Entertainment/Classical Music

From Quiz Revision Notes


Claudio Abbado served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra from 1989 to 2002, when he retired

Marin Alsop is the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra. First woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, in 2013

Vladimir Ashkenazy is a Russian-Icelandic conductor and pianist. Since 1972 he has been a citizen of Iceland. He is currently Principal Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

John Barbirolli is an English conductor and cellist. He was particularly associated with the Halle Orchestra, Manchester, which he helped save from dissolution in 1943

Daniel Barenboim is an Argentine pianist and conductor. Currently, he is general music director of La Scala in Milan. He previously served as Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris. Barenboim is also known for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Conducted all nine Beethoven symphonies at the 2012 BBC Proms

Thomas Beecham founded the Royal Philharmonic and London Philharmonic orchestras. His grandfather was the founder of the Beechams pharmaceutical business

Leonard Bernstein was the first American to conduct at La Scala. Bernstein conducted at The New York Philharmonic

Adrian Boult was the first conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1930 to 1950. Champion of the music of Gustav Holst

Colin Davis became the first English conductor to appear at Bayreuth, in 1977. In 1995, Davis was appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He was particularly noted for his advocacy of the music of Hector Berlioz and of Michael Tippett

Gustavo Dudamel is a Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He is the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Mark Elder was the music director of the English National Opera from 1979 to 1993. Elder was appointed music director of the Halle Orchestra in 1999

Wilhelm Furtwangler was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic between 1922 and 1945, and from 1952 until 1954. He was the leading conductor to remain in Germany during the Second World War

Valery Gergiev succeeded Colin Davis as principal conductor of London Symphony Orchestra in 2007. He is also general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg

Bernard Haitink was born in Amsterdam. Haitink was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 1967 to 1979. Haitink also served as the music director at Glyndebourne Opera from 1978 to 1988. He held the same position at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 1987 to 2002

Herbert von Karajan was born in Austria. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years

Rudolf Kempe was associated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1955. In 1960, he became its Associate Conductor, chosen by the orchestra's founder, Sir Thomas Beecham. From 1961 to 1962 he was Principal Conductor of the RPO, and from 1963 to 1975 its Artistic Director

Otto Klemperer was appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He took United States citizenship in 1937. Had an affair with soprano Elisabeth Schumann

Lorin Maazel was born to Jewish American parents of Russian origin in France, and brought up in the United States. He was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic

Zubin Mehta is an Indian Parsi conductor. He is the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Main Conductor for Valencia's opera house

Ricardo Muti is an Italian conductor and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Principal conductor at La Scala from 1986 to 2005

Seiji Ozawa was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002

Simon Rattle rose to international prominence during the 1980s and 1990s as conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and since 2002 has been principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic

Fritz Reiner was born in Hungary. He was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s

Malcolm Sargent was chief conductor of the Proms from 1948 to 1967. Known as ‘flash Harry’

Leonard Slatkin from America became the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2000. In 2001, he was only the second non-British person to conduct the Last Night of the Proms (Charles Mackerras from Australia had been the first in 1980)

Leopold Stokowski is best known for his long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and for appearing in the film Fantasia. He was especially noted for his free-hand conducting style

Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. Toscanini was at various times the music director of La Scala Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He refused to display Mussolini's photograph or conduct the Fascist anthem Giovinezza at La Scala. He conducted a band on the Monte Santo, just captured during the Isonzo Battle of World War I

Henry Wood conducted the Proms for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences. After his death, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour. When the Queen's Hall was destroyed by bombing in 1941, the Proms moved to the Royal Albert Hall. Fantasia on British Sea Songs is a medley of British sea songs arranged by Sir Henry Wood in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. For many years it was seen as an indispensable item at the Last Night of the Proms concert

Musical terms

A cappella – vocal music or singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. A cappella is Italian for ‘in the manner of the chapel’

Accelerando – term meaning ‘gradually getting faster’

Accidentals – signs that alter the pitch of a note

Adagietto – not quite as slow as adagio

Adagio – slowly and gracefully

Adagio cantabile – in a slow singing style

Allegretto – a moderately quick tempo, usually considered to be slightly slower than allegro but faster than andante

Allegro – means lively or fast, and means ‘merry’ in Italian

Andante – moderately slow tempo, between allegro and adagio

Arco – means ‘play with the bow’

Aria – a solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment, as in an opera

