- Entertainment and Media»
- Performing Arts
Music and Mortality: Classical Composers Who Died Young
Classical music is well-known for its prodigies. Everybody knows that Mozart was composing music before he could wipe his own nose. Chopin had achieved notoriety by his teenage years. A case could be made that Mendelssohn was the most successful prodigy in classical music, as measured by early works that have actually remained in the concert repertoire.
It is a little surprising, in turn, just how many of classical music's great composers have died at a relatively young age (making their early start all the more important). The tally includes many of the masters: Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and others. Check out the list, and consider how much these musicians accomplished before reaching age 40:
The List: Composers Who Died Before Age 40
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). Enduring works: Norma, numerous other operas. Age at death: 33.
Georges Bizet (1838-1875). Enduring works: Carmen, numerous other operas. Age at death: 36.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). Enduring works: Piano works–sonatas, waltzes, preludes, ballades, etc. Age at death: 39.
George Gershwin (1898-1937). Enduring works: Porgy and Bess, Rhapsody in Blue, Three Preludes, An American in Paris, Piano Concerto in F, Broadway musicals, songs. Age at death: 38.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Enduring works: Overture to Midsummer Night's Dream, string quartets, Symphonies 1-5, The Hebrides, Violin Concerto, Elijah, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," Lieder ohne Worte, songs, organ sonatas, etc. Age at death: 38.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, other operas, piano concertos, violin concertos, string quartets, Requiem, etc. Age at death: 35.
Otto Nicolai (1810-1849). Enduring works: The Merry Wives of Windsor. Age at death: 38.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736). Enduring works: La Serva Pedrona, other early comic operas, Stabat Mater. Age at death: 26.
Henry Purcell (1659-1695). Enduring works: Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy-Queen, odes, cantatas, etc. Age at death: 36.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Enduring works: Symphonies 1-9, 600 lieder, chamber music. Age at death: 31.
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826). Enduring works: Der Freischütz, Euryanthe, Oberon, various concertos. Age at death: 39.
Source: Herbert Kupferberg, The Book of Classical Music Lists.
More Music Links
- Top 50 Brass Quintets
This is a list of standard brass quintets that Ive used in teaching brass chamber music at the university level at several different schools. Many of the pieces would be considered classics, in that...
- Top 20 Brass Trios
Wood engraving by Gunther, c. 1885, depicting a brass trio leading a Norwegian procession. The following is a list of original brass trio literature I have compiled in the process of playing in a faculty...
- How to Get a Music Scholarship
As a full-time music professor of 11 years, I have served on scholarship committees at three different universities in three different regions of the country. Here are a few insights that may be helpful in...
- Trombone Names Throughout History
The trombone, an instrument that originated in the 15th century, has a long history of colorful names. What other single instrument can boast nomenclature as interesting and varied as sagbot, shagbolt,...
- Trombone History in Latin America, 1500-1750
Latin America normally gets only a few pages, at the most, in the standard histories of the trombone. It probably deserves more. Records document a significant amount of trombone activity in colonial Latin...
- Females in Trombone History, 1500-1900
The idea that females did not become serious trombone players until the 20th century is a misconception. While many of the visual images shown below are symbolic (e.g., depictions of muses and angels), there...
- Trombone History: Cherubs Playing the Trombone
In visual art, a cherub, or more strictly speaking, a putto, is an infant or toddler, almost always male and with wings, found especially in Baroque art. So what are they doing playing trombone? The main...
- How to Hold a Sackbut: The Grip of the Early Trombone in Pictures
Occasionally there is discussion about how the sackbut, or early trombone, should be held. Among other differences, in contrast to the modern trombone, the stays on these early trombones are flat, so the...
- Super Slides: Trombones with Extension Handles
Before bass trombones had valves to access extra tubing for lower notes, players were forced to use extra-long slides if they wanted to extend the lower register. These slides were long enough that extension...
- Trombone History: A Mischievous Trombonist in Renaissance Italy
Siena, Italy, ca. 1572, from Civitates Orbis Terrarum Sixteenth-century, Siena, Italy, boasted a first-rate musical establishment in both its Palace wind band and its cathedral musical establishment,...
- Trombone History: Trombones in Water Processions
A brief history of the trombone in water processions. Trombone history in the late Renaissance and Early Baroque.
- Trombone History: The Trombone in Parades, 15th and 16th Centuries
76 trombones led the big parade! When Meredith Willson penned those lyrics in 1957 for the Broadway musical The Music Man, the author was unwittingly reflecting not just a recent local tradition, but nearly...
- Trombone History: The Trombone in Parades, 17th-19th Centuries
This is the second of a two-part series on the history of the trombone in processions. For the first hub, see here. The trend in the three centuries represented below is a general movement from royal and...
- Sound Qualities of the Early Trombone: 20 Primary Sources
A few years ago I applied for funding to purchase a set of sackbuts, or early trombones, for my university. I decided at the time to do some research, in the form of both recordings and primary sources, into...