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
Dvořák's String Quintet In E-flat Major was a product of his stay in the United States as the director
of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City from 1892 to 1895. During the summer of 1893 he stayed in Spillville, Iowa where there was a community of Czech immigrants. Dvořák was a man with deep roots in his homeland, and the few months he spent in Spillville helped to aleve some of his homesickness. He wrote a letter to a Czech friend and described Spillvi
Edward Elgar's father was a piano tuner, organist and professional grade violinist. His mother instilled in her son a love of nature and the arts. All of the Elgar children had musical training from local teachers, with Edgar excelling in violin and organ playing. But in the social class structure of 19th century Victorian era England, the common social standing of Elgar's family didn't help with his desire to become a composer. This combined with the fact that he received very little form
The death of his oldest daughter in 1855 affected the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana profoundly. She had shown great aptitude for music despite being only 4 years old. He had lost a younger daughter in 1854, and yet another daughter only eight months old in 1856. Smetana dedicated his only piano trio to his oldest daughter Bedřiška in 1855. Some twenty years later Smetana wrote about the trio to a friend:The death of my eldest daughter, an exceptionally talented child, motivate
Julius Röntgen was born in Leipzig, but in 1877 when he was 21 years old he chose to go to Amsterdam instead of Vienna. He became active in the musical life of the city and helped to found the Amsterdam Conservatory as well as the Royal Concertgebouw concert hall.
Röntgen was a friend of Grieg, Brahms, and many other composers and musicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1919 he became a Dutch citizen, and in 1924 he retired from public life and devote
Franz Liszt and Chopin met each other in Paris about 1831, and they performed in concert together a few times. The two composers developed a somewhat uneasy friendship for many reasons, perhaps mostly because of their differing personalities. Liszt was the most dynamic piano virtuoso of the time, and had a huge stage presence and charisma. Chopin was never the towering virtuoso that Liszt was, and his piano playing was more suited to the salon than the concert hall. But Liszt showed no hesitatio
Carl Tausig was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1841. His father gave him his first lessons on the piano and when he was 14 his father took him to Weimar to meet Liszt. He became one of Liszt's favorite students, and went on to become friends with Wagner and Johannes Brahms. Brahms admired his piano playing so much that he dedicated the Studies For Pianoforte, Variations On A Theme Of Paganini Opus 35 to Tausig.
Tausig was the most famous of Liszt's students, and his techn
The Germanic legend of Faust was first in book form in 1587, with various retelling in the 16th and 17th centuries. The legend was used as the subject of a play written by the English playwright Christopher Marlowe in 1604 that was taken from an English translation. The most familiar telling of the story is no doubt the one written by Johann von Goethe in two volumes that were published in 1808 and 1832 respectively. Goethe's version appeared when the Romantic movement in literature
The human voice is in many ways the most flexible and expressive musical instrument known to man, as well as being the first. The organization of sounds that developed into the first musical systems of the world were based on the human voice, and professional composers have been inspired to write for it for centuries. Contemporary popular music is almost exclusively for the accompanied voice, and classical music has a huge repertoire of vocal music for soloist, chorus, and all kinds of com
This 8thVolume in the Musical Musings series of articles about classical music continues with selected compositions in the genre of the symphony. As in Part One (Musical Musings Volume II – Symphonies Part One) there are well known works represented in addition to works that are less well known.
The symphony evolved over many years, and this volume includes a symphony by one of the first acknowledged composers who wrote in the form, Giovanni Sammartini, who began writing symphonie
The history of concerted music for orchestra and one or more soloists is a long one, beginning with the early Baroque period (beginning roughly in 1600) to the modern contemporary period. The repertoire for one or more soloists and orchestra is huge in sheer number and variety of works, hence the Concerto category is the first category to have a second volume devoted to it.
The solo concerto really came into being in the early 18th century with the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi
LINK TO BOOK
This 6thvolume of articles from my classical music blog Musical Musings deals with chamber music, which is by definition music written for a small group of musicians, most often with each instrument having its own individual part. The term chamber music also refers to the size of the venue that the music is to be performed in, such as salons, parlors and small rooms in individual dwellings. This sense still applies today, but chamber music can also played in larger
Two more ebooks of classical music analysis and performances:
Musical Musings Volume 4 - Music For Keyboard
This is the 4thvolume in my series of articles about classical music. All of these articles originally appeared on my classical music blog Musical Musings. As with the other volumes in the series, there is a link to a performance of the musical work discussed in the article.
This volume contains works for keyboard; works for organ, clavichord, harpsi