Chess and Music

Edward Winter



santasiere

Anthony Santasiere, Chess Review, April 1943, page 111



The following non-exhaustive list of items about chess and music in older chess periodicals intentionally leaves aside the innumerable articles on Philidor.

music
music
music

‘Chess and Music. P.P. Sabouroff, who was once president of the Pan-Russian Chess Federation, and also of the Petrograd Chess Club, has composed a Love Symphony for big orchestra, which was played for the first time on 6 May in the “Concert Classique” at Monte Carlo and proved a great success.

The Scherzo (third part) of the symphony is called “Simultaneous Games of Chess”.’

saburov sabouroff

Peter Petrovich Saburov (Sabouroff), American Chess Bulletin, November 1911, page 246

‘... chess has much to recommend it to the notice of practical musicians and composers. For instance, the mental alertness, the rapid decision, the almost instantaneous abandonment of a preconceived plan in order to counter-act an unexpected move on the part of an opponent or to profit by any observed peculiarity in the play of the lat[t]er, would be but familiar procedures or conditions to, let us say, organ recitalists accustomed as they are, or should be, to vary registration, tempo and even style to meet the exigencies or defects of a strange building or unfamiliar instrument.’

‘From The Road to Music by Nicolas Slonimsky (Dodd, Mead and Company) we find a curious bit of chessiana.

“Also in a humorous vein are such musical pieces as A Chess Game, in which chess moves are imitated by melodic intervals. The pawn moves two spaces, and the melody moves two degrees of the scale. The knight jumps obliquely, as knights do in chess, and the melody moves an augmented fourth up. When the bishop dashes off on a diagonal, the music imitates the move by a rapid scale passage. Play this piece for a chess expert, and the chances are he will name the moves without a slip.”’

music

Finally, we mention that two musical scores (‘Schach-Marsch’ by F. Kerkhoff and ‘Schach-Walzer’ by C. Noack) took up 11 pages of the Barmen, 1905 tournament book. They were performed in Barmen on 16 August 1905, i.e. during a presentation of Richard Genée’s Der Seekadett. This operetta, which gave its name to the ‘Sea Cadet Mate’, began with a Prologue recited by Frau Adolf Keller attired as Caissa:

music



Regarding Mischa Elman, Moriz Rosenthal and other musicians, see pages 222-224 of Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters by Edward Lasker (New York, 1951). Rosenthal was discussed too in C.N.s 6171 and 6184.



From pages 8-9 of Blackmar-Diemer Gambit edited by K. Smith and J. Jacobs (Chess Digest, Dallas, 1977):

‘Blackmar himself seems the epitome of the Southern gentleman: Born on 30 May 1826 in Bennington, Vermont, he later moved to Jackson, Louisiana, where by 1845 he was a Professor of Music at Centenary College. In 1856, Blackmar opened the first piano and music store in Jackson, Mississippi. Four years later, in 1860, he founded together with his brother a music publishing house in New Orleans. There, Blackmar arranged and/or published a number of famous songs of the Confederacy, among them The Bonnie Blue Flag, The Dixie War Song and The Southern Marseillaise. One of his own compositions later became a part of the musical score to the Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh film version of Gone with the Wind. Blackmar was also an able, enthusiastic chessplayer and a charter member of the Chess, Checker and Whist Club of New Orleans.’

In C.N. 2063 (see pages 153-154 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves) Gary Lane, who was writing his own monograph on the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, asked whether the claim about Gone with the Wind was true. As indicated in C.N. 2199, we could provide no details, even after contacting the Chess Digest editor, Ken Smith. In reply to our enquiry about the source of the information in his 1977 book Mr Smith replied, ‘Don’t remember’, ‘All information I had was given’ and, even more disconcertingly, ‘I don’t know what book this is. Anyway I have no copy’.

