Thursday, December 30, 2021

Spending the New Year with Fred Cowan (and friends)

The logistics involved with getting together with friends this New Year make reading memoirs that discuss social and musical antics of the past most appealing. Today I happened upon a book from 1913 by Frederic Hyman Cowan (Sir Frederic H. Cowan) called My Art and My Friends that I skimmed through today and plan to read tomorrow.

What, you ask, led me to this particular memoir? Well, I was searching through the IMSLP for pieces of music to celebrate the New Year, and came upon a set of piano pieces by Cowan from 1912 called The Months. The piece for January, it turns out, works nicely as a piece for string quartet (transposed and adjusted, of course).

You can listen to a computer-generated recording here.

(You can find the music here and (eventually) on this page of the IMSLP.)

Cowan's book is filled with stories about musicians he met during his travels through Europe (Brahms included) and Australia, and through his professional life as (mainly) a conductor. I'll share this gem from a performance of a Chopin Piano Concerto he conducted with Clara Schumann as the soloist.

Here's a peek at two more pages from the book. Some of the jokes in the menu I get, but there are some that go over my head. If anyone reading this would like to leave "answers" in the comments, I would be extremely happy. Welcome to my New Year's party with Sir Frederic! Remember that the link to the book (it's in the IMSLP) is above.

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