Andrew Mallett's Guide to Classical Music

So you've taken the plunge but want to know more about these famous composers of yore. Well done for taking the next step into classicaldome. Here then is a brief listing of composers with some basic details about their lives. Want more, go Wiki..


The C-List

Tomaso Albinoni

Tomaso AlbinoniItalian. Existed: 1671-1751 (lasted 79 years). Composer.

Most of his operatic works have been lost, having not been published during his lifetime. See they were bad at backup even in those days.

Nine collections of instrumental works were published, meeting with considerable success and consequent reprints; and he did manage to pump out 99 sonatas, 59 concertos and 9 sinfonias, so that's not too bad.

How to spot him: Usually wigged, looking over his shoulder (maybe for those lost manuscripts) and liked being in that little oval shape



Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach German. Existed: 1685-1750 (lasted 65 years). Composer and musician.

Pretty good on the organ. Big on famous organ works. In fact, a solid organ man of great repute. Although his popularity initially dropped off after he did, modern adaptations of Bach's music contributed greatly to Bach's popularisation in the second half of the 20th century

How to spot him: Looks like a High Court judge with Adam Ant clothes.



Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van BeethovenGerman. Existed: 1770-1827 (lasted 56 years). Composer and pianist.

Spent a lot of time in Vienna. Suffered from tinnitus from the age of 26 and eventually lost his hearing altogether. Reportedly continued to write music through vibrations from his head laying on the piano. Beethoven's funeral procession was attended by an estimated 20,000 Viennese citizens

How to spot him: Note slightly downturned head, pouty mouth and wildness of hair. And for Christ's sake don't confuse him with Mozart.



Frédéric Chopin

Frédéric ChopinPolish. Existed: 1810-1849 (lasted 39 years). Composer and pianist.

Very famous and moving piano pieces. Stomped around Warsaw, made it even bigger in Paris. Chummy with Franz Liszt. Declined with poor health. Produced over 230 works.

How to spot him: Beak of a nose, slightly page-boy hair; paintings, but at least 1 famous photograph; worried expression (for good reason)



Johann Pachelbel

Johann PachelbelGerman. Existed: 1653-1706 (lasted 52 years). Composer and organist.

Did mostly organ routines - wrote more than two hundred pieces for the organ. Also about 100 surviving vocal pieces. His Canon in D major, a piece of chamber music scored for three violins and basso continuo and originally paired with a gigue in the same key whatever that is, experienced a tremendous surge in popularity during the 1970s. The hippies loved him.

How to spot him: Not too many photos due to beng born before cameras were invented. Mainly that long nosed, high forehead, scraggly-haired one and also the more dashing pic with him in the red jacket and curlers.



Johann Strauss II

Johann Strauss IIAustrian. Existed: 1825-1899 (lasted 73 years). Composer.

Known as "The Waltz King", Junior composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles (whatever that is) and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. Spent a lot of time in Vienna eating sticky buns and Cornettoes. After his death, Strauss' older son burned a lot of his works to prevent them being claimed by other composers. Even in those days competition and rivalry were tough.

How to spot him: Usually depicted with massive moustache, meandering between Stalinesque and 'walrus' to totally outrageous..



Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr TchaikovskyRussian. Existed: 1840-1893 (lasted 53 years). Composer.

The first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Suffered from depression and was homosexual. Wrote many popular works including 1812 Overture, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. Died suddenly at 53, ostensibly from cholera although may have taken his own life.

How to spot him: Looks quite Russian. A bit like Sigmund Freud, if you know him. Usually bearded - younger: dark, older: grey. Intense expression; doesn't smile much.



Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio VivaldiItalian. Existed: 1678-1741 (lasted 63 years). Composer, violinist, teacher, cleric..general over-achiever

Only managed to compose 500 concertos for violin and other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and around 46 operas. Best-known work is the series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. Like many he lived rich and died poor. Like many he was popular in his time but dwindled after death (not much output after that).

How to spot him: Not too many pictures to worry about, but slightly effeminate appearance with collar-length rolly wig thing and slightly perplexed expression. Probably an early cross-dresser.

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