Central Sava Valley

The Central Sava Valley is a valley in the Sava Hills and a geographic region along the Sava in central Slovenia, now constituting the Central Sava Statistical Region. The region consists of three municipalities: Zagorje ob Savi and Hrastnik. Several coal mines operated in the Central Sava Valley, although all except the Trbovlje–Hrastnik Mine are now defunct, it is surrounded by the Sava Hills, with Kum on the right side of the Sava and Black Peak on Čemšenik Pasture at the left side of the Sava, as its highest peaks. The Slovene term Zasavje for this area is a recent coinage that did not come into general use until the 1920s, with the western part of the region being part of Carniola and its eastern part belonging to Styria. Due to its coalmining tradition, it was one of the first regions in today's Slovenia to be industrialized in the 19th century. Construction of the Austrian Southern Railway, which led from Vienna to Trieste through Slovenia and the Central Sava Valley in 1849, was a major milestone.

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Nicolás Ruiz Espadero

Nicolás Ruiz Espadero was a Cuban pianist, piano teacher and editor of the posthumous works of American composer-pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Espadero was died in Havana. In his time, he was the most famous Cuban composer, the only one published abroad, the only one who, at least in the eyes of his Cuban contemporaries, could compete with composers from Europe, yet of all the Cuban composers of the 19th and early 20th century he was the most parochial and idiosyncratic one. Without schooling and formal musical training, he grew into a chronically shy person dependent on his mother, he composed and continually practised, but gave few concerts and had little contact with other people. Espadero never left Cuba, indeed he ever left Havana or his own house, where he lived with seventeen cats, surrounded by stacks of European music scores. Universally described as a recluse, he died from accidental burns after his usual bath in alcohol - one of several musicians to die of rather unnatural causes.

Although brought up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere and surrounded by black Cuban music, he was the one Cuban composer who adopted but little of the local music tradition that inspired Manuel Saumell before and Ignacio Cervantes after him. He had numerous pupils, some of them became prominent musicians themselves. Nothing of Espadero's music has remained in the repertoire, yet his pieces – his best output, albeit never printed - remain to be investigated. A CD with a selection of his piano music came out in 2006. Espadero was born in Cuba. Cuba was still a Spanish colony and in all matters of administration and interior and exterior policy dependent on Madrid; the island was a colonial backwater, infested by malaria and yellow fever. Cuba's society was divided into a privileged class of landowners and Spanish colonial administrators – and black and mulatto slaves. No middle class existed. Of more than two millions blacks, less than 35,000 were free. Espadero was born in Cuba, his mother was a pianist from Cadiz who distinguished herself in the Havana salons around 1810 performing Haydn and Mozart.

His father, Don Nicolás Ruiz, was a civil servant in the colonial administration. As is the case in well-to-do families, the father wanted his only son to become a lawyer, an officer or an administrator – but not a musician. Although proud of his wife's musical talents and flattered by his son's nascent artistic abilities, Espadero's father would only permit half an hour's piano lesson every day, but young Espadero's talent proved too strong. From an early age he showed exceptional ability at the piano. With his mother's complicity young Espadero would play the piano several hours every day. Espadero never thus never enjoyed a structured formal education. What education he had received came from pieces and fragments from European Spanish, from selected and mixed readings and from the surroundings of Cuban upper-class society. Havana had an opera house, the Teatro Colón, but the only operas and acted by imported itinerant opera troupes, were by Bellini and Verdi. On July 8, 1844, Polish pianist and composer Julian Fontana, a close friend of Frédéris Chopin, gave a series of concerts and recitals in Havana playing works by Liszt, Chopin and himself.

This was the first time. Fontana stayed a year and a half in Havana giving concerts and teaching. Espadero was among Fontana's piano students. By the time he was twenty, he had traces of the withdrawn and unsociable character that would grow into in middle and life. Carpentier characterizes him thus: He did not have friends his own age, living with his family, under the constant vigilance of his mother, he was sixteen. This blow, the widowhood, the long mourning period, further reduced, if that were possible, Espadero’s horizon, he would not go out, did not accept invitations, would not frequent the promenades. He spent his days reading and composing. At twilight, he would go to a music store close to his house to play the piano until eight o’clock at night, he could not tolerate a presence at his side at those moments. His adolescent neurosis became more pronounced with the passing of time, making him appear unsociable, sullen or weird. Carpentier postulates that Espadero came to believe that in his youth he had been overly influenced by bravura piano music by composers such as Sigismond Thalberg, Émile Prudent, Joseph Ascher, among others.

He turned to composing according to classical European musical forms. He wrote a piano trio, a scherzo, a sonata, various longer études. None of it he saw in print; as soon as Espadero started to eschew the bravura pieces of the day, publishers were no longer interested in his music. This rejection of his more serious efforts may have contributed his state of mind; the death of his mother in 1885 came as an devastating blow to him. Although he was now free to travel and leave Cuba, he did the opposite – he became a total recluse. During his last years Espadero isolated himself totally from society, living only for his cats and his piano. Carpentier writes: He distanced himself from his colleagues, gruffly reproaching them for not having created a serious institution for the teaching of music; this anti-social behaviour may have been aggravated by obsessive-compulsive disorder. The most recent of Espadero's biographers writes that Espadero could not enter a house without having to rearrang