Bohuslav Martinu (1890 - 1959) was a leading Czechoslovak composer, who wrote in most genres of classical music, including symphonies, operas and chamber music. One of his operas - The Greek Passion - was written in memory of the inhabitants of the village of Lidice in his native country, which was destroyed by Nazi Germany in 1942 in reprisal for the assassination of Heydrich: almost 200 men were executed, and many of the women and children were sent to a concentration camp and later killed in gas chambers. Lidice itself is commemorated on a number of issues of Czechoslovakian stamps. In 1923 Martinu settled in Paris, leaving before the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, and the following year escaping from Vichy France to the USA. He returned to France in 1953. He died in Switzerland in 1959. Twenty years later his remains were moved to Czechoslovakia. Here is a 1965 Czechoslovakia stamp with his portrait. Curiously, it gives his death year as 1965 - someone blundered.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was one of the most well-known Russian composers of the 20th century. He had a difficult relationship with the communist regime, and was denounced in 1936 and 1948. He was later rehabilitated. He became a close friend of the English composer Benjamin Britten. Among his works are operas, 15 symphonies and 15 string quartets. Much of his music is full of melancholy, especially some of the string quartets and later symphonies. Even in his apparently more extrovert and patriotic works some critics and listeners detect ironic undertones, implying criticism of the Soviet regime - but this is a matter of some controversy. Opinion differ widely as to the musical value of his work: some critics regard him as one of the greatest 20th century composers; others regard most of his music as conventional and trite. Here he is on a Czechoslovakia stamp of 1981.
Johann Sebastian Bach on a 1961 West German stamp. He looks a serious grand figure - but it was said that, as a young organist, during interminably long sermons he used to leave the church organ loft and go for a beer to the next-door tavern, returning in time for the next music he had to play.
A 2001 German stamp for the centenary of the birth of Werner Egk (1901-1983). His music found favour with the Nazi regime though he never joined the Nazi Party, but it was for music written after WW2 that he gained international recognition. He was heavily influenced by Stravinsky.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) on a French semi-postal of 1939. Debussy did much to loosen the hold of tonality on classical music, exploring novel harmonies and tonalities, sometimes influenced by oriental music. He is probably best-known for atmospheric piano pieces. His novel timbres in piano music influenced composers like Messiaen. When I was learning the piano, I learnt to play quite a bit of his music, and created a Debussy craze among the musicians at my school. Among his last works are very moving cello and violin sonatas, written in a sparer style, which to me seem intended partly to express his grief at the slaughter of WW1.
Ravel (1875-1937) on a French semi-postal of 1956. He and Debussy are generally regarded as the leading French impressionist composers, and some of their piano music is very alike in style and structure. He orchestrated some piano pieces - with what is for me rather syrupy orchestration which makes the music much less stark: I prefer the piano originals where discords stand out more prominently and the texture is much sparer. He was, though, a consummate orchestrator, and his superb orchestral version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is the one usually heard. One of his most famous works is the Bolero of 1928, in which the same ostinato bass and the same two themes are repeated for well over 15 minutes, gradually reaching a climax: you either love it or think it totally kitsch.
Étienne Méhul (1763-1817) was one of the first French romantic composers and came to prominence in the Revolutionary years of the early 1790s. He wrote symphonies (one rather dissonant by the standards of the time) but is best known for his operas, and anticipated Wagner's use of the leitmotiv: he had musical motifs associated with particular characters. Many of his operas are full of storm and passion. He was adventurous in his harmonies and in his use of the orchestra: for instance, one opera dispenses totally with violins. When Napoleon lamented that his operas were too serious, he wrote a one-act comic opera under an assumed Italian nom-de-plume, as a trick on Napoleon: it was an instant success, and he had great relish in telling Napoleon who had really written it. Here he is on a 1963 French Red Cross stamp.
Last Edit: Jun 30, 2016 12:55:50 GMT -5 by Deleted
If you like stamp collecting and classical music, then you might want to check out the recently released Kindle edition of the award-winning "The Life and Work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Philatelic Journey" available on Amazon. The e-book is about 380 pages with almost 800 color images of stamps, cancellations, covers, and maximum cards (as well as an appendix with Mozart coins, telephone cards, and collector's cards).
Of possible interest to Stampbears.net users, the book is published by Bear Country Press.
The world’s most beloved Christmas Carol, Silent Night, comes from the small Austrian village of Oberndorf, just north of Salzburg. On Christmas Eve, 1818, the congregation of St. Nicholas Church heard the first performance of this wonderful music. Since then, Silent Night was been translated into hundreds of languages and sung and played in every corner of the globe.
Silent Night was the collaboration of two good friends. Joseph Mohr, who wrote the text, was the young parish priest at St. Nicholas Church, and Franz Xaver Gruber, who composed the music, was a local school teacher and the church organist.
On December 18, 1948, Austria issued a stamp to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the hymn of "Silent Night, Holy Night".
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