Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Another Eight 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 does history remember some composers and not others? What is it about the music of some composers that continues to appeal to us?

In this music appreciation course, we will examine the biographical details, historical and social backgrounds, musical styles and great works of composers. Composers include Handel, Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Puccini, Vaughan Williams and George Gershwin – eight more of the greatest composers of classical music.


This course aims to enhance your understanding and appreciation of classical music, by introducing you to the lives and music of some more 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.


Each session will explore the life and music of a composer. We will listen to their great works, discuss their musical style and approach, and learn about their life story.


  • The Baroque Period: historical and social background.
  • Handel’s life: Germany, Italy, England.
  • Handel’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: Messiah, Fireworks Music, Water Music, Zadok the Priest.


  • The Classical Period: historical and social background.
  • Haydn’s life: Rohrau, Vienna, the Esterházy family, London.
  • Haydn’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: The Emperor Quartet, The Surprise Symphony, The Creation.


  • The Late Classical Period: historical and social background.
  • Schubert’s life: Chorister, teacher, performer, composer.
  • Schubert’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: The Trout, Erlkonig, The Unfinished Symphony.


  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Chopin’s life: Poland, Paris.
  • Chopin’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: The Nocturnes, the Revolutionary Etude, the Minute Waltz.


  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Brahms’s life: Hamburg, Vienna.
  • Brahms’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: The German Requiem, The Haydn Variations, the Academic Festival Overture.


  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background, opera in Italy.
  • Puccini’s life: Lucca, Milan, Torre del Lago, America.
  • Puccini’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: Madama Butterfly, La Boheme, Turandot.

Vaughan Williams

  • The Late Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Vaughan Williams’s life: Cambridge, Berlin, Paris, London.
  • Vaughan Williams’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: Fantasia on Greensleeves, The Lark Ascending, Linden Lea.

George Gershwin

  • The Twentieth Century: historical and social background.
  • Gershwin’s life: Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Hollywood.
  • Gershwin’s Musical Style.
  • Listening includes: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Porgy and Bess.

Intended audience

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


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

Delivery style

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


Handouts will be provided in class.


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

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.