More than formal education, it is the natural gift and the family background which makes an exceptional artist, particularly when it comes to music. Many great composers were born in musician families. Unlike many other disciplines, the performing artists begin to appear right in their childhood. An original piece of music, its structure, and method of forming it is called ‘musical composition,’ and its performers or those who practice composing are called composers. Composition includes the theory of music, its notation, use of instruments, sound production, and many other skills. Innovation is a spontaneous deviation from the written or predetermined composition, and great composers are quite often innovative too. The importance of formal education in learning the performing arts cannot be denied as it polishes the intrinsic talent like a diamond.
1. Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685 and died on July 28, 1749. He was born in a musician’s family and later on earned fame in music. He was ambidextrous and played many different kinds of musical instruments with equal dexterity. However, he is best known for his compositions on the organ. He served Duke Johann Ernst of Weimar as a chamber musician and later on served Prince Leopold. Bach wrote 300 musical pieces and was regarded as the best composer and the most knowledgeable teacher of music in his time. Following two operations for his declining eyesight, he died at the age of 65. His wife lived in poverty for ten years after his death.
2. Franz Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn, remembered as ‘Father of the Symphony’ and ‘Father of the String Quartet,’ was born on March 31, 1732 in Rohrau, Austria. He was one of the greatest composers of classical music in his time. Hayden remained the court musician of the Esterhazy family in Austria for most of his life. After the death of the prince, he went to England and came to know of his popularity among the people. He was best known for his Surprise Symphony. Haydn died on May 31, 1809 in Vienna.
3. Ludwig van Beethoven
LudwigvanBeethoven was born in Bonn on December 17, 1770. He performed at Cologne at the age of six and published his first work: Nine Variations at the age of 12. Ludwig learned music from famous artists like Christian Gottlob Neefe who wrote about him in the ‘Magazine of Music’ ‘…that if he continues like this, he will be, without doubt, the new Mozart.’ Prince Maximilian Franz sent him to see Mozart, but it is not sure if they met. However, he surely met Goethe, the great German philosopher poet in July, 1812. The poet remarked that Beethoven was ‘Completely untamed,’ and Beethoven missed that he had not been understood better by Goethe. Beethoven died on March 26, 1827 and his funeral was attended by 30,000 people.
4. Wolfgang Mozart
Wolfgang Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756 and died on December 5, 1791 in Vienna. Mozart is regarded as one of the greatest Western composers. Like Beethoven and Haydn, he is iconic to the Viennese school of classical music. At the time of his birth, Vienna and Prague were in the hands of aristocrats who liked to commission musicians to entertain them. Mozart wrote six quartets from 1782-1785. After his opera Die EntfÃ¼hrung aus dem Serail Mozart gained fame throughout Europe. After the death of Gluck, Mozart was appointed as ‘Chamber Composer’ of the Emperor Joseph, II in 1787. From 1790 to 1791, while he was in his thirties, Mozart wrote the best of his works including the opera The Magic Flute, the final piano concerto in B-Flat and the incomplete Requiem. Suffering from miliary fever, a skin condition, Mozart died at the age of only 35.
5. John Williams
John William is one of the topmost music composers of 2012. He was born in Long Island situated near New York on February 8, 1932. His family had a professional music background. John Williams’ themes for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jaws and Harry Potter are very popular among the general public. During the Capitol Fourth Celebration held at the Washington Mall on July 4, 2003, John Williams got such a standing ovation from a million people that brought tears to his eyes. John Williams is a living legend.
6. Mian Tansen
Tansen’s personality is shrouded in a thick mist of legends. Had he not been an established one of the nine famous courtiers of the Mogul Emperor Akbar, one would have probably avoided mentioning his name. The world-famous, Indian classical music cannot be conceived of without his name. Many of the music genres like Mia Ke Tode, Mia Ka Sarang, Mian Ki Malhar, etc. were named after him. The title ‘Honorific Mia’ was given to him by the Mogul Emperor Akbar in recognition of his knowledge of music.
7. Elton John
Elton John was born on March 25, 1947 in Middlesex, England. His birth name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Elton John ranks among the topmost rock musicians and composers of 1970 to the present. He had more than 30 famous works, but EltonJohn is best known for performing his most remembered song ‘Candle in the Wind’ at the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997. The song was the most popular and best seller all over the world. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1997.
8. George Percy Aldridge Grainger
George Percy Aldridge Grainger, an accomplished artist and composer with a wide circle of friends and cultural interests, was born on July 8, 1882 in Melbourne, Australia. Commonly known as Percy Grainger, the innovative composer was best known for the revival of British folk music. He is famous for his piano folk dance tune ‘Country Gardens.’ In the year 1930, he founded Grainger Museum in Melbourne as a monument and archive for future generations. He lived in America for most of the years of his life and died on February 20, 1961.
9. Britney Jean Spears
Commonly known as Britney Spears, she was born on December 2, 1981 in McComb, Mississippi. She performed in her local church and was invited to New York’s Summer School of Performing Arts after her audition at the Mickey Mouse Club when she was only eight. She is a famous composer, singer, and dancer. Her hit singles are: ‘Baby One More Time,’ ‘You Drive Me Crazy,’ ‘Oops’¦I Did It Again,’ ‘Toxic,’ ‘Gimme More,’ and ‘Circus.’ BritneySpears performed all of them from 1998 to 2008.
Any art form requires diligent practice and handiwork on the part of the artist. And when it comes to the performing arts, ‘practice’ becomes more than a word. Even the masters have been practicing their art unceasingly regardless of the heights of fame achieved by them. What a soul is to a body the performance is to music. How can even the sweetest song be effective too unless the singer is absorbed in the very meanings of the song? Great composers create ecstasy, but they cannot afford to be ecstatic themselves as it will disable them from performing. Great composers, therefore, have to exercise great self-control. Many of them like Grainger have left great legacies behind for the benefit of coming generations. In addition to the natural gift of the performer, the formal education and years of practice and experience behind it are another very important dimension in the ‘event’ of performance. Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’ cannot be conceived in isolation from Lady Diana’s funeral.