Costumes of Boy Musical Prodigies: Individuals A-D

There are many famous child music prodigies. The most famous is certainly Mozart in the 18th Century, but there have been many others in the 19th and 20th Century. The clothing they wore for their performances were often examples of contemporary formal boys' clothing. Often as they began to grow up their parents liked to keep dressing them in juvenile clothes to emphasize that they were childhood prodigies. I've just begun this page, but would be interested in any comments or contributions by HBC viewers.


Aconcha, Leandro (France?, 1968- ): Leandro played at the age of 5 years the first etude by Chopin, the left hand without octaves and without pedal, but the right nearly in the prescribed tempo. His father had to help him climb the stool. He played the left hand without octaves and could not reach the pedal (but he knew they are not the brakes...) but nearly succeeded in achieving the prescribed tempo. He became less well known but in the 1990s he has performed brilliantly. He has done some notable work with J. La Greca, a noted guitarist. "The future is theirs," proclaimed one critic. [Guitar & Keyboards February 1998]. Anoncha's music is notable for his melodic improvisation, phrasing, and feeling. A friend writes HBC: "Leandro is a real genius for me. His capabilities for improvising on my music is unreal. His ears are not human !!"

Arpad, Kun (Hungary, 1890s): A HBC reader has provided two photographs of a child prodigee named Kun Arpad. The name appears to be Hungariaan so presumably that was his nationality. We have, however, no information on him. The photographs appeared in De Prins. He must have be born in the 1890s.

Arrau, Claudio (Chile, 1903-91): Claudio Arrau was a noted Chilean pianist. Claudio Arrau was born in 1903 and was a child prodigy. His mother was an amateur pianist and his father an eye doctor. His father tragically died in a riding accident when Claudio was only 1-year old. The family was not wealthy and Claudio's mother was left to support her three children. Lucretia Leon de Arrau was a stron-willed woman and put her music skills to work by offering piano lessons. She kept Claudio with her during these lessons s she could hardly afford child care. As a result, Claudio was soon playing te piano himself and learned to read musical scores before he could read books. Claudi's musical abilities astonished his mother and by age 5 years he was giving recitals. The Chilean Congress approved funds to send Claudio and his family to Europe where he could develop his talent under music masters. A reader tells us, "When a child, Claudio's mother dressed him in velvet suits and long whitestockings." We have no additioinal information at this time.

Arriola, Pepito (Spain, 1896-19??): Pepito Arriola was a well-known Spanish child musical prodigy. When only 2 1/2 years old his suprised mother found him merrily playing at the piano a pirce she had been playing. He had received no musical instruction, he had just listened and watch how she played. He was playing the piano and composing his own music at age 3. He also became a master violinist.


Barber, Samuel (United States, 1910-81): Samuel Barber's music, masterfully crafted and built on romantic structures and sensibilities, is at once lyrical, rhythmically complex, and harmonically rich. He was Samuel Barber, aggressively reactionary in all his works, had both of his full-length operas premiered by the always conservative Metropolitan Opera. Barber was born in March 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Barber wrote his first piece at age 7 and attempted his first opera at age 10. At the age of 14 he entered the Curtis Institute, where he studied voice, piano, and composition. Later, he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner. At Curtis, Barber met Gian Carlo Menotti with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional relationship. Although no prodigy, Barber nevertheless made his mark early. Op. 1, Serenade for string quartet (later orchestrated for strings), he wrote while attending the Curtis Institute. Definitely a student work, it can fairly be called "Romantic," in the tradition of Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite, Carl Nielsen's Little Suite (also an op. 1), and Edward Elgar's Serenade in e. However, by op. 5, Overture to the School for Scandal, we have flown far beyond the nineteenth century. The orchestration and opening bitonal harmonies may derive from Richard Strauss (although they sound clearer), but the second, pastoral tune - as diatonic as Robert Schumann - is something new. It seems to come from nowhere, and yet it sings in a full-throated, natural way. Menotti supplied libretti for Barber's operas Vanessa (for which Barber won the Pulitzer) and A Hand of Bridge. Barber's music was championed by a remarkable range of renowned artists, musicians, and conductors including Vladimir Horowitz, John Browning, Martha Graham, Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Jennie Tourel, and Eleanor Steber. His Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera H+ouse at Lincoln Center in 1966. Barber was the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the American Prix de Rome, two Pulitzers, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His intensely lyrical Adagio for Strings has become one of the most recognizable and beloved compositions, both in concerts and films (Platoon, The Elephant Man, El Norte, Lorenzo's Oil).

