A Coffee with Your Favorite Composer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 01:17 PM

I had a really interesting time talking with Jake Heggie recently in The Greene Space here at WQXR. Jake is the composer who first hit the scene in a big way with the San Francisco premiere of his opera Dead Man Walking which he wrote with the playwright Terrence McNally. That was over ten years ago. Since then, the opera has played all over the world. He has written several other operas including Moby Dick, which premiered last year at the Dallas Opera with Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab.

The Sunday after I spoke with Jake, mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato and pianist David Zobel performed the world premiere of his new song cycle, Breaking Waves, to lovely reviews.

In working with Jake, I was impressed by his talent not only as a composer but also as a wonderfully sensitive pianist. In talking with him, I found him eloquent and passionate about creating new music.

At the end of our conversation on stage, I asked Jake which composer in classical music history he would most love to be able to spend some time with. Without hesitation, he said "Mozart." But then to everyone’s surprise, he added, "I would like to have been his doctor then so that I could have helped Mozart live longer."

Interesting, right?

So, this week I thought it would be fun to ask you which composer – dead or alive – you would like to spend time with and why? 

Somehow I just know you’ll have something interesting to say. And, thanks!

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Comments [11]

Tom Bias from Sparta, NJ

Actually, I have done it! On one of my visits to Baltimore, MD, I sat down to lunch at the One World Café on Canterbury Road with Christopher Rouse. Professor Rouse and I were classmates at Gilman School in Baltimore back in 19-whatever-whatever, and it was quite a pleasant reunion. You know, I don't even remember if we had coffee! I think we did...

Apr. 12 2011 03:46 PM
Phyllis Sharpe from tea

I think Bach was a genius so to sit down with him, even with beer, I would be tongue-tied. But I would love to ask Isaac Albeniz about Asturias. I this someone running from danger to safety?
Thanks

Apr. 11 2011 06:54 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

I previously mentioned Rossini as the composer I would love to share some coffee with. But I would also love to have a coffee break with Enrico Caruso even though he was not a composer. We could chat in Neopolitan, have a cup of cappuccino with a sfogliatella (neopolitan pastry made from filo dough). I think I would like that.

Apr. 02 2011 11:14 AM

I'd love to have coffee with Beethoven. But he supposedly had this thing about society being responsible for artists, so I think he'd expect me to foot the bill!

Then there's Liszt, who would probably put Schnapps in the coffee ...

... and Berlioz, who would probably make up a story about the coffee ...

Apr. 02 2011 06:29 AM
Michael Meltzer

When all of musical Europe was allowing Wagner and Liszt to set all the standards for style and taste, making and breaking careers right and left, Johannes Brahms remained separate and independent with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. He was also quite generous with his support of others, helping the young Dvorak establish himself in Vienna and getting behind Verdi when the Wagner people panned the Manzoni Requiem.
His music is as intellectual as Bach's and as visceral as Beethoven's - I think he would have quite a bit to share in an informal chat.

Apr. 01 2011 09:00 AM

Well Midge, I think my choice is obvious.I would just ADORE having a chat with America's March King himself! But instead of coffee, I see myself at John P. Sousa's home having an after dinner brandy with my hero. (Maybe we're both donning satin smoking jackets & matching scarfs too) And as we sit enjoying our brandy, I turn to him lighting his cigar and ask..''what INSPIRES you to write those marches with such devilish spunk?) And we sit and talk until well past midnight as the fire burns low in the majestic fireplace. And then as I light my last cigar, I get up and place a version of ''Stars & Stripes Forever'' on his Victrola. And as the first measure trumpets out of the record player, we turn to each other and smile deeply, knowing that we both share his patriotic vision of bliss........

Mar. 31 2011 02:18 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

I think I would love to have a cup of espresso with Rossini. He was a bon vivant, racanteur and great cook.

Mar. 31 2011 11:03 AM
David from Bloomington, IN

I'd love to sit down with Benjamin Britten to discuss his music, pacifism, and thank him for writing such great much for tenors!

Mar. 30 2011 03:55 PM
Martin Sticht from Brooklyn

The composer I'd most like to meet would be Dvorak, whose music I have loved for many decades. Since he was director of the National Conservatory in New York from 1892-1895 he hopefully would speak passable English. (If not, would WQXR be kind enough to supply a translator?) I'd love to hear his impressions of living in America, especially NYC! And perhaps a couple of steins of Pilsener, a Czech beer, rather than coffee.

Mar. 30 2011 03:42 PM
David from Flushing

There is a nasty legend that Handel disappeared from a dining party he was hosting. When the guests became alarmed and searched for him, they found him in a back room gorging himself on far better food than what they had been served.

Supposedly, this inspired the 1754 cartoon of Handel at the organ surrounded by heaps of goodies and displaying a pig's snout from under his vast wig. A banner proclaimed, "I am myself alone."

If true, I would fear that old Georg would order the most expensive things on the menu and leave me to pay the check.

Mar. 30 2011 03:24 PM

I think if I could ahve coffee with any composer dead or alive it would have to be Bach. I think that having the chance to sit down ith this man would have to be utterly fascinating. Although I think I would love to sit down and have a beer with him more than a coffee

Mar. 29 2011 04:54 PM

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