Samuel Amidst the Russians

By Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 – 1912) a London born, mixed-race composer – referred to as the “African Mahler” – I have Uncovered Vol 1(Piano quintet etc); British Light Music: Suites: Hiawatha, Othello. I don’t recall how I came across Coleridge-Taylor but I was happy to discover him. Can you name any black, classical composers? (Maybe Beethoven – whom Coleridge-Taylor believed was black?)

The fact that one set of his suites is labeled as part of the British Light Music reflects that he wasn’t a Mahler after all but more in line with Elgar, one of his  mentors. Pleasant & non-demanding to the listener this is good, easy listening classical music but lacks personality. 

Maybe if I hadn’t plunked him down in the middle these Russians composers Samuel may have fared better 🙂 On this mp3 cd collection I added: Mussorgsky (Russian): Pictures at an Exhibition, performed by the Trio Solisti (cello, violin, piano) – I have countless versions of Pictures – orchestra, organ, piano duo, jazz – this is a chamber music version & is excellent; Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian) Overtures & Suites: includes Snowmaiden, Christmas Eve – some of these are lush, patriotic, romanic & epic. 

Borodin (Russian): although he regarded medicine and science as his primary occupations, his music is what he is remembered for. Here I have his masterful String Quartets. I love string quartets & these are somber, melodic & sonorous (in a good way). Finally by a master of the romantic style is Tchaikovsky (Russian) with his Liturgy of St. John. These are elegant, almost meditative as he tones down his usual melodramatic hyper-romantic style. I was saving opera for my ‘old age’ but it seems religious choral work fulfilled that aim. Much of it is written with deliberate sonic scale to subtly draw your ears in – which contemporary beta beats music does.

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I was introduced to Tchaikovsky through Fantasia without knowing who I was being introduced to. When I bought my first real stereo: turntable, speakers, receiver – from Radio Shack – the first album I played on it was a recording of his first piano concerto. It was a wow moment. 

Since then my collection of his work has grown from box sets to cassettes & to cd box sets & mp3. buy Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian 1840 –1893) I have as stand-alones: Queen of Spades 3 cd, Nutcracker ballet, 1812 Overtures & other orchestral work, Complete Piano & orchestra 2cd, Complete String Quartets 2cd, Choral Work, Violin Concerto w: Beethoven: Violin Concerto 61.

On 3cds of mp3 I have the Complete Symphonies, Complete Solo Piano Music, Piano Concertos, Orchestral works: Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Ballet Suites, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Nutcracker; Violin Concertos. Rounding out the cds are Dvorak: Four-Hand Piano; Prokofiev: The Buffoon ballet; Berloiz: Romeo & Juliet ballet; Stravinsky: Firebird.

Some duplicates but each version is a different interpretation. Melodic, lyrical, some radical at the time, romantic, over-the-top, melodramatic & sometimes saccharin & sentimental – what’s not to like? Some of the music barely contains his personal inner turmoil around his queerness – at time when it was a capital offence – actually in Russia I think it still is.

The ballet suites are a good introduction to his music. The whole ballets can be a bit much without dancers 🙂 The Queen of Spades opera is pleasant enough. His string quartets are sublime. If you want melodrama, melody & heartbreaking romance this is the composer for you.

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I can remember as child being swept up by the music from the Nutcracker thanks to Fantasia. Then as I got older being swept up by his piano concertos, the ballets, the symphonies, the horrid  Ken Russell bio-film.


dance of the dishes

This man wrote grand, compelling, emotionally raw yet soothing music – sentimental romanticism at its sweetest & stickiest but never lapsing into kitch (at least not to me). How did he do it?

I have nearly all of it – the piano sonatas, the symphonies, the ballets, the string quartets, the opera – the man was prodigious but there are many who wrote even more.


dead grass rondo

I didn’t know he was queer though – that info is rarely mentioned in the liner notes. For classical composers you’d get things like ‘wrote in memory his deceased wife,’ never ‘wrote after his lover Dimiter died of consumption.’


cadenza credenza

I’ve read biographies that are somewhat informative as to dates, places etc but they’re never satisfying. The Music Lovers film bio is an unwatchable mess. I tried watching it recently & gave up after twenty minutes.  But his music is astonishing – patriotic, romantic and always a delight.


Chain chain chain

Brad wondered if the rain would stop. The fence still needing repairs and he couldn’t keep putting that off. He managed the first gate post and had stopped to greet the mailman. He hadn’t seen a real stamp on a letter in years; four $2.00 green special delivery stamps in fact. Was a time when he collected things like that – a garden of little memories.

‘Red would be a good color.’

‘I’m game once this rain stops.’ Brad answered. ‘Anything interesting on television?’ Anything to kill time.

‘Ken Russell’s The Boyfriend at 3.’ Sue handed him the TV Guide. ‘Why does rain always kill good TV? As if there was some danger in us actually enjoying this chance to relax. It’s like a dance that never ends. I enjoy it but … by the way Carol called.’

‘Oh oh. Time for her seasonal visit I suppose.’ Carol was his sister-in-law. Her visits were only more stress to his already troubled marriage.

‘She still married to that French guy?’

‘Yeah. The climate in Montreal must suit her.’

‘Then why doesn’t she stay put. There isn’t a beach within miles of here.’ The last time he’d seen Carol she’d made a sunset pass at him. What a mess that turned out to be. She’d deliberately tipped over her carry-all so Brad would help her. He thought her ankle was broken the way she carried on. ‘Is she bringing one suitcase or three. The fewer the shorted the stay.’

‘After the last visit I’m surprised she’d set foot in our house.’ Sue glared at him as she unwrapped another candy and crunched hard on it. ‘Not that my home isn’t her’s but my husband isn’t. How did she ever get the idea you were interested in her?’

‘Who knows?’ Brad pulled on his jacket. He wanted to go to the store to get out of the house. ‘Maybe the way I did the lambada?’

‘Oh that’s nice. Mister innocent here. I suppose your pants dropped in shock?’ She opened her mouth to crunch down on another candy.

‘You know I’m not that sort of person.’

‘And my sister is? We treat her like a queen and this is what she does to me. To us. She spent an hour in the rest-room crying when I confronted her. Until she apologizes she’s not coming here.’

Bran could still smell the violet perfume Carol was wearing that night. ‘Now that’s not the way to talk.’  He didn’t want to seem to be for or against a visit. ‘Only yesterday you were wondering how she was doing.’

‘Right. My words were I wonder how that over zealous bitch is doing. She has the morals of an alley cat. And so do you.’

He got his keys from a bracket by the back door. ‘Rain seems to letting up. I’ll get you some more candy.’

This piece was written from an exercise know as the chain, in which you use a set of random words that have to be fit into the story as you write. I have no recollection of where the list I used came from but here it is: fence  post  mail  stamp  green  time  garden  red  game  television  boyfriend  danger  dance  Carol  seasonal  stress  French  climate  beach  sunset  carry-all  broken  suitcase  foot  candy  home   idea  jacket  lambada  nice  open  person  queen  rest-room  until violet  way  yesterday  zealous  alley  bracket

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’

June 16 Tea Room Tramps

June 23 Ned Rorem



September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo


( I’ve registered already 🙂 )

October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo


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