composers biography : introduction

As apothecaries, we make new mixtures every day, pour out of one vessel into another . . . Again, we weave the same web still, twist the same rope again and again.
Rev. Robert Burton (1577-1640), English clergyman and scholar - taken from The Anatomy of Melancholy

 A Welcome to Our Readers

Our Composers Biography Online offers information on those who create the notes on the page, composers. It has been made more useful by providing links to supplementary material from a number of valuable non-Dolmetsch websites.

If you would like to support our work writing and maintaining the teaching resources on this site please click on the donate button and follow the online instructions - thank you for your contribution.

Who is the Composer?

In the field of classical music it is generally very easy to decide who is, or who is not, a composer. In most cases, the composer's name will appear on the printed page or autograph manuscript. In the fields of jazz and many of the world musics, the act of composition is often improvisatory - the performer 'creates' the work we hear at a live concert or on a recording at the moment of performance. We have chosen to include biographical details of many of these improvisers.

How to Find a Name

To find information about a particular composer go to the section for the starting letter. So, for Albinoni, which begins with the letter a, go to section A. For Czerny, which begins with the letter c, go to section C.

Note: where a name includes 'van', 'von', 'de' etc., we have usually placed the composer in the section bearing the letter with which the next part of his or her name begins. So Ludwig van Beethoven will be found in section B (for Beethoven) and not in section V (for van).

To locate the word on the relevant page, use the Find (on This Page)... facility which most web browsers have. In Internet Explorer this is an option in the drop-down Edit menu on the bar of your browser below the page title

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We have selected what, in our opinion, is the most useful link even when this is written in another language. In some cases, these external pages carry their own list of links and you may wish to explore them too.

A Note About Dates

For reasons that are made clear in the article referenced below, there was a period when the calendars in use in various European countries disagreed. The most notable was that in use in Russia. For religious reasons, the old Julian calendar was retained in Russia until 1917. Before 1917 there was, therefore, a discrepancy of 12 days between the Julian Calendar (Old Style) and the Gregorian Calendar (New Style). Where appropriate we give the New Style or occasionally both dates.

  • Old Style and New Style Dates and the Changes to the Gregorian Calendar

    A Note About Names

    The transliteration of names from one language to another can result in composers being known by two or more forms of their forename, additional names and/or surname. We have made entries for all common variants of surnames. One entry will be complete while the others make reference to it. Over time places may have changed their names; in some case they may now lie in another country. Germany and Italy are both good examples of countries that have existed as a nation only fairly recently. We have tried, in most cases, to make reference to places by the name or names they bear today.

    Mea culpa - In Case of Error

    Our information is drawn from a wide range of publications published over 250 years. If any detail is found to be in error please use our dictionary amendment form and we will check and correct it. Similarly, if there is an omission we would be happy to correct this too.

    Errors are most likely when reference is to recently deceased composers. If any reader has more up-to-date information we would be grateful to have it.


    We list below other online music dictionaries or sources of information that complement our own dictionary. In some cases, these alternative resources offer biographical information that go into greater depth. In a number of cases, we have drawn information from these sites or provided links back to them.