Famous Composers

Famous Composers Tell the Story of Their Lives In Music

Biographies of our famous composers are told in first-person as if they returned from the afterlife to tell us their life stories.

 

We write the biographies using credible, multiple sources so that they may be as accurate as possible. Note: When we quote the composer's exact words (in the guise of the composer speaking), we use quotation marks around those particular words.

 

We hope you will find this first-person format may give you a fresh perspective, and a warmer connection to your favorite composers.

 

Richard J. Chandler, MA, Composer & Editor for LeadingMusicians.com

Composer Gabriel Fauré writing compositions

Gabriel Fauré, Composer, Organist, & Educator

Gabriel Fauré’s Early Years In Music I was born May 2nd, 1845, in Pamiers, Ariège, France. As the youngest son in a family of six boys and one girl, “I grew up a rather quiet, well-behaved child, in an area of great beauty.” None of my brothers displayed any interest or talent in music. Indeed, …

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Photo of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky sitting in a chair

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Composer

The Early Life of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky I was born on May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Russia, to a military family. My father worked as a mining engineer and served as a lieutenant colonel in the army. My mother leaned towards a career in the arts. She was French and German and had taught me …

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Composer Bela Bartok Sitting at Grand Piano

Bela Bartok, Composer

Bela Bartok: Composer, Pianist, Musicologist & Piano Teacher This biography of Bela Bartok is told in the first person as if Bartok returned from the afterlife to tell us the story of his life. Along with the help of the British writer, Aly Locatelli, I wrote this biography using multiple sources so it may be …

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Statue of Bedrich Smetana in Prague, Czech Republic

Bedrich Smetana, Composer

Bedrich Smetana’s Early Life as a Musical Prodigy I was the 3rd child born on March 2, 1824, into a large, musically inclined family. My father, a violinist in a string quartet, had been previously married twice before meeting my mother, a dancer. Before my birth, my father had been a brewer, and during the …

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Photograph of Bizet's Les_pêcheurs_de_perles Scene from act II of the opera

Georges Bizet, Composer

Georges Bizet Early Life and Family I was born in Paris on 25 October 1838, and was originally registered as Alexandre César Léopold. I was baptised ‘Georges’ on March 16, 1840, a name gifted to me by my godfather which stuck better than my original name. My father had been a hairdresser and wigmaker, but …

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Statue of Cesar Franck at the Square Samuel-Rousseau, in Paris, France.

César Franck, Composer

César Franck Pushed To Perform on Piano from His Childhood Did I work myself to death? Perhaps so. Since my childhood, I used my talents as a pianist and composer to line my parents’ pockets, ensuring financial stability in financially hard times.  Like Beethoven, my father pushed my violinist brother to study music to generate …

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photograph of Claude Debussy playing piano while others watch on

Claude Debussy, Composer

Claude Debussy, Composer Claude Debussy is perhaps the most influential French composer in western music. His influence was prominently felt for composers who were contemporaries and in the decades to follow. Debussy’s music continues to be influential in our time for 21st century composers. Musicians and audiences alike are swept away by the beauty, color …

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Edvard Grieg and his friends sitting outside at a table

Edvard Grieg, Composer

Edvard Grieg’s Early Childhood and Musical Inclination I was born in Bergen, Norway, in June, 1843. My family was rather musically inclined, with my mother being a music teacher and the daughter of Edvard Hagerup, for whom I was named after. My father worked as a merchant and consul in Bergen, but he, too, enjoyed …

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Portrait photo of composer, Charles Gounod

Charles Gounod, Composer

Charles Gounod’s Early Years Shaped by the Death of His Father I was born on June 17th, 1818, in Paris to an artistic family. My father was a painter, my mother a talented pianist who, on occasion, gave lessons to musically inclined students. Francois, my father, was, at one point, the official artist to a …

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Painting of composer Liszt playing piano while friends watch

Franz Liszt, Composer

The Early Life of the Prodigy, Franz Liszt After the Pressburg concert, aristocrats, amazed by my talent, offered to sponsor my education in Vienna. I was nine years old at the time and already creating a fan base that would follow me for the rest of my life. I debuted in Vienna on December 1, …

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Portrait painting of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Composer

Giovanni Palestrina’s Studies & Early Work I believe that I was born circa February 1525. It is impossible to confirm as the war between Emperor Charles V and Pope Clement VII destroyed my municipality of Palestrina along with many of its records. Documents recording the births and deaths of the previous decades were lost. After …

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A photo of a young composer, Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini, Composer

Giacomo Puccini’s Early Years: Struggles with School & Musical Growth I was born in Lucca, Italy, on December 22, 1858, to a musically gifted family. My father, Michele Puccini, was well established in Lucca as part of a ‘musical dynasty’ founded by my great-great-grandfather, the first maestro di cappella at the Cattedrale do San Martino.  …

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Photograph of Maurice Ravel sitting next to a piano

Maurice Ravel, Composer

Maurice Ravel Growing Up and the Beginning of a Musical Life  I was born March 8, 1875, in the Basque town of Ciboure in France, near Biarritz,  into a talented family. My father, Pierre-Joseph Ravel, was a clever engineer and manufacturer and while my mother did not work, his fruitful career provided for us all. …

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Photo of the album cover Rimsky-Korsakov Symphonic Suite Antar

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Composer

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Early Life as a Musician I was born on March 6, 1844, in Tikhvin, Russia. Unlike other composers of my time, my family was not artistically inclined. Both of my parents played the piano. My mother was more accomplished than my father in that regard. All in all, we were a family that …

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Photograph of Camille Saint Saëns playing piano while others watch

Camille Saint-Saëns, Composer

Early Life of Camille Saint-Saëns: A Young Prodigy  I was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. From a very young age, I displayed inordinate musical talent, debuting at only ten years old at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.   My father died of consumption [tuberculosis] when I was very young, and I was sent away …

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