1.Johan Sebastian Bach(1685-1750)
(born Eisenach, 21 March 1685; died Leipzig, 28 July 1750)
He was the youngest son of Johann Ambrosius Bach, a town musician, from whom he probably learnt the violin and the rudiments of musical theory. When he was ten he was orphaned and went to live with his elder brother Johann Christoph, organist at St. Michael's Church, Ohrdruf, who gave him lessons in keyboard playing. From 1700 to 1702 he attended St. Michael's School in Lüneburg, where he sang in the church choir and probably came into contact with the organist and composer Georg Böhm. He also visited Hamburg to hear J.A. Reincken at the organ of St. Catherine's Church.
After competing unsuccessfully for an organist's post in Sangerhausen in 1702, Bach spent the spring and summer of 1703 as 'lackey' and violinist at the court of Weimar and then took up the post of organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt. In June 1707 he moved to St. Blasius, Mühlhausen, and four months later married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach in nearby Dornheim. Bach was appointed organist and chamber musician to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar in 1708, and in the next nine years he became known as a leading organist and composed many of his finest works for the instrument. During this time he fathered seven children, including Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel. When, in 1717, Bach was appointed Kapellmeister at Cöthen, he was at first refused permission to leave Weimar and was allowed to do so only after being held prisoner by the duke for almost a month.
Bach's new employer, Prince Leopold, was a talented musician who loved and understood the art. Since the court was Calvinist, Bach had no chapel duties and instead concentrated on instrumental composition. From this period date his violin concertos and the six Brandenburg Concertos, as well as numerous sonalas, suites and keyboard works, including several (e.g. the Inventions and Book I of the '48') intended for instruction. In 1720 Maria Barbara died while Bach was visiting Karlsbad with the prince; in December of the following year Bach married Anna Magdalena Wilcke, daughter of a court trumpeter at Weissenfels. A week later Prince Leopold also married, and his bride's lack of interest in the arts led to a decline in the support given to music at the Cöthen court. In 1722 Bach entered his candidature for the prestigious post of Director musices at Leipzig and Kantor of the Thomasschule there. In April 1723, after the preferred candidates, Telemann and Graupner, had withdrawn, he was offered the post and accepted it.
Bach remained as Thomaskantor in Leipzig for the rest of his life, often in conflict with the authorities, but a happy family man and a proud and caring parent. His duties centred on the Sunday and feastday services at the city's two main churches, and during his early years in Leipzig he composed prodigious quantities of church music, including four or five cantata cycles, the Magnificat and the St. John and St. Matthew Passions. He was by this time renowned as a virtuoso organist and in constant demand as a teacher and an expert in organ construction and design. His fame as a composer gradually spread more widely when, from 1726 onwards, he began to bring out published editions of some of his keyboard and organ music.
From about 1729 Bach's interest in composing church music sharply declined, and most of his sacred works after that date, including the b Minor Mass and the Christmas Oratorio, consist mainly of 'parodies' or arrangements of earlier music. At the same time he took over the direction of the collegium musicum that Telemann had founded in Leipzig in 1702 - a mainly amateur society which gave regular public concerts. For these Bach arranged harpsichord concertos and composed several large-scale cantatas, or serenatas, to impress the Elector of Saxony, by whom he was granted the courtesy title of Hofcompositeur in 1736.
Among the 13 children born to Anna Magdalena at Leipzig was Bach's youngest son, Johann Christian, in 1735. In 1744 Bach's second son, Emanuel, was married, and three years later Bach visited the couple and their son (his first grandchild) at Potsdam, where Emanuel was employed as harpsichordist by Frederick the Great. At Potsdam Bach improvised on a theme given to him by the king, and this led to the composition of the Musical Offering, a compendium of fugue, canon, and sonata based on the royal theme. Contrapuntal artifice predominates in the work of Bach's last decade, during which his membership (from 1747) of Lorenz Mizler's learned Society of Musical Sciences profoundly affected his musical thinking. The Canonic Variations for organ was one of the works Bach presented to the society, and the unfinished Art of Fugue may also have been intended for distribution among its members.
Bach's eyesight began to deteriorate during his last year and in March and April 1750 he was twice operated on by the itinerant English oculist John Taylor. The operations and the treatment that followed them may have hastened Bach's death. He took final communion on 22 July and died six days later. On 31 July he was buried at St. John's cemetery. His widow survived him for ten years, dying in poverty in 1760.
Bach's output embraces practically every musical genre of his time except for the dramatic ones of opera and oratorio (his three 'oratorios' being oratorios only in a special sense). He opened up new dimensions in virtually every department of creative work to which he turned, in format, musical quality and technical demands. As was normal at the time, his creative production was mostly bound up with the extemal factors of his places of work and his employers, but the density and complexity of his music are such that analysts and commentators have uncovered in it layers of religious and numerological significance rarely to be found in the music of other composers. Many of his contemporaries, notably the critic J.A. Scheibe, found his music too involved and lacking in immediate melodic appeal, but his chorale harmonizations and fugal works were soon adopted as models for new generations of musicians. The course of Bach's musical development was undeflected (though not entirely uninfluenced) by the changes in musical style taking place around him. Together with his great contemporary Handel (whom chance prevented his ever meeting), Bach was the last great representative of the Baroque era in an age which was already rejecting the Baroque aesthetic in favour of a new,'enlightened'one.
2.George Frederick Handel(1685-1759)
(born Halle (Germany), 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759).
He was born Georg Friederich Händel, son of a barber-surgeon who intended him for the law. At first he practised music clandestinely, but his father was encouraged to allow him to study and he became a pupil of Zachow, the principal organist in Halle. When he was 17 he was appointed organist of the Calvinist Cathedral, but a year later he left for Hamburg. There he played the violin and harpsichord in the opera house, where his Almira was given at the beginning of 1705, soon followed by his Nero. The next year he accepted an invitation to Italy, where he spent more than three years, in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice. He had operas or other dramatic works given in all these cities (oratorios in Rome, including La resurrezione) and, writing many Italian cantatas, perfected his technique in setting Italian words for the human voice. In Rome he also composed some Latin church music.
He left Italy early in 1710 and went to Hanover, where he was appointed Kapellmeister to the elector. But he at once took leave to take up an invitation to London, where his opera Rinaldo was produced early in 1711. Back in Hanover, he applied for a second leave and returned to London in autumn 1712. Four more operas followed in 1712-15, with mixed success; he also wrote music for the church and for court and was awarded a royal pension. In 1716 he may have visited Germany (where possibly he set Brockes's Passion text); it was probably the next year that he wrote the Water Music to serenade George I at a river-party on the Thames. In 1717 he entered the service of the Earl of Carnarvon (soon to be Duke of Chandos) at Edgware, near London, where he wrote 11 anthems and two dramatic works, the evergreen Acis and Galatea and Esther, for the modest band of singers and players retained there.
