How Much Do You Know About These Famous Composers?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: Carl Schloesser

About This Quiz

From the Baroque era (1600 to 1750) to the Classical (1750-1820) and Romantic (1780-1910) periods, composers wrote some of the most famous music compositions in human history. Those pieces are anything but window dressing for public radio stations – they’re the inspiring songs that fill Hollywood blockbusters and inspire people around the world, generation after generation. In this lilting and powerful quiz, what do you really know about history’s great composers?

They were the architects of sweeping artistic creations. Ludwig van Beethoven composed “Symphony No. 5 In C Minor” in the early 1800s, and since then, it’s become one of the most-played pieces of music on Earth. Did you know that this incredible piece of work became an unofficial theme song of sorts for the Allies as they fought the Axis during World War II? It was nicknamed the “Victory Symphony.”

And of course, anyone with ears has heard Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” It is one of the most powerful and ominous songs he ever wrote … and in recent decades it’s become strongly associated with scenes from the disturbing war movie “Apocalypse Now.”

Art music is still going strong! Dust off those piano keys and play your way through this famous composers quiz now!

Johann Sebastian Bach was a composer in the _____ period.

Bach lived in the late 1600s to the mid-1700s. As such, he was very much a major figure of classical music's Baroque period.


Which composer was a musical genius from a very early age?

He had the big name and the big personality -- he was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And before the age of five, he mastered the violin and keyboard, and then began making compositions that would capture the world's imagination.


How was George Frideric Handel regarded before his death in 1759?

George Frideric Handel was the 18th-century version of a rock star. He played to excited audiences, made a vast fortune and died famous.


Ludwig van Beethoven was from which country?

Born in 1770 in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Beethoven became one of the world's legendary pianists and composers. He died at the age of 56, a true celebrity in Vienna.


Which composer created the "Four Seasons"?

Antonio Vivaldi wrote his famous "Four Seasons," a collection of four violin concerti, in the early 1720s. Each of the pieces evokes one of seasons of the year.


Which famous composer lived in the 20th century?

Russian-born Igor Stravinsky was born in 1882 and created his most powerful works in the 20th century. His unique and adventurous sense of rhythm made him distinctive among classical composers.


How many compositions did Franz Schubert create in his lifetime?

Franz Schubert died in his early 30s but made the most of his short lifetime. He created more than 600 pieces of music, many of which are highly regarded by musicologists.


Who wrote the "Brandenburg Concertos"?

In the Baroque era, few pieces stand quite so tall as the "Brandenburg Concertos" by Johann Sebastian Bach. These orchestral compositions are some Bach's most legendary works.


Franz Schubert is NOT considered to be an artist of which era?

Franz Schubert was a composer who worked during the end of the Classical era and the beginning of the Romantic period. The Baroque era was one of classical music's earlier periods.


Beginning in his 20s, what problem began to affect Ludwig van Beethoven?

In his 20s, Ludwig van Beethoven began suffering from hearing impairment, a problem that grew worse as he aged. By the end of his life he was nearly deaf … but he still managed to compose masterpieces.


Who wrote "Messiah"?

Composed in 1742, "Messiah" is a truly iconic piece of classical music, based on passages from the Bible. The "Hallelujah" chorus might be Handel's best moment ever.


Franz Liszt was known for his ability with which instrument?

Franz Liszt was an iconic Hungarian composer with virtuoso ability with the piano. His many diverse compositions made a major impact on the 20th-century composers who followed in his wake.


Frederic Chopin was from which area?

The airport in Warsaw is named for this titan of classical music. Frederic Chopin is an icon of Poland, a composer and pianist for the ages.


Which artist created the "Trumpet Concerto"?

In 1796, when he was late in his career, Joseph Hadyn created the "Trumpet Concerto." It eventually became one of Haydn's best-known works.


Robert Schumann was particularly noted for his ability with which instrument?

Robert Schumann wanted to be a lawyer … but then traded law for music, and the world will never be able to repay him for his wise choice. He was a fantastic pianist who eventually became a legendary composer.


Antonio Vivaldi was a famous composer from which country?

Antonio Vivaldi was a famous Italian composer. He was also a devout religious man, and many of his works celebrated his faith.


Who composed "The Firebird"?

Created for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company, Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird" was a smash hit from the get-go. The composition was inspired by Russian folk tales.


Which artist created the masterpiece titled "Goldberg Variations"?

The "Goldberg Variations" were written by Bach and published in the 1740s. They were some of the only compositions that actually saw publication during his lifetime.


At the tender age of 14, which composer wrote the opera "Mitridate Re di Ponto"?

Mozart was incredibly prolific, in part because he started writing at such a young age. He wrote his first opera, "Mitridate Re di Ponto" when he was just 14 years old.


Robert Schumann was an amazing pianist. Why did he give up the instrument?

In his formative years, Robert Schumann was a stellar pianist, but he suffered a hand injury that ended his playing days. He switched to composing and found that he was an excellent writer.


Richard Wagner was known for his work in _____.

Wagner was a famous composer who also loved drama and theatre. Many of his compositions wound up in stage performances.


Which composer created the "Late Quartets" late in his life?

In the 1820s, Beethoven unveiled his "Late Quartets," the final major compositions of his life. Listeners were mostly puzzled (or even aghast) at the challenging music … but modern critics have taken a more positive view of the work.


Which man wrote "The Nutcracker"?

In the lexicon of classical music, few composers have as many popular pieces as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He wrote "The Nutcracker," one of the world's best-loved compositions.


"Trauer" (Mourning) Symphony No. 44" is a famous composition by _____.

Joseph Haydn so loved his "Trauer" (Mourning) Symphony No. 44" that he wanted it to be played during his funeral. It is a four-movement piece that was completed in 1772.


Who created the masterpiece called "Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15"?

Chopin made a great number of masterpieces in his life, and "Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15" is one of them. This heavy composition has the power and resonance of a sweeping thunderstorm.


Who was sometimes called the "Father of the String Quartet"?

Joseph Haydn, who lived in the 18th century, made contributions to the sonata form of chamber music. He was sometimes called the "Father of the String Quartet."


Which composer constructed his own opera house, called Bayreuth Festspielhaus?

Wagner designed the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, his very own opera house, which opened in 1876. The house features an orchestra pit that's designed to completely conceal the musicians, who play, of course, only Wagner pieces.


"Nocturnes" is a famous piece by which artist?

In 1899, Claude Debussy finished "Nocturnes," perhaps his best-known orchestral composition. The three movement of "Nocturnes" are called "Clouds," "Festivals" and "Sirens."


Mozart was a music prodigy who made a huge impact on the world and then died at the age of ____.

He burned bright and died young. Mozart made one masterpiece after another and then died at age 35 of an illness that researchers have never been able to identify.


Giuseppe Verdi was known for his work with _____.

Giuseppe Verdi was an Italian composer particularly well-regarded for his operas. "Otello" and "Requiem" are two of his most famous pieces.


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