(b Seesen, 15 Sept 1848; d Moscow, 14 Feb 1890). German cellist. Son of the town music director, Fitzenhagen started music lessons as a small boy: at five the piano, at eight the cello, and at eleven the violin. He also learnt several wind instruments sufficiently well to be able to deputize for members of his father’s orchestra.
Plock, of the Duke of Brunswick’s chamber orchestra, gave Fitzenhagen his first regular cello lessons; in 1862, having made his début as a soloist, Fitzenhagen became Theodor Müller’s pupil. Three years later he played to the duke, who released him from all military service; in 1867 certain noble patrons enabled him to go to Dresden for a year’s study with Grützmacher. A year later he was appointed to the Dresden Hofkapelle, where he started his career as a soloist. In 1869 he played at a festival in Leipzig, and the following year at the Beethoven Festival. Liszt tried to persuade him to remain at Weimar, but he chose to become professor at the Imperial Conservatory, Moscow, in 1870.
Fitzenhagen acquired a reputation as the greatest teacher in Russia and equally as a soloist and chamber music performer. Among the future celebrities he taught were Adamowski and Brandukov. He was appointed concertmaster of the Russian Imperial Musical Society and, in 1884, director of the Moscow Musical and Orchestral Society. He formed a rewarding friendship with Tchaikovsky and, as a member of the Russian Musical Society’s quartet, gave the first performances of Tchaikovsky’s string quartets opp.11, 22 and 30, and of the Piano Trio op.50.
In 1876 Tchaikovsky dedicated the Variations on a Rococo Theme op.33 to Fitzenhagen, who doubtless commissioned the work. Fitzenhagen somewhat altered the solo part even before giving the première of this inventive, elegant work on 30 November 1877 at the Russian Musical Society in Moscow under Nikolay Rubinstein. However, seeking ever greater adulation from his audiences, during subsequent solo tours he re-ordered all but the first two variations, altered and extended several passages and totally excised Tchaikovsky’s final variation. This version was published in 1878 as Tchaikovsky’s own arrangement for piano and cello, effectively without the sanction of the composer. The full score, similarly altered, was published in 1889; Tchaikovsky, who referred to ‘that idiot Fitzenhagen’ and complained of his poor proofreading, inexplicably added ‘The devil take it – let it stand as it is’. It did so for up to 70 years until, after the publication of Tchaikovsky’s original, Piatigorsky’s emphatic advocacy and teaching made it known.
Fitzenhagen was himself an industrious composer, but of over 60 works few survive.
D.Brown: Tchaikovsky: a Biographical and Critical Study, ii: the Crisis Years (1874–1878) (London, 1982), 117–23
S.R.Pelkey: Antonín Dvorák’s First Cello Concerto in A major: a Comparison of the Original, Raphael and Sádlo/Burghauser Editions, and Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations: a Comparison of the Original and Fitzenhagen Editions (diss., U. of Houston, 1993)
(b Newport News, VA, 25 April 1917; d Beverly Hills, CA, 15 June 1996). American jazz and popular singer. She was an illegitimate child who never knew her father, and was brought up in Yonkers, New York. After her mother died in 1932, she lived with an aunt and then briefly at an orphanage, in Harlem. Having run away from the orphanage, she was homeless when in November 1934 she won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theatre. This led to an engagement in March 1935 with Chick Webb's band, and she soon became a celebrity of the swing era with performances such as A-tisket, A-tasket (1938, Decca) and Undecided (1939, Decca). When Webb died in 1939, Fitzgerald took over the direction of the band, which she led for three years. She then embarked on a solo career, issuing commercial and jazz recordings, and in 1946 began an association with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic which eventually brought her a large international following. She also sang in a jazz group led by her husband, Ray Brown (1948–52). Early in 1956 Fitzgerald severed her longstanding connection with Decca to join Granz's newly founded Verve label. Among their first projects was a series of ‘songbooks’ dedicated to major American songwriters (Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, 1956; Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book, 1956–7; Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book, 1959). The series made use of superior jazz-inflected arrangements by Nelson Riddle and others and succeeded in attracting an extremely large audience, establishing Fitzgerald among the supreme interpreters of the popular-song repertory. Thereafter her career was managed by Granz, and she became one of the best-known international jazz performers; she issued many recordings for Granz's labels and made frequent appearances at jazz festivals with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Tommy Flanagan and Joe Pass.
For decades Fitzgerald was considered the quintessential black female jazz singer, and drew copious praise from admirers as diverse as Charlie Parker and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Her voice was small and somewhat girlish in timbre, but these disadvantages were offset by an extremely wide range (from d to c''') which she commanded with a remarkable agility and an unfailing sense of swing. This enabled her to give performances that rivalled those of the best jazz instrumentalists in their virtuosity, particularly in her improvised scat solos, for which she was justly famous (for an example see Scat singing). Unlike trained singers she showed strain about the break in her voice (d'' and beyond) which, however, she used to expressive purpose in the building of climaxes. Fitzgerald also had a gift for mimicry that allowed her to imitate other well-known singers (from Louis Armstrong to Aretha Franklin) as well as jazz instruments. As an interpreter of popular songs, she was limited by a certain innate cheerfulness from handling drama and pathos convincingly, but was unrivalled in her rendition of light material and for her ease in slipping in and out of the jazz idiom. She influenced countless American popular singers of the post-swing period and also international performers such as the singer Miriam Makeba.
J.Jungermann: Ella Fitzgerald: ein Porträt (Wetzlar, 1960)