Music Theory

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Symphonic Poems

Symphonic poems (or tone poems) are extended orchestral works, usually in one continuous movement, which attempt to tell a story. Symphonic poems were invented by Franz Liszt in the mid-nineteenth-century, but before this time there were many works which performed … read more


A malagueña is a Spanish dance from the region of Málaga. The word is later used to indicate a form of Spanish gypsy song. There is an example of the mood and rhythm of the Malagueña in Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole. … read more

What Was That Noise?

The French word Couac means a bad note from a defective or mishandled reed instrument, so named because it sounds like a duck’s quack.

Robert Schumann Ruined His Career

German composer and music critic Robert Schumann ruined his own career. To help him have a wider reach when playing the piano, he would use a homemade finger-stretching device. The overuse of this device eventually stopped him from being able … read more


A toccata is an instrumental piece, often designed to display the technical proficiency of a performer and found particularly in keyboard music from the 15th century onwards. There are notable examples in the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach, with … read more


When the word ‘orchestra’ was first used in the English dictionary, it was defined as “the art of dancing.” In fact, many different countries use the word orchestra in different contexts. In Greece ‘orchestra’ means dancing place and the term … read more

A drunk conductor?

It is rumoured that composer Alexander Glazunov (a pupil of Rachmaninov) did his best to ruin Rachmaninov’s First Symphony by showing up drunk to conduct the premiere.

Forgetful Mendelssohn?

Composer Felix Mendelssohn once left the score for his Midsummer Night’s Dream overture in a cab! The surprising thing was that he was able to rewrite every note from memory!

Mozart’s Requiem

Mozart completed only the first movement of his requiem before his death, while the remaining outlines were completed by various other composers over the course of time. Just how much Mozart actually did before he died is still subject to … read more

Beethoven and Water

It is often said that Beethoven was a hard worker. One who would compose for hours on end without taking a break. To fight off fatigue and risk interrupting any creative thoughts that were flowing through his head, Beethoven would … read more