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March 28, 2020
When Johann Sebastian Bach sent a set of six concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg -- a German official -- the Margrave probably never even looked at the music. Bach called his pieces "concertos for a variety of instruments," because each one calls for a different instrumental combination.
March 21, 2020
A concerto is a piece of music in which one or more solo instruments get to shine in front of an orchestra. A concerto can be written for any instrument. A "concerto grosso" is a concerto for two groups of instruments -- a smaller group of soloists alternating with a larger group.
March 14, 2020
Johann Sebastian Bach was married two times, and had a grand total of 20 children! All of Bach's ancestors were musicians, and his sons were expected to follow in his musical footsteps. Some of them became famous composers, too.
March 7, 2020
Johann Sebastian Bach was born into a musical dynasty. The Bach family had over 300 years' worth of professional composers and musicians, but Johann Sebastian was the most famous of all of them. In addition to being one of the greatest composers the world has ever known, Bach was also an excellent organist and violinist.
February 28, 2020
A Finale is the end of a piece of music. Here's a look at some famous finales.
February 22, 2020
Depicting a thunderstorm in music was one of Rossini's specialties. Here are some more examples of musical thunderstorms.
February 15, 2020
Usually, an overture is a piece of music played at the beginning of a play, opera or ballet in order to set the mood. But there are also other kinds of overtures.
February 8, 2020
The William Tell Overture was written to open an opera by Gioachino Rossini. The opera is based on a legend about the Swiss hero William Tell. According to the legend, William Tell was an expert with a bow and arrow who shot an apple off his son's head. You can hear the political turmoil in William Tell's Switzerland in Rossini's music.
February 1, 2020
Italian composer Gioachino Rossini was born in 1792 and died in 1868, so you might think that he celebrated 76 birthdays. But Rossini was born in a leap year, on February 29th, so he only had 18 official birthdays! Rossini was the most successful opera composer of his day.
January 25, 2020
Lt. Kije is the story of an imaginary soldier, created when the Russian Tsar misread a smudged name on a list of his men. Everyone around the Tsar was too afraid to tell him there was no such person, so they just invented an entire life for the nonextistent Kije. He gets married and become a hero -- all on paper. When the Tsar finally demands to meet Kije, the military holds his funeral.
January 18, 2020
In music, a suite is a specific collection of pieces. Here are some examples of various kinds of musical suites.
January 11, 2020
Prokofiev was not the only classical composer to paint a musical portrait of a sleigh ride on a snowy day. Listen as we take you through several other examples of this frosty form of transportation.
January 4, 2020
Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev lived and traveled around the world, but found that he was most at home in Russia. This look at his life takes you on his travels and highlights some of his music, including Peter and the Wolf, which he wrote for the Central Children's Theatre in Moscow.
December 28, 2019
In celebration of the Christmas season, some classical compositions that have Christmas carols in them.
December 21, 2019
Ralph Vaughan Williams arrived on the scene just as a definite English classical music sound was being established. His three main teachers at the Royal Academy of Music were Arthur Sullivan, Hubert Parry, and Charles Stanford. Edward Elgar and Gustav Holst also had an influence on Vaughan Williams. Other contemporaries of his were George Butterworth, Percy Grainger, and Peter Warlock.
December 14, 2019
Originally, a musical fantasy was a piece that instrumentalists made up as they went along. Eventually, fantasies evolved into pieces that composers built out of various melodies they liked -- like the Scottish folk tunes that Max Bruch put into his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra.
December 7, 2019
was one of the most important 20th century English composers. He spent years traveling the country collecting English folk songs, writing them down, and publishing them. Many of those melodies wound up in his music.
November 30, 2019
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the woodwind and string families.
November 23, 2019
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the woodwind and string families.
November 16, 2019
Pizzicato is the Italian word for ''plucked'' -- it tells string players how to play their instruments at a given spot in the music. A lot of musical "traffic signals" are in Italian. This show has explanations and examples of some more of them.
November 9, 2019
Benjamin Britten composed his Simple Symphony when he was twenty, but he based it on music that he'd written much earlier -- some of it when he was only 10! The ''Simple Symphony'' has four movements, each of which has a very catchy name: Boisterous Bouree, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande, and Frolicsome Finale.
