The Baroque period saw the creation of common-practicetonality, an approach to writing music in which a song or piece is written in a particular key; this type of harmony has continued to be used extensively in Western classical and popular music. During the Baroque era, professional musicians were expected to be accomplished improvisers of both solo melodic lines and accompaniment parts. Baroque concerts were typically accompanied by a basso continuo group (comprising chord-playing instrumentalists such as harpsichordists and lute players improvising chords from a figured bass part) while a group of bass instruments—viol, cello, double bass—played the bassline. A characteristic Baroque form was the dance suite. While the pieces in a dance suite were inspired by actual dance music, dance suites were designed purely for listening, not for accompanying dancers. (Full article...)
Machaut (right) receiving Nature and three of her children. From an illuminated Parisian manuscript of the 1350s
One of the earliest European composers on whom considerable biographical information is available, Machaut has an unprecedented amount of surviving music, in part due to his own involvement in his manuscripts' creation and preservation. Machaut embodies the culmination of the poet-composer tradition stretching back to the traditions of troubadour and trouvère; well into the 15th century his poetry was greatly admired and imitated by other poets, including Geoffrey Chaucer and Eustache Deschamps, the latter of whom was Machaut's student. (Full article...)
Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresarioSergei Diaghilev and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes: The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The last transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a revolutionary who pushed the boundaries of musical design. His "Russian phase", which continued with works such as Renard, L'Histoire du soldat, and Les noces, was followed in the 1920s by a period in which he turned to neoclassicism. The works from this period tended to make use of traditional musical forms (concerto grosso, fugue, and symphony) and drew from earlier styles, especially those of the 18th century. In the 1950s, Stravinsky adopted serial procedures. His compositions of this period shared traits with examples of his earlier output: rhythmic energy, the construction of extended melodic ideas out of a few two- or three-note cells, and clarity of form and instrumentation. (Full article...)
The individual pieces have been described as "true concert works, being best served on a stage and with a concert grand." Although composed as part of a set, each piece stands on its own as a concert solo with individual themes and moods. The pieces span a variety of themes ranging from the funeral march of number three to the canon of number six, the Moments musicaux are both Rachmaninoff's return to and revolution of solo piano composition. A typical performance lasts 30 minutes. (Full article...)
Mahler in 1892
The Symphony No. 2 in C minor by Gustav Mahler, known as the Resurrection Symphony, was written between 1888 and 1894, and first performed in 1895. This symphony was one of Mahler's most popular and successful works during his lifetime. It was his first major work that established his lifelong view of the beauty of afterlife and resurrection. In this large work, the composer further developed the creativity of "sound of the distance" and creating a "world of its own", aspects already seen in his First Symphony. The work has a duration of 80 to 90 minutes, and is conventionally labelled as being in the key of C minor; the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians labels the work's tonality as C minor–E♭ major. It was voted the fifth-greatest symphony of all time in a survey of conductors carried out by the BBC Music Magazine. (Full article...)
The opening motif Play
Finlandia, Op. 26, is a tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was written in 1899 and revised in 1900. The piece was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history. The premiere was on 2 July 1900 in Helsinki with the Helsinki Philharmonic Society conducted by Robert Kajanus. A typical performance takes between 7½ and 9 minutes depending on how it is performed.
In order to avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous and often confusing —famous examples include Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, and A Scandinavian Choral March. (Full article...)
The American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because history suggests Berlioz composed at least a portion of it under the influence of opium. According to Bernstein, "Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral." (Full article...)
Considered one of the greatest operas ever written, it is a cornerstone of the repertoire and appears consistently among the top ten in the Operabase list of most frequently performed operas. In 2017, BBC News Magazine asked 172 opera singers to vote for the best operas ever written. The Marriage of Figaro came in first out of the 20 operas featured, with the magazine describing the work as being "one of the supreme masterpieces of operatic comedy, whose rich sense of humanity shines out of Mozart’s miraculous score". (Full article...)
Fauré was born into a cultured but not especially musical family. His talent became clear when he was a young boy. At the age of nine, he was sent to the Ecole Niedermeyer music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, who became a lifelong friend. After graduating from the college in 1865, Fauré earned a modest living as an organist and teacher, leaving him little time for composition. When he became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist of the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire, he still lacked time for composing; he retreated to the countryside in the summer holidays to concentrate on composition. By his last years, he was recognised in France as the leading French composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the president of the French Republic. Outside France, Fauré's music took decades to become widely accepted, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime. (Full article...)
