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Johann Strauss, Liszt, and Beethoven, and Blind Tom

Many a great performer-artist found an appreciative audience among Derbeians. For example, in October 1838 Johann Strauss the Elder, father of the composer of The Blue Danube and himself described in the Mercury as 'the celebrated Valz Composer, from Vienna', brought to Derby his 'unrivalled Orchestra composed of 28 ARTISTES'.

Johann Strauss was followed two years later in September 1840 by probably the most famous and distinguished musician to visit Derby, at least in Victorian times, the virtuoso pianist-composer Franz Liszt. He played some of his own compositions on a new grand piano 'brought expressly from London for the occasion'. He was raising money for a statue of Beethoven to be put up in the great man's birthplace, Bonn.

The  one astonishment event starred 'Blind Tom', who despite his black skin, in the estimation of  Derby's senior paper, was ' assuredly one of the most accomplished musicians ever heard in Derby'. On the grand piano he 'played with his left hand Kafoosebim, and with his right hand Paddle your own Canoe, whilst he sang Trab Trab'. When the faint sounds of church bells were heard, whether from St Werburgh's or All Saints', he simply responded by reproducing the tones and notes coming from outside!


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