Trivia Word
Pixels Away

  • A tune called “L’homme armé” was all the rage in Europe in the middle of the 15th century. Guillaume Dufay, who, along with several other composers, wrote a mass based on that tune, lived across the street from a bar called “L’homme armé.”
  • Mattheson and Handel were both extremely accomplished harpsichordists, and the harpsichord was essential to the theatre orchestra. At the opera Handel’s job was to play the violin, while Mattheson played the harpsichord. But Mattheson had written an opera, Cleopatra, and intended to sing the part of Anthony in it himself, so Handel filled in for Mattheson at the harpsichord. But Mattheson sometimes played in the orchestra while not singing on the stage, and on this occasion, after the death of his character Antony, he came down into the orchestra and appeared at his usual seat at the harpsichord. Handel refused to yield, and soon only a duel could resolve the matter. No sooner had they left the theatre than they drew their swords and began slashing at each other. Mattheson was the better fencer, and Handel was saved only by a big brass button on his coat, which broke the point of Mattheson’s sword.
  •  Four hundred years before Charles Ives, von Biber wrote a piece in which the orchestra was required to play a number of songs in different keys simultaneously.
  • Giuseppe Verdi was denied entrance to the conservatory in Milan.
  • Handel died of complications from surgery for cataracts. Bach also died of the same cause. They both had the same cataract surgeon.
  • The descendants of 18th-century composer Jiři Benda are still performing as musicians.
  • Handel’s father did not want him to be a musician, and he had to sneak a small keyboard instrument into his attic to practice.
  • Marais once wrote a piece for bass viol intended to describe the operation for the removal of a bladder stone.


  • Buxtehude made it a condition that whoever replaced him as the church organist in Lubeck had to marry his daughter.
  • Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf completed his autobiography two days before he died.
  • In 1669 Alessandro Stradella joined the abbot Antonio Sforza and violinist Ambrogio Lonati in an unsuccessful plot to embezzle funds from the Roman Catholic Church. Stradella managed to escape imprisonment but fled Rome until the entire affair had been buried by the Church.
  • Sigismondo d’India was gossiped about so viciously that he had to leave his job.
  • Richard the Lion-hearted, imprisoned in Austria, was discovered by his troubadour friend, Blondel. He singled him out from all the other prisoners because Richard was singing the song they had composed together.
  • In 1597 Peri finished his first opera, Dafne; the first opera written by a woman was La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina by Francesca Cannini.
  • Baroque conductors often conducted with a large stick, banging it on the floor. Jean-Baptiste Lully missed, hit his foot with the stick, contracted blood poisoning, and died.
  • Even during his lifetime, Bach’s music was considered too academic, and it was soon forgotten after his death, until Mendelssohn rediscovered him.
  • Telemann, Handel, Stravinsky, Tschaikovsky, Marcello, Hoffman, Hopkinson, Dufay, Shostakovich, Copland, J.S Bach, and dozens of other composers, including many modern composers, studied law, had careers as lawyers or judges, or both.
  • Boston, MA is the home of the earliest-known public concert in North America in 1731.
  • Haydn originally fell in love with a woman who became a nun. Shortly thereafter he married her sister, who had no appreciation for music. They soon separated, and Haydn spent the rest of his life sending her money.
  • Haydn was originally buried in Vienna, then reinterred at Eisenstadt. During the move, his head was misplaced, and turned up at an exhibition in Vienna. His head was reunited with the rest of him only in 1954.
  • Haydn’s “Miracle” (no. 96) symphony is so called because during the premiere of his Symphony no. 102 a chandelier fell into the audience. Miraculously, no-one was injured.
  • Beethoven, Boyce and Smětana all continued composing after becoming deaf. Delius, Bach and Handel lost their sight, and Landini, Cabezon and Rodrigo were blind from childhood.
  • Hector Berlioz originally studied medicine.
  • When asked for his autograph, Brahms scribbled down the first few measures of the “Blue Danube Waltz,” and signed it, “Unfortunately not by me, Johannes Brahms.”
  • After retiring from composing, Rossini became a renowned chef. He is most famous for Tournedos Rossini.
  • Marian Anderson was the first African-American singer to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.
  • Carl Maria von Weber, a nephew of Mozart, thought he lived under an unlucky star. Not only did his father try to rear him as a second Mozart, but accidentally poisoned him when he stored engraving acid in a wine bottle, and von Weber unknowingly drank it and nearly died, losing his ability to speak for months, and losing his beautiful singing voice forever.
  • Saint-Saëns composed his first work at age three.
  • von Flotow agreed to write a joint opera, Le naufrage de la Méduse, with Grisar and Auguste Pilati. Flotow wrote both acts two and three of the successful opera. A Hamburg company then contracted to perform it, but a fire at the theater destroyed the manuscript. Flotow entirely rewrote it with a new German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Reise, under the name Die Matrosen.
  • In 1853 von Flotow married Anna Theen, a 20-year-old dancer; he divorced her in 1867 and married her much younger sister, Rose Theen, a singer.
  • Scriabin died in of septicemia caused by a carbuncle on his lip.
  • Ravel had to be bribed six sous (worth about five cents today) an hour to practice the piano.
  • Johann Strauss, Jr., son of the famous composer, was forbidden by his father to become a musician. He studied in secret with a member of his father’s band.
  • Borodin helped found a series of medical courses for women.
  • A letter comparing Heinrich Isaacs and Josquin dez Prez reads in part, “Isaac is of a better nature than Josquin, and while it is true that Josquin is a better composer, he only composes when he wants to, and not when asked; Isaac will compose when you want him to.”

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