Paul Hindemith

1895 (Hanau, Germany) – 1963 (Frankfurt)

Hindemith, the most important inter-war German composer, was one of the most significant European modernists. Sander knew him in Köln, and photographed him. In Berlin he was drawn to Busoni and Varèse, and collaborated with Brecht (who inspired his ideas about ‘utility music’) and with Weill, but fell out with both. He worked with Massine, was commissioned by Balanchine, corresponded with Milhaud and Claudel, and was friends with Britten, Walton and Stravinsky. He met Bartók in Cairo, and taught Bernstein. His relationship with Graham (he composed, she choreographed, they met only once) was testing.

Paul Hindemith knew…

Ferruccio Busoni

1866 (Empoli, Italy) – 1924 (Berlin)

Busoni’s stature as an influential composer and musical visionary is increasingly recognised. As a child prodigy he met Brahms and Liszt, and as a student, Mahler, Delius, Grieg and Tchaikovsky. He knew Boccioni well, and met his lifelong friend Sibelius through his teaching post in Helsinki. Among his many other pupils were Grainger, Weill, Wolpe, Krenek, Luening, and most significantly Varèse. He supported Bartók, corresponded with Schoenberg, and was helped by Rilke. In WW1 Zürich he knew Joyce, Zweig, Werfel and Bloch, and was regularly spotted out walking with his big dog Giotto by the young Elias Canetti.

Ferruccio Busoni knew…

Johann Sebastian Bach

J. S. Bach

1685 (Eisenach, Germany) – 1750 (Leipzig)

Bach is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest composers. Aged nine, he met his brother’s teacher Pachelbel (probably just once). As a teenager he journeyed to visit and hear Reincken and Buxtehude, influences both (he was not tempted by Buxtehude’s daughter). Hasse was a friend and admirer, and helped maintain links with Dresden. Telemann, another friend, was godfather to one of his sons. Weiss (for whom Bach may have composed) and Zelenka were, like Hasse, visitors to his house, and similarly are taken to have been friends as much as professional colleagues. Bach tried twice to meet Handel, but unsuccessfully.

Johann Sebastian Bach knew…

Gioachino Rossini

Gioacchino Rossini

1792 (Pesaro, Italy) – 1868 (Paris)

Rossini asserted that he’d succeeded in visiting Beethoven in Vienna, his second attempt finding the great man cordial though living in what Rossini termed squalor. Chopin was impressed by him, Saint-Saëns had his support, Verdi (an admirer) was a correspondent. Fellow bon-viveur Balzac threw a party for him, while at one of Dumas’ he went dressed up as Figaro. Among other Paris friends were Cherubini, Paganini, Bellini and Chateaubriand. He received Wagner after a première, without having too much time for his music, and said that he and Meyerbeer could never agree, Meyerbeer preferring sauerkraut to macaroni.

Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann

J. P. E. Hartmann

1805 (Copenhagen) – 1900 (Copenhagen)

Hartmann and Andersen were close friends, Hartmann composing music to Andersen’s words. He also had a close family and professional association with Gade — they co-directed the Copenhagen Conservatory and were the two lynchpins of Danish romanticist music. Grieg briefly studied with them, greatly esteeming Hartmann. Spohr (an important influence), Cherubini and Rossini were met on travels to Germany and France. Liszt travelled from Hamburg to Copenhagen with Hartmann, and later in Weimar conducted on of the two operas he had written with Andersen.

Louis Spohr

Ludwig Spohr

1784 (Braunschweig, Germany)) – 1859 (Kassel)

Beethoven was a great friend of Spohr’s, met in Vienna. Hummel, shown work in progress, encouraged him, while Meyerbeer tried out piano parts (Spohr not being much of a pianist). Paganini, with whom he travelled in Italy, admired him (Spohr thought him both a genius and childish). The 8-year-old Wagner lived next door: Spohr later championed his work, and stayed with him at Mendelssohn’s. Weber, unwilling to move to Kassel for a post he’d been offered, proposed Spohr instead; outwardly friendly, Spohr was privately reserved about Weber’s music. Liszt and Berlioz were encountered at a Beethovian celebration in Bonn.

Alexander Glazunov

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov

1865 (St. Petersburg) – 1936 (Paris)

Rimsky-Korsakov taught him, becoming more a colleague than teacher: Balakirev introduced them. He dedicated a piece to Siloti, recommended the adolescent Prokofiev study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and helped set Rachmaninoff’s career back by several years when he conducted his first symphony (drunk). Liszt played Beethoven for him in Weimar, Fokine collaborated with him, and Shostakovich (whose welfare as a student concerned Glazunov) provided him with illegal alcohol. He turned Diaghilev’s offer down, to Stravinsky’s great advantage: Stravinsky admired him, but disliked him as a person.

Alexander Glazunov knew…

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff;Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov

1873 (Semyonovo, Russia) – 1943 (Beverly Hills, Calif.)

Siloti (Rachmaninoff’s cousin) advised him to study with the disciplinarian Zverev, where he met his fellow-student Scriabin, and Tchaikovsky, a keen supporter and influential mentor (Zverev broke off relations when Rachmaninoff confessed that he wanted to compose). The première of Rachmaninoff’s first symphony suffered from Glazunov’s drunken conducting, leading to a bout of depression, not helped by Tolstoy’s adverse reaction to Rachmaninoff’s own playing. Stravinsky, a Californian neighbour, described his famous scowl. He became the aviator Sikorsky’s benefactor and vice-president, paid Nabokov’s passage from France, and gave him some unlikely clothes.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov

1844 (Tikhvin, Russia) – 1908 (Lyubensk)

Balakirev was an early encourager, teaching Rimsky-Korsakov when he was not on naval duty. Borodin (whose music astonished him) and Mussorgsky became good friends and musical accomplices, Mussorgsky lodging with him and sharing a piano. Tchaikovsky and he were mutually wary, Tchaikovsky nonetheless encouraging his belated study of compositional technique when he had already become a professor. While Borodin and Mussorgsky grew critical of his academic activities, his role in editing the work of other members of The Five was significant. Glazunov, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Respighi and Kapp all studied with him.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov knew…

Alexander Scriabin

Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin;Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin

1872 (Moscow) – 1915 (Moscow)

Zverev was one of his teachers, Rachmaninoff a fellow student; despite the degree of tension that grew between them (probably exaggerated by the polarisation of their supporters), Rachmaninoff was deeply affected by Scriabin’s premature death, dedicating a series of concerts to him. Scriabin played for Tolstoy, was visited by Busoni and Casals, and advised the future novelist Pasternak to study music. Glazunov was a close colleague and friend. Rimsky-Korsakov was affectionate, if critical of his carelessness. Though Rimsky, Rachmaninoff and he discussed the colour of sounds, there is some doubt as to whether Scriabin was really synaesthetic.