Romantic Composer Comrades were Common. Musical composers are the avant-guard of civilization. Avant-guard defines a group of artists, musicians, or writers working with new and experimental ideas and methods. Without composer comrades, it is doubtful that we would ever know who Franz Schubert was. Composers are vital to a civilization. Yet, they are like babies. They need help. Such was the case with Franz Schubert. He only lived to age 31. Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind more than 600 secular vocal works (mainly Lieder), seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music and a large body of piano and chamber music.
Singer Composer Was the Creator of Opera. Today, many do not think of singers as the creators of opera. In the early 1700’s they were. The taste in Naples, Italy at that time, dictated how opera was created. That taste was manifested in the love of vocal display. Popular idols were made of singers. Theodore M. Finney writes in a History of Music: The composers became “a kind of formality that had within it the seed of artistic sterility and death.”
What Happened to Opera as a Result of the Singer Composer Phenomenon?
Many composers at that time would write scores of historical interest. However, they had little if any musical interest. Opera composers turned from opera to writing for other mediums, such as instrumental. Society in Italy mainly fawned over virtuosity in musical drama. This gave rise to the Golden Age of Bel Canto. Francesco Bernardi, for example, loaded his adagios with countless ornaments. Opera singers became heroes. Hogarth immortalizes a singer in one of his arias in The Rakes Progress: He receives the adulation of a lady who says: “One God, one Farinelli.” The composer was reduced to the sideman.
As a matter of fact, the admiration of opera singers of the at time was so tremendous that most were totally unconcerned with the excellence of an opera itself. For that reason the music of many operas had nothing more than a figured bass and perhaps the outline of a melody. They singer flushed out the rest of the opera. The singer was also the primary composer. Figured bass, or thoroughbass, is a kind of musical notation in which numerals and symbols (often accidentals) are used. They indicate intervals, chords, and non-chord tones that a musician is to play. Historically this was most often applied to piano, harpsichord, organ, and lute.
Women out West: Rodeo. Copeland wrote Rodeo in 1942 as a Ballet in One Act. The Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo commissioned choreographer Agnes de Mille to collaborate with Aaron Copeland on the Rodeo project. I found a score arranged for piano. The arrangement is copyrighted by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. It was printed in 1962. It has six principle sections:
- First Episode: Buckaroo Holiday
- Second Episode: Corral Nocturne
- Ranch House Party
- Third Episode: Saturday Night Waltz
- Fourth Episode: Hoe-Down
Women Out West Had to Find Suitable Men!
Basically, throughout the American southwest, the Saturday afternoon rodeo was a tradition. Usually, it was followed by an evening dance at the Ranch House. Copland’s Rodeo uses this basic western concept. As a matter of fact dating between the sexes was problem confronting all American women since early pioneer times. The question has been how to get a suitable man? Most likely, it is still a problem everywhere.
Women Out West Relished the Saturday Evening Dance.
On Saturday evening, after the Rodeo, social time was shared by dancing the square dance. The principle theme of Copland’s Hoe-Down in Rodeo uses a square dance tune called Bonypart. Of course this is a humorous reference to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Agnes de Mille describes the basic concept for choreography: “Throughout the American Southwest, the … dance was a tradition. On the remote ranches, as well as in trading centers and the towns, the “hands” get together to show off their skill in roping, riding, branding and throwing. Often, on the more isolated ranches, the rodeo is done for an audience that consisted only of a handful of fellow-workers and women-folk. Any neighbors that attended often had to do an eighty mile or so run-over to witness the event.”
I, the blogger, also wrote a ballet called The Dance of the Zodiac. It also features the bull, as in the rodeo. Only it appears as the symbol of Taurus. Enjoy this internal link to my own ballet.
Instrumental Versus Vocal – Which One Dominates at any particular time? Secular cultures have greater emphasis on instrumental. Religious cultures emphasized more vocal music. Troubadours and jongleurs elevated the dominance of instrumental music in Medieval times. How did they come about? The oldest mention of the word troubadour as trobadors is found in a 12th-century Occitan text by Cercamon. The sixteenth century Italian historian Giammaria Barbieri was perhaps the first to suggest Arabian influences on the music of the troubadours. With instrumental versus vocal, the former comes out ahead in this case. Later scholars like J.B. Trend have asserted that the poetry of troubadours is connected to Arabic poetry written in Spain.