Arioso – a style of solo opera singing

Arpeggio – the playing of the tones of a chord separately, rather than simultaneously

Atonality – music that lacks a tonal centre, or key

Bagatelle – a short piece of music, typically for the piano, and usually of a light, mellow character. The name bagatelle literally means a ‘trifle’, as a reference to the innocent character of the piece

Baroque music – a style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance, and was followed in turn by the Classical era

Bass – lowest male voice

Bel canto – (Italian for ‘beautiful singing’) refers to the art and science of vocal technique which originated in Italy during the late 16th century and reached its pinnacle in the early part of the 19th century during the Bel canto opera era. Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti are the best-known exponents of this style, which flourished from approximately 1810 to 1830

Bis – ‘to be repeated’ (on musical score)

Blasmusik – music with wind instruments (‘blowing’ music)

Bravura – a virtuosic passage intended to show off the skill of a performer

Cadence – a melodic configuration at the end of a phrase, section, or piece of music

Cadenza – a portion of a concerto in which the orchestra stops playing, leaving the soloist to play alone in free time

Calando – lowering; i.e., getting slower and softer

Canon – a composition or passage in which a melody is imitated by one or more voices at fixed intervals of pitch and time

Cantata – (Italian, 'sung') is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment and generally containing more than one movement

Caprice – a piece of music, usually fairly free in form and of a lively character

Capriccio – light hearted and whimsical

Chord – a group of (typically three or more) notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony

Chord progression (or harmonic progression) – a series of musical chords, or chord changes that ‘aims for a definite goal’ of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord

Chromatism – a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale

Clef (from French for ‘key’) is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes. There are three types of clef used in modern music notation: F, C, and G. Treble clef – G-clef. Bass clef – F-clef

Citre – used broadly to describe the entire family of stringed instruments in which the strings do not extend beyond the sounding box, including the zither, dulcimer, and harpsichord

Coda – (Italian for ‘tail’), a passage which brings a movement or a separate piece to a conclusion through prolongation

Col legno – strike the string with the stick of the bow, rather than by drawing the hair of the bow across the strings

Coloratura – elaborate melody, particularly in vocal music and especially in operatic singing of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in operatic singing by a soprano

Com brio – play vigorously

Concerto – a musical work in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra

Concerto grosso – a form of baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and full orchestra (the ripieno or concerto grosso)

Con sordino – instruction to use the mute

Contralto – lowest female voice

Counterpoint – melodic material that is added above or below an existing melody

Counter tenor – male alto

Crescendo – getting louder

De capo (Dc) – repeat from the beginning

Descant – an ornamental melody or counterpoint sung or played above a theme; the highest part sung in part music

Diatonic scale – an eight-note, octave-repeating musical scale

Diminuendo – getting softer

Diminution – in Western music and music theory, diminution has four distinct meanings

Divertimento – a musical genre, with most of its examples from the 18th century. The mood of the divertimento is most often lighthearted

Divertissement – (from the French 'diversion' or 'amusement') is used, in a similar sense to the Italian divertimento, for a light piece of music for a small group of players

Dolce – play sweetly

Doloroso – play sadly

Double stop – the technique of playing two notes simultaneously on a bowed stringed instrument

Embouchure – the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of woodwind instruments or the mouthpiece of the brass instruments

Enharmonic – of or relating to notes that are the same in pitch though bearing different names

Etude – a short musical composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player. French for ‘exercise’ or ‘study’

Fach – a method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, according to the range, weight, and colour of their voices

Falsetto – the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave

Fermata – (also known as a birdseye) is an element of musical notation indicating that the note should be sustained for longer than its note value would indicate

Fine – end

Forte – loud

Fortissimo – very loud

Frottola – the predominant type of Italian popular, secular song of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century (1470–1530). It was the most important and widespread predecessor to the madrigal

Fugue – a composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others

Gamelan – a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java. Gamelan orchestras include percussion instruments of two basic types: those of ‘definite pitch’, and those of ‘indefinite pitch’

Glissando – a glide from one pitch to another

Gregorian chant – named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, who is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music assigned to specific celebrations in the church calendar. In 1994 an album of Gregorian chants sold three million copies worldwide

Intermezzo – a composition which fits between other musical entities

Largo – slow and stately

Legato – joined; i.e., smoothly, in a connected manner

Leitmotif – a musical term referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. The term is notably associated with the operas of Richard Wagner

