The Orchestra Rocks
About the Composers
Thomas Cabaniss (b. 1962) is a composer and educator born in Charleston, South Carolina. Residing in New York City, Cabaniss teaches at The Juilliard School and leads arts education programs throughout the city. His music ranges from chamber music to operas and film scores. He is a creative adviser for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program, and helped launch Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, which helps pregnant women, new mothers, and their families write songs for their children. Cabaniss uses his music to encourage collaboration and help institutions support partnerships between artists and communities.
Gustav Holst (1874–1934) hailed from a musical family in England, and began playing the violin and piano at a young age. Though Holst loved practicing the piano, he transitioned from the piano to the trombone due to nerve damage in his hands, and relied on his work as a trombonist and choirmaster for income. His music is influenced by a variety of styles, including English folk, and by the stories and mythology of Hinduism. Holst was a gifted teacher who worked as director of music at schools that included St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London. He is most well-known for The Planets, a suite for orchestra in which each movement musically illustrates one of the planets in our solar system. Fun fact: Gustav Holst was a vegetarian!
Concert Repertoire: “Mars”
Carl Orff (1895–1982) was a German composer who began studying the piano at the age of five. Though his first composition was published when he was only 16 years old, he is most well known for his work in music education, particularly in connecting music and movement. Orff founded the Günther School for gymnastics, music, and dance in Munich, and there, he developed a style of teaching and collection of music known as “Orff Schulwerk,” which is used today by many educators. (Students today may recognize his movement exercises and barred–mallet instruments from their own classrooms!) Orff’s best-known composition is Carmina Burana, a large-scale piece for orchestra and chorus based on various medieval poems.
Concert Repertoire: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was a Russian composer who began taking piano lessons at the age of nine. Though his father was a famous opera singer, Stravinsky’s own musical talent developed slowly. While studying law and philosophy at St. Petersburg University, he began taking composition lessons from famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who greatly advanced Stravinsky’s interests and skill in composition. Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird quickly earned him fame and recognition. He went on to write music for other ballets, including The Rite of Spring, which is about a pagan ritual. The opening night audience found the music and choreography so shocking that there was a riot in the theater! Stravinsky was forced to flee Russia during World War I, which led him to Switzerland, France, and eventually the United States. Stravinsky had a strong ability to compose with diverse influences, and his composition style evolved greatly throughout his life. Stravinsky conducted at Carnegie Hall 41 times, and the Hall has premiered 43 of his works.
Concert Repertoire: “Dance of the Adolescents” from The Rite of Spring
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) was a prolific Russian composer whose music includes symphonies, concertos, ballets, opera, choral music, and chamber music. Tchaikovsky began taking piano lessons at the age of six. While he initially studied to be a lawyer, he also became one of St. Petersburg Conservatory’s first students, where he studied composition and decided to continue on his musical path. He settled in Moscow and taught at the Moscow Conservatory, which was eventually named after him! Tchaikovsky’s music received high acclaim around the world, and he was in great demand as a conductor as well as a composer. Fun fact: In 1891, Tchaikovsky was invited to conduct Carnegie Hall’s very first opening night concert.
Concert Repertoire: Finale from Symphony No. 4
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) was born in a small village near Parma, Italy. He began studying the organ at the age of seven, and not long after became an organist at his family’s church. As a child, Verdi began composing pieces for the church and local orchestra. He wanted to attend the Milan Conservatory but was not accepted, so he began studying privately with a composition teacher and became the rehearsal director for a choral group, a position that inspired him to write his first opera. While some of Verdi’s early operas were not met with recognition and acclaim, he went on to become one of the most famous composers of Italian opera with works that include Il trovatore, Aida, and Rigoletto.
Concert Repertoire: “Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore