went into conducting, succeeding Ferdinand Hiller, and was appointed Musical Director at Dusseldorf. The contract was terminated as he turned out to be a poor conductor, and had to answer to the musicians.

By 1854, his symptoms had got worse, and he tried to jump into the River Rhine from a bridge. This was after he had asked to be taken to a lunatic asylum. He was admitted to a private asylum at Enderich near Bonn. After two and a half years, he passed away there.

Why I am Obsessed with Brahms

To explain why I am so obsessed with Brahms, I need to go into his life story.

Johannes Brahms was born on 7th May 1833 in Hamburg to Johann Jakob Brahms and Johanna Henrika Christiane Nissen. There was an older sister Elisabeth and a younger brother Fritz. (Funny, how he had an “Imaginary Composer” called Kriesler and brother called Fritz! Violinist and Composer Fritz Kriesler was born some years later).

Brahms received his early musical training from his father then from 1840. He was playing the piano at seven years of age. When he became a teenager, it was thought he earned money by playing in local inns and brothels etc to help with his parents finances, and that when he was thirteen he earned a living by playing at theatres and taverns frequented by prostitutes. But we don’t know for sure.

In 1850, he met Hungarian Violinist Ede Remenyi and accompanied him to many of his recitals and he was inspired to compose the two sets of “Hungarian Dances” through him. They both fell out when visiting Weimar where Liszt performed his opus 4 Scherzo that night. Brahms met Liszt, Peter Cornelius and Joachim Raff there. During Liszts performance of Sonata in B Minor, he was accused by Remenyi of falling asleep amongst other arguments. There ends a beautiful friendship.

Also, through Remenyi, Brahms met Joseph Joachim. An unknown composer who was already a violinist at twenty-one years of age. They immediately became friends.

Another friend was Robert Schumann. Brahms first contacted him in 1850 when he visited Hamburg. He was persuaded to send him some of compositions but they were returned.

In 1853. Brahms tried again with Robert Schumann, this time with a letter of introduction from Joachim. It worked! He was welcomed by Robert and his wife Clara. (Wondered whether they remembered the compositions).

In 1854, Schumann fell ill and was moved to an asylum. Because they had such a close friendship, Brahms helped his wife Clara with her household affairs. It was thought it was then that Brahms fell in love with her but don’t know whether she felt the same way. There were letters written between them which gave some evidence and there are also different opinions on whether there were anything behind “closed doors”. That we will never know. After Schumanns death in 1856, although they remained friends, Brahms didn’t feel the same way about Clara.

After the “Shumanngate”, Brahms made his first visit to Vienna and enjoyed success there. He was director of a Choral Group, principal conductor of the “Society of friends of Music” and directed the “Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra” for three seasons.

He never married, but had a few non-serious relationships. An affair with “Agathe von Siebold” was one but he withdrew from. Maybe Brahms was still in love with Clara, but he was known to fall in love easily. He remained in Vienna but travelled around Europe in summer and also did concert tours. In later years, he lived a comfortable but simple life in a basic apartment.

On 20th May 1896, Clara Schumann passed away after suffering health problems for several years and Brahms who had a liver condition, gave his last performance in March 1897 in Vienna. He died a month later on April 3rd 1897.

Like anything with history, there are a lot of “could have beens” and “thought to have beens” although the letters that were written between them gave some evidence.

Well, this interesting composer Brahms fascinated me and the story that interests me the most was the involvement with the Schumanns’s.

Leeds Town Hall My Favourite Building

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Until early 1813, the Moot Hall at the top of Briggate was the seat for the Leeds Corporation and used for judicial purposes.  A new Court House was built on Park Row.

There was a period of rapid growth in the first half of the 19th Century to the middle when they realised the Court House could not accommodate.  In July 1850,  Leeds Borough Council decided to build a new Town Hall and asked the opinions of the Leeds Inhabitants into the building of a new Municipal Hall.

The building was approved in January 1851 when Alderman Hepper put the motion to the Council and was carried by 24 votes to 12.

Leeds Corporation tendered for designs as a competition for architects and it was won by Cuthbert Broderick, an unknown from Hull who trained in Paris.

The Building Contract went to Samuel Atack who completed most of the construction before they went bankrupt.  The original estimated costs were exceeded and the Corporation had to find extra funding at a time when Leeds Working Classes were suffering from poverty.  The main problems the builder had were changes in designs, difficulties with the Architect, the Crimean War because there was a shortage of workmen over Army Recruitment and deadline pressures arising from Queen Victoria’s agreement to open the building.

