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Music & Arts at the Movies – 5 Composer Biopics for Movie Night

5 Baroque and Classical Composer Biopics

Movies in the Park
Movies in the Park

Music and movies have gone together since the earliest days of cinema. Silent films were accompanied by live in-house musicians, ranging from a soloist on piano or organ to a small ensemble to even a full orchestra! In fact, musical accompaniment goes back to the world's first commercial movie screening at the Grand Cafe in Paris on Dec. 28, 1895! The films presented were made by two French brothers, Auguste Lumière (Oct. 19, 1862 – April 10, 1954) and Louis Lumière (Oct. 5, 1864 – June 6, 1948). At the first motion-picture exhibition in the United States at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City in April 23, 1896 featuring Thomas Edison's (Feb. 11, 1847 – Oct. 18, 1931) Vitascope projections was accompanied by full orchestra. The emotional impact of music and its ability to bring a scene on the screen to life was immediately recognized.

While many of these performers improvised along with the images on the screen, there were fully-composed scores as well. The first film score was composed in 1908, by French organist, pianist, conductor, and late-romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns (Oct. 9, 1835 – Dec. 16, 1921) for the French historical film, The Assassination of the Duke of Guise. By the 1910s, many cinemas had organs with which an organist could not only perform music but also sound effects.

Great composers have not only provided the emotional backdrop for many of our favorites films, there have been many noteworthy films telling the stories of the lives of composers and allowing us to not only appreciate their music but see the human being behind the masterful music.

In today's post, I am listing five composer biopics featuring orchestral and chamber music composers from the Baroque (c. 1580–1750) and the Classical (c. 1750 to 1820) eras. This list is, of course, incomplete and is chronological order of when the featured composer(s) lived. Look for future music and arts movies to be featured in future posts!

Couple watching movie on laptop. Movie Night 21st Century Style.
Movie Night 21st Century Style

I have included places where you can watch these movies in the U.S.A. for free legally in the descriptions. Search Just Watch for the film's name for all available streaming services (including subscription and pay services) available in your region. For more information about each individual film and its makers, see its Internet Movie Database (IMDB) listing given in Resources.