Quiz Who's the Composer?

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They may not be a Beethoven, Bach or even a Bacharach, but some of the most unlikely people have been composers. Can you guess which of these figures from history, cinema or literature have had their music performed?


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Which of these greats from Hollywood’s Golden Years was also a celebrated and prolific composer?

  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Mae West
  • Clark Gable

x Charlie Chaplin. The King of the silent movie wrote soundtracks for nearly all of his films, winning an Oscar for his original music to the 1952 film ‘Limelight’.

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Which of these American Founding Fathers also dabbled in composition?

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • George Washington

x Benjamin Franklin. A renowned polymath, Franklin also tried his hand at composition, writing a string quartet for 3 violins and cello that calls for each performer to retune to different pitches!

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Which great 19th century Russian literary figure also wrote, amongst other works, a charming waltz in F?

  • Anton Chekhov
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Nikolai Gogol

x Leo Tolstoy. This Russian giant also had an astute musical ear. An acquaintance of Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy is described in several sources as being ‘a good musician and composer’.

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Who, out of these British monarchs, is credited for composing a significant body of musical works?

  • Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth I
  • Richard III

x Henry VIII. This most infamous of kings certainly had a love of the arts, establishing his court as a centre for Renaissance music. Works attributed to the Tudor monarch include ‘Greensleeves’ and a significant compendium of secular songs and instrumental compositions.

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Can you guess which former American President also wrote a Piano Concerto?

  • Richard Nixon
  • Bill Clinton
  • Ronald Reagan

x Richard Nixon. Before becoming President, Nixon surprised a television audience in 1961 by performing his own composition for piano after an interview.

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One of these movie villains was played by an actor who has since topped the classical charts. Which one?

  • Freddy Krueger, from ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’
  • Norman Bates, from ‘Psycho’
  • Hannibal Lecter, from ‘Silence of the Lambs’

x Hannibal Lecter. This particularly nasty character was played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, an actor with a musical education whose album, ‘Composer’, reached the top of Classic FM and BBC classical charts.

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Who, out of these three British authors, is also an able composer?

  • Anthony Burgess
  • Hilary Mantel
  • Sebastian Faulks

x Anthony Burgess. The controversial author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ once wished he could be known as a ‘composer who also writes’. Although many of his works are lost, a Sonata for Violoncello and Piano was recently discovered, and the pieces that have been heard betray a strong influence of English ‘pastoral’ composers such as Delius, Walton and Vaughan Williams.

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Which of these Knights of the Realm has to his name an impressive corpus of classical compositions?

  • Sir Patrick Moore
  • Sir Bruce Forsyth
  • Sir David Attenborough

x Sir Patrick Moore. The ‘Sky at Night’ presenter composed a large number of works including some jolly rags, 3 operas and a Nocturne for piano, which he described as his ‘only serious work’.

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One of these philosophers was praised by Liszt for his attempts in composition. But which one?

  • Hegel
  • Schopenhauer
  • Nietzsche

x Nietzsche. The philosopher composed a number of varied musical compositions, gaining encouragement and criticism in equal measure, none more so than from Wagner, who once walked out of the room during a performance of his works!

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Which of these former Royal Consorts carries a modest reputation as an amateur composer?

  • Prince Albert
  • Prince Philip
  • Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

x Prince Albert. The husband of Queen Victoria actually composed a number of rather fine musical works, including some apparently dedicated to the Queen herself.

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