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Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

1- If a genie tells you: I grant you a choice: for the rest of your
life, you may listen to the music of just one composer. Now-
choose! What would you say?

I would choose some romantic composer because when I hear music I

rather it transmits feelings and emotions. I do try to move to the particular
work and navigate it imagining different situations; or trying to relate
music to the development of a story or description of any landscape. If I
had to choose a particular composer would be a difficult choice, but I
think I would choose for Felix Mendelssohn, because I think his melodies
as the most beautiful among the romantic musicians. I especially love
their concerts, and specifically the violin concertos, but his symphonies
are special too, especially as I mentioned to transport me to a specific
place while I listen.

2- Find three similarities and three differences between these

six great musicians.

The 6 composers have in common that:

- They liked drinking alcohol and coffee and smoking

- All authors were European
- All composers played the piano and used it to compose

Differences between 6 composers are:

- Each composer belongs to a period of music history

- The opinion about the meaning of music is different in each author
- Bach and Mozart used to compose their pieces in their heads and
then they wrote them down. The other composers need more time
and think hard about what they would write

3- From the six composers, which is your favourite one? Why?

My favourite composer is Ludwig van Beethoven because he was the first

to attempt to change the way of composing and first began writing music
as a means to transmit emotions and feelings. It also has a great merit to
write one of the best works in the history of music (in my opinion) being
deaf. In addition, he was also one of the first, if not the first, to compose
without being subject to the requirements of the patrons. He wrote what
he wanted and not what people wanted to hear. We could say it was the
less commercial composer and marked a before and after in the history of

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

4- Write a brief summary about the book.

The book tells the life of 6 great composers in the history of Western
music in an entertaining way, accompanied by curiosities that do not
appear in other books of history.

First we consider the life and curiosities of Baroque author Johann

Sebastian Bach; secondly takes a journey through the life of WA Mozart,
one of the highlights of the classical authors.

Then delves into the life and work of L. van Beethoven, author considered
bridge between Classicism and Romanticism.

The following authors analysed are Robert Schumann and Johannes

Brahms, both the Romantic period, ending in the twentieth century with
Igor Stravinsky.

5- Give your personal opinion about the book.

I think it's a very interesting book because with it we can learn a bit of
history of Western music in a different way than we can do with any
manual. In addition, the author tells of different composers curious
things, so that aspects covered are easy to remember. Therefore, in this
book we can also teach a little history of music to younger students, and
students of secondary school to which I'm teaching.

It is a book suitable for learning things about the life and work of six of
the greatest composers of music history. The aspects of the lives of
composers can help us understand a little of their way to write music.

Therefore, it is a book I recommend for students who are interested in

knowing curious things in the life of his favourite composers, besides
practicing English and musical vocabulary in another language.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1. Why did Bach walk for 400 kilometres?

When he was young, once he had to travel 400 km to hear a famous

organist, I think he was Dietrich Buxtehude

2. What was so great about Johann Sebastian Bach?

He was constantly composing; today it would take years to a normal

person just to copy out all his music, even working twenty-four hours a
day. And thats no counting the huge number of pieces that, annoyingly,
have been lost since Bach wrote them.

He was also the greatest organist and harpsichordist of his time; people
would go into raptures about the pieces he made up on the spot.
Bach had to teach his pupils for hours each day, rehearse the choir and
orchestra for weekly church services and for weekly concerts, conduct,
play the violin and viola, tune his own keyboard instruments, examine
lots of newly built organs, invent new instruments for his own pieces if he
wanted new sounds He was very busy!!

3. What was he like as a person?

He had lots of friends, and that he was mostly very friendly to other
musicians; but also that he could be extremely unfriendly to people he
didnt like. He wanted perfection and although he was described as
amiable, he cared so much about music that he could all too easily lose
his temper over it.

4. How many children did Bach have and how many


He had twenty children and two wives (Maria Barbara, his first cousin,
and a singer called Anna Magdalena).

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

5. What was Bachs way of composing?

He was always experimenting, and he was always in a hurry. He used

to compose his pieces in his head, and then write them down; he hardly
ever used pencil when we wrote them out (he would go straight into ink).
He did revise some works, improving and refining them; but he always
ended up with something sublime, and seemingly effortlessly written.

6. What was his music like?

Bachs music can be deeply sad, but can be comforting and peaceful, too.
Making music was a way of worshipping God. His music is never
pompous; it pulses with energy, humour, compassion and beauty. And
above all it makes you feel glad to be alive.

7. Name two of his greatest works and say what they

are about.

