alan little’s weblog

composers and performers

8th September 2004 permanent link

Trawling through my drafts folder for nearly-finished pieces I can tidy up and post, I find this off-the-top-of-my-head list of musicians who are now mainly known as performers, but were also composers:

Wilhelm Furtwängler (conductor)
Zoltán Székely (violinist, leader of the Hungarian String Quartet)
Robert Mann (violinist, leader of the Juilliard String Quartet)
(Famous Czech violinist Josef Suk not, however, the same person as his grandfather, semi-famous Czech composer Josef Suk as I originally thought)

Composers who were famous piano virtuosi in their day: Bartok, Rachmaninov, Liszt, Beethoven, Mozart. Plus Haydn & Bach? Were any of these noted peformers of anybody’s work other than their own? Bartok was, don’t know about the others. Shostakovich played piano too, including some recordings of his own works, none of which I have heard. I don’t know if he was regarded particularly good – but people like Rostropovich and the Borodin Quartet were willing to record with him, so he must have been at least minimally competent.

Other composers who were also noted performers in their day:

Benjamin Britten (piano, conductor)
Berlioz (conductor)

People who are about equally famous as performers and composers:

Leonard Bernstein
Pierre Boulez

People noted as both performers and composers in the current generation:


The idea that composing and performing music should be separate activities done by different people (with the corollary that most of the people doing the composing should be dead, preferably having died a century or more ago) a recent and unhealthy development? See also my previous comments on how Zoltán Székely and others of his generation were at the forefront of both cutting edge contemporary music and older music – another healthy thing that seems to have died out in the last generation or so.

related entries: Music

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