CLASSICAL COMPOSERS' BIOGRAPHIES
You MUST use two biography books for your research project, in addition to online resources. One of the books should be the collective biography, Lives of the Musicians by Kathleen Krull. Your other book choice must be from this list. All books are available in the classroom. This project is to be completed during class time. You may also watch related movies at home for more information. Here's a complete list by composer.
Introducing Vivaldi by Roland Vernon
U.K.: Belitha Press Limited, 1996.
In 1725, Vivaldi wrote "The Four Seasons" and became famous in Europe. Did you know that Vivaldi was able to compose music faster than a copyist could write it out? (He wrote music before the invention of the printing press.) Read this biography to explore Venice, Italy--the city of Vivaldi's birth, and what was important in music at the time. The large text and colorful images on every page make this an easy read, and very informative. A timeline of Vivaldi's life is also included for easy reference.
Introducing Bach by Roland Vernon
London: Belitha Press Limited, 1995.
This biography is one in the seven book "Introducing Great Composers" series. Each chapter in these books is condensed to a two-page colorful spread with many illustrations and photographs. Find out what the organ Bach played looked like--it's very different from modern organs! Get a glimpse of "coffee house concerts" that were popular in the 1700's. Discover how Bach made music, even after he lost his hearing.
Bach by Tim Dowley (Great Composers series)
London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1990.
Curious about Bach's handwriting, or where he lived? This biography is full of interesting pictures, paintings, and engravings that take you back in time to the late 1600's. It is often said that "Bach's music puts in order what life cannot." On these pages, you will discover how his music came to be formed. You will also meet the people who influenced his life, and his children, through reproduced paintings which give even more of a historical feeling to the biography.
Mozart, Music Magician by Clare Huchet Bishop
Champaign, IL: Garrard Publishing, 1968.
Did you know that Mozart's full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart? He began playing music when he was three years old, and wrote his first minuet at age five. (The musical score is included in this book.) His musical legacy influenced generations of classical musicians. In this chapter-book biography you will read about Mozart's family life, and also a bit about his talented sister, Nannerl. Many illustrations accompany the story of his life, as well as modern-day photographs of places that have hisorical value in Mozart's life, including the house he was born and the house in which he died.
Related video: Amadeus
Beethoven and the Classical Age by Andrea
Barron's Educational Series, 1999
A fabulous biography in the "Masters of Music" series. This is something of an illustrated guide to Beethoven's life, and the numerous illustrations on every double-page spread are described in detail with many different lines of reference to identify the people and events. Maps and images of Vienna in the 17th century also create a feel for the time, as well as explanations of historical events. Every double page spread has its own title and is presented as a complete "chapter" based on a single theme.
The Life and Times of Ludwig Van Beethoven by Susan Zannos
Delaware: Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2004.
A nice chapter book biography with lots of interesting facts. Did you know that Beethoven was clumsy, even though he was an incredibly talented pianist? He had an unhappy childhood, but he was loved by many and his funeral was attended by 20,000 people! His music was influenced by both the American and French Revolutions; in fact his Eroica symphony was originally going to be dedicated to Napoleon. After Napoleon gave himself the title of "Emperor Napolean" Beethoven renamed the symphony, find out why in this book.
Ludwig Van Beethoven by Wendy Thompson (Composer's
NY: Viking, 1990.
If you want samples of Beethoven's musical scores and are curious to see his handwriting, this is the best biography for that sort of material. In addition to plenty of reproduced paintings of Viennese palaces and influential people of the time, there are also reproductions of title-pages from some of Beethoven's popular scores, such as the Eroica Symphony and Fidelio.
Related video: Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Hidden Music, The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn by Gloria Kamen
NY: Atheneum, 1996.
Fanny Mendelssohn was a fine pianist and composer. Although only a few of her pieces were published, they are quite beautiful and you can hear some on the Website link. This biography describes her struggle to have her music heard in the mostly male music world of the 1800's. Her famous brother, Felix Mendelssohn, was the director of a well-known concert hall in Germany and his work is often played by orchestras around the world today. With no radio or recorded music, sharing live music at home was a popular form of entertainment in the 1800's. Fanny's home was well-known for the fine music created within its walls, and she was a talented pianist.
