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Classical Music on Stamps
A weekly feature presented by David Barker

I think it is a reasonably safe proposition that many readers of MusicWeb International will have had some degree of interest in stamps - it's a collecting thing. In my case, philately came first, though it had faded away by the time I became seriously interested in classical music. Only in the last year or so have the two interests coincided - I guess that's what retirement allows.

This feature is not intended to become a comprehensive survey of classical music on stamps, but rather to present a particular topic each week. This might be a composer, country or event. There are in excess of 2000 stamps featuring a composer, plus many more with a musical connection, so there are plenty to choose from.

Illustrations are either from my own collection or the online database Colnect. The most recent topic will always be at the top of this page.

50. Famous singers

The Colnect database lists 1775 stamps under the theme "singers". Of course many of these weren't classical, e.g. Elvis, Bing, The Beatles, but I've selected sixteen, some of whom are household names, others whose names are familiar to anyone with a degree of interest in opera and lieder.

Maria Callas Enrico Caruso Feodor Chaliapin Kirsten Flagstad
Nicolai Ghiaurov Lotte Lehmann Jenny Lind John McCormack
Nellie Melba Luciano Pavarotti Rosa Ponselle Kiri Te Kanawa
Lawrence Tibbett Richard Tucker Ramón Vinay Renato Zanelli

This is the last of these columns. While I certainly haven't covered all the stamps wth a classical music theme, I think the area has been covered well enough, and 50 seems a good round number at which to stop. I hope those of you who have got this far have found some items of interest along the way.

49. The Violin - Part 2

This week, stamps showing the violin and the violinist, the first six depicting real people (including Albert Einstein), the others with generic players.

Targjei Augundsson Ole Bull Queen Elisabeth (of Belgium)
František Ondříček Albert Einstein George Enescu

48. The Violin - Part 1

Typing the word "violin" into the stamp name search function of the Colnect database yields more than 100 hits, and that isn't likely to be all of them. I certainly don't intend to show them all, so in this first of two parts, I have selected 20 which show only the instrument; next week will be ones showing it being played.

Only a few here are commemorating a particular event. Of those, the two worthy of mention for their novelty are the North Korean one marking the 250th anniversary of the death of Antonio Stradivari (3rd stamp, 2nd row) and one from Djbouti celebrating the 150th anniversary of the little-known composer Georg Schumann (4th stamp, 5th row). If that sounds familiar, it's because I highlighted the unlikeliness of such a release in an early column.

47. Spain

Manuel de Falla's death in 1946 prompted Spain first composer-related stamp the following year. In 1976, another stamp was released to mark the centenary of his birth.

de Falla is the only Spanish composer to have been accorded the honour of releases on two occasions. Isaac Albéniz did have two stamps issued for the centenary of his birth, but they were the same design, just different colours and denominations. Those of Antonio Soler and Turina have already appeared in one of the Unsung Composer columns. As far as I can tell, Spain has not issued any stamps featuring non-homegrown composers.

Isaac Albéniz (1960)  Enrique Granados (1967) Pablo Sarasate (1977) Francisco Tárrega (1977)
Antonio Soler (1983) Joaquín Turina (1983) Antonio de Cabezón
(1985)
Tomás de Victoria
(1985)
 
Fernando Sor
(1985)
Joaquín Rodrigo (2001) Vicente Martín y Soler (2004)  

46. Chopin from Poland and France

A number of weeks ago, the column featured the numerous Polish stamps celebrating the Chopin International Piano Competition. This week, the man himself, and the two countries most strongly associated him. His adopted home for the second half of his life, France, has issued very few classical music-related stamps that don't feature homegrown composers, but there have been two of Chopin, the first in 1956 and the other in 1999 - the 150th anniversary of his death.

Poland, not surprisingly, has been more prolific in celebrating its most famous musical son. Not including the Piano Competition issues, there have been more than a dozen releases. Some are the same design in different colours, so not all are shown here. The first dates back to 1927, the most recent 2010, the bicentenary of his birth. You will see the same design used for the 1999 issue from each countries.

   
45. More unlikely stamps

It's time for some stamps from another unlikely source: in this instance, a group of famous opera singers in a set of 15 from that great hotbed of Western opera, Nicaragua, issued in 1975. Tongue in cheek comments aside, there is no doubt that the choices and designs were thought out properly, as each of the singers is pictured in a role that was closely associated with them, Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde, Maria Callas as Tosca, for example.

Unfortunately, the best images I could source are fairly small, so I can't link them to better larger versions this time.

44. Romania's favourite son

George Enescu is undoubtedly Romania's best known classical composer, and he has made frequent appearances on the country's stamps, 20 to be precise. Some have been associated with anniversaries of his birth or death, orthers with the music festival that bears his name, and others simply to celebrate him.

The first was in 1946 and we have actually seen it already, as part of a set that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Bucharest Philharmonic.

The 75th anniversary of his birth, in 1956, saw the issue of a set of two, the first showing him as a five year old violin prodigy. What is surprising is that his death the previous year was not recognised on a stamp.

In 1961, there were two stamps bearing his likeness, the first part of a set showing treasures from the national art collection - a sculpture by Gheorghe Anghel - and the second marking the second Enescu Music festival.

The third Festival, held in 1964, saw three issues, perhaps the most attrractive designs of all.

It would be 16 years before there were more Enescu-flavoured stamps, this time four marking a cultural and economic collaboration called InterEuropa, which I can find essentially nothing about.

The following year was the 100th anniversary of his birth, and a stamp with his portrait did appear, but it was in a set with other musicians without any significant connection to the year.

The next two, from 1995 and 2005, mark the 40th and 50th anniversaries of his death.

Of the remaining five, only the final one has a clear connection to an anniversary, 60 years since the first music festival.

 

43. Ballet down under

In honour of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, members of which were forced to take cover during a rehearsal of The Nutcracker when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake rumbled through Wellington yesterday, here is the 2003 set released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company.

 

In order to make this a slightly more substantial column, here is the 2012 release of stamps to celebrate the same anniversary of the Australian Ballet.

42. Joseph Haydn

'Papa' Haydn appeared in the first set of stamps to feature musicians, which was the subject of the first article in this series. He appeared three more times on Austrian stamps, in 1959 (the 150th anniversary of his death), 1982 (the 250th anniversary of his birth) and 2009 (the 200th anniversary of his death).

He appears around 30 times in total on world stamps, but it isn't my intention to show them all. He was born in a small town on the border with Hungary, and since his employer for all those years, the house of Esterházy, was Hungarian in origin, it seems appropriate to also show that country's contribution, being three stamps, two issued in 1959 and the other in 2009.

Of the other issuing countries, let's finish with four which definitely fit into the "why do they have Haydn on their stamp?" category: China, Djibouti, Dominica and Mozambique. The Dominica release is from 1977 in a Beethoven commemoration set, the others are from 2009.

41. Tchaikovsky centenaries

Only the Soviet Union commemorated the centenary of his birth in 1940 with a set of five, in which there were two repeat designs, with different colours and denominations.

In 1993, the 100th anniversary of his death, there were again five stamps issued, but from four countries, none of them part of the old USSR, though Russia had issued a stamp two years earlier, marking the 150th anniversary of his birth. Bulgaria and Cuba did at least have political ties to the USSR, but why Northern Cyprus (the Turkish section) and Equatorial Guinea (formerly a Spanish colony) chose to mark the occasion is not obvious.

 

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