In 1718-19 a group of noblemen tried to put Italian opera in London on a firmer footing, and launched a company with royal patronage, the Royal Academy of Music; Handel, appointed musical director, went to Germany, visiting Dresden and poaching several singers for the Academy, which opened in April 1720. Handel's Radamisto was the second opera and it inaugurated a noble series over the ensuing years including Ottone, Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda, Tamerlano and Admeto. Works by Bononcini (seen by some as a rival to Handel) and others were given too, with success at least equal to Handel's, by a company with some of the finest singers in Europe, notably the castrato Senesino and the soprano Cuzzoni. But public support was variable and the financial basis insecure, and in 1728 the venture collapsed. The previous year Handel, who had been appointed a composer to the Chapel Royal in 1723, had composed four anthems for the coronation of George II and had taken British naturalization.
Opera remained his central interest, and with the Academy impresario, Heidegger, he hired the King's Theatre and (after a journey to Italy and Germany to engage fresh singers) embarked on a five-year series of seasons starting in late 1729. Success was mixed. In 1732 Esther was given at a London musical society by friends of Handel's, then by a rival group in public; Handel prepared to put it on at the King's Theatre, but the Bishop of London banned a stage version of a biblical work. He then put on Acis, also in response to a rival venture. The next summer he was invited to Oxford and wrote an oratorio, Athalia, for performance at the Sheldonian Theatre. Meanwhile, a second opera company ('Opera of the Nobility', including Senesino) had been set up in competition with Handel's and the two competed for audiences over the next four seasons before both failed. This period drew from Handel, however, such operas as Orlando and two with ballet, Ariodante and Alcina, among his finest scores.
During the rest of the 1730s Handel moved between Italian opera and the English forms, oratorio, ode and the like, unsure of his future commercially and artistically. After a joumey to Dublin in 1741-2, where Messiah had its premiere (in aid of charities), he put opera behind him and for most of the remainder of his life gave oratorio performances, mostly at the new Covent Garden theatre, usually at or close to the Lent season. The Old Testament provided the basis for most of them (Samson, Belshazar, Joseph. Joshua, Solomon, for example), but he sometimes experimented, turning to classical mythology (Semele, Hercules) or Christian history (Theodora), with little public success. All these works, along with such earlier ones as Acis and his two Cecilian odes (to Dryden words), were performed in concert form in English. At these performances he usually played in the interval a concerto on the organ (a newly invented musical genre) or directed a concerto grosso (his op.6, a set of 12, published in 1740, represents his finest achievement in the form).
During his last decade he gave regular performances of Messiah, usually with about 16 singers and an orchestra of about 40, in aid of the Foundling Hospital. In 1749 he wrote a suite for wind instruments (with optional strings) for performance in Green Park to accompany the Royal Fireworks celebrating the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. His last oratorio, composed as he grew blind, was Jephtha (1752); The Triumph of Time and Truth (1757) is largely composed of earlier material. Handel was very economical in the re-use of his ideas; at many times in his life he also drew heavily on the music of others (though generally avoiding detection) - such 'borrowings' may be of anything from a brief motif to entire movements, sometimes as they stood but more often accommodated to his own style.
Handel died in 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, recognized in England and by many in Germany as the greatest composer of his day. The wide range of expression at his command is shown not only in the operas, with their rich and varied arias, but also in the form he created, the English oratorio, where it is applied to the fates of nations as well as individuals. He had a vivid sense of drama. But above all he had a resource and originality of invention, to be seen in the extraordinary variety of music in the op.6 concertos, for example, in which melodic beauty, boldness and humour all play a part, that place him and J.S. Bach as the supreme masters of the Baroque era in music.
We assume that Tchaikovsky was always destined to be a great musician, but in fact his respected piano teacher, Rudolf Kundinger, tried hard to dissuade him from a musical career. Fortunately for us all, Kundinger’s advice was ignored.
Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, the 7th of May 1840, Tchaikovsky was the second eldest of six children. At the age of six he could read French and German and at seven wrote verses in French and began piano lessons. He spent the first eight years of his life comparatively settled, but in 1848 his father, a mining engineer, resigned his government post which brought about a difficult period of constant moves. In 1850 Tchaikovsky began attending the St. Petersburg School of Jurisprudence, becoming a clerk in the Ministry of Justice in 1859. He studied with Nicolai Zaremba until the opening of the new St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1862, to which he transferred. The next year Tchaikovsky left his job in the Ministry of Justice to study full time at the Conservatory.
Anton Rubenstein, the director of the conservatory, took an interest in Tchaikovsky and had him study everything including conducting. He was always terrified of facing an orchestra (even when in great demand as a conductor), fearing his head would fall from his shoulders. For that reason he conducted with his left hand under his chin to keep it attached.
Graduating after four years he went on to teach for twelve years at the Moscow Conservatory, where he began to compose. In his first two years there he had already written his first symphony and the opera Voyevoda. In 1868 he met with the famous group of young Russian composers "The Five" - Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Although he greatly admired them and wrote his second symphony in response to their fervor, he never joined the group and in the end thought of them as more internationalists than true Russians.
From 1869 to 1875 he wrote three more operas and became music critic for Russkiye Vedomosti in 1872.
In 1877 one of his pupils, Antonina Milyokova, declared her love for Tchaikovsky and hinted at suicide unless he would marry her. So involved was he in the composition of Eugene Onegin that he could not find it in himself to callously reject her as had Onegin rejected Tatiana. In a bid for conventionality he married her, but after a disastrous nine weeks they separated. Tchaikovsky attempted suicide by drowning but was saved by his brother, Modeste, only to suffer a nervous breakdown. Tchaikovsky moved to Switzerland to recover and later to Italy. He continued his financial support of Antonina until his death. For her part, she took on a series of lovers and finally died in an asylum in 1917.
It was at this time that Tchaikosky came under the patronage of Madame Nadezhda von Meck who gave him a yearly allowance permitting him to give up teaching and devote his time to composition. They never met each other, but their correspondence was extensive and frank. He wrote his fourth symphony in dedication to Mme. von Meck.
Tchaikovsky became well regarded in Russia and also in Britain and the United States. In 1885 he moved to a country house in Klin where he lived in virtual isolation and wrote Manfred. 1888 and 1889 brought tours as a conductor to Germany, France and England. After the production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, Tchaikovsky went to Florence to work on his opera The Queen of Spades which was produced in St. Petersburg later that year. This was also the time when his sponsorship by Mme. von Meck ended, due either to her illness or pressure from her family. Although he no longer relied on her financial support, this was a dreadful blow to Tchaikovsky’s self esteem from which he never recovered.
1891 brought the very successful tour of the United States and Tchaikovsky's appearance at the opening of the Music Hall (renamed Carnegie Hall), followed the next year with the premiere of The Nutcracker. In 1893 he received an honorary doctorate of music from Cambridge University. The sixth symphony, having been begun in 1891 but abandoned, was completed in 1893. Tchaikovsky believed it to be his best work. The critics were not too kind. A few days later, November 6, 1893, Tchaikovsky died of cholera, probably the result of drinking a glass of unboiled water.
It has often been proposed that since Tchaikovsky's contacts with people were often unsatisfactory, his music became the expression of his emotions. While it is often pervaded by melancholy, there are times when the composer could shake off his gloom and write some of the most buoyant and brightest music ever heard. This he was able to achieve in The Nutcracker which came at a very low ebb in his affairs.
