Johannes Brahms was a romantic-era composer who lived during the 1800s in Vienna, Austria. Despite humble beginnings, he made a name for himself through sheer talent and hard work. Here are five more things you may not have known about this great composer.

He was an excellent pianist

Brahms’ career as a pianist started early; he began piano lessons at the age of seven in Germany. As an adolescent, Brahms contributed to his family’s meager income by playing piano in dance halls and inns. Early biographers were appalled by the fact that he played in such common venues, and tended to leave it out of their writings.

Brahms became so talented on the piano that he debuted many of his own compositions for the instrument.

He was generous

Brahms may have started out poor, but as he gained popularity he soon became quite wealthy. Despite his abundant means, he chose to continue living simply in a small apartment. Brahms was free with his money and quietly gave away large sums to friends and aspiring musicians. He also liked children and often brought candy on his walks to give to them.

He was a perfectionist

Brahms began composing at age 11, but, being a terrific perfectionist, he found many of his early works embarrassing and destroyed them.

Brahms worked for roughly fifteen years on his First Symphony, and he continued to make changes to it right up until the time the score was published. Brahms is also said to have composed and discarded some 20 string quartets before he presented his official first composition.

His music was unique

Brahms’ musical style was like no other: he meticulously honored the traditional forms and theories of composition, yet still expressed a deeply romantic style. His compositions were influenced by baroque, classical and romantic composers. Brahms held Beethoven (a classical-era composer) and Schumann (romantic) in particularly high regard.

He was part of The War of the Romantics

This “war” was basically a musical argument between those composers who were experimenting with new forms and styles of music and those who were more traditional in their approach. Brahms and Clara Schumann were viewed as more traditional, while Liszt and Wagner were seen as “radical”. The opposing sides sometimes resorted to public shaming of their opponents, and Brahms was openly criticized by Wagner for his adherence to traditional forms and tonality.

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Have you ever heard the “Surprise” Symphony? If you have, you’ve heard the work of a classical-era composer named Joseph Haydn. Haydn is best known for his influential chamber music and orchestral compositions. Read on to discover five interesting facts about Joseph Haydn.

#1 – Haydn was a friend of Mozart

Haydn and Mozart were good friends, despite the fact that Haydn was 24 years older. They thought highly of each other, and it’s likely that they influenced each other’s music. Mozart once wrote six string quartets that he dedicated to Haydn–an unusual move, since works in that day were usually dedicated to aristocrats. When Haydn heard them performed, he told Mozart’s father:

“Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name; he has taste, and, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition.”

Haydn was greatly saddened when his young friend died at age 35 in 1791. He wrote to Mozart’s widow, offering to teach her son music when he was old enough. She accepted, and he followed through with his offer. When Haydn died in 1809, Mozart’s “Requiem” was performed at his memorial service.

#2 – Haydn was one of Beethoven’s teachers

When Ludwig van Beethoven was in his twenties, he became one of Haydn’s students. There was some tension in their relationship as teacher and pupil, largely due to Beethoven’s stubbornness and tendency to be suspicious of everything. However, in Beethoven’s later years, his respect for Haydn grew and he spoke highly of his former teacher.

#3 – Haydn was a father… of musical forms

Haydn fell in love with a girl whose parents insisted she become a nun, so he married her younger sister instead. It was a loveless marriage, and they had no children. Haydn is still considered a father, though, as he is often called the “father” of the string quartet and the symphony forms. His inspired symphonies resulted in a huge rise in popularity for the form, and he contributed greatly to the development of the modern string quartet. A complete recording of all Haydn’s string quartets adds up to 24 hours of music!

#4 – Haydn had a good sense of humor

Haydn’s sense of humor is evidenced in the musical “jokes” he worked into his compositions. The unexpected loud chord in the second movement of his “Surprise” symphony is the most famous of his musical pranks. In other pieces, numerous false endings and rhythmic surprises make teasing appearances. In addition, many of Haydn’s symphonies have whimsical nicknames such as “Farewell”, “Miracle”, “Clock”, “Drumroll”, “Bear” and “Hen”.

