Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Another Eight Great Composers

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

This music 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.

What makes a composer ‘great’? Why does the work of some composers still resonate, delighting contemporary audiences? In this series we look at Handel, Haydn, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Puccini, Vaughan Williams and George Gershwin – eight more of the greatest composers of classical music. Each week we’ll examine the historical and social background and musical style of one composer in detail, and consider some of their greatest works.


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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Trout, Erlkonig, The Unfinished Symphony.


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


  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Brahms’s life: Hamburg, Vienna.
  • Brahms’s Musical Style.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Although not a prerequisite, this music course is also suitable for those who have completed Music Appreciation Course: Eight Great Composers.

Delivery style

This course will be richly illustrated with musical examples, illustrations and video clips. The tutor 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.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion