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Mozart’s operas represent a roll-call of favourite characters and timeless music, blending the comic with the serious, and the historical with the contemporary.

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  • William Herschel discovers the first two moons of Uranus, Titania and Oberon — six years after discovering the planet itself. His sister Caroline Herschel becomes the first woman to receive a salary as a scientist, when she is granted an annual pension of £50 by King George III for her work as William’s assistant; she herself will go on to discover a total of eight comets. …


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The power of poetry inspires a musical revolution: from the opera stage to the music rooms of the aristocracy, composers from Monteverdi to Vivaldi find new ways to bring emotion alive in music.

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  • In Paris, King Henry IV opens the Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) — the oldest bridge still standing over the…


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Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu creates a strange yet beautiful world, of yearning, of submerged complexity, of perfectly weighted timbres, of magical spans, of clouded, sensuous sound.

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  • Apple is incorporated; Ronald Wayne sells his share of the company to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak for $800.
  • The Granville Rail Disaster in western Sydney leaves 84 dead and 210 injured. The cause of the accident is attributed to poor track conditions. …

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Music from England’s Golden Age: sublime sacred music soaring above intrigues of church and state, and intimate lute songs full of love and longing.

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  • Playhouses flourish in Elizabethan England: William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is first performed, and other playwrights including Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson are regularly producing new work for London’s theatres.
  • In Japan, as the government seeks to lessen the power of Spanish missionaries, 26 Catholics are crucified in Nagasaki. The martyrs will be canonised in 1862, and become widely celebrated and revered with the Japanese church. …

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Taking advantage of the new expressive possibilities opened up by improvements in the design of the clarinet, Mozart created a concerto of exquisite beauty — one of the last works he would ever write.

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  • Thomas Paine publishes Rights of Man, setting out a philosophical defence of the French Revolution. …


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At the dawn of the Romantic era, Schumann’s rich musical imagination takes flight in enchanting works for solo piano.

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  • Queen Victoria is crowned in Westminster Abbey; some 400,000 people travel to London for the celebrations.
  • Lorenzo da Ponte, the opera librettist who wrote the texts for Mozart’s Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte, dies in New York. …

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‘I have grown accustomed to composing in our garden…Today or tomorrow I am going to dream there A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ From the pen of the 17-year-old Mendelssohn sprang to life Shakespeare’s magical world of fairies, misguided lovers, rustic actors and a royal wedding.

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  • Beethoven completes his final string quartet; Schubert will respond by simply saying, ‘After this, what is left for us to write?’ …

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‘The flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music’ — Pierre Boulez

Debussy’s masterpiece provoked a revolution in music, but one brought about by subtlety and intimacy, dwelling on the sheer beauty of musical timbre.

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  • Coca-Cola is sold in bottles for the first time; up until now, it has only been available in glasses, from soda fountains.
  • The International Olympic Committee is founded at the Sorbonne in Paris; it is decided that the modern games will be held every four years. …


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Music of profound sorrow and exceptional beauty: Elgar’s Cello Concerto is a phoenix rising from the ashes of a world at war, an elegaic lament for an England lost forever.

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  • The Comintern, dedicated to the spread of Communism throughout the world, is founded by Lenin in Russia. In Munich, the German Worker’s Party begins, attracting Adolf Hitler as one of its first members.
  • ANZAC Day is observed for the first time. It commemorates both the fallen of the Gallipoli campaign four years earlier and, more broadly, all Australians and New Zealanders in conflict. …

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The passion of Flamenco blends with the elegance of courtly dances in the most popular guitar concerto of all time: Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.

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  • In the USA, John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath and Billie Holiday records Strange Fruit.
  • An earthquake strikes Chile, killing around 30,000 people.
  • On 1 September, Germany invades Poland and World War Two begins. …

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