Tchaikovsky raised the status of ballet music to previously unknown distinction. Such a revolution, however, did not happen instantly. In his lifetime his ballet music was considered too symphonic, much as some of today's critics claim his symphonies are too balletic. It is difficult to understand why either should be considered a flaw.
Tchaikovsky loved danceable music, particularly that of Mozart who was one of his favorite composers. Tchaikovsky’s music, imbued with its sweeping lyricism, richness, and danceable qualities is a frequent choice of inspiration for choreographers.
4.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart(1756-1791)
(born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791). Son of Leopold Mozart.
He showed musical gifts at a very early age, composing when he was five and when he was six playing before the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. Leopold felt that it was proper, and might also be profitable, to exhibit his children's God-given genius (Maria Anna, 'Nannerl', 1751-1829, was a gifted keyboard player): so in mid-1763 the family set out on a tour that took them to Paris and London, visiting numerous courts en route. Mozart astonished his audiences with his precocious skills; he played to the French and English royal families, had his first music published and wrote his earliest symphonies. The family arrived home late in 1766; nine months later they were off again, to Vienna, where hopes of having an opera by Mozart performed were frustrated by intrigues.
They spent 1769 in Salzburg; 1770-73 saw three visits to Italy, where Mozart wrote two operas (Mitridate, Lucio Silla) and a serenata for performance in Milan, and acquainted himself with Italian styles. Summer 1773 saw a further visit to Vienna, probably in the hope of securing a post; there Mozart wrote a set of string quartets and, on his return, wrote a group of symphonies including his two earliest, nos.25 in g Minor and 29 in A, in the regular repertory. Apart from a joumey to Munich for the premiere of his opera La finta giardiniera early in 1775, the period from 1774 to mid-1777 was spent in Salzburg, where Mozart worked as Konzertmeister at the Prince- Archbishop's court; his works of these years include masses, symphonies, all his violin concertos, six piano sonatas, several serenades and divertimentos and his first great piano concerto, K271.
In 1777 the Mozarts, seeing limited opportunity in Salzburg for a composer so hugely gifted, resolved to seek a post elsewhere for Wolfgang. He was sent, with his mother, to Munich and to Mannheim, but was offered no position (though he stayed over four months at Mannheim, composing for piano and flute and falling in love with Aloysia Weber). His father then dispatched him to Paris: there he had minor successes, notably with his Paris Symphony, no.31, deftly designed for the local taste. But prospects there were poor and Leopold ordered him home, where a superior post had been arranged at the court. He returned slowly and alone; his mother had died in Paris. The years 1779-80 were spent in Salzburg, playing in the cathedral and at court, composing sacred works, symphonies, concertos, serenades and dramatic music. But opera remained at the centre of his ambitions, and an opportunity came with a commission for a serious opera for Munich. He went there to compose it late in 1780; his correspondence with Leopold (through whom he communicated with the librettist, in Salzburg) is richly informative about his approach to musical drama. The work, Idomeneo, was a success. In it Mozart depicted serious, heroic emotion with a richness unparalleled elsewhere in his works, with vivid orchestral writing and an abundance of profoundly expressive orchestral recitative.
Mozart was then summoned from Munich to Vienna, where the Salzburg court was in residence on the accession of a new emperor. Fresh from his success, he found himself placed between the valets and the cooks; his resentment towards his employer, exacerbated by the Prince-Archbishop's refusal to let him perform at events the emperor was attending, soon led to conflict, and in May 1781 he resigned, or was kicked out of, his job. He wanted a post at the Imperial court in Vienna, but was content to do freelance work in a city that apparently offered golden opportunities. He made his living over the ensuing years by teaching, by publishing his music, by playing at patrons' houses or in public, by composing to commission (particularly operas); in 1787 he obtained a minor court post as Kammermusicus, which gave him a reasonable salary and required nothing beyond the writing of dance music for court balls. He always earned, by musicians' standards, a good income, and had a carriage and servants; through lavish spending and poor management he suffered times of financial difficulty and had to borrow. In 1782 he married Constanze Weber, Aloysia's younger sister.
In his early years in Vienna, Mozart built up his reputation by publishing (sonatas for piano, some with violin), by playing the piano and, in 1782, by having an opera performed: Die Entführung aus dem Serail, a German Singspiel which went far beyond the usual limits of the tradition with its long, elaborately written songs (hence Emperor Joseph II's famous observation, 'Too many notes, my dear Mozart'). The work was successful and was taken into the repertories of many provincial companies (for which Mozart was not however paid). In these years, too, he wrote six string quartets which he dedicated to the master of the form, Haydn: they are marked not only by their variety of expression but by their complex textures, conceived as four-part discourse, with the musical ideas linked to this freshly integrated treatment of the medium. Haydn told Mozart's father that Mozart was 'the greatest composer known to me in person or by name; he has taste and, what is more, the greatest knowledge of composition'.
In 1782 Mozart embarked on the composition of piano concertos, so that he could appear both as composer and soloist. He wrote 15 before the end of 1786, with early 1784 as the peak of activity. They represent one of his greatest achievements, with their formal mastery, their subtle relationships between piano and orchestra (the wind instruments especially) and their combination of brilliance, lyricism and symphonic growth. In 1786 he wrote the first of his three comic operas with Lorenzo da Ponte as librettist, Le nozze di Figaro: here and in Don Giovanni (given in Prague, 1787) Mozart treats the interplay of social and sexual tensions with keen insight into human character that - as again in the more artificial sexual comedy of Cosi fan tutte (1790) - transcends the comic framework, just as Die Zauberflöte (1791) transcends, with its elements of ritual and allegory about human harmony and enlightenment, the world of the Viennese popular theatre from which it springs.Mozart lived in Vienna for the rest of his life. He undertook a number of joumeys: to Salzburg in 1783, to introduce his wife to his family; to Prague three times, for concerts and operas; to Berlin in 1789, where he had hopes of a post; to Frankfurt in 1790, to play at coronation celebrations. The last Prague journey was for the premiere of La clemenza di Tito (1791), a traditional serious opera written for coronation celebrations, but composed with a finesse and economy characteristic of Mozart's late music. Instrumental works of these years include some piano sonatas, three string quartets written for the King of Prussia, some string quintets, which include one of his most deeply felt works (K516 in g Minor) and one of his most nobly spacious (K515 in C), and his last four symphonies - one (no.38 in D) composed for Prague in 1786, the others written in 1788 and forming, with the lyricism of no.39 in E-flat, the tragic suggestiveness of no.40 in g Minor and the grandeur of no.41 in C, a climax to his orchestral music. His final works include the Clarinet Concerto and some pieces for masonic lodges (he had been a freemason since 1784; masonic teachings no doubt affected his thinking, and his compositions, in his last years). At his death from a feverish illness whose precise nature has given rise to much speculation (he was not poisoned), he left unfinished the Requiem, his first large-scale work for the church since the c Minor Mass of 1783, also unfinished; a completion by his pupil Süssmayr was long accepted as the standard one but there have been recent attempts to improve on it. Mozart was buried in a Vienna suburb, with little ceremony and in an unmarked grave, in accordance with prevailing custom.