Exterior of the Troubadour in 2006
|Location||9081 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, California|
|Genre(s)||Folk, singer-songwriters, rock, heavy metal|
Instrumental Versus Vocal Plays Out
- Instrumental music was given a boost by the Crusades. War and hardship also resulted from the Crusades. But, these Holy Pilgrimages also brought about free flow of ideas to Europe from the Middle East. Author Theodore M. Finney in A History of Music goes so far as to state: …”the development of harmony may sometime need to be rewritten giving much more weight to Eastern influence. Eastern being Arabian influence.”
- Instrumental music, Finney states, was at first fashioned by what he calls “rough people”. This simply means people who did not dwell in towns or villages. They used instruments to accompany their wanderings with their flocks of goats or sheep. . Also, they would play for their own dancing. These activities, in turn, gave rise to instrumental secular music.
Here are two class systems that gave rise to more instrumental music. This system involved the division between Troubadours and Jongleurs. This music was performed by groups of musicians known as troubadours,trouvères, and jongleurs. The troubadours and trouvères were active in France. The troubadours to the south. Trouvères to the north. They were medieval poet musicians that catered to the upper class, or the nobility. Oftgen they were noblemen themselves.
The Jongleurs were often collaborators or assistants of Medieval Troubadours or Minstrels. Jongleurs gained a reputation of itinerant entertainers of Medieval France and in Norman England. Many were deemed to be vagabonds. They wandered from court to court with their music.
Finally, with regards to the featured picture. David Rubinoff is on the left. Fritz Kreisler is on the right. They were royalty of music. We can compare them to the troubadours. Dave made as much as $500,000 annually by performing on the violin and conducting for the Paramount Theaters in New York and Paramount pictures in Hollywood. For some 15 years I was his accompanist and arranger. Enjoy this caricature of a classic jongleur to troubador Rubinoff to realize an exaggerated difference.
Music Prolongs Life of Rubinoff and His Violin – DSO Works
Hollywood Nineteen Thirties under Rubinoff’s Baton. I frequently blog about David Rubinoff and His Violin. That’s because I worked with him for over 15 years. My capacity was as his arranger and piano accompanist. The years spanned 1971 to 1986. In 1986 Dave passed away at age 89. He was the very model of musical success. This was especially true in Hollywood during the nineteen thirties. I’ll never forget the spontaneity of his reply when I said to him: “Mr Rubinoff, music has been good to you.” He immediately replied as a matter of factly, “Why, that’s because I’ve been good to music.”
You can now listen to a recent concert that I was honored to perform at with maestro Steven Greenman. Steve performs the Fiddler just as Rubinoff intended it. The Ted Lewis Big Band museum curator and conductor extraordinaire, Joseph Rubin, invited me in from Sarasota to play the concert honoring my friend and mentor, David Rubinoff.
Hollywood Nineteen Thirties
Dave’s wife, Darlene Rubinoff, wrote a book about his life. Dave personally dictated it to her as she tape recorded his voice. Eloquence, sophistication, technical prowess, passion and perfection marked his playing. But most of all he openly conveyed the love he had for his audience. In return his audiences loved loved him. This was to the tune of hundreds of thousands annually in the 1930’s. In this regard I must quote Mr. Rubinoff’s words through his angel of a wife, Darlene Azar Rubinoff:
“I worked every hour of the day and night, driving everyone with no conception of time, being only interested in my music and pleasing the public. My audiences screamed and applauded. They were after me night and day, waiting for me outside the stage door for a glimpse or for an autograph. I seldom refused them. They were the reason for my success. That is why I drove the orchestra and the arrangers so hard. I screamed, I cajoled. I even, on occasion, threw things in order to win my way. The amazing thing was, I was always right when it came to my music.”
Please enjoy the internal link below of the concert I gave with Rubinoff in the Catskills at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House. The youtube link is at the end of the blog. It was over 30 years ago. Also, my wife Sharon and I have written a new opera entitled “Patra”. The featured artwork is used by permission from the “From Cairo With Love” art gallery in Cairo, Egypt. It will be premiered in New York on Schroon Lake this coming September. Please read about the details under the “stage”on our front page of DSOworks.com.
Steady Eddie Had the Gift of Rhythm. I always seem to have had the best of luck in mentors. Maestro Edmund DeMattia was up there with the best. He recently passed away. I miss him. I’ve always excelled as a composer and am a fairly good pianist. Ed communicated how I could steady my rhythm in performance.
