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06 March 2020
Many a man will know the terms 'piano' and 'forte' to describe a soft or loud volume. The Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli was the first to ever used these terms in a musical work, around 1600, in his Sonata pian' e forte. Yet, this is not the only accomplishment Gabrieli is known for: he was also one of the first to compose music for multiple choirs, in which a vocal or instrumental ensemble was spread throughout the available space. This especially would have had an impressive effect in the gigantic St Mark's Basilica of Venice. Due to these innovations, many students, among which Heinrich Schütz, wanted to be taught by Gabrieli. Gabrieli's most seminal work includes his Sacrae symphoniae (1597) and his posthumously published Canzoni et sonate (1615).
Claude Debussy was a French composer. He and Maurice Ravel were the most prominent figures associated with impressionist music, though Debussy disliked the term when applied to his compositions. He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism influenced many composers who followed.
Debussy's music is noted for its sensory content and frequent usage of non-traditional tonalities. The prominent French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant Among his most famous works are his Clair de Lune, his Three Nocturnes and his orchestral piece La Mer.
George Gershwin was an American composer, who is mostly known due to his combinations of classical and popular music genres.
George Gershwin grew up in a poor neighbourhood in New York. His parents were Russian immigrants who had trouble making ends meet. They did, however, decide to purchase an old piano so Ira Gershwin could study to become a musician. Yet, it turned out not Ira, but his younger brother George showed remarkable talent. Ira applied himself to writing song lyrics and together the Gershwin brothers became absolute greats in the world of 20th century musicals. Nowadays, George's compositions are still relevant, as is evidenced by the many performances of his Rhapsody in Blue from 1924. But the best example is the ageless Summtertime, which has been covered a countless number of times by a countless number of artists.
Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, strongly polyphonic character, and considerable length. Bruckner's compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism, owing to their dissonances, unprepared modulations, and roving harmonies. Bruckner was greatly admired by subsequent composers including his friend Gustav Mahler, who described him as "half simpleton, half God".
Coming from a small farmer's village, Bruckner started his music education early, which he continued for a long time. Due to a mix of insecurity and eagerness to learn, Bruckner rushed from one study into another and he showed himself as a fanatic, but also remarkably talented, student. He started composing at an early age, but he considered everything before his 39th as mere practice. Bruckner never became a stable composer and relied on in short phases of creative energy. After these phases, he would spend ages revising his work. In particular his symphonies received countless revisions and new editions, which was also due to his insecurity, he was quite sensitive to criticism.
The premier of his Third Symphony was a disaster: a large part of the audience left the concert hall and a devastating review appeared afterwards. Luckily, appreciation for his work grew and at the time of his death, even the great Brahms attended his funeral.