The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Happy Father’s Day! Music is filled with bad paternal role models and some good ones too. NPR discusses some bad fathers and praises good ones.

June 15, 2014
6 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, June 15, 2014, is Father’s Day.

Classical music is filled with notable father figures and not all of them are fathers you would want to emulate.

Take the overbearing and ambitious Leopold Mozart (below top), who browbeat and exploited his young son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below bottom).

Leopold Mozart colo

mozart big

And what about Ludwig van Beethoven’s father (below top) who used to come home drunk and threatened his young prodigy son with a beating to force him to practice the piano?

One has to wonder: Did such paternal abuse actually yield positive results on these two towering figures of classical music? Or did Mozart and Beethoven succeed despite their fathers’ bullying. Does an unhappy childhood benefit the art even when it hurts the artist?

beethoven's father BW

On the other hand, maybe some good parenting by Johann Sebastian Bach -– the “old wig” as  his more “modern” Classical-era sons called him –- led to such good achievements by his composer sons Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

The same might be said for Baroque composers Alessandro Scarlatti (below top), best known for vocal music, and his son Domenico Scarlatti (below bottom), best known for his keyboard music.

Alessandron Scarlatti

Domenico Scarlatti muted

There are a lot of fictional fathers to mention on this holiday too.

Especially in opera.

Those fathers were discussed this past week on NPR by Miles Hoffman. Hoffman is himself both the father of two daughters and a professional musician, both a performer and a teacher. His interview, with musical samplings, covered works by Christoph Willibald Gluck, Mozart, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi and, as a positive counterpoint, Giacomo Puccini.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/13/321544999/just-in-time-for-father-s-day-bad-dads-in-opera

What real or fictional fathers -– good or bad — in classical music come to your mind?

The Ear would like to see the Father’s Day discussion of musical fathers expanded. So share good stories and bad stories about music and paternity — even if it is your own, because there are a lot of fathers who played a positive and encouraging role in music careers and musical stories.

The Ear wants to hear.

 

 

 


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