Songs in classical music are usually called "art songs." In German, art songs are called Lieder. Franz Schubert was a master of writing Lieder. Each of his songs combines poetry and music, voice and accompaniment, to make a complete musical short story.
Franz Schubert's father expected his son to be a teacher in the school that he ran. But Schubert didn't last long at that job -- he was much more interested in writing music than paying attention to a classroom full of kids.
In the "Farandole" from Georges Bizet's Arlesienne Suite, there are examples of all three kinds of harmonic texture: monophony, homophony, and polyphony. Hear those terms explained in words and in music.
Georges Bizet was not Jewish, his father-in-law was. Bizet married the daughter of his composition professor, Jacques Halevi. To celebrate Chanukah, we learn about some other Jewish composers of classical music, including Salamone Rossi, Leonard Bernstein, Darius Milhaud, Jacques Offenbach and Aaron Copland.
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.