Based on the Swiss-German border, near Schaffhausen, I've worked with sport and working horses for the past 40 years. I specialise in Warmblood sports horses, mostly German, and have also handled thoroughbreds, Irish horses and Cross-breeds. I've worked with some of the most well-known trainers and riders around the world. This blog is to provide you with my views and updates on my current works. It contains regular updates about some of the greatest composers of time gone by and documents some of the achievements by some of my favourite composers across Europe.
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Girolamo Frescobaldi was a 17th Century Italian composer. Frescobaldi is regarded as one of the most important keyboard composers of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Musical beginnings Girolamo Frescobaldi, born in Ferrarra, Italy, came from a musical family, as his father Filippo was a prominent organist. In his The post Michael McCooe: Composer – Girolamo Frescobaldi appeared first on Michael...
Girolamo Frescobaldi was a 17th Century Italian composer. Frescobaldi is regarded as one of the most important keyboard composers of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.
Girolamo Frescobaldi, born in Ferrarra, Italy, came from a musical family, as his father Filippo was a prominent organist. In his youth, Frescobaldi studied with Ferrarese court organist Luzzasco Luzzaschi, a famous composer of madrigals. His career began at the age of 14, he became the organist at Accadernia della Morte. Frescobaldi eventually moved to Rome and after training at the prestigious Accademia di Santa Cecilia, became the organist at Trastevere’s Church of Santa Maria in 1607.
1608 was a big year for Frescobaldi. In this year, he became the organist at Rome’s iconic Saint Peter’s Church, a post he retained, with the exception of a short break, until his death. At the same time, he started publishing, with the release of 12 fantasias in open score, composed of five-part madrigals. These fantasias are notable for their high contraptual mastery and variety. After leaving the service of the Bentivoglio family, who he had been with for years, in 1615, Frescobaldi published prolifically.
In 1615, Frescobaldi published Toccate e partite d’intavolatura di cimbalo, libro primo. Designed primarily for the harpsichord and organ, this included 12 toccatas written in a flamboyant improvisatory style with affetti, alternating fast-note runs and short bursts of contrapuntal imitation. This also included four partitas and four correntes. Alongside the revised edition of this book which the Italian published in 1637, this was one of Frescobaldi’s most important keyboard works.
He followed this with Recercari et canzoni franzese fatte sopra diverse oblighi in partitura, libro primo in 1626. This open score work has ten ricercars, written in the old-fashion, pure style, five canzonas and 11 capriccios. In its Preface he shed light on how the works should be performed, writing: “Should the player find it tedious to play a piece right through he may choose such sections as he pleases, provided only that he ends in the main key.… The opening passages should be played slowly so that what follows may appear more animated. The player should broaden the tempo at cadences.”
Frescobaldi’s output only rose from here. In 1627, he released Liber secundus diversarum modulationum, a book of 32 motets. In 1628 he became the court organist in Florence, before moving back to Rome in 1634. From 1628 onwards, he started expanding beyond keyboard music. The Italian published a book of 40 ensemble canzonas that same year. This key first volume of canzonas could be played with any instrument and were designed for one, two, three and four parts over thorough-bass.
The high water-mark of Frescobaldi’s career came in 1635, with the release of his iconic Fiori Musicali. This was the Italian’s only book of church music and it included three organ pieces designed to be played at key points in masses, as well as two capriccios. This is heralded as his most important composition and it influenced iconic Baroque composers, including most famously Johann Sebastian Bach. Frescobaldi died in 1643 and his last work, a book filled with 11 canzonas or unspecified instruments with basso continuo, was released posthumously in 1645.
Girolamo Frescobaldi helped define the concept of tempo in modern music. Defying convention, he made heavy use of variation, injecting his works with a dramatic inventiveness, but he combined this with logical elements, by adopting clear, effective construction in his compositions. This style, which was especially apparent in his many keyboard compositions, but also his vocal and other instrumental works, ensured that Frescobaldi left a lasting legacy, helping shape the Baroque period of music.
You can listen to some of my favourite classics on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated on a regular basis.
Heinrich Schütz was a 17th Century German composer and organist. Today, Schütz is considered to be one of the key composers of the era and the most important one before Johann Sebastian Bach. Musical education Heinrich Schütz was born in 1585, in Saxony. After being discovered by the Landgrave of The post Michael McCooe: Composer – Heinrich Schütz appeared first on Michael...
