Johann Sebastian Bach
German composer and keyboard player
J S Bach was a German composer and keyboard player. During his lifetime Bach was chiefly known for his masterful organ and harpsichord playing; his great genius as a composer was only really discovered in the 19th century. Bach wrote organ music, including choral preludes, preludes, fugues, and toccatas; orchestral and chamber works, including the Brandenburg Concertos; and church music, including the St Matthew Passion. Noteworthy among the collections of his keyboard works The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Goldberg Variations.
An engraving of Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach (left) with three of his sons
Johann Sebastian Bach
as Konzertmeister in 1715
A nineteenth century depiction of the Bach family at morning
music practice. Bach is at the keyboard and the other family
members are playing or singing.
George Frideric Handel
Handel was born in Germany but spent much of his life in England. Handel music includes many operas and oratorios, including that most famous of all oratorios, the Messiah. He also wrote the Water Music; the Music for the Royal Fireworks; and works in many other genres.
Handel in 1727
(painting by Balthasar Denner)
Handel at the piano
(painting by Sir James Thornhill)
Handel at 68
(painted by Thomas Hudson, 1756)
Italian composer and violinist
One of the most admired composers from the Baroque period, Vivaldi developed the three-movement concerto and wrote over 450 concertos (including many for the violin); operas, oratorios, motets, cantantas and other sacred music. His most popular work of Vivaldi music is The Four Seasons.
(Painting by François Morellon La Cave, 1723)
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. The vast output of Beethoven music includes nine symphonies such as the Eroica Symphony, the Pastoral Symphony and the great choral Ninth Symphony. Beethoven wrote much piano music such as the Pathetic, the Pastoral, the Moonlight, the Kreutzer, Waldstein, the Appassionata sonatas.
Beethoven at the age of 49 (at this time he was already completely deaf). He is shown working on the score of Missa Solemnis.
Beethoven in 1818
These pencil sketches show Beethoven walking the streets of Vienna deep in thought and with not a great deal of attention to his appearance.
Beethoven composing in his Vienna apartment in the latter part of his life.There are books and papers on the top of the piano and under it!
(Franz) Joseph Haydn
Haydn wrote over 100 symphonies and many string quartets, sonatas and piano trios. He was responsible for great developments in the classical style and forms, and he is often referred to as the “Father of the Symphony”. Other Haydn music includes masses, operas, and folk song arrangements.
(Painting by Thomas Hardy, 1792)
Haydn in 1794
(Drawing by George Dance)
Haydn at the keyboard, 1795
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Despite his short life, Mozart was a prolific composer. Mozart music includes many concertos, symphonies (such as the Jupiter), serenades (such as Eine kleine Nachtmusik); operas (such as The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni), and much church music (such as the Coronation Mass).
(painting by Barbara Krafft)
Mozart in about 1789
(painting by Christian Vögel)
Mozart, aged 6, in court dress
Young Mozart at the piano
Berlioz was a French Romantic composer. Notable works of Berlioz music: the Symphonie fantastique; the symphonies Harold en Italie (Harold in Italy) and Roméo et Juliette; the concert opera, La Damnation de Faust (The Damnation of Faust); the opera, Les Troyens (The Trojans); and the oratorio, L’Enfance de Christ (The Childhood of Christ).
Hector Berlioz in Rome, 1832. Berlioz was the father of French Romanticism in music. He composed original work on a grand scale, and was seen as crazy by many. His wild hairstyle reflected his wild ways.
Hector Berlioz, 1850
(painting by Gustave Courbet)
Theme from Berlioz’s symphony, Harold en Italie (Harold in Italy) with the composer’s signature at the bottom
Bizet’s most famous work was the opera Carmen (1875), one of the most popular operas ever written. Other notable examples of Bizet music: Les Pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers); La Jolie Fille de Perth (The Fair Maid of Perth); and the incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play, L’Arlésienne.
Chopin’s music was mostly written for the piano. Chopin music includes piano sonatas, concertos, études (studies), nocturnes, preludes, scherzos, ballades, waltzes (such as the Minute Waltz), and mazurkas. Other well known Chopin works for the piano include the Barcarolle, Opus 60, the Fantasia, Opus 49, and the Berceuse, Opus 57.
in a seemingly pensive yet watchful mood
(Painting by Eugène Delacroix, 1838)
(Drawing by Rudolph Lehmann, 1847)
The writer, George Sand (1804-76),
Chopin’s lover during the 1840s
Hungarian composer and pianist
Liszt was perhaps the greatest piano virtuoso of his era as well as being one of the great composers of the Romantic era. Liszt music includes piano concertos, symphonies, symphonic poems, sacred choral works, and many works for the solo piano (such as the Liebesträume).