Can readers supply any solid information? All we can add for now is that our collection contains two (undated) musical scores: Gavotte Moderne (published by Blackmar & Co., 647 Market St., San Francisco) and The Songs and Ballads of Mlle Parepa (published by A.E. Blackmar, 167 Canal Street, New Orleans):

blackmarblackmar

(3753)

We have now come across an earlier reference to A.E. Blackmar and Gone with the Wind, on page 3 of Discover The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, volume 1 by Anders Tejler (Dallas, 1971), a book for which Ken Smith was billed as the editor:

‘Armand Edward Blackmar was born in Bennington, Vt. on 30 May 1826. By 1845 he was Professor of Music at Centennary [sic] College, Jackson, La. In 1856 he founded the first piano and music store in Jackson, Miss. By 1860 he and his brother opened a music publishing house in New Orleans, La. Here was published a famous song of the Confederacy: The Bonnie Blue Flag. Blackmar arranged the music for various songs, including the Dixie War Song and the Southern Marseillaise. When New Orleans was taken in 1862, Blackmar remained in the city; his brother, H.C. Blackmar, continued publishing patriotic music for the Confederacy in Augusta, Ga. At the end of the Civil War, the music house of Blackmar was confiscated and he was subjected to a heavy fine. One of Blackmar’s musical compositions was heard in the music to the film Gone with the Wind. Blackmar died in New Orleans on 28 October 1888. He was not only an eminent pianist but also a very good violinist. He was a chess expert, a charter member of the Chess, Checkers and Whist Club of New Orleans.’

Can these statements (similar, but not identical, to what was quoted in C.N. 3753) be corroborated?

(3800)

C.N.s 3753 and 3800 discussed a claim that Armand Edward Blackmar composed music which was included in the film Gone with the Wind. Now Djordje Petrović (Belgrade) draws attention to an article ‘Songs of the Civil War’ by Charles Hamm. Without providing the details sought, it offers interesting background information, mentioning Gone with the Wind and Blackmar.

(5097)



Pages 254-255 of CHESS, August 1951 reproduced the score of the FIDE Anthem, with music by Count dal Verme (1908-1985) and words by Marcel Berman (1895-1960).

fide anthem

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In an article on pages 209-210 of Chess Life, July 1961 the violinist Louis Persinger wrote:

‘I do believe that musicians have had a very special hypnotic fascination for the 32 little figures and have always been very willing slaves to those little characters’ inexhaustible intrigues and pranks.’

Regarding Persinger (and David Oistrakh) see page 129 of A Chess Omnibus. C.N. 3722 reproduced Persinger’s extensive inscription in one of our copies of The Golden Treasury of Chess by Francis J. Wellmuth, and here we add that on the first page of the Index of Players Persinger wrote ‘I’ve played against – ’ and then added ticks alongside these names in the index: W. Adams, Alekhine, Battell, S. Bernstein, Borochow, Capablanca, Chernev, Dake, Denker, Donovan, Fine, Fish, Fonaroff, Fulop, Grabill, Hanauer, Helms, Hidalgo, Horowitz, Kashdan, Koltanowski, Korpanty, Ed. Lasker, Em. Lasker, Marshall, Platz, Polland, Reinfeld, Reshevsky, H. Steiner, Tenner, Testa, Ulvestad and Woskoff.

From page 97 of Chess World, May 1958:

‘Nearly every one of the world’s leading violinists has been a chessplayer, and indeed, a majority of violinists of any note at all.

Kreisler always carried a travelling chess set for playing over interesting games. Go through a list of the great ones from Kreisler to Oistrakh and we doubt if you can name one non-chessplayer. As for Oistrakh, he is a first-category player in the USSR.’

Yehudi Menuhin’s enthusiasm for chess has been widely reported, our first reference being page 250 of the November 1944 BCM, which gave one of his three games against Aird Thomson. In the photograph below Menuhin is watching a game between Oistrakh (left) and Persinger:

violinists

Mischa Elman’s acquaintance with Edward Lasker was mentioned on pages 181-182 of A Chess Omnibus, and below is a photograph of Elman from page 302 of The Strand Magazine, September 1906:

elman

(3912)

Edward Lasker’s bookplate was discussed in C.N. 2524 (see pages 181-182 of A Chess Omnibus), and below is one of the specimens in our collection, in the 1920 volume of Deutsches Wochenschach. The artist is named as ‘C.M. Heller’ [see C.N. 7886 for further details].

lasker

As mentioned in the earlier C.N. item, the photograph on which the illustration is based (Mischa Elman in play against Lasker) was published on page 27 of the February 1918 American Chess Bulletin:

lasker

(7886)



An article ‘Chess and Music’ by D.G. McIntyre was published in the March 1958 South African Chessplayer and reproduced on pages 154-155 of the October 1984 issue.



