Women Composers

Composers from Germany

Johann Sebastian Bach

March 21, 1685 - July 28, 1750

Baroque Period

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, where his father was a town musician. Bach came from a long line of composers - over 300 years' worth of Bachs all worked as professional musicians. By the time Johann was 10, both his parents had died, so he was brought up by his older brother, who was a church organist. Johann became a very good organist, too.

Johann Sebastian Bach held three major jobs in his life: first he worked for a duke, then for a prince, and finally, he became director of music at the St. Thomas Church and School in Leipzig, Germany. Even though his job in Leipzig kept him very busy, in his spare time, Bach conducted a group of musicians who liked to get together to perform at a local coffee house.

During his lifetime, people thought of Bach as just an ordinary working musician. No one really knew much about his music until 100 years after his death, when another composer, Felix Mendelssohn, conducted a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

Bach is now seen as one of the greatest geniuses in music history. He wrote all kinds of music -- for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestras, choirs, and concertos for many different instrumental combinations.

 


Ludwig van Beethoven

December 16, 1770 - March 26, 1827

Classical Period

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. His father, who was a singer, was his first teacher. After a while, even though he was still only a boy, Ludwig became a traveling performer, and soon, he was supporting his family.

In his early twenties, Beethoven moved to Vienna, where he spent the rest of his life. Beethoven was one of the first composers to make a living without being employed by the church or a member of the nobility. At first, he was known as a brilliant pianist. But when he was around 30 years old, Beethoven started going deaf. Even though he could no longer hear well enough to play the piano, Beethoven composed some of his best music after he was deaf!

Beethoven is considered one of the greatest musical geniuses who ever lived. He may be most famous for his nine symphonies, but he also wrote many other kinds of music: chamber and choral music, piano music and string quartets, and an opera.

 


Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

 


Johannes Brahms

May 07, 1833 - April 03, 1897

Romantic Period

Johannes Brahms was born in 1833 in the German city of Hamburg. His father was a musician who played several instruments. Brahms loved music, too. By the time he was six, he'd invented his own system for writing notes down on a page. Of course, he took instrument lessons, learning to play cello, horn, and piano. By the time he was ten, he was such a good pianist that he performed in public, as part of a chamber music concert. Brahms also loved books and read everything he could find including novels, poetry, and folk tales.

When Brahms was older, he toured as an accompanist, playing piano for a Hungarian violinist. That music -- and the gypsy bands Brahms heard later on when he traveled to Hungary -- inspired his Hungarian Dances, which were a hit with the public. He wrote 21 dances in all. The most famous one is the Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Many people considered Brahms to be the successor to Beethoven. For a long time, he didn't want to write a symphony, because he was afraid his work would not be as good as Beethoven's. Brahms ended up writing four symphonies, plus pieces in every musical form except opera. You may know one of his most famous pieces, the Lullaby.

In fact, Brahms became so famous, he is now known as one of the 3 B's -- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms -- of classical music.

 


Max Bruch

January 06, 1838 - October 02, 1920

Romantic Period

Max Bruch was born in Cologne, Germany on January 6, 1838. He studied music under Ferdinand Hiller, a friend of Robert Schumann. Bruch was a traditional German Romantic composer. He taught at several music schools around Germany and served as the conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (1880-83). His famous works include Scottish Fantasy (1880) and Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (1866), a staple of the Romantic violin concertos. He also wrote a piece based on Hebrew Yom Kippur melodies called Kol Nidrei. During Nazi control in Germany, Bruch's music was banned over public airwaves because they feared he might be a Jew. Records show that Bruch was raised Protestant. He retired in 1910 and died at home in 1920.

 


George Frederick Handel

February 23, 1685 - April 14, 1759

Baroque Period

Georg Friedrich Händel was born in Halle, Germany. But since he spent most of his professional life in England, he's better known as George Frederick Handel.

Even though Handel was very interested in music, his father (who was a barber and surgeon) was not. There's a story that Handel smuggled a clavichord -- a VERY quiet instrument -- into the house so that he could practice in secret. Handel's father insisted that his son become a lawyer, until the day that Handel sat down at the keyboard and dazzled a duke. The duke convinced Handel's father to let his son study music.

 


Felix Mendelssohn

February 03, 1809 - November 04, 1847

Romantic Period

Felix Mendelssohn was lucky enough to be born into a rich family, with loving parents who encouraged him to be a musician. And he certainly had the right name. Felix is Latin for "happy."

Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. His grandfather was the great Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, but Felix Mendelssohn lived at a time when it was very difficult to be Jewish in Germany -- there were all kinds of laws and taxes that applied only to Jews. Felix Mendelssohn's father Abraham was a banker who didn't want to deal with anti-Semitism -- people discriminating against him just because he was Jewish. So he converted to Christianity, and changed the family name to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

The Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts at their house, so Felix grew up with music all around him. He was already a terrific pianist as a child, and started composing when he was ten. As a teenager, Mendelssohn had already written some of his greatest music. He was also a wonderful visual artist.

Mendelssohn was very close to his older sister, Fanny, who also played the piano and composed. The two of them not only made music together, they also put on plays -- like A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare.

Mendelssohn loved to travel. His trips to other countries inspired some of his best music, like his Scottish and Italian Symphonies.

Mendelssohn also became well known as a conductor. When he was just 20, he put together and conducted the first concert of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion since Bach's lifetime.

 


Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 - May 14, 1847

Romantic Period

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

 


Johann Pachelbel

January 01, 1653 - March 03, 1706

Baroque Period

Johann Pachelbel was a talented composer, organist, and teacher who lived during the Baroque era, roughly the same period as other famous composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Antonio Vivaldi. Some of his music has been said to have even influenced the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. Pachelbel showed musical interest and ability from an early age and even studied with leading instructors in his town.

Though he worked much of his life as an organist, he also wrote a lot of music, including works for the organ, harpsichord, chamber groups, and voice. If you’ve been to a wedding, it’s possible you’ve heard his most famous work - the Canon in D major – a piece that has accompanied many brides walking down the aisle.

 


Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896

Romantic Period

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

 


Robert Schumann

June 08, 1810 - July 29, 1856

Romantic Period

Robert Schumann's father was an author and book dealer in Zwickau, the German town where Schumann was born. Robert grew up with books all around him, so he fell in love with books and writing. Robert also fell in love with music. As a kid, he took piano, flute and cello lessons, and also started composing.

When he was a teenager, Schumann still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a writer or a composer when he grew up. But after heading off to the University of Leipzig to study law, he knew he didn't want to be a lawyer. In Leipzig, Schumann took piano lessons with a teacher named Friedrich Wieck, whose star pupil was his daughter Clara. In spite of the fact that she was nine years younger than he was, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck fell in love. Clara’s father absolutely refused to let them get married. It took years -- and a court battle with Clara's father -- before Robert and Clara Schumann could finally get married.

The whole year following their wedding, Schumann was so in love that he couldn't stop composing songs. That became known as Schumann's Year of Song. Schumann then went off on a couple of other year-long binges. The next year, he worked on three out of his four numbered symphonies, and the following year was Schumann’s year for chamber music — pieces written for small groups of instruments.

Even though a hand injury kept Schumann from becoming a concert pianist, there was still a famous pianist in the house -- his wife Clara. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto. When the Schumanns’ daughter Marie turned seven, her father gave her a small album of piano pieces that he’d written for her. Later, he added to it, and published it as the Album for the Young — 18 pieces for little kids, and 25 more for older ones.

 


Richard Strauss

June 11, 1864 - September 08, 1949

Late Romantic Period

Richard Strauss was a German composer born in Munich in 1864. He was taught music by his father and composed from the age of six until his death in 1949. Strauss had a fairly comfortable life and experienced a rare burst of creativity in his last decade. Some of his later pieces match or surpass his early works. Famous pieces include Don Juan (1888) and Also sprach Zarathustra (1896).

 


Georg Philipp Telemann

March 14, 1681 - June 25, 1767

Baroque Period

Georg Philipp Telemann was born in Magdeburg, Germany. He came from a long line of ministers, so everyone expected him to become one, too. But as a kid, he learned to play several musical instruments, and taught himself to compose.

When Telemann went to the university in Leipzig, he was supposed to study law and forget about music. But his music-loving roommate found out that Telemann was a composer, and arranged to have one of his pieces performed. The next thing Telemann knew, he was writing music for the biggest church in town.

For a while, Telemann was a court composer, but eventually he got tired of working for counts and dukes. So he became a municipal music director -- first for the city of Frankfurt, and then for Hamburg, a very important German port.

Unlike many composers, Telemann was famous and appreciated in his day. He was friends with most of his fellow composers, and was godfather to one of Johann Sebastian Bach's sons: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach has his middle name!

 


Richard Wagner

May 22, 1813 - February 13, 1883

Romantic Period

German born composer Richard Wagner is best known for his operas. Before composing his own works, he was a theatrical and operatic producer. He was also a conductor and wrote articles and essays on drama and music, something he continued to do throughout his lifetime.

