Yo Yo Ma, in PBS's Face of America with Henry Louis Gates, states "It takes three generations to make a musician: the first to leave poverty, the second to go to school, and the third to master an instrument." This quote inspired us to delve into musician families and to see just how many famous musicians have become successful, in some part, due to their upbringing. The results are a wonderful testament to the power of family.
Wilhelm Friedemann's Sinfonia in D minor
Carl Phillip Emanuel's Concerto for Cello in A Major, Mvt 1
Johann Christian's Catone in Utica: Overture
Johann Christoph Friedrich's Symphony in B
Sonata for Piano Duo in C Major, Kv 19d-Probably performed with Nannerl
Fanny Mendelssohn's "Song without Words Op. 8, No. 3"
Felix Mendelssohn's "Song Without Words Op. 19, No. 1"
Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn were both extraordinarily precocious children whose playtime consisted of music-making. Fanny's wonderful talents were not fostered nor appreciated by society, thus her music went unpublished during her lifetime. Her father, although encouraging when she was young, wrote in a letter to Fanny about her hopes to be a professional musician; "for you it can and must only be an ornament, never the basis of your being and doing." Felix, on the other hand, was wonderfully successful in his life and saw much of his music performed on the world's most celebrated stages.
Clara Schumann's "Three Romances for Violin and Piano"
Robert Schumann's "Traumerei"
Robert and Clara Schumann were both extremely talented musicians who performed exquisitely on the piano and composed great masterworks. Clara was considered by many the preeminent pianist of the Romantic era, in fact, she was one of the first pianists to perform strictly by memory. Her concertizing allowed Robert to spend much of his time composing, while she earned money and brought his works to a wider public. In 194, a film titled "Song of Love" came out on the silver screen starring Katherine Hepburn as Clara, Paul Henreid as Robert, and Robert Walker as Johannes Brahms.
Antonin Dvorak was a tremendous composer whose talents continue to be enjoyed. His 9 symphonies continue to delight audiences as they are programmed quite regularly. Dvorak's connection to Fein Violins is an interesting side-note as his ancestors have frequented our shop, and have helped to inform our previous blog about the Minnehaha Melody. His student, Josef Suk, married Antonin's only daughter, Otilka. In 1901 Otilka and Josef (I) had their only son, Josef (II). Unfortunately, Otilka died in 1905. Josef (I) never remarried, but did live to see his son become a great musician, but shy away from composing as he did not consider himself to be in the same league as Dvorak and his father. Josef's (II) son, also Josef (III), born in 1929 went on to become a very well regarded violinist who was a founding member of the Czech Quartet.
Rostropovich performing Dvorak's Cello Concerto
Dvorak wrote this Sonatina for his kids. To his editor he wrote "It is intended for youths (dedicated to my children), but even grown-ups, adults, should be able to converse with it . . ." Here Josef Suk performs it.
Josef's (I) Asrael Symphony which commemorates the death of his father-in-law and wife
Josef (III) performing his Great-Great Grandfather's Violin Concerto
Johann I's Radetsky March
Johann II's The Blue Danube
Joesf's Village Swallows from Austria
Eduard I's Telephone Polka
Johann III's Unter den Linden
The Strauss Family, like the Bachs, were influential in the music scene for quite some time, and for many generations. Johann I began it all as the "Father of Waltz." Johann I was a self-taught musician focusing on violin and composition. In 1824 he formed his own orchestra and composed many waltzes and polkas for it. His best known work, which he composed for the local regiment, is the Radetsky March. Johann I had three sons follow in his footsteps, although not all of them joined willingly. In 1825 Johann II was born. Although his father was the "Father of Waltz," Johann II became the "Waltz King." In 1853, Johann II's younger brother, Josef, took over the helm of the orchestra when Johann was stricken with a nervous breakdown. Josef did so well that the family convinced him to stay on. Johann always believed his brother Josef was a better musician, but not quite as popular. Their youngest brother, Eduard I, joined the orchestra as a harpist when he tired his career in diplomacy. In 1870 Josef met an unfortunate death when he fell of the podium while conducting. To this end, Eduard took over the orchestra's podium. Eduard I had two sons, one of whom, Eduard, went on to become a conductor while the other, Johann III went into the motor trade. Johann III was not nearly as prominent a figure as his ancestors had been. Unfortunately, he was cajoled to create a pseudonym as the relatives did not wish him to tarnish the family's good name. OUCH! Eduard I's grandson, Eduard III, became the founding orchestra conductor of the Vienna Johannes Strauss Orchestra. Although it would make a great family's legacy even more exciting, the great composer Richard Strauss was unrelated.
Chung Trio performing the first movement of Beethoven's "Triple Concerto"
Myung-wha Chung (cellist) from South Korea. Since 1995, they have not performed much as a trio. Instead they are each working on their own solo careers.
Ahn trio performing at the TED Conference
Julian Lloyd Webber Performing movement III from Haydns Cello Concerto in C
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim performing musical comedy
Just listen to the commentator's comments. Sheesh!
Lili Boulanger's Deux Morceaux Nocturne
Nadia Boulanger on Music and Genius
Peter Bruns performing Nadia's "Trois Pieces"
Mischa, Sascha, and Lily Maisky performing the Beethoven Triple
Mischa's older brother, Valery, took a very similar path as his brother. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatory and emigrated to Israel in 1973. In 1974, he founded the Israel Bach Society and continued to perform many concerts, 2 a month, until his tragic death in a car accident in 1981.
Lee Liberace and Jack Benny
The Liberaces performing Hillbilly. Interesting note: the announcer is Bing Crosby's borther, Bob
Neeme Jarvi leading the Detroit Symphony in an encore of Meacham's American Patrol
Paavo Jarvi discusses Faure's Requiem
Kristjan Jarvi directs Dance Episodes from Bernstein's On the Town
Maarika Jarvi Performing Eller's Three Pieces for Flute with Kristjan conducting
Leonard Slatkin speking at a TED Conference about the importance of music
Leonard Slatkin conducting an excerpt from Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz
Hollywood String Quartet performing Hummel's String Quartet in G
Alisa Weilerstein Performing Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello
Weilerstein Trio performing Dvorak's Dumky Trio
Joshua Weilerstein Conducting Dvorak's New World Symphony
Yo Yo and Yeou-Cheng Ma
The Ying Quartet performing Movement 1 from Arensky's String Quartet in A minor
Is it genetics? Dedication? Family culture? A combination of all these factors, plus more? It's hard to tell who will become a great musician, but history has shown us that coming from a family of musicians never hurts and might give you an excellent head start.