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
December 24
1625 - Johann Rudolf Ahle, German composer, was born in Mühlhausen.

1818 - Franz Gruber of Oberndorf, Germany composed the music for Silent Night to words written by Josef Mohr.

1871 - First performance of Verdi's opera Aida after Verdi twice refused the commission, at the Khedival Theater in Cairo.

1881 - Charles Wakefield Cadman, US composer, was born.

1920 - Tenor Enrico Caruso gave his final performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  He died of pleurisy in August, 1921.

1929Noel Da Costa, US composer, was born.

1951 - Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, was first broadcast by NBC. It was the first opera written specifically for television.

1966 - Tommy James recorded "I Think We're Alone Now".

Did You Guess?
Aida was commissioned to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.

Did You See the C
olor Clues?
Can You Guess?
Fine music, you will find,  is often written to celebrate a special occasion.  Composers from Abel  to Zwilich have written music to commemorate births, deaths, accomplishments or holidays.  We read of Verdi's Aida below.  It was first played in Cairo, Egypt. Can You Guess what the opera was written to commemorate?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
Zara Nelsova
Cellist Zara Nelsova was born December 24, 1918.

When she was four years old Zara showed an interest in the cello.  Her father was a musician who had graduated from the Conservatory in St. Petersburg as a flutist, so he was very interested in Zara learning about music.  Since Zara was so young he took an old viola and converted it into a cello.  Then he became her first cello teacher.
Zara said that her father was a wonderful teacher and musician.  She said he taught her the discipline that it took to practice well and carefully.  She later said that much of her early progress on the cello was due to her father.

When she was 10 Zara and her family moved to London.  The family was quite poor, and Zara's father could only rent two rooms in a house.  This made practicing very difficult.  Zara practiced for six hours each day, with five minute breaks at the end of each hour.  This was difficult, but the fact that she shared a room with her violinist sister, Ida, who would often practice at the same time made things even more difficult.  The great part about this arrangement, though, was that it taught the girls concentration.  Zara believed that concentration was the key to good practice.

Zara studied with Herbert Walenn, working intensively on technique.  Two lessons per week were the norm.  Zara was required not only to play two etudes per week, but to memorize them.  This required intense practice for "many hours per day."

Zara debuted with the London Symphony when she was just 12 years old, playing the Lalo Cello Concerto.  The next year she played Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations.  She said she had completely established her technique by the time she was 12, and that she actually regressed as she got older.

During the 1940s Zara studied with cellist Pablo Casals.  She said that Casals stressed the importance of playing "logically."  She said Casals only worked with students who were truly interested, so there was never a need for him to be strict with students.  They were motivated to play, and did so willingly.

Professionally, Nelsova was principal cello with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra 1940-1943. During the early 1940s she taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.  Nelsova performed extensively in concert and recital throughout North and South America and in Europe and appeared at  music festivals including Aspen, Bergen, Casals, Prague and Tanglewood. She appeared as soloist with more than 30 orchestras including the BBC Orchestra, the Montreal Women's Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto, Boston, London, Vancouver, and Winnipeg symphony orchestras, the Berlin, London, and New York philharmonic orchestras, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. She maintained a concert schedule of at least 80 performances a year until 1990. 

By 1997 Nelsova had essentially given up concertizing and concentrated on teaching.  Besides many master classes, Nelsova taught at the Juilliard School and at Rutgers.  She emphasized technical work, stating this in an interview, "I try to emphasize the importance of technical work with my own students. When I ask them if they have been practicing their scales and they get a shamefaced look, I tell them a story that I got from my pianist Brooks Smith, who was also the pianist of Jascha Heifetz for many years. Smith would rehearse with Jascha Heifetz everyday. Each morning, when he arrived at Heifetz's house, Heifetz would be finishing up one hour of scale practice. If Heifetz needed to do this, then don't we all?

A masterful musician and teacher, Zara Nelsova died October 10, 2002.
Zara Nelsova
Zara Nelsova Plays
Brahms, Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin.
Very, Very Nice!
Maria Callas sings Aida
Maria Callas sings Aida
Amahl and the Night Visitors
Amahl and the Night Visitors
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