THE MUSICAL OFFERING (Musikalisches Opfer or Das Musikalische

Opfer), BWV 1079, is a collection of keyboard canons and fugues and
other pieces of music by J. S. Bach, all based on a single musical theme
given to him by Frederick the Great (Frederick II of Prussia), to whom they
are dedicated.

The collection has its roots in a meeting between Bach and Frederick II on
May 7, 1747. The meeting came about because Bach's son Carl Philipp
Emanuel was employed there as court musician. Frederick wanted to
show Bach a novelty, the fortepiano, which had been invented some
years earlier. During his visit, Bach, who was well known for his skill at
improvising, received from Frederick a long and complex musical theme
on which to improvise a three-voice fugue. He did so, but Frederick then
challenged him to improvise a six-voice fugue on the same theme. Bach
tells to him that he would need to work the score and send it to the King
afterwards. He then returned to Leipzig to write out the Thema Regium
("theme of the king").

Two months after the meeting, Bach published a set of pieces based on
this theme which we now know as The Musical Offering.
This is the original theme wrote by Frederick II of Prussia:

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

THE ART OF FUGUE (Die Kunst der Fuge), BWV 1080, is an incomplete
work of unspecified instrumentation by J. S. Bach. Written in the last
decade of his life, is the culmination of Bach's experimentation with
monothematic instrumental works. It consists of 14 fugues and 4 canons,
each using some variation of a single principal subject, and generally
ordered to increase in complexity.

This is the principal subject of his work, which each canon and fugue
employs in some variation.

The work divides into seven groups, according to each piece's prevailing
contrapuntal device; in both editions, these groups and their respective
components are generally ordered to increase in complexity. In the order
in which they occur in the printed edition of 1751 (sans the
aforementioned works of spurious inclusion), the groups, and their
components are:

- Simple fugues
- Counter-fugues, in which the subject is used simultaneously in
regular, inverted, augmented, and diminished forms
- Double and triple fugues, employing two and three subjects
- Mirror fugues, in which a piece is notated once and then with
voices and counterpoint completely inverted, without violating
contrapuntal rules or musicality.
- Canons, labelled by interval and technique
- The Unfinished Fugue

8. What happened with the couple of herring heads?

Coming back from one concert, Bach had run out of money. He passed an
inn, and smelled food cooking. Suddenly he saw a couple of herring
heads being thrown out. To Bach it was marvellous and he grabbed
them, opened them up and found a gold coin inside each one.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

9. Give a definition of fugue.

A fugue is a piece of music in which all that happens, really, is that a

fairly short theme, or series of notes, is used over and over again in all
sorts of different ways. It is supposed to be the most difficult sort of piece
for a composer to write well and interestingly. No new, completely
different themes allowed just the one, which often isnt much of a tune
anyway; it must be rather like having to write a whole play in which all
the characters do is discuss one idea.

But The Art of Fugue is amazing. It has eighteen different movements,

all based on the same little theme. Some of the movements can be played
backwards or upside-down.

10. Which is your favourite composition by Bach?

My favourite composition by Johann Sebastian Bach is THE GOLDBERG

VARIATIONS. Its a work written for harpsichord by Johann Sebastian
Bach, consisting of an aria and a set of 30 variations. First published in
1741, the work is considered to be one of the most important examples of
variation form. The Variations are named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg,
who may have been the first performer.

I love this composition, especially one version played by Canadian Brass,

a brass quintet known worldwide.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1. What was Mozarts full name?

His full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus

Theophilus Mozart, but his parents tell him Wolfgang or

2. What was Mozart like physically?

He looked beautiful. His face was distinguished by neat, regular

features, with a winningly gentle expression. He would dress up for
special occasions in the finest clothes with a splendiferous curly wig to

But he was a bit like an animal in all sorts of ways: he was as bright as
a hamsters eyes, as playful as a kitten and as affectionate as a puppy.

3. How was his character?

He always needed to be reassured that the people around him loved him,
and even as a little youngster, he was constantly falling in love with
beautiful ladies.

He could be really funny, but he could also be absolutely disgusting. He

was obsessed with happenings in the bathroom.

4. Talk about Mozarts infancy and adolescence

including all the travelling.

Mozart was obviously such a genius that Papa Leopold decided that what
the world really needed was to hear Wolfgang, along with his pianist
sister Maria Anna. So, they embarked upon a huge series of tours to the
great cities of Europe.

Mozart would not only play equally difficult works even if hed never seen
them before, but would make up on the spot huge pieces based on tunes
suggested to him by his audience.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

This was all great, but there were drawbacks. Mozart was being treated
a bit like a performing animal. Although he was a musical phenomenon,
he was still a normal child in other ways and he wasnt having a normal
His health suffered from all the travelling. He travelled to Vienna, but he
still preferred it to Salzburg.