Wagner was largely self-trained as a musician, but had tremendous talent. In 1837 he composed Rienzi, his first successful operatic work. This was followed by The Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser and Lohengrin. His masterpiece, however, is the Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four operas that tells the story of mythological German gods and beings. Composition of this series took over twenty-five years. The use of leitmotifs helps to unite these four operas. A leitmotif is a musical phrase that is related to some aspect of the drama - perhaps a character, place, thought or thing. Another important aspect of his music is infinite melody; in his Ring operas, the music never stops until the final curtain has dropped. And, the orchestra is equally as important as the singers and drama. Wagner wanted a theatre that would meet the considerable needs of these operas and eventually built Bayreuth, a theater in which his works are still performed today.

As is the case with many geniuses, Wagner could be a difficult person. He ran up enormous debts, which he expected others to pay off. When he did have money, he spent it recklessly. He had a huge ego and once asked a man whom he barely knew for money. When this was denied, he was incensed and replied, "It probably will not happen again that a man like me will apply to you."

Wagner's music was loved by some and hated by others, but it had, and continues to have, a tremendous effect on all audiences and musicians.

 


Carl Maria von Weber

November 18, 1786 - June 05, 1826

Romantic Period

Carl Maria von Weber was one of the great composers of the Romantic era. and is the father of German Romantic opera. His music greatly influenced other composers, including Wagner, Mendelssohn. and Berlioz. Romantics were noted for their interest in nature, the supernatural and the spiritual. His most famous work, an opera called Der Freischütz, includes all of these elements. Other operas, Euryanthe and Oberon, were less successful. His piano music was very popular, but he had enormous hands and many of these pieces are impossible for a normal person to play.

In addition to composing these works, von Weber was also director of the Breslau, Prague and Dresden opera houses, a wonderful pianist and conductor and critic. He was very demanding, requiring rigorous sectional rehearsals of his orchestras and supervising all aspects of production. In part due to his example, conductors in general became dominating forces in the musical world. As was true of most Romantics, he was also interested in other arts such as poetry and lithography.

Like many in this period of history, von Weber suffered from consumption, or tuberculosis. He died from this disease at the age of 40.

 


Women Composers

Composers from Germany

Johann Sebastian Bach

March 21, 1685 - July 28, 1750

Baroque Period

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, where his father was a town musician. Bach came from a long line of composers - over 300 years' worth of Bachs all worked as professional musicians. By the time Johann was 10, both his parents had died, so he was brought up by his older brother, who was a church organist. Johann became a very good organist, too.

Johann Sebastian Bach held three major jobs in his life: first he worked for a duke, then for a prince, and finally, he became director of music at the St. Thomas Church and School in Leipzig, Germany. Even though his job in Leipzig kept him very busy, in his spare time, Bach conducted a group of musicians who liked to get together to perform at a local coffee house.

During his lifetime, people thought of Bach as just an ordinary working musician. No one really knew much about his music until 100 years after his death, when another composer, Felix Mendelssohn, conducted a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

Bach is now seen as one of the greatest geniuses in music history. He wrote all kinds of music -- for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestras, choirs, and concertos for many different instrumental combinations.

 


Ludwig van Beethoven

December 16, 1770 - March 26, 1827

Classical Period

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. His father, who was a singer, was his first teacher. After a while, even though he was still only a boy, Ludwig became a traveling performer, and soon, he was supporting his family.

In his early twenties, Beethoven moved to Vienna, where he spent the rest of his life. Beethoven was one of the first composers to make a living without being employed by the church or a member of the nobility. At first, he was known as a brilliant pianist. But when he was around 30 years old, Beethoven started going deaf. Even though he could no longer hear well enough to play the piano, Beethoven composed some of his best music after he was deaf!

Beethoven is considered one of the greatest musical geniuses who ever lived. He may be most famous for his nine symphonies, but he also wrote many other kinds of music: chamber and choral music, piano music and string quartets, and an opera.

 


Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

 


Johannes Brahms

May 07, 1833 - April 03, 1897

Romantic Period

Johannes Brahms was born in 1833 in the German city of Hamburg. His father was a musician who played several instruments. Brahms loved music, too. By the time he was six, he'd invented his own system for writing notes down on a page. Of course, he took instrument lessons, learning to play cello, horn, and piano. By the time he was ten, he was such a good pianist that he performed in public, as part of a chamber music concert. Brahms also loved books and read everything he could find including novels, poetry, and folk tales.

