The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Celebrate Father’s Day with stories about the fathers of famous composers and musicians.

June 17, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Father’s Day.

Successful composers and performers have been influenced by all kinds of fathers — and father figures.

Mozart’s father Leopold (below, in 1765) was exploitative, if well meaning and knowledgeable about music. He helped the young Wolfgang who nonetheless resisted later advice once he was a mature artist and man.

Then there is the Bach family where many fathers, including Johann Ambrosius Bach (below), the father of Johann Sebastian Bach, passed down the musical trade to their sons, just as Johann Sebastian passed the trade or art down to Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christoph.

Clara Wieck’s father Friedrich, couldn’t accept that his talented pianist daughter Clara would fall for a young critic and upstart composer named Robert Schumann (below with Clara).

And Richard Strauss’ composer and performer father Franz Joseph (below, son on the left and father on the right) also proved an influence on the late Romantic composer.

What better way, then, is there  for classical music fans to mark Father’s Day than to explore some of the ways that fathers have influenced the field throughout history.

And I have found no better way than a recent story that Miles Hoffman, a professional violist, told last week on NPR.

Even the childless “Papa” Haydn came in for some remarks as being the “father” of the string quartet, the piano trio and the symphony.

But Hoffman left out one famous, or infamous, case: Johann Beethoven (below), on the other hand, was a drunk who was abusive and who would wake the young Ludwig and make him practice in the middle of the night, hoping that his son would become a profitable prodigy like Mozart. It is amazing Ludwig turned out as creative and productive as he was.

Here is a link. Enjoy! And Happy Father’s Day.

And there other famous father stories about classical music that classical fans should know about?

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