Ludwig van Beethoven (baptised 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. Beethoven remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; his works rank amongst the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music. His career has conventionally been divided into early, middle, and late periods. His early period, during which he forged his craft, is typically considered to have lasted until 1802. From 1802 to around 1812, his middle period showed an individual development from the styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and is sometimes characterized as heroic. During this time, he began to grow increasingly deaf. In his late period, from 1812 to 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression.
Beethoven was born in Bonn. His musical talent was obvious at an early age. He was initially harshly and intensively taught by his father Johann van Beethoven. Beethoven was later taught by the composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe, under whose tutelage he published his first work, a set of keyboard variations, in 1783. He found relief from a dysfunctional home life with the family of Helene von Breuning, whose children he loved, befriended, and taught piano. At age 21, he moved to Vienna, which subsequently became his base, and studied composition with Haydn. Beethoven then gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and he was soon patronized by Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky for compositions, which resulted in his three Opus 1piano trios (the earliest works to which he accorded an opus number) in 1795. (Full article...)
Image 5Portion of Du Fay's setting of Ave maris stella, in fauxbourdon. The top line is a paraphrase of the chant; the middle line, designated "fauxbourdon", (not written) follows the top line but exactly a perfect fourth below. The bottom line is often, but not always, a sixth below the top line; it is embellished, and reaches cadences on the octave.Play (from Renaissance music)
Image 26A modern string quartet. In the 2000s, string quartets from the Classical era are the core of the chamber music literature. From left to right: violin 1, violin 2, cello, viola (from Classical period (music))
Messager took up the piano as a small child and later studied composition with, among others, Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré. He became a major figure in the musical life of Paris and later London, both as a conductor and a composer. Many of his Parisian works were also produced in the West End and some on Broadway; the most successful had long runs and numerous international revivals. He wrote two operatic works in English, and his later output included musical comedies for Sacha Guitry and Yvonne Printemps. (Full article...)
Wall immediately began working in the video game industry, composing the soundtrack to Vigilance. Primarily composing in an orchestral style, by 2001 he composed the soundtrack to Myst III: Exile, which was the title he says put him on the map as a video game composer. In 2002, Wall became one of around 20 co-founders of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) as well as senior director. In 2005, Wall, along with G.A.N.G. founder and fellow composer Tommy Tallarico, produced the Video Games Live concert series, having served as the conductor for the international concert tour. His latest released soundtrack is that of 2020's Black Ops Cold War. His soundtracks for Myst III: Exile, Myst IV: Revelation, Rise of the Kasai, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2 were nominated for and won multiple awards. (Full article...)
Ellis Gibbons (bapt. 30 November 1573 – 14? May 1603) was an English composer of the late Renaissance who was associated with the English Madrigal School. Born in Cambridge to a musical family, Gibbons was the second surviving son of William Gibbons, a town wait. By 1598 he was known to be living in Cambridge's High ward, and later the Market ward. He owned property in Cambridge and London and probably spent much time there, presumably as a musician of some kind (although this has never been verified). At the age of 28 he became one of only two composers to contribute two pieces to The Triumphs of Oriana, a collection of 25 madrigals published in 1601. These madrigals were Long live faire Oriana and Round about her Charret; modern commentators generally favor the latter. No other compositions by Gibbons survive, and some scholars have doubted his authorship of these works, ascribing them to his brothers. Two months after his mother's death, his career was cut short by his early death in May 1603, leaving behind his brothers Edward, Ferdinando and Orlando, who would become the most famous musician of the family. Orlando's son, Christopher, was also a noted composer. (Full article...)
Nobuo Uematsu (植松 伸夫, Uematsu Nobuo, born March 21, 1959) is a Japanese composer and keyboardist best known for his contributions to the Final Fantasy video game series by Square Enix. A self-taught musician, he began playing the piano at the age of twelve, with English singer-songwriter Elton John as one of his biggest influences. Uematsu joined Square in 1986, where he first met Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The two later worked together on many games at the company, most notably in the Final Fantasy series. After nearly two decades with Square, Uematsu left in 2004 to create his own production company and music label, Dog Ear Records. He has since composed music as a freelancer for other games, including ones developed by Square Enix and Sakaguchi's development studio, Mistwalker.
Detail of a posthumous 1664 painting depicting Barbad playing the barbat for Khosrow II.
