Mostly musical anniversaries of 2012

Earlier in the year we threatened to publish a list of significant musical anniversaries that deserved to be celebrated in 2012. It’s not too late.

This has obviously been a work in progress, constantly being added to, and it will never be exhaustive; we would welcome being told of omissions or corrections from others whose minds are bent in a similar way.

In addition to musical references are some to writers with (or without) musical connections.


Supposed birth of Jacob Clemens non Papa, Flemish Renaissance polyphonist. Died c. 1555.



John Bull and Jan Sweelinck were born this year.

Adriaan Willaert (Flemish composer) died in Venice in 1562, where Giovanni Gabrieli lived and died in the same year.



Poet Richard Crashaw was born in 1612. He was one of the religious poets of the 17th century, so-called metaphysical poets.



Francesco Cavalli (born 1602) was invited to Paris by Cardinal Mazarin where, in 1662, he produced Ercole amante at the Théâtre des Tuileries in Paris with Louis XIV taking part, dressed as the Sun King.  Cavalli’s opera career began in 1639, near the end of Monteverdi’s.



John Stanley was born; a blind English organist and composer.

Corelli’s 12 concerti grossi were published in 1712

Handel’s first opera in London was Rinaldo in February 1711. In 1712 he composed Il pastor fido.

Alessandro Scarlatti’s Il Ciro was premiered in 1712.

Frederick the Great, the enlightened Prussian monarch, was born in 1712. He was both a brilliant leader, military strategist, arts and music lover. He was a flutist and employed Bach’s son Carl Philip Emmanuel who perhaps, in 1747, encouraged the king to invite his father to Potsdam. For father Bach it was an often discomfitting experience.



Two Italian instrumental composers, Francesco Manfredini and Francesco Geminiani died.

André Chénier, the French poet, was born; though a supporter of the Revolution, he wound up on the wrong side of the leaders of The Terror and was guillotined just two days before the fall of Robespierre. Librettist, Luigi Illica, used the facts of Chénier’s life to write a libretto that inspired Umberto Giordano to write his best, or at least his most famous, opera, Andrea Chénier.

Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, premeired in 1762 One of the most important operas in the sense of changing the idea of what opera was.

And Thomas Arne’s best-known surviving opera, Artaxerxes was produced in 1762 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. It used a Metastasio libretto which had been set by J C Bach the year before, for Turin.


Friedrich von Flotow was born (Martha, of 1847, whose most famous aria is the lovely ‘Ach, so fromm’, better known in the Italian version, ‘M’appari’; it’s also famous for its version of ‘The last rose of summer’).

Pianist, Liszt’s rival, Thalberg born

And these died:

Franz Hoffmeister. Music publisher and prolific composer, contemporary of Mozart in Vienna (see Mozart’s Hoffmeister Quartet, K 499)

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Bohemian-born composer and pianist, peripatetic: Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Lithuania, France, England.

The 1812 Overture was not, of course, written in 1812, but in 1880.

In 1812 Rossini’s career had just begun. His first opera was La cambuiale di matrimonio in 1810, not a success. But by 1812 he was turning 20 and getting into his stride; he premiered four operas in 1812:

L’inganno felcie, in January
Ciro in Babilonia in March
La scala di seta
in April
La pietra del paragone
on my birthday 26 September

First performance by Carl Czerny of Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto in Vienna


Literature in 1812:

Byron’s Childe Harold published in 1812

Russian novelist Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov was born in 1812. Famous mainly for Oblomov, whose chief character is a paragon of sloth.

Two of the greatest literary figures in 19th century Britain were born just 200 years ago: Charles Dickens and poet Robert Browning. I don’t know whether Dickens was particularly interested in music, but Browning was. A poem I came across at school has continued to fascinate me: A Toccata of Galuppi’s. in which Browning’s familiarity with music and its technical elements is clear.

Pertinent lines:

“Oh Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very sad to find!
I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove me deaf and blind;
But although I take your meaning, ‘tis with such a heavy mind!

“Here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings.…

While you sat and played toccatas, stately at the clavichord?

“What? Those lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh,
Told them something? Those suspensions, those solutions – ‘must we die?’
Those commiserating sevenths – ‘Life might last! We can but try!’

Hark, the dominant’s persistence till it must be answered to!

“So an octave struck the answer. Oh, they praised you, I dare say!
‘Brave Galuppi! That was music! good alike at grave and gay!
‘I can always leave off talking when I hear a master play!’”