#5 – Even when ill, Haydn couldn’t stop thinking about music

Near the end of 1803, at age 71, Haydn’s health had deteriorated significantly. He suffered from painful, swollen legs, weakness, dizziness and the inability to concentrate. His condition rendered him unable to compose, a terrible fate for Haydn. In a conversation with his biographer, he said:

“I must have something to do–usually musical ideas are pursuing me, to the point of torture, I cannot escape them, they stand like walls before me. If it’s an allegro that pursues me, my pulse keeps beating faster, I can get no sleep. If it’s an adagio, then I notice my pulse beating slowly. My imagination plays on me as if I were a clavier. I am really just a living clavier.”

Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony

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Antonio VivaldiYou’ve probably heard a work called “The Four Seasons”, the famous violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. With their colorful musical descriptions of the seasons, it’s no wonder these concertos are a staple of classical music. Now imagine the beautiful works of this talented composer sitting and collecting dust for more than 150 years. Impossible? No–it actually happened.

Antonio Vivaldi was a Baroque composer born in the year 1678 in Venice. Here are five interesting facts about this Italian composer and his “lost works”.

1. Vivaldi was an Excellent Violinist

Vivaldi wasn’t just a composer – he was also an incredible violinist. His first teacher was his father, Giovanni Vivaldi, who was a respected violinist employed by a church in Venice. Vivaldi’s preference for the violin showed in his compositions: 221 of his concertos are for solo violin and orchestra and most of his sonatas were for either one or two violins. Vivaldi’s violin music tended to be technically demanding, probably as a result of his own mastery of the instrument.

2. Vivaldi Was a Priest

When he was 25, Vivaldi was ordained as a Catholic priest after studying for the position for ten years. He soon acquired the nickname il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair. However, within a year of being ordained, Vivaldi was excused from the daily celebration of Mass because of a “tightness of the chest”.

3. Vivaldi had Health Problems

This “tightness of the chest” plagued Vivaldi all his life, likely a symptom of bronchial asthma. While the condition didn’t hinder his violin playing, it did hinder his mobility and prevented him from learning wind instruments and serving as a priest.

4. Vivaldi was Employed at the Ospedale della Pieta Orphanage

In 1703, at age 25, Vivaldi landed his first job as violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pieta (“Hospital of Mercy”). Though sometimes described as an orphanage, the Ospedale della Pieta was far from the impoverished institution usually associated with the term. This one was specifically for the illegitimate daughters of noblemen, and it was well-funded by their philandering fathers. The girls were provided a comfortable, safe place to live and, apparently, top-notch music lessons.

Music was the main focus of education in the Ospedale della Pieta. The girls learned to sing and play instruments including violin, cello, organ, bassoon, flute and oboe. Under Vivaldi’s instruction as violin teacher, and later as conductor, the Ospedale della Pieta became quite famous for the musical excellence of the girls. Their talent was showcased in frequent orchestral and choral concerts that helped fund the Ospedale. Vivaldi composed a great deal of music for “his” ladies while at the Ospedale, which included concertos, cantatas and sacred vocal music.

5. Vivaldi was Rediscovered in the 1900s

After Vivaldi’s death in 1741, his music fell largely into obscurity. It resurfaced in 1926 when Dr. Alberto Gentili was asked to appraise some old manuscripts from a monastery in Piedmont. Dr. Gentili realized he was dealing with some of Vivaldi’s original manuscripts, and was able to acquire and save all of the collection in the Turin Library. Vivaldi’s unpublished music was brought to the limelight in 1939 with “Vivaldi Week”, an event that hosted the performance of many little-known Vivaldi works. His music has remained well-known (and well-loved) to this day.

Listen to famous compositions by Vivaldi

Vivaldi’s Gloria historically accurate performance

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

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Young Mozart

Most people will know who you are talking about if you mention the name Mozart. But would they know who you meant if you called him by his full name? Probably not, given that it’s Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. Say that ten times fast!

Here are 5 other facts about J.C.W.T. Mozart that may surprise you.

young mozart1. Mozart didn’t just compose music.

