From a 2012 New York Philharmonic production of Candide, Marin Alsop conducts a cast that includes (from right) Kristin Chenoweth, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Paul Groves and Janine LaManna. Randy Brooke/WireImage hide caption

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Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich's once brilliant career took a dive after the official party paper criticized one of his operas in 1936. Shostakovich responded with his powerful Fifth Symphony. Central Press/Getty Images hide caption

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Alexander Scriabin originally set out to write a piece called "Orgiastic Poem," centered on physical ecstasy, but later decided to alter the title to something more ambiguous. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Titania awakes clinging rapturously to Bottom, still wearing the donkey's head, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mendelssohn wrote music for a production of the play in 1843. Henry Fuseli/Getty Images hide caption

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Gustav Mahler wanted each of his symphonies to contain a world of emotions and ideas. Library of Congress hide caption

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Benjamin Britten takes a cup of tea during rehearsals for his War Requiem at Coventry Cathedral, in Coventry, England in May, 1962. Erich Auerbach/Getty Images hide caption

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Leonard Bernstein's Age of Anxiety symphony is as unconventional as its creator. Courtesy of Library of Congress hide caption

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Rudolph Cronau's drawing of Wagner's opera house, Bayreuth, flanked by his birthplace (left) and place of death. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Stride piano pioneer James P. Johnson had dreams of becoming a successful symphonic composer. William Gottlieb hide caption

itoggle caption William Gottlieb

The traditional Jewish Kaddish prayer gets turned on its head in Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 3. Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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