“Steady Eddie” was a Great Musical Innovator of the American Military
The idea for a “National Concert Band” began in 1973. Discussions were held among retired and former members of the four major military service bands in the Washington, DC area. The organization’s two main purposes were: (1) To provide a way for area military musicians to continue to play after retirement. (2) To preserve the concert band tradition of music in the United States. Ed also happened to be one of the founding members of the American Concert Band Association (ACB). The National Concert Band became a member of this professional organization. This was in no small part due to Ed. Because of him, those who retired from military service could continue their music in the National Concert Band .
One of Ed’s last concerts was with my wife and myself. Wife, mezzo soprano Sharon Ohrenstein, is also a composer, lyricist and arranger.
Sharon and I shared in co-composing. We worked together on a couple of military marches for Memorial Day. Link is below to our live performance of “Glory and Honor”. We even had Civil War Re-enactors firing their muskets during the concert on conductor’s cue!
Finally, what I am most proud of in the realm of the American military march. I worked with “Rubinoff and His Violin.” This was over a 15 year span. I was his arranger and accompanist. The American March King “-John Philip Sousa” gave Rubinoff’s career a big boost: He procured a continuous stipend from the State Department for bringing fine music to children in the public schools.
If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with friends. We can all be proud of our wonderful traditions!
Keyboard Consideration is Still Glossed Over Today. For an explanation, let’s look back to the Baroque era. Its years were approximately 1600 – 1750. Very few composer/keyboardists in the Baroque era were said to have mastered even two types of keyboards! Most often, if they played the organ, they were deficient in the harpsichord. In reverse, if they could play the harpsichord, they were deficient in organ. This is the point of this blog: If two types of keyboards were confusing, even for geniuses; today we literally have hundreds of types. This of course takes into consideration the electronic wizardry which seems to multiply daily.
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (22 November 1710 – 1 July 1784), the second child and eldest son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. He was a German composer and performer. He possessed two mind sets for keyboard instruments: One for the organ. One for the harpsichord. Historian and contemporary of J.S. Bach, Johann Forkel, wrote: Their style (harpsichord and organ) and manner of playing differ as much as their respective destinations. That which at the harpsichord produces excellent effect, does not express anything at the organ and vice versa.”
Keyboard Consideration of Organ V. Harpsichord
Further on Forkel states how he only knew of two musicians equally adept at both: J.S. Bach and his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedmann Bach. He states: “Both were elegant virtuosos at the harpsichord. Once seated at the organ, it is impossible to perceive the slightest trace of the the harpsichordist.” Forkel states the following of Wilhelm Friedmann Bach: “I had the pleasure of hearing Wilhelm Friedmann at the harpsichord. All was delicate, elegant and pleasing. When I heard him at the organ, I was truly seized with religious respect. ”
Words of Keyboard Consideration from My Own Teacher- Mischa Kottler
Mischa studied in Paris and Vienna in the 1920’s. He worked with Alfred Cortôt in Paris and Emil von Sauer in Vienna. He told me right from the beginning, do not play the organ if you study piano. Seeing what Forkel just had to say about two different keyboard instruments, I think he was absolutely correct! Please share with friends that might be interested.
Mischa Kottler plays Rachmaninoff, Prelude in g# minor – YouTube
Mischa Kottler Plays Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G# minor
Here is an internal musical link:
Rubinoff Concert Review of the 1930’s. The short article below, at the Ted Lewis Museum, offers some reasons why Rubinoff was so popular with the public. I do not have its exact date. It is from the Depression era of the 1930’s. First, he was primarily popular because he brought melodic and beautiful music to America when the country needed it the most. The public rewarded him. He made as much as $500,000.00 annually. Joseph Rubin is the curator of the Ted Lewis Museum. I found this abbreviated article below on Joseph’s museum website.
What is the Ted Lewis Museum about? First, and most important me, Joseph brought me to Circleville for a Rubinoff commemoration concert this last June 2, 2018. It also was sponsored by the Ted Lewis Museum. I got a chance to perform the works I arranged with Rubinoff live with concert violinist, Steven Greenman.
The museum is located in “the Capital of the World,” Circleville, Ohio. The Ted Lewis Museum attracts thousands of visitors of all ages. They come from nearby and around the world. Educational Outreach programs are offered free of charge to Pickaway County schools. These programs bring the history and music of Ted Lewis to life. For schools and students, it featurs a 5-piece jazz band. Scholarships are annually offered to graduating Pickaway County high school seniors planning to pursue a degree in Music or the Performing Arts.
With your support, the Museum will continue to offer free admission to all visitors and expose a new generation to the timeless music of Ted Lewis and the greats of a by gone great American era.