He was also an accomplished player and performer. Mozart played clavier (17th century keyboard), violin, organ, and clarinet very well and was excellent at sight-reading and improvisation.

2. Mozart’s musical genius manifested at a very young age.

He began playing clavier at age 3. By age 6, his skill on clavier and violin was so remarkable that his father started taking him on concert tours. As a child prodigy, Mozart performed in the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, and Zurich.

He began composing almost as early as he started playing. Mozart composed his first pieces for clavier by age 5, his first symphony at age 8, his first mass (Misa Brevis in G) at 12, and his first opera (Mitridate Re di Ponto) at 14.

3. Mozart was well respected by other musicians and composers.

He was good friends with Joseph Haydn, who wrote of Mozart: “Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.” Mozart wrote six quartets that he dedicated to Haydn, in honor of their friendship.

In April of 1787, 16-year-old Ludwig von Beethoven traveled to Vienna intending to take two weeks of music lessons from Mozart. Whether the two actually met–or if Beethoven got his lessons–is unknown.

Mozart collaborated with composer and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte to write his most famous Italian operas, Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte.

4. Mozart’s family was very musical.

His father, Leopold Mozart, was also a composer and popular performer. He played and taught violin and clavier, and his students included his two children. Mozart’s father was the only music teacher he and his sister had during their childhood.

Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna, also was very talented with the violin and clavier. She toured Europe with her father and younger brother until she reached marriageable age, at which point her father required her to stay home.

Though Mozart’s two sons, Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver, were also very musical, only Franz made a career out of music. A major loss to the music world, Mozart’s line ended with his sons.  Neither married or had children.

5. Mozart was a prolific composer.

In the 35 years of his life, he wrote over 600 works in every major genre of the time. Mozart refined and advanced the forms of symphony, sonata, opera, concerto, choral works, and chamber music. He is credited with popularizing the piano concerto.

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PaganiniNiccolo Paganini is considered by most of the music world to be the greatest violinist of all time. People still speak his name with a certain reverence. However, other than his womanizing ways and the fact that people believed his mother sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a great career, most people don’t know much about this great violinists’ life. So, in an effort to enlighten people, here are 6 things you didn’t know about Niccolo Paganini.

1. He had an overly strict father

Like many prodigies, Paganini suffered from having an over-involved father. His father, who was a musician in his own right, kept very firm control over his practice schedule. It’s even rumored that if Paganini didn’t complete the hours of practice he was supposed to, his father wouldn’t let him eat. All the hard work paid off, with the legendary violinist beginning his public music career at the age of 12.

2. He began supporting himself early on

Maybe to get out from under his fathers’ thumb, or maybe just because he loved music so much, but at the age of 18, Paganini was becoming quite the entrepreneur. He not only kept a full-time job working as first violinist, but he also picked up side jobs to supplement his income. Of course, he didn’t keep all that money because…

3. He was a horrible gambler

That’s right. Even the greatest musicians have their vices and demons. And for Paganini, that was money. He gambled incessantly, to the point he even became an investor in a casino. Needless to say, the entire business venture failed horribly and left the musician in deep debt. He ended up selling his belongings just to break even.

4. He adored his son

Yes, Paganini was a womanizer, but for several years, he was devoted to one woman, a singer named Antonia Bianchi. The two had a child together, despite never officially getting married, and even when they separated after 15 years, he was still very involved with their child. In fact, he would take his son on tour with him, just so they could be together.

5. He also composed music

His compositions aren’t as popular as his reputation as a violinist, but it’s still true. Paganini spent quite a bit of time composing pieces for the violin. A vast majority of his pieces were created to be played by the guitar. A few of these were meant to be played by the violin and guitar. It’s interesting because Paganini’s father was actually a mandolin player, so maybe this was his way of reaching out. Maybe.

6. No one wanted to bury him

Except his son, that is. Paganini’s reputation of having a deal with the devil was alive and very much believed in his day, so much so that the church refused to bury him. His son fought very hard to find him a resting place. Unfortunately, he wasn’t buried for thirty-six long years. Eventually, however, he was laid to rest in Parma.