He was a Dalmatian that didn’t bark – though he could speak Italian! No, he wasn’t a dog. But just as the famous breed of dogs is traced back to the historic region in Croatia known as Dalmatia, composer Franz von Suppé was born there 200 years ago.
His father was part Italian and part Belgian, his mother Viennese. Dalmatia belonged to the Austrian Empire when he was born. But I understand that there were quite a few Italian speakers in that area – which is close to Italy on the Adriatic coast. In fact, after he had gone to Vienna to study music, Franz von Suppé gave Italian lessons to pay the bills. His parents had wanted him to study law. But he was encouraged to study music by local musicians and a distant relative: Gaetano Donizetti – yes, the famous Italian opera composer!
Suppé too would become famous as a composer of stage works – operas and operettas. He’s sometimes referred to as the “Viennese Offenbach.” Jacques Offenbach, whose bicentennial is coming up in just a couple of months, was well-known for his stage works in France at the time.
Today Franz von Suppé is remembered primarily for the overtures to some of his operas and operettas such as Poet and Peasant (Dichter und Bauer), Light Cavalry (Leichte Kavallerie) and The Queen of Spades (Die Kartenschlägerin or Pique Dame). The accompanying stage works have fallen out ot the repertoire. On his bicentennial, which we celebrated on April 18th, I played the overture to a comic opera by Suppé that’s not among the better known. But Isabella had its first performance 150 years ago. So it made for a dual celebration.
I’m so glad he shortened his name. Can you imagine if I had to say his full name every time I played a piece of music that he wrote: Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppé Demelli. On the other hand, he might say that he’s not at all pleased that his legacy has been somewhat diminished, namely by performing only the overtures to his many stage works.
A few days before the Suppé bicentennial, on April 15th, we celebrated what would have been the 95th birthday of the late Sir Neville Marriner. On what might have been a “taxing” day for some, we enjoyed a “Mini Marriner Mozart Marathon” featuring Sir Neville and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on Classic Mornings.
That helped to gear us up for the 3rd Annual WILL Marathon on April 16th. If you haven’t heard by now, we exceeded the goal! Thank you for your support!
A marathon suggests going the distance. That brought to mind inventions that help us span great distances – telescopes, telegraphs, telegrams, televisions and telephones. As one who enjoys playing with words from time to time, I’ve always wondered why that famous Bach contemporary hasn’t been chosen as a sort of musical mascot for those who continue to span those distances. Yes, I’m thinking of Georg Philipp Telemann.
It’s a fun thought I’ve held on to for quite a while. Compared to his contemporaries Bach, Handel & Vivaldi, Telemann finishes in 4th place in terms of popularity in our time. But think of his name as suggesting an invitation to span the knowledge gap and to get to know his music a little better.
Tune in for Classic Mornings, Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu. I’ll acquaint you with some of the music of Telemann as well as other composers who lived before, during and well after his time. These first few weeks of our 10th year of Classic Mornings have been just the start of a celebration that will continue throughout the year. I hope you’ll be a part of it for as many mornings as you’re able to join us!