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Classical Music's Most Famous Child Prodigies

Updated on July 20, 2011
Page from my Symphony No. 1
Page from my Symphony No. 1

Child Prodigies

Mendelssohn's Overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream is an incredible piece of music, and it's available to see and hear on www.youtube.com

Classical music’s most famous child prodigies - whom where they?... Beethoven may be considered by most scholarly authorities to have been music’s greatest ‘all time’ genius; nevertheless, very few authorities on music (if anyone really) considers Beethoven to have been a child prodigy of any sort. In fact, Beethoven was quite a late comer. Yes, Beethoven was an exceptional pianist in his youth, as well as gifted to some degree, but so were many others.... Had Beethoven died at 31 like Schubert did, we may have never known who he was today.... This is as far as Beethoven will be discussed in this article....

Mozart

The first, perhaps the greatest of all musical prodigies was Mozart. Cliché's of Mozart abound - “He was mistaken for garbage and ejected from a UFO” - “Some of his music couldn’t have been written by a human being” to paraphrase Bernard Shaw. Anyhow, it seems that when it comes to Mozart, the votes about his greatness are all unanimous.... Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756 - 1791. One thing Mozart did have on his side, was pedigree. Mozart’s father was one of Europe’s most well to do composers of his day. Furthermore, Mozart’s siblings were all musically precocious to some degree or another - the music gene was prevalent in the Mozart family line. Of course, what would you do if your son or daughter was musically gifted at an early age?... You guess it, and that’s exactly what Leopold did with his son Wolfgang and his daughter Maria, he exploited their talent with hopes of monetary gains. By the time Mozart was 15 years of age, he had written symphonies, concertos, operas, you name it; he was a well rounded composer at the tender age of 15, something very few other composers can make claim to.

Franz Schubert

The second prodigy was Schubert. Franz Schubert 1797 - 1828. Schubert was another genius of unprecedented greatness. The seriousness and maturity of Schubert’s music isn’t usually reached by a composer until he’s at least 40-45 years of age. As you’d expect, Schubert showed great talent at an early age. What is most surprisingly of all, is that Schubert wrote 1000 compositions in his brief life. Rachmaninoff and Franck wrote at most 250 compositions or so and both lived to be 70 years of age (close to anyway) - you do the math! Schubert is considered to be one of music all time greatest musical genius. His songs are amongst the most beautiful ever composed.

Felix Mendelssohn

The third prodigy was without doubt Mendelssohn. Felix Mendelssohn 1809 - 1847. Mendelssohn was a phenomenal genius. He was writing symphonies and conducting them since he was a small child. Furthermore, his Octet for Strings written at 16 years of age, and his Overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer’s Night Dream written at 17 years of age, are considered by many musical authorities to be the two greatest musical compositions written by a boy of that age.... Ironically enough though, Mendelssohn’s greatness as a composer did diminished later on in his short life - he was not able to outdo himself ever again after that, but he came somewhat close with his Scottish Symphony (No. 3), and Violin Concerto in E minor. That said, most authorities have made reference to the fact that even Mozart didn’t have a composition at 16 and 17 years of age to match Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings or the Overture to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream....

Camille Saint Saens

The fourth and arguably most incredible of all child prodigies was Camille Saint Saens 1835 - 1921. Saint Saens gave his first piano recital accompanying a violinist at age 5 (Beethoven Violin Sonata?). He also had full mastery of Latin at age 7. At age 10, he gave his first official piano recital performing Mozart’s 15th Piano Concerto. Saint Saens also had great knowledge of philosophy and wrote essays about art and music. One thing which remains ironic about Saint Saens, is that he was not very impressive as an adult. His compositions are considered to be below par on the inspirational scale, though not totally without some merit. Another thing which distinguishes Saint Saens from the other child prodigies mentioned in this article, was his life. Saint Saens lived a very long and immensely lucrative career and remained active until his death at the age of 86.




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    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you so much ishwaryaa22, I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting on my hub.

      Yes, I think many scholars will agree (at gunpoint anyways LOL) that Beethoven is probably the greatest musical genius that has ever lived, but, he was no a prodigy by any strech of the imagination.

      Take care and God Bless

      John

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      6 years ago from Chennai, India

      I am familiar only with Beethoven (although he was a late-comer) and Mozart. This hub of yours expanded my knowledge about classical musicians. Thank u for sharing. Useful. Vote up.

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi stessily,

      I'm really glad you enjoyed my hub - makes me feel good.

      Thank you so much and take care of yourself

      John

    • profile image

      stessily 

      6 years ago

      John Sarkis: I enjoyed reading this hub, even though I already knew about these musicians because I have listened to their music since childhood. My all-time favorite is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; I love that he sustained his excited outlook on musical creativity throughout his all-too-short life. I loved that one of Felix Mendelssohn's selfless contributions was to reacquaint the world with the music of J.S. Bach.

      This hub is interesting and well summarized.

      Voted up + interesting

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Klara,

      I did mention Mozart's sister, be it subsequently. The Mozart's were a very gifted musical family.

      Clara was one of the greatest pianists of the 19th Century. She lived during a period when women's rights were at an all time low....

      Thank you for reading my hubs and commenting - take care

      John

    • profile image

      klarawieck 

      7 years ago

      Mozart's sister was also a child prodigy, and of course, let's not forget about Clara Schumann, who learned to play the piano and compose before she could speak. ;) Great hub! Voted up!

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks Eiddwen - take care

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting and thanks for sharing.

      Useful/up for this one.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Chopin and Beethoven are two of the greatest composers of all times; nevertheless, Chopin and Beethoven were not child prodigies, hence the reason I omitted both of them from this hub (although I mentioned Beethoven in the beginning and explained....)

      Thanks elfishflea and take care of yourself

      John

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you Betty - God Bless you

      John

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      7 years ago

      An interesting hub. I enjoyed reading about these musical geniuses.

    • elfishflea profile image

      elfishflea 

      7 years ago from Texas

      I recently had a chance to learn the Piano 1 part for Saint Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." Some silly music, but very fun! Unfortunately the concert got cancelled due to weather, so we never got to perform it.

      What about Chopin?

    • John Sarkis profile imageAUTHOR

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      He wrote a lot of music - too much to list or talk about in a short article. One of my favorite compositions is his 4th Piano Concerto.

      Thanks for commenting and take care of yourself!

      John

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      7 years ago

      I am familiar with all these musicians, but know the least about Saens. He is also the only one whose works I have never sung.

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