The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time


These are the 15 greatest classical composers of all time, according to The list contains composers of Renaissance (1400–1600), Baroque era (1600–1760), Classical era (1600–1760), Romantic era(1780–1910) and Modern era (1890–1930).

15) Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594)

Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He has had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been seen as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony.

Palestrina left hundreds of compositions, including 105 masses, 68 offertories, at least 140 madrigals and more than 300 motets. In addition, there are at least 72 hymns, 35 magnificats, 11 litanies, and four or five sets of lamentations. His attitude toward madrigals was somewhat enigmatic: whereas in the preface to his collection of Canticum canticorum (Song of Songs) motets (1584) he renounced the setting of profane texts, only two years later he was back in print with Book II of his secular madrigals (some of these being among the finest compositions in the medium). He published just two collections of madrigals with profane texts, one in 1555 and another in 1586. The other two collections were spiritual madrigals, a genre beloved by the proponents of the Counter-Reformation.

14) Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Italian Baroque composer and violin virtuoso continues to be admired throughout the globe for his works, especially for his instrumental concertos for violin. His greatest masterpiece is a series of violin concertos called Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons). In total, Vivaldi composed more that 500 concertos of which more than half are for solo instruments and strings, mainly for violin. Other works include operas, sacred choral music, symphonies, sonatas and chamber music. Of these is probably best known choral composition Gloria.

13) George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

German-born British composer is widely considered one of the greatest masters of the Baroque era and one of Britain’s foremost classical composers. He wrote over 40 operas, 29 oratories, more than 100 cantatas, duets and trios, 16 organ concertos and a number of arias, ecumenical pieces, chamber music, odes and serenatas.

He invented the modern oratorio, when he wanted to make money during the holy seasons of the year. Handel is known today primarily for “The Messiah,” the greatest oratorio ever composed, in which some of the most famous music in history lies, especially the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which ends the Easter section. Handel also wrote hundreds of concerti grossi, which were the forerunners of the Classical and Romantic concerto. Handel’s greatest works are the “Messiah,” “Water Music,” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”

12) Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Haydn was a remarkable composer, epitomizing the meaning of classical period composition, and though he wasn't as flashy as the younger Mozart, his music always stayed true to form. Haydn, unlike most composers, had a "reliable and steady" job composing, directing, teaching, performing, and managing musicians from the royal Esterhazy family. During this time, Haydn composed many pieces of music for the courtly orchestra to perform. With a staggering body of work, including over 100 symphonies and 60 string quartets, he is often referred to as the "Father of the Symphony" or "Father of the String Quartet." Haydn’s greatest work: his cello concerto, or his “Creation” oratorio, or his string quartets.

11) Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, masterful orchestration, richly evocative harmonies and inventive instrumental textures and effects. Along with Claude Debussy, he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music is part of the standard concert repertoire.

Ravel's piano compositions, such as Jeux d'eau, Miroirs, Le tombeau de Couperin and Gaspard de la nuit, demand considerable virtuosity from the performer, and his mastery of orchestration is particularly evident in such works as Rapsodie espagnole, Daphnis et Chloé and his arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Ravel is best known for his orchestral work Boléro (1928), which he once described as "a piece for orchestra without music".

10) Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

The greatest pianist of all time. Liszt sightread Grieg’s Piano Concerto, playing it perfectly the first time he saw the music. He wrote hundreds of short pieces, songs, preludes, etudes, two piano concerti, symphonic poems, and was an al-around master of every genre in which he composed. Most of his piano works are among the most technically demanding, almost impossible, to play, but of note are his Transcendental Etudes, designed for the piano student to master all forms of piano performance. They are probably the most difficult pieces of music ever written for any instrument, and even veteran professionals refuse to play No. 5, “Feux Follets.” If not the Transcendental Etudes, his Sonata in b minor is extraordinarily difficult to play. It is his finest composition.

9) Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Most famous Russian classical music composer wrote in a variety of genres. He composed symphonies, operas, concertos, chamber music, sacred choral music, overtures, suites and ballets. One of the finest orchestrators, and one of the supreme melody writers in all of music. Not surprisingly, his favourite composer was Mozart, in honor of whom he wrote “Mozartiana,” an elaboration of several of Mozart’s melodies.