In Salzburg hed been in the service of the Archbishop, who treated him
like a servant, and paid him a pittance. When the Archbishop went on an
official trip to Vienna, Mozart was prevented from giving concerts for other
important people.

Freed of his Salzburg shackles, Mozart didnt take too long become very
famous, giving masses of concerts, in which he played his own piano
music with joyous brilliance and conducted his stunning new orchestral
works. He also wrote more operas and chamber-music. He was
acknowledged by many as the finest musician alive.

5. In your opinion, did he have a normal childhood?

In my opinion, I think it was not a normal childhood because he was

treated by his father as a commodity to try to make him famous and
make money from it. I think for that reason, after Mozart behaved
childishly both their personal and professional lives.

Moreover, as we read in the book, all trips and concerts offered when he
was a child were detrimental to his health.
When he was an adult he had not enjoyed childhood as a normal child in
his age.

6. How did Mozart manage his money?

Mozart could never quite crack the money business, and his wife
Constance didnt help much. Although he was earning a lot, at one stage
at least, Mozart could never save money because he was so intent on
having a good time. He gave posh dance parties at his apartments,
bought a horse, and owned a huge billiards table.
He dressed in the most colourful and fashionable (and therefore
expensive) clothes he could find. Constances health was a money-
draining worry, too; Mozart had to send her off to have pricey cures that
he couldnt really afford. It was partly because she was almost always

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

7. I have the taste of death on my tongue. When,

where and why did Mozart say that?

When Mozart said that sentence, he was in bed, very ill, about to die. One
day before dying Mozart seemed to be recovering, but the next day he
died. Those words were said because he knew he would die soon;
few hours later died.

8. What was the real miracle about Mozarts music?

The real miracle about Mozart was that his music became greater and
greater as he got older. His truly wondrous works date from his twenties
and thirties.
Although every note he wrote was beautiful, Mozart considered that if
music wasnt beautiful, it wasnt music.

Theres something different in his music for everyone: adults, children,

musicians, people whove never heard any other music; everybody can
love it. His music is like a product of nature, every phrase just the way it
has to be.

9. Name some of Mozart best works and explain their


In his opera Don Giovanni, the main character, the Don himself, is a
charming swine who goes around seducing almost all the women he
meets. His music sounds attractive and powerful, but not very
trustworthy. Eventually, he meets a thoroughly sticky end when a stone
statue comes down to the flames of hell.

In The Magic Flute, which is a fairy story of sorts, you get the wicked
Queen of the Night, whose music sounds quite mad; her beautiful
daughter Pamina, who sounds pure and innocent; the bird-catcher
Papageno, whose music is bumbling and a bit silly, but terribly likeable.

He wrote also twenty-seven piano concertos. The Piano Concerto n

23, K488, the three movements are completely different from each
other, yet somehow make up one satisfying story. The first movement is
so elegant; its as if weve been transported to a perfect world. In the
third, it seems as though we can hear people laughing and dancing. Its
the second movement (the slow movement) the heart of the work.

Finally we can hear his 41 symphonies, and his Requiem.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

10. What was the play or film Amadeus based on?

The British playwright, Peter Shaffer, wrote the play Amadeus, based on
the relationship between Mozart and Salieri. This was made into the
famous film Amadeus. Although the play and particularly the film
veered miles away from the true facts, they made Mozarts music more
popular than ever.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1- What is the oddest thing about him?

The oddest thing is that it was a disaster, especially if

we observe his house, with sheets of music everywhere,
a piano with most of its strings broken and ink spilled inside it, worn-
down furniture placed higgledy-piggledy, the remains of half-eaten food
lying around, and even possibly an unemptied chamber-pot sitting out in
plain view.

2- Mention at least ten adjectives to describe


He was dirty, disordered, violent, rude, maniac, perfectionist, male

chauvinist, womanizer, imaginative, genius.

3- Write three anecdotes about Beethoven.

He could be very demanding, and would often become very suspicious of

even his closest friends, sometimes behaving very badly to them; but he
would almost always feel terribly guilty afterwards, and apologise so
miserably that his real friends would forgive him everything. Once, he
wrote a friend, Never come near me again. You are a faithless dog, and
may the hangman take all faithless dogs; the next day he wrote to the
same friend: You are an honest fellow and I now perceive that you were
right, so come to see me this afternoon

Once he was playing at a posh gathering, while a count was flirting

noisily with a pretty girl in an adjoining room. Beethoven suddenly
jumped up from the piano and shouted out, I will not play for such
swine and the posh gathering finished.

