Liebestraum No.3 Franz Liszt
What does Bach's writing look like? How does Beethoven draw a treble clef? And which composer has the messiest scrawl? Discover this most personal of insights into these great musicians - from their own hand.
These composers' treble clefs are almost as different as the way their music sounds. Bach's treble clef is verging on artistic, whereas Beethoven's and Verdi's are almost unrecognisable. Photo: Thinkstock/Mel Spencer
If you're looking to forge a composer's signature, this is a good place to start. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Chopin, and Rachmaninov all signed their names like this.
Before writing their masterpieces, they were often meticulously planned and sketched out in notebooks. Here's one of Mozart's: characteristically neat and ordered, with dates on the right hand page.
When music looks almost as beautiful as it sounds: manuscripts in the composers' own hands. Beethoven draws out an elaborate cadenza, Chopin's writing is understated and elegant, and Bach's is mathematically precise.
But sometimes, even the best composers make mistakes. Here are the scribblings of Haydn (top left), Mozart (centre), Handel (top right), Chopin (centre right), Mendelssohn's scribbled intruduction (centre left), and Beethoven. Twice. (Bottom right and left)
Mozart even doodled on his music, with this picture of his favourite pupil Barbara Ployer appearing on one of his manuscripts. He wrote his Piano Concerto No. 23 for her, and this is the only surviving portrait. [Photo supplied by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment]
Beethoven, famous for his messy (and at times indecipherable) sketches, planned out much of his work on leaves of paper and sketch books - resulting in a chaotic mess for scholars to untangle. Compare and contrast to Mozart's (much tidier) work on the right.
While Bach never actually used this clever signature, musicians devised the B A C H score in the 19th century and sketched it out in Bach's hand. In German musical notation, B flat, A, C, B natural are written as B A C H, cleverly spelling out the composer's name. By using a treble clef, tenor clef, alto clef, and another treble clef, this beautiful cross drawing spells out the word with a single note intersecting the four staves.
It's not just handwritten notes and signatures on original manuscripts: here Haydn's attempted to decorate his own with a cheery flourish on the front of this piano sonata.
It might just look like a squiggle on the top of the page, but it's actually Bach's incredibly geeky way of explaining how to tune the keyboard before playing. The doodles are read from right to left, with the letter C beneath the doodle indicating where the C lies, with each different kind of loop representing the intervals to be used.
Instructions from the great composers on how to perform their masterworks, written at the top of their scores.
Another incredible window into Beethoven's personality from the manuscript of his Symphony No. 3, originally dedicated to Napoleon. When the composer discovered Napoleon had declared himself emperor of the French - going against everything he believed in - Beethoven got angry and scrawled out the dedication in the manuscript, creating the hole in the page.
Harmonic and mathematical doodles on the bottom of Bach's BWV605 cantata.