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Classical musicians

Facts and masterpieces of great classical musicians
a data set by Claire
created February 28, 2016
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NameTimeNationalityInteresting fact 1Interesting fact 2Interesting fact 3Interesting fact 4Interesting fact 5Interesting fact 6Interesting fact 7Interesting fact 8Interesting fact 9Interesting fact 10Interesting fact 11Interesting fact 12Interesting fact 13
Johann Sebastian Bach1685 – 1750GermanyHe managed to he managed to sire an astonishing 20 children in his lifetime.He was fond of incorporating the numbers 14 and 41 into his musical works, because they were derived from the mystical numerology values of the letters in his own name. We're not quite sure how that ended up as 'Air on a G-string', but his works are littered with references to those numbers.Career-wise, it wasn't always plain sailing for him. In fact, one of his employers was so intent on hanging on to him that he had him imprisoned for daring to hand in his resignation. Still, Bach made good use of the time and composed some studies for organ while he was inside.Though he was more famous for writing sacred pieces, the occasional secular gem showed Bach to be a humorous and inventive chap. Described as a mini comic opera, 'Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht' ('Be still, stop chattering') it concerns the characters' addiction to coffee and was most likely first performed in a Leipzig coffee house.Everyone knows that Beethoven suffered with his hearing, but not so many people are aware that he struggled terribly with his eyesight. In fact, botched surgery on his eyes by the English ocular specialist John Taylor reportedly caused his death in 1750.One of his most enduring works, his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, has been tackled by a huge range of pop musicians in recent years. From John Williams' fusion rock band Sky covering the piece to indie rock band Muse subtly turning the main melody into a guitar riff on their song 'Plug In Baby', it seems his influence stretches far and wide…
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart1756 –1791AustriaHe wrote his first symphony at the age of eight years oldUnlike most other composers, he composed in all major genres and excelled at every one: sonatas, concertos, symphonies, operas, choral music and chamber music. He is credited with popularizing the piano concerto. While he didn’t invent any of these forms, he is responsible for their technical advancement. In his brief 35 years, he composed over 600 works, or about 17 pieces per year. He was also good at math and spoke some different languagesHis name has 8 wordsHe wrote half the number of symphonies he had ever wrote from the ages of 8-19If you listen to his all his music he has ever made for 8 hours a day, it would take you almost 1,500 years to listen to it allIn 1787, the young Ludwig van Beethoven travelled to Vienna in the hopes of studying with him. We'll never know if they actually met.
Frédéric Chopin1810 – 1849PolandHe was composing and writing poetry at six, and gave his first public concerto performance at the age of eight.His mother was a piano teacher, and his father played the flute and violin. A maker of fine vodka has borrowed the composer's name as a universal mark of quality.He was very fond of Bach - who could blame him? He urged his piano pupils to practise Bach every day to strengthen their fingers and exercise their minds with the mathematical music.His Piano Concerto No. 2 was written before his Piano Concerto No. 1, in 1830. But the first one was published after the second, leading to the confusion.Once arrived in Paris, he never returned back to his home country.His 'Minute' Waltz isn't minute, as in small, it's minute in that it lasts 60 seconds. Well, almost: the 138 bars of music take between a minute and a half and two minutes to play. His publishers decided on the nickname.Most of his music was written for piano. He wrote 59 mazurkas, 27 études, 27 preludes, 21 nocturnes and 20 waltzes for the instrument. He was buried in Paris. Mozart's Requiem was performed at his funeral.