When I read it in the 1950s, the name Galuppi (1706 – 1785) meant nothing to me and 30 years later it still meant very little, till the arrival of the CD and the desire for new music that was, in general, not satisfied by most contemporary music, stimulated the exploration of early music, including a lot of Galuppi’s music – operas, concertos, chamber and organ music.

And now we find Galuppi, just one of a host of Italian composers who flourished through the 18th century, filling the previously empty years between the death of Vivaldi and the arrival of Rossini and Paganini who heralded a revival of Italian music. Some of the reappearing composers of the 18th century: Sammartini, Tartini, Locatelli, Geminiani, Salieri, Piccinni, Sacchini, Paisiello, Martini, Cimarosa, Jommelli, Traetta, Sarti…


Delius and Debussy born

As well as: Edward German – composer of English operetta, Merrie England

Alphons Diepenbrock, one of the rare race of Dutch composers

Léon Boëllmann, organist and composer: his best known work is Suite Gothique.

Ludovic Halévy (La Juive) died in 1862.

Two major operas were premiered in 1862:

Béatrice et Bénédict (Berlioz) at Baden-Baden

La forza del destino (Verdi) at St Petersburg


Two German poets died in 1862:

Ludwig Uhland and Justinius Kerner

And Gerhart Hauptmann was born, a playwright, best known for Die Weber (The weavers). He was Silesian and his end was poignant and barbaric. He was among the millions of Germans forcibly expelled at the end of World War II from the countries of Eastern Europe and the former eastern provinces of the pre-war Germany, such as East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. The fact of being a great writer, a Nobel Prize winner (1912), now 84 years of age, made no difference to the orders of the Soviet colonel charged with the task of expelling all Germans from Hauptmann’s town. Faced with the finality of the order, Hauptmann fell ill and died and was buried, not according to his wishes, but on an island in the Soviet occupied zone of Germany, near Stralsund in the North Sea.

Maurice Maeterlinck, playwright, was born in 1862; in my childhood I remember being taken to a play called The Bluebird in the Opera House in Wellington. But he’s most famous for writing a play that inspired a composer born in the same year as he was – Debussy, who set Pelléas et Mélisande as an opera which led to considerable animosity between poet and composer.



The following composers born :

Xavier Montsalvatge, many singers are attracted to his Cinco canciones negras

Carlos Guastavino, the fourth best-known Argentinian composer after Ginastera, Piazzolla and Golijov.

Jean Françaix 

José Moncayo –he wrote the exciting ‘Huapango’

Igor Markevitch – conductor/composer

Two radical American composers: John Cage and Conrad Nancarrow

Hugo Weisgall: Moravia-Jewish-born American composer, of mainly vocal music and opera.

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Australian woman composer, much earlier than any comparable New Zealand woman composer.


Jules Massenet and

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Franz Schreker wrote Der ferner Klang in 1912, the best known of his operas, several of which have regained popularity recently.

Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé first performed by Ballet Russes at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris

Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire first performed, in Berlin

In Stuttgart, Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, initially just a 30minute opera, libretto by Hugo von Hofmansthal, was given as double bill with Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme: a thank-you to the great stage director Max Reinhardt who had directed Der Rosenkavalier. Hofmannsthal reworked the two elements, opera and play, into a new, integrated opera which Strauss set in 1916.

Mahler‘s Ninth Symphony was premiered in Vienna in June 1912, a year after his death.

Laurence Durrell was born in 1912: His Alexandria Quartet was a sensation when it appeared in the late 1950s, among students of literature anyway. (I re-read copies which are to be found both at home in Wellington and our beach bach). I wonder what its reputation is today.



Britten’s War Requiem first performed at Coventry Cathedral

These composers died in 1962:

Fritz Kreisler – a number of works written ‘in the style of’, and initially published as by those mainly 18th century composers.

Jacques Ibert – his most popular pieces are Divertissement, based on his incidental music for the play Le chapeau de paille d’Italie, later a film by René Clair; and Escales (Ports of Call).

John Ireland, who, long after his death has been favourably re-assessed after decades of neglect.

Eugene Goosens. Best known as conductor but regarded himself more as a composer.

Hanns Eisler. He was a refugee from Nazi Germany to the United States, but after being accused of Communist connections by the McCarthy committee (look at Wikipedia: ‘Hollywood Blacklist’) returned to East Germany in 1948. Berlin’s principal music academy is named for him: Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler”



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