These days it feels like every pop artist has their own biography by the age of 20, but for something really interesting why not delve into the stories of classic musicians. You might know their music, but how much do you really know about their lives and times. The following free biographies not only offer a fascinating glimpse into lives of these musicians and how they became who they were, but also the world around them.
Frederic Chopin as a Man and Musician by Frederick Niecks
What makes this 1902 biography by Frederick Niecks such an invaluable resource for fans of Chopin is the wealth of information it provides about all aspects of his life. The amusing tales of his childhood are of particular interest as are the excerpts of letters by Chopin. The fact that Niecks went to such great lengths to find information about Chopin from people who had dealt with the composer makes this biography extremely comprehensive. Any fans of the composer should definitely take the time to read this free biography.
Johann Sebastian Bach, his Life, Art, and Work by Johann Nikolaus Forkel
This comprehensive biography of Bach by author Johann Nikolaus Forkel was first published in 1802 and served as the basis for many of the ones that came after it. This version is the English translation from Charles Sanford Terry, which includes additional information, clarification and appendices. The biography includes chapters on the family of Bach, his career, as well as Bach as a clavier player. The original biography by Forkel was one of the main sources of information about Bach at the time and is still a fascinating read today.
Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as revealed in his own words by Kerst and Krehbiel
There is certainly no shortage of books and even movies about the German musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This is why this book, which features a summary of his life in the form of letters written by himself, makes for such an interesting read. It is definitely geared more towards fans who are already familiar with his life and work, but as Mozart is one of the most famous and respected composers of his time this shouldn’t be an issue.
Richard Wagner Composer of Operas by John F. Runciman
For an interesting read that is both a biography of the composer Richard Wagner as well as a commentary on his work, look no further than this book by John F. Runciman. It is best suited for readers who are already familiar with Wagner as well as his work, but also provides interesting insights for those who are not. The author is not afraid the criticize Wagner, but this makes his praise even more meaningful.
A Day with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy by George Sampson
Perhaps best remembered for writing Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn also went on to found the Leipzig Conservatory of Music. For readers who wish to learn more about Mendelssohn, but don’t have the time to dive into a long book, A Day with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is a great option. It is short enough to be read in just one sitting, but packed with enough information about Mendelssohn to make it worth your while.