Heinrich Schütz was a 17th Century German composer and organist. Today, Schütz is considered to be one of the key composers of the era and the most important one before Johann Sebastian Bach.
Heinrich Schütz was born in 1585, in Saxony. After being discovered by the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, he became choir boy in 1599. He then studied music with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice between 1609 and 1613. The German was highly influenced by Gabrieli’s trademark polychoral style, which was reflected in his first published work – a set of Italian madrigals for five voices released in 1611.
Afterwards, all of Schütz’ known pieces are vocal settings of sacred texts. In 1613, he returned to Germany, moving to Dresden in 1615, with the Landgrave giving Schütz a permanent position in his chapel in 1618. A year later, Schütz released Psalmen Davids I, followed up with 1625’s Cantiones Sacrae and 1628’s Psalmen Davids I. Composed of motets and madrigals, these were sacred texts set to music in the Venetian style, either with solo voices, acapella or instrumental formations.
In 1627, Schütz’ most well-known secular work was first performed. This was Dafne, the first ever German opera. The music Schütz wrote for Dafne is lost, but it’s libretto (crafted by Martin Optiz), survives. In 1628, Schütz returned to Venice and met Claudio Monteverdi. Schütz is credited with bringing the style developed by Italy’s monodists, often seen in Monterverdi’s work, back to Germany.
Schütz released one his most famous religious work in 1629, in Symphoniae Sacrae I. This served as a bridge between his early choral output, which involved up to four choirs and the more intimate solo and duet pieces he would produce later on. Symphoniae Sacrae I was Schütz’ last work in Latin. This was followed up by two more publications in this series – 1647’s Symphoniae Sacrae II and 1650’s Symphoniae Sacrae III, which featured more experimental combinations of vocals and instruments.
In 1633 he left Dresden and became the Chapel Master at Copenhagen’s royal court, before moving back to Dresden in 1635. The year 1636 marked a major milestone in Schütz’ life, with the release of Musicalische Exequien, his first German requiem. It used choral sections firmly based in German traditions, but its solos and duets were often florid in the Italian style. That same year he published Kleiner Geistlichen Concerten I, for solo voice and continuo, with Kleiner Geistlichen Concerten II following in 1639.
Schütz kept working in Dresden, releasing dramatic works for combinations of voices and instruments, such as 1648’s Geistliche Chormusic. Another major milestone came in his Christmas Oratorio, which we know of from a publication dating back to 1664. It is for soloists, choir and instruments and they foreshadow the austere turn Schütz took from then on. His final works were acappella passions, where plain scriptural text is sung in a recitative, syllabic style, interspaced with brief polyphonic choruses.
By the time he died in 1672, Heinrich Schütz was a respected composer of sacred music. He brought emerging Italian styles back to Germany, modifying them to the country’s musical landscape, while experimenting with vocal structure and instrumentation. This had a huge influence on later composers like Bach so in this way, Schütz helped bring about the onset of the Baroque age, where German composers dominated the scene. This is why he is regarded as the most important pre-Bach composer.
You can listen to some of my favourite classics on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated on a regular basis.
Born in 1714, Christoph Willibald Gluck was a classical German composer. Christoph Willibald Gluck was a true musical revolutionary, who composed some of the 18th Century’s most popular operas. Embracing music Christoph Willibald Gluck showed a strong inclination for music from an early age. In 1727, Gluck left home to The post Michael McCooe: Composer – Christoph Willibald Gluck appeared first on Michael...
Born in 1714, Christoph Willibald Gluck was a classical German composer. Christoph Willibald Gluck was a true musical revolutionary, who composed some of the 18th Century’s most popular operas.
Christoph Willibald Gluck showed a strong inclination for music from an early age. In 1727, Gluck left home to escape his father’s expectations, going to Prague, where he supported himself financially as a musician. In Prague, Gluck started training in music with Czech composer and cellist Bohuslav Cernohorsky. After moving to Milan, he studied composition with the Italian composer and organist Giovanni Battista Sammartini for four years, during which time he wrote various sonatas.
