Father’s Day is coming up in less than two weeks. For me, sorting through the insipid Hallmark greetings of ‘World’s Great Dad’ always caused a pit in the stomach. Full disclosure, I am not ‘close’ to my father. Truth be told, the only thing we have in common is curly hair. Seriously, that is about it. Since, this is only my second blog, I am not comfortable yet laying on the coach as you reach for your pen and note pad. I do have an amazing step dad and am grateful every day that my mom had the good sense to marry him!
This time to ‘honour dad’ started me thinking about a few classical music fathers and the complicated dynamics between father and son.
The first one that comes to my mind is Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s dad. Much of what we think about him today is a result of the award-winning film ‘Amadeus’. Looking back, it is easy to think that Leopold simply took advantage of his son and used his musical gifts for financial gain. But I think, he really was in awe of his son and thought his gifts were nothing short of miraculous. He wanted the world to know how much richer it was with his son in it. Leopold Mozart wrote in late 1760s, “ I might describe the wonderful genius of my son…”
Samuel Wesley was father to Samuel Sebastian Wesley (the hymn writer and cleric). Like Mozart, dad was a child prodigy. Historical accounts relate that when he was 3 he could already play tunes. By 4, he knew Handel’s ‘Samson’ and at 5, the ‘Messiah’ was already memorized. He certainly cast a long shadow. His son, Samuel Sebastian (named after Johann Sebastian Bach) was a greatly respected organist, choirmaster and composer but he had a tragic flaw. It was his personality, or lack of. In the preface of Samuel Sebastian’s 1845 book, ‘Selection of Psalm Tunes’ he goes on a diatribe on the need for reform in Cathedral music and the flaws of the clergy. Church officials had his number and laid down the ground rules in his contracts. He accused rivals of greasing the wheel when applying for positions but he wasn’t above bribing a critic or two for a favourable review.
The relationship between Johann Strauss I, the dad of the great waltz King Johann Strauss Jr. was not a ‘warm fuzzy’. Dad wasn’t too keen on the idea of his name sake becoming a musician and only grudgingly provided piano lessons all the while making sure he studied commerce. Under his father’s nose, his mom arranged for Jr. to study violin with the concertmaster of the Strauss Orchestra. Dad left his wife and their 6 children and started a new family. It was only because Daddy Dearest didn’t support his first family that he allowed his son to pursue a career in music basically so he could support his mom and siblings. When Junior’s orchestra received kudos, dad was jealous. During military parades, it was awkward moments all around. When Senior died in 1849, Jr. took over the orchestra but the musicians felt loyalty to the father and refused to play for him because of past squabbles. After Vienna mourned, the Viennese acknowledged Johann Strauss Jr as the rightful heir ‘The Waltz King.’
Stay tuned for Johann Sebastian Bach and his sons!
To all the men who have stepped up to the plate as mentor, father, teacher, caregiver, Happy Father’s Day.
- Father’s Day and 3 Classical Music Dads (kellygalbraithblog.com)
- Classical music: It’s Father’s Day. Who is tops as a musical father figure? The Ear says Johann Sebastian Bach is the Father of All Fathers – literally and figuratively – when it comes to classical music. (welltempered.wordpress.com)
- Johann Sebastian Bach (irineve.wordpress.com)
- The Divine Composer Named Johann Sebastian Bach (johann-sebastian-bach.information-about-music.com)