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?
Which of these greats from Hollywood’s Golden Years was also a celebrated and prolific composer?
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’.
Which of these American Founding Fathers also dabbled in composition?
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!
Which great 19th century Russian literary figure also wrote, amongst other works, a charming waltz in F?
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’.
Who, out of these British monarchs, is credited for composing a significant body of musical works?
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.
Can you guess which former American President also wrote a Piano Concerto?
x Richard Nixon. Before becoming President, Nixon surprised a television audience in 1961 by performing his own composition for piano after an interview.
One of these movie villains was played by an actor who has since topped the classical charts. Which one?
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.
Who, out of these three British authors, is also an able composer?
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.
Which of these Knights of the Realm has to his name an impressive corpus of classical compositions?
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’.
One of these philosophers was praised by Liszt for his attempts in composition. But which one?
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!
Which of these former Royal Consorts carries a modest reputation as an amateur composer?
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.