While living in Milan, Gluck wrote operas prolifically, becoming well-known as an operatic composer. During this period, Gluck earned his first commercial successes with operas like Artaserse (1741), Demofoonte (1742) and Ippolito (1745). In these early works, Gluck conformed to the established Italian operatic style. After showcasing two operas in London that failed to earn critical success during 1746, as well as spending time with Handel while in the British capital, Gluck moved to Vienna in 1748.
Road to innovation
Gluck saw renewed success in Vienna, when he worked on Pietro Metastasio’s opera Semiramide Riconosciuta, which debuted in 1748. During the 1750s, Gluck started to embrace French influences. The composer began creating music for French Vaudeville comedies, where the dialogue is sung or spoken in the style of street songs, with his first attempt being 1756’s Tircis et Doristée. Other early examples of this work include La Fausse Esclave, L’Île de Merlin (1758) and Le Cadi dupé (1761).
The composer’s life changed forever in 1762, when he started writing the opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, this was his first “reform” opera, where Gluck broke away from existing complex operatic norms, to imbue a “noble simplicity” into both the music and the drama of the piece. Orfeo ed Euridice was first performed in late 1762, to resounding success. The piece eventually went on to set the standard for an entire generation of operatic composers.
Gluck followed Orfeo ed Euridice with the Italian reform operas Alceste (1767) and Paride ed Elena (1770), which were both wildly successful. The composer summed up his style in the foreword to Alceste, which is based on the ancient Greek play Alcestis by Euripides. In this, Gluck wrote that music should “serve poetry by means of expression and by following the situations of the story, without interrupting the action or stifling it with a useless superfluity of ornaments.”
During the 1770s, Gluck released more ground-breaking operas in Paris. This included Iphigénie en Aulide and a French version of Orfeo (both 1774). The most remarkable was Armide, which debuted in 1777. Gluck’s fifth work for the Parisian stage, Armide is a tragic love story set during the First Crusade. It used the same libretto featured in Jean-Baptiste Lully’s 1686 eponymous French Baroque opera, which was based on Torquato Tasso’s 1581 epic Italian poem La Gerusalemme liberate.
Gluck’s last major success came in the form of the 1779 opera Iphigénie en Tauride. Based on another of Euripides’ plays, this time Iphigenia in Tauris, this piece chronicles the tales of Agamemnon’s family following the Trojan War. In Iphigénie en Tauride, Gluck took his reform style to its logical conclusion, with the work boasting shorter recitatives than his other reform operas, as well as récitatif accompagné. Gluck spent his last years in Vienna, before passing away from a stroke in 1787.
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s operas heralded the beginning of a new era. His reform pieces, especially his Italian works, overturned the outdated conventions of opera seria, which had previously dominated the genre. Instead, Gluck blended the French and Italian operatic traditions, combining simplicity with dramatic impetus. This provided a model that many drew from in the 19th Century, ensuring that today, Christoph Willibald Gluck is best remembered as a musical revolutionary.
You can listen to some of my favourite classics on my Michael McCooe SoundCloud profile, which is updated on a regular basis.
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Born in 1875, Fritz Kreisler was an accomplished Austrian composer and violinist. Since his death, in 1962, Kreisler has come to be regarded as one of the most skilled violinists of all time. Musical prodigy Growing up in 19th Century Vienna, Fritz Kreisler was a child prodigy. During his childhood, The post Michael McCooe: Composer – Fritz Kreisler appeared first on Michael...
Born in 1875, Fritz Kreisler was an accomplished Austrian composer and violinist. Since his death, in 1962, Kreisler has come to be regarded as one of the most skilled violinists of all time.
Growing up in 19th Century Vienna, Fritz Kreisler was a child prodigy. During his childhood, Kreisler studied with various master such as Jacques Auber. He was admitted to the prestigious Vienna Conservatory, at just seven, going on to study violin and composition at the Paris Conservatory.
Fritz Kreisler won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome gold medal, competing against 40 other violinists, at age 12. Capitalising on this momentum, Kreisler went on to successfully tour the US as a violinist between 1888 and 1889. Kreisler then abandoned his musical career, in favour of studying medicine and art, and a stint in the Austro-Hungarian army, but he could not stay away from music for ever.
The Austrian resumed his musical career in 1898, when he appeared as a soloist performing alongside the Vienna Philharmonic. One year later, as the 19th Century was drawing to a close, Kreisler launched his global career, by performing with the Berlin Philharmonic. Kreisler’s reputation reached new heights in 1910, when he debuted Sir Elgar’s Violin Concerto, which was written specifically for him.
