The Life of Isaac Albéniz

Isaac Albéniz often referred to as one of the most famous composers to hail from Spain. Isaac was born in 1860 in Camprodon, a town apart of Girona. Only living a short life, Albéniz lived to the age of 49 and died in 1909. He is best known for his piano works that are based on folk music idioms. Many of his pieces are notable for the classical guitar transcriptions that were later made.

A child prodigy, Albéniz first learned to play the piano at the age of one by his sister. By the age of four he performed for the first time. A couple of years later at age seven, he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Conservatoire de Paris, but unfortunately he was refused admission for being too young.

A popular myth describes his childhood as a bit of an exaggeration. It is said that at the age of twelve, Albéniz ran away from home and stowed away in a ship headed towards Buenos Aires. Continuing his nomadic lifestyle he found himself in Cuba, and then to the United States performing in New York and San Francisco, eventually returning back to Europe to give performances in Liverpool, London, and in Germany.

While not an accurate account of what actually happened, historians have determined that the story is partly true. He did in fact give concert performances in these places at that age, but he was more likely accompanied  by his father who was a customs official who traveled a lot for business. Historians discovered this by comparing Isaac’s concert dates and his father’s travel itinerary.

Throughout the rest of his career he studied under many composers, Guillermo Morphy, Franz Liszt, and Felip Pedrell to name a few. Touring all throughout Europe, Isaac lived in London and Paris for an amount of time. During this time while he was not performing at concerts, he wrote and composed musical comedies.

In 1900, Isaac was diagnosed with Bright’s disease a classification of kidney disease that ultimately cause his death in 1909. For his work within Paris and his impact within the classical music industry, the French government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d’honneur a few weeks before his death.

His most notable pieces include: Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Cataluna, and the Tango in D. All of his personal papers are preserved among many institutions.

Erik Satie

Today Erik Satie is recognized as one of the best French composers. Historians believe that his work influenced various movements such as Surrealism and minimalism. Keep reading to learn more about this famous composer.

Early Life

Erik Satie was born on May 17, 1866, in Honfleur, France. Satie’s family moved to Paris when he was four years old; however, he returned to Honfleur after his mother died when he was six. He and his brother, Conrad, lived with their grandparents. During this time Satie began his first music lessons. After Satie’s grandmother died he and his brother returned to their father in Paris. At this point, Satie was 12 years old. Satie’s father eventually remarried a piano teacher. A year after returning to Paris, Satie gained admission to the Paris Conservatory. However, his teachers were unimpressed with his piano playing, so he had to leave the conservatory. He returned to the conservatory when he was 19, but still, he didn’t have any success. Although Satie’s teachers dismissed his playing ability, they did acknowledge that he had a talent for composition.

Publishing Career

In 1887 Satie moved to Montmartre and shortly after published his first compositions. While living in Montmartre, he met Claude Debussy. Later in Satie’s life, Debussy would take his Gymnopédies and transform them into orchestral works to help earn Satie recognition and money.

Cabaret and School

Satie began to work as a cabaret pianist in 1899. He didn’t particularly enjoy the music he played, but it was a steady source of income. Satie returned to school in 1905 to study counterpoint. The move surprised many of Satie’s friends, but he continued his studies for five years.


Over time many of Satie’s older pieces became popular. However, people tended to not pay as much attention to his newer work. As a result, Satie sought out younger artists who would appreciate his newer pieces. One such artist, Jean Cocteau, brought him into contact with artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Starting in 1919, Satie associated with the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and André Breton, the founder of Surrealism.

Final Years

Satie drank heavily throughout his life. This habit contributed to his death on July 1, 1925, at the age of 59. While alive Satie supposedly never had any of his friends visit his apartment. After he died his friends discovered numerous unpublished compositions as well as compositions that Satie thought he had lost.

Beethoven’s Most Famous Works

One of the most recognized names, perhaps the most popular, in western classical music is that of Ludwig van Beethoven’s. The German composer was active during the late 18th and early 19th century.