5.Ludwig Van Beethoven(1770-1827)
Ludwig van Beethoven was baptised on December 17th 1770 at Bonn. His family originated from Brabant, in Belgium. His father was musician at the Court of Bonn, with a definite weakness for drink. His mother was always described as a gentle, retiring woman, with a warm heart. Beethoven referred to her as his "best friend". The Beethoven family consisted of seven children, but only the three boys survived, of whom Beethoven was the eldest.
At an early age, Beethoven took an interest in music, and his father taught him day and night, on returning to the house from music practice or the tavern. Without doubt, the child was gifted, and his father Johann envisaged creating a new Mozart, a child prodigy.
On March 26th 1778, at the age of 7 1/2, Beethoven gave his first know public performance, at Cologne. His father announced that he was 6 years old. Because of this, Beethoven always thought that he was younger than he actually was. Even much later, when he received a copy of his baptism certificate, he thought that it belonged to his brother Ludwig Maria, who was born two years before him, and died as a child.But the musical and teaching talents of Johann were limited. Soon Ludwig learned music, notably the organ and composition by renowned musicians, such as Gottlob Neefe. Neefe recognised the how extraordinarily talented Beethoven was. As well as teaching him music, he made the works of philosophers, ancient and modern, known to Beethoven.
In 1782, before the age of 12, Beethoven published his first work: 9 variations, in C Minor, for Piano, on a march by Ernst Christoph Dressler (WoO 63). And the following year, in 1783, Neefe wrote in the "Magazine of Music", about his student: "If he continues like this he will be, without doubt, the new Mozart".
In June 1784, on Neefe's recommendations, Ludwig was appointed organist of the court of Maximilian Franz, Elector of Cologne. He was 14. This post enabled him to frequent new circles, other than those of his father and friends of his family. Here he met people who were to remain friends for the rest of his life: The Ries family, the von Breuning family and the charming Eleonore, Karl Amenda, the violinist, Franz Gerhard Wegeler, a doctor, and a dear friend who also went to Vienna, etc.
At home, little by little, Ludwig replaced his father. Financially first of all, because Johann, often under the influence of drink, was less and less capable of keeping up his role at the court. The young Beethoven felt responsible for his two younger brothers, an idea he kept for the rest of his life, sometimes to the extent of being excessive.
Prince Maximilian Franz was also aware of Beethoven's gift, and so he sent Beethoven to Vienna, in 1787, to meet Mozart and to further his musical education. Vienna was, after all, the beacon city in terms of culture and music. There exist only texts of disputable authenticity on the subject of this meeting between Mozart and Beethoven. Mozart is thought to have said "Don't forget his name - you will hear it spoken often."!
But a letter called Beethoven back to Bonn: his mother was dying. The only person in his family with whom he had developed a strong and loving relationship passed away on July 17th 1787.
Five years later, in 1792, Beethoven went back to Vienna, benefiting from another grant, for two years, by the Prince Elector, again to pursue his musical education. He never went back to the town of his birth. His friend Waldstein wrote to him: "You shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands"...
At Vienna, the young musician took lessons with Haydn, then with Albrechtsberger and Salieri. He captured the attention of, and astonished, Vienna, with his virtuosity and his improvisations on piano. In 1794, Beethoven composed his opus 1, three trios for piano. The following year, Beethoven made his first public performance at Vienna (an "Academy") whereby each musician was to play his own work. Then followed a tour: Prague, Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin before leaving for a concert in Budapest.
Beethoven made numerous acquaintances at Vienna. Everybody in the musical and aristocratic world admired the young composer. These music-lovers were Beethoven's greatest supporters. He became angry regularly with one or another of them, often making honourable amends soon afterwards. His talent excused his excessive, impulsive behaviour.
In 1800, Beethoven organised a new concert at Vienna including, notably, the presentation of his first symphony. Although today we find this work classical, and close to the works of Mozart and Haydn, at the time certain listeners found the symphony strange, overly extravagant, and even risqué. This genius, Beethoven, who was still a young, new composer, was already pushing the established boundaries of music.In 1801 Beethoven confessed to his friends at Bonn his worry of becoming deaf. At Heiligenstadt, in 1802, he wrote a famous text which expressed his disgust at the unfairness of life: that he, a musician, could become deaf was something he did not want to live through. But music made him carry on. And he wrote that he knew that he still had many other musical domains to explore, to discover, and to pass on. Beethoven did not commit suicide, rather, knowing that his handicap was getting worse and worse, he threw himself into his greatest works: exceptional sonatas for piano (notably The Storm, opus 31), the second and the third symphonies- The Eroica - and of course many more.
Beethoven wrote this third symphony in honour of a great man, Bonaparte. He was seen as the liberator of the people, opening, from the French Revolution, a door to hope. When the First Consul declared himself Emporor, Beethoven became enraged and scowled out Bonaparte's name from the score.
On April 7th 1805 the Eroica symphony was played for the first time.Meanwhile, Beethoven had finally finished his opera, Leonore, the only opera he ever wrote. He wrote and re-wrote four different overtures. The name of the opera therefore changed to Fidelio, against the wishes of the composer. November 20th 1805 was the date of the opening performance … before a thin audience of French officers. This was because Napolean, head of the army, had captured Vienna for the first time. This happened again in 1809.
In the years that followed, the creative activity of the composer became intense. He composed many symphonies, amongst which were the Pastoral, the Coriolan Overture, and the famous Letter for Elise. He took on many students, those he found young and attractive, and he therefore fell in love with several of them. The Archbishop Rudolph, brother of the emperor, also became his student, his friend and eventually one of his benefactors.
In 1809, Beethoven wanted to leave Vienna, at the invitation of Jérome Bonaparte. His long-standing friend, the Countess Anna Marie Erdödy, kept him at Vienna with the help of his wealthiest admirers: the Archbishop Rudolph, the Prince Lobkowitz and the Prince Kinsky. These men gave Beethoven an annual grant of 4 000 florins, allowing him to live without financial constraint. The only condition was that Beethoven was not to leave Vienna. Beethoven accepted. This grant made him the first independent composer. Before this contract musicians and composers alike (even Bach, Mozart and Haydn), became servants in the houses of wealthy aristocratic families. They were thus part of the domestic staff, with no more rights than any other, but with the added task of composition and performance. Thus, for the musician of the day, Beethoven had outstanding circumstances: he was free to write what he wanted, when he wanted, under command or not, as he pleased.In 1812, Beethoven went for hydrotherapy at Teplitz, where he wrote his ardent letter to "The Immortal Beloved". This letter which was found in a secret draw with the Heiligenstadt Testament, has not stopped the theories and suppositions of researchers and biographers ever since. Numerous women amongst his students and friends have been, in turn, proposed as the recipient of this letter. Unless a new document is discovered (perhaps within the possessions of a private collector) it is likely that the truth about this mysterious woman will remain a secret.