Barsham, Derek (England 1930- ): Derek Barsham was born in Enfield and was a member of the Boys Brigade (BB). He became known as the BB Boy Soprano, and sang exclusively in the London area, much of his work being done for the BBC. He recorded Land of Hope and Glory which was aired just prior to Winston Churchill's VE Day broadcast--an increible honor. As an adult he became a baritone singer and persued a career as the Cruise Director on The Royal Viking Line for 22 years.

Barthel, Denis (England, ??): Denis Barthel was another famed English boy sophrano during the mid-20th century.

Figure 1.--Roberto Benzi is pictured directing a symphonic orchestra in 1949 in one of his white outfits. He also had black outfits.
Benzi, Roberto (France, 1937- ): The destinguised French muscician Robert Benzi was a child prodigy conductor, directing major orchestras when still a teenager, and being invited to conduct Bizet's Carmen at the Paris Opera when he was just 21 years old. He was born in Marseilles, France, during 1937. He is of Italian origin. After advanced musical studies, at 8 years old, he studied orchestra conducting with André Cluytens (famous conductor). At 11 he conducted orchestras in France, Scandinavia and South America. I do not have details on his clothing yet, but I believe he wore short pants and kneesocks well into his teens.

Beethoven, Ludwig van (Germany, 1770-1827): Ludwig van Beethoven may well be the single greatest genius in the history of music. A HBC reader suggests that Beethoven should be included in the HBC prodigy list. He evaluates him way above Mozart. Be it as a instrument player or as a composer, Beethoven started very young. He e played piano and organ (even violin) and gave his first public appearance in Köln at about 6 years old. Nearly reaching 11, he made a virtuosity tour in Holland. At that age he was able to remarkably play the Bach's well tempered harpsichord, a very difficult instrument to play, and presumably already very creative improvisations. As a composer his very first published work was at the age of 12 the nine variations on a Mrcia of Dressler WoO 63 (Werk ohne Opus). Apart from all those marvellous things that Beethoven wrote, it can be noted that he started with the variations, a specific form of art that he later brought to incredible summits with his last piano sonata opus 111 and the Diabelli variations opus 120. In addition to being a child prodigy, Beethoven's musical genius makes his a figure of considerable historical importance.

(Sterndale) Bennett, William (England, 1816-75): Sir William Bennett, he never used Sterndale, was a teenage pianist and composer who especially impressed the Mendelssohn--who had himself been a child prodigy. His musical talent was also closely followed by another friend, Robert Schumann. Bennett was briefly popular as a child prodigy and youthful composer. He eventually directed his efforts at teaching. He became a Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and later was made a Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. A painting by J.W. Childe, shows Bennett in 1832at age 16 in the uniform of the Royal College of Music, London.

Bluestone, Harry (England, 1907-92): Harry Bluestone was born in London during 1907. He began playing the violin at 4 years of age. When he reached 7 years he was widely regarded as a child prodigy. He preapred himself academically for a traditional concert career, but in the process became ememerized by jazz and he became a premier jazz violinist. As a young adult in the 1930s, he moved to Hollywood, becoming a top session player and studio musician. He was a Concert Master at both Paramount and Warner Bros. As Concert Master he knew and worked with stars of the day, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Lionel Ritchie, and Mario Lanza. He also made a major contribution to brodcast media. Harry and composer/arranger Emil Cadkin after World War II realized that radio needed pre-recorded music (a sort of ‘music library’). The same was true of television which was just beginning in the late 40s. The two formed CB Music. Many of their scores were used in early TV shows, especially Westerns. The most noatable was "The Lone Ranger".

Bolety, Jorge (Cuba, 1914-90): Bolety was a great post-Romantic pianists excelling in the music of Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and others. He thought of concerts as special events where the music, the performer and the audience each participate in creating something that has its own unique spark of life. Bolet came to America in their youth to study. Once in America he attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Burco, Ferrucio (Italy): HBC does not yet have any information on Italian prodigy Ferrucio Burco. Unlike many child prodigies he does not turn up in any interner searches. Perhaps he did not have an adult music career. He appears to have been born in the late 1930s and performed as a conductor. He had a full head of curls and performed in a variety of shortpants outfits--some rather like minature tuxedos.

Burke, Tom (England, 1890-74): Many prodigies we have noted had the opportunity to develop their talent as children. This was, however, not always the case. Thomas Aspinall Burke was born on March 2, 1890. He grew up in poor circumstances but was a musical prodigy. He was boy who had a love of music. He learnt to play the Cornet and the piano as well as having an exceptionally fine singing voice. He grew up to be a fine tenor and appeared in Opera productions all over the world. Of Thomas Burke, Enrico Caruso heard him sing. He was impressed by Tom’s singing. He said, ‘One day you shall wear my mantle…’ This then is the story of a how a poor but gifted boy became a great Opera singer. This is the story of how a boy from an impoverished background became a successful opera singing. Tom’s biography, written by John D. Rose is called The Lancashire Caruso. Its title says more than a thousand words.