From pages 109-110 of Shostakovich A Life by Laurel E. Fay (Oxford, 2000):

‘Chess was chiefly a youthful infatuation; although he followed match play, he was never as serious a competitor as Prokofiev or David Oistrakh. In old age one of the favourite yarns he liked to retell was how, as a callow teenager, he had challenged and lost to Alexander Alekhine, something which could have taken place only before the future world champion left Russia for good in the spring of 1921.’

The source for this information is given on page 310:

‘M. Dolgopolov, “Budem znakomï – Alekhin ...”, Izvestiya, 17 August 1974, 5. Among others who recall hearing the composer recount versions of this story are Yevgeniy Dolmatovsky and Mstislav Rostropovich.’

A photograph of Shostakovich at the chessboard was given on page 354 of the November 1946 BCM:

shostakovich

(6654)

Marcelo Sibille (Montevideo, Uruguay) mentions that a longer account of the meeting between Shostakovich and Alekhine is to be found on pages 396-397 of another biography, published in 1997: Shostakovich Su vida, su obra, su época by Krzysztof Meyer, the source specified being an article by M. Dolgopolov in the 6/1975 issue of Sputnik.

We see no reference to Alekhine in an earlier edition of Meyer’s book, in Polish, Szostakowicz (Cracow, 1973), but the story can be found in the later editions in French and German: on pages 476-477 of Dimitri Chostakovitch (Paris, 1994) and pages 477-478 of Schostakowitsch Sein Leben, sein Werk, seine Zeit (Mainz, 2008).

shostakovich

No English translation of Meyer’s book is known to us, but we have procured a copy of the English edition of the June 1975 Sputnik (‘Digest of Soviet Press’). Below is the article by Mikhail Dolgopolov on Shostakovich and Alekhine, from pages 105-107:

shostakovich

shostakovich

(7079)



On pages 32-33 of the 5/2004 New in Chess Boris Spassky mentioned in an interview that at one time Enrico Caruso’s entourage included Boris Kostić.

Kostić took up residence in the United States in the first half of 1915, as reported on page 108 of the May-June 1915 American Chess Bulletin. His contact with Caruso was related on pages 34-35 of Ambasador Šaha by D. Bućan, P. Trifunović and A. Božić (Belgrade, 1966) and on pages 33-35 of Ambasador Šaha by D. Bućan (Novi Sad, 1987), and we shall be grateful if a reader can assist us in extracting the hard facts from those two accounts.

Neither book gave any games played between Kostić and Caruso, but on pages 93-94 of Chess to Enjoy (New York, 1978) A. Soltis wrote:

‘One of the most aggressive players in the musical world was Enrico Caruso, who took the game seriously enough to study under Boris Kostić, the first great Yugoslav player. Here is one of their many skittles or offhand games with the mighty tenor playing Black.’

The moves, presented with the customary Soltis sourcelessness, were: 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 c4 e6 4 Nc3 Nbd7 5 Bg5 Bb4 6 e3 c5 7 Qc2 Qa5 8 Bxf6 Nxf6 9 Nd2 cxd4 10 exd4 O-O 11 a3 e5 12 dxe5 d4 13 Nb5 a6 14 exf6 Re8+ 15 Kd1 axb5 16 fxg7 Bxd2 17 Qxd2 Qa4+ 18 Kc1 bxc4 19 Be2 c3 20 Qd1 Qa5 21 Bd3 cxb2+ 22 Kxb2 Qc3+ 23 Kb1 Re6 24 Bxh7+ Kxh7 25 White resigns.

