Unlikely Composers

What did Leo Tolstoy's Waltz sound like? Did Friedrich Nietzsche compose as well as he philosophised? Find out here as we explore unexpected amateur composers… 

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Leo Tolstoy

The Russian novelist's musical legacy was short (about a minute in total!) but very charming – in 1906 he played a little waltz in F that he'd composed in his youth to musicologist Alelksandr Gol'denveizer, who wrote it down for posterity. Click on the play button on the audio player to hear pianist Lera Auerbach's recording (BIS CD 1502).

 

 

Sir Patrick Moore

The Sky at Night presenter has written quite a large number of pieces. Alongside Joplinesque piano rags and a tone poem called Phaethon's Ride, three operas, Perseus, Theseus and Galileo, take pride of place. Here's an extract from his song When I was a boy.

 

 

William Herschel

When not peering through his telescope, the Bath-based astronomer, who famously discovered Uranus in 1781, directed his gaze music-wards. An impressive 24 symphonies form the bulk of his musical CV, and you can hear the opening of No. 8 in C minor performed by the London Mozart Players by pressing the play button below (Chandos CHSA 5005).

 

 

 

Friedrich Nietzsche

The 19th-century philsopher appears to have had as much difficulty in composing a masterpiece as some of us do in fathoming his philosophies. Wagner had to leave the room when Cosima Wagner and Hans Richter played Nietzsche's The New Year's Echoes piano duet; conductor Hans von Bülow wrote on receiving the score for Manfred Meditation 'Have you no better way to kill time?' Here is his 1862 piano work Heldenklage.

 

Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin couldn't read music but nearly all of his films are enhanced by his own scores and, in 1973, he deservedly won the Best Film Score Oscar for Limelight.

 

 

To find out more, take a look at '15 Unlikely Composers' in the October issue of BBC Music Magazine