Composer Biographies

One of the things we’re doing this year is studying classical composers. Every few weeks, I’d like to expose the kids to a different composer, giving them a little biographical info as well as a chance to listen to a selection of respective works. This will tie in with our history studies as well as violin study and music appreciation. We decided to start with Mozart, partly because he was so prolific and his music very familiar, but also because he was quite young when he started performing and composing. I thought the girls might be interested to learn about someone who started writing famous pieces of music when he was only slightly older than they are now.

Last week we listened to an audio CD from the library that contained many of Mozart’s best-known pieces, a sort of “greatest hits”. I just put this on in the background while we were working on something else. Today we watched a DVD of A&E’s Biography series on the young composer. The girls had a difficult time understanding why we could only see paintings of Mozart in the film (no actual video or even photographs of Mozart himself). Sam wanted to know “why we can only see pictures and why we can’t hear his voice?” So this brought up the notion that he had lived many years prior to today, and in a time when movies and videos were not yet invented.

Much of the DVD went over their heads but they paid attention to a surprising amount of it. They learned that he wrote both instrumental pieces as well as operas, and they were fascinated with the soprano’s voice. They saw snippets of Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute being performed on stage; they also saw several modern musicians perform excerpts of his pieces on flute, violin and piano. They learned that Mozart had a sister who was also an accomplished musician, too. Later this week, we will listen to the CD again and I’ll see what other tidbits the girls retained from the film.

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