On this day in 1782, the Irish composer John Field was born. He’s fairly good. But the much better composer Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart was born in 1791. He was, of course, Mozart’s son. I assume that he was named after Franz Xaver Sussmayr, Mozart’s student and assistant. I have a great fondness for Sussmayr because he completed Mozart’s Requiem after he died. For a couple of hundred years, music scholars tried to disentangle what Sussmayr had done from what Mozart did. In the end, they had to abandon the project. As regular readers know, Mozart is probably my favorite composer. And he was a genius of unsurpassed talent. But he wasn’t a singularity and Sussmayr had no difficulty composing in the style of his teacher. Similarly, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart was a Romantic composer, but very much following in the tradition of his father’s work. So enjoy this very nice Rondo for Flute and Pianoforte:
The great economist Alfred Marshall was born in 1842. The equally great psychologist Carl Jung was born in 1875. And the equally equally great Aldous Huxley was born in 1894. As much as I love 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World is far more prophetic.
Comedian Gracie Allen was born in 1895. Why couldn’t she have lived to be 100? Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy, Vivian Vance was born in 1909. Director Blake Edwards was born in 1922. And so was actor Jason Robards. Another great director, Stanley Kubrick was born in 1928. And singer-songwriter Dobie Gray was born in 1940—not that anyone cares.
Brilliant and often funny photographer Elliott Erwitt is 85 today. Mick Jagger is 70, which is its own kind of creepy given how he looked at 60. Actor Helen Mirren is 68. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill is 57. Actors Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, and Jeremy Piven are 54, 49, and 48. And Kate Beckinsale is 40.
The day, however, belongs to George Bernard Shaw who was born on this day in 1856. Although known primarily as a playwright with works such as Major Barbara and Heartbreak House, he was so much more than that. I am particularly fond of his literary criticism and essays. And, of course, he was a proponent of spelling reform and provided the excellent example of how to spell the word fish: ghoti. He was also a founding member of the London School of Economics.
Although Shaw was far from perfect, flirting with eugenics when he was younger and becoming deeply cynical in his old age, there is an enormous amount of highly misleading and downright wrong information on the internet about him. Because he was an outspoken proponent of socialism, people want to claim that he supported the Nazis and on and on. It’s outrageous, but what do you expect from modern conservatives who simultaneously hate socialism and don’t have a clue as to what it is. Regardless…
Happy birthday George Bernard Shaw!