No place or date was stipulated, but when B. Pandolfini gave the conclusion on page 106 of Treasure Chess (New York, 2007) he put ‘1918’. In some databases (as well as on page 55 of CHESS, September 2004) ‘New York, 1923’ is specified – even though Caruso died in 1921.

(6951)




whiteman

The above photograph was on the front cover of the November 1944 Chess Review, with the following note on page 1:

‘Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz, wields his famous baton in defense of his king, attacked by Chess Review Postalite Leo Kahn, first violinist of the Whiteman orchestra. Looking on are violinist Sylvan Shulman (pipe in mouth) and viola player Ralph Hersh. These and other members of the orchestra are ardent chess fans and play during intermissions. This striking pose was taken at a rehearsal for the Blue Network’s Radio Hall of Fame program.’

(7454)



Page 185 of the July-August 1963 Chess Life had this news item in its coverage of the Piatigorsky Cup tournament in Los Angeles:

‘Most commotion of the tournament to date was caused when Frank Sinatra and Mike Romanoff walked in. Tigran Petrosian temporarily lost his title as most-stared-at individual.

The City of Hope was holding a convention at the hotel, and some of the ladies spotted Sinatra. Result – a rush to the playing room that was halted by some fast blocking on the part of our officials.’

A photograph of Sinatra with Walter Browne (and with the time-honoured ‘board problem’) was published on page 24 of Chess Life, May 1982:

sinatra browne

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On pages 185-186 of Chess to Enjoy (New York, 1978) A. Soltis attributed to the composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) a 17-move win over ‘Zukkerbrekker’ (Vienna, 1906). Then there was this item by K. Whyld on page 108 of the February 1996 BCM:

strauss

In fact, the game was one of two played against Leopold Zuckerbäcker by another Richard Strauss (born in Vienna in 1880) which were published on pages 154-156 of the Wiener Schachzeitung, May-June 1906:

strauss

strauss

strauss

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Peter Anderberg (Harmstorf, Germany) reports that both of the Strauss v Zuckerbäcker games had been published by Georg Marco in his column on page 4 of the supplement to Hamburger Nachrichten, 11 February 1906:

strauss

Our correspondent mentions too that the ‘Garmisch, 1945’ claim was made in an unsigned item ‘Richard Strauss war Schachspieler’ on page 390 of the 14/2000 Schach Magazin 64 and that in the following issue (page 420) he had this correction published:

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Martin Weissenberg (Savyon, Israel) draws attention to a news item on page 164 of the Revista Română de Şah, 24 August 1939:

chess

It states that Botvinnik gave a simultaneous exhibition at the Central Artists’ Club in Leningrad, scoring, after nine hours’ play, +19 –8 =9, and that his opponents included Prokofiev, Oistrakh and Zak.

Our correspondent writes:

‘What is known about the chess interest of Yakov Zak (1913-76), the winner of the 1937 Warsaw Chopin Competition? (The date 1938 in the Romanian magazine is incorrect.) He was one of the great names in Soviet piano performing and teaching and was famous for his performances of Prokofiev’s music.

oistrakh gilels prokofiev

Regarding the photograph in your feature article Sergei Prokofiev and Chess, the girl watching Oistrakh and Prokofiev, Elizaveta (Liza) Gilels, was the sister of the pianist Emil Gilels, the wife of the violinist Leonid Kogan, and the mother of the violinist and conductor Pavel Kogan. She herself was an accomplished violinist.’

(7726)



Dan Scoones (Coquitlam, BC, Canada) observes that a number of websites describe the jazz musician Thelonious Monk (1917-82) as ‘excellent at both chess and checkers’, the source specified being an article by John B. Litweiler, ‘Art Blakey: Bu’s Delights and Laments’.

We have found the magazine containing the article (down beat, 25 March 1976, pages 15-17 and page 44), but there is only one brief reference to chess, on page 15:

‘Art Blakey on Thelonious Monk: “I have yet to meet the man who can beat him at chess, or even checkers, or ping-pong.’”