When Brahms was older, he toured as an accompanist, playing piano for a Hungarian violinist. That music -- and the gypsy bands Brahms heard later on when he traveled to Hungary -- inspired his Hungarian Dances, which were a hit with the public. He wrote 21 dances in all. The most famous one is the Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Many people considered Brahms to be the successor to Beethoven. For a long time, he didn't want to write a symphony, because he was afraid his work would not be as good as Beethoven's. Brahms ended up writing four symphonies, plus pieces in every musical form except opera. You may know one of his most famous pieces, the Lullaby.

In fact, Brahms became so famous, he is now known as one of the 3 B's -- Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms -- of classical music.

 


Max Bruch

January 06, 1838 - October 02, 1920

Romantic Period

Max Bruch was born in Cologne, Germany on January 6, 1838. He studied music under Ferdinand Hiller, a friend of Robert Schumann. Bruch was a traditional German Romantic composer. He taught at several music schools around Germany and served as the conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (1880-83). His famous works include Scottish Fantasy (1880) and Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (1866), a staple of the Romantic violin concertos. He also wrote a piece based on Hebrew Yom Kippur melodies called Kol Nidrei. During Nazi control in Germany, Bruch's music was banned over public airwaves because they feared he might be a Jew. Records show that Bruch was raised Protestant. He retired in 1910 and died at home in 1920.

 


George Frederick Handel

February 23, 1685 - April 14, 1759

Baroque Period

Georg Friedrich Händel was born in Halle, Germany. But since he spent most of his professional life in England, he's better known as George Frederick Handel.

Even though Handel was very interested in music, his father (who was a barber and surgeon) was not. There's a story that Handel smuggled a clavichord -- a VERY quiet instrument -- into the house so that he could practice in secret. Handel's father insisted that his son become a lawyer, until the day that Handel sat down at the keyboard and dazzled a duke. The duke convinced Handel's father to let his son study music.

 


Felix Mendelssohn

February 03, 1809 - November 04, 1847

Romantic Period

Felix Mendelssohn was lucky enough to be born into a rich family, with loving parents who encouraged him to be a musician. And he certainly had the right name. Felix is Latin for "happy."

Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. His grandfather was the great Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, but Felix Mendelssohn lived at a time when it was very difficult to be Jewish in Germany -- there were all kinds of laws and taxes that applied only to Jews. Felix Mendelssohn's father Abraham was a banker who didn't want to deal with anti-Semitism -- people discriminating against him just because he was Jewish. So he converted to Christianity, and changed the family name to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

The Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts at their house, so Felix grew up with music all around him. He was already a terrific pianist as a child, and started composing when he was ten. As a teenager, Mendelssohn had already written some of his greatest music. He was also a wonderful visual artist.

Mendelssohn was very close to his older sister, Fanny, who also played the piano and composed. The two of them not only made music together, they also put on plays -- like A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare.

Mendelssohn loved to travel. His trips to other countries inspired some of his best music, like his Scottish and Italian Symphonies.

Mendelssohn also became well known as a conductor. When he was just 20, he put together and conducted the first concert of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion since Bach's lifetime.

 


Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 - May 14, 1847

Romantic Period

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

 


Johann Pachelbel

January 01, 1653 - March 03, 1706

Baroque Period

Johann Pachelbel was a talented composer, organist, and teacher who lived during the Baroque era, roughly the same period as other famous composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Antonio Vivaldi. Some of his music has been said to have even influenced the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. Pachelbel showed musical interest and ability from an early age and even studied with leading instructors in his town.

Though he worked much of his life as an organist, he also wrote a lot of music, including works for the organ, harpsichord, chamber groups, and voice. If you’ve been to a wedding, it’s possible you’ve heard his most famous work - the Canon in D major – a piece that has accompanied many brides walking down the aisle.

 


Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896

Romantic Period

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

 


Robert Schumann

June 08, 1810 - July 29, 1856

Romantic Period

Robert Schumann's father was an author and book dealer in Zwickau, the German town where Schumann was born. Robert grew up with books all around him, so he fell in love with books and writing. Robert also fell in love with music. As a kid, he took piano, flute and cello lessons, and also started composing.

When he was a teenager, Schumann still wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a writer or a composer when he grew up. But after heading off to the University of Leipzig to study law, he knew he didn't want to be a lawyer. In Leipzig, Schumann took piano lessons with a teacher named Friedrich Wieck, whose star pupil was his daughter Clara. In spite of the fact that she was nine years younger than he was, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck fell in love. Clara’s father absolutely refused to let them get married. It took years -- and a court battle with Clara's father -- before Robert and Clara Schumann could finally get married.