Casals, Pablo (Spain, 1876-1973): The Spanish cellist, conductor, and composer, was one of the foremost cello virtuosos of the 20th century. Casals was born on Dec. 29, 1876, at Vendrell, a small Catalan town southwest of Barcelona. His father, an organist and music teacher, gave him his early musical training. By the time he was 12, Casals could play several instruments. In 1888 he studied the violoncello with José García at the Municipal School of Music at Barcelona. He also studied composition and cello in Brussels and Paris. In 1897 Casals succeeded García as professor of cello at the Municipal School. In 1899 the Parisian symphonic conductor Charles Lamoureux brought to public notice the extraordinary talent of Casals, who thus began his career as a soloist. He toured Europe and the United States in the early 1900's, winning acclaim for his technical mastery and the emotional power of his interpretations. In 1904 Casals founded, with the pianist Alfred Cortot and the violinist Jacques Thibaud, a celebrated trio. Although he was born in Spain, world renowned cellist Pablo Casals is nevertheless considered to be a treasure of Puerto Rico by the Puerto Ricans. Both his mother and his wife were natives of the island, and Casals spent much of his adult life here. Pablo Casals was the first artist to play an entire unaccompanied Bach suite in public. In doing so he not only revealed to the musical world the extraordinary beauty of these masterpieces of monadic writing and polyphonic structure, but opened new horizons for all string virtuosi. Before the advent of Casals the æcello suites were considered more in the nature of musical exercises than of musical interest to the public. After Casals, thanks to his interpretive genius and utter comprehension of their inner depth and meaning, these works today are to the cello what the Goldberg Variations are to the harpsichord. Casals brought the glimmer of light to the real Bach and influenced the whole course of contemporary playing in all mediums as far as this composer is concerned. Where all had been pomposity, he brought simplicity; where there had been deadness and pallor, he brought the breath of life and quickening of beauty and color. Casals realized the immense musical value of the cello suites at a very early age and spent years in the profound study of these works. Their rich, wonderful polyphony had remained lost to the world simply because no cellist before him had been gifted with the startling imagination, sensitivity and amazing technical command of his instrument to encompass all their difficulties of performance and conception. One cannot imagine, for instance, that a conscientious musician like Schumann would have been blinded into thinking them monodically conceived just because they were monodically penned, had there been a cellist around to give living denial. As things were, Schumann thought he was performing a service to music by ostensibly completing them with his piano accompaniments.

Cherkassky, Shura (Ukraine, 1911-95): Shura Cherkassky was a post-Romantic pianists excelling in the music of Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and others. Both thought of concerts as special events where the music, the performer and the audience each participate in creating something that has its own unique spark of life. Cherkassky came to America in his youth. Cherkassky's family fled from the aftermath of the October Revolution. Once in America, both attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Cliburn, Van (United States, 1934- ): Van Cliburn is renowned as the most famous American classical pianist of the 20th Century. He was American pianist honoured with a ticker tape parade down Wall Street, and owner of the first million-selling record in the history of classical music (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with conductor Kyrill Kondrashin). Cliburn in 1958 took first prize at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. It was hoped that the competition would show off the young artists of Soviet socialism. Instead, a Texan came home as a hero of the Cold War. Cliburn's first teacher was his mother. Later in life, he spent 3 years at Juilliard, in New York, with Rosina Lhevinne, the émigré who taught him how to produce Russian tone colour on the piano. At the International Tchaikovsky Competition, one adjudicator said Cliburn was "more Russian than the Russians" in his sound. That sound was lush, warm, romantic, and grand. Cliburn was immediately faced with a huge concert schedule, also putting out many recordings. He pulled back from the concert stage in 1978. Because he was so sought after, there hadn't been time to develop other repertoire at his own pace. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, which he founded, was also consuming much of his time. In 1987, Cliburn stepped out of his sabbatical to play a private concert at the White House for Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachov. Cliburn has made a few more public performances since this major appearance in 1987.

Figure 2.--Willy Danty, a xylophonist prodigy is pictured here at 10 years old. He wears a velvet suit, white stockings, and strap shoes.


Danty, Willy: (Denmark?, 1920?- ) I know little about Willy Danty, except that he was a xylophonist. The photograph here shows him at 10 years of age wearing a velvet suit, wide white collar, white long stockings, and strap shoes (figure 1). I believe he was Danish. We have no information on his musical career at this time. Hopefully HBC readrs will know more.