His music is extremely famous and has consistently inspired composers over the last two centuries.

One of the most interesting facts about Beethoven was that he was deaf since his late 20’s. During his life Beethoven composed many symphonies, string quartets, piano concertos, and piano sonatas. However, some of his works are better known than the others.

Beethoven’s Famous Fifth Symphony

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is possibly his most well-known piece of music. The piece, which is in C minor, is also known as Symphony No. 5. He began developing the composition in 1804 but only completed it in 1808. The first performance was at Theater an der Wien on December 22, 1808.

It has been repeatedly featured in movies and other media including Saturday Night Fever (1977), Doctor Who (2015), and Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony.

The Most Melodious Work

Another one of Beethoven’s most popular pieces, Fur Elise, is believed to have been composed in 1810. However, it wasn’t published until 1867. Here are some interesting facts:

  • It falls under the ‘Bagatelle music’ category.
  • The name literally means ‘for Elise.’
  • There is an uncertainty in the music world when it comes to the identity of ‘Elise.’
  • The popular version of today was first recorded by Ludwig Nohl.
  • Barry Cooper transcribed another version later with drastic changes.

Of Rhythm And Harmony

Another lovely composition is the Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor, Op. 13, which is also called Pathetique Sonata. It includes 3 movements: quick with vigor, slow, and quick on the piano.

The Final Symphony

The Choral or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in D-minor is considered Beethoven’s best composition. It is not the final symphony per se, but is the last symphony that was completely written. It premiered in Vienna, and the concert was a big success. When Beethoven composed this piece between 1822 and 1824, he was completely deaf. The piece is also famous for being the tune behind ‘A Song of Joy by Miguel Rios.

Don’t Forget To Listen To

All music compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven are extremely beautiful. However, there are certain ones that no one should miss. Among those are Septet Op. 20, Moonlight Sonata No. 14, Op. 27, Eroica Symphony (third) Op. 55 and Grand Fugue, Op. 133.

7 Most Famous Classical Music Pieces

Many people say they don’t know anything about classical music or don’t enjoy it, but they also do not realize how often classical music is used in their everyday lives. Whether you realize it or not, when you watch a movie, see a commercial, or are walking around a public space, it’s likely that classical music is playing at some point. Nearly everyone recognizes some iconic classical music pieces that are continuously used in new forms of media, showing they never go out of style.

“Nutcracker Suite” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

This song is so well known because it’s used in the the ballet The Nutcracker and often featured in Christmas movies or commercials. The song was used in Disney’s Fantasia and remains one of the most well-known classical songs ever.

“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This incredible piece lasts a total of around 15 minutes and has four movements. Mozart apparently wrote this piece when he was sick and had been commissioned to write “happy music.” The piece wasn’t released publicly until long after his death.

“In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg

This song was originally written for the Norwegian play, Peer Gynt. It has since become a classic and is used frequently in movies to show disorder (one example is in The Social Network).

“Love Theme” from Romeo and Juliet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

“Love Theme” has been used time and time again in nearly every movie that deals with love. An interesting fact is that the flutes and horns that play throughout the song are actually supposed to symbolize Juliet and Romeo.

“Canon in D major” by Johann Pachelbel

A truly impressive (and challenging) song to play on the organ, “Canon in D major” is a delight to listen to. This song is also known as “Pachelbel’s Canon.” This piece of classical music wasn’t published until many years after Pachelbel’s death.

“Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner

Used in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Ride of the Valkyries” is a widely known classical piece. It took Wagner about 26 years to write this piece and it’s only part of a four section opera. It’s a favorite of professional orchestras for performing even today.

“Symphony #9” by Ludwig van Beethoven

More commonly known as “Ode to Joy” (originally a poem), this Beethoven song is one of the first children will learn to play on piano, though they only learn a small, simplified version of it. This symphony has remained popular throughout the years and likely will for a long time to come.