Saturday, April 15, 2017


Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Mozart in 1770, with the Order of the Golden Spur
Anonymous oil copy of the lost 1770 original

In Mozart's Misericordias Domini, KV 222, at the 1:05 mark, you can hear the "Ode to Joy" melody, i.e., Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It appears several times in Mozart's composition.

How can this be?

Mozart wrote the Misericordias in 1775, over 40 years before Beethoven started composing his ninth symphony, the Choral (Beethoven began his ninth symphony in 1817 and took seven years to finish it, in 1824).

Did Beethoven copy Mozart?

Beethoven in 1819
by Joseph Karl Stieler

It is highly unlikely. There is no evidence that Beethoven ever heard the Misericordias, or ever saw the autograph.

This serendipitous event is what I have termed, "Convergent Musical Evolution.The melody is simple and direct, diatonic, with small intervals between the notes, and no chromatics; two geniuses independently conjuring and crafting this eternal and universal melody.


Ars longa !


@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


by Vincent de Luise M.D.

Beethoven and Eros

Ludwig van Beethoven 
    by W.J. Mahler (1815)    

Antonie Brentano
        by Joseph Karl Stieler (1808

On July 7, 1812, Beethoven penned an intimate, ten-page, emotionally wrenching and soul-bearing letter to his "Immortal Beloved," his unsterbliche Geliebte. He never mailed that letter, just as he never mailed the letter known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, announcing to his brothers Karl and Johann of his impending deafness.
The last page of Beethoven's
Letter to his Immortal Beloved

Who was the Immortal Beloved? Who was Beethoven's unsterbliche Geliebte?

Maynard Solomon had convinced most of us in 1977 that it was Antonie Brentano (1780-1869), for whom Beethoven wrote "An die ferne Geliebte" and the monumental "Diabelli Variations" (Beethoven had planned to dedicate the piano sonatas Op 111 and 112 to her as well, except for an error at the publishers). Brentano was a prominent arts collector and philanthropist.

New research has refuted the Brentano hypothesis. Could Josephine van Brunsvik have been Beethoven's true love?  Josephine's sister Therese wrote, "Beethoven! It is like a dream, that he was the friend, the confidant of our house - a beautiful mind ! Why did not my sister Josephine, as widow Deym, take Beethoven as her husband? Josephine's soul mate! They were born for each other!"

Josephine van Buskirk

Still others maintain that it was the beautiful and talented pianist, Countess Anne Marie Erdody,  to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Ghost" piano trio, Op 70 no. 1, and the piano sonata Op 102.
Countess Anna Marie Erdody

Or perhaps it was Giulietta Guicciardi, to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Moonlight" Sonata?
Giulietta Guicciardi

For most of his life, Beethoven was in love with a woman, from his childhood sweetheart, Eleonore "Lorchen" von Breuning, to the very end with Brentano, the van Brunsviks and the others. As far as is known, none of these amorous situations was consummated.. 

Maybe Beethoven was ultimately in love with Euterpe herself, the Muse of Music, as these other women were all virtually unattainable, by rank, choice, or circumstance (i.e., "she was "happily married" so it cannot be her" ).

Maybe that's why Beethoven never mailed that letter on July 7, 1812.

"Ever Thine

Ever Mine

Ever Ours"

@2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A Review of Mozart Iconography
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart (1756 - 1791)
by his brother-in-law, Johann Joseph Lange

It has often been said that to discover the real Mozart, one need simply listen to his ineffable music. Yet, questions still arise: What did Mozart look like? Which are the true portraits that were made of him during his life? Can an artist capture genius in a painting? 

Of the hundreds of images of Wolfgang Amade' Mozart, only about a dozen have been attested. The influential early 20th century biographer Arthur Schurig crystallized this apparent Mozartean paradox: "Mozart has been the subject of more portraits that have no connection with his actual appearance than any other famous man; and there is no famous person of whom a more worshipful posterity has had a more incorrect physical appearance than is generally the case with Mozart." (1) 

One reason that has been offered for the paucity of vetted depictions of Mozart is that he was not painted by the most famous artists of his time, as had been J.S. Bach, Handel, Haydn and Beethoven. No Haussmann (Bach), Hudson (Handel), or Hoppner (Haydn) portrayed Mozart for posterity. 

