Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Eight Great Composers

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

Appreciate and learn about music the smart way with Music courses at the University of Sydney.

This music course aims 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. Classical music can be a source of great enjoyment and life enrichment. You can enhance your listening and gain a deeper appreciation by understanding the great composers, who they were, what they were trying to achieve, and what makes their music so wonderful.

In this music course we examine the lives and music of eight of the greatest composers of classical music. Each week we will examine biographical details, historical and social background, musical style and the great works of a composer. The eight studied will be Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Ravel. No musical knowledge is necessary.


Upon completion of this course, participants should 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.

Course Content

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.


  • Bach’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Baroque Period: historical and social background.
  • Bach’s Life: Weimar, Köthen, Leipzig.
  • Air on a G String, Brandenburg Concertos, Mass in B Minor.


  • Mozart’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Classical Period: historical and social background.
  • Mozart’s Life: the early years, Salzburg, Vienna.
  • The Clarinet Concerto, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, The Marriage of Figaro.


  • Beethoven’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Late Classical Period: historical and social background.
  • Beethoven’s Life: the First Period, the Heroic Period, the Last Period.
  • The 5th Symphony, Moonlight Sonata, Ode to Joy.


  • Liszt’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Liszt’s Life: Raiding, Vienna, Paris, Switzerland, travelling virtuoso, Weimar, Rome.
  • Liebstraume, Hungarian Rhapsodies, Piano Concertos.


  • Wagner’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Romantic Period: historical and social background, opera in Europe.
  • Wagner’s Life: the early years, London, Dresden, Switzerland, Bavaria.
  • The Flying Dutchman, The Ring Cycle, The Ride of the Valkyries.


  • Tchaikovsky’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Romantic Period in Russia: historical and social background.
  • Tchaikovsky’s Life: the early years, first successes, travelling, the last works.
  • The Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet.


  • Mahler’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Late Romantic Period: historical and social background.
  • Mahler’s Life: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Hamburg, Vienna, New York.
  • The Symphony of a Thousand, Songs of a Wayfarer, Das Lied von der Erde.


  • Ravel’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Twentieth Century: historical and social background.
  • Ravel’s Life: the early years, the influence of Debussy, service in the war, the post-war years.
  • Bolero, The Tomb of Couperin, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.

Intended Audience

Designed for fans of classical music, beginners and experienced listeners alike. No prior musical knowledge is required and those interested in this course may also consider attending Susan’s Music Appreciation Course: Another Eight Great Composers.

Course Delivery

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 from participants will be encouraged, and there will be room for discussion throughout the course.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • A very good course – informative and enriching. Much appreciated by someone who has no background in music education – tutor catered very well for a variety of backgrounds.

  • I always enjoy this presenter’s courses – extremely well prepared, uses a wide range of media to illustrate points, is extremely knowledgeable about the subjects and very engaging.

  • Beautifully prepared overviews of each composer’s style, life and music.

What others say.

  • I found the lectures most interesting and enlightening. They have added to my appreciation of classical music. Very well structured. Thank you!
  • The tutor brought each composer to life and played wonderful examples of their music. Fantastic course.
  • An excellent course. The tutor was brilliant, and the material and presentation first class.