Beethoven was equally passionate about food. Once, he went to a

restaurant and ordered a dish. The waiter brought him the wrong one
and when Beethoven complained, the man snapped a rude reply and
disappeared into the kitchen. A moment later, he reappeared, carrying
lots of plates for the other diners; Beethoven, now thoroughly angry,
picked up his meal and threw it into the waiters face.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

4- Did he like people? Explain his relationship with

people in general.

Beethoven was a close friend of his friends and did whatever was
necessary to help the people he liked, but as his deafness progressed
began to distrust people, even friends, losing the relationship with
society. One of the anecdotes I have mentioned in the previous question.

5- Why did Beethoven throw the stew into a waiters


Once, he went to a restaurant and ordered a dish. The waiter brought

him the wrong one and when Beethoven complained, the man snapped a
rude reply and disappeared into the kitchen. A moment later, he
reappeared, carrying lots of plates for the other diners; Beethoven, now
thoroughly angry, picked up his meal and threw it into the waiters face.
I have answered this question in the activity 3.

6- What happened next?

The waiter was absolutely furious, but he was so busy trying not to drop
his plates, and licking up gravy that was running down his chin, that
there was nothing he could do about it. He looked so funny that all the
other diners started laughing, and suddenly Beethoven burst out
laughing too, and was in a good mood again.

7- What can you say about Beethovens music?

People often think of his music as scowly, too, but although it is incredibly
powerful, and can be dark or even demonic, it can be equally light-
hearted, joyous and gentle. Many of Beethovens pieces reflect his love of
nature (such as the lovely Pastoral symphony); of his music feels as if it
belongs outside in the fresh air. Theres also lots of humour (Beethoven
loved a joke in music as much as in life).
Unlike Bach o Mozart, who planned their pieces in their heads and
written them out immediately in fair copies, Beethoven struggled with
virtually everything he wrote. He would get an idea for a melody (often
when he was out walking) and jot it down in his sketchbook. After that,
he would work on the idea, changing it, refining it and tussling with it,
sometimes for years on end. His poor copyists, who had to prepare a fair
copy before the piece could be published, had a dreadful time!

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

Sometimes his life would be obviously mirrored in his music, sometimes

not. His famous Fifth symphony really sounds like a man defying fate,
but his Third sonata for cello and piano, written at almost exactly the
same time, is one of the most radiant, contented works he ever wrote. As
he grew deafer, his music became even more beautiful. In his last years
he wrote some of the most moving music ever composed.

8- Describe Beethovens music and works; mention at

least three of his best compositions.

His famous works are gigantic achievements, as his Symphonies. We can

hear his Fifth Symphony, with his storm opening, supposedly
depicting fate; or his Sixth Symphony the Pastoral in which we can
walk through the countryside with Beethoven, hear a violent storm, and
then listen to the peasants celebrate as the sun comes out again; or the
Seventh Symphony, which has an amazingly beautiful funeral march
as its slow movement.
Other works are his Piano sonatas, as the Pathtique, the
Moonlight or the Waldstein. His music is uniquely satisfying,
We can hear too his famous and last symphony, the Ninth Symphony
with four voice soloists and choir joining the orchestra to sing an Ode to
Finally we can hear his Missa Solemnis, the mass that took him
almost four years to write.

9- Why didnt Beethoven get married?

Beethoven never married because some ladies thought he was mad,

some were married already and some did actually fall in love with him,
but they were from aristocratic families, who wouldnt let them marry a
mere composer.

10- What did Mozart say about Beethoven when they

met in Vienna?

When Mozart met Beethoven in Vienna, that one didnt seem impressed
when listened to Beethoven. But when Beethoven he launched into an
improvisation on a theme that Mozart gave him, Mozart became more and
more interested. Finally, he said to some friends who were sitting in the
next room, Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world
something to talk about.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1. Describe Robert Schumanns character.

He was never normal; either he was so happy that he could hardly

speak, or so depressed and miserable that he couldnt speak at all. In
fact, speaking in general wasnt his strong point.
He was almost on another planet, or at least in another world, most of
the time. He found it hard to notice what was going on in real life,
because his head was so full of his dreams, his fantasies and his poetry.
He was what we call a romantic artist; everything he wrote, or even
thought, somehow seemed to come from another world that was more
beautiful, more dramatic and more magical, than our own.

2. What did Wieck mean when he said: Schumann was

definitely not on the menu?

This means that Clara Wiecks father felt that Robert was not suitable to
marry his daughter because he wanted his daughter to marry a rich
prince person. He did not want a person who did not have much money,
he liked to drink too much and it was very strange.

3. What happened in the relationship between Clara

and Schumann?

