Did you know that September is Classical Music Month? It represents an exciting opportunity to explore subjects such as:
- What is a symphony?
- What are the instruments of the orchestra?
- What are some of the most famous classical compositions?
- What inspired composers to write these pieces?
If you’re not sure where to begin, then this list will provide a helpful game plan. It covers books that are suitable for the youngest children up through teens and adults. Whether you’re looking for a light introduction or an in-depth examination, you’ll find it on this list.
Also included are a couple of works of notable fiction that revolve around classical music themes. It’s just another way to get acquainted with the many facets and fascinations of classical music.
Let’s start off with a list for the little ones before moving on to works for older readers.
For the Kids
1. Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrations by Joann E. Kitchel
From the Once Upon a Masterpiece series, this book allows kids to explore the tale of how Beethoven composed one of his best-known pieces even as he was losing his hearing.
Written for children in grades one through four, this engaging work also features colorful illustrations. Listen to the Heroic Symphony while reading. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about how Beethoven was able to overcome a disability even as he was being celebrated as the foremost pianist in Europe.
2. Allegro: A Musical Journey Through 11 Musical Masterpieces by David W. Miles, illustrations by Anita Barghigiani
This book tells the tale of Allegro, an ordinary little boy who would rather do anything other than practice the piano. One day, Allegro is unexpectedly whisked away by the music, all of which is depicted in fun, whimsical illustrations.
The other feature that makes this book so much fun is the collection of electronic buttons, each of which plays a musical masterpiece so that kids can listen while they read. Covering diverse composers such as Debussy, Grieg, Dvorak and more, kids will love this thrilling and imaginative adventure.
3. My First Classical Music Book: Book & CD by Genevieve Helsby
This is part of the Naxos My First … Series, and the imaginative illustrations make it an outstanding choice. It’s written for children ages five to seven and contains many thought-provoking questions that are certain to spark a little one’s curiosity.
Children are encouraged to name all of the places where they might hear music before being introduced to the families of musical instruments and some of the most famous composers throughout history.
As they read, kids are referred to the musical CD so that their learning is enhanced. While this book doesn’t go into great depth with respect to each composer or instrument family, it still functions as a fascinating introduction that might encourage a child to want to take music lessons or learn more about a particular composer.
4. Meet the Great Composers, Book 1: Short Sessions on the Lives, Times and Music of the Great Composers by Maurice Hinson and June C. Montgomery
This is another book and CD combo that has been extremely popular with educators over the years. Written for upper elementary or middle school students, this work is perfect for when your child is ready to take on the composers with a little more depth.
Still, each unit only requires about 20 minutes to complete, leaving plenty of time for further reading or listening to the CD. Activity sheets, crosswords, word searches and more help to make this an interactive experience that kids are likely to enjoy.
5. Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Barrie C. Turner, illustrations by Sue Williams
Building on one of Camille Saint-Saens best-known and most beloved works, Carnival of the Animals introduces kids to classical music in an especially fun and creative manner.
Author Barrie C. Turner and artist Sue Williams collaborated to produce a book that is at once entertaining and informative. The included CD features the entire length of Saint-Saens’ work so that it’s possible to coordinate the book with the music. It’s a fun and rollicking trip to the carnival that your kids will want to return to again and again.
6. I Love Mozart: My First Sound Book by Marion Billet
Proving that no one is too young to appreciate classical music, Billet’s charming board book will be intriguing to even the youngest music fan. Each page features a button that plays a different melody. These include:
- Symphony No. 40;
- Eine kleine Nachtmusik;
- Piano Sonata No. 11;
- The Magic Flute;
- Concerto for Violin and Piano; and
- The Magic Flute
Simple yet fascinating for youngsters, this book may inspire kids toward a greater appreciation for classical music.
7. Beethoven for Kids: His Life and Music with 21 Activities by Helen Bauer
When your kids are ready for a more in-depth look at Beethoven’s life, choose this excellent work by Helen Bauer. It explores not only the composer’s difficult childhood and notoriously passionate personality but also his incredible gift for composing and playing music.
Readers also will become familiar with the historical and political events that shaped Beethoven’s life and times. With 21 hands-on, interactive activities included, this is a great way for kids to learn about history and classical music at the same time.
Books for You
1. What to Listen for in Music by Aaron Copland
Written by one of America’s foremost classical composers, this book is a wonderful introduction to music appreciation for adults or teens. Through his writing, Copland challenges readers to ask themselves two seemingly simple questions: Are they hearing everything that is going on, and are they really being sensitive to it?
Despite being written by a virtuoso composer and educator, readers don’t have to worry about getting lost in a lot of technical jargon. Instead, this book is written in plain, accessible language that is readily understood by anyone who doesn’t have a college degree in music. You even get an introduction to the various parts of the orchestra and how they work together. Reading this book will definitely increase your appreciation for music.
2. Mozart: A Life by Paul Johnson
This absorbing biography by a noted historian is enthralling thanks to the author’s firm grasp of the subject’s historical context. Drawing upon Mozart’s personal letters, Johnson writes a richly detailed story of the composer’s life.
Writing about Mozart’s life from the age of three onward, Johnson explodes the myths that often swirl around Mozart, his relationships and his personality. Despite all of the information contained within it, Johnson’s work is amazing for its brevity. This is definitely a work to savor and enjoy during Classical Music Month.
3. Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner
While growing up, author John Eliot Gardiner lived in a house where one of only two known authentic portraits of Bach was hung. This began an early fascination with the composer’s life and works, and the fruits of this fascination are in full display in this master work.
This book is particularly fascinating because it reveals how Bach’s music was composed and how it is constructed. Readers explore where Bach found inspiration and how his music reveals more about him as a person. A fascinating and immersive study, this biography will keep any reader’s attention.
4. Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo
This relatively recent novel tells the story of an 18th century resident of Venice named Adriana d’Amato. She is a gifted violinist, but her father forbids her to study. That’s when Adriana begins secret lessons with noted composer Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi is a priest. Nonetheless, Adriana’s music lessons with him soon become a romantic affair, one that they both acknowledge must soon end.
5. The Bells: A Novel by Richard Harvell
This intriguing work takes the form of a confessional letter from a father to his son. The father is a renowned 18th-century opera singer who sang at all of Europe’s most celebrated opera houses and theaters. Born in a belfry in the Swiss Alps, the father has a gift for sound that surpasses everyone else of the era. He is raised and educated by an order of monks who make a decision that will affect the singer for the rest of his life.
Start a Musical Journey with Prodigies Music
Classical Music Month is the perfect time to become more familiar with this timeless art form. If you delve into any of these books, it may be the beginning of a lifelong love and appreciation for classical music.
What makes many of these works so special is their exceptional accessibility. Even if you don’t know Mozart from Beethoven, these books will help you to begin recognizing the rudiments.
Make this a journey that you enjoy with your children, who frequently are very open to listening to and enjoying classical music. Many of the selections here are tailor made for them, no matter how young they are.
Supplement this reading with the fun, engaging and informative lessons that are available through Prodigies Music. These are appropriate for the smallest children and cover all stages of development. Using colorful animations and engaging teachers, these lessons are just what is needed to foster a love of classical music in even the youngest child.