After serving in World War One, Kreisler toured Europe regularly, as well as the US, where he eventually settled. The violinist became known as a master interpreter. He wrote a range of pieces in the style of classical composers like Pugnani and Vivaldi, only admitting in 1935 that these works were in fact his own. Kreisler also famously owned several antique violins, created by master luthiers like Carlo Bergonzi and Pietro Guarneri, most of which eventually came to bear the Austrian’s name.
The Austrian was hit by a truck in New York in 1941. Unbelievably, Fritz Kreisler recovered from this accident and started performing again, regularly appearing as a violinist until 1950. After this point, Kreisler started suffering from hearing loss and sight deterioration, forcing him away from the stage. Fritz Kreisler died in 1962, by which point his stature as a skilled violinist was cemented worldwide.
Fritz Kreisler may have passed decades ago, but the Austrian’s work has only become more popular with time. He is perhaps best-remembered today as an early pioneer of continuous vibrato, which imbues one’s tone with warmth, along with his penchant for the pre-war Austrian ‘gemütlich’ (cosy) styles, which characterised his music. Some of the most iconic violin pieces of the 20th Century can be attributed to Kreisler, like Caprice Viennois, Tambourin Chinois, Schön Rosmarin, and Liebesfreud.
Fritz Kreisler was a violinist living ahead of his time. Kreisler, despite his extensive education, allegedly never practised, giving his performances an authenticity that’s really rare. Warmness characterised Kreisler’s work and he was as much known for his magnetic personality, as for his skill as a violinist, something which very much resonates in this post-modern, celebrity conscious world.
Written by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first-published in 1884. Chronicling the tales of an eponymous child-hero, as he attempts to head through the Mississippi Valley with runaway slave Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has become a seminal American text. Leaving Missouri We meet Huckleberry Finn The post Michael McCooe – 19th Century: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn appeared first on Michael...
Written by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first-published in 1884. Chronicling the tales of an eponymous child-hero, as he attempts to head through the Mississippi Valley with runaway slave Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has become a seminal American text.
We meet Huckleberry Finn “forty or fifty years ago” in his home-town of St Petersburg, Missouri. After living with drunkard, abusive father Pap, Huck was placed under the guardianship of Widow Douglas and her strict sister Miss Watson, who attempted to introduce the boy to religion, to “civilise him.”
We were introduced to Huck in Twain’s novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Here we saw how Huck and his middle class pal Sawyer amassed a considerable sum of cash. At the start of this novel, Huck expresses his dissatisfaction with civilised life to Tom, with both deciding to leave with their fortune. While escaping, they encounter Pap, who kidnaps Huck and whisks him away from St Petersburg.
Reuniting with Jim
Pap takes Huck to a cabin on the Illinois shoreline. Refusing to live with Pap, Huck fakes his death and flees to Jackson’s Island, reuniting with Miss Watson’s slave Jim, who has escaped. Jim is heading to Cairo, Illinois, to live as a freeman and buy his family’s freedom. Huck is conflicted over the ‘crime’ of helping a runaway slave but camps out on the Island with Jim, becoming friends with the former slave.
After flooding, the two find a raft on the Mississippi. They leave Jackson’s Island, after Huck learns that there’s a bounty on Jim’s head. They plan to take the raft up to the mouth of the Ohio River and catch a steamboat to the Free States. After sailing past St Louis, they miss the mouth of the Ohio River due to intense fog, encountering a group looking for stolen “property” i.e. slaves. Telling the men they have smallpox, Huck and Jim flee, only to be separated when the next night, a steamboat slams into their raft.
Huck finds the home of the Grangerfords, a southern aristocrat family. While staying with the Grangerfords, Huck is caught up in their feud with the Shepherdsons, reuniting with Jim, who has fixed the raft, when he is caught up in a gun fight between the clans. Our heroes head downriver, meeting a pair of con artists who claim to be a displaced English Duke and long-lost heir to the French Throne.
