- Barber, Samuel
- Twentieth century American composer, famous for the
Adagio for strings, which piece apparently featured
to strong effect in the movie Platoon.
- Nineteenth century French. Composer of Carmen,
and a symphony that I quite like.
- Baroque Italian who wrote bazillions of string quartets,
including one that has a very famous minuet. This is another
of those peices that gets turned into "lift music", sad to say.
- Britten, Benjamin
- Twentieth century British. I'm sure he's good; Shostakovich
liked him after all (enough to dedicate one of his symphonies to
him, the fourteenth). The first thing of his I heard was a
choral piece called Rejoice in the Lamb. I heard
it sung by the St. Catharine's College
chapel choir. It
quotes the DSCH signature theme at one point, which I thought
was pretty neat when I heard it. They say his War
Requiem is good. I have also acquired a recording of his
vocal work, The Prodigal Son. This is definitely a
tough nut, with very sparse writing for orchestra and voices. I
think I may be coming to appreciate it more.
There has recently been some controversy around Britten in
Britain (ho-ho): the village where he lived much of his life
has refused to put up a statue commemorating him and his music.
Some people see this as symptomatic of the council's reaction
to Britten's homosexuality.
- Bruckner, Anton
- Late nineteenth century Austrian. Deeply religious. Also very
diffident. Revised many of his works at the urging of
"friends". Wrote eight complete symphonies and three movements
of a ninth, as well as some choral religious music. The
symphonies tend to be majestic and dense. Not as vivacious as
- Dvorák, Antonín
- Nineteenth century Czech. Some-time protégé of
Brahms, famous for
Symphony from the New World, which well-deserves
its fame. Also wrote a charming piano concerto. His cello
concerto is also quite well-regarded, but I don't think I've
heard it more than once.
- Grieg, Edvard
- Nineteenth century Norwegian. Wrote a piano concerto, and a
famous couple of suites derived from incidental music for the
play Peer Gynt, featuring such memorables as
The Hall of the Mountain King, Morning
and Solveig's Song.
- Liszt, Franz
- Nineteenth century Hungarian. Composed interminable piano
pieces. I have heard one live and it was OK, but that's about
it. There is a Liszt home-page.
- Paganini, Nicolo
- An Italian virtuoso violinist of the nineteenth century who
totally stunned his audiences. Probably a minor composer at
best, but he did write at least one great tune; Rachmaninov wrote some variations for
piano and orchestra based on it, as did Brahms. It's used as the
theme to the (British) TV programme, The South Bank
A correspondent (David Gresset) writes:
He was famous for composing and then performing violin pieces
almost impossible to play. To make matters worse, he would
intentionally string up old strings so they would violently snap
in the middle of the concert, and then proceed to play the rest
of the concert on the remaining strings. All this while jumping
up and down and performing other sensational stage antics.
- Early Italian. Don't think I've ever heard any of his stuff at
all, but on the strength of a recent recommendation think I
will try to change this.
- Eighteenth century Italian. Composed a famous Stabat
Mater, and a few other pieces before dying at a very
early age (just 26).
- Prokofiev, Sergei
- Twentieth century Russian. Contemporary of Shostakovich. Died the
same day as Stalin in 1953. Famous bits include Romeo and
Juliet, Peter and the Wolf and a number of
piano concerti. I have recently (September 2001) acquired
recordings of all his symphonies. They're a mixed bunch.
- Another of those famous nineteenth century Italian opera
composers. I have a recording of La Bohème
that I like a lot.
- Early twentieth century Russian. Actually ended up in America
as an emigré. Famous for his piano concerti (of which
there are four), which I have heard, and enjoyed.
- Early nineteenth century Italian. Opera composer, who did
Barber of Seville (with famous “Figaro, Figaro,
Fi--ga-ro” aria), among others.
- Scarlatti, Alessandro
- Domenico's dad. I have
a CD with some of his chamber music on it accompanying a
recording of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.
- Schoenberg, Arnold
- Austrian composer of the early 20th century, famous
for important role in development of theory of
- Schütz, Heinrich
- Born 100 years before Bach, Handel &c. Not quite medieval,
but perhaps a Renaissance composer. Lots of good "church-y"
- Strauss, Richard
- Turn of the 20th century German composer of tone poems such
as Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegel and
Death and Transfiguration. Also wrote the opera
Salomé, which has a famous Dance of
Seven Veils in it.
No relation to the Austrian Strauss family famous for its
waltzes; for example the Blue Danube that featured
in the film 2001.
- Stravinsky, Igor
- 20th century Russian emigré composer. His Rite of
Spring apparently caused a riot on first performance (in
Paris). Also wrote a Firebird suite (?).
- Sullivan, Arthur
- 19th century English. Most famously worked with Gilbert on
popular musicals such as The Pirates of Penzance
and The Mikado. Also wrote a number of other more
“serious” works, but never really gained much recognition in
this side of his career. (A couple of web-log reactions
available here and here.)
- Baroque German. A reader suggested he should be on the main
list. I have heard some of his stuff, but nothing like enough.
I've even played some of it (did I say I was a (very) amateur
clarinettist?), and liked it, but that's about the limit of my
exposure I'm afraid.
- Vaughan Williams, Ralph
- English composer of the early to mid-twentieth century. I have
heard his 3rd, 4th and 5th symphonies, but on the basis of these
works I think I will try and hear more.
- Nineteenth century Italian. An opera composer. Same old
story; I really haven't heard enough of his stuff.
- Nineteenth century German. Essentially wrote nothing but
opera. He didn't like Brahms, and I haven't heard
enough of his music to be able to come to any judgement of my
own. His fans tend to be pretty one-eyed in their admiration
(this cop-out entry of mine has attracted quite a bit of
attention since its inception), so perhaps there is something in
it after all.