Composer

Despite being a Polish Jew, 17-year-old aspiring composer Joseph Beer won admission in 1925 to the prestigious Hochschule fur Musik in Vienna, which had a quota for both Jews and Poles. He was also allowed to skip the first four years of the curriculum to study composition in master classes, and went on to graduate with highest honors.

It was 1930, two years before Hitler became chancellor of Germany.

Elgar dedicated his second “Pomp and Circumstance” march to him. Sibelius honored him with a whole symphony. But the person who inspired these accolades is not all that well known.

This year’s One Book, One Philadelphia features the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. There’s a musical analog to this imaginative tale; Curtis Institute of Music Post-Bacc composition student and Rhodes Scholar Nick DiBerardino read the book and conjured a piece for percussion. His composition "Homunculus" premiered on January 25th at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway Central Library.

Appalachian Spring. Billy the Kid. Rodeo. Fanfare for the Common Man. “I Bought Me a Cat.” Aaron Copland’s music cries out “America.” The kid from Brooklyn learned from a teacher in Paris, and became America’s leading composer during his lifetime and more. You voted him your No. 8 Most Essential Classical Composer.

Do you want to know what made the composer Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) so special? I'll tell you. Aside from revolutionizing the piano itself, enlarging its scope, the genres it lent itself to, and its breadth of color, Chopin essentially invented the scherzo and instrumental ballade as virtuoso piano movements, and reinvented the etude as a musically engaging genre, rather than a mere exercise.

His melodies haunt you with their beauty, and his harmonies and delicate passagework for the piano still astonish us with their freshness. Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) wrote almost exclusively for the piano—preludes and ballades and mazurkas and nocturnes and concertos; Chopin is the pianist’s composer. He is so universally loved that you voted him our No. 12 most essential composer.

A Philip Glass Moment That Could Last Forever

Jan 25, 2017

The Mystery of Music as an Art Form

Jan 9, 2017
Credit: Jeff Herman

Music can be mysterious, even to those who spend their lives creating it. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, composer Christopher Rouse ponders the profound power of music with his concerto for organ and orchestra.

Classical composers have long had their patrons: Beethoven had Archduke Rudolph, John Cage had Betty Freeman. For contemporary opera composers, there's Beth Morrison. She and her production company have commissioned new works from some of the most innovative emerging composers today.

Ben Johnston doesn't follow the rules of music. Sure, he's got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. "I played by ear and I invented my own chords," he says.

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