Musical Notes: True or false answers

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True or False? Fact or Fiction? : The Answers

So how did you get on sorting 'fact' from 'fiction'? Last week I posted a set of music-related statements and said that some of them were a little wide of the mark when it comes to truth. Could you spot the true statements from the false ones? The original questions appear again below, this time together with their respective answers.

  1. Franz Schubert was a torch-bearer at the funeral of Ludwig van Beethoven.
  2. True. Schubert himself had less than two years left to live.

  3. Beethoven regarded Haydn as the greatest composer of all time.
  4. False. It was Handel for whom Beethoven had the highest regard: 'greater even than Mozart'.

  5. The tomb in which the body of Joseph Haydn is laid to rest contains two heads.
  6. True. When Haydn died in Vienna in 1809, Napoleon's troops were occupying the city. A hasty funeral was arranged in the suburb in which Haydn lived. A few days later a decree was issued for the body to be exhumed and reburied in the city. It was found that in the intervening period the head had been stolen, so a substitute head was placed in the coffin. Eventually Haydn's real skull was bequeathed to the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music), and, in 1954, reunited with the rest of Haydn's body; the substitute head was left in place.

  7. Composer Anton Webern was shot dead by an American army cook.
  8. True. On the evening of 15 September, 1945, Vienna was occupied by Allied troops. Webern was standing just outside his house, smoking. A curfew was in place. Private 1st Class Raymond Bell, an American army cook on sentry duty that night, shot and killed the composer. His action had a devastating effect upon Bell who suffered severe guilt and depression for the next 10 years and died from the effects of alcohol consumption in 1955.

  9. Handel's set of twelve Concerti Grossi Op.6 has one concerto for each note of the chromatic scale.
  10. False. Although only two of the concerti share the same key – F major – unlike Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), there was no intention to cover all 12 notes of the chromatic scale (in both major and minor modes, 24 keys in all). The keys Handel used are: No 1: G major; No 2: F major; No 3: E minor; No 4: A minor; No 5: D major; No 6: G minor; No 7: B flat major; No 8: C minor; No 9: F major; No 10: D minor; No 11: A major; No 12: B minor.

  11. If you are at the circus and suddenly hear John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever being played, it is time to make a hasty exit from the big top.
  12. True (allegedly). It is apparently used as a signal to alert circus staff of an emergency situation.

  13. Avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is the only representative of classical music seen on the cover of the Beatles' album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  14. True. He is on the back row, fifth from the left, obscured partially by WC Fields.

  15. Mozart was fond of playing snooker.
  16. False. Mozart, who died at the end of the 18th Century, loved playing billiards. The game of snooker was not developed until late in the 19th Century.

  17. Chopin was one of a select group of people blessed with perfect pitch, the ability to sing or identify the pitch of any note, even when it is heard in isolation.
  18. True. Fellow perfect pitchers include composers Bach and Beethoven, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and songstress Barbra Streisand. Curiously, both Beethoven and Streisand had/have hearing difficulties.

  19. The Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest is called The Rudolfinum.
  20. False. The Rudolfinum is the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague.

  21. Jean-Baptiste Lully, musician and dancing master to the French court of Louis XIV, died from gangrene infection of an accidental, self-inflicted injury.
  22. True. It was his practice to beat time by thumping a heavy staff on the floor. One day he thumped his foot instead of the floor. An abscess developed which turned gangrenous and he died shortly after from the infection.

  23. CPE Bach, the second son of his famous father, Johann Sebastian Bach, was left-handed.
  24. True. Picking at random from others of the very many left-handed musicians, The Everly Brothers, Don and Phil.

  25. At one time, players of the bagpipes commonly suffered from a disease caused by inhaling a black fungus that grew inside the air bag.
  26. True. Enough said I think!

  27. Sound travels faster in gold than in iron.
  28. False. It's actually the other way round. The speed of sound in iron is getting on for twice that in gold.

  29. Pianist/composer Franz Liszt had an extra finger on each hand.
  30. False. His prodigious skill at the keyboard made it seem as though had extra hands, let alone fingers, but he had only the normal complement of five fingers on each of two hands.

  31. Russian composer Alexander Borodin's day job was as an organic chemist and a physician.
  32. True. He was the co-discoverer of a reaction between two organic compounds, known by chemists as an Aldol addition.

  33. The international pitch standard of A4=440 Hz was adopted in 1939.
  34. True. The history of 'standard' pitch is a convoluted one, and might possibly be the subject of a future Entry.

  35. Gustav Mahler once conducted a performance of his Fourth Symphony in the first half of a concert, then conducted it again in the second half.
  36. True. Mahler conducted the symphony twice, once before and once after the interval on 23 October, 1904 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

  37. The overture to Rossini's opera The Thieving Magpie was only written when the theatre management locked the composer in a room, passing the completed pages out through a window one by one to waiting copyists who prepared the orchestral parts for the première.
  38. True, or at least so the story goes. There is no documentary evidence to support it, although the story is widely reported.

  39. The conductor Sir John Barbirolli was known by his family and friends as 'Tita'.
  40. True. Sir John was christened Giovanni Battista Barbirolli. 'Tita' is the Italian diminutive form of the name.

Till next time, happy listening.

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