At the beginning of their relationship could not be seen and letters were
written, but eventually they married and Claras father fell into
depression until the end of his life.
Soon the problems started because Clara wanted to play the piano and
Robert wanted to stay at home, had children and look after them all.
The couple felt bad about the situation which they were subjected, but
were together and had seven children, sometimes they were very happy.
Later they met Johannes Brahms, an attractive and witty composer who
would become a problem for the couple's relationship. Robert was
admitted to a psychiatric centre and Clara fell in love with Brahms.
Finally Clara and Brahms visited Robert in the psychiatric centre, but
Schumann died the next day.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

4. Write the main characteristics about Schumanns


Schumanns music tells us what it was like to be Robert Schumann; and

yet it still speaks to us all, because his emotions were strong, so real,
that we can recognise ourselves in him. Everything that he experienced in
his life comes pouring through his music.
Most of his music was written especially for those closest to him, most
often for Clara. Often his music stops suddenly, and a quote from one of
Schumanns earlier works will be heard a personal message for Clara,
which she will have understood perfectly.
There is also the feeling with Schumann that he was not writing to order.
He composed because he had to, because the inspiration was so strong
inside him that if he hadnt let it come out, he would have exploded. He
would write incredibly quickly and it was impossible to predict what he
would compose next.
When he was composing he would go into a feverish hive of activity, and
when he finished, hed come tumbling down into a lethargic and
depressed state.
His music is so peaceful and gentle that we feel we are in heaven, but at
other times it is so fierce and frightening that it is as if we are in some
sort of hell. It all depends on what sort of dream he is having.
As Schumann grew older and stranger, his music, naturally, became
stranger too.

5. Who was Schumanns true friend?

Felix Mendelssohn was Schumanns true friend. He was good to

Schumann, conducting his symphonies, defending him against Wieck,
and appointing him to teach at the new school of music in Leipzig.

6. Who were Florestan and Eusebius?

They were two imaginary companions who were opposing characters:

Florestan outgoing and passionate, Eusebius thoughtful and inward-
looking. Schumann used them when he was writing his reviews.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

7. How did Schumann die?

His hospitalization was stressful and he died alone, one day after the
visit of Clara. Separated from his wife and children, was unable to
compose, and being in a psychiatric centre confirmed her fear of his life
he was crazy. When he came to feel that his condition was hopeless and
he stopped eating. Despite being forced to receive food through a gastric
tube, severely thinned. When finally Clara came to visit, he was so happy
to see that, despite his weakened state and mad, let him feed him.

8. What happened in the early 1930s when a famous

Hungarian violinist was taking part in a sance?

When a great-niece of Joseph Joachim was taking part in a sance a

message appeared, telling the violinist to try to find an unpublished violin
concerto composed by the spirit who was talking. What is your name?
asked the violinist nervously. Robert Schumann was the answer. After
this, partly because of this sance, the Schumann violin concerto was
found in the Berlin library, and started to be played again.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1. Describe Brahms both physically and


Mentally he was fierce and didnt like being stared at. He

was a bit like a hedgehog and very self-critical too. If he
thought something, hed say it, but sometimes it would leave people
devastated. Being a friend to Brahms was no easy task, but there were
rewards. Despite all the prickles, the growls and the sulks, he had a big
heart and could be deeply affectionate.
Physically he had an athletic body, but he was also a touch tubby. He
had short arms, piercing blue eyes and a thick grey beard.

2. What does Steven Isserlis mean when he says that

Brahms was a bit like a hedgehog?

When he says that Brahms was a bit like a hedgehog means that one of
the strangest things about Brahms was that he didnt want people to
know how kind, warm and generous he could be, with prickles on the
outside, a soft being hidden inside. He could be horrible to young
composers, telling them that they didnt know what they were doing, but
then hed offer to support them financially so that they wouldnt have to
get a job and could spend all their time studying composition.
He showed a hard and spiny exterior but a tender heart.

3. Why didnt Brahms get married?

He never married; he got close several times, but always wriggled out at
the last moment, or sooner. He could probably married Clara Schumann,
but he didnt. Perhaps the shadow of Schumanns illness and death was
too strong, and too dark.
Then he fell in love with a lovely young girl called Agatha, but this was at
a time when he wasnt being very successful as a composer and he
decided that he didnt want to come home after a failure and see pity on
his wifes face, so he broke off their engagement.
Another time he decided to propose marriage to a girl on Christmas Day,
and went to her house only to be told that shed accepted someone elses
proposal a couple of hours earlier. Later he fell in love with the
Schumanns daughter Julie, but he was devastated when Julie married
an Italian nobleman.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

4. Explain the relationship between Clara, Schumann

and Brahms.

