American composer George Gershwin in 1925. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Hear 'Summertime' And What Makes It Great

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The Octet, which Mendelssohn wrote when he was only 16, continues to inspire with its originality and genius. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Hear What Makes The Octet So Great

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Simplicity, it turns out, is the secret to the success of Handel's ever-popular "Hallelujah Chorus." istockphoto hide caption

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Hear What Makes The 'Hallelujah Chorus' So Great

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Actress and singer Judy Garland wearing as Dorothy from director Victor Fleming's film, The Wizard of Oz. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Hear 'Over the Rainbow' And What Makes It So Great

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Robert Schumann's music evokes the image of a child's dreams. iStock hide caption

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Hear What Makes Schumann's 'Traumerei' So Great

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Hear What Makes Barber's 'Adagio For Strings' So Great

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Mazurka for piano No. 13 in A minor, Op. 17/4, CT. 63

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Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Hear What Makes Berlin's 'Cheek To Cheek' So Great

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Sonata for violin & piano No. 9 in A major ("Kreutzer"), Op. 47

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Czech composer Leos Janacek sent a non-stop stream of more than 700 love letters to a much younger, married woman; she inspired many of his best works. iStock hide caption

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Hear What Makes Janacek's String Quartet No. 2 So Great

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Hear What Makes Mozart So Great

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Aaron Copland captured the sound of America's wide open spaces with surprisingly simple techniques. iStock hide caption

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Hear What Makes 'Appalachian Spring' So Great

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The music Stravinsky wrote for the ballet Petrushka is layered with ideas of the real and the artificial. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Hear What Makes 'Petrushka' So Great

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Composer Steve Reich's Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ has a percussive motor that never stops. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Hear What Makes Steve Reich's Music So Great

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Send in the Clowns

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Hear What Makes "Footsteps In The Snow" So Great

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An attention-grabbing opening can be the key to a successful composition. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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Hear What Makes A Great Musical Opening

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Verdi trumps Shakespeare by inserting a hauntingly beautiful "Ave Maria" into his operatic version of Othello. Universal Classics hide caption

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Hear What Makes 'Ave Maria' From Verdi's 'Otello' Great

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A bread line forms outside of the Rescue Society in New York City in 1929. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" directly confronted the hardship of the Great Depression. Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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A Depression-Era Anthem For Our Times

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America's amber waves of grain inspired teacher Katharine Lee Bates to write the poem later used in the song "America the Beautiful." Wikimedia Commons hide caption

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America the Beautiful

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Czech Composer Antonin Dvorak (1841 - 1904). Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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From The Heartland: Dvorak's 'American' Quartet

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