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A Classical Piano Playground on the Internet

Music has the power to soothe the savage beast, and few genres of music are as awe-inspiring as classical piano. For generations, expert and beginner pianists alike have dedicated hundreds of hours to mastering the works of composers like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart.

However, mastering classical piano isn't just about learning the notes, positions, and movements; it's also about knowing what made the famous composers so famous. Understanding the styles, motivations, and innovations of the great composers can turn the music you read into an autobiography, allowing the works to truly inspire your playing. Fortunately, the Internet offers many virtual musical playgrounds, websites that offer great starting points for those who want to take a walk in the minds of history's most celebrated musicians.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is considered by many experts to be among the most talented composers who ever lived. Working mainly during the Baroque period of the 1600s and 1700s, this German classicist penned such influential works as the Brandenburg Concertos and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Even today, Bach's music is revered for its innovation and looked to for inspiration.

Ludwig van Beethoven

An instrumental composer during the transition from the Classical to the Romantic period, Ludwig van Beethoven is arguably the most recognizable composer in history. Working throughout the early 1800s, Beethoven composed dozens of symphonies, sonatas, and piano pieces, the most influential of which remains his Fifth Symphony. Though a major contributor to classical music, Beethoven remains nearly as famous for his personality as for his music and is often referred to as "the first rock star."

Johannes Brahms

Living and working during the Romantic period of the mid-to-late 1800s, German Johannes Brahms is often mentioned in league with Bach and Beethoven, forming "the three B's" of classical music. Though a dedicated traditionalist, Brahms still managed to find ways to innovate, and his detailed song structures and use of counterpoint are still topics of discussion among modern composers.

Frederic Chopin

Though highly regarded as a composer, Chopin was, first and foremost, a musician. By all accounts, Chopin is considered to be one of the finest pianists of the Romantic period. Many of his compositions are for solo piano, though this did not prevent him from being incredibly influential. Among his considerable contributions is the invention of the instrumental ballade, a form of narrative song that remains popular today.

Muzio Clementi

Though born in Italy, Muzio Clementi is often considered to be an English composer, having lived and performed there for most of his life. A true businessman, Clementi was not just a genius musician but a teacher, music publisher, and piano designer. His skill is said to rival that of greats like Bach and Beethoven, and his skillful legato passages inspired generations of pianists.

  • Muzio Clementi: Find out more about the life and works of "the father of the piano" on this page.
  • One of the Masters: This discussion is focused on Clementi's influence and makes several arguments for his inclusion in discussions of musical geniuses.

Franz Liszt

Living through nearly all of the 1800s, Hungarian-born Franz Liszt was one of the most famed musical figures of the Romantic era. Liszt was a known philanthropist, writer, and music teacher as well as a world-class concert pianist and composer. Among his most famous contributions to classical music are the concept of the symphonic poem and revolutionary innovations in the idea of harmony.

  • Liszt and Nature: This interesting paper is devoted to analyzing evocations of nature in Liszt's work.
  • Liszt as a Rock Star: This humorous collection of anecdotes recounts some eccentric moments from the often-unusual life of Franz Liszt.

Felix Mendelssohn

Living and working in Germany during the first half of the 19th century, Romanticist Felix Mendelssohn was a firm traditionalist at a time when many composers were experimenting with radical ideas. To cement his values, he founded the Leipzig Conservatory. One of his most famous works became the melody to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

  • Mendelssohn in England: This dissertation includes information about how the British music histories remember Mendelssohn, including the first impressions of many art critics.
  • Mendelssohn's Influence: Here is a closer look at the significance of Mendelssohn and his music, as told by conductors, composers, and musicians.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Perhaps the most influential and celebrated composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy, composing works as early as the age of 5. A true "working musician," Mozart produced and sold works throughout his life, earning a reputation as a master of his craft. One of his most famous works, The Marriage of Figaro, remains in regular performance around the world.

  • Mozart's Life: The Smithsonian offers an analytical and deeply romantic look at Mozart's upbringing, life, and influence.
  • The Marriage of Figaro : Take a closer look at The Marriage of Figaro, one of Mozart's most celebrated compositions.

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Considered one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era, Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian-born pianist and conductor whose works remain both influential and extremely popular today. Touring the world as a concert pianist, Rachmaninoff displayed a playing style that was said to be both powerful and "nearly flawless," the same terms used to describe his compositions.

Domenico Scarlatti

The son of famed composer Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico was a Baroque and Classical-era composer who composed hundreds of sonatas for the Spanish and Portuguese royal families. Perhaps his most famous contribution to classical music was his inclusion of Spanish folk music in his compositions, marking a deliberate and influential departure from traditionalist music.

Franz Schubert

Though a prolific composer during both the Classical and Romantic periods, Franz Schubert is perhaps best remembered for what could have been. Dying at the young age of 31, Schubert left behind hundreds of vocal works, symphonies, operas, and sonatas. Largely overlooked in his lifetime, his work borders on genius and his talent were championed by later classical greats, eventually earning him the recognition he deserved.

Robert Schumann

By all accounts, German composer Robert Schumann had the potential to become the greatest concert pianist of the Romantic period. When a hand injury cut his career short, however, Schumann shifted his focus to composing. Though revered for works like Carnaval, Kinderszenen, and the Fantasie in C, Schumann suffered from depression, which ultimately cut his life short.

  • Robert Schumann: Find a timeline of Schumann's life and fun facts about him on this page.
  • "Rules for Young Musicians": Here, the University of Michigan hosts a PDF of Schumann's famous "Rules for Young Musicians."

Classical Piano Resources

The Internet's musical playgrounds are starting points that allow interested individuals to pursue more in-depth subject matter at the click of a mouse. With the Web at your disposal, it's easy to find more information that can help you appreciate, enjoy, or even play classical piano music.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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