Nadia Boulanger

1887 (Paris) – 1979 (Paris)

Widor and Fauré taught Boulanger. Saint-Saëns was a family friend (or family enemy, as it’s been put). She was a loyal friend of Stravinsky: Milhaud, Ravel and Poulenc were other composers close to her. She was deeply moved by Menuhin’s playing as a child, and taught at the school he founded. Among her own students were Copland, Glass, Bernstein, Carter, Ibert, Thomson and Jones: also Musgrave, Gismonti, Barenboim, Bacharach, Piazzolla (she told him to concentrate on the tango), Piston, Rorem and Bowles. She disapproved of Messiaën’s teaching, and advised Gershwin he could learn nothing from her.

Nadia Boulanger knew…

Muzio Clementi

1752 (Rome) – 1832 (Evesham, England)

Clementi spent much of his life in England, though it was in Vienna that he had a musical ‘duel’ with Mozart. Cramer, Meyerbeer, Hummel, Berger and Moscheles were among his pupils, as was Field, who effectively became his assistant. Haydn’s visits to London provided public competition but led to genuine friendship. Ever the businessman, Clementi persuaded Beethoven to let him become his British publisher. Moscheles, who had studied with him in London, was one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

Miles Davis

1926 (Alton, Ill.) – 1991 (Santa Monica, Calif.)

Gillespie and Parker played in Eckstine’s band, where the school-student Davis got his first break; later in New York, he spent more time following and playing with Parker than studying. Gil Evans was a significant collaborator for 20 years, and a close friend for life. Bill Evans, Blakey, Mingus, Monk, Rollins, Silver, Jones, Coltrane and Adderley were all important sidemen in his earlier bands; Hancock and Shorter among the later ones. Vian was a ‘fixer’ during his time in Paris, and the first person to write about him. Davis’s lover Gréco introduced him to Malle, who asked him to compose the score for his directorial debut.

Miles Davis knew…

Leopold Mozart

1719 (Augsburg, Bavaria, now Germany) – 1787 (Salzburg, Austria)

The elder Mozart’s genuine achievement resists measurement, not least because he sacrificed his own career to that of his two children. He corresponded with Gellert and was a friend of Wieland. Joseph Haydn told him that his son was ‘the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.’ Kelly and Attwood visited him with a plan of his son Wolfgang’s for a trip to England, but it didn’t come off. In Paris Leopold made the acquaintance of Grimm, who arranged concerts for the Mozart family (father, daughter and son) and had them introduced at court.

Leonard Cohen

1934 (Montreal) – 2016 (Los Angeles)

Trocchi, on the run from New York, gave Cohen an almost-lethal dose of opium. Spector, who’d been producing an album of his music, locked him out of recording sessions and threatened him at gun-point. Dylan and he spent an afternoon in a Paris café discussing music, comparing notes; Cohen said it could take him 15 years to write a song, Dylan riposting that it took him 15 minutes.

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.

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.

Franz Liszt

Liszt Ferenc;Ferenc Liszt

1811 (Doborján, Hungary, now Raiding, Austria) – 1886 (Bayreuth, Germany)

Reicha, Czerny and Salieri taught him (Hummel charged too much). Whether Beethoven really kissed the 12-year-old’s forehead is not known. He met his friends Mendelssohn and Chopin aged 20, Chopin becoming a professional rival. He met Hiller in Paris, was friendly with Lamennais, Andersen, Heine, Ingres and Baudelaire, and became close to Berlioz, Schumann and Wagner. He championed Berlioz and Wagner, although he began to find Wagner (who had married his daughter) somewhat repulsive. He taught Siloti and Friedheim free after taking holy orders. Saint-Saëns was a lifelong friend, Sand an intimate (not a lover).

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy Ellington

1899 (Washington, D.C.) – 1974 (New York)

Waller heard Ellington’s band on their first foray to New York, and persuaded them to try again. Smith influenced his style, and helped him survive. Hodges, Webster, Miley and Blanton were among the most influential of his band-members. Stayhorn impressed him with his composing and arranging skills, and became his closest friend and right-hand man (though he didn’t get given all the credit due). Ellington was godfather to Vian’s daughter, while his friend Grainger tried to tempt him into academia. Fitzgerald recorded his music, while Ibrahim, Mingus, Coleman and Roach all played alongside him.

Duke Ellington knew…

Dizzy Gillespie

John Birks Gillespie

1917 (Cheraw, S. C.) – 1993 (Englewood, N. J.)

Gillespie met Parker through a Kansas City friend, and then in Hines’ band. They were close friends and immensely influential collaborators, though polar opposites as people, this leading to their eventual split. Eldridge, a formative influence as a trumpeter, played with him later in life. Christian was an early accomplice; Davis had been met in Eckstine’s band. Monk was an important musical colleague, the two trying things out together. Gillespie played in Hawkins’ band, producing some of the earliest bebop recordings. Roach was a key member of the Gillespie/Parker quintet, and with Mingus of a later Gillespie quintet.

Dizzy Gillespie knew…