09-08-2009

Today in Mailbox: we find out the answer to the July competition question and announce its winners. We quote from the answers by the following listeners: Hans Verner Lollike, Colin Preston, Debakamal Hazarika, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Colin Law, Constantin Liviu Viorel, S. J. Agboola, Tracy Andreotti, Henrik Klemetz, David Eldridge, Charles Konecny.

Welcome to Mailbox. Today, as promised, you will find out the answer to last month’s competition question as well as the names of the four listeners who are going to receive small gifts from Radio Prague for their correct answers.

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark was quick to write in last month:

“I am astonished at how many prominent people have their roots in the Czech Republic. Franz Schubert is this month’s mystery person. I am not a music man, so I can't tell if the background of his father and mother had influenced his composition!”

Colin Preston listens to Radio Prague in Vancouver, Canada:

“Mmm, with a Moravian-born father and a Silesian mother, I'm betting that your composer is… Franz Peter Schubert. Thanks for being there on my occasional insomniac nights!”

Debakamal Hazarika from the Indian state of Assam sent us a quote by Schubert himself:

“No one understands another’s grief, no one understands another’s joy... My music is the product of my talent and my misery. And that which I have written in my greatest distress is what the world seems to like best.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty writes from New Delhi, India:

“Though considered an Austrian composer, this versatile genius is of Czech lineage. Yes, we are referring to one of the greatest composers of all time – the one and only Franz Peter Schubert, both of whose parents came from North Moravia. Schubert's prolific compositions encompassed some 600 Lieder, 9 symphonies and numerous operas, chamber, solo piano, liturgical and incidental music. Often considered as the last frontier in romantic classical music, Schubert's greatest contribution is undoubtedly the ‘Unfinished Symphony’ – a masterpiece of originality of human endeavor.”

Colin Law is our regular listener in New Zealand:

“Parents: Franz Theodor Schubert, parish schoolmaster, son of a Moravian peasant; Maria Elisabeth Katharina Vietz, daughter of a Silesian master locksmith. They had fourteen children, but only five survived to adulthood and Franz was the youngest boy... Schubert died in Vienna on 19 November, 1828, aged 31. His death may have resulted from typhoid fever or perhaps from mercury poisoning. Mercury was commonly used to treat syphilis, which he had contracted some years earlier. He was buried next to his friend Beethoven in the village cemetery of Währing. In 1888, the graves of Beethoven and Schubert were moved to Zentralfriedhof, next to those of Johann Strauss II and Johannes Brahms.”

Constantin Liviu Viorel writes from Romania:

“For me, the answer to your July competition was very easy. I have a Czech friend from about 30 years ago and she lives in Zlaté Hory. At the beginning of our friendship, she wrote to me a lot of things about her town. I remember that in one of her letters she wrote me that Elizabeth Vietz, the mother of Franz Schubert was born in Zlaté Hory.”

S. J. Agboola follows Mailbox in Nigeria:

“Franz Peter Schubert was a classical manifestation of the English adage which says ‘it is not how long, but how well’. Though he had a relatively short period of sojourn on this planet, he was able to impress an indelible mark on the sand of time. All his life indices point to the fact that he was music personified. Apart from his musical talent, he passed through detailed musical training to sharpen his skills. He was undisputedly the international master of original melodic and harmonic writing. Within his short life (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828) a period of 31 years, he was able to compose about 600 songs. He was a real genius!”

Tracy Andreotti writes from the US:

“I am writing to you from St Louis, MO, USA, where I listen (In English, a little in Czech) and read your website on an almost daily basis. This month’s quiz was easy for me, as I am a musician, and the birth and death dates for major composers have been ingrained in my brain. The answer is, of course, Franz Schubert.”

Henrik Klemetz listens in Sweden:

“Stocky and short, the mystery person was affectionately called ‘Schwammerl’ by his Viennese friends. (This nickname translates as ‘little mushroom’). Posthumously acclaimed as one of the greatest composers of all time, Franz Schubert died prematurely at the age of 31. A hundred and fifty years later, the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer evoked his memory in a long poem [titled Schubertiana] set in New York City.”

David Eldridge from England sent us this:

“I never thought of Franz Schubert being of Czech origin, but a little interesting competitive license seems to allow his parents as coming from Czech lands to qualify. Schubert was born into a musical family and received musical training, but for most of his life he was not recognised as a prominent composer by society at large. He chose simply to compose for anyone who found his compositions pleasurable though he did have well-known musical friends. He did not target his music to appeal to any particular strata of society and did not have lucrative sources of income. It was only in the last year or so of his life and after that his music became widely-recognised for its quality.”

And finally, the answer sent in by Charles Konecny from Ohio:

“He was a human composing machine. Despite dying at an early age, he wrote over six hundred works. It's almost like he never slept. I read that he told friends that he composed every day and when one piece was finished, he started another. It is too bad his works did not get much acclaim until after his death. At least he did get his wish to be buried next to Beethoven in his final resting place in Central Cemetery in Vienna. Their graves are an impressive sight.”

Thank you very much for all your answers. We appreciate the time and effort behind them. But only four of you can be rewarded with Radio Prague’s symbolic prizes each month and this time those four listeners are: Lenfant Lee from China, Ratan Kumar Paul from India, Atiqur Rahman from Bangladesh and Colin Preston from Canada. My congratulations and the parcels will be sent your way in the coming days. If you weren’t lucky this time, why not give it another try?

Our August mystery man was born in 1862 in the North Bohemian village of Jiřetín pod Bukovou into a family of a glass cutter. He went on to start his own glass cutting business in Austria and his surname today is a brand name for precision cut crystal glass.

Please send us your answers by the end of the month to english@radio.cz or Radio Prague 12099 Prague. Thanks for listening and until next week take care.

09-08-2009