Barbad or Bārbad (Persian: باربد; various other names; fl. late 6th – early 7th century CE) was a Persian poet-musician, lutenist, music theorist and composer of Sasanian music who served as chief minstrel-poet under ShahanshahKhosrow II (r. 590–628). A barbat player, he is among the major figures in the history of Iranian/Persian music and was the most distinguished Persian musician of his time. He appears frequently in later Persian literature, most famously in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. The content and abundance of such references demonstrate his unique influence on the music and culture of his time, with some sources declaring him the "founder of Persian music". Despite scarce biographical information, Barbad's historicity is generally secure. Purportedly born in Merv or Jahrom, Barbad served most of his career under Khosrow, who held him in high regard. After Khosrow's assassination, sources vary as to whether Barbad was murdered, or if he murdered another musician himself.
Barbad is traditionally credited with various inventions in Persian music theory and practice; however, the attributions remain tentative due to being ascribed centuries after his death. Though a single poem is extant and the titles of some of his works are known, none of Barbad's musical compositions are extant. No Sasanian sources discuss Barbad, suggesting his reputation was preserved through oral tradition, until at least the earliest written account by the poet Khaled ibn Fayyaz (d. c. 718). His work survived until at least the 10th century, inspiring musicians such as Ishaq al-Mawsili and being described as a "model of artistic achievement". Barbad remains a celebrated figure in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. (Full article...)
Charles-Valentin Alkan (French: [ʃaʁl valɑ̃tɛ̃ alkɑ̃]; 30 November 1813 – 29 March 1888) was a French Jewish composer and virtuoso pianist. At the height of his fame in the 1830s and 1840s he was, alongside his friends and colleagues Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, among the leading pianists in Paris, a city in which he spent virtually his entire life.
Alkan earned many awards at the Conservatoire de Paris, which he entered before he was six. His career in the salons and concert halls of Paris was marked by his occasional long withdrawals from public performance, for personal reasons. Although he had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the Parisian artistic world, including Eugène Delacroix and George Sand, from 1848 he began to adopt a reclusive life style, while continuing with his compositions – virtually all of which are for the keyboard. During this period he published, among other works, his collections of large-scale studies in all the major keys (Op. 35) and all the minor keys (Op. 39). The latter includes his Symphony for Solo Piano (Op. 39, nos. 4–7) and Concerto for Solo Piano (Op. 39, nos. 8–10), which are often considered among his masterpieces and are of great musical and technical complexity. Alkan emerged from self-imposed retirement in the 1870s to give a series of recitals that were attended by a new generation of French musicians. (Full article...)
Sir William Sterndale Bennett (13 April 1816 – 1 February 1875) was an English composer, pianist, conductor and music educator. At the age of ten Bennett was admitted to the London Royal Academy of Music (RAM), where he remained for ten years. By the age of twenty, he had begun to make a reputation as a concert pianist, and his compositions received high praise. Among those impressed by Bennett was the German composer Felix Mendelssohn, who invited him to Leipzig. There Bennett became friendly with Robert Schumann, who shared Mendelssohn's admiration for his compositions. Bennett spent three winters composing and performing in Leipzig.
In 1837 Bennett began to teach at the RAM, with which he was associated for most of the rest of his life. For twenty years he taught there, later also teaching at Queen's College, London. Amongst his pupils during this period were Arthur Sullivan, Hubert Parry, and Tobias Matthay. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s he composed little, although he performed as a pianist and directed the Philharmonic Society for ten years. He also actively promoted concerts of chamber music. From 1848 onwards his career was punctuated by antagonism between himself and the conductor Michael Costa. (Full article...)
Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax, KCVO (8 November 1883 – 3 October 1953) was an English composer, poet, and author. His prolific output includes songs, choral music, chamber pieces, and solo piano works, but he is best known for his orchestral music. In addition to a series of symphonic poems, he wrote seven symphonies and was for a time widely regarded as the leading British symphonist.
Bax was born in the London suburb of Streatham to a prosperous family. He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in music, and his private income enabled him to follow his own path as a composer without regard for fashion or orthodoxy. Consequently, he came to be regarded in musical circles as an important but isolated figure. While still a student at the Royal Academy of Music Bax became fascinated with Ireland and Celtic culture, which became a strong influence on his early development. In the years before the First World War he lived in Ireland and became a member of Dublin literary circles, writing fiction and verse under the pseudonym Dermot O'Byrne. Later, he developed an affinity with Nordic culture, which for a time superseded his Celtic influences in the years after the First World War. (Full article...)
Leo Ornstein (born Лев Орнштейн, Lev Ornshteyn; c. December 11, 1895 – February 24, 2002) was an American experimental composer and pianist of the early twentieth century. His performances of works by avant-garde composers and his own innovative and even shocking pieces made him a cause célèbre on both sides of the Atlantic. The bulk of his experimental works were written for piano.