At first the relationship between the three was wonderful; For Schumann
was great because Brahms was a composer with similar musical ideas to
their own. For Clara was a very attractive man, which later fell in love.
But problems soon began loving envy and Schumann end up going crazy.
There is a film (Song of Love Pasin Inmortal - 1947) about the life and
love between Schumann and Clara, and the emergence of Johannes
Brahms in their life.

5. What was the matter with the chicory?

Once, he was in a restaurant where he was served coffee blended with

chicory, a root that costs less than coffee beans, when boiled with water,
makes good fake coffee. Brahms called over the lady who owned the
restaurant. Tell me, do you have any chicory, by any chance? The lady
said that she did. Amazing! Could I see it? said Brahms. The owner
fetched two bags of chicory for him. Is that all you have? Brahms
inquired. The lady regretted that she didnt have any more. Good, now,
please go and make us some proper coffee! said Brahms happily,
putting both bags in his pocket.

6. When and why did he say the following quote? If

there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg
his pardon.

He said this because he hated genteel dinner-parties, and, if he agreed to

go to all, would often behave very badly. A story went around Vienna
that he attended a polite gathering given by a high-class lady, and
behaved so appallingly that the company couldnt wait to get rid of him.
Then, as he left, and his unfortunate hostess bowed him out, he growled
at her this quote.

7. Talk about Brahms way of composing.

He used to work and work at everything he wrote, and destroyed most of

what he composed. An idea would occur to him, hed think about it for
ages while he took long walks through the countryside, and only when
hed considered it from every possible angle would he finally write it

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

Eventually he sent the completed piece to a friend with a note saying

what a bad piece it was. Whichever, he was bound to work on the piece
some more.
We could say that writing music didnt exactly come easily to Brahms. He
adored the music of the great masters of the past (Bach, Mozart) and
most of his works are in the forms of earlier times: symphonies,
sonatas, concertos, quartets His music is a continuation of the ideals of
his predecessors. Brahms great achievement was to take old forms and
transform them into living, breathing, fresh creations.

8. Describe his music.

He wrote music in all sorts of moods: sometimes one can hear him
relaxing, enjoying himself listening to a gypsy orchestra (Hungarian
Dances); at other times one can feel clearly the darker, tragic side of his
nature. In his scherzos (fast movements) we can almost hear demons
chasing through dark forests. What binds his works together marks them
out as the work of the same composer, is richness, a deep and
magnificent beauty that is Brahmss musical voice. His music is very
easy to know.

9. Mention three of the greatest Brahms works and

explain their meaning.

His first piano concerto was written after Schumanns death, and a
lot of it sounds like the cry of a soul in torment. The first movement is
really anguished; its only in the slow, prayer-like second movement that
one can feel the spirit of Schumann being laid to rest.

The violin concerto has got some of the most beautiful melodies that
he ever wrote, and a rollicking last movement, full of gypsy-style

His German Requiem is absolutely gorgeous (a gentle, touching lament

written after the death of his mother).

We can hear his Symphonies too. His First Symphony has a

magnificent and dark opening with pounding timpani which announce the
birth of an exciting new world. But, the most famous is his last
symphony, the Fourth Symphony; it starts with a glorious melody.

Finally, his Clarinet Quintet Op. 115 is one of his last works, and
one can almost hear the coals glowing in a dying fire, with wise old
gypsies sitting around telling their wild, sad tales.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

10. How was Brahms farewell?

Vienna gave him a splendid funeral, full of pomp, ceremony, music and
speeches. In his rooms were found a set of chorale preludes for organ, the
last music hed worked on. The last of the set is called O World, I must
leave you. Like Bach before him, Brahms left us a religious chorale as a
farewell, as if to tell us that he was prepared for his end. Naturally, it
was with music that he chose to say goodbye.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew


1. Describe Stravinsky both physically and


Physically he was bald, but not completely. He has huge

ears, an enormous nose, glasses and a moustache. Underneath his
egghead Stravinskys body looked more like a stick-insect than an egg
cup. He was tiny, and so thin that there was almost nothing to him.

Mentally, he has a hard-boiled character. He didnt just look like an

insect, he also behaved a lot like one in many ways; a very neat and
orderly one. Untidiness or clumsiness horrified him. He was very vain
about his appearance; he would spend ages in front of mirrors. Hed also
refuse to go anywhere, or alternatively, hed refuse to stay in a room if he
suspected that he might come in contact with germs. It didnt take much
to make him angry, and taxes would make him hopping mad, too. He
loved and adored money. He was not very friendly too, but he was very
intelligent and sometimes had a sense of humour.

