The art of the regal dance
"The minuet, Monsieur, is the queen of dances,
and the dance of queens, do you understand?
Since there is no longer any royalty,
there is no longer any minuet."
Guy de Maupassant
Hanry Purcell (1659 – 1695) was an English composer.
Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no later native-born English composer approached his fame until Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton and Benjamin Britten in the 20th century.
George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759) was a German-born British Baroque composer. Drawing on the techniques of the great composers of the Italian Baroque, he deeply influenced in his turn many composers who came after him.
Handel has generally been accorded high esteem by fellow composers, both in his own time and since. Bach apparently said "Handel is the only person I would wish to see before I die, and the only person I would wish to be, were I not Bach." Mozart is reputed to have said of him "Handel understands effect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt", and to Beethoven he was "the master of us all".
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) was a German composer.
The early Romantic composers also had a major influence on Brahms. Particularly influential was Schumann, who also helped pave Brahms's career as a young composer. Brahms was not a mainstream Romantic, but rather maintained a Classical sense of form and order within his works – in contrast to the opulence and excesses of many of his contemporaries. Thus many admirers saw him as the champion of traditional forms and "pure music," as opposed to the New German embrace of program music.
Lodovico Maria Giustini (1685 – 1743) was an Italian composer and keyboard player. He was the first known composer ever to write music for the piano. He was also a composer of sacred music. In 1734 he was hired as organist at S Maria dell'Umiltà, the Cathedral of Pistoia, a position he held for the rest of his life.
Ricardo Viñes y Roda (1875 – 1943) was a Spanish pianist. He gave the premieres of works by Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Mussorgsky, and Albéniz. He was the piano teacher of the composer Francis Poulenc and the pianists Marcelle Meyer and Joaquín Nin-Culmell. Poulenc later said of his teacher:
“I admired him madly, because, at this time, in 1914, he was the only virtuoso who played Debussy and Ravel. That meeting with Viñes was paramount in my life: I owe him everything.”
Franz Peter Schubert (1797 – 1828) was an Austrian composer. Despite his short lifetime, Schubert left behind a vast oeuvre. His father gave him his first violin lessons and his older brother gave him piano lessons, but Schubert soon exceeded their abilities. He continued his studies in composition with Antonio Salieri. In 1821, Schubert was granted admission to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.
He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career. He died eight months later at the age of 31, possibly due to typhoid fever.
Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909) was a Spanish pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on Spanish folk music. He was a child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. Albéniz’s influence on the future of Spanish music was profound. While Iberia is considered the masterpiece, the pieces that led up it were thoroughly embraced and enjoyed by people throughout Europe. During his lifetime and after his death, it was said that “in his own country, no one met with greater success.”
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a prolific German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Bach was not always appreciated during his own lifetime, and he was considered to be "old-fashioned" by his contemporaries. Nevertheless, Bach is now considered one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) was a prolific and influential Austrian composer of the Classical era. His output of over 600 composition. Mozart is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers and many of his works are part of the standard concert repertoire. Mozart lived at the center of Viennese musical life, and knew a great number of people, including not just his fellow musicians, but also theatrical performers, fellow transplanted Salzburgers, and many aristocrats, including a fairly close acquaintance with the Emperor, Joseph II. Mozart's physical appearance was described by tenor Michael Kelly, in his Reminiscences: "a remarkable small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain".
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) was a German composer and virtuoso pianist. He was one of the most famous and influential musicians of all time; occasionally he is referred to as one of the "three Bs" (along with Bach and Brahms) who epitomize that tradition. Beethoven suffered from gradual hearing loss beginning in his twenties. He nonetheless continued to compose his masterpieces, and to conduct and perform, even after he was completely deaf.
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the 18th century. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François Couperin.
François Couperin (1668 –1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand ("Couperin the Great") to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family.
He wrote several pieces which he called Ordres, a collection of dance movements. Sometimes these movements have strange titles and we cannot always be sure what they mean. Some of them may have been nicknames of people he knew. He also wrote important organ music.
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) was an Austrian composer. His contributions to musical form have earned him the epithets "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family. Until the later part of his life, this isolated him from other composers and trends in music so that he was, as he put it, "forced to become original”. He was a friend and mentor of Mozart, a teacher of Beethoven, and the older brother of composer Michael Haydn.
Johann Krieger (1651 – 1735) was a German composer and organist, younger brother of Johann Philipp Krieger. Krieger's keyboard music places him among the most important German composers of his time. Handel himself admired and studied Krieger's work.
Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760 – 1812) was a Czech composer and pianist. Some of his more forward-looking piano works have traits often associated with Romanticism.
Dussek was one of the first piano virtuosos to travel widely throughout Europe.
He was an important composer for the harp.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) was an Italian composer who spent much of his life in Spain and Portugal. He was extremely influential in the development of the Classical period in music through his individual style, though he lived mostly during the Baroque era. Scarlatti wrote over five hundred keyboard sonatas, generally single movements in binary form. Modern pianoforte technique owes much to their influence. Scarlatti was also a pioneer in the realm of rhythm and musical syntax: syncopation and cross-rhythms are common in his music.
Domenico Zipoli (1688 –1726) was an Italian Baroque composer who worked and died in Córdoba (Argentina). He became a Jesuit in order to work in the Reductions of Paraguay where he taught music among the Guaraní people. He is remembered as the most accomplished musician among Jesuit missionaries.
Antonín Leopold Dvořák (1841 – 1904) was a Czech composer. Following Smetana's nationalist example, Dvořák frequently employed aspects, specifically rhythms, of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. In the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works: the Symphony From the New World and his Cello Concerto. He returned to Bohemia in 1895.
Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) was a French composer, pianist and conductor. Born to a music-loving family, Ravel attended France's premier music college, the Paris Conservatoire. After leaving the conservatoire, Ravel found his own way as a composer, developing a style of great clarity, incorporating elements of baroque, neoclassicism and, in his later works, jazz. He liked to experiment with musical form, as in his best-known work, Bolero, in which repetition takes the place of development.
Wilhelm Walter Friedrich Kempff (1895 – 1991) was a German pianist and composer. He was particularly well known for his interpretations of the music of Beethoven and Schubert, recording the complete sonatas of both composer. He is considered to have been one of the chief exponents of the Germanic tradition during the 20th century and one of the greatest pianists of all time.
Samuel Osborne Barber (1910 – 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century. His Adagio for Strings (1936) has earned a permanent place in the concert repertory of orchestras. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice.
Minuetto by Alessandro Stella
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