November 2, 2019
After studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, Benjamin Britten got a job writing film music. Then he went on to compose choral music, chamber music, songs, and quite a few operas, including some for major events in British history. In addition to being a composer, Britten was an excellent pianist and conductor.
October 26, 2019
Appropriately spooky classical music for Halloween.
October 19, 2019
, some more music by composers who were playing with fire.
October 12, 2019
on a Russian folk tale about an evil demon named Kashchei, who has thirteen princesses under his spell. A prince who wanders into Kashchei and apos;s garden to hunt the Firebird winds up defeating Kashchei and freeing the princesses -- with the help of the Firebird and apos;s magic feather.
October 5, 2019
Russian composer Igor Stravinsky had a big hit with his first ballet, The Firebird. Stravinksy kept on writing ballets, followed by operas, and orchestral and choral music.
September 28, 2019
Tritsch-Tratsch -- the title of a polka by Johann Strauss, Jr. -- is Austrian slang for "chit-chat." A lot of composers used music to portray people making sounds: talking, laughing, crying -- even sneezing!
September 21, 2019
The waltz is a dance in 3/4 time that was very popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century. But the roots of the waltz go back to the German Dance of Mozart's day. After the waltz became popular on the dance floor, it moved onto the concert stage, the ballet stage and the opera stage.
September 14, 2019
Johann Strauss, Sr. had three musical sons: Johann, Jr.; Josef; and Eduard. Sometimes they worked together as musicians, but other times, there was bitter rivalry.
September 7, 2019
Johann Strauss, Jr. was the son of a very successful violinist and orchestra leader. Eventually, Johann, Jr. was in competition with his father, conducting an orchestra of his own. When the older Strauss died, people began to realize that the son was an even better musician and composer.
August 31, 2019
For years, the Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland's ballet Rodeo has been used in a commercial for the Beef Council. A lot of classical music turns up in T.V. commercials. It has been used to sell airlines, cars, cereal and even fertilizer.
August 24, 2019
tells the story of a cowgirl who is in love with a cowboy, but just can and apos;t get him to notice her. Once she finally does, she decides that she and apos;d rather spend time with another cowboy who was nice to her all along.
August 17, 2019
Agnes de Mille loved to dance. She became hooked on ballet as a child, after seeing the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova perform. Agnes de Mille performed all over America and Europe, but she didn't hit it big until Rodeo -- the ballet that launched her career.
August 3, 2019
Aaron Copland was a 20th century American composer from Brooklyn, New York. Copland is known for writing very American music, but he actually studied in France. His teacher, Nadia Boulanger, helped Copland find his way to an American sound in classical music.
July 27, 2019
Charles Ives loved to put hymns into his music. Several other composers borrowed hymn tunes; here are several examples from 20th Century American compositions.
July 20, 2019
The Country Band March has 12 recognizable popular and folk tunes in it. But Ives was not the only composer to put borrowed tunes in his music. Many classical composers -- including Ludwig van Beethoven, Mily Balakirev, and Percy Grainger -- used folk music in the pieces they wrote.
July 13, 2019
Charles Ives wrote the Country Band March about amateur musicians -- people who make music for the love of it. In the Country Band March Ives combines a tune that he wrote with bits and pieces of many other popular and folk tunes. See how many of them you can recognize.
July 6, 2019
The music that Charles Ives wrote was greatly influenced by his father, George. From the time he was a kid, Ives heard his father experiment with sound. George Ives always told Charlie to "stretch his ears," and Charlie did that with every piece of music he wrote.
June 29, 2019
Many countries around the world have national anthems and other patriotic songs that were written by classical composers. Haydn, Elgar and Verdi are just a few you'll explore here.
June 22, 2019
The minuet is a dance that started in the 1700's in the French court. Gradually, the minuet began to be used for non-dancing purposes, as a musical form -- especially as the third movement of symphonies. Minuets found their way onto the stage, too, in operas, plays, and ballets.
June 15, 2019
Every year, when the weather turned nice, Prince Esterhazy -- Franz Joseph Haydn's employer -- moved his entire household to his summer palace. When it turned cold again, everyone moved back to the main palace in the city. But one fall, it stayed warm for a very long time, and the prince didn't budge. The musicians in his orchestra wanted to go home, and Haydn found a musical way to tell the prince it was time to go: the Farewell Symphony.
