Jan 102017

An Arts Fuse regular feature: the arts on stamps of the world.


By Doug Briscoe

Today’s stamps salute two figures from literature and two from music, all born on January 10th.

The American poet Robinson Jeffers (1887 – January 20, 1962) was born in Pennsylvania but received a European education, becoming fluent in German and French by the time he was twelve. Later he attended USC and the University of Washington in Seattle, where he briefly studied forestry, a grounding that no doubt informed his environmentalism and reputation as an outdoorsman—he built his own home in Carmel, California, and is particularly known for his poems about the central coast of that state.


Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy (10 January 1883 [O.S. 29 December 1882] – 23 February 1945) came from the same family that gave us the great novelist Leo (1828–1910) and his cousin the fine poet Aleksey Konstantinovich (1817–1875), whose verses inspired virtually all of the important Russian composers. Aleksey Nikolayevich was also related on his mother’s side to Turgenev. But because of a scandal or two involving his father, he did not know he was a Tolstoy until the age of 13. This younger member of the Tolstoy clan wrote science fiction—his novel Aelita dates from 1923—historical novels, and children’s books, among much else. Russia honored him with a stamp in 2008.

In his native Luxembourg, Laurent Menager (1835 – 7 February 1902) is celebrated as the country’s national composer. He studied with Ferdinand Hiller at Cologne and became a professor at the Luxembourg Music School. In 1857 he founded a national choral association, Sang a Klang. Among his works are symphonies and other orchestral music, operettas, church music, chamber music, many songs, and music for brass bands. He achieved such fame over his long career that more than 6,000 people attended his funeral.

Segundo Cueva Celi (1901 – 17 April 1969) was born in Loja, Ecuador, and lost his left eye at the age of five. He was taught piano by a Franciscan Father and learned mandolin and violin on his own. At fifteen he joined the Loja Sextet, which had been founded by his uncle Salvador Bustamante Celi (who also has a stamp—see it in March). In Quito Segundo founded a music academy but returned to Loja at the urging of his wife. He died there of stomach cancer. His works include popular songs and dances, but also religious and symphonic music.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in English, Doug Briscoe worked in Boston classical music radio, at WCRB, WGBH, and WBUR, for about 25 years, beginning in 1977. He has the curious distinction of having succeeded Robert J. Lurtsema twice, first as host of WGBH’s weekday morning classical music program in 1993, then as host of the weekend program when Robert J.’s health failed in 2000. Doug also wrote liner notes for several of the late Gunther Schuller’s GM Recordings releases as well as program notes for the Boston Classical Orchestra. For the past few years he’s been posting a Facebook “blog” of classical music on stamps of the world, which has now been expanded to encompass all the arts for The Arts Fuse.


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