Lento – slow; slightly faster than largo, slower than adagio

Madrigal – a Renaissance choral piece, usually unaccompanied. Means ‘in the mother tongue’. A setting for two or more voices of a secular text, often in Italian

Maestoso – in a majestic manner

Magnificat – hymn of praise in New Testament. Based on the words of Mary as recorded in St Luke’s Gospel

Man gauche (MG) – on a musical score, played with the left hand

Mesto – mournful

Mezzo-soprano or mezzo (meaning ‘half soprano’) is a type of female voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types

Movement – a self-contained section of a larger musical composition, such as a symphony, comes from the fact that each of these sections usually has a different tempo indication

Nocturne – a pensive lyrical piece of music (especially for the piano). Created by John Field in 1814

Obligato – ‘must not be omitted’ (musical score)

Octave – the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency

Opera buffa – comic opera

Opera seria – the noble and ‘serious’ style of Italian opera that predominated in Europe from the 1710s to c. 1770

Operetta – a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter

Oratorio – a large musical composition for orchestra, vocal soloists and chorus. It differs from an opera in that it does not have scenery, costumes, or acting. Most oratorios have biblical themes, but a number of composers, notably Handel, wrote secular oratorios based on themes from Greek and Roman mythology

Organum – a plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony, developed in the Middle Ages

Overture – (French ‘ouverture’, meaning opening). The instrumental introduction to a dramatic, choral or, occasionally, instrumental composition

Pavane – a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century

Pentatonic scale – a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale

Pianissimo – very soft

Piano – soft

Piano trio – piano, cello and violin

Pizzicato – plucked with the fingers

Plainsong – (also plainchant) is a body of chants used in the liturgies of the Catholic Church

Polyphony – two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody

Polyrhythm – the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms

Portamento – pitch sliding from one note to another

Prelude – a short piece of music, the form of which may vary from piece to piece. The prelude can be thought of as a preface. It may stand on its own or introduce another work

Rallentando – ‘gradually getting slower’

Refrain – a chorus

Rescue opera – a popular genre of opera in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in France and Germany. Generally, rescue operas deal with the rescue of a main character from danger and end with a happy dramatic resolution. The most famous rescue opera is Beethoven's Fidelio

Ritardando – an indication to gradually decrease the tempo of the music (opposite of accelerando)

Ritornello – Italian: ‘little return’, a recurrent musical section that alternates with different episodes of contrasting material

Rondo – piece of music in which a refrain is repeated between episodes

Round – part song in which voices follow each other at intervals at the same pitch

Sacred minimalism – (or holy minimalism) compositions are distinguished by a minimalist compositional aesthetic and a distinctly religious or mystical subject focus. Composers include Arvo Part, John Tavener, and Henryk Gorecki

Scherzo – a lively movement, commonly in 3/4 time. Italian for ‘joke’

Serenade – a musical composition, and/or performance, in someone's honour

Serialism – a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements

Sforzando – with sudden emphasis

Singspiel – a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera. It is characterized by spoken dialogue, e.g. The Magic Flute

Sonata – means ‘to sound’. A composition for one or more solo instruments, one of which is usually a keyboard instrument, usually consisting of three or four independent movements

Sonatina – a small sonata

Soprano – highest female voice

Sostenuto – to be played in a sustained or prolonged manner

Staccato – an unconnected note, which is short and detached. A dot is usually placed above to express that these notes should be distinctly separate while also short in length. Notes are sounded in a detached and distinctly separate manner, with silence making up the latter part of the time allocated to each note

Scale – a sequence of musical notes in ascending and descending order

Sharp – means higher in pitch and the sharp symbol raises a note by a half tone

Staff, or stave, is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch

String section – the largest body of the standard orchestra and consists of bowed string instruments of the violin family. It normally comprises five sections: the first violins, the second violins, the violas, the cellos, and the double basses (or basses)

String ensemble – any combination or number of string instruments

String quintet – a musical composition for a standard string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello) supplemented by a fifth string instrument, usually a second viola (a so-called viola quintet) or a second cello (a cello quintet), but occasionally a double bass

Suite – an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral pieces normally performed in a concert setting rather than as accompaniment

Symphonic poem or tone poem – a piece of orchestral music, in one movement, in which some extra-musical programme provides a narrative or illustrative element

