Eight Great Composers

2 hours a week for 8 weeks

Beethoven composing

What makes a composer ‘great’? Why does the work of some composers still resonate, delighting contemporary audiences? In this course we examine the lives and music of eight of the greatest composers of classical music. Each week we will examine biographical details, historical and social background, musical style and the great works of a composer. The eight studied will be Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Ravel. No musical knowledge is necessary.

Course Outline

Session 1: Bach

  • Bach’s place in history and musical style
  • Background: The Baroque Period
  • Bach’s Life: Weimar, Cöthen, Leipzig
  • Listening includes: Air on a G String, Brandenburg Concertos, Mass in B Minor

Session 2: Mozart

  • Mozart’s place in history and style
  • Background: The Classical Period
  • The early years, Salzburg, Vienna
  • Listening includes: The Clarinet Concerto, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, The Marriage of Figaro

Session 3: Beethoven

  • Beethoven’s place in history and style
  • Background: The Late Classical Period
  • The three periods of Beethoven’s life
  • Listening includes: The 5th Symphony, Moonlight Sonata, Ode to Joy

Session 4: Liszt

  • Liszt’s place in history and musical style
  • Background: The Romantic Period
  • Liszt’s Life, from Raiding to Rome
  • Listening includes: Liebstraume, Hungarian Rhapsodies, Piano Concertos

Session 5: Wagner

  • Wagner’s place in history and style
  • Background: Opera in Europe
  • London, Dresden, Switzerland, Bavaria
  • Listening includes: The Flying Dutchman, The Ring Cycle, The Ride of the Valkyries

Session 6: Tchaikovsky

  • Tchaikovsky’s place in history and style
  • Background: Romanticism in Russia
  • Tchaikovsky’s life and works
  • Listening includes: The Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet

Session 7: Mahler

  • Mahler’s place in history and style
  • Background: The Late Romantic Period
  • Prague, Vienna, New York
  • Listening includes: The Symphony of a Thousand, Songs of a Wayfarer, Das Lied von der Erde

Session 8: Ravel

  • Ravel’s place in history and style
  • Background: The Twentieth Century
  • Ravel’s Life and works
  • Listening includes: Bolero, The Tomb of Couperin, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
Book cover Eight Great Composers

Buy the course notes for this class

In hard copy book form, through Lulu Press
$22 + postage


“Susan is just a fantastic teacher. She has a wonderful personality that shines through and is incredibly knowledgeable about her subject. I would consider enrolling in any course that Susan is teaching”

“Fantastic course – wonderful presentation. An inspiration”

“Susan’s attitude and enthusiasm and knowledge is what made it very worthwhile”

“Well balanced, teacher was very well prepared. The course (along with others by this presenter) has particularly enhanced my enjoyment of concerts and CDs”

“The course was well balanced between the music period, music examples and the life of the composer. Susan’s personable presentation style enhances the learning experience”

“Everything was excellent. Susan’s bright personality and enthusiasm made it a treat”

“I am a novice of classical music so I just drank in this course – absolutely loved it. Susan was such an enthusiastic and loving lecturer – I learnt a lot. One of the best courses I’ve ever done”

“I liked Susan’s enthusiasm for her subject and interesting anecdotes”

“I found the presentation by Susan most informative as well as entertaining – time passed quickly and it was very helpful to have excerpts from the composer’s music interspersed. I feel the course broadened my perspective and the notes gave excellent guidelines to take away. Thanks a lot”

About Susan Deas

Susan Deas is a professional musician, lecturer and teacher. She has been teaching music appreciation courses for more than twenty years, through Sydney University’s Centre for Continuing Education, WEA Sydney and at other venues. Her training includes a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance (Piano) and Musicology, a Master of Music Studies (Studio Pedagogy), a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), and an A.Mus.A in Musicianship. Susan teaches piano and music theory to adults and children, and plays piano and organ at various venues around Sydney. Susan is an accredited piano teacher and musicianship teacher, and is on the Council of the Music Teachers’ Association of NSW.

More about Susan’s qualifications

Read what people have said about Susan’s other courses

Susan’s other music courses