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2.110304 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - GERMANY: A Musical Visit to the Munich Puppet and Nuremberg Toy Museums (NTSC)
A Musical Tour of Germany
Munich: Puppet Museum – Romantic Puppets
Pierrot is shown playing his mandolin to the Moon in figures from late 19th century France. From the same country and period come a figure of a clown playing a harp and characteristic figures of girls.
Music Felix Mendelssohn: Song Without Words, Op 85, No 4
Mendelssohn has been regarded as one of the most classical of the romantics. Born in 1809, the son of a banker and grandson of the Jewish thinker Moses Mendelssohn, model for Lessing’s Nathan der Weise, he showed precocity as a child, his abilities fostered by the cultured society that his family kept. The notion of writing songs without words, a paradoxical idea, was original, but suited well enough popular demand for short and attractive piano pieces that others might market as album-leaves or under any other apt title. The D major Song Without Words, Op 85, No 4, sometimes bears the title Elegy. It was written in 1845, two years before the composer’s death.
Munich: Puppet Museum – Grimaldi and Circus Marionettes
The great clown Grimaldi, born in London into an Italian family of showmen, is represented by a relatively modern fibre glass figure, shown with his dog, goose and string of sausages. The various circus figures are string puppets made about 1900 by Johann Heinrich Apel. Masked figures of Harlequin and the Apothecary, the Doctor and Tartaglia, from the commedia dell’arte were made in Turin in the 18th century.
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata in A major, K 331 – Rondo alla turca
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, famous as an infant prodigy, was to depend during the last ten years of his life in good part on his ability as a pianist. The famous A major Piano Sonata, with its third movement Turkish March, was probably written in 1783 and was certainly published in the following year. In 1781 Mozart had quarrelled with the Archbishop of Salzburg, his own and his father’s employer, and had settled in Vienna. There, in 1782, he had won success with his Turkish opera The Abduction from the Seraglio and had married without waiting for his father’s permission. In the summer of 1783 the couple returned to stay in Salzburg for three months and it is possible that Mozart wrote his A major Sonata then, for the use of his sister Nannerl. The Turkish element is, of course, purely according to contemporary Viennese convention, imitating the supposed repeated harmonies and percussive effects attributed to the Janissary band.
Munich: Puppet Museum – Pictures and Roundabouts
Painted scenes include Harlequin and the Devil, and, from about 1860, painted by Franz Pocci for Papa Schmid’s marionette theatre, the figure of Kasperl, the traditional German comic character, surrounded by his friends. The museum also preserves roundabouts of various kinds, and their carved figures.
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Adagio in B minor, K 540
Mozart’s B minor Adagio, K 540, bears the date 19th March 1788. The circumstances of its composition are unknown, although it seems to have been one of the pieces that Mozart sent to his sister in August of the same year.
Munich: Puppet Museum – Fairground
The moving figures of the Theatrum Mundi, a form of entertainment known from the 17th century, shows domestic scenes, and then, from the Heinrich Apel theatre in Dresden, moving figures, an ice-cream vendor, a cyclist, children, a mother pushing a pram, a balloon-man and other figures from everyday life, all hurrying past.
Music Ludwig van Beethoven: Rondo a capriccio
Beethoven began his G major Rondo a capriccio during his earlier days in Vienna. After an earlier abortive attempt to study with Mozart, interrupted by the illness and death of his mother, he had finally settled there in 1792, winning himself an early reputation as a remarkable pianist. The Rondo was sketched in 1795 but never completed. Its popular title, Rage over a Lost Penny, and its completion were probably the work of Anton Schindler, the composer’s self-appointed Boswell.
Munich: Puppet Museum: Horses
Horses form a popular subject for representation, whether on roundabouts or as rocking-horses. They appear in some variety in the Munich Puppet Museum.
Music Edvard Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op 68, No 4 – Evening in the Mountains
The greatest of Norwegian composers, Edvard Grieg, coupled a mastery of colourful harmonies with inspiration that was essentially national. Throughout his life he continued to compose short pieces under the title Lyric Pieces, and Evening in the Mountains is taken from the ninth of these collections, written in 1898, the year in which he presided over the first Norwegian Music Festival, recognition of his considerable achievement.