Mozart's sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) captured an aspect of him: "... My brother was a rather pretty child." Later, she added that he was "small, thin, and pale in color, and lacking in any pretensions as to physiognomy and bodily appearance." The composer Johann Adolph Hasse wrote that "the boy Mozart is handsome, graceful and full of good manners."  Michael Kelly, the tenor who sang the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro, famously reminisced about Mozart in 1826: "He was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine hair, of which he was rather vain...."   

Roland Tenschert published an initial series of Mozart portraits in 1931. (2) The musicologist and historian Otto Eric Deutsch codified Mozart iconography in a seminal article in the 1956 bicentennial volume, The Mozart Companion (3), and further detailed his findings in a 1961 book.(4) Deutsch identified twelve portraits that have the provenance to be considered authentic.

Since then, there have been a few discoveries which purport to represent Mozart: the portrait from the estate of Johann Lorenz Hagenauer ("The Man in the Red Coat"), the Edlinger portrait, the Albi Rosenthal sketch, the Fruhstorfer portrait of a boy with a toy soldier, the rediscovery of the J.B. Delahaye portrait, the portrait by Leopold Bode, and the rediscovery of the Greuze portrait. The Hagenauer, Edlinger, Fruhstorfer, Delahaye, and Greuze have undergone biometric analysis. In my view, none of these portraits resembles any of the vetted portraits of Mozart; each awaits further attestation. (These portraits and references to the biometrics are included in the Addendum). 

An intriguing enamel of a young man, presumably Mozart, was sold at auction at Sotheby's in 2014. The enamel was supposedly given by Wolfgang to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla (the "Basle"), in 1777. (5)

In 1947, a bronze "death mask," putatively of Mozart, was found in an antique shop in Vienna. Legend has it that a gypsum plaster death mask was made "shortly after Mozart died," either by Josef Deym von Stritetz or Taddeus Ribola. Upon the death of the craftsman, the mask went to his widow, and when she died, around 1821, the mask vanished. Mozart's widow Constanze Mozart Nissen wrote that she had been given "a copy" of the death mask, presumably also in plaster, but had "clumsily broken it"  at some point in time. Most scholars do not accept the bronze death mask as authentic. (6,7)

The following are the canonical Mozart portraits, with commentary. (Number 3, for example, the Ollivier painting is, per O.E. Deutsch, iconographically worthless, as the person playing the harpsichord looks to be about 50 years of age (!) and not ten, and in any event, cannot be seen clearly. Unless Mozart had progeria, which he did not, this cannot be him). A few of the portraits derive from the others, so the number of uniquely identifiable Mozart portraits is eleven:

1.The Boy Mozart, oil painting, attributed to Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, 1763 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The Lorenzoni is now contested. The head has been spliced into a stock painting of the clothing.

Wolfgang Mozart in 1763 at age 7.
Attributed to  Pietro Lorenzoni.

2. Leopold Mozart with Wolfgang and Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), watercolor by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, November 1763 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). Three variants (Musée Carnavalet, Paris; British Museum, London; Castle Howard, York), an engraving by Delafosse in 1764 after Carmontelle's painting (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris) and several other copies are known to exist. If the youth at the keyboard is Wolfgang, he looks nothing like the Wolfgang of the Lorenzoni or the Verona portraits.

Leopold, Wolfgang and Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart 
by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle

3. The Tea Party at Prince Louis-François de Conti's, in the 'Temple', oil painting by Michel Barthélemy Ollivier, 1766 (Musée du Louvre, Paris).The head of the person playing the harpsichord is so small that the painting, per O.E. Deutsch, is "iconographically worthless."

The Tea Party in "The Temple"
by Michel Barthelmey Ollivier 1766

4. Wolfgang at the piano, the so-called "Verona portrait," oil painting attributed either to Saverio dalla Rosa, his maternal uncle, Giambettino Cignaroli, (or the artists may have collaborated). 1770 (Private Collection). The finest depiction of the young Mozart (He was 14 here).