Tchaikovsky is the all-time master of the ballet, and all of his are world-famous: the “Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty.” He wrote two operatic masterpieces, “Eugene Onegin,” and “The Queen of Spades.” His ballets are well known for their melodic magnificence, but he also wrote 6 symphonies. Tchaikovsky was also a master of the concerto, and wrote three piano concerti, the first of which is one of the most famous in history, and one of the most superb for its hyper-Romantic, lyrical qualities, and the famous octave passages. Its first movement famously ends with a 1-4-1 cadence, unique to all music up to that time. His violin concerto is world renowned for its technical demands and lush, lyrical beauty. Some of his best known works include his three ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and the Sleeping Beauty, Marche Slave, First Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Overture 1812, Symphony No. 6, Fantasy Overture (Romeo and Juliet), Serenade for Strings and opera Eugene Onegin.”

8) Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Russian born French and then American composer, conductor and pianist is one of the most outstanding and influential 20th century composers. He was and still is admired worldwide for the novelty of his works which, however, also caused a great deal of controversy in his time. Stravinsky’s greatest works include The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, A Soldier’s Tale, The Song of the Nightingale, Mavra, Oedipus Rex, the Symphony in C and the Symphony in Three Movements.

7) Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Italy’s greatest opera composer, best known for his operas that remain popular to this day. His musical career, however, didn’t start smoothly. After his wife’s death and failure of his second opera (Un giorno di regno), he fell into despair and nearly give up composing. Fortunately, La Scala’s impressario convinced him to write Nabucco which was a huge success. Soon, more followed and Verdi established himself as the dominant figure of the 19th century Italian classical music. Verdi’s most famous operas besides Nabucco include La traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Don Carlos, Otello and Falstaff.

Verdi’s operatic output is staggering, with 28 operas, many of which contain arias that have made their ways into popular culture and become mainstays. His mature period produced “Nabucco,” “Ernani,” “Macbeth” (after Shakespeare),” “Luisa Miller,” “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,” “La Traviata,” “Un Ballo in Maschera,” “Don Carlo,” his most famous work: “Aida,” “Otello,” and “Falstaff” (both after Shakespeare). The most famous section, and rightly so, is the Dies Irae, or Day of Anger, which depicts God’s wrath inflicted upon Mankind in Armageddon. This is the most furious incarnation of melody and harmony ever put on paper. The Tuba Mirum, which follows, is the loudest un-amplified music ever written. Verdi’s greatest works are his mature operas and the “Requiem.”

6) Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)

One of the few composers who was equally virtuosic at performance (piano), and conducting an orchestra. He legendary for his second two, of four, piano concerti, the third being probably the most difficult and pianistic concerto every written, containing one of the finest piano cadenzas. He is known for writing large chords of up to 5 notes per hand, which he could perform easily with his gigantic hands. His shorter works include large-scale piano sonatas, epic enough to be considered concerti without orchestras, and preludes, of which his most famous is the “Prelude in c-sharp minor,” a work which became so famous in his lifetime that he grew sick of playing it. His greatest works are “the 2nd Piano Concerto,” “the 3rd Piano Concerto,” the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” and his sonatas.

5) Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Wagner only wrote operas, which he termed “music dramas.” But of them, his finest masterpieces are Tannhauser, Lohengrin, in which you’ll find the world famous “Here Comes the Bride” theme, Tristan und Isolde, which some consider his finest achievement, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Parsifal, and his gargantuan four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. These last four operas are the single most famous masterpiece in opera history. Of the top ten longest operas, 7 are by Wagner. The average opera length is 3 hours. Gotterdamerung, the last of the Ring cycle, is 6 hours long. More importantly, Wagner invented the leitmotif, a very short melody which represents a character, emotion, event, or object. He revolutionized the art of opera, and operas are not written in any other style today except his, or the Classical style which preceded him. There has been no progress beyond him in operatic art. His finest work is probably Tristan und Isolde, but the Ring cycle could well be equal to it. All his mature works are unparalleled in orchestration, and he is one of the very few opera composers who wrote his own libretti.

4) Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

The most known composer of the romantic era and also the most idiomatic composer for the piano who ever lived. Chopin was a very gifted child and established himself as one of the foremost Polish composers at a very young age. One of the best piano composers and virtuoso pianists in history wrote almost exclusively for solo piano. But he also wrote two piano concertos and three sonatas.

