Famous Composers

Johann Sebastian Bach, a composer in the Baroque period, was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, into a family of distinguished musicians. He became a choirboy in Luneburg at a young age, and then in 1703, he became an organist at Arnstadt; that was where he wrote his first church cantatas and music for the clavier. In 1708, he was appointed court organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimer. He became one of the most brilliant organists of his time and wrote numerous masterpieces for the organ. In 1717, Bach was made kapellmeister and director of chamber music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen. This office was created especially so that he could focus all his creative talent into writing orchestral and chamber music. Between 1717 and 1723, Bach completed his famous Brandenburg Concertos and suites for orchestra, concertos for various solo instruments and orchestra and solo sonatas and suites for single instruments. After 1723, Bach became the cantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig, where he taught, played the organ, wrote music and directed church services.

He died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750, after suffering from blindness. At the time of Bach's death, few recognized his greatness. It wasn't until about 75 years later when some of his best work saw a revival that his overall work was re-evaluated, and he took his place as one of the greater composers of all time.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. one of the foremost composers from the classical period, was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria. He started to learn the harpsichord when he was 4 and wrote his first compositions at age 5. His work at such a young age invariably meant that all child prodigies were measured against him. Before he was 14, four of his violin sonatas were published in Paris, symphonies were performed in London and the Austrian emperor commissioned an opera buffa from him. However, even though he was gaining acclaim all around Europe, he was underappreciated in his hometown of Salzburg. His employer, the Salzburg archbishop, mistreated him, leading Mozart to look for a more lucrative and appreciated post elsewhere.

In 1778, he arrived in Paris but was only offered insignificant offers as his talents were less electrifying than when he was considered a child prodigy. He, therefore, had to return to his former position with the archbishop of Salzburg. In 1781, his opera Idomeneo debuted in Munich successfully, and this led him in 1782 to leave Salzburg permanently and live in Vienna. The Austrian emperor commissioned him to write an opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which gave him false hope that things had turned around. However, in Vienna, like in Salzburg, he made powerful enemies who did everything in their power to impede his progress. Mozart was, therefore, forced to earn a living by teaching and performing and spent the rest of his life in poverty. Nevertheless, he remained a prolific composer, producing a constant stream of masterpieces including The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. However, these pieces did little to improve his income, and he was forced to rely on his friends for loans to pay for his basic needs. Even in the last days of his life, when he suffered from painful illnesses, Mozart completed The Magic Flute, often considered his greatest work, which was introduced in Vienna on September 30, 1791. Mozart died on December 5, 1791, and was buried in an unmarked grave in the pauper's section of St. Marx cemetery. His pupil Franz Sussmayr completed the Requeiem, the B-flat major piano concerto and the E-flat major string quintet after Mozart's death.

Other famous composers include George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), Joseph Hayden (1732–1809) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827).

Famous Composers: Selected full-text books and articles

The World of Great Composers By David Ewen Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962
Modern Russian Composers By Leonid Sabaneev; Judah A. Joffe International Publishers, 1927
Composers of the Nazi Era: Eight Portraits By Michael H. Kater Oxford University Press, 2000
Beethoven By Donald Francis Tovey Oxford University Press, 1945
Bruckner and Mahler By H. F. Redlich J. M. Dent and Sons, 1955
Alan Rawsthorne: Portrait of a Composer By John McCabe Oxford University, 1999
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