composers

Composers

At the beginning of each period, I will take about 10 minutes to discuss a composer; some biographical information and a listening task, then we listen to a composition.  After about six weeks, we change composers.  During the course of a year, we will discuss four different historical people, so that after three years of music class, the students have been exposed to these twelve composers (Click on a name to jump right to the person you want to read about):

ArmstrongBach, BeethovenDebussyEllingtonHaydn, Ives, JoplinMozart,  ProkofievStravinsky,  and Tchaikovsky



 

Louis Armstrong

  • Born in 1901 New Orleans, Died 1971 in New York City

  • Poor in his childhood; he helped out his family by playing coronet and singing on the streets

  • "King" Joe Oliver helped Louis get started and they played together in Chicago.

  • Became a goodwill ambassador for the USA.

  • His version of "Hello, Dolly" knocked the Beatles from the #1 spot in 1964!

  • Nicknames:  Satchel Mouth/ Satchmo, Pops.

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  • Chimes Blues
  • Potato Head Blues
  • Heebie Jeebies
  • Ain't Misbehavin'

This clip is a fun version of "Oh When the Saints Go Marchin' in" with Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye.  See if you can recognize the names of the composers that they say!

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Johann Sebastien Bach

  •  Born in 1685, Germany, Died 1750

  • Best organist of his time - master of improvisation.

  • Wrote a new choral piece every Sunday for three years, that means over 215 cantatas!

  • People came from all around to see Bach's "flying feet" and hear the latest composition.

  • Four of his twenty children also became well known musicians.

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  • Suite no.2 in b minor "Badinerie
  • Cantata no.80 "Ein Feste Burg"
  • Fugue in c minor from The Well Tempered Clavier
  • Suite no.3 in D "Gigue"
  • Toccata in d minor 

To hear the organ playing the spooky Toccata and Fugue in d minor, click here.

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Ludwig van Beethoven

  • Born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany

  • Began working as an organist when only 11 and a half years old (6th grade)!

  • Played and taught piano, composed and conducted.

  • Began losing his hearing in his late twenties.

  • First composer to make a good living without a patron.

  • Compositions were considered very difficult and revolutionary.

  • Died in 1827 (57 years old).

 beethoven

  •  Symphony no. 5
  • Symphony no. 9 "Ode to Joy"
  • Fur Elise
  • Piano Sonata Op.27 no.2 "Moonlight"
  • Piano Sonata Op.13 "Pathetique"
  • Violin Concerto in D major Op.61

 

 

 

 


To hear some of Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony, click here.

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington

  • Born 1899, Washington DC- Died 1974.
  • Began piano at age 7, quit to play baseball (until he was a teenager).
  • Refused college art scholarship for music.
  • Cotton Club in NYC - first as soloist, then as band leader.
  • Now 300+ CDs with his compositions. 
ellington
  • Take the "A Train
  • East St. Louis Toodle-oo (with Bubber Miley)
  • It don't Mean a Thing (if it Ain't Got that Swing)
  • The Nutcracker Suite:  Overture and Dance of the Floreadores
  • Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
  • Tenderly






 




Here is an example of Duke and his Orchestra playing
It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing



 

Joseph Haydn


  • Born 1732, Austria.

  • Died 1809 (age 77).

  • Worked for 30 years with the Esterhazy family.

  • Conducted 2 operas and 2 concerts each week!

  • Nicknamed "Papa Haydn", "Father of the Symphony".

 haydn

  • Symphony no. 94 "Surprise"
  • Symphony no. 45 "Farewell"
  • Symphony no. 101 "The Clock"
  • Quartet no.30 in E flat Op.33 no.2 "The Joke" 

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Scott Joplin

  • Born in Texas 1868, Died NYC 1917.
  • "Father of Ragtime".
  • Maple Leaf Rag: His most famous piece, was the first sheet music to sell more than one million copies.
  • Won a Pulitzer Prize in 1976, 59 years after his death, for his opera "Treemonisha".
  • Burned many of his piano "rags" because he wanted to be remembered as an opera composer.
joplin 
  • Maple Leaf Rag (1899)
  • The Entertainer (1902)
  • Treemonisha (opera)
  • The Favorite (1904)
  • Solace (A Mexican Serenade) (1909)
  • Stoptime Rag (1910) 
Although we don't have any video of Scott Joplin playing the piano, here is audio of his playing Maple Leaf Rag as recorded on a piano roll.
To listen (and watch) someone play The Entertainer, click here.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Began composing at the age of 4.