Mozart at the keyboard, 1770
The so-called "Verona Portrait"
by Saverio dalla Rosa or Giambettino Cignaroli

5. Miniature on ivory, attributed to Martin Knoller, 1773 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The portrait is contested.
The 1773 miniature on ivory
attributed to Martin Knoller

6. The anonymous portrait in enamel, 1777, that Wolfgang may have given to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla (the "Basle")  sold at Sotheby's in 2014. (5)
The 1777 enamel miniature that Wolfgang
may have given to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla ("Basle")

7. The 1777 copy of Mozart as Knight of the Golden Spur, anonymous oil painting, (Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna). The 1770 original oil has been lost. Leopold wrote that Wolfgang was ill when this was painted.

The 1777 copy of the now lost 1770 oil
Mozart with the Order of the Golden Spur

8. The Family Portrait, an oil painting attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-1781 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Anna (Ana) Maria Walburga Pertl Mozart (Wolfgang's and Nannerl's mother, and Leopold's spouse) is seen on the wall in the portrait. She died in Paris in 1778. In 1829, when Mary and Vincent Novello met with and interviewed Constanze Mozart Nissen, she stated that the image of Wolfgang in this painting was "one of the best likenesses" of him. (8)

The Mozart Family Portrait 1780-1781
attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce

9. Oil painting by Johann Joseph Lange, 1782-1783 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Sometimes entitled "Mozart at the Piano." At some later time, the head of this portrait was affixed to a larger canvas, presumably with the intention of depicting Mozart seated at the piano, but this larger painting was unfinished; it is the one below that we see today at the Wohnhaus across from the Mozarteum. The portrait itself is on a side wall, in shadow, behind. If you scrutinize it very carefully in oblique and specular light,you can almost perceive irregularities around the head. 
In 1829, in an interview with the Novellos, Constanze Mozart Nissen stated that this Lange portrait and the della Croce painting were the best likenesses of her brother Wolfgang. The Novellos went on to write that, "..... by far the best likeness of him (Mozart), in Mrs. Constanze Nissen's opinion, is the painting in oils done by the Husband of Madame Lange (the eldest sister of Mrs. Nissen)....." who is the very same Joseph Lange who painted this portrait.(8)
Michael Lorenz has researched the Lange portrait in the context of Lange's other paintings. His conclusion is that "the Mozart portrait by Joseph Lange is not an unfinished painting of "Mozart at the Piano," but an unfinished enlargement of an original miniature of Mozart's head." (9) 

Mozart, by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

10. Silhouette, engraved by Hieronymous Löschenkohl, 1785, for his Musik- und Theater-Almanach of 1786 (one copy in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). The silhouette is contested. Löschenkohl correctly uses Mozart's middle name, Amade'.

The Silhouette of 1784/1785 
by Johann Hieronymus Loschenkohl

11. Medallion in red wax, by Leonard Posch, 1788 (formerly Mozart-Museum, Salzburg: missing since 1945); Deutsch lists three other variants. Grosspietsch describes six variants in detail. 

The 1788 medallion in red wax by Leonard Posch.

12. The silverpoint drawing by Doris Stock, 1789 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). This tiny and meticulously rendered portrait of Mozart, about four inches by three inches in greatest dimension, is at the Wohnhaus under glass with a convex lens over it.

The 1789 silverpoint by Doris Stock

13. The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait of 1819 in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. Nannerl Mozart lent Kraft the della Croce, the Lange and the Stock portraits, on which she based her painting.
The 1819 posthumous oil by Barbara Kraft.

An introductory article with excellent images can be found here (10). There is an extensive website of images of authenticated, inauthentic, and controversial Mozart portraits (11).  Christoph Grosspietsch has written a treatise on Mozart iconography. (12) 

Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen has offered an eloquent summary on the function of Mozart portraiture:

"Very few images of Mozart are universally agreed to be authentic. Yet the acceptance of these portraits - as well as more recently discovered portraits purporting to be Mozart - is less the result of provenance or connoisseurship than the fact that they are shrines at which Mozart scholars and Mozart lovers uncritically worship. They are representations of how we would like Mozart to look - in short they satisfy our visual biographical fancy. This is true above all of the unfinished portrait by Joseph Lange. The musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon described it as the most intimate, most profound, of all the mature  Mozart portraits - the only one, really, to catch the ambivalent nature of Mozart's mercurial mind and to show the profoundly pessimistic side of his many-sided genius." (13)

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.