The group continue together downriver, to the displeasure of Jim and Huck, who cannot tell the two white adult men to leave, with the aristocrats pulling various scams as they go. During one con, Huck attempts to expose the aristocrats, who are pretending to be the brothers of Peter Wilks, a man who recently died and bequeathed his fortune to said brothers. Huck and Jim fail to escape the aristocrats, who after running more cons commit an unforgivable act – they sell Jim to local farmers.
Leaving his misgivings behind, Huck resolves to rescue Jim. Huck heads to where Jim is being held, meeting a woman who calls him Tom, causing him to realise that Tom Sawyer’s Aunt and Uncle, Silas and Sally Phelps, have Jim. The Phelps’ mistake Huck for Tom, who is visiting soon and Huck goes along with it. Huck greets Tom when he arrives, convincing his friend to say he is his own younger brother Sid.
Huck and Tom spend ages preparing to free Jim. After ransacking the house, they release Jim and flee, only for Tom to be shot in the leg. The group return to the Phelps’ where Jim is re-enslaved only for Tom to reveal when he wakes up that it was all a game. Miss Watson died two months before, freeing Jim in her will and Tom intended to pay Jim for his troubles. After the dust settles, Aunt Sally offers to adopt Huck but our hero decides to head out West instead, to find more adventures.
Journey to acceptance
Huckleberry Finn is an archetypical, 19th Century ‘everyman.’ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written after slavery ended in America, but set before and this shows. Throughout the novel, we see Huck go from an unthinking supporter of slavery, to one of the institution’s most ardent opponents, mirroring the journey to acceptance many Americans took throughout the Century.
You can also read a blog by Michael McCooe on Classical Music.
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Born in 1710, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was an Italian composer, organist and violinist, specialising in opera and traditional church music. During his tragically short life, Pergolesi lived in anonymity, but his fame grew substantially throughout the century following his death in 1736. Pergolesi’s Intermezzo La Serva Padrona, became one of the The post Michael McCooe: Composer – Pergolesi appeared first on Michael...
Born in 1710, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was an Italian composer, organist and violinist, specialising in opera and traditional church music. During his tragically short life, Pergolesi lived in anonymity, but his fame grew substantially throughout the century following his death in 1736. Pergolesi’s Intermezzo La Serva Padrona, became one of the most celebrated works of the 19th Century.
Pergolesi grew up in the Papal States – now Ancona Province, Italy. After completing musical studies in his native hometown, Pergolesi was sent to the respected Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesu Cristo, in cosmopolitan Naples, to advance his studies during the 1720s. During his time at the Conservatory, Pergolesi started developing a reputation as a skilled violinist and composer.
Evidence suggests that Pergolesi left the Conservatory around 1731, when he received his first commission to produce an opera. The year later, Pergolesi produced his first opera buffa (comic opera) – a genre in which he served as an early pioneer, in Lo Frate ’Nnammorato, as well as a mass (thought to be his Mass in D), which were both well-received but met with minimal commercial success.
Peak and decline
Pergolesi then composed extensively. In 1733, he was commissioned to write Il Prigionier Superbo, to commemorate the Empress of Austria’s birthday, a work which has now gained great popularity. Pergolesi produced his Mass in F in 1734, which when performed in Rome brought considerable interest and led to another opera commission in 1735, resulting in the commercial failure L’Olimpiade.
1735 was not a complete write-off for Pergolesi. During 1735 comedy opera Il Flammio, his last stage effort, was produced in Naples, earning him one final success. Pergolesi contracted tuberculosis in 1736 and after moving to a Franciscan monastery in Pozzuoli, he died. It is important to note that in his last year, Pergolesi created Stabat Mater, which would bring him to fame after his death.
Stabat Mater, is extremely indicative of Pergolesi’s signature style. It illustrates the Italian composer’s ability to handle large choral and instrumental forces, while maintaining balance. First published in London during 1749, Stabat Mater was heralded for introducing a new gallant take into traditional church music, going on to become the 19th Century’s most frequently printed musical composition.
But La Serva Padonra is now Pergolesi’s most iconic work. La Serva Padonra, which chronicles the story of a witty servant girl who plots to marry her elderly master, was the comic intermezzo slotted between the acts of Il Prigionier Superbo. After Pergolesi’s demise, La Serva Padonra enjoyed runaway success in Europe, even being upheld as an example of Italian operatic genius during a famous dispute which took place in 1752. It is the ultimate example of Pergolesi’s mastery of comic characterisation.
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