Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's About Punto

I was going to play a game of Who Am I and tell a whimsical little biography. At the end, you would have to guess the "bio," but I have yet to meet a horn player on my site. So, I'll just tell you the name of today's subject--it's Jan Vaclav Stich.

Stich was born to a serf indentured to Count von Thun in 1746 (near Prague). If he were to write an I Am From exercise, he would be from mud and straw. Von Thun invested heavily in young Stich as a prodigy and had him instructed in the finer subjects of the day--singing, violin, and horn playing. Stich studied with some of the better teachers in Prague and Munich and eventually became a really great horn player. The thing was, he didn't want to play in the service of the Count, who kind of owned him, so he and a band of pals ran away to Italy.

The Count was so put out, he sent a posse after Stich with instructions to knock out his front teeth so he could never play the horn again. That would have been worse than killing him. There are are several things in life I feel passionate about, but I'm not sure I would choose death over having to give any one of them up. Anyway, Stich made it to Italy ahead of the posse, teeth in tact, and he changed his name to Giovanni Punto, an Italian form of his given name. It would be like an American named John Charles moving to Mexico and disguising himself as Juan Carlos.

Punto city-hopped and orchestra-hopped, playing and teaching and composing and making a name for himself. He met Mozart in Paris, and Mozart thought he played magnificently. He met Beethoven in Vienna before Beethoven was even well-known himself. Beethoven admired his playing so much, he wrote his Horn Sonata for he and Punto to perform together. Everyone in the audience thought the horn player was brilliant, but who the heck is the guy at the piano?

Eventually, after 33 years of roaming and being successful, Punto went home a rock star, giving recitals in his home town and being famous. Eventually he was diagnosed with pleurisy, a common ailment among musicians in the 1700s, a fact that makes me want to scrub out my horn. A few months later, he died--thousands of people showed up for his funeral, and Mozart's Requiem was performed at his grave side.

Interesting guy, that Punto. Talk about your determination. I'll probably spend today wondering if there is something I do or have that I would rather die than live without. What about you?


Robyn said...

Hey, Look!! My comment box works!!

dive said...

At last.
Stupid Poo-heads at Blogger!
Welcome back to the world of strange people making stupid comments, Robyn.