Nazareth, Fibich, Bowen? Have you heard of any of these composers? In this article, I introduce you to 10 more underrated romantic composers whose piano music is worth looking into.
As there are so many underrated romantic composers out there (like the ones listed in this article), I thought I would write another article on 10 more romantic composers whose piano music is well worth knowing. I’ve included a short biography of each of these 10 composers as well as piano works that I recommend.
Below is the list of the 10 romantic composers, in the order in which they appear in the following video. You can listen to samples of some of the pieces I recommend.
1. Zdenek Fibich (1850 – 1900)
Zdenek (or Zdenko) Fibich was a Czech composer who wrote in the romantic style, influenced by Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann and later Wagner.
Fibich taught piano in Paris. He returned to Prague a few years later and worked as a conductor although he mainly lived from his compositions.
He wrote operas, chamber works, symphonies and concert and stage melodramas such as the trilogy Hippodamia. He also wrote for solo piano such as his 376 Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences, a diary of his love for his piano pupil Anezka Schulzova, Ballades and his Etudes Picturales. His celebrated Poem comes from his symphonic poem At Twilight.
2. York Bowen (1884 – 1961)
York Bowen was an English composer and pianist, as well as a talented conductor, organist, violist and horn player.
Bowen performed his own piano works as well as the music of other composers and many of his instrumental works were dedicated to and premiered by renowned musicians.
Many of Bowen’s piano works are aimed at improving piano technique such as his Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 102 and his Twelve Studies, Op. 46.
Sadly, many of Bowen’s compositions remain unpublished despite the York Bowen Society’s attempt to revive them.
3. Leopold Godowsky (1870 – 1938)
Leopold Godowsky was a Lithuanian pianist, composer and teacher. He was a highly regarded performer, known for his theories on using weight and economy of motion in piano technique.
He showed signs of musical talent very early, already composing and playing both the piano and the violin by age five. Although he received a few lessons as a child, Godowsky was mostly self-taught.
He made his concert debut in Boston in 1884. He gave numerous concerts around the US and in Europe. From 1890, he held several teaching positions including in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.
During a recording session in 1930, Godowsky suffered a severe stroke which left him partially paralyzed.
His most famous works include the 53 Studies on Chopin’s Études (1894–1914), in which he arranges the original etudes using various methods, Java Suite, Triakontameron and Passacaglia, as well as his transcriptions.
4. Reinhold Glière (1875 – 1956)
Reinhold Glière was a Russian composer and conductor.
His original name was Reinhold Ernest Glier but in his mid-twenties, he changed it to Glière.
In 1891 he entered the Kiev school of music, where he learned violin from Otakar Ševčík, among others. Three years later, Glière entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with people like Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky. One year after graduating, he accepted a teaching post at the Moscow Gnesin School of Music where he taught Nikolai Myaskovsky and Sergei Prokofiev privately.
From 1920 to 1941, Glière taught at the Moscow Conservatory.
He wrote operas, ballets, concertos, chamber works, songs and 175 piano works.
5. Nikolai Medtner (1880 – 1951)
Nikolai Medtner was a Russian composer and pianist. His music was influenced by German romantic composers.
Medtner first took piano lessons from his mother and from his cousin Fyodor Goedicke. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1900. Despite touring as a concert pianist in the US and Canada, he turned to composing, teaching and playing.
Medtner’s compositions and his way of playing were highly regarded by his contemporaries.
Medtner wrote mostly for solo piano including concertos, sonatas, and shorter pieces such as his Fairy Tales (or Tales).
6. Ernesto Nazareth (1863 – 1934)
Ernesto Nazareth was a Brazilian composer and pianist.
At age 14, Nazareth published his first composition Você Bem Sabe (“You know it well”) and began playing the piano in cafes, balls, society parties and in the waiting rooms of movie theatres.
Nazareth was known for combining diverse influences into his music, from Brazilian music to European, African and ragtime music. He composed tangos, waltzes, polkas and numerous sambas, galops, fox-trots, romances and other types of works.
7. Genari Karganov (1858 – 1890)
Genari Karganov (or Genary Korganov) was a Russian composer of Armenian descent.
He studied music with Carl Reinecke, Judasson and Wenzel in Leipzig and piano with Louis Brassin in St. Petersburg. He later worked as a professor of piano in Tbilisi.
His works are influenced by Rimsky-Korsakow and Tchaikovsky. He composed mainly for the piano, and most of his works were educational in nature.
8. Dora Pejačević (1885 – 1923)
Dora Pejačević was a Croatian composer and a member of the Pejačević noble family, one of the most distinguished noble families in Croatia.
Pejačević was taught piano by her mother and started composing at age 12. She studied music privately and received lessons in instrumentation, composition and violin, although she was mostly self-taught.
She composed works mostly in the late Romantic style, including piano works, chamber music, songs and several large orchestral works.
9. Antonin Dvořák (1841 – 1904)
Antonin Dvořák needs no introduction but I included him here as his piano works don’t get as much attention as his orchestral works do. He composed many works for solo piano, including Dumka and Furiant, waltzes, mazurkas, humoresques, Silhouettes and Poetic Tone Pictures.
Dvořák was a Czech composer. He learned piano, viola and organ and counterpoint with Anton Liehmann. The first public performance of his works took place in Prague in 1872.
In 1874, Dvořák won the Austrian State Prize for Composition for one of his symphonies (in E-flat). Unbeknownst to him, Brahms was on the jury and was highly impressed. The prize was awarded to him again in 1876 and in 1877 for other works.
Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon after commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46.
In 1891 Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory. The following year, he moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America.
10. Amy Beach (1867 – 1944)
Amy Beach was an American composer and pianist.
Beach showed signs of being a child prodigy. She was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one, she could improvise counter-melodies by age two, and she taught herself to read at age three. At four, she composed three waltzes for piano during a summer trip despite the absence of a piano; instead, she composed the pieces mentally and played them when she returned home. She could also play music by ear, including four-part hymns. Beach often decided what music was to be played in the home and would be furious if it did not meet her standards!
Beach began formal piano lessons with her mother at age six, and soon gave public recitals of works.
Her performing career was reduced to two recitals a year when she married in 1885 after which she concentrated on composing. She resumed regular performances after her husband’s death in 1910.
Over to you
Which composers have you heard of? Have you played any of their piano pieces? Let me know in the comments.
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