Igor Stravinsky

1882 (Oranienbaum, now Lomonosov, Russia) – 1971 (New York)

Rimsky-Korsakov taught him and was an important influence. Diaghilev commissioned him 8 times over 20 years and helped make his reputation. Nijinsky and Balanchine choreographed his music; Picasso (a friend), Auden, Eliot and Cocteau were other collaborators. Boulanger was a close friend and strong supporter. He was photographed with Debussy, counted Ravel, Satie and Poulenc (for life) among his friends, and sent postcards to Casella (who wrote the first biography). He wrote pieces in memory of Eliot and Huxley, and proposed a post-atomic opera to Thomas just before the poet died from drink.

Ignaz Moscheles

1794 (Prague) – 1870 (Leipzig, Germany)

He studied under Albrechtsberger, Salieri and Clementi, and was pall-bearer at Clementi’s funeral. Moscheles raised money for his idol Beethoven as he was dying, and translated his biography into English. Moscheles’ extemporised piano-duets with his close friend Meyerbeer were famed. He taught Mendelssohn and his sister as youngsters, the start of an intense lasting relationship with Mendelssohn, the two often playing together in public (Thalberg and Clara Schumann sometimes playing third keyboard). Grieg and Sullivan were also taught by him. Joachim was one among a wide network of Jewish composers and musicians he maintained links with.

Hector Berlioz

1803 (La Côte Saint-André, France) – 1869 (Paris)

Reicha taught him. He met his idol Spontini in 1830, and stayed friends for life. He met Liszt the same year, the start of a close friendship and copious correspondence. Paganini, Meyerbeer (despite his criticism of Meyerbeer’s music) and the loyal Legouvé all gave or lent him money to buy time to compose. He met Mendelssohn, Wagner and Schumann on a concert tour. Chopin, Hiller, Vigny and Dumas were among his friends in Paris (but Courbet’s singing grated). His friendship with Hugo started with a fan letter. Balzac lent him his fur coat before a journey to Russia involving a freezing four-day sleigh-ride.

Giuseppe Sarti

1729 (Faenza, Italy) – 1802 (Berlin)

Sarti met Mozart in Vienna, en route for St. Petersburg. Mozart tipped his hat to Sarti by including a tune of his in ‘Don Giovanni’, and basing much of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ on the Sarti opera the tune came from (da Ponte, who wrote Mozart’s libretto, may even have done the same for Sarti’s opera). Martini taught Sarti, and Cherubini was one of his pupils.

Giovanni Paisiello

1741 (Taranto, Italy) – 1816 (Naples)

Durante taught Paisiello, and da Ponte provided him with a libretto. He met Mozart in Vienna; Michael Kelly recounted how he dined with both at Mozart’s house, ‘and often afterwards enjoyed their company together.’ Vigée le Brun painted his portrait.

Giacomo Meyerbeer

1791 (Vogelsdorf, Germany) – 1864 (Paris)

Meyerbeer studied under Clementi and Salieri, and was a fellow-student of Weber under Vogler. Heine was his cousin (whom Meyerbeer helped support), and the Beers his brothers. He was a generous supporter of Berlioz, despite Berlioz’s published critiques of his music. He met Humboldt frequently, in Paris and Berlin, corresponded with Gautier, and his extemporised piano-duets with Moscheles were renowned. Though Meyerbeer supported him early in his career, Wagner turned against him with anti-semitic spite.

Germaine Tailleferre

1892 (Parc-de-Saint-Maur, France) – 1983 (Paris)

Milhaud and Auric were fellow-students, and with Honegger, Durey and Poulenc, members of ‘les Six’. Satie called her his “musical daughter”, Cocteau more patronisingly “a Marie Laurencin for the ear.” Ravel was a close friend for over a decade, but the friendship suddenly and mysteriously ended. Koechlin (as well as Ravel) taught her. She set words of Valéry’s to music: Claudel and Soupault also collaborated. Diaghilev commissioned her. Picasso, Modigliani, Léger and Apollinaire were all friends; Chaplin, her husband’s best friend, often stayed with her, and tried to persuade her to work in Hollywood.

Georges Brassens

1921 (Sète, France) – 1981 (Saint-Gély-du-Fesc)

Gréco, a great admirer, sang several concerts with him; the previous year he had sung live on radio with his childhood idol, Trenet. He wrote songs for a film directed by Clair, based on a novel by his friend René Fallet, and played a small part in it (a character remarkably like him). He set words by his friend Fort to music, among other poets. He visited the octogenarian Mac Orlan, and said that he gave memories to people who hadn’t any. Brel was a close friend; they took part in a three-way radio interview with Ferré (the only time all three met), legendary in chanson circles.

Georges Brassens knew…

Georg Joseph Vogler

Abbé Vogler

1749 (Pleibach, Germany) – 1814 (Darmstadt)

Vogler studied under Martini. Meyerbeer and Weber were his students in Darmstadt. Mozart, who met him in Mannheim and roundly disparaged him, said that his book was more useful for teaching arithmetic than music.