Classical Music: The Famous and the Infamous
A blog about all things classical music. From the famous composers to the infamous scandals, we cover it all!
Classical Music Basics
If you’re new to classical music, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, classical music can seem pretty stuffy and old-fashioned. But classical music is actually some of the most beautiful, moving, and exciting music ever written. In this article, we’ll give you a crash course in classical music, from its origins to its defining characteristics.
Defining classical music
The first thing to know about classical music is that there is no one definitive answer to the question, “What is classical music?” Because it is such a broad and complex genre, with a long and rich history, different people may have very different ideas about what qualifies as “classical music.” In general, though, we can say that classical music is a type of Western art music that emerged during the Middle Ages and has been evolving ever since. It is characterized by certain fundamental features, such as its intricate vocal or instrumental melodies, its formal structures (such as sonata form), and its use of counterpoint.
A brief history of classical music
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period), this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.
In the world of Classical Music, some composers are household names. Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart top the list of the most famous classical musicians of all time. But what about the others? Who are the famous classical composers that everyone should know?
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist, who is arguably one of the most famous classical music composers of all time. He is known for his symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas, and other works. Many of his works are still performed today.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach’s compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Mozart is one of the most famous classical music composers of all time. He was a prodigy who wrote his first symphony at the age of eight. His work is characterized by elegant melody, lively harmony and a balance between form and content. Mozart’s operas are among his most popular works, and include The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute.
There are those pieces of classical music that are so famous, everyone knows them. “Ode to Joy,” “Canon in D,” “The Nutcracker,” and so on. They are so popular that even people who don’t like classical music have heard of them. But there is another side to classical music: the infamous. These are the pieces that are so notorious, so reviled, that even people who do like classical music have heard of them. Here are a few of the most infamous classical pieces.
Richard Wagner is one of the most controversial composers in classical music. He was a german composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, who is chiefly known for his operas. His works are characterized by their complex harmonic language, often navigating chromaticism and tonality. His music had a profound influence on the following generation of composers, including Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten. Wagner’s work was also controversial in its time; his operas were often banned due to their political and erotic content.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was a famous Russian composer, pianist, and conductor who lived from 1873-1943. He is best known for his works for piano and orchestra, including his Piano Concerto No. 2 and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. He was also a popular conductor, performing with many different orchestras throughout his career.
Rachmaninoff was born in Novgorod, Russia, into a musical family. His father was an amateur singer and his mother was a pianist. Rachmaninoff began playing the piano at age four and composing soon after that. He studied music at the Moscow Conservatory from 1887-1892 and later became one of its faculty members.
Rachmaninoff’s compositional style was influenced by Tchaikovsky and other Romantic composers. However, he developed his own unique voice, characterized by beautiful melodies, rich harmonic textures, and intense emotional expressions. His music was very popular during his lifetime and continues to be performed and recorded today.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Few people in the history of classical music have been as famous – or as infamous – as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Russian composer was one of the most popular and beloved figures of his time, but he also courted controversy with his private life and his music.
Tchaikovsky was born into a modest family in 1840, but he soon showed talent for music and was admitted to the Imperial School of Music in St. Petersburg. He finished his studies there in 1859 and went on to have a successful career as a composer, teacher, and conductor. His most famous works include the ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, the opera Eugene Onegin, and the symphonies Romeo and Juliet and Pathetique.
While Tchaikovsky’s music was widely popular, his private life was much less so. He was rumored to be gay, which was taboo at the time, and he had a disastrous marriage that ended in divorce. He also struggled with depression and anxiety throughout his life. In 1893, just a few days after the premiere of his Symphony No. 6 (known as the Pathetique), Tchaikovsky died under mysterious circumstances. Some believe he committed suicide; others think he may have been poisoned by opponents of his music.
Whether you love or hate Tchaikovsky’s music, there’s no denying that he was one of the most famous – and infamous – composers of all time.