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A ballet about a mythical bird, Igor Stravinsky’s composition has gone on to make myths of its own.
Henri Lehmann, portrait of Franz Liszt, 1839.
This beautiful and sophisticated work is one of the best-loved, most enduring pieces in piano repertoire.
Premiering in 1937 in Frankfurt during the Third Reich, there is a ritualistic force to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. This makes it a guilty pleasure for some and perfect fodder for ad jingles.
Dancer Ida Rubenstein performs in the original production of Boléro, 1928.
It’s repetitive — playing the same drum rhythm like a heartbeat — with two simple melodies entwined. But this masterful composition shifts just when it needs to.
Duccio di Buoninsegna The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, 1308-1311.
From ‘Comfort ye’ to the Hallelujah chorus, the music of the Messiah is a much-loved Christmas tradition. Yet it was originally written as an Easter offering.
John Longmuir as The Captain, Michael Honeyman as Wozzeck and Richard Anderson as The Doctor in Opera Australia’s production of Wozzeck.
Based on a play by Georg Büchner, Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck brings visions of a tormented fusilier’s terror to life through music.
Othello and Desdemona, Henri Jean-Baptiste Victoire Fradelle, circa 1827.
“They have been crucifying Othello into an opera,” Lord Byron later wrote after watching Rossini’s opera. But the performance does much to highlight the play’s racial politics.
Samuel Dundas and Siobhan Stagg in Victorian Opera’s production of Pelléas and Mélisande.
Pelléas and Mélisande tells a story of forbidden love between its title characters, set in the fictitious kingdom of Allemonde. However the action offstage before the opera’s 1902 premiere was just as dramatic.
The cast of Victorian Opera’s staging of William Tell.
In its original form, Rossini’s William Tell went for five hours. Yet soon after its 1829 debut it was being cut for the comfort of its audience. Its Overture - a mere 12 minutes - has become one of the most famous pieces of classical music.
Beethoven monument on the Beethovenplatz square in Vienna, Austria. The monument was unveiled in 1880.
The last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony gave us ‘Ode to Joy’, one of the most famous tunes of all time. But the composer initially thought he’d made a grave mistake with it.
Johann Sebastian Bach was 30 when he became head of music in Anhalt-Cöthen, in what is now Germany. Here he started an uncharted experiment in classical music: solo works for string instruments.
Boris Kustodiev, The Bolshevik, 1920.
Sergei Rachmaninoff fled the Russian revolution 100 years ago. Spending the remainder of his life in the US, he composed what is perhaps his greatest work in 1940, the Symphonic Dances.
The 1976 memorial at the Babi Yar massacre site only recognised Soviet victims, despite the killing of more than 30,000 Jewish people. In 1991 a Jewish memorial was installed nearby.
On September 29 1941, Nazis murdered more than 30,000 Jews in a ravine outside Kiev. Dmitri Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony, Babi Yar, is a damning critique of the Soviet Union’s lack of recognition of the massacre, and a condemnation of Stalinism.
In Franz Schubert’s Winterreise (winter’s journey), a man steps out on a mid-winter night to rid himself of his lost love.
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A year before his death at 31 Franz Schubert published ‘Winterreise’ or ‘winter’s journey’, a series of 24 poems set to music exploring unrequited love. Schubert described them as ‘truly terrible’.
Debussy’s Clair de Lune belongs to the Impressionist movement, which included visual artists like Claude Monet.
Debussy’s Clair de Lune, meaning ‘moonlight’, is one of the most easily recognised pieces of music, but its origins are complex. The piece was influenced by poetry, Baroque music and the Impressionist movement.
Composing a symphonic landscape: Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 oil painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.
With An Alpine Symphony, Richard Strauss achieved something remarkable: the painting of the German alps, complete with cow meadows and waterfalls, in sound.
Brahms’ piano quartet in G minor was composed for a piano, a violin, a viola and a cello.
The 29-year old Johannes Brahms had his first major public success with his piano quartet in G minor, but not everyone gave it glowing praise.
Franz Liszt in his home in Weimar, 1884.
Bergen Public Library Norway/Flickr
Whoever finds it beautiful is beyond help, quipped critic Eduard Hanslick upon hearing Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor for the first time. Fortunately, posterity did not agree with him.
Carl Seffner’s 1908 statue of J.S. Bach in front of St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, Germany.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of Fugue is a work of high art. But in keeping with the late works of artists such as Shakespeare, Beethoven and Goya, it contains elements of pathos, humour, gravity, exuberance and tragedy.