The piano was central to the musical life of Franz Liszt. He was a virtuoso performer on the instrument from an early age, and his tours of Europe were legendary, and his compositions for piano and orchestra challenged the conservative nature that had crept into music in the middle 19th century. But despite his leadership with Wagner in what was called at the time "New Music", he had an interest in past composers and forms. He championed works by composers that were unknown to th
The opus 28 preludes by Chopin were first published in 1839, a date that coincides with the winter of 1838-1839 in which he spent inMajorca with George Sand and her children. This has led some to believe that Chopin wrote the preludes in Majorca over that winter, but while some of theme were no doubt written then, there is evidence that some of the preludes were begun as early as 1831. Each of the 24 major and minor keys are represented by a prelude. Some of them are quite
Only the later keyboard sonatas of Joseph Haydn were for piano, as the earliest ones were for harpsichord. Some of the middle sonatas were for harpsichord or piano, at the performers discretion. But the transition from harpsichord to piano was inevitable, as the piano was capable of a much wider dynamic range, variety of tone color, and expression.
Haydn lived through a time of transition of forms of music as well. What modern listeners would call a sonata was derived from various mu
After years of being copied out and passed from musician to musician, Bach's Well Tempered Clavier was published in 1801, almost 100 years later than the manuscript for Book One that is dated 1722. The influence the collection has had on music, musicians and composers since then is immeasurable
Modern times have not lessened its importance to the music lover and musician. They are useful as etudes for the building of a solid keyboard technique, as well as models of the diversit
The meaning of a word or phrase can change over time, with the word symphony being an example. A word with Greek roots, the meaning within ancient music referred to sounds that were consonant, that is, sounds that were pleasing to the ear. This meaning also went through many changes, with one being used to describe a musical instrument, especially one that could make more than one sound at the same time. In the eighteenth century the word became to define a form of music that wa
As the word implies, the musical prelude began as a extemporized piece that acted as an introduction to another work, most of them for keyboard or lute. This was done to check the tuning of the instrument as well as to limber up the fingers of the player. They set the key and tempo of the piece to come as well. They became a part of set music practice in the 16th century into the middle of the 18th century.
Johann Sebastian Bach's preludes for organ and the set of 48 preludes and fu
The history of the term ballad begins with a type of French medieval narrative song which was generally danced to. Ballet derives from the same base word in French, so both words have the action of dance in common. While the etymology of the word may be French, the ballad was a narrative song or poem that has been historically found across Europe and England and was associated with minstrels for centuries.
This cursory description of an historical ballad has a direct bearing on the term as
The word impromptu by definition implies something that is spontaneous, improvised. That definition does not really imply in music, for the impromptus as written by Schubert and other composers are hardly improvisations. They are well-crafted short pieces for the piano that have a definite structure.
Schubert wrote eight impromptus, but he was not the first to use the term. The first known use of the word for published musical works was by the Czech composer and pianist Jan Vá
Camille Saint-Saëns was an example of the consummate musician as he was a performer, conductor, composer and musicologist. Music was not his only interest, as he also studied many areas of science such as archeology, botany and especially astronomy. He was keen on mathematics and literature as well.
His musical output included works for solo piano, piano and orchestra, symphonies, opera, and chamber music. He also composed music for the solo organ, but much of it is relatively
Late in 1827 there was an auction held in the city of Vienna, Austria. Beethoven had died in the spring of that year, and his belongings were being sold. The partner of Anton Diabelli, a music publisher in Vienna, attended the auction and purchased an unfinished manuscript of a piece for piano. Diabelli said that the manuscript had an inscription on it that read in German: Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen, ausgetobt in einer Caprice that translates to English as Rage
Charles Alkan's set of piano pieces titled Souvenirs: Trois Morceaux Dans le Genre Pathétique, Opus 15 (Three Pieces In The Pathetic Style) was published in 1837. Alkan's music was not generally reviewed in any of the music periodicals of the time outside of his native France, and it is to those French publications that musicologists and researchers must look for any contemporary views of his music. Even those are rather sparse, owing in some part to his reclusive nature in lat
The music of Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz evolved from early pieces composed in a European Romantic salon style, to music quintessentially Spanish. Albéniz used the characteristics of native music that was a melting pot of stylistic influences that began with the Islamic Moors in the 8th century. Added to the mix was music of the Romani people (Gypsies) that led to Flamenco, as well as other influences. This in turn lead to different styles of music according to the different are
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius is most well known for his music for orchestra. The seven symphonies he composed from 1900-1924 remain in the repertoire of many modern orchestras and have had a profound effect on composers. But he wrote music in many other genres as well, including music for solo piano.