Symphony – means ‘sounding together’. Many symphonies are tonal works in four movements with the first in sonata form

Syncopation – a shift of accent in a passage or composition that occurs when a normally weak beat is stressed

Tambourin – a piece of music that imitates a drum, usually as a repetitive not-very-melodic figure in the bass

Tempo – the speed at which a composition is to be played

Tenor – highest male voice

Toccata – a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered passages or sections

Tonality – a system of music in which specific hierarchical pitch relationships are based on a key ‘centre’, or tonic

Transposing instrument – a musical instrument whose music is notated at a pitch different from the pitch that actually sounds (concert pitch)

Treble – tones whose frequency or range is at the higher end of human hearing, e.g. soprano, young boy voice

Triad – a set of three notes that can be stacked in thirds

Tristan chord – a chord made up of the notes F, B, D♯ and G♯. It is so named as it is heard in the opening phrase of Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde

Tritone – an interval consisting of three whole tones

Tutti – all; i.e., all together, usually used in an orchestral or choral score when the orchestra or all of the voices come in at the same time

Verismo – (means ‘realism’) a style of Italian opera that started in 1890 with Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana

Vivace – lively

Vocalise – a musical passage sung upon one vowel as an exercise to develop flexibility and control

Volta subito (VS) – turn the page quickly

Notes and chords

Barre chord – a type of guitar chord

Waltz played in 3-4 time (3 beats to the bar)

4-4 time is common time

Quadruplet – ‘4’ time, in music

Twelve-tone scale – first used by Arnold Schoenberg

Key signature – a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes

Time signature – a notational convention used to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat

Downbeat – the first beat of a measure in music

C major and A minor – no sharps or flats

Frequency of notes is doubled when increased by an octave

In music theory, the circle of fifths (or cycle of fifths) is an imaginary geometrical space that depicts relationships among the 12 equal-tempered pitch classes comprising the familiar chromatic scale

Chromatic scale – a musical scale with twelve pitches, each a semitone or half step apart

Five lines on a stave

Semibreve – whole note: a musical note having the longest time value (equal to four beats in common time)

Semibreve = 2 minims

Semibreve is known as a whole note in USA

Minim is known as a half note in USA

Minim = 2 crochets, crotchet = 2 quavers

Quarter rest (or crotchet rest) – denotes a silence of the same duration as a quarter note

Dotted note – a note with a small dot written after it. In modern practice the dot increases the duration of the basic note by half of its original value

Grace note – note added to a melody as an ornament and indicated in a very small notation

The most common tuning system is twelve-tone equal temperament, which divides the octave into 12 parts, all of which are equal on a logarithmic scale


Alto viola – full name of the viola

Balalaika – has a triangular body and three strings

Basset horn – a member of the clarinet family

Bassoon – lowest-pitched woodwind instrument

Biwa – a Japanese short-necked fretted lute

Calliope – a musical instrument that produces sound by sending a gas, originally steam or more recently compressed air, through large whistles, originally locomotive whistles

Celesta – keyboard musical instrument patented in 1886 by Auguste Mustel of Paris. It consists of a set of steel bars fastened over wood resonators and struck by hammers operated from the keyboard. Its tone is delicate and ethereal. Tchaikovsky, in his Nutcracker Suite, was one of the first composers to write for it

Chinese Pavilion – percussion instrument, a set of bells on a frame

Chordophone – any musical instrument that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points

Cimbalom – a concert hammered dulcimer: a type of chordophone composed of a large, trapezoidal box with metal strings stretched across its top. It is a musical instrument popularized in Hungary

Cittern – a stringed instrument dating from the Renaissance. From the 16th until the 18th century the cittern was a common English barber shop instrument, kept in waiting areas for customers to entertain themselves and others with

Clarinet – has a single reed. Known as a ‘liquorice stick’. Johann Christoph Denner invented the clarinet in Germany around the turn of the 18th century by adding a register key to the earlier chalumeau. This instrument was similar to a recorder, but with a single-reed mouthpiece and a cylindrical bore

Clavier – the keyboard of an organ, harpsichord or piano

Crook – also sometimes called a shank, is an exchangeable segment of tubing in a natural horn (or other brass instrument, such as a natural trumpet) which is used to change the length of the pipe