At the end of July 1812, Beethoven met Goethe, under the organisation of Bettina Brentano. These two great men admired each other, but didn't understand each other. The composer found the poet too servile, and the poet last estimation was that Beethoven was "completely untamed". Beethoven admired Goethe, he put to music several of his poems. I always regretted not having been better understood by Goethe.
Then one of his benefactors, the Prince Lobkowitz, fell into financial difficulty, and the Prince Kinski died from falling off his horse. Kinski's descendant decided to put an end to the financial obligations towards Beethoven. Here started one of the composer's many attempts at saving his financial independence.
The Czech Johann Nepomuk Maelzel took up contact with Beethoven. Inventor of genius, and probably inventor of the metronome, Maelzel had already met Beethoven and had created various devices to help Beethoven with his hearing: acoustic cornets, a listening system linking up to the piano, etc. In 1813, Beethoven composed 'The Victory of Wellington', a work written for a mechanical instrument made by Maelzel, the "panharmonica" (or "panharmonicon"). But it was above all the metronome which helped evolve music and Beethoven, who had taken interest straight away, noted scrupulously the markings on his scores, so that his music could be played how he wished.
The Academy of 1814 regrouped his work, as well as the seventh and eighth symphonies. This was also the time of the re-writing of Leonore as Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera. This work eventually became successful before the public.
Then the Congress of Vienna met, which brought together all the heads of state to decided the future of Europe after Napoleon. This was one of Beethoven's moment of glory. He was invited to play many times, bringing him recognition and admiration of which he could be truly proud.
On November 15th 1815, Kaspar Karl, Beethoven's brother, died. He left behind his wife, whom the composer referred to as 'The queen of the night' due to the pastimes of the widow, as well as a son, Karl, who was 9. Here Beethoven's life was to change dramatically. His brother had written that he wished Karl's guardianship to be exercised by both his wife and his brother Ludwig. Beethoven took this role very seriously, but the 45 year old celibate who could no longer hear found it difficult to live with and understand a child, and then a young man. This cohabitation was the cause of a new trial against the mother of the child, a generation conflict and numerous troubles.
In 1816, Carl Czerny (future teacher of Franz Liszt and once Beethoven's student) became Karl's music teacher, but didn't find the talent in the boy which Beethoven hoped him to posses. At this time , he ended his cycle of lieders 'To the distant loved one'and drafted the first theme for his ninth symphony.
Two years later, the Archduke Rudolph became Cardinal and Beethoven began composing his mass in D. It was never ready for the intronisation, but the work was rich beyond compare.
Gioachino Rossini triumphed in Vienna in 1822 where he met Beethoven again. The language barrier and Beethoven's deafness meant that they could only exchange brief words. The Viennese composer tolerated Italian opera only in moderation - he found it lacked seriousness.The ninth symphony was practically finished in 1823, the same year as the Missa Solemnis. Liszt, who was 11, met Beethoven who came to his concert on April 13th. He congratulated the young virtuoso heartily who, years later, transcribed the entirety of Beethoven's symphonies for piano.
May 7th 1824 was the date of the first playing of the ninth symphony and despite musical difficulties, and problems in the sung parts, it was a success. Unfortunately it was not financially rewarding. Financial problems constantly undermined the composer. He always had money put to one side, but he was keeping it for his nephew.
Then began the period of the last quartets, which are still difficult even for today's audience, which knows how to interpret his other works. He started to compose his tenth symphony.
In 1826, Beethoven caught cold coming back from his brother's place, with whom he had rowed again. The illness complicated other health problems from which Beethoven had suffered all his life. He passed away encircled by his closest friends on March 26th 1827, just as a storm broke out.
The funeral rites took place at the church of the Holy Trinity. It is estimated that between 10 000 and 30 000 people attended. Franz Schubert, timid and a huge admirer of Beethoven, without ever having become close to him, was one of the coffin bearers, along with other musicians. Schubert died the next year and was buried next to Beethoven.
(born Rohrau, 31 March 1732; died Vienna, 31 May 1809)
The son of a wheelwright, he was trained as a choirboy and taken into the choir at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, where he sang from circa 1740 to circa 1750. He then worked as a freelance musician, playing the violin and keyboard instruments, accompanying for singing lessons given by the composer Porpora, who helped and encouraged him. At this time he wrote some sacred works, music for theatre comedies and chamber music. In circa 1759 he was appointed music director to Count Morzin; but he soon moved, into service as Vice-Kapellmeister with one of the leading Hungarian families, the Esterházys, becoming full Kapellmeister (on Werner's death) in 1766. He was director of an ensemble of generally some 15-20 musicians, with responsibility for the music and the instruments, and was required to compose as his employer - from 1762, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy - might command. At first he lived at Eisenstadt, circa 30 miles south-east of Vienna; by 1767 the family's chief residence, and Haydn's chief place of work, was at the new palace at Eszterháza. In his early years Haydn chiefly wrote instrumental music, including symphonies and other pieces for the twice-weekly concerts and the prince's Tafelmusik, and works for the instrument played by the prince, the baryton (a kind of viol), for which he composed circa 125 trios in ten years. There were also cantatas and a little church music. Around 1766 church music became more central, and so, after the opening of a new opera house at Eszterháza in 1768, did opera. Some of the symphonies from circa 1770 show Haydn expanding his musical horizons from occasional, entertainment music towards larger and more original pieces, for example nos.26, 39, 49, 44 and 52 (many of them in minor keys, and serious in mood, in line with trends in the contemporary symphony in Germany and Austria). Also from 1768-72 come three sets of string quartets, probably not written for the Esterházy establishment but for another patron or perhaps for publication (Haydn was allowed to write other than for the Esterházys only with permission); op.20 clearly shows the beginnings of a more adventurous and integrated quartet style.
Among the operas from this period are Lo speziale (for the opening of the new house), L'infedeltà delusa (1773) and Il mondo della luna (1777). Operatic activity became increasingly central from the mid-1770s as regular performances came to be given at the new house. It was part of Haydn's job to prepare the music, adapting or arranging it for the voices of the resident singers. In 1779 the opera house burnt down; Haydn composed La fedelta premiata for its reopening in 1781. Until then his operas had largely been in a comic genre; his last two for Eszterháza, Orlando paladino (1782) and Armida (1783), are in mixed or serious genres. Although his operas never attained wider exposure, Haydn's reputation had now grown and was international. Much of his music had been published in all the main European centres; under a revised contract with the Esterháza his employer no longer had exclusive rights to his music.
His works of the 1780s that carried his name further afield include piano sonatas, piano trios, symphonies (nos.76-81 were published in 1784-5, and nos.82-7 were written on commission for a concert organization in Paris in 1785-6) and string quartets. His influential op.33 quartets, issued in 1782, were said to be 'in a quite new, special manner': this is sometimes thought to refer to the use of instruments or the style of thematic development, but could refer to the introduction of scherzos or might simply be an advertising device. More quartets appeared at the end of the decade, op.50 (dedicated to the King of Prussia and often said to be influenced by the quartets Mozart had dedicated to Haydn) and two sets (opp.54-5 and 64) written for a former Esterházy violinist who became a Viennese businessman. All these show an increasing enterprise, originality and freedom of style as well as melodic fluency, command of form, and humour. Other works that carried Haydn's reputation beyond central Europe include concertos and notturnos for a type of hurdy-gurdy, written on commission for the King of Naples, and The Seven Last Words, commissioned for Holy Week from Cadíz (Spain) Cathedral and existing not only in its original orchestral form but also for string quartet, for piano and (later) for chorus and orchestra.
