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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
TODAY IS
March 23
Can You Guess? We read of the first London performance of Handel's Messiah.  During the performance a tradition was established by the King.
Can You Guess what's the tradition?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
Happened
Today?
1731 - Premiere of Bach's St. Mark Passion performed at Vespers on Good Friday, in Leipzig.

1743 - First London performance of Handel's Messiah.

1750 - Birth of Johann Matthias Sperger, German composer and contrabass player.

1792 - Premiere Haydn's Surprise Symphony #94 in G in London.  Click the link to go to Amazon.  In the section that allows you to listen to tracks from the CD, go to the second track on Disc 2 . . . marked "Andante."  Turn up you speakers.  Click the link for track two.  Then listen for the Surprise!

1828 - Premiere of the Beethoven String Quartet in F, Op. 135, posthumously by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, in Vienna.

1868 - Fiddlin' John Carson was born. Between 1923 and 1931, Carson made over 150 recordings for the Okeh Label.

1944 - Premiere of Henry Cowell's Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 2 for strings.

1985 - We Are The World, by USA For Africa, was released.
Bela Bartók
1881-1945
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The premiere of Bela Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2.  occurred March 23, 1939. Willem Mengelberg conducted the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra,and Zoltán Székely was the soloist.

Bela Bartok was born Sînnicolau Mare (now Hungary), March 25, 1881.  His first music teacher was his mother, who brought up the family after his father died when he was 7.

In 1894 they moved to Bratislava, where he attended school, studied piano with Laszlo Erkel and Anton Hyrtl, and was composing sonatas and string quartets by the time he was 17.   composed sonatas and quartets.
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In 1898 he was accepted by the Vienna Conservatory, but attended the Budapest Academy (1899-1903), where he studied the piano with Istvan Thoman and composition with Janos Koessler.  There he met and was influenced by both Wagner and Richard Strauss.

In 1904 His symphonic poem, Kossuth, was performed in Budapest and Manchester, and Bartók began a piano career, writing a Piano Quintet, a rhapsody and a scherzo. He also made his first Hungarian folksong transcription. A collection of arrangements of folksongs, in which he collaborated with Zoltan Kodály,was published in 1906. The next year he accepted the position his former teacher, Thoman, had held at the Budapest Academy.  This allowed him to continue his folksong collecting. Although his Violin Concerto (1908) is still quite traditional, many of his piano works began to show influences of this folk tradition.  Bartók's String Quartet No.1 (1908) brought this to the fore 

After lukewarm reception of his Bluebeard's Castle, Bartok devoted himself to collecting, arranging and study of folksongs until World War I, at which time he returned to composing.  String Quartet No.2 (1917) and his ballet The Wooden Prince, were well received by the public.

Bartók was deeply influenced by the modern styles of Stravinsky and Schönberg, and his violin sonatas of the early 1920's show this new style.  The technical complexity of the pieces in their harmonies and rhythms are very much in the modern style.  They were very well accepted, and Bartók was in demand throughout Europe.  He began to view instruments in a new light.  The piano became a percussion instrument, whose sound almost resembled that of a xylophone.  The rhythms and harmonies of his next two string quartets continued Bartok's modernity.  He broke tradition with quartet no. 4; it had 5 movements rather than 4.

By 1940, Bartók had been widowed and remarried.  His march toward a modern style continued.  He moved to New York with the onset of war in Europe.  His health was failing, and his music turned almost sullen with his String Quartet no. 6.  In New York Bartók received grants to continue his work on the folksong collections he had begun years earlier.  In spite of Bartók's discomfort with New York, though he returned to a joyous sound with his Concerto for Orchestra, which was published in 1943, and had great success with his final Violin Sonata, in 1944.

Realizing his health was failing, Bartók undertook the task of writing a piano concerto to provide his widow with an income.  It was not quite complete when Bartók died,  September 26, 1945.  He also left a Viola Concerto in its earliest stages of development.
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Did You Guess?
During the performance King George II stood as the Hallelujah Chorus was played.  Protocol said that when the King stood, everyone else had to stand.  The King remained standing through the entire chorus.  To this day it is traditional for the audience to stand when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung.

Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah!
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