24. Frederick the Great [365 Composers for 2013]


24th January – Frederick the Great


Frederick the Great (24th January 1712 – 17th August 1786) is our composer for 24th January, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: Prussian
Lifespan: 74 years
Genre: Classical
Education: with private tutors
Fame Ranking: 2

Frederick the Great, (or Frederic II of Prussia), was a keen musician and composer as well as ruler. He was born in Berlin, which at that time was in Prussia, and during his reign he succeeded in lifting Prussia out of the doldrums and into a period of prosperity.

Frederick was an accomplished flute player. He wrote around a hundred sonatas for flute and piano, but also branched out into larger art-forms such as the symphony, of which he wrote four. Frederick enjoyed the access to music and musicians he was afforded due to his rank, and filled his court with the best musicians of his day. His court musicians included C.P.E Bach (one of J.S. Bach’s sons), Benda and Quantz – all celebrated artists.

He met J.S. Bach in 1747 and gave him a musical theme he had written, now known as “The King’s Theme”. Bach got to work and produced a collection of compositions called “The Musical Offering”, including one sonata, ten canons and two ricercars (a kind of fugue) all based on the King’s theme. Frederick is also credited as being the man who first showed J.S.Bach a piano – a new invention at that time.

This is the King’s Theme:

Theme by Frederick the Great

The King’s Theme






Press the Play button to hear the theme!

      1. The King's Theme MP3


Here is Frederick the Great’s Flute Sonata in A, performed on period instruments:

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