Friday, June 2, 2017

A00005 - Sondra Bianca, Concert Pianist

Sondra Bianca (17 November 1930) is an American born concert pianist and pedagogue who retired early in her career from recording and live performances.[1]


A child prodigy, Bianca first studied with her mother and then with Frank Sheridan at Mannes Music School and Isabella Vergerova at the Curtis Institute of Music. This led to what is documented as an amazing performance as a nine-year-old of a Mozart piano concerto, played from memory, for the New York Philharmonic - which led to her later appearing with said orchestra as a soloist.[2] Her career, therefore, started before the age of ten, at which time she was a soloist with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra and performed over CBC Radio in their French division.
Later in her career, she performed in Europe with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans-Jurgen Walther, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl-August Bünte and the New Symphony Society Orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr among others. One of her notable American performances was on January 20, 1955, when she was the guest soloist with the Florida Symphony conducted by Frank Miller. The programme included Andre Bloch's "Concerto No. 1", Liszt's "Concerto in E flat", Glinka's Overture to "Russian and Ludmilla", Handel's "Water Music" and Georges Enesco's "Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1".[3] Another notable performance was the piece Rhapsody 21 for the Century 21 Exposition, conducted by Paul Whiteman. One of the specialties in her repertoire was George Gershwin's "Piano Concerto in F". Due to its ban in Nazi Germany it was unpopular in that country for many years. Recent study has shown that she may have been the first to perform the concerto in that country after the end of World War II.[4]
After retiring from live performances, she continued teaching other young pianists. Due to her early exit from performing, she is regarded as something of a mystery by modern enthusiasts of her surviving recordings.

Pseudonym recordings[edit]

For reasons unclear, her recordings were released on various budget record labels under a handful of pseudonyms. Some of these names include: Albert Cohen, Karl Bernhard, Frederick Antenelli and Suzanne Auber.

Partial discography[edit]

Friday, May 19, 2017

A00004 - Kjell Baekkelund, Norwegian classical pianist

Kjell Bækkelund (6 May 1930 – 13 May 2004) was a Norwegian classical pianist, born in Oslo. He was known as a child prodigy.
Bækkelund made his debut with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of eight. His final years of study took place at Stockholm, with Professor Boon, and at Vienna, with Professor Seidlhofer. In 1953 Bækkelund won first prize in the first Scandinavian Musicians' Festival held at Trondheim; and in London the same year, he was awarded the Harriet Cohen Medal as "the finest pianist of the year".

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A00003 - Orion Perseus Howe, Teenage Medal of Honor Recipient

Orion Perseus Howe (December 29, 1848 – January 27, 1930) was among the youngest recipients of the Medal of Honor for his service in the American Civil War as a Union drummer boy. He was awarded the medal on April 23, 1896.[1]


Howe was born in 1848 in Portage County, Ohio but after his mother died in 1852, the family moved to Waukegan, Illinois.[1] Howe left his home—accompanied by his younger brother, Lyston Druett Howe—when he was 12 to serve in the 55th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[2]
Howe and his brother both served as musicians in the same regiment where their father William, a Mexican–American War veteran, was the regimental band leader.[1][2] He was awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining upon the field of battle until he had reported to General William Tecumseh Sherman the necessity of supplying cartridges for the use of troops under command of Colonel Oscar Malmborg on May 19, 1863.[3] However, Malmborg had ordered Howe to fetch the wrong caliber of cartridge—.54 caliber instead of the needed .58 caliber.[2] Howe was one of several men who volunteered to complete this task; while the others were killed, Howe was seriously wounded, and it took several months for him to recover.[4] On December 25, 1863 Howe reenlisted in the same regiment, being discharged as a corporal on November 30, 1864, and taking part in 14 battles.[1][5]
A historian wrote of Howe: "We could see him nearly all the way . . . he ran through what seemed a hailstorm of canister and musket-balls, each throwing up its little puff of dust when it struck the dry hillside. Suddenly he dropped and hearts sank, but he had only tripped. Often he stumbled, sometimes he fell prostrate, but was quickly up again and he finally disappeared from us, limping over the summit and the 55th saw him no more for several months."[2]
General Sherman wrote to Secretary of State Edwin M. Stanton about Howe, and for his bravery President Abraham Lincoln appointed him to the United States Naval Academy in July 1865 because he was too young for West Point.[2][5] Howe reportedly graduated from the Naval Academy Class of 1870;[6][7] however, General Sherman noted that Howe could not graduate.[8] He later graduated from the New York University dental school.[5] Howe settled in Springfield, Missouri, where he died and was buried in the Springfield National Cemetery.[1]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Musician, Company C, 55th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Vicksburg, Miss., May 19, 1863. Entered service at: Woken(should be - Waukegan), Ill. Birth: Portage County, Ohio.
In 1982 the Waukegan, IL National Guard Armory was renamed in his honor. The 933rd Military Police Company currently drills there.[9] Citation:
A drummer boy, 14 years of age, and severely wounded and exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, he persistently remained upon the field of battle until he had reported to Gen. W. T. Sherman the necessity of supplying cartridges for the use of troops under command of Colonel Malmborg.[10]