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Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
February 28
Can You Guess? Funen, which may be the prettiest island in Denmark, was the birthplace of Carl Nielsen.  An author, two of whose stories were turned into a Disney movie about a girl named Ariel and the musical Once Upon a Mattress, was also born there. Can You Guess the name of that famous author of fairy tales?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
What Else
1739 - Music publisher John Walsh Jr., of London, published Handel's Trio Sonatas, Op. 5

1792 - Birth of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. (Some sources say Feb. 29)

1882 - The Royal College of Music was founded in London.

1888 - Premiere of P. I. Tchaikovsky's Pezzo Capriccioso for cello and orchestra, in Paris.

1920 - Premiere of Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin in Paris.

1936 - Premiere of Roy Harris' Symphony No. 2. Boston Symphony. Prelude and Fugue for strings, Philadelphia Orchestra.

1950 - Birth of American composer Stephen Chatman in Minnesota.

1976 - Premiere of Ralph Shapey's oratorio Praise in Chicago.

1984 - Michael Jackson won a record eight Grammy awards connected to the album Thriller. (This album includes extra tracks.)

1991 - Premiere of John Harbison's Symphony No. 3. Baltimore Symphony, David Zinman conducted.

1994 - Premiere of George Tsontakis' Winter Lightning ,the fourth of Four Symphonic Quartets from poems by T.S. Eliot. Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz conducted.
Nielsen Violin Concerto
by Cho-Liang Lin
Kiss Me Because
I'm Irish and I Fiddle
Irish Fiddle Button
I Was Hoping
For A Fiddle
Pot of Violin Shirt
Nielsen Violin Concerto at Amazon
Fiddler Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil
"On June 9, 1865 my mother had a difficult but very happy day. My mother was home alone with some of the younger children when she went into labour. The pains were very bad and she went outside, wrapped her arms around a tree and banged her head against the trunk. So I feel certain that she must have been very happy and relieved when I finally came into the world."

So writes Carl Nielsen, who conducted premieres of his Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 3 Sinfonia Espansiva on this date in 1912. The soloist was Emil Telmányi.
Irish Fiddle
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Sheet Music by
Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen was born in Sortelung, Denmark. His father was a housepainter and worked part time as a fiddler.  Young Carl began experimenting with music by exploring the different pitches and sounds he heard as he struck logs in a pile of firewood behind his home. Carl's first violin teacher was his father, supplemented by a local teacher named Petersen.

Carl also learned to play brass instruments.  His father suggested that this could lead to a job as a musician in the military.  At age 14 Carl auditioned, and was given the position of bugler in a military band in Odense.

In 1883 Carl went to Copenhagen to study violin at the conservatory.  With economic support from patrons in Odense, he stayed there for three years, making rapid progress. He also began to compose seriously, but never formally studied composition. His Little Suite for Strings, Opus 1, was extremely favorably received at its September, 1888 debut. On a personal note, I first played this piece in 1972 under Maestro Renato Bonacini.  Its second movement (a midi version of which you can hear by clicking HERE) still enchants me.

In 1889, Nielsen was hired as a violinist in the orchestra of Denmark's Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, but he continued to compose.  As a matter of fact, at the March 14, 1894 premiere of his First Symphony, Nielsen played in the second violin section.  The performance of that very symphony in Berlin in 1896 was a big boost to his career, but Nielsen continued to play the violin!

Nielsen had met and married Danish sculptress Anne Marie Brodersen in 1891.  A painting they saw on their honeymoon inspired him to write Hymnus Amoris in 1896-97.  Although the plan was for his wife to sculpt a relief of the same subject, the sculpture was never realized.

In 1901 Carl Nielsen was awarded an annual state grant, and at the beginning of 1903 he signed a contract with the music publishers Wilhelm Hansen in Copenhagen, which allowed him to take a leave of absence from his work at the Royal Theatre and travel to Greece for further study.  At the same time, Anne Marie received a large travel grant to study Greek sculpture.  She became one of the first sculptresses to be granted access to reliefs and statues of the Acropolis Museum. While in Greece Nielsen wrote his Helios Overture, which took him only 45 days.

By 1905 Nielsen had quit his position with the orchestra to devote himself to his composing. In 1916 he took a post teaching at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen, and continued to work there until his death.

Nielsen suffered a serious heart attack in 1925, and his activity from that point on was severely curtailed.  He did, however, continue to compose right up to the time of his death.  It was also during this time that Nielsen wrote My Childhood on Funen, which chronicled his early years.

During the night of October 3, 1931, Carl Nielsen died of heart failure.  At the graveside service Anne Marie said farewell with these words: "I thank him for the richness and spontaneity of his nature. It was never stagnant, always fresh. It was like rippling water, a steadily bubbling spring."   

Nielsen is best known for his six symphonies. Other well-known pieces of his are the incidental music for Oehlenschläger's drama Aladdin, the operas Saul og David and Maskarade, the concerti for flute and for clarinet, and the wind quintet. Nielsen also composed a Violin Concerto, which carries the opus number 33.
Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen
Nielsen Little Suite for Strings at Amazon
Carl Nielsen
Little Suite for Strings
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Carl Nielsen's Works at Amazon
Did You Guess?
The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea were penned by Hans Christian Anderson.

Did You See the C
olor Clues?