Chopin did not understand orchestration, which he freely admitted, and had help from friends, including Liszt, in scoring his two piano concerti. Chopin’s melodic genius is superlative in all respects, and he composed primarily short works piano works, of which the most notable are his ballades, etudes, sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, preludes, and impromptus. Chopin is also credited with the invention of the instrumental ballade and several musical innovations. Some of his best known works include Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9 No. 2, Funeral March (Prelude in C minor), Minute Waltz (Waltz in D-flat major), Revolutionary Etude (Op.10, No.12) and Fantasie-Impromptu (Op. Posth. 66).

3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The most gifted musical genius in history, the most famous genius of any field in history, and the perfecter of classical music. Austrian composer impressed his contemporaries already as a child. At the age of 5, he mastered keyboard and violin, and entertained the social elites including royalty throughout Europe. Tragically, Mozart died at the young age of 35. Yet during his short life span, Mozart greatly advanced classical period music with over 600 compositions in all music genres known in his time. Some of most famous and most widely performed Mozart’s works include Requiem, Symphony No. 40, operas The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, Piano Sonata No 16 in C Major, Symphony No. 25, Piano Concerto No. 21 and Piano Sonata No. 11 (Mov. 3 - Turkish March).

He was the supreme composer of melody and lyrical quality in music history. He wrote his music in full orchestral scores, without corrections of any kind, until late in life when he was sick. His first drafts were his final drafts. His greatest works are all legendary, and cannot be listed entirely, but of them, his Requiem Mass, the greatest ever written, although he only finished half. The second half was finished by his pupil, Sussmayer. It was because of his perfection of the Classical mode, that Beethoven decided not to imitate, but rather to create a new mode. Mozart’s work features, among other things, the finest balance between solo instruments and orchestra.He was one of the finest pianists to ever live, and equally adept at the violin.Probably his greatest single work, for its pristine clarity in all respects, is his opera Don Giovanni.

2) Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

German composer and pianist was the most outstanding figure in the transition between classical and romantic periods, and one of the most famous classical music composers of all times. Some of his best works including the 9th symphony were created after he became almost completely deaf. Other notable works by Beethoven include Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight Sonata), 5th Symphony, 6th Symphony, Bagatelle No. 25 (Für Elise) and Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op.73.

Beethoven only wrote nine symphonies. Compare that to Haydn and Mozart, who, combined, wrote over 150 symphonies. What makes Beethoven special was his successful attempt to break the mold of the highly structured and refined rules of classical period composition.

It was Beethoven’s temperament that created his finest, and most idiosyncratic works, among them his 3rd to 9th symphonies, his last three of five piano concerti, his violin concerto, the finest ever written, two masses, one of which is the Missa Solemnis, the second greatest mass ever written, his chamber music, especially his string quartets, the last 6 of which, the Late Quartets, are universally considered to be among the greatest musical works in history. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony begins with the single most famous melody in music history. Beethoven’s finest works are also the finest works of their kind in music history: the 9th Symphony, the 5th Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto and the Late Quartets.

1) Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

The greatest composer of music who has ever lived. German organist, composer, violist and violinist is widely regarded as one of the best classical composers of all times. He wrote over 1100 compositions which include cantatas, songs and arias, chorales, passions and oratorios, organ works, works for harpsichord, concertos etc. He lives in the baroque era.

Bach did not invent any new styles of forms of music, but rather perfected every single one of them which existed in his day. He remains the all-time master of the fugue, a form which is so difficult to write that even Mozart and Beethoven, both of whom wrote fugal masterpieces, hated writing them. Bach, however, improvised fugues for 2 hours at a stretch, and then wrote them down from memory afterward. Whereas, most composers did not typically relish complexity, Bach was at home in it. The Sanctus from his b minor Mass is a 6-part chorus, including a 4-voiced fugue. He wrote in the Baroque style, but his music is as Romantic as anything Beethoven or Wagner or Schumann ever composed, and films can be set to it. He is the greatest of all composers, of all time, because of the intellectual depth of his music, the technical demand, and the artistic beauty.

Best known works by Bach include the Brandenburg Concertos, Air on the G String, Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Arioso, to mention only a few.

References: Classical Music, History Lists, Wikipedia





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Thinking Humanity: The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time
The 15 Greatest Classical Composers Of All Time
These are the 15 greatest classical composers of all time, according to The list contains composers of Renaissance (1400–1600), Baroque era (1600–1760), Classical era (1600–1760), Romantic era(1780–1910) and Modern era (1890–1930).
Thinking Humanity
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