Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the well known composers of the Baroque era (1600-1750). J. S. Bach composed over 1000 works which included cantatas, concertos, sonatas, partitas, masses, and chorales.
J.S. Bach came from a family of musicians. His great-grandfather was a bagpipe player, his grandfather a court musician, and his father was a violinist, organist, court trumpeter and timpanist. At least two of Bach’s uncles composed music. Additionally, three of his brothers were musicians. Did you know Bach had 20 children? At least five of his children became composers.
Bach was a regular at Café Zimmerman in Leipzig, Germany, where he would consume 3 to 4 cups of coffee. He loved coffee so much that he even wrote his famous Coffee Cantata about a woman trying to break her coffee habit.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a famous composer of the Classical Era (1750-1820). Mozart was a child prodigy who began composing music at the young age of 6 years old. At age 8, Mozart had written his first symphony and was performing for European royalty. By the age of 18, he had composed 30 symphonies. Mozart only lived to be 35 years old, yet he wrote more than 600 musical works!
Mozart was quite a silly jokester. If Mozart was bored in rehearsal, he would imitate cats by leaping around tables and meowing. He enjoyed imitating cats so much that he composed a song called “The Cat Duet,” which includes lots of meowing.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany and is known as one of the greatest composers of the Western European music tradition. His works overlapped the classical period as well as the romantic era in music. Beethoven wrote over 700 works, which include his famous 9 symphonies, 35 piano sonatas and 16 string quartets.
Like Bach, Beethoven also enjoyed coffee, but he was a bit more obsessive about it. Each time Beethoven would make coffee, he would count exactly 60 coffee beans. He believed this number of beans made the perfect cup of coffee.
In his late twenties, Beethoven began to lose his hearing. However this did not stop him from composing. While deaf, he still managed to compose an opera, six symphonies, four solo concerti, five string quartets, six string sonatas, seven piano sonatas, five sets of piano variations, four overtures, four trios, two sextets, and 72 songs!
To this day, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is regarded as one of the most famous compositions. When the work premiered in 1824, Beethoven had already been deaf for ten years, yet he conducted the entire symphony without hearing a single note. The theme of the last movement, known as “Ode To Joy,” later became the European Union’s anthem.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, pianist, musical conductor, teacher, and one of the most-celebrated figures of the early Romantic period.Mendelssohn was another child prodigy who excelled at many different types of art, such as linguistics, athletics, poetry, and painting.
Felix began taking interest in music composition at the age of 12. He had already created over 12 string symphonies by the time he was 14 years old. Queen Victoria described Mendelssohn as “the greatest musical genius that ever lived since Mozart.” She also described him as the most amiable man she had ever met.
Much of Mendelssohn’s musical works were inspired by Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. When Mendelssohn was 22 years old, he organized a concert that included a performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” Bach was not a very famous composer during this time, and this piece had not been performed since Bach’s death in 1750. However, the concert was a huge success and the good reviews spread across the country. Many historians believe that Mendelssohn’s performance of “St. Matthew Passion” began the resurgence of Bach’s compositions.
Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is considered one of his most famous works. A friend of Mendelssohn’s, Attwood, lost an original manuscript of Mendelssohn’s in the back seat of a cab. It happened to be the only copy of the Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yet, Mendelssohn did not worry, as he just rewrote the whole thing from memory!
So now you know some more about some the most famous composers!
Grace Collins and the StringTime Family