  • Toured Europe to play for royalty at 6 and so, learned 15 languages!

  • Constant travel and work made him very ill.

  • Created entire symphonies in his head perfectly.

  • All together, wrote 202 hours of music - that's 8 and a half straight days! 

 mozart2

  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  • Piano Concerto no.22 in E flat Major, third movement
  • Magic Flute opera
  • Horn Concerto no.4
  • Requiem Mass 
                
For those of you that love the violin (or are learning to play it) here is one of the greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz, playing Rondo from the Serenade no. 7.     
    
Magic Flute opera clips:
Papageno/Papagena duet
Queen of the Night aria
Sarastro: O Isis and Osiris


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Charles Ives

  • Born in 1874, Connecticut. 

  • Died 1954, New York City.

  • Influenced by father's band music, church hymns, ragtime, classical music and folk songs!

  • Studied music at Yale University, but became an insurance salesman.

  • Privately printed some music because publishers kept "fixing" his "mistakes".

  • Gave away his Pulitzer Prize money.

 ives
  • Symphony no.2, Fifth movement
  • The Gong on the Hook and Ladder (Fireman's Parade)
  • Holidays Symphony, Fourth of July
  • The Unanswered Question
  • Concord Sonata
  • Variations on "America" 
To hear the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music's orchestra playing The Unanswered Question, click here.


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Sergei Prokofiev

  •  Born 1891 in Ukraine, Died 1953 in Moscow.
  • Began piano lessons by age 4.
  • First piano composition at 5, opera at 9, symphony at 13!
  • Music called "barbaric"; piano playing "violent".
  • At first, conductors were threatened if they played his music, now one of the most frequently played composers.
pro 
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Romeo and Juliet (ballet music)
  • Symphony no.1 aka Classical
  • Piano Sonata no.7
  • Piano Concerto no.3 

















To see a clip of the Romeo and Juliet ballet, click the link below. 
https://youtu.be/MDHc40aT_AY?list=PLtqCzp7Vs7FlYi29LID6_9qqk8aCuXJjX


Igor Stravinsky

  • Born 1882, Russia, Died 1971, USA
  • Began studying music when 9, piano.
  • At parents request, Igor went to law school (but still studied music on the side).
  • Joined the Ballet Russes with Diaghilev; wrote his most famous music.
  • Known for the unpredictable!
proko 
  • The Firebird ballet, 1910
  • Petrushka ballet, 1911
  • The Rite of Spring ballet, 1913
  • Symphony of Psalms
  • Pulcinella Suite
  • The Rake's Progress opera, 1951 
Here is a rare video of Stravinsky at the age of 82 conducting part of his Firebird Suite.

For all my piano players, listen to Alexis Weissenberg play a piano arrangement of Petrushka.

Here is the opening scene of Petrushka, performed by the Bolshoi Ballet.

Peter Tchaikovsky

  • Born 1840, Votkinsk, Russia; Died 1893.
  • Studied to be a lawyer.
  • Taught music classes at Moscow Conservatory while composing (12 yrs).
  • Sensitive, often depressed person.
  • Mme. VonMeck gave him money, so he wouldn't have to teach, only compose.
  • Music expresses his personal feelings, contains Russian folk traditions. 
tchai 
  •  Three ballets:
  1. Nutcracker
  2. Sleeping Beauty
  3. Swan Lake
  • Piano Concerto no.1
  • Symphony no.6 "Pathetique"
  • 1812 Overture


Click on the link to hear the famous ending from his 1812 Overture.  No cannons fire, but there are some fireworks!


 
Claude Debussy

  • Born 1862, near Paris; Died 1918
  • Began piano at 8, but wanted to be a painter.
  • Attended the Paris Conservatory (age 10).
  • Leader in a new music style:  Impressionism.
  • Used a special scale called "whole tone".
 
deb pic 

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