The Leeds Town Hall was opened on 7th September 1858 by Queen Victoria but the tower and other parts of the building were not built.  It was suggested a tower was added and Broderick produced a design.

A compromise was reached and the Council granted money to construct a roof which would support a tower.  The matter was finally settled when the construction of the tower was approved by a majority of nineteen.  The contract was given to Addy and Nicolls of Leeds.  The tower was to be given a clock and bell as most people didn’t have a watch and it was to have four faces.

It is one of the largest Town Halls in the UK and a Grade I listed building.

 

My Grandparents Marriage Bureau

The Marriage Bureau was founded in the  1960s by my Grandparents Jack and Jean and was started as an innovative “business idea” in Leeds UK.

Grandpa was a “trouser presser” by trade running his business from the downstairs premises whilst Granny occupied the room upstairs which had a separate secret doorway for her clients to use.  There were two “lady machinists” and it is doubtful whether they, or any of Grandpas customers knew what was going on upstairs.

It was one of the first dating agencies in Leeds, one of the few of its kind, just for lonely hearts wanting to meet someone to share their life’s journey with and well before the invention of Computer Dating.

It catered for all ages, wealthy business and poor people from all over England wanting to meet a partner.  Granny had an “open door policy” and it did not matter what background they were as there was always someone for everyone and although Granny must have had lots of “gossip” to tell she had made a promise to her clients to be the soul of discretion and being confidential was key to running the business.

Granny had a natural flair for matchmaking and, as a result of her keen sense of knowing who would make a “good husband or wife” there were lots of resulting marriages which must have  brought Granny immense pleasure.

Sadly, as in all good things, the Bureau closed its doors when Granny retired.  I wonder what Granny would have thought of the modern idea of computer and speed dating and whether the old idea of good old heart to heart over a cup of tea can ever be replaced.

Beginning of the City of Leeds UK

Loidis was an ancient forested, heavily wooded and swampy area of the Celtic Kingdom of Elmet, but the river dominated the area. A settlement existed at the time of the Norman Conquest of England and was a thriving manor under Ilbert de Lacy. It gained its first charter from Maurice de Gant in 1207 and grew slowly through the Medieval and Tudor periods. It became part of the Duchy of Lancaster and reverted to the Crown in the medieval Period so it was a Royalist stronghold at the start of the Civil war.

The name “Leeds” was first in the form of “Loidis” around 731. It was mentioned by Bede in his book “ Historia Ecclesiastica”. He spoke about it in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria. It was a regional name but mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as Ledes. (It said Leeds had a mill, Church and Priest). As the name was not English in form, it was thought to have been an Anglo-Saxonisation of an earlier Celtic name. Two suggestions were that in the “Mills Book of a Dictionary of Place Names”, it prefers Celtic “Ladenses” as people living by the strongly flowing river or it denoted a forest covering most of the Kingdom of Elmete which existed during the fifth century into the seventh century. An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner. Derived from Loidis.

There was no reference to Leeds before Bedes mention in 730AD and it was to a region rather than town or village.

Although Leeds was left unscathed during the “Harrying of the North”, unfortunately the surrounding villages such as Beeston did not escape.

Loidis was an ancient forested, heavily wooded and swampy area of the Celtic Kingdom of Elmet, but the river dominated the area. A settlement existed at the time of the Norman Conquest of England and was a thriving manor under Ilbert de Lacy. It gained its first charter from Maurice de Gant in 1207 and grew slowly through the Medieval and Tudor periods. It became part of the Duchy of Lancaster and reverted to the Crown in the medieval Period so it was a Royalist stronghold at the start of the Civil war.

The name “Leeds” was first in the form of “Loidis” around 731. It was mentioned by Bede in his book “ Historia Ecclesiastica”. He spoke about it in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria. It was a regional name but mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as Ledes. (It said Leeds had a mill, Church and Priest). As the name was not English in form, it was thought to have been an Anglo-Saxonisation of an earlier Celtic name. Two suggestions were that in the “Mills Book of a Dictionary of Place Names”, it prefers Celtic “Ladenses” as people living by the strongly flowing river or it denoted a forest covering most of the Kingdom of Elmete which existed during the fifth century into the seventh century. An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner. Derived from Loidis.

There was no reference to Leeds before Bedes mention in 730AD and it was to a region rather than town or village.

Although Leeds was left unscathed during the “Harrying of the North”, unfortunately the surrounding villages such as Beeston did not escape.