Ludwig van Beethoven1770-1827GermanyHis father noticed early on the boy’s penchant for playing. He set his sights on creating a prodigy, and his father beat music into him, forcing him to practice day and night to reach the same level of genius. His neighbors remembered the small boy standing on a bench to reach the keyboard, crying, his father looming over him.Having left school at age 11 to help with household income, he never learned how to multiply or divide. To his last day if he had to multiply, say, 60 x 52, he’d lay out 60 52 times over and add them up.Among his friends, he was a notorious spacecadet. Once, while speaking to family friend Cacilie, she noticed him zoning out. When she demanded a reply to what she’d said, his answer was, “I was just occupied with such a lovely, deep thought, I couldn’t bear to be disturbed.”On his first visit to Vienna, 17-year-old him was scheduled to perform for Mozart. The latter was generally unimpressed with other musicians, having been so far ahead of his peers in talent and accomplishments. No one really knows what happened in that fateful meeting, but myth has it that Mozart walked out of the room saying, “Keep your eyes on him—someday he’ll give the world something to talk about.”He was known for his improvising He had varying luck with women. Some admired him for his genius while others found him repulsive. A woman he courted once called him “ugly and half crazy.”When he had been composing for some years, the piano began to come into its own. Whereas his predecessors had composed for harpsichord, Beethoven decided he would focus his efforts on the instrument no one had yet written comprehensive work for.He was a sick kid to his dying day. Throughout his life he would suffer from deafness, colitis, rheumatism, rheumatic fever, typhus, skin disorders, abscesses, a variety of infections, ophthalmia, inflammatory degeneration of the arteries, jaundice, chronic hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver.He hated giving piano lessons unless they were for exceptionally talented students or attractive young women of whatever talent.He was instrumental in setting the tone of critiques of his work in the leading music journal of the day, AMZ, telling the editor to back off with negative comments if he wanted to receive copies of the musician’s work.Despite his acclaim, he always had to work hard to ensure a comfortable living by giving piano lessons, writing work commissioned by wealthy Viennese residents, and, of course, publishing his own music.He died during a thunderstorm at age 56, his friend comparing the occasion to the composer’s symphonies with “crashes that sound like hammering on the portals of Fate.”Thousands joined the procession at his burial. His monument said, simply, “[HIS SURNAME].”
Claude Debussy1862 – 1918FranceHe began piano lessons at the age of seven.His parents hoped that he would be a piano virtuoso, but he never placed higher than fourth in any competitions.He was what we would refer to today as a “player.” Most of his love affairs began before the previous had ended.The composer was not very fiscally responsible. While growing up, Debussy’s family struggled financially. As an adult, he was drawn to the comforts and life-styles of the rich and famous and lived well outside his means. He bought an enormous house in an upper-class neighborhood, employed several servants and hired a car. He felt that it was his right to have these things, but his debts continued to grow.He was one of the most prominent composers associated with Impressionist music, although he did not like the term when applied to his works. He likely would have preferred to be called a modernist. Regardless of what his music was called, his use of non-traditional scales, harmonies and chromaticism influenced and helped shaped many of the composers who came after him.He passed away on at the age of 55.His family weren't all that musical: his father owned a china shop, and his mother was a seamstress.Aged ten, he started his studies at the Paris Conservatoire. During the next eleven years, he studied composition with high flying French musicians including Émile Durand and César Franck, but failed to win the premier prix for piano, so abandoned his dream of becoming a virtuoso.Despite the title, Children’s Corner isn’t actually a piece for children. It was written in 1911 for the composer’s three-year-old daughter, Claude-Emma, and was intended to evoke childhood toys and memories.The two books of Préludes contain some of his best-known piano music, split up into two sets of 12 pieces. The first edition included the title in brackets at the end of the music, so the pianists could interpret the music for themselves without being influenced by his title.Smooth and transcendental, it’s easy to see why ‘The girl with the flaxen hair’ is one of his most recorded pieces. It’s the eighth piece in the first book of Préludes, from 1909-1910The remarkable Etudes, composed in 1915, are a warning to pianists not to take up music professionally unless they have remarkable hands. That, at least, is what the composer thought of his 12 extremely difficult piano masterpieces.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky1840 – 1893RussiaHe suffered from depression and was a notorious hypochondriac.He thought his head was going to fall off while he was conducting. Literally – he even held his head up with one hand while in front of the orchestra!He NEVER EVER drank unbottled water. Probably a good decision, given the cholera outbreak in Russia at the time…He started taking piano lessons as a young child, but nobody noted any special talent or proficiency with his music at that time. Instead, he studied to become a civil servant. Denied a promotion, he entered the music conservatory in St. Petersburg at age 22 and began his serious musical studies. He graduated and accepted a post teaching at the music conservatory in Moscow, where his career as a professional composer truly began.He Wrote 'Sleeping Beauty' in 40 DaysAs evidenced by the "1812 Overture," he liked experimenting with new instrumentation for his compositions. In the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," he uses the celesta, an instrument that resembles a small upright piano in looks and produces a distinctive tinkling sound. The celesta was invented in 1886 and he was one of the first composers to write music for it.For many years, he was supported monetarily with a monthly stipend by a patron named Nadezhda von Meck. Von Meck was a wealthy widow who supported other artists as well, but none more fervently than the composer. They carried on an intense correspondence for 14 years but von Meck insisted that they never meet in person. Instead, he dedicated his "Fourth Symphony" to her.He Died Nine Days After Conducting His Last Symphony