Darewski, Max: (England, 1894-1929): Max Darewski was a celebranted English boy musical prodigy. Max was born in Manchester (1894) into a musical family. His father was Edouard Darewski. His older brother was the noted composer Herman Darewski (1883-1947) who had been born in Minsk, Russia, and married the actress and singer Madge Temple ( -1943). Herman went on to write a string of popular songs, including 'Whispering,' an international hit of 1920. As a child of 7 years, Max composed 'England's Crown' to mark the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. He went on to create a minor sensation by conducting a full orchestra playing his own compositions at Bournemouth. In 1905 he conducted the massed bands of the Brass Band Festival at the Crystal Palace near London. It was also at this time that he began toured as a pianist throughout Euriope. Max attracted considerable attention when Max composed 'England's Crown' to mark the Coronation of Edward VII (1902). He was reported to have complained that he was sent to bed on New Year's Eve. 'How do I see the New Year in?' Max went on to create a minor sensation by conducting a full orchestra playing his own compositions at Bournemouth. As an adult mussician, Darewski composed popular songs and music for various shows including Suzette (Globe Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, 1917) starring Gaby Deslys and her partner Harry Pilcer. He married the stage and film actress Ruby Miller (1889-1976), whose first husband was killed on active service during World War I (1918). He reported financial difficulties (1920s). Darewski died at the very young age of 35 (1929).

Darnton, Christian: (England, 1905-81): English composer Philip Christian Darnton was born near in North Yorkshire near Leeds on October 30, 1905. The family had a German title since 1715 and were related to two families of peers: the Holdens and the Illingworths. John Edward von Schunck, Christopher's father, changed his name to Darnton just before World War I. The aff luent family was extremely well-off and Christian was educated at home by a governess until he was 9 years old. It was at this time that he began composing. He was not allowed to attend public school but spent four years at a small preparatory school near Rottingdean. Until he started his prep school, he had led a sheltered lfe at home. He found attending this boarding school to be a traumatic experience, so his partents must have decide that a public school (exclusive private school) education was not appropriate for him. Early photographs reveal that he wore dresses untill he was 5 years old. A buigrapher writes that "... to all intents and purposes, treated as a girl until he was about five". HBC is not sure that this is correct, but he did wear dress and had long hair. His mother had a very strong personality, believing that he would be a musician if she played the organ as frequently as possible during her pregnancy. It cannot be doubted that she had a significant influence on her son's development, The family traveled widely.

Deely, Frank (England, 1902- ): Frank Ernest Deeley was born October 1902 in South Stoneham, Hampshire. He was reportedly offered $1,000 for 52 rrecitals. His mother, sister, and Frank sailed for the United States on the SS Saint Louis (November 28, 1912). They entered America through New York's Ellis Island. In the portrait we have he looks to be about 14 years old and thus it would have been taken in 1916. Sadly we have been unable to find much information on his singing. Frank made a trial record on the Victor label of "The Holy City" (July 31, 1916). It was never released. He was a member of the Crusade Union Boy Singers. He was a one time soloist of that choir and soloist of Grace Episcopal Church in New York City. [Beet]

Demarest, Ruben: (United States, 1888?-??): We virtually no information on the child piano prodigy Ruben Demarest. We know he performed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 in association with a piano compamy. A portrait at the time shows him in front of an elaborately carved piano with short curls and wearing a Little Lord Faintleroy outfit. Unfortunately we have no information on his musical abilities or any further contributiion to the wotld of music.

Dengrement, Eugène-Maurice (Brazil, 1867-93): Eugène-Maurice was born in Rio de Janeiro during 1867. He was considered by some music experts one of the most promising young violinists of the 19th century. His father was a French musician who emigrated to Brazil. He began giving his son lessons sons at an early age. At age 8 years, Eugène-Maurice performed at a concert. The Brazilian orchestra was reportedly so delighted with his playing that its members gabe him a medal. The Brazilian emperor added an imperial crown. He was warmly received in London at a Crystal Palace performance when he was 12 years old in 1879. Dengremont never fulfilled, however, his early promise.

Domingo, Placido (Spain): Placido Domingo like Carreras started performing at a young age. His parents were Zarzuela singers which is a form of Spanish opera. Domingo now in his mid-70s has not slowed down. He is not only still singing, but he also conducts opera in many of the world's leading houses. He started out as a baritone but changed to a tenor. He is currently revisiting many of the Verdi operas that he did as a tenor and now taking on the baritone rolls.


Beet, Stephen. E-mail message, July 5, 2011.


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