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Little Stories about Great Musicians

Writers' envy

Italian composer Meyerbeer sat in his house, hard at work on a new and wonderful piece.

Suddenly, he heard music playing, which troubled his creative serenity.

He went to the window, and saw a heavy man twisting the handle of the instrument that was making the music of his greatest rival Rossini.

Meyerbeer, all nervous, addressed the man and said "Hey you, take 10 Francs and go play some of my tunes next to Meyerbeer's window."

The man politely refused, replying, "I cannot, sir, Mr. Rossini paid me 20 Francs to play his tunes under yours..."

Sing along

The opera tenor, very pleased with himself, asked composer Saint-Saëns, after the performance of his "Samson and Delilah", "How did I do, sir?"

The cynical Saint-Saëns responded "You sang magnificently, it's such a pity the orchestra accompanied you a semitone higher all through the evening...".

A Higher Class

"I am glad you knew how to behave yourself around the nobles!", said Beethoven's friend to the composer, returning from a concert in the house of one of Vienna's aristocrats.

"You should be glad the nobles knew how to behave themselves around a genius", replied Beethoven.

Insults of gold

Bartok visited Paris, and his host wanted to introduce the best known Parisian composer to his guest Camille Saint-Saëns. Bartok courteously refused, saying "I am not interested!"

His host tried another idea "Perhaps Charles-Marie Vidor?"

"No, thank you".

"Then whom would you like to meet, sir?"

"Composer Debussy", answered Bartok passionately.

"But Debussy is impolite and will probably scorn and reject your work. Are you interested in being insulted by Debussy?"

"Yes", replied Bartok decisively.

The Critic

A very negative musical critique Liszt received, by one of the critics, caused a scandal. Liszt accepted the newspaper's offer and published a response:

"I am so pleased I have had the privilege of contributing my name, in order to draw some attention your way...".

Sad truth

A naive admirer once asked Schubert: "Tell me Mr. Schubert, why do you always write only sad music?"

"Is there any other music?" asked the composer...

The Plagiarist

Brahms, a composer known for his sarcasm, met a well-known Viennese composer who told him "Your new symphony is a true masterpiece, it is just a shame it reminds me of other works here and there..."

"What other works", asked Brahms, "your next symphony?"

Mother's Nature

The mother of composer Stravinsky saw the ballet "The Rite of the Spring" her son had written. She was asked whether she was happy to have seen it.

"I do not like my son's music" she answered frankly.

"Would you whistle in contempt as the audience did on premiere night?" the person asked humorously.

"I can't whistle", replied the mother laconically.

The gig of their lives

Two candidates competed for a part in an opera conducted by Mahler. "You are the worst singer I have ever heard" said Mahler to the first.

"Then do I get the part?" asked the other one.

"And you are no singer at all!" continued Mahler...

Musical murder

"This is a piece for virtuosos only" protested a violinist to Ravel, having found great difficulty in playing a work he wrote for a violin and a viola.

"Excellent", said the composer, "I don't want to be murdered by amateurs".

A perfect performance

The all-famous conductor Toscanini was once asked about his best performance of the opera "Othello".

"My best performance took place in my own house, while reading the score", he answered wittily.

Humility 101

Charles Gounod was once heard explaining to a young composer: "When I was your age I used to say 'I'. When I became twenty I began saying "I and Mozart", when I was forty I changed my tune to "Mozart and I", and today, I say to you, quietly, "Mozart!"

Tired of this music

Rossini was perhaps the laziest composer in history. He was so lazy, that they say he once composed an overture lying down on the couch. A sudden draft from the window tossed his papers on the floor, on which his piece was written.

"Ottavio! Ottavio" yelled Rossini, calling his servant, but was not answered. The servant was too far away to hear him.

Lazy Rossini sighed... took a new score paper and began writing the overture all over again.

Ignorance is bliss

Liszt visited Russia, where he was introduced to a young physician named Borodin. The doctor, so he was told, was engaged in writing music in his free time and would like to show him one of his works. Liszt began looking into a piece, and for a long time he read silently.

Young Borodin turned to Liszt, saying "Sir, please don't hesitate to give me your honest opinion! I know my faults. I never studied any harmony or counterpoint..."

"Aha", said Liszt, "now I understand why this music is so exciting!"...

Piece and quiet

Composer John Cage wrote a new piece called "4:33", a musical work whose length is precisely four minutes and thirty-three seconds of utter silence.

Referring to this piece, Stravinsky wrote "I truly hope that next time the composer will grant us a full-length work..."

Ode to a conductor

The admired conductor Herbert von-Karajan stopped a taxi in Vienna once. "Where to, maestro?" asked the driver. "It doesn't matter", replied Karajan, "they are waiting for me everywhere!"

Criticism you can use

Composer Max Reger once wrote to a critic who was too hard on his work: "Sir, I am sitting in the smallest room in my house right now. Your critique is in front of me. In several seconds it will be behind me..."

The Show must go on

People tell about pianist Cherkasky, that he once spent his vacation in a rest home, sitting down in the living room to read the newspaper. A young lady went in and without asking anyone, began playing a Chopin mazurka on the piano that was standing in the room.

Suddenly she stopped and asked: "Are you a musical person, sir?"

"Yes", replied Cherkasky, "but never mind, you can go on all the same..."

Decisions, decisions...

The director of the New-York opera house once asked Debussy whether he could write him a new opera in six months.

"Half a year?" Debussy was shocked "That is the time I need to decide which of the two chords is the one I need..."

Know you enemy

Famous conductor George Szell left the New York opera orchestra angrily.

"George Szell is his own biggest enemy!" his fans claimed.

The manager of the New-York opera insisted "Not as long as I am alive!"

The orchestrator

Spanish composer Manuel de Falla once toured a museum and observed a picture visualizing a concert of angels an angel sings and his mates accompany him with trumpets and harps.

He was amazed: "How can you hear this soprano with all the trumpets around?"

A matter of time

Donizetti, who wrote his "Don Pasquale" in ten days, said once about Rossini, the composer who took thirteen days to write "The Barber of Seville".

"I always knew speed is not one of good-old Rossini's best features!"

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