Franz Schubert1797-1828AustriaHe was the 12th child of a Moravian schoolteacher and his wife, Elisabeth. His father - who played cello - taught his son the rudiments of music. The house in which he was born, pictured, was known as the Red Crayfish but is today 54 Nussdorfer Strasse in the ninth district of Vienna.The composer Salieri talent-spotted him when the boy was just seven. Franz was whisked off to the Imperial Seminary where he sang in the choir, played violin in the orchestra and learned musical theory from Salieri himself.He wrote his first masterpiece at 17 – a setting of Goethe’s 'Gretchen am Spinnrade' (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel). Already the composer was making the piano part an integral element of the song. The accompaniment mimics the revolving wheel, speeding up and slowing down in response to the text.In 1815 alone, he wrote more than 20,000 bars of music, including nine church works, a symphony, and some 150 songs – including eight in one day in October 1815.As a 19-year old in Vienna, he began both a law degree and composing his Symphony No.5. This might well have been the work that prompted the composer to drop out of studying law. It is the perfect piece for anyone who wants to get into his music – fresh, light, full of youthful exuberance and bursting with tunes.In 1888, both his and Beethoven's graves were moved to the Zentralfriedhof, where they can now be found next to those of Johann Strauss II and Johannes Brahms.On his deathbed, the mighty Ludwig van Beethoven is said to have looked at some of his works and exclaimed, "Truly, the spark of divine genius resides in this [HIS SURNAME]!" In March 1827 Schubert was one of the torchbearers at Beethoven’s funeral.His greatest contribution to music was in the field of ‘lieder’. These 600 songs express every shade of human emotion – tenderness, drama, even evocations of the countryside. Through them he demonstrated a profound appreciation of the possibilities of the human voice.Robert Schumann discovered the Great Symphony in a chest after his death. “The riches that lay here made me tremble with excitement,” he enthused. The symphony “transports us into a world where I cannot recall ever having been before,” said Schumann.Few his fans would disagree that his ninth symphony deserves the name, the ‘Great’. The title though was given just to distinguish it from another of his symphonies which is also in the key of C (known as the Little C). In a letter of March 1824, pictured, the composer did say he was preparing himself to write 'a grand symphony'.He wrote his popular Trout Quintet when he was just 22. It got its name because the fourth movement is a set of variations on an earlier his song called, funnily enough, The Trout. The song was originally a warning to young women against being 'caught' by 'angling' young men. But he didn’t set the final lines of the poem, preferring to concentrate on evoking the image of the trout in water and the reaction to it being caught by a fisherman.He made no secret of the fact that he was absolutely in love with Mozart’s music. "O Mozart! immortal Mozart!” he wrote, “what countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!”Being only five foot one tall, his diminutive frame – added to his rather plump body – earned him the nickname ‘Schwammerl’ (little mushroom).
Sergei Rachmaninoff1873 – 1943RussiaA young, musical genius. He created a storm with his First Piano Concerto when he was just 18.The première of his first symphony in March 1897 was a total disaster. According to some, he was drunk. The critics tore the work apart and it was never again performed during his life. He fell into a depression and needed hypnosis to conquer the problem.The composer's Piano Concerto No.2 of 1901 was use in the film Brief Encounter, and is the nation's favourite classical work.He married his cousin. He was not just a composer, but in his day he was a fine conductor and magnificent pianist. He was offered several major posts in the U.S. - most notably with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.He composed his Symphony No.2 in Dresden, which was a resounding success and has remained one of the most popular of all of his works.The composer had possibly the largest hands in classical music, which is why some of his pieces are fiendishly difficult for less well-endowed performers. He could span 12 piano keys from the tip of his little finger to the tip of his thumb.His very large hands came in useful when performing his third piano concerto. It’s grander, fuller and more expansive in tone and style than the second – with the soloist stretched to the very limits of his ability. The work is used powerfully on the soundtrack of the film Shine and the success of the film ensured a new audience for this muscular, Romantic work.The composer had a very deep and personal religious faith which he expressed beautifully in 1915 through his unaccompanied set of choral vespers. They are separated into two parts – the evening Vespers and the morning Matins, both full of exquisitely rich harmonies.The composer saw America as the future and from his arrival there in 1918 he found himself in great demand. He made enough money to build a house in Los Angeles that was an exact replica of his original Moscow home.Despite his success, the composer seldom smiled in photographs. Tall and severe, he was once dubbed a ‘six-foot scowl’. He did however have a passion for fast cars - and later speedboats. He was the first in his neighbourhood to have an automobile.
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