Mahler and “Truthiness”

mahlercolbert

From biography.com comes this missive on Mahler and Truthiness – “An uncanny face off between the fake news anchor and the 19th-century composer.

 

 
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Candles for Chopin: The Longest Birthday

Not that it really matters to anyone outside of the milestone-crazed classical music world, but thought I’d pass on this release from my old colleague Frederick Slutsky of the Chopin Project trying to clear up the confusion about Chopin’s birthday.  Some say it’s today; others maintain it falls on March 1.   How come?

“In 1810, Fryderyk Chopin was born to a French father and Polish mother in Zelazowa Wola, west of the Polish capital Warsaw. The child was named after Fryderyk Skarbek, the eldest son of a Count who had formerly employed his father. They had to seek the Count’s approval to call him Fryderyk so the christening had to wait two months – until April 23 – a delay which, I believe, caused the confusion.”

“Discovered 43 years after Chopin’s death, his baptism register clearly states the composer was born on February 22 and is the strongest evidence cited by those believing this to be the correct date. It is compelling and was an important document in its day but, like many others, I believe it is wrong, containing a simple error, compounded over time.”

“Chopin’s parents always celebrated his birthday on March 1. When accepting membership of the Polish Literary Society of Paris in 1833, Chopin himself gave March 1 as his birthday. Not only that but a letter to him in Paris in 1837, from his mother in Warsaw, began: ‘Dear Fryderyk, the 1st and 5th of March (Saint Fryderyk’s day), are approaching and I am prevented from embracing you.’ That’s good enough for me”.

And according to USC’s Polish Music Newsletter, the debate over the two different dates was good enough for the organizers of the Chopin Bicentennial to make a little publicity hay in the composer’s home country:

“The Longest Birthday” [Najdluzsze Urodziny] celebrated Chopin’s birthday with a continuous concert starting on February 22 and ending on March 1 in Warsaw. This marathon concert was organized by a group of Chopin enthusiasts and was free and open to the public in the Dom Polonii of Wspólnota Polska on Krakowskie Przedmieście.

According to reviewer Gulliver Cragg,  “despite the many Chopin events happening around Warsaw and the world:…for Varsovians, the real delight was the 170-hour musical marathon. An estimated 25,000 people attended – to the astonishment of the organisers – what was originally seen as a fringe event…. You could have heard jazz star Grazyna Auguscik as she improvised over Chopin melodies, or an unknown young pianist playing nocturnes at 3am to curled-up couples and solitary night-owls. Nearly 300 musicians signed up to play at ‘The Longest Birthday’, the idea for which came from the doubt surrounding the composer’s actual date of birth.”

Regardless of the date, here’s a peek inside Chopin’s birthplace, featuring pianist Jan Lisiecki in a very nice reading of the Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, recorded on New Year’s Day 2010.

PS – the Steinway, as you might imagine, does not date from Chopin’s time.   In fact, Chopin never played a Steinway…the company didn’t even go into business until 1853…four years after his death.

PPS – The Radio Chopin series introduced me to a fascinating “tone poem” about Chopin’s birthplace by the little-known Russian composer Sergei Lyapunov.

Listen below to the story of how his Zhelazova Vola (Żelazowa Wola), Op. 37, came to be:

Lyapunov said he wished to conjure up the “folk and musical atmosphere, surrounding the great musician in his childhood, perceiving his native land’s image in its purity and simplicity.”

Radio Chopin 100: Zelazowa Wola, Chopin’s Birthplace

Chopin's Birthplace: Zelezowa Wola, Poland

Chopin’s Birthplace: Zelezowa Wola, Poland

Born on Jan. 6th


So, out of morbid curiosity upon becoming a semi-centurion (and not, the dreaded AARP mailing hasn’t shown up yet!), I wondered what other music types were born on Twelfth Night: This is what I found, mostly thanks to the so-called “intelligence aggegator” NNBD.com:

Maurice Abravanel
Conductor 6-Jan-1903 22-Sept.-1993 Music Director, Utah Symphony 1947-1979
Syd Barrett Singer, songwriter, guitarist
6-Jan-1946 7-Jul-2006 Pink Floyd
Max Bruch Composer 6-Jan-1838 2-Oct-1920 Kol Nidrei
Earl Kim
Composer
6-Jan-1915 19-Nov-1998 Violin Concerto
Van McCoy Musician 6-Jan-1940 6-Jul-1979 The Hustle
Johnny O’Keefe Musician 6-Jan-1935 6-Oct-1978 King of Australian rock and roll
Earl Scruggs Musician 6-Jan-1924 Bluegrass banjo pioneer
Don Sickler
trumpet, arranger, composer, record producer 6-Jan-1944 Nightwatch
Alan Stivell Musician 06-Jan-1944 Breton/Celtic harpist
Alex Turner Singer 6-Jan-1986 Lead singer, Arctic Monkeys
Jack Varney Banjoist, Guitarist
6-Jan-1918 Aussie Jazz pioneer
Kim Wilson Harmonica, bass, vocals
6-Jan-1951 Fabulous Thunderbirds
Malcolm Young Guitarist 6-Jan-1953 Rhythm guitar for AC/DC

Beyond music, a few other famous names jumped out at me, including (so some sources claim) the Benjamin that It’s All About:

Gilbert Arenas Basketball 6-Jan-1982 Washington Wizards
Rowan Atkinson Actor 6-Jan-1955 Blackadder, Mr. Bean
John DeLorean Business 6-Jan-1925 19-Mar-2005 Automobile designer and entepreneur
E. L. Doctorow Author 6-Jan-1931 Ragtime, The Book of Daniel
Benjamin Franklin Diplomat 6-Jan-1706 17-Apr-1790 American founding father
Khalil Gibran Poet 6-Jan-1883 10-Apr-1931 The Prophet
Louis Harris Business 6-Jan-1921 Pollster, Louis Harris and Associates
Lou Holtz Football 6-Jan-1937 Head Coach, South Carolina, 1999-2004
Victor Horta Architect 6-Jan-1861 9-Sep-1947 Art Nouveau architect
Joan of Arc Religion 6-Jan-1412 30-May-1431 Visionary burned at the stake
Nigella Lawson Chef 6-Jan-1960 UK’s domestic goddess
Anthony Minghella Film Director 6-Jan-1954 The English Patient
Tom Mix Actor 6-Jan-1880 12-Oct-1940 Old-time silent movie cowboy
Sun Myung Moon Religion 6-Jan-1920 Head Moonie
Sam Rayburn Politician 6-Jan-1882 16-Nov-1961 Speaker of the US House, 1940-61
King Richard II Royalty 6-Jan-1367 14-Feb-1400 King of England 1377-99
Carl Sandburg Author 6-Jan-1878 22-Jul-1967 Illinois poet, Lincoln biographer
John Singleton Film Director 6-Jan-1968 Boyz N the Hood
Charles “Cane” Sumner Politician 6-Jan-1811 11-Mar-1874 Anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts
Danny Thomas Actor 6-Jan-1914 6-Feb-1991 Make Room For Daddy
Alan Watts Philosopher 6-Jan-1915 16-Nov-1973 Zen beat counterculture sage
Bob Wise Politician 6-Jan-1948 Governor of West Virginia, 2001-05