2. Talk about Stravinskys marriages with Catherine

and Vera.

Vera was another of the great loves of his life. She was charming,
beautiful, vivacious and a talented painter. She was quite a contrast from
the serious, devoutly religious Catherine, who was probably scared stiff
of her husband. Whereas Catherine would write him letters timidly
chiding him for neglecting his religious duties, Vera would write to him
demanding the latest gossip.
Catherine was his first cousin and they were married when they were
both very young, well before Stravinsky became famous. After he became
successful, and while he was still married to Catherine, Stravinsky had
several fairly public love-affairs, the most serious of which was with
Catherine was very ill for much of her life and Stravinsky would often be
travelling on concert tours, or for meetings, and would frequently take
Vera with him. Catherine was sometimes left with hardly enough money
to live on while Stravinsky was off cavorting in luxury with Vera.
The strangest thing of all being that both women seem to have punt up
with it fairly uncomplainingly, end even to have been friends.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

3. Name two of Stravinskys passions and two

obsessions. Give some examples from the book.

One of Stravinskys obsessions was the money; He loved the stuff. He

would save money in any way he could think of. For instance, if
Stravinsky noticed that a letter had arrived with a stamp on it that hadnt
been marked by the post office, hed make sure to remove and reuse it.
He damaged several letters from famous people in this way (letters that
would have been hundreds of times more valuable than the stamps).

Another of his obsessions was with his own health. He used to keep
detailed medical diaries, reporting all the medication that he was
constantly taking, and all of his symptoms. Being Stravinsky, he
expected everybody around him to be as concerned with his health as he
was; even when Catherine was dying, he would write her long letters
complaining about all his health problems.

One of his passions was for alcohol, especially whisky. He would drink it
all day every day, given half the chance, as he himself said: My name
should be Strawhisky. When he was very old, it would sometimes do
him more good than any medicines, but there were a lot of times when it
didnt do him much good. For instance, there was an occasion on which
he was supposed to meet with a great painter called Marc Chagall, to
discuss a possible collaboration. Unfortunately, Stravinsky went out for
lunch before the meeting, and drank so much that when the time came to
meet Chagall, he was fast asleep and nobody could wake him up.

But of all his many loves and passions, the most important of all was
music. When he was very old and in hospital, a nurse asked him if he
wanted anything, and he replied I want to compose, and if I cant
compose, I want to die.

4. What was Stravinskys favourite expression of


His favourite expression of disgust was star an argument or start saying

rude things about another composers music, and he said Who needs

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

5. Describe Stravinskys music, talk about the different

stages and influences in his career as a musician and

His whole style and language changed completely, several times over; the
personality remains clearly Stravinsky, but it is like a writer who, having
written his first books in Russian, changes to French, then English, then
German. Many of Stravinskys earlier works are influenced by folk tales
and customs from his native Russia (lots of magic, primitive rituals and
exotic dances). Then, as he started to feel more cut off from Russia, he
took music from the eighteenth century as his model, so that some of his
pieces sound half like old music and half like Stravinsky. Finally, when
he came back to Europe for a visit after World War Two, he started to feel
that his music was old-fashioned by comparison with what was being
written there. After that he began to write much more modern music, full
of dissonances, where notes fight against each other instead of
combining to make beautiful chords.

He loved the elegant music of the eighteenth century and he also was
very interested in jazz, and wrote ragtimes and polkas. If he found a folk
instrument he didnt know, hed be fascinated and he was always trying
out new combinations of orchestral instruments. His music is always
trying out something new and unexpected.

6. Recommend three of his works and justify your


I recommend his three ballets (The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite
of Spring) because they can see a combination of music and dance,
something new at the time and caused very different reactions. I love to
listen to music and watch as the dance is related to the music heard. I
recommend especially the first one because I played it.
Also recommend the newest music, with elements of jazz, as are his
works "Ragtime" and "Circus Polka" because it is a different music to
classical music composed by other composers of his era that also
includes elements of music popular, both American and Russian.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

7. What are the two anecdotes with Picasso?

On the first one Stravinsky and Picasso had drunk too much and had to
relieve themselves (to pee!) against a wall. A policeman came across them
in the act, and arrested them. They insisted that he take them to the local
opera house, so he did marching them along and keeping a thoroughly
suspicious eye on the two louts. When they got to the opera house,
though, and he saw everybody bowing and scraping to the two louts, the
policeman vanished before you could say Stravinsky.

