Blog Archives

Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell is still considered one of the most influential classical composers more than 300 years after his death.

Henry Purcell is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers in the classical music world, and more than 300 years after his death, he is still considered to be one of the best British musicians.

Although there are no record of when he was actually born, it is thought that he was born at the end of 1658 or at the start of 1659, because he described himself as 24 in 1683. Memorial records in Westminster Abbey say he was in his 37th year when he died in November 1695.

Like many successful composers, music always played a key role in Henry’s childhood. His father worked as a musician for the court of Charles II in the 1660s. As a young boy, he became part of the Chapel Royal’s choir and, when his voice broke in 1673, took up the role of assistant to John Hingeston. His main duties were to tune and look after the organ and other instruments. Every now and then he was asked to copy music from other composers – giving him a solid foundation in musical education.

However, it wasn’t until 1677 that Henry got his first job as a professional composer for the king’s band of stringed instruments – the ‘Twenty-four Violins’. Within a couple of years, he took over from John Blow as organist for Westminster Abbey. Although he had a full-time job, this didn’t stifle his passion for writing and composing music outside of his paid work.

It was around this time that Henry married Frances Peters. The pair had at least six children, though only two survived into adulthood.

By 1680, he had a number of compositions, including anthems, songs and music for burial services. Henry had started to carve himself out as a key figure and talent in the classical music world and was frequently called on to write pieces for royal events.

Gentleman of the Chapel Royal was the title he was given in 1682, which was shortly followed by the publication of his first collection – Sonnata’s of III. His most famous work – Dido and Aeneas – was also written during this period.

However, when William and Mary were crowned in 1689, the demand for composers waned, leaving Henry with fewer opportunities to compose and perform.

Although he continued to work on composing odes, Purcell focused more on theatre and wrote a four large-scale operatic works between 1690 and 1695. However, he was still in high regard with the royal family and wrote court odes each year between 1689 and 1694 to mark Queen Mary’s birthday. He was also asked to compose pieces for her funeral in March 1695. This was just months before, at just 36 years old, Henry himself died on November 21st 1695.

How he died is unknown, some say he caught a chill after his wife locked him out of the house, while others think he had tuberculosis. Henry Purcell was buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey but his influences on music are still felt today and not just in classical music.

The Who member Pete Townshend has said that he is one of the Baroque composers who have had a direct influence on modern rock and roll – citing the band’s famous “Pinball Wizard” as a song that shows Purcell’s influence in the opening bars.

Henry Purcell is still considered one of the most influential classical composers more than 300 years after his death. Henry Purcell is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers in the classical music world, and more than 300

Tagged with:
Posted in Biography

Johann Sebastian Bach

A look into the life of famed classical musician Johann Sebastian Bach

Born on March 21st, 1685, in Eisenach, Germany, it could be said that Johann Sebastian Bach was always destined to be one of the greatest composers in the world. Indeed, he created some of the 18th century’s most iconic compositions, such as ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’, ‘Mass in B Minor’ and ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ and is widely revered as one of the best Western composers of all time.

Early life

Like many composers, it could be said that Bach was born with classical music in his blood, coming from a long line of musicians. His father, Johann Ambrosius, paid the bills with his music and it is thought that he taught young Johann to play the violin.

When he was just seven-years-old, Johann went to school and was given religious instruction, which would influence the music he would produce throughout his lifetime. At the tender age of ten, Johann lost both of his parents, leaving his older brother Johann Christoph, a church organist in Ohrdruf, to raise him.

Johann Christoph guided the young composer as much as he could and enrolled him in a local school. He stayed with his brother’s family until he was well into his teens.

As well as being talented with the violin, Johann had a strong soprano singing voice, which helped him secure a place at the Lüneburg school. However, when his voice changed he was forced to concentrate on instruments, mainly the violin and harpsichord.

Despite his success, it wasn’t until 1703 that he secured his first job as a musician. Bach was given a job as a musician at the court of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar, where he tried his hand at a number of things, including filling in for the official organist.

Early musical career

Johann Bach’s reputation as a talented musician was steadily growing, thanks to his revered technical skill. The latter secured him a place as organist at the New Church in Arnstadt, where he took on an educational role. However, his arrogance caused him to jar with many of his students and was often reprimanded for not giving regular teachings.

Bach vanished for a number of months in 1705, when he travelled to Lübeck to hear famed organist Dietrich Buxtehude. Throughout his early career, he would show this same tendency to suddenly up and leave without any notice.

