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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, December 1

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" by Clarke and Wagner?

Synopsis

Because it's often played at weddings, the "Trumpet Voluntary" is one piece of Baroque music that just about everyone has heard. Once attributed to the famous 17th century British composer Henry Purcell, this music was, in fact, composed by Purcell's slightly younger and not-so-famous contemporary Jeremiah Clarke.

Clarke was born around 1674 and sang as a boy soprano in London's Chapel Royal. After his voice changed, he became a choir director and rejoined the Chapel Royal as an organist in 1700. Tragically, on December 1st in 1707, Clarke shot himself – according to some contemporary accounts as the result of a hopeless love affair.

And speaking of such things: also on today's date—in 1886—the American premiere of "Tristan und Isolde," Richard Wagner's classic opera of ill-fated passion, took place at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Anton Seidl, a protégé of Wagner, conducted. While composing Tristan, Wagner wrote to his lover, Mathilde Wesendonck: "Child! This Tristan is turning into something fearsome... the opera will probably be banned... only mediocre performances can save me! Good performances will drive people mad!"

If not driven mad, American audiences in 1886 were at least remarkably enthusiastic. The Musical Courier reported that "the audience filled every available seat and listened to the performance, which lasted until nearly midnight, with an attention and genuine enthusiasm unequaled in the musical history of this land."

Music Played in Today's Program

Jeremiah Clarke (ca. 1674-1707) Trumpet Voluntary (Prince of Denmark March) Maurice André, trumpet; Jane Parker-Smith, organ EMI 64899

Additional Information

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