Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Eight More Great Composers

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Why is the music of some composers so wonderful? What makes some composers more famous than others?

In this music appreciation course, we will examine the biographical details, historical and social background, musical styles and great works of eight more composers. We will explore the lives and music of Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Verdi, Rachmaninov, Elgar, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.


The aim of this course is to enhance your understanding and appreciation of classical music by introducing you to the lives and music of some of the greatest composers of all time: who they were, what they were trying to achieve, and what makes their music so wonderful.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • list some great composers of classical music
  • list some examples of compositions of great composers, and describe their place in the composer’s output
  • describe some of the features of the development of classical music.



  • Vivaldi’s place in history and musical style
  • The Baroque Period: historical and social background
  • Vivaldi’s life: the early years, Catholic priest, composing in Venice
  • Listening includes: The Four Seasons, Gloria, opera selections


  • Mendelssohn’s place in history and musical style
  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background
  • Mendelssohn’s life: Hamburg, child composer, maturity, travels, conducting
  • Listening includes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Violin Concertos, Elijah


  • Verdi’s place in history and musical style
  • Verdi' life: Milan, organist, opera composer, politics
  • Listening includes: Music from La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Verdi’s Requiem


  • Dvořák’s place in history and musical style.
  • Dvořák’s life: Bohemia, Czech nationalism, Prague Conservatory
  • Listening includes: Largo from The New World Symphony, Cello Concerto, String Quartets


  • Elgar’s place in history and musical style
  • Elgar’s life: Broadheath, organist, violinist, conductor, composer
  • Listening includes: Enigma Variations including Nimrod, Cello Concerto, The Dream of Gerontius


  • Rachmaninov’s place in history and musical style
  • The Impressionist Period: historical and social background
  • Rachmaninov’s life: Moscow, pianist, travelling virtuoso, New York
  • Listening includes: Piano Concertos, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphonies


  • Stravinsky’s place in history and musical style
  • The Twentieth Century: historical and social background
  • Stravinsky’s life: Russia, France, the United States
  • Listening includes: The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, Petrushka, Symphony of Psalms


  • Shostakovich’s place in history and musical style
  • Shostakovich’s life: the early years, St Petersburg Conservatory, government interference, later years
  • Listening includes: Symphony No. 5, String Quartets, Piano, Cello and Violin Concertos

Intended audience

Designed for fans of classical music, beginners and experienced listeners alike.


No prior musical knowledge is required. You do not need to have attended the previous Eight Great Composers course or Another Eight Great Composers course in order to attend this course.

Delivery style

This course is richly illustrated with musical examples, illustrations and video clips. Susan Deas uses the piano to demonstrate musical concepts to the everyday listener. Questions are encouraged, and there will be room for discussion throughout the course.


Handouts are provided electronically.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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