The other anecdote was that Stravinsky was carrying a portrait of

himself that Picasso had drawn in his unique modern style. Some
customs officers found it, looked at this extraordinary collection of shapes
and squiggles, and confiscated it. They refused to believe that it was a
portrait; they were sure that it was a coded war-plan!

8. What did Robert Craft do for Stravinsky and Vera?

Robert Craft was a young musician who was going to perform one of
Stravinskys lesser-known works in New York and after that he grew
very close to Stravinsky family, and ended up living with them for the last
twenty years of Stravinskys life, becoming perhaps, like the child that
Stravinsky and Vera had never had together. Bob not only help him with
his everyday life, but also he was as intelligent as himself. Craft
introduced Stravinsky to music that he hadnt known at all, including lots
of new music which is partly why Stravinskys style suddenly changed,
and became so much more modern.

Together, Stravinsky, Vera and Craft travelled round the world on concert
tours. Craft rehearsing the orchestras that Stravinsky was going to
conduct and in later years conducting half of Stravinskys concerts for
him, so that the older man could save his energy.

In his last years, Stravinsky came to rely more and more on Bob, and his
chief pleasure was listening to music with him, following the printed
score. After Stravinskys death, Craft looked after Vera until her death in

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

9. Why did Stravinsky get arrested with a famous

painter and miss his lunch appointment with

The cause of these stories was that Stravinsky was drunk. He was
arrested with Picasso because they were drunk and pissed on a wall,
and lost his appointment with Marc Chagall because he was also drunk
and fell asleep.

* Match the statements with the composer they are

related to.

1. He felt his life had nothing to do with his music. STRAVINSKY

2. He felt that everything that happened in his life found its way into
3. His music was wholly dedicated to the glory of God. BACH
4. He speaks for all mankind. BEETHOVEN
5. He was very practical, writing almost exclusively for specific people
and occasions. MOZART
6. He was the first composer to get rich just from the sale of his
music, without having to accept any commissions. BRAHMS

* What do all the following expressions mean?

1- It did do the trick this expression means that someone does

something unusual to get another result that is not the most expected.

2- He was told off for not playing long enough this

expression means that someone is reprimanded for not being enough
time doing a task

3- Mozart was foaming at the mouth this expression means

that Mozart was very angry, he was enraged.

4- Musicians didnt feel like lamp-posts feel about dogs

this one means that someone feels little utility or valued, and others
use it to do something that interests them and then forget about it.

5- A kick on the bum this expression means that someone eject

another person in his job or do anything that goes against his
interests and his benefit.

Carlos Vilaplana Gonzlez Why Beethoven threw the stew

* Find some information about Steven Isserlis and write a

short biography about him.

STEVEN ISSERLIS (1958) was born in London into a musical family. He

is a British cellist. He is distinguished for his diverse repertoire,
distinctive sound deployed with his use of gut strings and command of
His grandfather, Julius Isserlis, was one of 12 musicians allowed to
leave Russia in the 1920s to promote Russian culture, but he never
returned. His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was a keen
amateur musician. His sister Annette is a viola player, and his other
sister Rachel is a violinist. Isserlis has described how playing music,
playing together, was an integral part of his early family life.
He went to the City of London School, which he left at the age of 14 to
move to Scotland to study under the tutelage of Jane Cowan. From 1976
to 1978 Isserlis studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music with Richard
Kapuscinski and was much influenced by Daniil Shafran, of whom
Isserlis has described how His vibrato, his phrasing, his rhythm all
belonged to a unique whole... He was incapable of playing one note
insincerely; his music spoke from the soul.
Steven Isserlis performs solo, in chamber concerts, and with orchestra.
Isserlis is committed to authentic performance, and frequently performs
with the foremost period instrument orchestras. He has performed
Beethoven with fortepianist Robert Levin in Boston and London,
and Dvok's Cello Concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of
Enlightenment under Sir Simon Rattle.
He has also published several editions and arrangements, principally for
Faber Music, and was an advisor on new editions of Beethoven's Cello
Sonatas and Cello Variations, as well as the Cello Concertos of Dvok
and Elgar.
He has organized a number of festivals with long-term collaborators. He
is artistic director of the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove in
West Cornwall, where he both performs and teaches.
Isserlis's recordings reflect the breadth and eclecticism of his repertoire.
His most recent release of reVisions for BIS includes arrangements and
reconstruction of works by Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev and Bloch. For
Hyperion Records, he has recorded Schumann's music for cello and
piano, and the complete Solo Cello Suites by Bach.
Steven Isserlis is also the author of two books for children on the lives of
famous composers: the first is Why Beethoven Threw the Stew (Faber
& Faber, 2001), and the second Why Handel Waggled His Wig (Faber
& Faber, 2006).