Fun’ and ‘classical music’ are two terms seldom found in the same sentence together; but we believe there’s plenty of humour and excitement to be found within the realm of the music genre.
To prove this point, we’ve compiled a list of fun facts about classical music and composers, some of which act as a reminder that classical composers are just like us: human beings with their own hobbies, interests, quirks and personalities. Trust us, we know it can be hard to accept that legends like Bach, Beethoven and Bizet had a lighter side, but they did!
Speaking of classical music, we’ve got a boatload of classical compositions within our catalogue of over 175,000 tracks. Head on over to our orchestral page, and you’ll find a wealth of classical playlists, including a nostalgic playlist, horror playlist and comedy playlist. Alternatively, you can scan through our expertise category over on The Edit to read more about the classical genre and music in general.
Our Classical Music Fun Facts
1. Compoer Trivia: Grieg
Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg always kept a frog doll made from cloth in his pocket, and every time he performed he would pat the frog on the head for good luck. Hearsay suggests that Grieg was given the frog by a little girl who was visiting his hometown of Troldhaugen. Discover more Grieg facts in the video below.
2. Obscure Classical Composers: Schoenberg
American-Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg had an irrational fear of the number 13: a condition officially named triskaidekaphobia. His fear was so extreme that he deliberately misspelt his opera Moses und Aron (missing out one of the As from 'Aaron') to ensure the title had 12 letters, not 13. Scarily enough, the composer passed away on 13th July 1951. Perhaps the number really is cursed...
3. A Hungover Genius
Mozart wrote the overture to his opera, Don Giovanni, in three hours on the morning of its debut, and he did this whilst suffering from a hangover. Reportedly, he was out drinking with friends the night before when, fortunately, one of them reminded him that he was yet to write the opera’s opening orchestral piece. Is this a sign that we should all get drunk more often? Possibly.
4. The Red Hedgehog Tavern
It’s hard to believe that Romantic-era composer Johannes Brahms was a regular pub-goer, but it’s true! The man responsible for lullaby composition Wiegenlied would visit his favourite pub in Vienna – The Red Hedgehog Tavern – almost every day. Is this further evidence of a link between alcohol and creativity? We’d like to think so.
5. Greedy Guts George
George Frederic Handel was well known for ordering enough food for three people when he was eating out for dinner. All we can say to that is, we feel you bro, and we’re grateful that the food provided you with the energy to compose Largo – one of our all-time favourite compositions. Never heard it? Check out the video below.
Dvorak, was a keen trainspotter.
19th Century Czech composer Antonín Dvořák had two passions in life: music and trains. His affinity for the latter – which first developed when he was just nine years old – led the composer to frequently visit various train stations across Prague. He would also ask others, (including his daughter’s boyfriend and locomotive engineers) to provide him with details of their train journeys. We wonder if trains were the inspiration behind his New World Symphony (Symphony No.9).
7. Little Mushroom
Austrian composer Franz Schubert – the man behind the Lied Erlkönig – was a stout man who was only around five feet tall. His size and stature earned him the nickname Schwammerl: a word which means ‘little mushroom’ in German (the Austrian and Bavarian dialects of German, to be specific).
8. Precise Coffee Order
Like the best of us (sorry, not sorry), Beethoven was an avid coffee drinker, but his coffee order was a lot fussier than ours. The composer would meticulously count 60 coffee beans to ensure that his hot beverage was just as strong as he liked it each and every time. Perhaps a caffeine rush inspired his exhilarating masterpiece Symphony No.5.
Austrian composer Joseph Haydn was aggravated when he had to drop out of his church choir after puberty stole his angelic voice from him. To channel his frustration, Haydn cut the pigtails off of the head of a fellow male member of the choir. As a consequence, Haydn was caned in public.
10. Napkin Notes
If you’re a creative, you’ll know that inspiration often strikes when you least expect it. A famous example of this is when English composer Edward Elgar awoke from his dental surgery experience and swiftly jotted down the main theme to his last work of note, Cello Concerto.
11. Holst and Horoscopes
Gustav Holst was inspired to writeThe Planets after being introduced to astrology by writer Clifford Bax. The composer cast his friends’ horoscopes for the rest of his life, and referred to astrology as his ‘pet vice’.
12. Opera Buffa
The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera - also known as an opera buffa - which is where we get the term ‘opera buff’.
13. Spiders Prefer Bach to Outkast
During an experiment, when they listened to rap, they made their webs as far from the speakers as possible, but made their webs near to the speakers when Bach was playing!
14. The Radetzky March, the Victorious Anthem
The Radetzky March was written by Johann Strauss Senior to commemorate Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky’s victory at the Battle of Custoza, which is why it became a popular tune for military bands and became an unofficial Austrian national anthem.
15. Beethoven's 9th Symphony
Beethoven conducted the premiere of his 9th Symphony without hearing a single note.
16. Bizet's Carmen
Bizet died thinking his opera Carmen had been a failure - it was only after his death that it took off.
17. Haydn's Head(s)
There are two skulls in Haydn’s tomb. His head was stolen by phrenologists, and a replacement skull was put in his tomb. When the real skull was restored in 1954, the substitute remained there…
18. A Cancelled Booking Gone Right
The London Symphony Orchestra was booked to travel on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but they changed boats at the last minute.
19. The Symphony Which Needs 800 Musicians to Perform It
Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1, the ‘Gothic’, requires over 800 musicians to perform, including 82 string players.
20. Music & Money
Edward Elgar appeared on the £20 note until 2010. He was replaced by the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith.
21. The Child Prodigy
Mozart wrote his first opera when he was only 14, and had composed 30 symphonies by the age of 18. In total, Mozart wrote more than 600 musical works.
During the first London performance of Handel’s Messiah, King George II stood up as soon as the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ kicked in - after that, it became traditional for audiences to stand for this famous chorus.
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