In 1790, Nikolaus Esterházy died; Haydn (unlike most of his musicians) was retained by his son but was free to live in Vienna (which he had many times visited) and to travel. He was invited by the impresario and violinist J.P. Salomon to go to London to write an opera, symphonies and other works. In the event he went to London twice, in 1791-2 and 1794-5. He composed his last 12 symphonies for performance there, where they enjoyed great success; he also wrote a symphonie concertante, choral pieces, piano trios, piano sonatas and songs (some to English words) as well as arranging British folksongs for publishers in London and Edinburgh. But because of intrigues his opera, L'anima del filosofo, on the Orpheus story, remained unperformed. He was honoured (with an Oxford DMus) and feted generously and played, sang and conducted before the royal family. He also heard performances of Handel's music by large choirs in Westminster Abbey.
Back in Vienna, he resumed work for Nikolaus Esterházy's grandson (whose father had now died); his main duty was to produce masses for the princess's nameday. He wrote six works, firmly in the Austrian mass tradition but strengthened and invigorated by his command of symphonic technique. Other works of these late years include further string quartets (opp.71 and 74 between the London visits, op.76 and the op.77 pair after them), showing great diversity of style and seriousness of content yet retaining his vitality and fluency of utterance; some have a more public manner, acknowledging the new use of string quartets at concerts as well as in the home. The most important work, however, is his oratorio The Creation in which his essentially simple-hearted joy in Man, Beast and Nature, and his gratitude to God for his creation of these things to our benefit, are made a part of universal experience by his treatment of them in an oratorio modelled on Handel's, with massive choral writing of a kind he had not essayed before. He followed this with The Seasons, in a similar vein but more a series of attractive episodes than a whole.
Haydn died in 1809, after twice dictating his recollections and preparing a catalogue of his works. He was widely revered, even though by then his music was old-fashioned compared with Beethoven's. He was immensely prolific: some of his music remains unpublished and little known. His operas have never succeeded in holding the stage. But he is regarded, with some justice, as father of the symphony and the string quartet: he saw both genres from their beginnings to a high level of sophistication and artistic expression, even if he did not originate them. He brought to them new intellectual weight, and his closely argued style of development laid the foundations for the larger structures of Beethoven and later composers.
Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, on February 3rd, 1809, the son of Leah Salomon, and Abraham Mendelssohn, a wealthy banker, and the grandson of Jewish rabbi and philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Being born in a family of well-to-do intellectuals certainly had it advantages, providing the ideal cultural environment for the artistic and precocious young Felix. In addition to receiving a good education, Felix and his family traveled around Europe.+
While Moses Mendelssohn frowned German Jews converting to Christianity in the hopes of gaining social acceptance outside their ghettos, that did not stop Felix Mendelssohn's parents from baptizing their four children, Fanny, Rebekah, Felix, and Paul, in the Lutheran Church, and from converting to the Lutheran faith themselves in 1816, when they moved from French occupied Hamburg to Berlin, hence the added surname Bartholdy. Oddly enough, Felix resisted the name change, and kept the last name of Mendelssohn.
The move to Berlin proved to be beneficial for young Felix, who had received prior musical instruction from his sister Fanny, as it was there he studied the piano under Ludwig Berger and composition with Karl. F. Zelter. Visiting friends of the family were also a positive influence on the Mendelssohn children, as most of them were intellectuals who were involved in the arts and other cultural activities. From a young age, Felix Mendelssohn showed the true talent of a prodigy, playing both the piano and the violin, painting, and being gifted in languages.
Felix traveled to Paris to study the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach with his sister Fanny. Truly inspired by the masters, particularity Bach, he composed eleven symphonies, five operas, and many other pieces for the piano. This was only the beginning for the young musical genius, who impressed audiences and artists alike with his precocious talent.
In 1821, Zelter took his 12 year-old student to visit German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The visit was most important to the young Mendelssohn, who remained at the 72 year-old writer's home for over two weeks. Goethe was fascinated by the gifted young man, and the two would later correspond via a series of letters. Later, when Goethe heard Mendelssohn's B minor pianoforte quartet, he showed such appreciation that the young composer dedicated the piece to him.
When Felix Mendelsson was 16, he composed his Octet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 20, which wasn't just impressive because of its composer's age, but because it was the one of the first works of its kind. Mendelssohn's piece featured an ingenious interplay between two distinct string quartets.
In addition to the literary works of Goethe, Mendelssohn found inspiration in the works of English playwright William Shakespeare. At the age of seventeen, he composed the overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream Opus 21", based on the Bard's comedic play. The piece featured lush orchestration, and is considered one of the most beautiful works of the Romantic period of Classical music.
From 1826 to 1829, Mendelssohn studied at Berlin University. It was then he decided on music as his chosen profession.
During the years that followed, Mendelssohn traveled and performed all over Europe, discovering England, Scotland, Italy and France. In 1832, Mendelssohn, Mendelssohn presented his magnificent "Hebrides Overture", as well as other important works, in London, a city where he greatly enjoyed performing his works. In 1833, he took on the post of conductor at Düsseldorf, giving concert performances of Handel's "Messiah" amongst others. That same year, he composed many of his own vocal works, including "Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us,", and the Opera, "Trala. A frischer Bua bin i", as well as the "Italian Symphony".
At the age of 26, Mendelssohn moved to Leipzig and he became conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, performing works by Bach and Beethoven amongst others; at the time, there was little interest in Bach's music, but Mendelssohn changed all that, using his own popularity and the four hundred singers and soloists of the Singakademie to help renew interest in the great composer's work. Earlier, in 1829, Mendelssohn had made his debut as a Maestro, being the first to conduct Bach's "St-Matthew Passion" since the composer's death in 1750, and more importantly, 100 years after Bach's own premiere performance of the work. Mendelssohn performed the piece
In 1832, Mendelssohn married Cécile Jeanrenaud, the daughter of a Protestant clergyman. It was a happy marriage, and they five children, Carl, Marie, Paul, Felix and Lilli. Over the years that followed, Mendelssohn was very prolific, and in addition to numerous composition, he gave several successful performances of his work, and that of other great composers. Mendelssohn composed several works for the piano, which was highly popular at the time; but he also wrote for many different combinations of instruments and voices.
In 1842, Mendelssohn performed private concerts for Prince Albert, and Queen Victoria, who were both strong supporters of his work. A year later, Mendelssohn founded the and directed the Leipzig Conservatory, where he also sometimes taught when his busy schedule permitted it. Despite being a generally happy and pleasant individual, Mendelssohn was sometimes a little too strict with his pupils; this was perhaps due to the fact that he was so passionate about music, and had a difficult time listening to the beginners mistakes of his pupils. Nonetheless, the Conservatory remained one of the most prestigious music institutions in Germany for half a century.