June 8, 2019
Franz Joseph Haydn never had any children, but the musicians who worked for him liked him so much they called him Papa Haydn. And Haydn is also known as the "Father of the Symphony." He wasn't the first person to compose symphonies, but he did help the symphony to grow up as a musical form.
June 1, 2019
Franz Joseph Haydn spent over thirty years working as music director for the Esterhazy family. By the end of his life, Haydn was both rich and famous, and he had gotten along well with his employers - pretty unusual for a composer of that time.
May 25, 2019
Opera singer Denyce Graves talks with Naomi Lewin about what it's like to be an international opera star.
May 18, 2019
Giuseppe Verdi composed Aida for a new opera house in Cairo, Egypt that opened around the time as the opening of the Suez Canal. Aida is the story of an Ethiopian princess being held captive by Egyptians. One of the Egyptian generals is desperately in love with her, and she's in love with him -- but so is the daughter of the Egyptian king.
May 11, 2019
Guiseppe Verdi -- "Joe Green," in Italian -- was a great opera composer and Italian patriot. His music became part of the Italian fight for independence and unity.
May 4, 2019
An opera is like a play in which the characters sing all their lines. Opera singers do not use microphones -- their voices are trained, and can fill a whole theater with sound without any amplification. All operas have solo singers and an orchestra -- and a lot of operas have a chorus, too. Operas have been written in many different languages, including English.
April 27, 2019
From the time Frederic Chopin was a child, audiences loved to hear him play the piano. A lot of composers were famous as keyboard players, too: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt...
April 20, 2019
In his Military Polonaise, Frederic Chopin uses the piano to imitate the drums that accompanied armies marching into battle. A lot of composers have put battle sounds into their music.
April 13, 2019
The polonaise is a dance that was fashionable in the Polish court. Since Polish nobility used to like to speak French, the name "polonaise" is French. Eventually, the polonaise caught on all over Europe, and even migrated to America. Lots of operas contain polonaises, and after a while, composers began to use the polonaise as a form for non-dancing, instrumental pieces.
April 6, 2019
Frederic Chopin was one of the greatest pianists of his day. Every single piece of music he wrote used the piano. The name Chopin doesn't sound very Polish because Chopin's father was born in France. Even though he was fiercely proud of being Polish, Frederic Chopin wound up moving to France, and never returned to Poland.
March 30, 2019
Through the centuries, there have been exceptional female performers - on the largest stages of the world, and in smaller, more intimate settings. They include Clara Wieck Schumann, Maria Theresia von Paradies, Nadia Boulanger, Dame Myra Hess, Rebecca Clarke, Jacqueline Du Pre, Evelyn Glennie, Maria Callas, Marian Anderson, and Leontyne Price.
March 23, 2019
A program featuring acclaimed conductor JoAnn Falletta, who talks about her early love of music, how seeing her first symphony concert inspired her to become a conductor, and all the listening and preparation that goes into being successful at her job.
March 16, 2019
There are many women composers these days, and this program introduces some of them: Caroline Shaw, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Anna and THORN;horvaldsd and oacute;ttir, Lera Auerbach, Kaija Saariaho, Chen Yi, Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen, Missy Mazzoli, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Tania Le and oacute;n.
March 9, 2019
Though many societies either forbade or looked down on women who wanted to be composers, many persevered. This show highlights Francesca Caccini, and Eacute;lizabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Louise Farrenc, C and eacute;cile Chaminade, Germaine Tailleferre, Hildegard von Bingen, Marianna Martines, Fanny Mendelssohn, Amy Beach, Florence Price, and Queen Lili'oukalani.
March 2, 2019
How women in world history - Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II, Aphra Behn, Joan of Arc, Emmeline Pankhurst, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Grace Hopper - inspired classical music compositions.
February 23, 2019
Music by composers with all kinds of hyphens to their African heritage: African-French, French-Cuban, African-English, and African-American.
February 16, 2019
Lots of movies use classical music. Sometimes, that music is such a big part of the movie that the two become linked forever.
February 9, 2019
Ragtime music is truly African-American music. It combines rhythms that were brought to this country by slaves, with musical forms brought over to the United States from Europe. Ragtime uses syncopated rhythms -- that is, the accents in the melody are shifted away from the strong beats in the bass line underneath.