Nuremberg: Toy Museum: Roundabouts and Mechanical Toys
Nuremberg has long been famous for its manufacture of toys. Its Toy Museum includes in its collection various roundabouts, seen here, and a revolving street scene, in which dolls play music and manipulate a hula-hoop, and a monkey demonstrates acrobatic feats.
Music Fryderyk Chopin: Grand Waltz in A flat major, Op 42
Great composers are instantly recognisable from their musical language. Chopin created for his instrument the piano a characteristically poetic idiom of the greatest delicacy, coupled with brilliance and startling harmonic invention. His Grande Valse in A flat, one of those compositions that elevated the music of the ball-room to the more refined atmosphere of the private salon, was written in 1840, its opening trill introducing a work of typically contrasted rhythms.
Munich: Puppet Museum – Kasperltheater • Punch and Judy
Kasperl is the traditional German comic character, a man in the mould of Mozart and Schikaneder’s Papageno in The Magic Flute, appearing in popular entertainment as an ordinary man, often in extraordinary surroundings, or so it seems to him. Hand puppets are seen from the Munich Toni Schmid Theatre. Punch and Judy, seen relatively fleetingly here, represent another tradition of popular comedy.
Music Carl Maria von Weber: Piano Sonata No 1 – Adagio
Mozart’s wife Constanze was one of the daughters of the Mannheim singer, violinist and copyist Fridolin Weber. The Weber family achieved greater musical distinction through his nephew, Carl Maria, who survived a curiously disorganised and irregular childhood to become the creator of romantic German opera with Der Freischütz and a significant figure in the development of the art of orchestral conducting. Weber was a gifted pianist. The first of his four piano sonatas was written in 1812, to the delight of his friends in Berlin, who, according to a flattering contemporary account, must have impeded his playing, as they gathered round him, putting their arms round his shoulders, as he played on far into the night.
Munich: Puppet Museum – Chinese Shadow Puppets
Shadow puppets are found throughout Asia, from China to the karagöz of Turkey. Examples of the art from China are to be seen in the Munich Puppet Museum, starting with a butterfly, from the western province of Sichuan, and continuing with grotesques and figures from legend and opera.
Music Claude Debussy: L’Isle joyeuse (ed. Péter Solymos)
The French composer Claude Debussy had a clear and acknowledged debt to Chopin. This is perceptible in harmonic experiment, but still more apparent in his delicate control of piano nuances in his writing for an instrument with which he at one time had hoped to make a professional career. L’isle joyeuse, written in 1904, draws inspiration from Watteau’s L’embarquement pour Cythère and the world of the fête galante that Debussy had so recently celebrated in settings of poems by Verlaine.
Nuremberg: Toy Museum: Doll’s House
The Toy Museum in Nuremberg houses exhibits associated with play and childhood from the earliest period. The doll’s house seen, accurate in the smallest detail, seems life-size, until the final shot, when we see the house in its true miniature proportions.
Music Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Chanson triste in G minor, Op 40, No 2
The name of Tchaikovsky is more readily associated with the world of ballet and of the orchestra. In common with many of his contemporaries, however, he wrote a number of piano pieces, many of them designed for a ready market among Russian amateurs and therefore more immediately profitable than works on a larger scale. His famous Chanson triste in G minor, Op 40, No 2, was written in early 1878 as one of a set of twelve pieces of moderate difficulty, completed at his brother-in-law’s estate in the Ukraine, where he returned, after a stay of some months abroad during which he began to recover from the effects of his disastrous and ill-considered marriage of the previous summer.
Munich: Puppet Museum: Marionette Heads
The museum has a bewilderingly varied display of marionette heads, realistic, grotesque or diabolical. Some of these are of relatively modern origin, some of them caricatures, some distinctly surreal and some decidedly sinister, suitable figures for a Danse macabre.
Music Camille Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre (tr. Liszt)
Camille Saint-Saëns was a composer who outlived his reputation. A progressive figure in his earlier career, by the time of his death in 1921 he represented a thoroughly conservative tradition in the world of Stravinsky and Les Six, his six young compatriots in Paris. Saint-Saëns was talented and versatile, turning his hand to all kinds of composition, and earning an early reputation as the French Mendelssohn. His popular Danse macabre was written in 1874 and transcribed by Liszt two years later. This Dance of Death is very different from Liszt’s own treatment of the subject.
Recording (all works)
Romantic Piano Favourites, Vol 10 Peter Nagy, piano [Naxos 8.570091]
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