The Music of Time

Brief happiness: programme for the opera Brundibár, performed at Terezin, 1943.

A children’s opera brought a brief respite from the terrors of the Holocaust.

Ethel Smyth took on the forces of inequality, in both politics and culture, producing highly acclaimed works of music that are now all but forgotten.

Play on: red-figure amphora with musical scene, attributed to the Niobid Painter, c.460-50 BC.

Though originally set to music, we almost always encounter the Ancient Greek epics as mute texts. But now their songs can be heard again.

Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

The French emperor was a hero to the composer, inspiring a revolutionary symphony. But disillusionment was soon to follow.

If the shoe fits: Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1919.

Historians set great store by what people heard in the past, but what about those things they misheard? 

While best known as the author of The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli played an important if unlikely role in the history of music. 

As the sounds of the world rattled into the future, so, too, did art and music.

The nature of warfare is constantly changing. So are the challenges that composers face in depicting the sound and struggle of battle.

The shellac recording of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s ‘Livery Stable Blues’, 1917.  Granger/Alamy

Understanding the period and context in which a piece of music was created can offer great rewards for the listener.

How and why did concert-going change from a raucous, noisy affair to one of hushed appreciation?