23 historic photographs of classical composers doing incredibly normal things

12 July 2021, 13:39

Photographs of composers doing normal things.

Photo: Getty / Alamy


Iconic moments preserved from the most esteemed maestros in history, doing very normal things.

Photography is vital to our world. It gives us a deep connection to the past, preserving memories and moments of historical significance, and telling the truth if ever sinister attempts are made to obscure reality.

And as photography spread more and more throughout the 19th century, classical composers began to enjoy their own moments under the flash and the powder.

Now, from Gustav Mahler to Leonard Bernstein, we often hail the art of these musicians as so influential, so unmatched, that we can forget that they are just human beings like all of us. Human beings, with really mundane hobbies outside of the recording studio.

Seeing is believing, because these great masters show an interest in falconry, sledding and, well, swing. Kind of playground, notice …

Read more: Chopin’s face comes to life in the artist’s incredible 3D portraits

  1. Claude Debussy taking a nap (1900)

    Claude Debussy takes a nap

    Claude Debussy takes a nap.

    Image: adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty Images


  2. Dmitry Shostakovich watching his favorite football team on a Sunday morning in Moscow (1942)

    Dmitry Shostakovich watching his favorite Spartak soccer team on a Sunday morning in Moscow

    Dmitry Shostakovich watches his favorite Spartak football team on a Sunday morning in Moscow.

    Image: Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images


  3. Dame Ethel Smyth Anxiously Expects Women to Have Equal Rights (1930)

    Composer and political activist Dame Ethel Smyth anxiously awaits women to have equal rights.  (1930)

    Composer and political activist Dame Ethel Smyth anxiously awaits women to have equal rights. (1930).

    Photo: Collection Histoire 2016 / Alamy Stock Photo


  4. Young Sergei Prokofiev playing intense chess (date unknown)

    Young Sergei Prokofiev plays a very competitive game of chess.

    Young Sergei Prokofiev plays a very competitive game of chess.

    Image: Alamy


  5. Richard Strauss in Schierke, Germany, tobogganing with noticeable discomfort (date unknown)

    Richard Strauss tobogganing in Schierke, Germany.

    Richard Strauss tobogganing in Schierke, Germany.

    Photo: Roger Viollet via Getty Images


  6. John Williams passing by to visit Luciano Pavarotti in his dressing room at the Grammy Awards (1999)

    John Williams and Luciano Pavarotti shaking hands at the Grammy Awards.  (1999)

    John Williams and Luciano Pavarotti shaking hands at the Grammy Awards. (1999).

    Photo: Ron Wolfson / Online / Getty


  7. Leonard Bernstein swinging barefoot outside his home in Fairfield, Connecticut (1986)

    Composer Leonard Bernstein swings in front of his home in Fairfield, Connecticut (1986)

    Composer Leonard Bernstein swings outside his home in Fairfield, Connecticut (1986).

    Photo: Joe McNally / Getty Images


  8. German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen smoking a pipe during a recording session (1970)

    German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen smokes a pipe during a recording session

    German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen smokes a pipe during a recording session.

    Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images


  9. Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan enjoying a falconry position (1955)

    Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan enjoying a game of falconry.  (1955)

    Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan enjoys a game of falconry. (1955).

    Image: Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images


  10. French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, exasperated during rehearsals (1976)

    French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, exasperated.  (1976)

    French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, exasperated. (1976).

    Photo: Erich Auerbach / Hulton Archive / Getty Images


  11. Opera legend Jessye Norman and film maestro John Williams share a moment (2012)

    Opera legend Jessye Norman and film maestro John Williams share moment at Williams' 80th birthday tribute (2012)

    Opera legend Jessye Norman and film maestro John Williams share a moment on Williams’ 80th birthday (2012).

    Photo: Paul Marotta / Getty Images


  12. Gustav Mahler spends family time with his wife Alma and daughters Anna and Maria (1910)

    Gustav Mahler spends family time with his wife Alma and daughters Anna and Maria.  (1910)

    Gustav Mahler spends family time with his wife Alma and daughters Anna and Maria. (1910).

    Photo: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy


  13. Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi with his beloved dogs (1800s)

    Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi with his dogs.  (1800s)

    Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi with his dogs. (1800s).

    Image: Alamy


  14. Composer Benjamin Britten & English tenor Peter Pears having a rather gloomy picnic (1954)

    Artist and set designer John Piper, composer Benjamin Britten and English tenor Peter Pears pause in Venice for the premiere of Britten's opera

    Artist and set designer John Piper, composer Benjamin Britten and English tenor Peter Pears pause in Venice for the premiere of Britten’s opera “The Turn Of The Screw”. (1954?).

    Photo: Erich Auerbach / Getty Images


  15. Gustav and Alma Mahler take a walk near their summer residence in Toblach (1909)

    Austrian composer Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma stroll near their summer residence in Toblach.  (1909)

    Austrian composer Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma stroll near their summer residence in Toblach. (1909).

    Image: Imagno / Getty Images


  16. Composer Sally Beamish at home in Scotland, in a hammock, with a dog (2014)

    Sally Beamish on a hammock, with a dog.

    Sally Beamish on a hammock, with a dog.

    Image: Alamy


  17. Soviet composers Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitry Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian, hanging out (date unknown)

    Soviet composers Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitry Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian hang out together.

    Soviet composers Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitry Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian hang out together.

    Photo: Sovfoto / Universal Images Group via Getty Images


  18. Composer John Philip Sousa among his four-legged “musician friends” (1922)

    American composer John Philip Sousa among his four legs

    The American composer John Philip Sousa among his four-legged “musician friends”.

    Photo: George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images


  19. Leonard Bernstein at lunch with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1946)

    Leonard Bernstein at lunch with fellow composer Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts.  (1946)

    Leonard Bernstein at lunch with fellow composer Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts. (1946).

    Photo: Erika Stone / Getty Images


  20. Pioneer composer Amy Beach posing for a photo with four American female composers (1924)

    Pioneer composer Amy Beach with four American female composers in April 1924.

    Pioneer composer Amy Beach with four American female composers in April 1924.

    Photo: Lebrecht Music & Arts / Alamy Stock Photo


  21. Claude Debussy, flying a kite with Louis Laloy

    Claude Debussy flying a kite with Louis Laloy.

    Claude Debussy flying a kite with Louis Laloy.

    Image: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images


  22. Leonard Bernstein, seated on top of a tree in Israel (date unknown)

    Leonard Bernstein, in a tree in Israel.

    Leonard Bernstein, in a tree in Israel.

    Image: Wiki


  23. George Gershwin pictured painting a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg (1936)

    George Gershwin pictured painting a portrait of Austrian composer Arnold Schonberg

    George Gershwin photographed while painting a portrait of Austrian composer Arnold Schonberg.

    Photo: ullstein bild / ullstein bild via Getty Images



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