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Paul Herzman (Brooklyn, NY, USA) quotes from page 138 of Don Andrés and Paquita The Life of Segovia in Montevideo (Milwaukee, 2012):

‘[On 19 May 1936] they had tea with composer Sergei Prokofiev, his wife, and the great Cuban chess player José Raúl Capablanca. Our two artists shared one of the other legs of the tour through the Soviet Union with Capablanca, whose second wife, Olga Chagodaev, was Russian ... [Capablanca married her in 1938.]

[After 15 June 1936] they went to Kiev. In the Ukrainian capital they again met Capablanca, with whom they shared several walks; they also attended one of his chess matches.’

Capablanca referred to Segovia on pages 13-14 of Last Lectures (New York, 1966):

‘Several years ago, in the Russian city of Kiev, I ran across Andrés Segovia, the great Spanish guitarist. We had known each other for some time; he as a lover of chess, and I as a lover of music! He was to give a concert and I a simultaneous exhibition. Both of these events were to take place in the great concert hall of Kiev, and naturally each of us invited the other to his performance. The simultaneous exhibition had been arranged for 30 students, boys and girls between ten and 16 years of age. Segovia, his wife and I arrived in the hall in due course, and I noted Segovia’s amazement at the spectacle which met his eyes. The huge hall was completely filled, and its balcony held more than a thousand girls who had come to watch the play. All were students and had learned to play chess in their respective schools. On the stage 30 boys and girls had been seated in a rectangle as is customary in such exhibitions. Most of them were boys, all of them ready to do battle with me. In each corner there had been placed a particularly strong adversary. In back of the players there was a crowd of boys and girls with their teachers and in back of them the guests. It was truly, as Segovia said, a phenomenal spectacle. There were at least three thousand people in the hall, almost all of them children.’

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Olimpiu G. Urcan (Singapore) draws attention to chapter 31 (pages 318-322) of volume four of Nicolas Slonimsky: Writings on Music (New York and London, 2005).

slonimsky

The chapter also includes a discussion of Prokofiev.

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Wijnand Engelkes (Zeist, the Netherlands) points out the score and text of a march written in honour of Max Euwe.

(8560)



Pages 17-20 of the Brooklyn Chess Chronicle, 15 November 1884 published Ai Scacchisti Americani, Una Lagrima Sulla Tomba dell’immortale Scacchista Americano, Paolo Morphy by Giuseppe Liberali:

morphy

morphy

morphy

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(9988)

The photograph of Loman from this page of The Tatler, which was provided by Gerard Killoran (Ilkley, England), was shown in C.N. 10362:

loman



Paul Dorion (Montreal, Canada) notes on a CNN webpage a fine photograph of Ray Charles (1930-2004) with a Braille chess set.

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Myron Samsin (Winnipeg, Canada) owns an LP record featuring music composed by André Danican Philidor (1652-1730), the chess master’s father (known as Philidor l’aîné and Philidor le père):

philidor

The reverse of the record sleeve has the following note (with an incorrect year of birth for the composer):

philidor

For information about la dynastie des Philidor two particularly detailed books are François André Danican Philidor. La culture échiquéenne en France et en Angleterre au XVIIIe siècle by Sergio Boffa (Olomouc, 2010) and Les Philidor by Nicolas Dupont-Danican Philidor (Bourg-la-Reine, 1997).

(10701)



Information is sought by Avital Pilpel (Haifa, Israel) about a musical entitled Șah Mat (‘Checkmate’). It was an Israeli production in Romanian, and an advertisement in the National Library of Israel’s collection of posters and other ephemera states that the opening night was on 30 September 1967 at the Ohel Shem Theatre in Tel Aviv.

(10709)



Martin Weissenberg sends a photograph from page 98 of Russia’s Great Modern Pianists by Mark Zilberquit (Neptune, 1983) which features the composer and pianist Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007):

khrennikov

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Courtesy of the Russian National Museum of Music, Olimpiu G. Urcan forwards a better copy of the photograph in C.N. 11776:

botvinnik khrennikov smyslov keres

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Martin Weissenberg shares these photographs taken by him at the Budapest home (1932-40) of Béla Bartók, which has been a memorial house since 1981:

bartok

bartok

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There are further references to music in the Factfinder.



Latest update: 28 August 2020.


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