1. Schurig, A., Wolfgang Mozart: Sein Leben und sein Werk Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1913.
2. Tenschert, R., Mozart: Ein Kunstlerleben in Bildern und Doumenten, 1931.
3. Deutsch, O.E., Mozart Iconography, in The Mozart Companion, Robbins-Landon, H.C and Mitchell, D, eds.,  Oxford University Press 1956.
4. Deutsch, O.E., Mozart und seine Welt in zeit gemossischen Bildern. M. Zenger, ed. Verlag - Kassel, 1961.
7. Karhausen,L., The Bleeding of Mozart, XLibris  2011 .
8. Novello, V. and Novello, M.   "A Mozart Pilgrimage- Being the Travel Diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello in the year 1829, N. de Medici di Marignano and Robert Hughes, London, 1955, reprinted 1975.  
12. Grosspietsch, C., Mozart-Bilder / Bilder Mozarts  Verlag Anton Pustet, Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum 2013
13. Eisen, C.,  


The Fruhstorfer Portrait of a young boy with a toy soldier

The Delahaye Portrait  c.1772

The Johann Georg Edlinger Portrait   1789-1790

The Portrait in the Hagenauer Estate
("The Man in the Red Coat") 1789-1790

The anonymous Albi Rosenthal silverpoint drawing c. 1790

The Bode portrait. This portrait was executed by Leopold Bode in 1859, 68 years after Mozart died. Bode wrote that he had used the 1770 Verona portrait as a template.
Portrait of a young man by Leopold Bode 1859

For decades, a c. 1770 painting by Franz Thaddeus Heibling in the Stiftung Internationale Mozarteum was thought to be Mozart. It has been proven that the individual in the painting is not Mozart, but rather, Carl Graf Firmian.

Young man at the piano by Franz Thaddeus Heibling, c. 1770

A small and finely rendered portrait of a young man, dated 1763/1764 and attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze, at the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, is said to be Mozart. Most scholars have not accepted this attestation. On the label next to the portrait is written the following: " Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Signed "BJG." Yale University, New haven CT, acquired 1960. Exhibitions: Mozarteum Austria 1910. The identification of the sitter as Mozart has never been confirmed and should be treated with skepticism."

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.