Although his talent for weaving complex arrangements gained him much praise, it did not fit well with the church, which wanted simple compositions.

In 1717, Bach got a role at the Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. While here, he would concentrate on instrumental music, composing concertos for orchestras, using multiple instruments.

Later life

After going for a new position in Leipzig, Bach agreed to become the new organist and teacher at St. Thomas Church. Here he was required to teach as part of his position and, with weekly music needed for services, Bach focused on producing cantatas.

He often used the Bible for inspiration in his work, commonly referred to as his “Passions”, the most famous being “Passion According to St. Matthew”. By 1740, Johann started to struggle with his eyesight, which caused obvious problems for his profession. However, he continued to work, despite his failing sight and performed to a high standard around the world.

In 1749, Bach started a new composition called “The Art of Fugue”, which he would never finish. The next year, he attempted to have his sight correct but it ended up leaving him blind and Johann later suffered a stroke.

Johann Bach died on July 28th 1750 but his work influenced many revered composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.

A look into the life of famed classical musician Johann Sebastian Bach Born on March 21st, 1685, in Eisenach, Germany, it could be said that Johann Sebastian Bach was always destined to be one of the greatest composers in the

Tagged with:
Posted in Biography

Ludwig van Beethoven

A biography of the life and music of famed classical musician Ludwig van Beethoven.

A lot about Ludwig van Beethoven’s early life is unclear, because of a lack of records, but it is widely thought that he was born in 1770 – though his precise date and place of birth is unknown – and spent a lot of his early life in Bonn, Germany before moving to Vienna in Austria.

However, he is widely regarded as one of the, if not the, most influential composer on Western music.

He was baptised on December 1770 in Bonn, although his family originated from Brabant in Belgium. It could be said that Beethoven was born with music in his veins as his father Johann was a musician at the court of Bonn. However, a weakness for alcohol meant that he never reached the heights of success that his son would.

It could be this that caused Ludwig to be close to his mother, who he always referred to as his “best friend”, and who he described as having a warm heart. He was one of seven children, but only three boys survived, making the revered composer the eldest.

From an early age, Ludwig was interested in music, which he learnt from his father. Many agree that from a tender age, it was clear that the young boy was talented and that Johann wanted his eldest to be the next Mozart – a child prodigy.

At just seven-years-old, Ludwig gave his first public performance at Cologne, where his father is said to have lied and told everyone he was six. Because of this early white lie, it is thought that Ludwig always thought he was a year younger than what he actually was.

However, as was to be expected, the young prodigy soon outgrew and outperformed the abilities of his father and composed his first piece in 1782 at the age of 12 – nine variations in C minor for piano. Renowned musician Gottlob Neefe saw the boy’s talent and took him under his wing, teaching him music, as well as the works of famed philosophers.

Seemingly impressed with his apprentice, Neefe wrote in 1783 that “if he continues like this, he will be, without a doubt, the new Mozart.”

With Neefe’s recommendations Ludwig van Beethoven was appointed organist of the court of Maximillian Franz, the Elector of Cologne at just 14-years-old. This proved to be a lifeline to talented people beyond his own family and friends and would be vital in furthering his career.

By now, the young star was attracting attention in the highest of places and Prince Maximillian Franz sent Ludwig to Vienna in 1787 to meet Mozart and expand his musical knowledge. However, he returned to Bonn not long after as he received news that his mother was dying and she passed away on July 17th 1787.

However, Prince Elector gave Ludwig another two years to learn in Vienna, and the revered composer never returned to the place where he was born.

By 1796, he had started to suffer from tinnitus, which would eventually cause him to go completely deaf.

Beethoven made more friends in high places in Vienna, with Haydn being one of his main supporters throughout his life. It is thought that his talent caused his friends and peers to tolerate numerous outbursts of anger.

In 1800, he organised a concert in Vienna and constantly pushed the boundaries of the genre throughout his lifetime. Despite a great, almost suicidal, fear of going completely deaf, Beethoven created some of his most iconic music during the time – including his second and third symphonies. The latter was dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, though he later scratched his name off when he found out that the “liberator of France” had declared himself Emperor.

Beethoven died in Vienna on the March 26th 1827 after a long illness that has been linked to alcohol, hepatitis, cirrhosis and pneumonia.

 

 

A biography of the life and music of famed classical musician Ludwig van Beethoven. A lot about Ludwig van Beethoven’s early life is unclear, because of a lack of records, but it is widely thought that he was born in

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Biography

Recent Comments