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
Joseph 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.
A piano quartet is any composition that is for piano and three other instruments. There have been various combinations of instruments and the piano, but the standard instrumentation is that of one violin, one viola, one cello, and piano.
As with most forms of chamber music, the piano quartet naturally evolved from sonatas for one or more instruments with a figured bass accompaniment. The first quartets with keyboard were no doubt played on the harpsichord, but in the latter part of
From 1914 to 1918 the entire world was engulfed in the first global conflict of its kind. There was no way to predict the carnage, death and destruction that was to come, with an estimated total death count of over 8 million and 21 million wounded. France was one of the hardest hit countries for deaths with over a million being killed and over 4 million wounded. Louis Vierne composed his Piano Quintet In C Minor in 1917 as a memorial to his son that had recently been killed in the war.
Despite his death over 250 years ago, Johann Sebastian Bach's music continues to be acknowledged as some of the greatest ever written. He wrote music in all the forms of his time except for opera, and his output was huge. His career spanned a time of great change in not only musical styles but musical instruments themselves.
The piano forte had been invented by the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori sometime in the early 18th century, and Bach played some early examples, b
Giacomo Puccini was the heir apparent to Giuseppe Verdi in the world of Italian opera in the late 19th and early 20th century, whose operas are still popular. He took the tradition of Italian opera in the direction of Wagner with his sense of orchestration and dramatic flow, while retaining the Italianate penchant for melody.
Puccini came from a family of musicians that stretched back 5 generations. While he was a church organist, he made the 18 mile trip to Pisa on foot to see
Camille Saint-Saëns was born in 1835 and during his life of 86 years (he died in 1921) he saw many changes in the world. He was a man of brilliant intellect, not only for music, but for the other arts and sciences as well. But music held a special place in his mind and heart, and with the coming of what was in his later years called 'modern music', he became a staunch defender of the classic forms and practices of music that were developed by Liszt and Wagner.
Long before recorded sound, arias from operas were the hit songs of their day. All through the 19th century, composers and performers extracted the most popular arias and subjected them to arrangements, sets of variations and paraphrases (as Franz Liszt called them) for performance. Music publishers were fond of these arrangements as they made money on them by selling to professionals as well as accomplished amateurs.
The famed virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini wrote sets of
Johann Sebastian Bach came by his reputation as the master of counterpoint and fugue with the 48 Preludes and Fugues of The Well Tempered Clavier, but counterpoint was his life's blood, and appeared in one form or another in most of his compositions. When Bach died in 1750, there was already a movement underfoot to change the tools of musical expression from counterpoint to a simpler form of melody and accompaniment. The result was that Bach was considered old fashioned, even when he was still a
Gabriel Fauré was the only member of his family that showed a talent for music. His father was a schoolmaster that became the head of teacher training college. His father was advised of his son's musical talent and made the decision to send him to Paris to the School Of Classical And Religious Music (which was founded and run by Louis Niedemeyer) when Fauré was 9 years old to study music. When Niedemeyer died in 1861, Camille Saint-Saëns came to the school and became in charge
Felix Mendelssohn's life was a busy one from the days of his youthful study of music and art to his adult life as a performer, administrator and composer. The year that his C minor piano trio was composed saw him take a break from his strenuous duties as conductor and music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra. His tremendous workload had taken its toll on his health, which was never to be as robust as before. The death of his beloved sister Fanny in 1847 was the final tragedy he could n
Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga (full name Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio de Arriaga y Balzola) was a Basque/Spanish composer of the early 19th century. He was a child prodigy of tremendous natural abilities and when he was about fifteen years old was sent to the Paris Conservatoire in 1822 for serious study. His teachers, as well as the director of the Conservatoire, Luigi Cherubini, were amazed at his natural talent and ability to learn so quickly.
String trios for violin, viola and cello came about as a form roughly in the last half of the 18th century. They came from the earlier form of trio sonata for two or three solo instruments plus basso continuo. There were three parts to the earlier trio sonata, even if there were in actuality 3 soloists and continuo, as the continuo played the bass and harmonies and was always included. The continuo was most often a keyboard instrument, but the bass line itself was often doubled by a bass i
Music is an art that goes through stages and fads like any other art. Turkish or Janissary music was a fad that saw Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven among other composers write music in that style. In the style of is an important phrase, for these composers and others Westernized the traditional music of Janissary bands to make it more suitable for their audiences. They used the rhythms and (for the time) the exotic sounds of drums, bells, and cymbals.
The two visits Joseph Haydn made to London in the late 18th century inspired him to compose works to be performed while he was there. Both trips were highly successful, and concerts were sold out for performances of his works. But Haydn was a composer in all genres, and not all of his music was written to be performed in public concert. The drawing rooms and parlors of the elite English served as locales for his chamber music as well.
Haydn met many musicians during his tours of London, wi
Luigi Boccherini was not only one of the most prolific Italian composers of the 18th century, he was a virtuoso cellist as well. His father was a cellist and double bass player that sent Luigi to Rome for study. Father and son traveled to Vienna in 1757 where they were employed in the court orchestra. Boccherini became so proficient on his instrument that he could play much of the repertoire of the violin on the cello at pitch, a skill he learned when he substituted for an ailing or absent violi
In 1871, Rimsky-Korsakov was offered the position of professor of composition and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory of Music. He accepted the position although he was still an officer in the Russian Navy and had to teach his classes in uniform. Of more immediate concern was Rimsky-Korsakov's lack of formal musical education. He had already composed works for orchestra that had received glowing reviews, but he composed them by his natural talent and keen ear. He consulted h
Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote very little chamber music, only eight pieces in all. An early string quartet and quintet for harp and string quartet went without opus numbers. Of the six numbered compositions there are three string quartets, a work for violin and piano, the In Memory Of A Great Artist piano trio and the Souvenir of Florence string sextet.
All three numbered sring quartets were written between 1871-1876, with the 3rd quartet being written in Paris and Moscow early in 18
Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote two piano trios within a year of each other, and both were called Trio Élégiaque (elegiac, or mournful trio). The first was written in 1892 when Rachmaninoff was 19 years old. He wrote it in a three-day period, and he was the pianist at the premiere of the work a few days later. The second trio was written in 1893 shortly after the death of Tchaikovsky, a composer Rachmaninoff admired. So the second trio is actually an elegy in remembrance of Tchaiko