In addition to his post at the Conservatory, Mendelssohn was named director of the Music Section of the Academy of Arts in Berlin by the by King Frederick of Prussia, but this appointment wasn't entirely pleasing for Mendelssohn, who was often asked to compose on demand. He was left with little time for his own work, but he still managed to compose such masterpieces as the Ruy Blas overture, stage music for Shakespeare's " A Midsummer Night's Dream", of which the now world-famous "Wedding March" was a part of, and "The Scottish Symphony", the third of the five symphonies he composed during his lifetime.
Felix Mendelssohn was very close to his family; from his sister Fanny to his father, to his own wife and children, and he cherished the moments spent with them. When his father died in 1835, Mendelssohn felt he had lost his best friend. seven years later, his mother died, adding to the tragedy, but the worst was yet to come; following a Christmas family reunion , his sister Fanny suffered a stroke while rehearsing for a Sunday concert. She died on May 14th, 1847. Felix Mendelssohn is said to have screamed and fainted upon hearing the sad news, devastated from the loss. Needless to say, Mendelssohn's mood did not improve following Fanny's death, and he himself suffered two strokes, the last of which killed him on November 4th, 1847. He was 38 years old. He was buried alongside his sister in in the cemetery of Holy Cross Church in Berlin.
While most of his life was spent in happiness, that final years of his life saw mounting grief and tragedy; however, this did not deter him from composing, and throughout the hardships he maintained the same degree of inspiration and the same quality o work, despite his intensely busy schedule. Some critics may argue that he would have been another Bach or Mozart if he had suffered more in life, as the "tortured artist" cliché dictates. However, it is interesting to note that in death, there were more tragic incidents which marred Mendelssohn. Nearly a hundred years after his death, the Nazis tried to discredit him, taking down his statue in Leipzig, and even going as far as forbidding the study and performance of his music.
Of course, none of their efforts to silence the voice of genius had any success, and Mendelssohn is now considered the 19th century equivalent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Most critics agree that Mendelssohn's most vibrant contributions were in the choral and organ music genres, which was probably the result of his deep admiration fro Bach and Handel. Mendelssohn will remain the most successful composer his time, but more importantly, one of the most gifted and talented, surely deserving a place alongside greats such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, in the Pantheon of musical Gods.
According to the artist himself and his family, Chopin was born on March 1, 1810. However, his baptismal certificate, written several weeks after his birth, lists his birthdate as February 22. Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola in central Poland near Sochaczew, in the region of Mazovia, which was part of the Duchy of Warsaw. He was born to Mikołaj (Nicolas) Chopin, a Polonized Frenchman and to his Polish mother, Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska.
The musical talent of young Chopin became apparent early on and can be compared with the childhood genius of Mozart. At the age of 7, he was already the author of two polonaises (in G minor and B-flat major), the first being published in the engraving workshop of Father Cybulski. The prodigy was featured in the Warsaw newspapers, and 'little Chopin' became the attraction at receptions given in the aristocratic salons of the capital. He also began giving public charity concerts. His first professional piano lessons, given to him by the violinist Wojciech Żywny (b. 1756 in Bohemia), lasted from 1816 to 1822, when the teacher was no longer able to give any more help to the pupil whose skills surpassed his own.
The further development of Chopin's talent was supervised by Wilhelm Würfel (b. 1791 in Bohemia). This renowned pianist and professor at the Warsaw Conservatory gave Chopin valuable (although irregular) lessons in playing organ (music), and possibly piano. From 1823 to 1826, Chopin attended the Warsaw Lyceum, where his father was a professor. In the autumn of 1826, Chopin began studying music theory, figured bass, and composition with the composer Józef Elsner (b. 1769 in Silesia) at the Warsaw Conservatory. In 1831 he left Poland for Vienna before settling in Paris where he spent much of his life.
Chopin first visited Vienna in early 1829, where he gave a piano performace and received his first favorable reviews. The following year he returned to Warsaw and performed the premiere of his Piano Concerto in F Minor at the National Theater on March 17. By 1831 Chopin had left Poland for good and settled in Paris. He began work on his first scherzi and ballades as well as the first book of études. It is also at this time that he began his lifelong struggle with tuberculosis.
The early and mid-1830s in Paris were a productive time for the composer. He completed several of his most famous works and also performed regular concerts, to rave reviews. By 1838 Chopin had become a famous figure in Paris. Among his closest friends were opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (beside whom he is buried in the Père Lachaise), and painter Eugène Delacroix. He was also friends with composers Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann, and although he was at times critical of their music, Chopin dedicated some of his own compositions to them.
In 1836 Chopin was secretly engaged to a seventeen-year-old Polish girl named Maria Wodzinska. The engagement was later called off. In that same year, at a party hosted by Countess Marie d'Agoult, Chopin met the novelist Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, better known by her pseudonym as George Sand.
Sand's correspondence suggests that Chopin was asexual; that is, that he had no inclination to have sexual relations with anyone, male or female. Even so, his relationship with Sand lasted for ten years until they parted after arguments over Sand's children.
A notable episode in their time together was a turbulent and miserable winter on Majorca (1838–1839) living in unheated peasant huts and in the then-abandoned (and equally cold) Valldemossa monastery. 1 (http://www.valldemossa.com/museoin.htm) Chopin would also later complain of having to go to great lengths to obtain a piano from Paris and of the difficulty of moving it uphill to the monastery. Chopin reflected much of the mood of this desperate time in the twenty-four préludes, Op. 28, the majority of which were written in Majorca. The weather had such a serious impact on Chopin's health and his chronic lung disease that he and George Sand were compelled to return to Paris to save his life. He survived but never recovered from this bout.
By the 1840s Chopin's health was rapidly deteriorating. He and Sand took several trips to remote locations, such as Nohant-Vic, to no avail. By 1849 most of his major works were completed and Chopin concentrated on mazurkas and nocturnes. His last work was a mazurka, in F minor.
Chopin died, officially, of tuberculosis in 1849, although there is some speculation that he may have had another disease such as cystic fibrosis or emphysema due in part to autopsy findings (reported only by his sister) seemingly inconsistent with the initial diagnosis. He had a terror of being buried alive, and asked to be 'cut open' to make sure he was dead.
He had requested that Mozart's Requiem be sung at his funeral, held at the Church of the Madeleine. The Requiem has major parts for female singers but the Madeleine had never permitted female singers in its choir. The funeral was delayed for almost 2 weeks while the matter raged, the church finally relenting and granting Chopin's final wish. Although Chopin is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, his heart is entombed in a pillar in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.
Chopin's music for the piano combined a unique rhythmic sense (particularly his use of rubato, chromatic inflections, and the style of Johann Sebastian Bach), as well as a piano technique which was of his own creation. This mixture produces a particularly fragile sound in the melody and the harmony, which are nonetheless underpinned by solid and interesting harmonic techniques. He took the new salon genre of the nocturne, invented by Irish composer John Field, to a deeper level of sophistication, and endowed popular dance forms, such as the Polish mazurka and the Viennese waltz with a greater range of melody and expression. Chopin was the first to write Ballades (a genre he invented) and the Scherzi as individual pieces. Chopin also took the example of Bach's préludes and transformed the genre.