Chopin and Romantic Music by Carlo Cavaletti
Barron's Educational Series, 2000.
Chopin was a child prodigy, like Mozart. By the age of seven he was composing music and by eight performing it in public. He was born in Poland but spent most of his adult life in Paris, which was a city of artists in the 1800s. There he met Liszt and Mendelssohn, with whom he became friends but also rivals. In this detailed biography, there are pictures of all Chopin's contemporaries and a thorough explanation of the Romantic movement in art and music. The focus of this biography is how romantic music is stylistically different from classical. Though some of the references to Chopin's work may not always be clear, this biography places great emphasis on the music and history of his time and includes enough details about his life to be a valuable resource.
Introducing Chopin by Roland Vernon
London: Belitha Press Limited, 1996.
Chopin's music is considered to be the most poetic of his time, it is certainly some of the most complex. The range of notes he uses on the piano express a depth of emotion that resonates with many listeners. His life was colored by an intense travel and performing schedule, and he often had to retreat to the country to recover from illness. He had one long-term relationship with the writer, George Sand, and when it came to an end Chopin never truly recovered. In this pictorial biography, you'll find many paintings of Chopin and George Sand, also plaster casts of his hand and face, and learn about the inspiration for his music..
Clara Schumann, Piano Virtuoso by Susanna Reich
NY: Clarion, 1999.
Did you know that Clara Schumann was the most famous woman pianist in Europe in her lifetime? Goethe once said "she played like six boys." In other words, she played with strength and power. In her biography, you can find out what Clara Schumann was like as a child, as a mother, and as business woman. She played the piano publicly for more than sixty years, and people never tired of hearing her perform. As her daughter once said, "Music was the true home of her soul."
Tchaikovsky by David Mountfield (Great Composers series)
NJ: Chartwell Books, 1990.
An in-depth look at this famous composer's life. In this biography, you'll learn about his ballet music, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker Suite, as well as his seven symphonies. Each page has two or three photographs or illustrations. Take a peek into the rooms of the house where Tchaikovsky composed some of his greatest work, and get a sense of what it was like to live in his world!
The Strange Mr. Sati by M.T. Anderson
NY: Viking, 2003.
Erik Satie was an unusual person, as this biography describes. He lived in Paris and wore the same gray velvet suit every day (he had twelve in all in his closet!) and 200 umbrellas! His music was very unusual, too. One of his most famous compositions is a set of seven pieces called "Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear." If you're musically adventurous, Erik Satie is the right subject for you. Reading about him will give you a new perspective on classical music!
What Charlie Heard by Mordicai Gerstein
NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
It took many years for Charles Ives's music to become famous, but he is now known as an important American composer. Did you know he lived in Danbury, Connecticut? He also adopted a child with his wife, and ran a successful business in addition to composing music. In this biography, you will find out who influenced his musical taste and how he listened carefully to everything around him and incorporated some of those everyday sounds into his music.
Introducing Stravinsky by Roland Vernon
London: Belitha Press Limited, 1997
This biography, as with others in the "Introducing . . . " series is chock full of photographs and memorabilia. Though short on samples of Stravinsky's scores, each page provides plenty of details about his music. He is most well known for The Firebird and Rite of Spring. Stravinsky was a popular composer in the 20th century, and was often asked to write music for American orchestras.
Prokofiev by Prokofiev
NY: Doubleday, 1979.
This is an autobiography, long and written with an adult audience in mind, so it's for avid readers only. As Prokofiev noted "If I don't write it [the biography] others will; and they will no doubt get things wrong--in all good conscience." In his autobiography, we learn how Prokofiev became interested in music and how he felt about lessons at The Conservatory. It's a fascinating first-person glimpse. Also, as Prokofiev started keeping a notebook at age seven and a formal diary at eleven, this autobiography is a writer's and musician's treasure. For anyone who wants the real story about the man who created "Peter and the Wolf" this is for you. There are plenty of photographs, too.