Classical music is a critical component of the fine arts, with 16th, 17th and 18th century composers paving the way for today’s modern musicians. To honor these talented artists and their infamous works, we’ve granted access to reference works on five of history’s most researched classical composers for free for the entire month!
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: One of the world’s most recognized musicians, Mozart began to compose at the age of five and went on to create some of history’s most recognized pieces. After serving as the court musician in Salzburg, Mozart traveled to Vienna at the age of 25. He aspired to receive a musical position on the emperor’s court and competed with fellow composers for a title. Before he received the title of “sole composer” in 1788, Mozart mastered the Baroque-style and built a reputation for his skills as a pianist. Some of Mozart’s most famous works before his untimely death include the operetta The Magic Flute and the composition Eine kleine Nachtmusik or “A Little Night Music.” [Keefe, Simon P. The Cambridge Companion to Mozart. Cambridge University Press: 2003]
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Greatly influenced by the works of Mozart, Beethoven was a German pianist and composer who significantly contributed to the transition from the Classical to Romantic styles of music. During his first years in Vienna, Beethoven mostly composed for piano and studied counterpoint under Joseph Haydn. Beethoven regularly performed for nobility and soon began to compose for string instruments as well. Over the course of his lifetime, Beethoven composed a variety of sonatas, symphonies, concertos and quartets, even after his hearing deteriorated to the point of being completely deaf. [Kinderman, William. Beethoven. Oxford University Press: 1997]
- Johann Sebastian Bach: A large contributor to the Baroque-style of music, Bach was the product of a musical family and paved the way for other famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. In addition to being a talented player and composer on the piano, Bach also composed pieces for the harpsichord, organ and clavichord. The intricacy of Bach’s compositions, such as the trio sonata, features the transverse flute with four movements which greatly exhibits the technical difficulty that Bach included in many of his works. [Schulenberg, David. The Music of J.S. Bach: An Analysis and Interpretation. University of Nebraska Press: 1999]
- Peter Tchaikovsky: One of the first Russian composers to be recognized on an international stage, Tchaikovsky composed a plethora of classical works from the opera to the ballet. Though he dabbled in music throughout his youth, Tchaikovsky’s enrollment at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory is what catapulted his career as a composer and music professional. His musical tastes tended to be conservative and conventional, which often resulted in criticism of his works during his life. Regardless, pieces such as Swan Lake are still performed in theaters throughout the world. [Mihailovic, Alexandar. Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries: A Centennial Symposium.Greenwood Press: 1999]
- Johannes Brahms: From the time that Brahms was born, he was destined to be a musician. Raised in a musical household with a father who played multiple instruments, Brahms learned to play the piano at age 7. By the age of 19, he was a skilled pianist and an aspiring composer. He soon studied under famed composer Robert Schumann and developed a close relationship with the senior composer’s wife. After Schumann’s death, Brahms split his time between Hamburg and Vienna and continued to steadily compose, becoming one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. [Avins, Styra, et al. Johannes Brahms: Life and Letters. Oxford University Press: 1997]
Visit Questia’s topic page on Classical music for more information.