Eight More Great Composers

2 hours a week for 8 weeks


Why is the music of some composers so wonderful? What makes some composers more famous than others? In this music appreciation course, we will examine the biographical details, historical and social background, musical styles and great works of eight more composers. We will explore the lives and music of Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Verdi, Dvořák, Elgar, Rakhmaninov, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. No prior musical knowledge is necessary.

Course Outline

Session 1: Vivaldi

  • Vivaldi’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Baroque Period: historical and social background.
  • Vivaldi’s life: the early years, Catholic priest, composing in Venice
  • Listening includes: The Four Seasons, the Gloria, opera selections

Session 2: Mendelssohn

  • Mendelssohn’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Mendelssohn’s life: Hamburg, child composer, maturity, travels, conducting
  • Listening includes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, violin concertos, Elijah

Session 3: Verdi

  • Verdi’s place in history and musical style.
  • Verdi’ life: Milan, organist, opera composer, politics
  • Listening includes: Music from La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Verdi’s Requiem

Session 4: Dvořák

  • Dvořák’s place in history and musical style.
  • Dvořák’s life: Bohemia, Czech nationalism, Prague Conservatory
  • Listening includes: Largo from The New World Symphony, the Cello Concerto, string quartets

Session 5: Elgar

  • Elgar’s place in history and musical style.
  • Elgar’s life: Broadheath, organist, violinist, conductor, composer
  • Listening includes: Enigma Variations including Nimrod, the Cello Concerto, The Dream of Gerontius

Session 6: Rakhmaninov

  • Rakhmaninov’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Impressionist Period: historical and social background.
  • Rakhmaninov’s life: Moscow, pianist, travelling virtuoso, New York
  • Listening includes: Piano concertos, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, symphonies

Session 7: Stravinsky

  • Stravinsky’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Twentieth Century: historical and social background.
  • Stravinsky’s life: Russia, France, the United States
  • Listening includes: The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, Petrushka, Symphony of Psalms

Session 8: Shostakovich

  • Shostakovich’s place in history and musical style.
  • Shostakovich’s life: the early years, St Petersburg Conservatory, government interference, later years
  • Listening includes: Symphony No. 5, string quartets, concertos for piano, cello and violin
Book cover Eight More Great Composers

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A digital copy of these notes will be provided free with enrolment.

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.

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