Monday 19 February 2018

He was a born Romantic . . . but the course of true love didn't run smooth

George Hamilton

The 'Born On This Date' column boasts some very distinguished names today. Two American First Ladies feature – Barbara Bush, whose husband and son both occupied the Oval Office, and Ida Saxton, who was the wife of William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States.

Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, was born on this day, as were the comedienne Joan Rivers, the rapper Kayne West, the tennis player Kim Clijsters and the iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Those from the world of music include two people you've probably never heard of. George Garrett was a 19th-Century English composer, whose biggest claim to fame was that he was Director of Music at St John's College in Cambridge for 40 years.

Jan Kleczynski, a Polish pianist who lived from June 8, 1837, until 1895, owned a periodical devoted to music and did a bit of composing on the side.

There are two names that do stand out – Tomaso Albinoni and Robert Schumann.

Albinoni was born in Venice on this day in 1671. He came from a wealthy family and, unlike the majority who made a career in music, he really didn't have to work for a living.

In his own time, he was best known for his operas – he wrote more than 80 of them – but they're now mostly forgotten.

It's ironic that the piece we know him for is something he didn't write at all. The 'Adagio in G minor for Organ and Strings' is actually based on nothing more than a fragment of his music.

The finished whole is the work of a 20th-Century music buff called Remo Giazotto, who'd come across the snatch of melody while researching a biography of the Baroque composer and reckoned he could make something of it. Thanks to Giazotto's handiwork, Albinoni is well remembered today.

It's an entirely different story with Robert Schumann. A major figure of the Romantic era – born on June 8, 1810 – the term could have been coined just for him.

He wrote piano music based on the notes that spelt out the name of a girlfriend. He fell in love with the daughter of his landlord who also happened to be his piano teacher. This was Clara, who was nine years younger than he was, and daddy did not approve.

The course of true love certainly didn't run smooth for the young Schumann. It took a trip to court to win them the right to marry.

When they wed, a barren period punctuated by depression came to an end. Romantic songs flowed from his pen.

His contribution went all the way from those songs, through chamber music, to symphonies, and a wealth of material for the piano, the highlight of which is his sweeping concerto.

Clara Schumann was the world's first female concert pianist. Her husband's magnum opus, which she premiered in Leipzig on New Year's Day in 1846, works like a symphonic love song, a romantic poem set to sumptuous music, quintessential Robert Schumann.

George Hamilton presents The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am each Saturday.

Irish Independent

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