The Ted Lewis Museum, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. All donors will be listed in the Ted Lewis Museum event programs. They will also receive the Ted Lewis Museum Newsletter in the mail and VIP seating at events.
For the record, John Philip Sousa set Rubinoff on the school concert road. The article mentions Dave was a protege of the late Victor Herbert. – I, Dave Ohrenstein, worked for 15 years with Rubinoff. He employed me as both an arranger and a piano accompanist. Dave had a genius for publicity stunts and gags. In the featured picture Jimmy Durante playing Dave’s violin. Dave Rubinoff, as part of the gag, is at the piano.
Rubinoff concert review.
Below is a link to my own website. Check it out. Musical events are upcoming. Many posts are about Rubinoff. Click on all posts.
Rubinoff and His Violin Sort of Was My Grandfather
Sharing Happiness at a Big Band Music Museum. How do you get a good handle on life? Answer: Ask a key question. What should that question be? Simple stated. “Is everybody happy?” This question is even better than meditation. Actually, it is the banner on a big band museum in Circleville, Ohio. Meditate on this question. It will focus your thoughts on a highly noble cause. Now for another big surprise: This pronouncement is also the title of a film. It stars Ted Lewis.
Is Everybody Happy? (1929) is an American Pre-Code musical film. It stars Ted Lewis, Alice Day, Lawrence Grant, Ann Pennington, and Julia Swayne Gordon. Direction is by Archie Mayo, and released by Warner Bros. Most of the music was written by Harry Akst and Grant Clarke. The “St. Louis Blues” was written by by W. C. Handy and “Tiger Rag“. The film’s title comes from Ted Lewis’s catchphrase “Is everybody happy?”
- Is Everybody Happy? at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Is Everybody Happy? on IMDb
- Is Everybody Happy? at the TCM Movie Database
- Is Everybody Happy? at AllMovie
- Audio from Vitaphone disc of trailer for Is Everybody Happy? (1929)
- Is Everybody Happy? (1929) at Silent Era
Sharing Happiness in Circleville, Ohio
So why am I blogging about this? I got to share in this happiness. There was at a special concert on June 2, 2018 in Circleville, Ohio. I had worked with a famous conductor-violinist. My job was as his arranger and accompanist. His stage name, Rubinoff and His Violin. Joseph Rubin, the curator, is also a phenomenal conductor. The maestro had read some of my Rubinoff blogs online. He gathered an élite orchestra for a Rubinoff dedication. I was invited to play a Rubinoff memorial concert. What an experience! Below are a couple of youtube links. Please take the time to listen to this unforgettable music, unforgettably arranged. The 1st is a link to excerpts from the concert. The 2nd demonstrates the mastery of Rubinoff in his younger years.
For those of you who missed our Rubinoff and His Violin Concert in June of 2018, here’s a montage of some of the highlights! When was the last time you heard music of this calibur? https://youtu.be/P96T57dq8t0
Full Musical Lifetime is a Blessing and a Half. Imagine:
- Being discovered as a violin student at the Warsaw Conservatory under the direction of Paderewski.
- The famed conductor/composer of operettas who discovers you is Victor Herbert. At the time of discovery, Herbert, on a Sabbatical, was the conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He was a German-raised American composer, cellist and conductor.. He is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I. He was also prominent among the tin pan alley composers. Later he was a founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).
- Image being able to apprentice your craft with under the guidance of this great man.
- Every Sunday night Rubinoff was able to meet the most prominent singers and musicians in America. Victor Herbert had weekly musical soirées at his home. There, Rubinoff got to meet the likes of the great tenor -Caruso, Mme. Schumann Heink, and John Philip Sousa.
- John Philip Sousa secured a grant from the US State Department so Rubinoff could take his music to the public schools.
Full Musical Lifetime Included Me for some 15 years
Now by a great happenstance, one of our concerts was recently found. My daughter posted it on youtube. Dave Rubinoff was eighty-six years of age at the time. His Stradivarius violin is set with the official crest of the Russia Empire in solid gold set with diamonds and rubies. Riches followed this man for his great contributions to America. Some years, in the 1930’s, he grossed as much as $500,000.00. Rubinoff truly is a rags to riches story. As you will hear, even in his older years, his playing was remarkable. Now you see why I titled this post: Full Musical Lifetime is a Blessing and a Half. Please feel free to share this miracle with friends.
For those of you who missed our recent Rubinoff and His Violin Concert in June of 2018, here’s a montage of some of the highlights! When was the last time you heard music of this calibur? https://youtu.be/P96T57dq8t0