February 2, 2019
From a very early age, Scott Joplin supported himself as a performing pianist. Eventually, he earned a living selling his compositions, too. Thanks to Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, the most famous of all piano rags, Joplin became known as the King of Ragtime Writers.
January 26, 2019
"Gigue" is the French word for jig -- a lively dance in triple time. The jig started out as folk dance in Ireland, Scotland, and northern England, before finding its way into classical music.
January 19, 2019
Georg Philipp Telemann never studied composition - he taught himself how to write music. There are quite a few composers who taught themselves, including Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Edward Elgar, Francis Poulenc, Scott Joplin and others.
January 12, 2019
Georg Philipp Telemann composed during the Baroque period, which ran from about 1600 to 1750. Suzanne Bona, host of the National Public Radio program Sunday Baroque, talks with Naomi Lewin about Baroque music.
January 5, 2019
Telemann loved to write. He wrote more pieces of music than any other composer, and he also wrote not one, not two, but THREE autobiographies.
December 29, 2018
The Music Hall founded by Andrew Carnegie in New York City opened on May 5, 1891 with a concert conducted by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It quickly became known simply as ''Carnegie Hall,'' in honor of its donor.
December 22, 2018
George Frederick Handel's Messiah wasn't written for Christmas -- it was first performed in April. Hear some other pieces of classical music that traditionally get played during the Christmas season.
December 15, 2018
Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. In The Nutcracker, a Christmas present -- a nutcracker -- comes to life as a handsome prince. He takes the young girl who received him as a present on some fantastic adventures.
December 8, 2018
Ballet is a theatrical performance that tells a story using music, costumes, sets, and dance. Victoria Morgan, artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet, talks with Naomi Lewin about ballet and ballet terms.
December 1, 2018
Some composers in Tchaikovsky's day didn't think his music sounded "Russian" enough, but Tchaikovsky was Russian through and through. Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, operas, songs, chamber music -- and of course, several wonderful ballets.
November 24, 2018
Zoltan Kodaly developed a method for teaching music. It is still used by teachers around the world today. Jill Trinka, who teaches the Kodaly Method, talks with Naomi Lewin.
November 17, 2018
Zoltan Kodaly was not the only composer to use folk tunes in the music he wrote. Here are some others.
November 10, 2018
Kodaly's opera Hary Janos is about a real person who told real whoppers - big, fat lies. If you listened to him, you'd think he defeated Napoleon's army all by himself.
November 3, 2018
Zoltan Kodaly was born in a small town in Hungary. His father worked for the Hungarian railroad, so the family moved around a lot. This meant that as a kid, Zoltan heard folk music from many different parts of the country. When he grew up, Hungarian folk music became his passion. Kodaly spent a large part of his life collecting his native music, and teaching his countrymen about it.
October 27, 2018
Appropriately spooky classical music for Halloween.
October 20, 2018
Music by composers from the three official Scandinavian countries -- Norway, Denmark and Sweden -- and a couple of unofficial ones -- Finland and Iceland!
October 13, 2018
"In The Hall of the Mountain King" is part of the incidental music Edvard Grieg wrote for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. Hear the story of the play as you listen to Grieg's music.
October 6, 2018
Edvard Grieg was from a music-loving Norwegian family. In addition to becoming the leading Scandinavian composer of his day, Grieg became a big supporter of Norwegian arts and culture.
September 29, 2018
Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn's older sister, was a talented pianist and composer. So was Clara Schumann, wife of composer Robert Schumann. Also featured: music of Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Cecile Chaminade, Germaine Tailleferre, Hildegard von Bingen, Amy Beach, and Thea Musgrave.
September 22, 2018
A child prodigy, Felix Mendelssohn began composing when he was 10. This week on Classics for Kids hear about other composers who started just as early -- or even earlier.
September 15, 2018
Probably no playwright has had more music based on his work than William Shakespeare. Felix Mendelssohn, Henry Purcell, Hector Berlioz, Giuseppe Verdi are just a few of the composers who've been inspired by Shakespeare's plays.
September 8, 2018
When Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn put on Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream to entertain their family, the two of them played all the characters! Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream illustrates many of the characters and situations in the play.
