While it is common to meet performers who are passionate about a composer, the reverse is rare. Rarer but very present: some composers favour performers, both singers and musicians. Here are the seven finest examples of such mutual admiration.
Frédéric Chopin and Francis Planté
Among the great interpreters of Chopin, great names emerge: Liszt, Rubinstein, Horowitz, Paderewski or Cortot… Yet FrancisPlanté deserves special attention. The pianist, born in 1839 – or 30 years younger than Chopin – could have heard the famous composer play in music rooms. Thus, he would be the only recorded musician to have seen the romantic composer’s hands run through his piano.
Quickly noticed for his talents as a pianist, FrancisPlanté was invited to play in many salons, including Princess Czartoryska, a pupil of Chopin. It was here that he met relatives of the composer who gave him precious advice on interpretation.
Giuseppe Verdi and Teresa Stolz
For one of the greatest composers of romantic operas, the story of Giuseppe Verdi and TeresaStolz would have made a beautiful plot. That of a young soprano who meets one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. Verdi takes this singer he admires under his wing. But this behaviour is not to the liking of GiuseppinaStrepponi, Verdi’s wife. Only the newspapers give it their heart’s content and lend Teresa and Verdi an intimate relationship never really confirmed. Jealous of the singer’s arrival in her husband’s life, Giuseppina complains of being in a three-way relationship.
It is, without a doubt, the saddest moment of my life. Teresa Stolz is arriving today. She is wonderful. Black, black, there is nothing but black around me… Giuseppina Strepponi
Verdi does not miss an opportunity to take the young soprano wherever he goes and give her the most beautiful roles in his repertoire, as in 1872 when he asked her to sing Aïda for the first European performance.
Jacques Offenbach and Hortense Schneider
The first Belle Hélène, that’s her, except that her name is Hortense Schneider. The young French soprano made her debut in Offenbach’s Le violoneux Sur Les boards des Bouffes- Parisiens, a small theatre managed and renamed by the composer in 1855. Hortense Schneider enjoyed rapid success and became the favourite of Offenbach, who created her title roles like La Belle Hélène in 1864 or the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein three years later.
Graceful and elegant according to the commentaries of the time, Offenbach especially appreciated the quality of her voice, her diction and her dramatic talent, which made her a successful singer under the Second Empire.
Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim
Recognized as a virtuoso violinist at the age of 12, Joseph Joachim quickly rose through the ranks to become the first violin in the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig in 1843. Cited as a model in his interpretations of Beethoven concertos, it was with Brahms that ‘it binds a special relationship. Despite numerous disputes, the composer entrusts and dedicates his unique Violin Concerto that JosephJoachim will be the first to perform.
The two friends also work together on the composition. Brahms’ first piano concerto is written with Joseph Joachim, who, in addition to his talents as a musician, composes. We owe him a Hungarian Concerto for violin and orchestra.
Maurice Ravel and Paul Wittgenstein
PaulWittgenstein certainly owes his fame to MauriceRavel. The pianist lost his right arm on the Russian front in 1914, which prompted him to commission works for the left hand from various composers. Strauss, Prokofiev, Britten, Hindemith, Korngold and others answer the call, but the musician is erratic and does not like most proposals. When the score for Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand reached him in 1930, PaulWittgenstein stopped his whims and enjoyed worldwide success with the piece.
His interpretation (and some alterations that the pianist feels entitled to do, arguing that he had paid for the piece) do not please the composer who lets him know. A stormy correspondence ensued between the two men, who shared different points of view on many subjects. However, the pianist’s crossing and the composer gave birth to one of the most beautiful and famous concertos of the twentieth century.
Karol Szymanowski and Paul Kochanski
When composer Karol Szymanowski performs for the first time with violinist PaulKochanski, it is also the first time that he has given his works for violin in concert. Their meeting and their friendship will inspire the Polish composer for the future. He writes for the violinist many pieces such as Romance for violin and piano, Myths (which includes the famous Fountain of Arethusa) and his first two violin concertos.
Together they go on a big tour in the United States with Arthur Rubinstein. It was not until their return that the composer’s reputation in Poland reached its peak. He then became one of the most brilliant Polish composers. As for PaulKochanski, other composers dedicate works to him, such as Stravinsky, who transcribed three extracts from his Firebird.
Francis Poulenc and Pierre Bernac
Impossible to speak of French melody without mentioning these two names. French baritone Pierre Bernac began his singing career late. In the 1930s, he made a decisive encounter with Francis Poulenc, whom he befriended. The composer writes several melody cycles for the singer: The Five Poems of Eluard, Such Day Such Night, Calligrams, The Freshness and the Fire, The Work of the Painter …
Their friendship creates a long collaboration, as when FrancisPoulenc accompanies the baritone on the piano during his tours abroad. Or when PierreBernac wrote Francis Poulenc: L’Homme et ses mélodies, devoted to the music of his friend (released in 1978).
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