From Schütz to Orff: Germany is the land of composers

Between 1943 and 1947 the author Thomas Mann wrote a novel about the German psyche. The profession of his main character? A composer. Germany has been a focal point of music composition since the baroque period. The three Bs – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms – are just the tip of the iceberg.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was born into an Upper Bavarian family in Munich. Carmina Burana is the work that made him famous and its scenic choruses, which echo medieval music, have often been used in film music, pop and rock.

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Weber's most famous work is Der Freischütz, which established the sound and style of German Romantic opera. The first performance took place in the Schauspielhaus on Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin in 1821 and was conducted by the composer himself.

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Hailed by his contemporaries as a true genius, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, was held in far higher esteem during his own lifetime than his now more famous father. Nicknamed the 'Hamburg Bach', he is considered the most important composer of the Empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style), which marked the transition from the baroque to the classical era.

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Even during his lifetime Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was subjected to anti-Semitic smear campaigns. The Nazis even banned his works – but they searched in vain for substitutes for his Violin Concerto and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed 42 operas and 25 oratorios including Messiah with its famous Hallelujah chorus. But he is equally well known for his Water Music and Fireworks Music, which he wrote for the British kings George I and George II.

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Born within 40 years of Martin Luther's death, Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) conferred musical greatness on Protestant church music in the German language. He left behind around 500 works – almost exclusively settings of texts from the Luther Bible.

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Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was seen as a perfectionist and excessively self-critical. A bachelor all his life, he was intent on composing music of lasting value and despised the trends of the day. He never wrote anything as popular as an opera.

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