Centre for Continuing Education

Music Appreciation Course: Eight Great Composers

Music. Learn, enjoy, appreciate.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses online and in-person. Please check the delivery format of each class before enrolling.

Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.

What makes a composer ‘great’? Why does the work of some composers still resonate, delighting contemporary audiences?

In this music appreciation course, we will examine biographical details, the historical and social backgrounds, musical styles and great works of eight composers. These include Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Ravel.


This 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: who they were, what they were trying to achieve, and what makes their music so wonderful.


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

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



  • Bach’s place in history and musical style.
  • The Baroque Period: historical and social background.
  • Bach’s Life: Weimar, Köthen, Leipzig.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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.
  • Listening includes: 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. Those interested in this course may also consider attending the course Music Appreciation: Another Eight Great Composers.

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

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!
  • Beautifully prepared overviews of each composer's style, life and music.
  • The tutor brought each composer to life and played wonderful examples of their music. Fantastic course.
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