6. Robbins-Landon, The Mozart Compendium, New York, Schirmer Books, 1990, pp. 112-113

Monday, March 13, 2017


Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

W.A. Mozart (1756-1791) in 1782
Portrait by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart was one of the greatest symphonists in history. Over the course of thirty years of composing, he crafted over 54 symphonies and sinfonias; forty-one are canonical compositions and the last three remain among the finest ever written. 
Mozart composed his 38th symphony, the D Major K.V. 504 ("Prague") in December 1786 and it premiered in that great city on January 19, 1787. Mozart did not return to the symphonic genre until the summer of 1788.  A year and a half would pass, and then, seemingly without a specific reason, over the course of just six weeks, Mozart began to compose not just one, but three magisterial symphonies, his last and greatest in the genre. 
For what purpose were they written? For what commission or special event? Why did Mozart decide to write three large-scale  and intricate works, masterpieces which stood on the shoulders of Haydn's creations, and that opened the door to a new world for the symphonic form?
Mozart very rarely wrote music without a specific purpose, just "for the heck of it." The quaint and tiresome trope of the starving artist living in a garret somewhere, composing out of some "divine" inspiration is a romantic and Byronic conceit, yet one that, curiously, is still held onto by some Mozart admirers. 
That myth was not Mozart's reality. Mozart was not a starving artist, certainly not by 1788. He was earning the modern equivalent of at least $ U.S. 100,000 in each of the last three years of his life, compensation that put him in the upper middle class of Viennese society. (1)  To be sure, his creative output ebbed and flowed in 1787 and 1788, but by then, he had secured financial success with his operatic da Ponte collaborations and piano concerti, had given several Akademies (subscription concerts where he kept the profits), and had a number of talented and wealthy keyboard pupils (among whom were Barbara Ployer, Josepha von Auernhammer, Thomas Attwod, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Prince Karl Lichnowsky himself, who would later become both his and Beethoven's mentor). Mozart was finally able to see the (financial) light at the end of the tunnel. 
As Mozart scholar and Cornell Professor Neal Zaslaw entitled one of his more famous essays, Mozart was in reality a "working stiff." He needed to make a living: he had a spouse and two young children, a large apartment, expensive clothes, a valet and a coach, and a desire to live as an equal to the aristocrats who purchased tickets to his events. As one of history's first "freelance" artists (i.e. not employed or retained by the aristocracy, as Handel and Haydn had been), Mozart was on his own to earn money.(2)
Yet, there is no record that the symphonies we now know as the 39th (Eb major K.V. 543), 40th (g minor K.V. 550) and 41st (C major K.V. 551, nicknamed the Jupiter by Haydn's employer Johann Peter Salomon in London in the 1790s) were ever commissioned. There is no record of any purpose for which they were composed, and there is no evidence that they were ever performed during Mozart's lifetime. Some musicologists believe that Mozart wrote the symphonies as a whole, purely for publication purposes, but again, with no proof of performance.
There is an intriguing statement in one of Mozart's letters that he intended to perform these symphonies at the new casino in Vienna (in the Spiegelgasse, owned by Philip Otto), and in a letter to another friend, a comment about tickets for a series of concerts at the venue. In a July 10, 1802 letter by the musician Johann Wenzel to the Leipzig publisher Ambrosius Kuhnel, Wenzel refers to a performance of the g minor symphony (the 40th) at the home of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, but it was so poorly performed that Mozart had to leave the room! (3)  There exist concert programs from performances in Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Vienna in 1789 and 1790 that refer to Mozart "symphonies" without date or key signature. 
But that's it. 
There are no ticket receipts, no written recollections by concert-goers, no reviews in the Viennese newspapers (and new compositions by any of the several excellent composers in Vienna - instrumental or operatic - were often talked about), and most importantly, not one mention of a performance of any of the last three symphonies in any correspondence by Mozart to his friends, or to Constanze or his sister Maria Anna (Nannerl). 
Which is all very odd. 
Over 800 letters exist from Mozart to and from his family, colleagues and friends, a trove of correspondence and primary literature unequalled by that of any other composer. In these letters, Mozart mentions in detail not only his musical triumphs but also the quotidian events in his life, such as buying a starling as a pet, or eating pork cutlets, con gusto, on October 6, 1791, eight weeks before he died. Given this extraordinarily detailed chronicle of a life, it is inconceivable that Mozart or one of his addressees would not have made some reference to one of the three last symphonies. 
Yet nothing. 
Mozart made a revision of the g minor (40th) symphony a few months after he composed it, to include clarinets and to give new parts for the flutes. Could this revision have been for a performance in a different venue in Vienna or a city elsewhere in Europe?  Haydn may (or may not) have channeled some motifs from Mozart's Jupiter symphony in his 98th symphony of 1792. Could Haydn have heard a performance of Mozart's 41st symphony sometime between 1788 and 1792? We do not know.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the prolific and learned Early Music conductor, has offered the fascinating possibility that Mozart conjured and crafted his last three symphonies as an integral whole, as a final statement on the symphonic genre, that Mozart composed them without commission, perhaps as instrumental music underpinning a grand oratorio, which Harnoncourt calls Mozart's "Instrumental Oratorium." 
Harnoncourt considers the first movement of the 39th symphony the "Prelude" of this putative oratorio, and the last movement of the 41st symphony, the "Finale." He argues that the 39th has no ending, the 40th has no true beginning, and the 41st has a magisterial coda. Again, there is no proof that these three masterpieces were conceived as part of a larger whole, but it is an intriguing thesis.(4)
However, there are documented melodic and motivic antecedents to Mozart's Jupiter symphony. The four-note theme in Mozart's Jupiter is found not only in Mozart's own first symphony, his Missa Brevis in F and his 33rd symphony, but it can be heard as far back as the Missa Pange Lingua of 1515 of Josquin de Prez. Mozart had seen the autograph of the Symphony in C major (no. 27) of his friend, Michael Haydn, which was written four years earlier than Mozart's Jupiter and has the same motif in its finale. In those days, before copyright laws, imitating another composer's melodies or motifs was not only not plagiarism, it was considered a compliment.
What we do know is the remarkable quality of these last three Mozart symphonies, their assuredness and complexity, their modulation and chromatics, their "knocking on the door" of Romanticism fully 17 years before Beethoven would blow open that door in 1805 with his Eroica Symphony. 

The finale of Mozart's Jupiter is an astonishing burst of creativity: five separate and intertwined fugal motifs make up the coda. Johann Sebastian Bach would have been proud:

The fugal coda of Mozart's Symphony no. 41 in C major, 
KV 551 "Jupiter," with its five separate, intertwined motifs.

Mozart's creative process is as mysterious and wondrous as the genius underlying his ineffable compositions.

Ars longa !

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D. 


 1. Baumol, William and Baumol, Hilda, On the economics of musical composition in Mozart's Vienna, in, On Mozart,  James Morris, ed. Woodrow Wilson center and Cambridge University Press, 1994.

2. Zaslaw, Neal, Mozart as a working stiff, in On Mozart, James Morris ed., Woodrow Wilson Center and Cambridge University Press, 1994 

3. Milada Jonasova: Eine Auffuhrung der g-moll-Sinfonie KV 550 bei Baron van Swieten im Beisein Mozarts", in: Mozart Studien 20, Tutzing 2011, pp. 253-268. An abridged English translation was published in the Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America 16:1 (2012)

Saturday, March 4, 2017


I was given the privilege and honor again of writing the program notes for tonight's (March 4, 2017) performance by the Weill Cornell Medical College Music and Medicine Orchestra performance of the Brahms violin concerto and Beethoven's fifth symphony at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Juilliard, in New York City. Music performed at this level of excellence and sheer musicality gives me great hope for the future of humanity.

Notes on the Program
Vincent P. de Luise M.D. ‘77
Assistant Clinical Professor, Ophthalmology, Yale University                            
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Weill Cornell Medical College

Two masterworks comprise tonight’s program, “warhorses” of the classical music repertoire. How fitting that we will hear Brahms’ violin concerto along with Beethoven’s fifth symphony, as Brahms was proclaimed, by Robert Schumann and subsequently an adoring Viennese public, the successor to Beethoven’s legacy.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D, Op. 77

Johannes Brahms (May 7, 1833 April 3, 1897)

I. Allegro non troppo II. Adagio III. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace - Poco piu’ presto
Scored for solo violin, pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, four horns, timpani and strings

It is a commonplace today for music to be a collaborative endeavor. Composers work with lyricists and producers to create songs and smash-hit musicals. Though these relationships were less frequent in the 19th 
century, Johannes Brahms in particular relied on his virtuosi musical friends, in his violin, cello, and clarinet masterpieces, who served as inspirational muses and editors. 

The Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) was one such advisor. When the two first met in 1853, Joachim, though only two years older, was already widely known as a brilliant musician and composer. Brahms, a newcomer to the musical scene, often sought out the violinist's opinion regarding his compositions. It was Joachim who introduced Brahms to Robert and Clara Schumann, in Dusseldorf in 1853; the rest is history, with Robert anointing Brahms as the next big thing,” and Brahms and Clara remaining intimate musical and personal friends throughout their lives. 

Johannes Brahms at 52,  in 1885
The violin concerto could not have had a more sublime environ for its genesis. Brahms began composing it during a relatively happy period in his life, the summer of 1878, in the Austrian village of Portschach. He had heard so many melodies walking the streets of the town that he once quipped, “one had to be careful not to step on them!” However, Brahms was a pianist, and needed the advice of Joachim the violinist to craft the concerto, writing to him, "You should correct it, not sparing the quality of the composition.... I shall be satisfied if you mark those parts that are difficult, awkward, or impossible to play." In fact, many of its arpeggios were considered “unviolinistic,” which is to say, more pianistic than for a violinist’s technique. 