Several melodies of Chopin's have become well known; because of their unique melodic shape they are instantly memorable and easily recognized. Among these are the Revolutionary Étude (Op. 10, No. 12), the Minute Waltz (Op. 64, No. 1), and the third movement of his Funeral March sonata (Op. 35), which is used as an iconic representation of grief. Interestingly, the Revolutionary Etude was not written with the failed Polish uprising against Russia in mind, it merely appeared at that time. The Funeral March was written for funerals, but it was not inspired by any recent personal loss of Chopin's. Other melodies have even been used as the basis of popular songs, such as the slow section of the Fantaisie-Impromptu (Op. 66). These pieces often rely on an intense and personalized chromaticism, as well as a melodic curve that resembles the operas of Chopin's day - the operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and especially Bellini. Chopin used the piano to re-create the gracefulness of the singing voice, and talked and wrote constantly about singers.
Chopin's style and gifts became increasingly influential: Schumann was a huge admirer of Chopin's music — although the feeling was not mutual — and he took melodies from Chopin and even named a piece of his Carnaval Suite after Chopin; Franz Liszt, another great admirer of the composer, transcribed several Chopin songs for unaccompanied piano. Liszt later dedicated a movement of his 'Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses' to Chopin, titling it 'Funérailles' and laconically dedicating it 'October 1849.' The mid-section recalls, powerfully, the famous octave trio section of Chopin's Opus 53 Polonaise.
Chopin had strong opinions of how his music should be performed and many common performances practices of Chopin today are at odds with his aesthetic. Arguably, some of the best records of Chopin include those by Koczalski, Friedman, Cortot, Rubinstein, Malcuzynski, Janis, Magaloff, Pollini and Zimerman.
Chopin performed his own works in concert halls but most often in his salon for friends. Only later in life, as his disease progressed, did Chopin give up public performance altogether.
Several of Chopin's piano works carry with them their own technique: his préludes (Op. 28) and études (Op. 10 and 25) rapidly became standard works. They also became influential, inspiring both Liszt's Transcendental Études and Schumann's Symphonic Études.
Chopin and Romanticism
Chopin regarded the Romantic movement with indifference, if not distaste, and rarely associated himself with it directly. Even so, today Chopin's music is considered to be the paragon of the Romantic style.
All of his works, without exception, involve the piano, whether solo or accompanied. They are predominantly for solo piano but include a small number of works for piano and secondary instruments, including a second piano, violin, cello, voice, and orchestra.
Chopin's compositional output consists mainly of music for solo piano. His larger scale works such as the ballades, scherzos, the barcarolle, and sonatas have cemented a solid place within the repertoire, as well as shorter works like his impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, waltzes and polonaises.
Chopin's two piano concertos, Opp. 11 and 21, are masterpieces still often performed. In addition, he wrote several songs set to Polish texts, and several pieces including a piano trio and a sonata for cello and piano.For a complete list of Chopin's works by opus number, see List of compositions by Frédéric Chopin.
(born Raiding, 22 October 1811; died Bayreuth, 31 July 1886).
He was taught the piano by his father and then Czerny (Vienna, 1822-3), establishing himself as a remarkable concert artist by the age of 12. In Paris he studied theory and composition with Reicha and Paer; he wrote an opera and bravura piano pieces and undertook tours in France, Switzerland and England before ill-health and religious doubt made him reassess his career. Intellectual growth came through literature, and the urge to create through hearing opera and especially Paganini, whose spectacular effects Liszt eagerly transferred to the piano in original works and operatic fantasias. Meanwhile he gave lessons and began his stormy relationship (1833-44) with the (married) Countess Marie d'Agoult. They lived in Switzerland and Italy and had three children.
He gave concerts in Paris, maintaining his legendary reputation, and published some essays, but was active chiefly as a composer (Annees de pèlerinage). To help raise funds for the Bonn Beethoven monument, he resumed the life of a travelling virtuoso (1839-47); he was adulated everywhere, from Ireland to Turkey, Portugal to Russia. In 1848 he took up a full-time conducting post at the Weimar court, where, living with the Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, he wrote or revised most of the major works for which he is known, conducted new operas by Wagner, Berlioz and Verdi and, as the teacher of Hans von Bülow and others in the German avant-garde, became the figurehead of the 'New German school'. In 1861-9 he lived mainly in Rome, writing religious works (he took minor orders in 1865); from 1870 he journeyed regularly between Rome, Weimar and Budapest. He remained active as a teacher and performer to the end of his life.
Liszt's personality appears contradictory in its combination of romantic abstraction and otherworldliness with a cynical diabolism and elegant, worldly manners. But though he had a restless intellect, he also was ceaselessly creative, seeking the new in music. He helped others generously, as conductor, arranger, pianist or writer, and took artistic and personal risks in doing so. The greatest pianist of his time, he composed some of the most difficult piano music ever written (e.g. the Transcendental Studies) and had an extraordinarily broad repertory, from Scarlatti onwards; he invented the modern piano recital.
Two formal traits give Liszt's compositions a personal stamp: experiment with large-scale structures (extending traditional sonata form, unifying multi-movement works), and thematic transformation, or subjecting a single short idea to changes of mode, rhythm, metre, tempo or accompaniment to form the thematic basis of an entire work (as in Les préludes, the Faust-Symphonie). His 'transcendental' piano technique was similarly imaginative, springing from a desire to make the piano sound like an orchestra or as rich in scope as one. In harmony he ventured well beyond the use of augmented and diminished chords and the whole-tone scale; the late piano and choral works especially contain tonal dashes arising from independent contrapuntal strands, chords built from 4ths or 5ths, and a strikingly advanced chromaticism.
Piano works naturally make up the greater part of Liszt's output: they range from the brilliant early studies and lyric nature pieces of the first set of Annees de pèlerinage to the finely dramatic and logical b Minor Sonata, a masterpiece of 19th-century piano literature. The piano works from the 1870s onwards are more austere and withdrawn, some of them impressionistic, even gloomy (Anneés, third set). Not all the piano music is free of bombast but among the arrangements, the symphonic transcriptions (notably of Berlioz, Beethoven and Schubert) are often faithful and ingenious, the operatic fantasias (on Norma and Ernani, for example) more than mere salon pieces.
Liszt invented the term 'sinfonische Dichtung' ('symphonic poem') for orchestral works that did not obey traditional forms strictly and were based generally on a literary or pictorial idea. Whether first conceived as overtures (Les préludes) or as works for other media (Mazeppa), these pieces all emphasize musical construction much more than scene-painting or story-telling. The three-movement Faust Symphonie too, with its vivid character studies of Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles, relies on technical artifice (especially thematic transformation) more than musical narrative to convey its message; it is often considered Liszt's supreme masterpiece. Although he failed in his aim to revolutionize liturgical music, Liszt did create in his psalm settings, Missa solemnis and the oratorio Christus some intensely dramatic and moving choral music, successful in his lifetime and well suited to concert performance.