Igor Stravinsky

Born in June 1882, Igor Stravinsky had to flee from Russia–he gave his last performance at the age of 85 in Canada. When he was 80, John F Kennedy invited Stravinsky for dinner at the White House as a guest of the American President. “Walt Disney actually made a deal with Stravinsky to use ‘The […]

Claude Debussy

Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted a lovely video of Debussy’s ‘Arabesque No.1’, charmingly rendered on the piano by his son at a retirement home in California, in October 2019 –viewed over 1,50,000 times on Twitter. French composer, Claude Debussy, born in 1862 to poor parents in a Paris suburb, is attributed to have created mature […]

Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi wrote his iconic ‘The Four Seasons’ exactly 300 years ago in 1721. Even after three centuries, besides remaining a concert favourite, it has been featured in many films such as ‘Indecent Proposal’, in ‘Pretty Woman and ‘Shine’, besides ‘The Simpsons’. Described as the ‘Red Priest’ for his flaming red hair and being baptized immediately after he […]

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Born on April 1 in 1873, Sergei Rachmaninoff, who took up piano at the age of four, is revered among the last great pantheon of pianist-composers going back to Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Liszt. By the time he was 19, he was acclaimed for his one-act opera Aleko; and while still in his teens, had […]

Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann was one of the most important pianists and composers of the Romantic era, who at 19, was honoured by the Austrian court and also was elected to the prestigious Society of the ‘Friends of Music’ (‘Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde’) in Vienna. Often termed as music’s unsung Renaissance woman whose creative legacy deserves far greater […]

Franz Liszt

Move over, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Justin Beiber: presenting Franz Liszt! The term ‘Beatlemania’ was coined in the 1960s. But, a century before Beatles, in the 1860s, Liszt set the pattern for ‘Lisztomania’ according to the OED, and was termed the world’s first ‘music superstar’. At the tender age of six, he was recognized as a […]

Richard Wagner

It is said of Wagner that he was a man hard to forgive, but an artist impossible to ignore. Here was a German composer who wrote both the libretto as well as the music for each of his stage works—and was also theatre director and conductor. Wagner aspired to synergise the poetic, visual, musical and […]

Frédéric Chopin

Frederic Chopin will be remembered for acquiring a reputation as a pianist of the highest-ranking with the lowest public appearances–just about 30 in his lifetime. His original and sensitive approach to the keyboard allowed him to exploit all the resources of the piano of his day. Born in 1810, no one before Chopin would have […]

Johannes Brahms

Born in 1833 to an average musician father with moderate means, and spending his childhood in and around waterfront brothels, witnessing women being used as castaways, Johannes Brahms, never ventured into matrimony. Early in life, despite his poverty, seeing Brahms’ inclination towards music, his father sent him for piano lessons, and by 14 he had […]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Imagine composing music at five, public appearances at eight and writing almost 600 musical pieces, most masterpieces– in a brief life of 35 years (1756–1791). It’s said Beethoven composed his early works in the shadow of Mozart. Such was the genius of Mozart, that legendary composer Haydn wrote, ‘posterity will not see such talent again […]