September 1, 2018
By the time he was a teenager, Felix Mendelssohn was already an excellent pianist and composer. And Mendelssohn was very talented in other areas. In addition to German (his native language), Mendelssohn spoke French, English, and Italian. He was also a very good painter. And he became quite famous as a conductor.
August 25, 2018
Leonard Bernstein grew up in the Boston area. Here are some more composers who spent time in and around that city.
August 18, 2018
Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" is an operetta. An operetta is like an opera, with one big difference. In opera, everything is sung, but in operetta, there are spoken lines between the singing. Composers who wrote operettas in English include Sir Arthur Sullivan (who can't be separated from William S. Gilbert, who wrote the words for Gilbert and Sullivan operettas), Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, and Rudolf Friml.
August 11, 2018
When he was growing up, Leonard Bernstein loved to put on operas and other musical shows with his friends. That interest in musical theater continued all through his life, and produced such great Broadway musicals as "On The Town," "Wonderful Town," and "West Side Story."
August 4, 2018
American-born Leonard Bernstein became famous all over the world as a composer, a conductor, and a pianist. In addition to writing classical music, composed classic Broadway musicals, including West Side Story.
July 28, 2018
From the late 1800's to the early 1900's, professional bands toured all over the United States, and many towns in this country had their own amateur bands.
July 21, 2018
The United States Marine Band is this country's oldest military band. Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own band, and song. Captain Don Schofield, associate conductor of the United States Air Force Band of Flight, talks with Naomi Lewin about all the U.S. military bands.
July 14, 2018
John Philip Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever is the official march of the United States of America. Sousa composed his most famous march in his head when he was on a ship coming back from a trip to Europe with his band. When the ship docked, he put the march down on paper and named it after the American flag he was so glad to see when he got home.
July 7, 2018
John Philip Sousa -- the most American of composers -- was the son of immigrants to the United States. Because of his love for bands and band music, John Philip Sousa wrote many wonderful marches. As a result, he is known as the "March King."
June 30, 2018
"Rhapsody" is an ancient word that means "songs stitched together". The Greeks used to write long poems in praise of their heroes, and then take bits and pieces of those poems and string them together for performance. In music, a rhapsody is a free-form piece that takes different tunes and strings them together.
June 23, 2018
In his day Franz Liszt was most famous as a pianist. So, were Mozart, Beethoven and a lot of other composers.
June 16, 2018
Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies were greatly influenced by gypsy, or Romani music. Brahms, Telemann and Verdi are among the many composers were attracted to this distinctive music.
June 9, 2018
Inspired by violinist Niccolo Paganini, Franz Liszt became a piano superstar. Many classical music superstars followed, including Jan Paderewski, Jenny Lind, Van Cliburn, Enrico Caruso, Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang.
June 2, 2018
Franz Liszt was a pianist, composer, conductor and teacher who came up with musical innovations in all those fields. He was the first of the virtuoso performers and invented the solo recital. As one of the greatest pianists the world has ever known, Liszt was a 19th century superstar.
May 26, 2018
Jonathan Larson, the composer of the musical ''Rent,'' used the same plot for this musical as Puccini did for La Boheme. Other composers also used classical music when they wrote their Broadway hits. ''Kismet'' is adapted from compositions by Russian composer Alexander Borodin and ''The Song of Norway'' uses tunes by Edvard Grieg to tell the story of Grieg's life.
May 19, 2018
Giacomo Puccini's opera La Boheme is about struggling artists in Paris. Its title means ''the bohemian lifestyle.'' But Bohemia isn't in France; it's in the Czech Republic. Other composers such as Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Jules Massenet, were also inspired by this part of the world, using its music and describing its beautiful countryside in their works.
May 12, 2018
Around the year 1600, Italian composers started writing theater pieces that use music all the way through them. Instead of speaking, characters in operas sing their lines. From Claudio Monteverdi, who wrote the earliest opera that is still performed, through Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, Italy has produced some of the world's finest opera composers.
May 5, 2018
By the time Italian composer Giacomo Puccini was born in 1858, there had already been four generations of musicians in his hometown of Lucca. Most were church musicians, but Giacomo had other ideas. When he was a teenager, he went to hear a performance of Verdi's Aida. From that moment on he knew that what he wanted to do was write operas. He did, and became one of Italy's most beloved operatic composers.
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