On this day in classical music: Musical titan Ludwig van Beethoven died at age 56 in 1827. Despite having spent more than half of his adult life completely deaf, Beethoven continued to compose. Many of his greatest works were produced during the final years of his life: the “Symphony No. 9,” “The Consecration of the House” overture, the last five string quartets and the “Grosse Fuge,” the last five piano sonatas and the “Missa Solemnis.” Nearly two centuries later, his works rank among the most often performed in nearly every area of the repertoire. French composer/conductor Pierre Boulez was born in 1925. Today, the octogenarian remains active as one of the industry’s most talented conductors. March 26 als0 marks the world premiere of American composer William Schuman’s cantata “A Free Song.” Based on works by Walt Whitman, the 1943 work won the first Pulitzer Prize for Music. Schuman also served as president of The Juilliard School from 1945 to 1961.
On this day in the musical theatre: “Funny Girl” opened in 1964 with Barbra Streisand recreating the life and career of vaudeville comedienne Fanny Brice. Despite its tremendous popularity, the show failed to win a single Tony Award. This was the season dominated by “Hello, Dolly!” which won 10 of the 11 awards for which it was nominated. Luckily, Streisand got to recreate her role in the 1968 film version of “Funny Girl” and took home an Oscar for her performance.
Musical musings: The story is told that when Vladimir Horowitz came to the doors of heaven, the angel in charge of music shouted to the harp-playing angels, “Put your harps away and roll out the Steinway. Horowitz is coming! – from “My Life With the Great Pianists” by Franz Mohr.