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Friday, June 18, 2010

Classical Fathers Day

            Since Sunday is Father's Day in the United States, today's installment about classical music will briefly look at some of the famous father figures who were involved in this genre of music.  We don't really hear much about the offspring of many of these composers unless we read a biography.  But the fathers of these composers often played a big role in their successes and sometimes the children of the composers became famous themselves.

         J.S. Bach came from a musical family.  His father and his uncles were musicians.  At an early age Johann Sebastian was taught to play violin and organ by his father, who died when his son was ten years old.  Johann was then raised by his brother, also a musician, who continued his younger sibling's musical training.   Later Johann had several children by two wives and some of those became musicians and famous composers as well.

          If you've seen the wonderful movie Amadeus, which is the romanticized version of the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, you may remember that he was a child musical prodigy who toured Europe extensively with his father and sister.  Mozart's father was a professional musician and composer and he coached his son in playing music, a talent which young Amadeus took to naturally, and wrote down the boy's earliest compositions.   Mozart was amazingly prolific in his musical output in his brief 35 year life.  He and his wife had six children, but only two survived past infancy.  One of his sons became a musician and composer.  If you have never seen the film Amadeus, it probably is a pretty accurate depiction of the real life composer and it is an excellent film that I would highly recommend.

         Another well known composer who knew Mozart and was Beethoven's teacher for a while is Franz Joseph Haydn, who was affectionately referred to as "Papa" Haydn.  His father was not a professional musician but was self-taught at playing music and had a great enthusiasm for the art.  He recognized his son's abilities and sent his son away at age six to study music.  Haydn's childhood was difficult at times, but his father's decision paid off with Franz Joseph becoming one of the most influential composers of all time.  Having over 100 symphonies and over 50 string quartets attributed to him, Haydn has been called "The Father of the Symphony" and "The Father of the String Quartet".   Additionally he wrote many other notable works.  Though he was adored by younger musicians and many others who gave him the sobriquet Papa, he never had any children of his own.

        Another composer film I would highly recommend is Immortal Beloved, which is based on the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was probably the most famous composer of  all time. This film is a mystery, romance, and biography.   Beethoven's grandfather and father were both musicians. His father was his first music teacher and was purportedly a harsh taskmaster.   Ludwig had no known children, but he raised his nephew after his brother died.  The nephew, Karl, was trained in music by the uncle, but Beethoven was a harsh guardian like his own father had been.  When he was older, Karl unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide due to his difficulties with his uncle Ludwig.  Karl and his uncle Ludwig later reconciled, but the nephew joined the army to get away.  Ludwig Van Beethoven died not too long after his nephew went away.

           The fathers of all of these great composers had a profound effect on what their sons achieved in their lives.  These fathers supported and instilled ambition to create within their sons.  A closer study of the lives of these musical giants might show a correlation between the way this was achieved and the way the sons turned out in their lives, but one thing is certain-- musical genius was engendered within all of them.     


  1. If only all fathers were as wonderful. Sadly, mine was not.

  2. I can't remember my father as he died when I was three so never sent him a father's day card.

    Wonderful post as ever Lee, hope you have a good Father's Day.


  3. Happy Father's Day to you Arlee.

    (better be early than never)

  4. Thanks for all the information today. Happy Father's Day and see you on Monday for the Movie Dirty Dozen!

  5. I've seen most of Amadeus but don't remember it.

  6. Tabitha -- Sorry about your father. As a father of 5, I can't understand fathers who wouldn't treasure their kids and want the best for them.

    Yvonne-- Thank you. I'm looking forward to a nice relaxed day. Maybe my youngest daughter will come over with my granddaughter.

    Ocean Girl-- Thank you for early wishes..

    Alex -- I'm working on my movie list. Busy Monday of looking at lists ahead.

    Diane -- You sound like me. I watch movies and forget them. I've seen Amadeus several times and enjoyed it every time. It's worth seeing again.

  7. Great post about these classic musicians. Happy Father's Day. Hope your weekend is wonderful.

  8. Very interesting post, Lee. Thank you for the info - though I am not much of a classical fan, I enjoyed reading about these guys and the influence their father had on them.

    It is a shame when first, some fathers never give in put to their children; or second, when children never get to know their father.

    My father is 78 and I love him dearly. He quit the 9th grade, worked hard all his life, paid his bills on time, raised 5 kids.

    He wasn't musical, gifted, educated, or even motivational. But by example he taught us 5 kids a tremendous work ethic, honesty, your name means something, and that you don't quit.

    Somestimes the tenacith I learned from my father hurt more than helped - somewhere there is a line between tenacity and foolish stubborness.

    But what a contribution these men made to some of the world's most gifted and talented musicians.

    Thanks for the infor and Happy Father's Day to you!

  9. I'm a big Bach AND Mozart fan. Hey, you ever listen to PDQ Bach? Hysterical stuff!

  10. Nice list :)

    I'm one of the lucky ones - I had the best dad!

  11. Carol -- Thank you. See you at the Tiki Hut.

    Gregg -- the example set by a father can make a big difference in a child's--especially a son's life.

    Marvin -- Actually when I was in college at the University of Tennessee I went to see PDQ Bach in concert with the Knoxille Symphony Orchestra. It was a wonderfully funny concert.

    Jemi - Yes, I had a great father as well--we were both fortunate.

  12. Terrific post, Arlee. We should remember to thank our fathers for all they've done for us (if this is appropriate for you and yours).

    Marvin- I LOVE PDQ Bach!

    Happy Father's Day, everyone!


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