Liszt had the appearance of a tall, dark, handsome rock star. This is perhaps not a coincidence. Long before the days of Beatlemania, there was Lisztomania, and Liszt had crowds of frenzied female fans at his concerts.
Liszt performing at the piano. The year is 1840; the place is a salon in Paris. His audience includes famous writers and musicians, (left to right) Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Georges Sand, Niccolo Paganini, and Gioacchinio Rossini, as well as Liszt’s mistress, the Countess Marie d’Agoult.
Mendelssohn music includes the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Hebrides overture; the Scottish Symphony; the Italian Symphony; and the oratorios St. Paul and Elijah.
Cécile Jeanrenaud, whom Felix Mendelssohn married in 1837. Their marriage was a happy one and they had five children.
Rossini was an opera composer, and is especially well-known for his comic operas. Some of his great operas include Tancredi, The Italian Girl in Algiers, The Barber of Seville, Semiramide, William Tell and Cinderella.
Gioacchino Rossini in 1820
The great soprano, Isabella Colbran, whom Rossini married in 1822 and for whom he wrote many major roles in his operas
Schubert was a prolific writer of the German Lied (song for solo voice with accompaniment, often by piano). He wrote more than 500 songs. Some of his great song cycles were Die Schöne Müllerin (The Miller’s Beautiful Daughter), Die Winterreise (Winter Journey), and Schwanengesang (Swan Song). Schubert music includes many symphonies, including Symphony in C Major (the Great), masses, string quartets and other chamber music (such as the Trout Quintet), operas, and piano works.
Franz Schubert with book
Robert Schumann wrote many Lieder (solo songs) such as Myrthen (Myrtles), the two Liederkreise (Song Cycles), Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love) and Frauenliebe und Leben (Woman’s Love and Life). Other Schumann music includes symphonies (such as the No 4 in D Minor) , chamber works (including the Piano Quintet in E Flat Major), and the overture to Lord Byron’s drama Manfred.
(Drawing by A Menzel)
Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara, a celebrated pianist
Rimsky-Korsakov was a member (along with Balakirev, Borodin, Cui and Mussorgsky) of the group of Russian nationalist composers known as The Mighty Handful (or The Five). Rimsky-Korsakov music includes: operas; symphonies; thetone poem, Sheherazade; the symphonic suite, Capriccio espagnol; songs; and chamber music. The Flight of the Bumblebee from his opera, The Legend of Tsar Saltan is also well-known.
Johann Strauss, the Younger
Known as the Waltz King, Strauss wrote over 150 Viennese waltzes, including An der schönen blauen Donau (The Blue Danube) and Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Woods). Other Strauss music includes operettas, such as Die Fledermaus (The Bat) and Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), as well as many polkas and marches.
Johann Strauss II
A glittering waltz in Vienna, Austria in late 1800s. Strauss waltzes were enormously popular at such events.
Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky was the most popular Russian composer of all time. He wrote three great ballets: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. He also wrote operas, including Eugene Onegin, The Maid of Orleans, The Queen of Spades, and Iolanta. Tchaikovsky music also includes symphonies,concertos, tone poems (such as Romeo and Juliet and Francesca da Rimini), orchestral works (such as Capriccio italien and the 1812 Overture), and many songs.
Nadezdha von Meck,
a wealthy widow who was a
generous patron of Tchaikovsky
Italian operatic composer
Verdi wrote many operas including Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore (The Troubador), La Traviata, Aïda, Otello, and Falstaff. Verdi music also includes church choral music such as his Requiem Mass, Ave Maria, Te Deum, and Stabat Mater.
German opera composer
Wagner wrote many operas including Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) and Parsifal, as well as the opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).
The major Stravinsky music successes include: the ballets L’oiseau de feu (The Firebird), Petruska and Le sacré du printemps (The Rite of Spring); the music-theatre piece The Soldier’s Tale; symphonies, concertos, chamber music and jazz music; the operas Oedipus Rex and The Rake’s Progress; and religious music including the Symphony of Psalms.
(Drawing by Pablo Picasso, 1920)
Shostakovich was a Soviet composer. Shostakovich music includes: the opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District (later revised as Katerina Ismailova); fifteen symphonies, such as the Fifth Symphony and the Leningrad Symphony; concertos; chamber music; ballet, film and theatre scores; choral and vocal music; and piano music.