Joachim contributed greatly to the concerto, scrutinizing every note, offering ideas, revising whole sections with multiple mail exchanges, ensuring that the work was “playable and idiomatic.”

The concerto was premiered at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (which had earlier been Mendelssohn’s home base) on January 1st 1879, with Joachim as soloist and Brahms himself conducting. Perhaps to cement the relationship between two of von Bulow’s iconic “Three B’s of Music,” (the other "B" being Johann Sebastian Bach), the concert opened with the Beethoven concerto and closed with the Brahms.

Joachim famously stated that, "the Germans have four concertos: the greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven's; Brahms' concerto vies with it in seriousness; the richest, the most seductive was written by Bruch; but the heart's jewel is that by Mendelssohn."  Indeed, Brahmsconcerto melds the nobility and gravitas of Beethoven’s with the lyricism of the Mendelssohn, along with Hungarian folk melodies which had informed Brahms in his halcyon days touring Europe with the violinist Edward Remenyi. Thankfully, Brahms and Joachim were on good terms throughout the composition of the concerto. They later had a falling out over Joachim’s relationship with his (Joachim’s) spouse, but Brahms ultimately patched things up in 1887, writing the double concerto for violin and cello, Op 102.

Brahms’ concerto, like Beethoven’s, is in the violin-friendly key of D major. They also share a top-heavy first movement and, unusually, a timpani accompaniment to the violin’s first entry. The work presents formidable technical challenges for any violinist: wide interval jumps, broken chords, double and triple stops, even quadruple stops, mandating that the violinist play multiple notes simultaneously and rapidly. Though conductor Joseph Hellmesberger (who led the Vienna premiere before a rapturous Viennese audience) acidly described it as not a concerto for, but rather, as against the violin,and Wieniawski stated it was “unplayable,” the inherent beauty, elegance and compositional mastery that the concerto displays belie these grumblings.

The musicologist Bernard Jacobsen reminds us that a concerto is, at its essence, a human drama, with contrasting forces from soloist and orchestra. In classical idiom, it uses the musical device of the Baroque ritornello (literally, “a little return”), “.... the orchestra presents the basic material and then the solo instrument comes in and establishes its primacy by varying the orchestral ideas, introducing new ones of its own, and extending the music’s tonal range.” The first movement is heralded by the orchestra’s tonic and dominant chords, combining classical formalism with the richness and warmth that is idiomatic of Brahmsian style. The violin enters with breathtaking virtuosity, stakes its claim, and the forces collide. Of the many cadenzas that have been composed for the first movement (Auer, Busoni, Kreisler, Heifetz, inter alias), the original and most famous one, written by Joachim himself, will be heard this evening. The Adagio, in F major and ternary (ABA) form, begins with one of classical music’s most ravishing melodies: a solo oboe on high, floating a sublime melody, an achingly beautiful theme gently supported by a lovely woodwind choir, which is then taken up and developed by the violin. An unsettled mid-section ebbs and returns to the pastoral theme. The third movement is a sprightly rondo highlighted by ungarischgypsy motifs, ending with a dynamic coda.

Symphony No. 5 in c minor, Op 67

Ludwig van Beethoven (December 17, 1770 March 26, 1827)
I. Allegro con brio II. Andante con moto III. Scherzo: Allegro IV. Allegro
Scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, piccolo, contrabassoon, two trumpets, three trombones, four horns, timpani, and strings

Can you imagine being seated in Vienna’s majestic Theater an der Wien on the evening of December 22, 1808, one of the first ever to hear those eight earth-shattering notes:

What did that motif sound like to early nineteenth century ears? Two groups of four notes, each three short and one long, a descending fourth in cut time (2/4), with the half notes held, unmeasured. It certainly wasn’t a melody, but rather some type of pronouncement. An outcry. What an extraordinary experience it must have been! 