Double bass – played either with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings (pizzicato). In orchestral repertoire and tango music, both arco and pizzicato are employed. In jazz, pizzicato is the norm. Double bass has four strings

Dulcian – a Renaissance bass woodwind instrument with a double reed, the predecessor of the modern bassoon

Dulcimer – a stringed instrument. Two types – Appalachian, and Hammered

Euphonium – a conical-bore, tenor-voiced brass instrument. The euphonium derives its name from the Greek word euphonos, meaning ‘well-sounding’ or ‘sweet-voiced’

Fipple – a whistlelike mouthpiece for certain wind instruments

Flageolet – a small flutelike instrument with a cylindrical mouthpiece, four finger holes, and two thumbholes

Flugelhorn – a brass instrument resembling a trumpet but with a wider, conical bore. A type of bugle. Translation from German is ‘wing horn’

Glass harmonica – uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction. Also known as the armonica. Invented by Benjamin Franklin

Guitar – acoustic guitar has six strings. Guitar strings tuned to E. Modern guitar was created from the lute

Hardanger fiddle – a traditional stringed instrument used originally to play the music of Norway

Celtic harp – known as a telenn in Breton, clairseach in Irish, clarsach in Scottish Gaelic and telyn in Welsh

Helicon – a brass musical instrument in the tuba family

Lur – a long natural blowing horn without finger holes that is played by embouchure. Originally from Denmark

Mandolin – descends from the mandore, a soprano member of the lute family. Mandolin has eight strings

Marimba – percussion instrument. It consists of a set of wooden bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones

Oboe family – Oboe, cor anglais (‘English horn’) and oboe d’amore. Heckelphone is also a member, but is seldom used. The baroque oboe first appeared in the in the mid-17th century, where it was called hautbois. This name was also used for its predecessor, the shawm

Ocarina – an ancient flute-like wind instrument. While there exist several variations, an ocarina is typified by an oval-shaped enclosed space with four to thirteen finger holes and a mouth tube projecting out from the body. It is often ceramic, but many other materials, such as plastic, wood, glass, and metal, may also be used

Ophicleide – a family of conical-bore keyed bugles invented in 1817

Organ – water organ or hydraulic organ (early types are sometimes called hydraulis) is a type of pipe organ blown by air, where the power source pushing the air is derived by water from a natural source (e.g. by a waterfall) or by a manual pump

Oud – pear-shaped stringed instrument. Construction of the oud is similar to that of the lute

Piano – most grand pianos in the US have three pedals: the soft pedal (una corda), sostenuto, and sustain pedal (from left to right, respectively), while in Europe, the standard is two pedals: the soft pedal and the sustain pedal

Piano has 88 keys (52 white Notes and 36 black Notes)

Piano keys are generally made of spruce or basswood, for lightness. Spruce is normally used in high-quality pianos. Traditionally, the black keys were made from ebony and the white keys were covered with strips of ivory, but since ivory-yielding species are now endangered and protected by treaty, plastics are now almost exclusively used

A prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects (preparations) between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers

The plate (harp), or metal frame, of a piano is usually made of cast iron

Prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects (preparations) between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers

Recorder – forerunner of the flute. Used regularly in orchestras until c. 1725

Sackbut – a trombone from the Renaissance and Baroque eras

Serpent – the bass wind instrument, descended from the cornett, and a distant ancestor of the tuba, with a mouthpiece like a brass instrument but side holes like a woodwind

Shamisen – a three-stringed musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi

Shawn – medieval instrument, predecessor of the modern oboe

Spinet – an early harpsichord having a single keyboard and only one string for each note

Sousaphone – developed in the 1890s at the request of John Philip Sousa, who was unhappy with the helicons used at that time by the United States Marine Band. Designed so that it fits around the body of the musician and is supported by the left shoulder, the sousaphone may be readily played while being carried

Timbrel – the principal musical instrument of percussion of the Israelites, similar to the modern tambourine

Timpani – also known as kettledrums

Tuba – the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument. Tuba is Latin for trumpet or horn

Vibraphone – percussion instrument with metal bars and rotating disks

Viol – any one of a family of bowed, fretted and stringed musical instruments developed in the mid-late 15th century and used primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Bass viol (viola da gamba) was superseded by the cello

Violin – made from maple, spruce and sycamore. Violin has 4 strings

Woodwind instrument – produces sound when the player blows air against an edge of, or opening in, the instrument, causing the air to vibrate within a resonator. Most of these instruments were originally made of wood, but some, such as the saxophone and most flutes, are now commonly made of other materials such as metals or plastics