Ornstein was the first important composer to make extensive use of the tone cluster. As a pianist, he was considered a world-class talent. By the mid-1920s, he had walked away from his fame and soon disappeared from popular memory. Though he gave his last public concert before the age of forty, he continued writing music for another half-century and beyond. Largely forgotten for decades, he was rediscovered in the mid-1970s. Ornstein completed his eighth and final piano sonata in September 1990 at the age of ninety-four, making him the oldest published composer in history at the time (a mark since passed by Elliott Carter). (Full article...)
Born in London, Payne first seriously studied music at Durham University. Though a composer since childhood, his professional career began around 1969 with his first major work, the Phoenix Mass for choir and brass band, which was firmly rooted in the modernist tradition. He continued to write choral and vocal works, almost exclusively to British poets, particularly Thomas Hardy, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Edward Thomas. From his 1981 chamber work A Day in the Life of a Mayfly on, he synthesised aspects of English romanticism from his primary influences, Elgar, Delius and Vaughan Williams. Two orchestral commissions for The Proms, The Spirit's Harvest (1985) and Time's Arrow (1990) were well received. After several years, Payne created a completed version of Elgar's unfinished third symphony, which brought him international attention and future commissions for completions and orchestrations of works by Delius, Elgar and Finzi. Unsure of his musical identity, Payne found difficulty in subsequent composition until the 2002 orchestral Proms commission, Visions and Journeys (2002). Further major works include The Period of Cosmographie (2010) and Of Land, Sea and Sky (2016) for The Proms. He died in April 2021, a month after the death of his wife. (Full article...)
Billy Strayhorn (November 29, 1915 – May 31, 1967) was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger, best remembered for his long-time collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington that lasted nearly three decades. Though classical music was Strayhorn's first love, his ambition to become a classical composer went unrealized because of the harsh reality of a black man trying to make his way in the world of classical music, which at that time was almost completely white. He was introduced to the music of pianists like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson at age 19, and the artistic influence of these musicians guided him into the realm of jazz, where he remained for the rest of his life. This photograph of Strayhorn was taken by William P. Gottlieb in the 1940s.
Jules Massenet (12 May 1842 – 13 August 1912) was a French composer of the Romantic era, best known for his operas. Between 1867 and his death, he wrote more than forty stage works in a wide variety of styles, from opéra comique to grand depictions of classical myths, romantic comedies and lyric dramas, as well as oratorios, cantatas and ballets. Massenet had a good sense of the theatre and of what would succeed with the Parisian public. Despite some miscalculations, he produced a series of successes that made him the leading opera composer in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time of his death, he was regarded as old-fashioned; his works, however, began to be favourably reassessed during the mid-20th century, and many have since been staged and recorded. This photograph of Massenet was taken by French photographer Eugène Pirou in 1875.
The anatomy of a Périnet piston valve, this one taken from a B♭trumpet. When depressed, the valve diverts the air stream through additional tubing, thus lengthening the instrument and lowering the harmonic series on which the instrument is vibrating (i.e., it lowers the pitch). Trumpets generally use three valves, with some variations, such as a piccolo trumpet, having four. When used singly or in combination, the valves make the instrument fully chromatic, or capable of playing all twelve pitches of classical music. Trumpets may also use rotary valves instead.
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall, seating a maximum of 5,272, on the northern edge of South Kensington, London. Constructed beginning in 1867, the hall was inaugurated on 29 March 1871. Since 1941 it has held The Proms, an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral classical music concerts and other events.
Johann Christian Bach (5 September 1735 – 1 January 1782) was a composer of the Classical era, the eighteenth child of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the youngest of his eleven sons. Bach was taught by his father and then, after the latter's death, by his half-brother C. P. E. Bach. Bach moved to Italy in 1754, and then to London in 1762, where he became known as the "London Bach". Bach's compositions include eleven operas, as well as chamber music, orchestral music and compositions for keyboard music. In 1764 Bach met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was eight at the time, and spent five months teaching him composition. He had considerable influence on Mozart, and was later described by scholars as his "only, true teacher".
Kuchipudi is a Classical Indian dance from Andhra Pradesh, India. According to legend, an orphan named Siddhendra Yogi established the Kuchipudi dance-drama tradition in the seventh century. The performance usually begins with stage rites, after which each character comes onto the stage and introduces herself with a small composition of both song and dance. The drama then begins, and the dance is typically accompanied by Carnatic music.