Most of his solo piano works are in sets, like the six Impromptus of opus 5. Sibelius wrote music for solo piano throughout his composing career, and the fact that it isn't
No one is quite sure when Felix Mendelssohn composed the Rondo Capriccioso, with some musicologists offering up as early as 1824 when he was 15 years old. But there is certainty when it was fully composed and revised, for Mendelssohn put the date of June 13, 1830 on the revision.
Perhaps Mendelssohn revised it for a specific pianist, Delphine von Schauroth, who was from Munich. She was close to Mendelssohn's age, and they had met again when Mendelssohn was passing through Munich dur
Charles-Valentin Alkan wrote his Grand Sonata 'The Four Ages' after he returned to performing in 1844 after a six-year hiatus. The work was published in 1847. Alkan lived in an apartment in Paris, the Square d'Orléans for about ten years and was a neighbor to Chopin. They became close friends, and he became acquainted with many other artists that lived in Paris at the time, including Franz Liszt.
The work is in 4 movements, with each one portraying the ages of a man. Alkan wro
Chopin published his second set of 12 etudes for the piano in 1837, four years after his Etudes Opus 10. The second set continues in giving musical worth to technical exercises, and remains popular today. While the opus 10 set was dedicated to Franz Liszt, the opus 25 set was dedicated to Liszt's mistress, Marie d'Agoult. Why Chopin did that is still a mystery.
1. In A-flat Major 'Aeolian Harp' - As in the first set, there are some etudes in this set that have nicknames.
Ernest Chausson had a range of talents besides music. Through the urgings of his father, he completed his law degree and was appointed as a barrister to the court of appeals, but he was more interested in drawing, writing, and music. While he contemplated which way his life would go, he wrote a novel and spent time with his artist friends. He composed music as well, and played the piano as soloist and duet partner, and finally took private music lessons with Jules Massenet, an expense his wealth
The influence that the virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini exerted on composers and performers of the early 19th century cannot be overestimated. Never had any performer demonstrate the total mastery of an instrument as Paganini did on the violin. He also had a level of showmanship that helped make him world famous.
Franz Liszt was already an accomplished concert pianist when he first heard Paganini in Paris in 1832, and was determined to do for the piano what Paganini did fo
As with the first book of preludes, Claude Debussy wrote the second book of twelve in a few months between 1912 and 1913. They are similar in mood to those of the first book, but the music itself is more complex harmonically and there is a greater emphasis on technique. During Debussy's lifetime, Book I sold more copies than Book II, possibly because the nature of the music was that much more unique. Debussy followed the procedure of Book I by placing his descriptive titles of the pieces a
MJoseph Haydn was not the first composer to write for two violins, viola and cello, but he did develop the ensemble into a form that has engaged many composers from his time to the present. His 68 string quartets show an unending imagination and creativity. They became the standard to which all other string quartets were judged by.
Mozart's first of 26 string quartets was written in 1770 when he was 14 years of age. As his experience and expertise grew, his quartets began to be inspired by
The musical world has had its share of composers who have died young. A short list of the most famous and influential: Franz Schubert at 31, Wolfgang Mozart at 35, Georges Bizet at 37, George Gershwin at 38, and Frederic Chopin at 39. There are many others who are less well known, and the Polish pianist and composer Juliusz Zarębski falls into this category as he died in 1885 at the age of 31.
Zarębski was a child prodigy with his mother being his first piano teacher. When he was si
In 1884 Saint-Saëns went on a concert tour with the violinist Martin Marsick, and perhaps that was the inspiration for the composition of his first violin sonata. Saint-Saëns had written sonatas for the instrument in his youth, but this is the first one of his maturity. The sonata was dedicated to Marsick.
The work is in 4 movements, but Saint-Saëns pairs them up in 2 sections as he was later to do with the movements of his 3rd Symphony so that t
A string quintet ensemble is usually made up of a string quartet; two violins, viola and cello, with the addition of another cello or viola. On occasion a double bass may be one of the extra instruments. The two string quintets Mozart wrote in 1787 have an additional viola added, because reportedly Mozart's favorite stringed instrument to play was the viola.
The pair of quintets are a study in contrast, as the one in C major is of a decidedly more sunny disposition than the on
Giuseppe Verdi is most well remembered as a composer of operas. His first opera, Oberto had its premiere in 1839, and his last, Falstaff was premiered in 1893. Some of his operas are the most popular ever written and are still performed by opera companies around the world.
He was born in 1813 and showed great musical talent early on. By the age of 8 he was the official paid organist of the church of Busseto which was near the village where he was born. At twelv
There is much discussion in classical music circles whether to play the Well Tempered Clavier on the modern piano or on the instruments of Bach's time. There is no evidence that Bach had any particular keyboard instrument in mind when he wrote the WTC. Harpsichord, clavichord, organ, even a little-known keyboard instrument called the lautenwerk (lute harpsichord) that had gut strings and sounded like a lute, all could have been used to play the pieces.