The whole year following their wedding, Schumann was so in love that he couldn't stop composing songs. That became known as Schumann's Year of Song. Schumann then went off on a couple of other year-long binges. The next year, he worked on three out of his four numbered symphonies, and the following year was Schumann’s year for chamber music — pieces written for small groups of instruments.

Even though a hand injury kept Schumann from becoming a concert pianist, there was still a famous pianist in the house -- his wife Clara. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto. When the Schumanns’ daughter Marie turned seven, her father gave her a small album of piano pieces that he’d written for her. Later, he added to it, and published it as the Album for the Young — 18 pieces for little kids, and 25 more for older ones.

 


Richard Strauss

June 11, 1864 - September 08, 1949

Late Romantic Period

Richard Strauss was a German composer born in Munich in 1864. He was taught music by his father and composed from the age of six until his death in 1949. Strauss had a fairly comfortable life and experienced a rare burst of creativity in his last decade. Some of his later pieces match or surpass his early works. Famous pieces include Don Juan (1888) and Also sprach Zarathustra (1896).

 


Georg Philipp Telemann

March 14, 1681 - June 25, 1767

Baroque Period

Georg Philipp Telemann was born in Magdeburg, Germany. He came from a long line of ministers, so everyone expected him to become one, too. But as a kid, he learned to play several musical instruments, and taught himself to compose.

When Telemann went to the university in Leipzig, he was supposed to study law and forget about music. But his music-loving roommate found out that Telemann was a composer, and arranged to have one of his pieces performed. The next thing Telemann knew, he was writing music for the biggest church in town.

For a while, Telemann was a court composer, but eventually he got tired of working for counts and dukes. So he became a municipal music director -- first for the city of Frankfurt, and then for Hamburg, a very important German port.

Unlike many composers, Telemann was famous and appreciated in his day. He was friends with most of his fellow composers, and was godfather to one of Johann Sebastian Bach's sons: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach has his middle name!

 


Richard Wagner

May 22, 1813 - February 13, 1883

Romantic Period

German born composer Richard Wagner is best known for his operas. Before composing his own works, he was a theatrical and operatic producer. He was also a conductor and wrote articles and essays on drama and music, something he continued to do throughout his lifetime.

Wagner was largely self-trained as a musician, but had tremendous talent. In 1837 he composed Rienzi, his first successful operatic work. This was followed by The Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser and Lohengrin. His masterpiece, however, is the Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four operas that tells the story of mythological German gods and beings. Composition of this series took over twenty-five years. The use of leitmotifs helps to unite these four operas. A leitmotif is a musical phrase that is related to some aspect of the drama - perhaps a character, place, thought or thing. Another important aspect of his music is infinite melody; in his Ring operas, the music never stops until the final curtain has dropped. And, the orchestra is equally as important as the singers and drama. Wagner wanted a theatre that would meet the considerable needs of these operas and eventually built Bayreuth, a theater in which his works are still performed today.

As is the case with many geniuses, Wagner could be a difficult person. He ran up enormous debts, which he expected others to pay off. When he did have money, he spent it recklessly. He had a huge ego and once asked a man whom he barely knew for money. When this was denied, he was incensed and replied, "It probably will not happen again that a man like me will apply to you."

Wagner's music was loved by some and hated by others, but it had, and continues to have, a tremendous effect on all audiences and musicians.

 


Carl Maria von Weber

November 18, 1786 - June 05, 1826

Romantic Period

Carl Maria von Weber was one of the great composers of the Romantic era. and is the father of German Romantic opera. His music greatly influenced other composers, including Wagner, Mendelssohn. and Berlioz. Romantics were noted for their interest in nature, the supernatural and the spiritual. His most famous work, an opera called Der Freischütz, includes all of these elements. Other operas, Euryanthe and Oberon, were less successful. His piano music was very popular, but he had enormous hands and many of these pieces are impossible for a normal person to play.

In addition to composing these works, von Weber was also director of the Breslau, Prague and Dresden opera houses, a wonderful pianist and conductor and critic. He was very demanding, requiring rigorous sectional rehearsals of his orchestras and supervising all aspects of production. In part due to his example, conductors in general became dominating forces in the musical world. As was true of most Romantics, he was also interested in other arts such as poetry and lithography.

Like many in this period of history, von Weber suffered from consumption, or tuberculosis. He died from this disease at the age of 40.

 


 

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