Zither – played by strumming or plucking the strings like a guitar


Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (RLPO) society was founded in 1840. It is the UK's only orchestra that has its own hall

Halle Orchestra was founded by Charles Halle in 1858. Based at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) was founded in 1904. Based at Barbican Centre

BBC Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1930 with Adrian Boult as its first chief conductor

London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) was founded in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham and Malcolm Sargent. Based at Royal Festival Hall

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) was formed by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946. Based at Cadogan Hall in Chgelsea

Royal Northern Sinfonia – chamber orchestra based at The Sage Gateshead

Scarborough Spa Orchestra – last remaining seaside orchestra in UK

New York Philharmonic – formed in 1842. Oldest philharmonic in USA

Big Five refers to five symphony orchestras that were considered to be the most prominent and accomplished ensembles when the term gained widespread use by music critics in the late 1950s. The ‘Big Five’, in the order of their founding, are: New York Philharmonic (1842), Boston Symphony Orchestra (1881), Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891), Philadelphia Orchestra (1900), Cleveland Orchestra (1918)

West-Eastern Divan is a youth orchestra based in Seville, consisting of musicians from countries in the Middle East. The Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said founded the orchestra in 1999, and named the ensemble after an anthology of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In 2008, a group of international critics invited by Gramophone ranked the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, based in Amsterdam, as the best symphony orchestra in the world

Orchestra contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments

Back row of orchestra – percussion, tympani and harp

In front of the conductor – violas

Violins to the left of the conductor, cellos to the right

When the orchestra tunes, the oboe plays an ‘A’ and the rest of the instruments tune to match that pitch

Opera houses

English National Opera is resident at the London Coliseum in St. Martin's Lane

Glyndebourne Festival Opera was founded by John Christie in 1934. First performance was The Marriage of Figaro

Opera North is based at Leeds Grand Theatre

Buxton has an opera house

Welsh National Opera was founded in Cardiff in 1943

Opera festival at Wexford

The Palais Garnier, more commonly as the Paris Opera, is a 2200 seat opera house designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque style

L’Opera de la Bastille (Bastille Opera) is a modern opera house in Paris. It is the home base of the Opera National de Paris and was designed to replace the Palais Garnier, but that did not happen and operas are still given in that house, which is also used for ballet performances

Paris Opera was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Academie d'Opera, and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Academie Royale de Musique, but continued to be known more simply as the Opera

Opera-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs

The golden age of French grand opera was from 1828 to 1850, at the Paris Opera

The first public opera house was the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice, which opened in 1637

La Fenice (‘The Phoenix’) is an opera house in Venice

Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York is the largest classical music organization in North America

Mariinsky Theatre is in Saint Petersburg

Bolshoi Theatre is in Moscow

Sydney Opera House opened in 1973. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon

Education institutions

Royal College of Music is a conservatoire established by royal charter in 1882, located in South Kensington

Royal Academy of Music is a conservatoire and a constituent college of the University of London. It was founded in 1822 and is Britain's oldest degree-granting music school. It received a Royal Charter in 1830. The Academy's current facilities are situated on Marylebone Road

Moscow Conservatory was co-founded in 1866 as the Moscow Imperial Conservatory by Nikolai Rubinstein (brother of pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, who founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1862) and Prince Nikolai Petrovitch Troubetzkoy

Awards and competitions

Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal is the Society’s highest honour and is awarded for the most outstanding musicianship. It was initiated in 1870 to commemorate the Centenary of Beethoven’s birth

Glenn Gould Prize is an international award bestowed by the Glenn Gould Foundation in memory of noted Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who was noted especially for his recordings of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach

International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious piano competitions in the world, taking place in Warsaw since 1927 and held every five years since 1955

Leeds International Pianoforte Competition takes place every three years. The competition was first held in 1963

Fanny Waterman is the founder, Chairman and Artistic Director of the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition

International Tchaikovsky Competition is a classical music competition held every four years in Moscow for pianists, violinists, cellists, and singers. First held in 1958

BBC Young Musician of the Year was established in 1978 by Humphrey Burton. It is held biennially

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition is a competition for opera and art singers held every two years. The competition was started by BBC Wales in 1983

The Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship Fund holds an Annual Competition before a public audience at the Wigmore Hall in London every April

Polar Music Prize is a Swedish international award founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson. The award is annually given to one contemporary musician and one classical musician. First awarded in 1992 to Paul McCartney, and the Baltic States


Yehudi Menuhin founded a school of music in Surrey in 1963

Evelyn Glennie is aScottish percussionist. She has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12

Anne-Sophie Mutter is a German violin virtuoso

Julian Bream is an English classical guitarist and lutenist

Itzhak Perlman is an Israeli-born violinist, conductor, and instructor of master classes

Fritz Kreisler was an Austrian-born violinist and composer. He was regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time

Pablo de Sarasate was a Spanish violinist and composer of the Romantic period

Nicola Benedetti is a Scottish classical violinist. At the age of 16, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004

Andres Segovia was a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist from Andalucia. He is the father of modern classical guitar. Practically all professional classical guitarists today are students of Segovia, or students of his students

Jacqueline du Pre was an English cellist whose career was cut short by multiple sclerosis. She is most famous for her iconic recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, and was married to Daniel Barenboim

Yo-Yo Ma is a French-born American cellist and winner of multiple Grammy Awards

Evelyn Rothwell was an English oboist and the wife of Sir John Barbirolli

Mstislav Rostropovich was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He is considered by many to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century

Stephen Hough is a British-born classical pianist, composer and writer. He became an Australian citizen in 2005

Lang Lang in a Chinese pianist born in 1982

Vanessa-Mae is a British violinist with album sales reaching several million, having made her the wealthiest entertainer under 30 in the United Kingdom in 2006. She was born in Singapore in 1978. Competed for Thailand in skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics

Andre Rieu is a Dutch violinist and conductor best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra. During the first half of 2009, Andre Rieu was the world’s most successful male touring artist, according to Billboard magazine


Farinelli, whose real name was Carlo Broschi, was one of the most famous Italian soprano castrato singers of the 18th century

Alessandro Moreschi was a castrato singer of the late 19th century and the only castrato to make solo recordings

Alfie Boe is an English tenor. He is best known for his performances as Jean Valjean in the musical Les Misérables

The Three Tenors (Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti) began their collaboration with a performance at the ancient Baths of Caracalla, in Rome, on 7 July 1990 – the eve of the World Cup Final

Pavarotti was known as the ‘king of the high C’s’

Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano known as ‘La Divina’

Joan Sutherland was an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire. Known as ‘La Stupenda’

Joan Sutherland’s breakthrough came when invited to sing in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House in 1959

Montserrat Caballe is a Spanish operatic soprano. Known as ‘La Superba’. She sang Barcelona, a duet with Freddie Mercury

Kathleen Battle is an African-American operatic soprano

Hayley Westenra is a New Zealand soprano. Her first internationally released album, Pure, reached No. 1 on the UK classical charts in 2003 and has sold more than two million copies worldwide

The Voice – first album by Russell Watson

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was a German-born Austrian/British soprano opera singer and recitalist. She was among the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. Chose seven of her own records on Desert Island Discs

Kathleen Ferrier was an opera singer (contralto)

Blow the Wind Southerly – Kathleen Ferrier

Australian operatic soprano Nellie Melba made her debut in 1887 in Brussels, in Rigoletto

Peter Pears was an English tenor who was knighted in 1978. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten

Andrea Bocelli is an Italian classical tenor. He became blind at the age of 12

Time to Say Goodnight (Con te Partiro) – Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

Sacred Arias – Andrea Bocelli. The biggest selling classical album by a solo artist of all time

Katherine Jenkins, born in 1980, is a Welsh lyric mezzo-soprano

Bryn Terfel is a Welsh bass-baritone opera and concert singer. Terfel was initially associated with the roles of Mozart

Master of the King’s Music (or Queen’s Music)

Nicholas Lanier was the first Master of the King’s Music, a title created by Charles I in 1626. Recent holders –

1924 – 1934         Edward Elgar

1934 – 1941         Walford Davis

1942 – 1953         Arnold Bax

1953 – 1975         Arthur Bliss

1975 – 2003         Malcolm Williamson

2004 – 2014         Peter Maxwell Davis

2014 -                  Judith Weir

Peter Maxwell Davies was appointed for a ten-year period, the first not to be appointed for life. Judith Weir has also been appointed for a ten-year period