Quiz: The history, theory and scandals of classical music

By: Maria Trimarchi
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Did you know Rossini wrote his famous aria, "Di tanti palpiti," in Venice, while waiting on an order of risotto? Or that it's the United States that actually has the most living composers, more than Germany and Russia? And what about Beethoven's Fifth -- was it a political statement? See if you can hit all the right notes in this classical music quiz.

Which 19th-century Italian composer and violinist was known as "The Devil's Violinist"?

It was said at the time that Niccolò Paganini, who often intentionally performed with just one string on his violin, had sold his soul to the devil.

Which Baroque musician was the first conductor to die from a baton?

French musician and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (Lulli) kept time with a large stick, and died of gangrene after accidentally skewering his foot with it.

Which ballet incited a riot when it premiered in Paris in 1913?

Igor Stravinsky's revolutionary piece, The Rite of Spring provoked a riot when it premiered at the Théâtre de Champs-Elysées in Paris in 1913. Opinions differ as to what sparked the outrage -- the music, the dance or simply class tension.

Which was the symphony that popularized the musical style?

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) changed the way the world looked at symphonies.

What register are you singing in when you use "head voice"?

Singing in an unnaturally high "head voice" beyond your vocal range is singing in falsetto.

About how many beats per minute is the tempo allegro?

Allegro is a brisk, bright tempo that's about 120 to 168 beats per minute (BPM).

Which composer of the Classical period is considered both the Father of the Symphony as well as the Father of the String Quartet?

(Franz) Josef Haydn, a musician and composer in the Classical period, is considered to be the Father of the Symphony, as well as the Father of the String Quartet.

How big of a hand span did Rachmaninov have?

Sergei Rachmaninov, known for his precise, technical playing, is said to have had a hand span large enough to span an octave and a half (middle C to high G), or a minimum of 12 inches.

What is a time signature?

The time signature is an indication of the number of beats per measure.

What is the first note of a scale called?

The first note of a scale is known as the tonic.

Known for his orchestral compositions and his musicals, which composer died of a brain tumor at the age of 38?

George Gershwin, known for "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Porgy and Bess," died of a brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, at the age of 38.

How many movements are there in a concerto during the Classical period?

The structure of a classical concerto is three movements, typically a fast, then slow, then fast order.

Which is known as "march" time?

One. Two. One Two. In 2/4 meter, each measure has an up and a down beat -- perfect for marching.

What is the name of a classical song composed for a single singer accompanied by piano, such as Franz Schubert's Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden)?

Songs like "Der Tod und das Mädchen," which is written for a single voice accompanied by a piano, is an example of a lied.

Who was not one of the great composers of the First Viennese School?

Three great composers of the First Viennese School are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.

Why did composer Peter Tchaikovsky prefer not to conduct?

Although it sounds like it couldn't be true, Tchaikovsky had a quirk where he held his chin with his left hand while he conducted - to be sure his head wouldn't fall off.

Hungarian composer Franz Liszt is considered by many to be the first rock star. What was his fan frenzy known as?

"Lisztomania," coined by German poet Heinrich Heine, raged after he performed in Berlin in 1841, and during the eight years Franz Liszt toured Europe.

Who was the first composer of the Romantic Era?

Viennese composer Franz Schubert was the first composer of the Romantic Era -- and/or one of the last Classical.

What happens during a fermata?

A fermata is a pause in the music, usually held longer than a normal rest.

During what musical era did the harpsichord lose favor to the piano?

While the harpsichord was all the rage in the Baroque period, the piano gained popularity in the Classical period.

What is staccato?

"Staccato" means "detached" in Italian. Such notes are shortened, followed by silence before the next note.

Which airline is known for using George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" in its marketing?

United Airlines uses George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" in its marketing. "Over the Rainbow" was once considered, as well.

Which is a "walking" tempo?

Andante is known as the "walking" tempo, with a rate of 76 to 108 BPM.

Which is not one of the four voices?

The four voices, from high to low, are soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Arrangements using all four voices are SATB.

Because of its association with antisemitism and the Nazis, where is Richard Wagner's music unofficially banned?

Because of its association with antisemitism and the Nazis, Wagner's music is unofficially banned in Israel.

What is not part of a dominant seventh chord?

A dominant seventh chord includes a root, major third, perfect fifth and minor seventh, but not the minor ninth. There are five common types of seventh chords.

What do syncopated notes sound like?

Syncopated notes emphasize the offbeats. Syncopation is very common in modern pop music.

The opening notes of which composer's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor were used during the opening credits of the 1931 release of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"?

It's Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor you hear during the opening credits of the 1931 release of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The composition can also be heard in "Fantasia," "Sunset Boulevard," "The Meaning of Life" and many more films.

Which eccentric composer premiered his piece, "Parade," in 1917, prompting a Parisian audience to throw oranges at the orchestra?

When Erik Satie debuted his work, "Parade," a Parisian audience booed and threw oranges at the musicians. Satie often used sounds in his compositions, such as gunshots and typewriter tapping.

How many notes are in a chromatic scale?

Unlike the 7 tones of the major scale, there are 12 tones in a chromatic scale.

What is "common time"?

Common time, 4/4 meter, is four beats per measure.

What was Beethoven charged with when he was picked up by police while out for a walk in Wiener Neustadt, in 1820?

After being picked up while out for a walk (and, possibly looking in windows), Beethoven was charged with vagrancy. He had some trouble convincing authorities that he was actually Beethoven, because he had no identification on him.

Who created an estimated 2,000 compositions?

Orlande de Lassus is one of -- if not the most -- prolific composers, creating over 2,000 works.

Which of the following was a nickname for Austrian composer Franz Schubert?

Because of his short stature, less than five feet, Schubert's friends called him "Little Mushroom."

Which musical composition is known as the "silent piece"?

In 1952, composer John Cage wrote 4'33" -- a three-movement work of silence. Literally, the score states no instruments are played. Cage wasn't the first to compose silence. Alphonse Allais also had a similar project, with "Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man," in 1897.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes