Both Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughn Williams loved using folk music in their music. They were inspired by a "folk song revival" started by an English musician named Cecil Sharp collected thousands of folk tunes from around England in the early 1900's.
St. Paul's Girls' School in London has a sign that says: "Gustav Holst wrote The Planets and taught here." Holst composed his St. Paul's Suite for the student orchestra at St. Paul's Girls' School. Many other composers wrote music for students to perform.
Astronomy is the science that studies the sun, moon, planets, and other objects in the sky. Astrology is not a science - it tries to show how objects in the sky affect people's lives on earth. Gustav Holst loved astrology, and he composed his Planets to be musical pictures of human nature.
Born into a family of composers, Gustav Holst wanted to follow in their footsteps. His career included playing in orchestras and serving as head of music at St. Paul's Girls' School for almost thirty years while also composing.
Many pieces of music from Russian operas have become much more famous in the concert hall than on the opera stage. Some of these pieces include Tchaikovsky's Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, Alexander Borodin's Polovstian Dances from Prince Igor, and Sergei Prokofiev's march from The Love for Three Oranges.
Russian artist and architect Victor Hartman was a good friend of Modest Mussorgsky. When Hartman died at the age of 39, there was a memorial exhibit of his work. That inspired Mussorgsky to create his own tribute to Hartman -- a composition depicting ten pieces of art from the exhibit.
The Mighty Handful, also known as the Mighty Five, were group of Russian composers who all wanted to develop a distinctly Russian style of classical music. The Mighty Five composers were Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
When he was a kid growing up, Modest Mussorgsky learned Russian fairy tales and folk stories from the family nurse. Those fairy tales put in an appearance in the music he wrote later on. Mussorgsky composed Pictures at an Exhibition in memory of an artist friend of his who died suddenly.
Rondo is an Italian word that means round. A rondo is an instrumental form with a refrain that keeps coming back. Unlike the verses of a song, though, the music in a rondo changes between each repetition of the refrain.
In the 18th century, Janissary music became all the rage in Europe. Janissaries were the men who guarded the sultan of Turkey. They had wonderful bands that included instruments that sounded very exotic to European ears: cymbals, triangles and bass drums.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first opera when he was twelve, and opera continued to fascinate him throughout his life. Mozart had such genius for combining music and theater that he took opera to a whole new level. No other composer from Mozart's day still has so many operas performed all over the world.
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart sat down at the keyboard at the age of three, it was clear to his father Leopold that he had a genius on his hands. From the first pieces he composed as a five-year-old, to the Requiem he was working on when he died, right before his 35th birthday, Mozart wrote an astonishing amount of beautiful music.
The beginning of the second movement of Beethoven's 8th Symphony imitates a metronome -- a mechanical device that ticks steadily to help musician keep to the beat of the music. Other composers wrote music that ticks, or that imitates other inanimate objects -- including a doll and a typewriter.
Beethoven was a pianist. During his lifetime, the piano changed quite a bit, and those changes were reflected in the music Beethoven composed for the instrument. William Black, who was head of the piano department at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, talked with Naomi Lewin about how Beethoven's music followed the development of the piano.
Ludwig van Beethoven was a uniquely talented composer and musician. But by the time Beethoven was 30, his increasing deafness put an end to his career as a pianist. That did not stop him from continuing to compose some of the most beautiful music the world has ever known.