The lengthy and under-rehearsed concert was an Akademie subscription event for Beethoven’s own benefit, and he himself conducted it. It was to be the most remarkable night of his life. The concert lasted almost four hours, and included five premieres. Two symphonies were on the program: the Sixth (“Pastoral) began the concert, and the Fifth was performed in the second half, along with a large swath of the C major Mass. The concert aria, Ah ! Perfido,and the fourth piano concerto (with Beethoven himself as soloist) also had their maiden voyages that evening. The marathon concluded with the sublime Choral Fantasia (a brilliant finaleBeethoven called it), a fascinating work for piano, chorus and orchestra that prefigured the last movement of Beethoven’s magisterial ninth symphony. Some grumbled about the length of the concert and the freezing cold in the unheated hall, yet virtually no one left early.

Beethoven at 45, in 1815
Extant sketches confirm that Beethoven began working on the fifth symphony as early as 1802, diving deeply into it by 1804, yet frequently interrupting its creation as he switched gears to compose the fourth piano concerto and the Pastoral symphony, and to deal with personal anguish and ailments. He had written his courageous Heiligenstadt Testament to his brothers Carl and Johann, (a letter, like his letters to die unsterbliche Geliebte,the Immortal Beloved,that he never sent), in which he admitted, in heartbreaking detail, that he was slowly going deaf. 

In the summer of 1808 he was nursing a nasty finger infection, affecting his piano playing, while the world around him was equally challenging, with Europe enmeshed in the Napoleonic Wars and Vienna in political turmoil. The symphony was commissioned by Count Franz von Oppersdorff, but Beethoven dedicated it to two other aristocrats: Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz and Count Andreas Kirillovich Razumovsky.

Debussy famously wrote that “music is the silence between the notes,” a fitting comment with respect to Beethoven’s Fifth, which boldly begins not with sound, but with silence: an eighth note rest ! Silence creates musical tension. That tension leads to expectations that trigger the brain’s neural network emotional response, those musical frissons (chills down the spine) that music gives to the listener, catalyzing receptors in the midbrain and forebrain pleasure centers. If we are to believe Beethoven’s amanuensis Anton Schindler (who was prone to hyperbole in re his master’s works), Beethoven himself provided the key to the motif, expressing its essential idea as, "Thus Fate knocks at the door!

The structure of the first movement is a Manichean struggle between darkness and light, chaos and form, represented in music by the dialectic between minor (c minor) and major (Eb major). Given composition theory within the common-practice era, the keys are related: the symphony’s tonic of c minor (3 flats) is the relative minor of Eb major (also 3 flats). Dynamics, contrasting tempos and harmonies contribute scaffolding and shading. The opening motif is heard repeatedly, incessantly, at times overlapping, modulated to Eb major (the relative major), reprised in ascending and descending forms, even as it also serves as a rhythmic foundation for the other three movements.

The second movement is as soft as the first movement is stormy. In ABAC form, it begins with a syncopated theme from low strings in Ab major (four flats). Woodwinds introduce the second motif, followed by a third theme from violas and cellosThe movement ends with a unison fortissimo, which Donald Francis Tovey likened to smiling through tears in the minor mode.” 

The third movement is in ternary form: a scherzo and trio. Its brooding, drum-thumping ending proceeds directly into the magisterial fourth movement without a pause, a revolutionary technique for its time. The triumphant finale (with trombones!, another first!) explodes not with the traditional return to the tonic of c minor that began the symphony, but rather in the sunlight of C major. Beethoven, as one might imagine, defended his choice, stating that Many people say that every minor piece must end in the minor. I disagree! .... Joy must follow sorrow, just as sunshine from rain.

The first movement’s “dah-dah dah-DAH” rhythm came to represent the letter “V” in Morse code, explaining why the Allies in World War II nicknamed the Fifth, the “Victory” Symphony. As one of the most groundbreaking and transformative compositions in the western canon, it comes as no surprise that the Fifth Symphony is now hurtling forward into interstellar space. Its first movement is one of several compositions embedded into a gold-plated copper disc Golden Record containing music, images, and languages of Earth, sent into space in 1977 with each of the two unmanned Voyager probes; music that is, literally, out of this world ! 

Ars longa!