Greatest Classical Composers

Top ten of the most talented and most respected composers of history.

The Top TenXW

1Ludwig Van Beethoven

I also think Beethoven is the greatest composer in human history.
He was not as productive as Mozart and arguably not a great opera
Composer. However, he revolutionized music with the way he used dynamics
And developed motifs and themes. He also increased the length and scope
Of the symphony and the sonata. And he was a pioneer in the use of music to portray human feelings and emotions.
His motifs and themes and their development are rightfully famous for
Their originality and beauty.
Think of the violin concerto. That has got to be the most beautiful
Violin concerto ever. Think of the 4th piano concerto. I find even
More incredible than his more famous 5th. The originality and beauty
Of all its movements is simply astonishing. And then, his symphonies. They
Are all interesting and part of the modern repertoire. But just the
5th and the 9th would make anyone a celebrity. And then, the sonatas. Think of the 32 incredible piano sonatas. Nobody after ...more

The 9th symphony, this sums up his battle with tinnitus, the attempted suicide of his nephew Carl Van Beethoven, his Immortal Beloved, His relationship with his father early on, his triumphs and his falters and his own battle with suicidal thoughts. As a 17 year old student in the UK, I don't think I have the life experience to fully comprehend all that Beethoven went through in terms of negativity but what I can say is that when you listen to his incredible ninth symphony, particularly MVTII scherzo and MVTIV presto, you can here the pits of his despair and the heights of his successes, his love for music and his faith in religion pours out seamlessly through meticulous note placements and even more so in his use of the chorale techniques. In response to the NASA scientist in saying he would send BACH to space for Aliens to here, I can say I cannot disagree more. Yes Bach was a pioneer of music and amongst a legendary league of musicians, he didn't quite have as much of an impact on ...more

With out doubt Beethoven is the greatest composer that ever lived. Mozart composed for the weekend but Beethoven composed for eternity. He is the Michael Angelo of music. Beethoven demonstrates in his composition a deeply human touch. Strong but also vulnerable and romantic to the point of godlyness. His spiritual strenght was without match. Mozart was was close but his character was built on wealth and help form his family. Beethoven was not so fortunate his family lived off him. Once again demonstrating his great ability to live and suffer for his art. Beethoven is a one off. There will never be another Beethoven for the greatness of the man was closely allied to God. :-)

Long live Beethoven

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2Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart, One of the most influential composers of the Classical Era. There is no mistake he was a musical genius. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a gift for taking in and adapting important features of other kinds of music. His travels around Europe helped him compose and create a unique compositional language.

Anyone who loves classical music will love Wolfgang Amadeus, Anyone who hates classical will still love Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

He died at 35 years old, yet he is at the top 3 in these polls. Had he lived until 57 (like Beethoven) or 65 (like Bach), there would be no contest.

Wagner himself said: "The most tremendous genius raised Mozart above all masters, in all centuries and in all the arts. "

An opinion from nothing less that Albert Einstein: "Mozart is the greatest composer of all. Beethoven created his music, but the music of Mozart is of such purity and beauty that one feels he merely found it-that it has always existed as part of the inner beauty of the universe waiting to be revealed. "

I suppose it would be difficult to argue for who the "best" classical composer of all time is, whatever that may mean. But, It would be difficult to argue that Mozart is not the most intelligent of the classical composers. He composed his first piece at age 4, and his first symphony at age 7 ( a very impressive symphony I might add, go listen to it for yourself! ). He composed over 600 pieces during his life time and only lived to be less than half the age of most composers on this list! The quality of his music is also, in my opinion, of the highest quality. For starters I recommend listening to symphony 25, 39, but honestly I can't think of a single mozart piece that isn't high above average quality.

Mozart is no doubt the best composer... I am a very big fan, in fact the biggest fan of WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART. A true genius of music or of arts in the history of man or any other species.

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3Johann Sebastian Bach

No composer comes even close to the shear perfection and emotion of Bach. Bach was revered by most of his colleague-composers as being the one and only true greatest:

- Mozart: "That's something one can learn from! " when being overwhelmed by hearing a motet from Bach for the first time.
- Van Beethoven: "The eternal god of harmony" (he played Bach every day before and after composing in order to bring peace to his mind! Also others like Schumann, Czerny, Mendelssohn and Liszt played Bach every day)
- Brahms: "Study Bach! There you'll find everything! "
- Verdi: "O you lucky sons of the north who grew up at Bach's bosom, how I envy you! "
- Wagner: "The most stupendous miracle in all music! "
- Mendelssohn: "To think that it was a Jew (meaning himself) to bring the greatest Christian music back to life..."

A contemporary source who heard both and who was very familiar with the music of both Mozart ...more

Without a doubt, the father of modern music. His chorale harmonizations remain the foundation text of tonal harmony, and his synthesis of the French, German, and Italian styles of music created the expressive grammar and vocabulary that generations of composers have used to express their own ideas.

No one has ever succeeded in marrying the intellectual and emotional sides of music the way Bach did, with his amazing ability to combine beautiful melody with rigorous counterpoint and harmony. For just one example, listen to the Chaconne of Partita no. 2 for solo violin--a piece perfectly obedient to the strict rules of Baroque ground bass, yet a piece with such emotional depth and power that no less an authority than Brahms had the following to say about it:

"On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the ...more

I am not per se a musician. I just like listening to classical music. You see Bach has to come very close to the very top because he wrote for organ, violin, piano - the lot, just listen to the Mass in B minor. Some of his compositions must be very difficult to play and sing. As far as I know Mozart and Beethoven composed for piano and orchestra but they were not articulate enough (blasphemy! ) to demonstrate to write for the king of instruments. Maybe they found the instrument boring; but not Bach. He seems to compose endlessly for all instruments and orchestra alike. Truly a genius, perhaps number 1.

The father of music no doubt. He brought baroque to a whole new level, with traditional grandeur and music fit for kings Johann Sebastian Bach is No doubt the "Father of Music"

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4Frederic Chopin

I am often amazed to hear an amateur or pro pianist list their favorite composers, naming the usual German suspects; and then they play something for us... A beautiful tune by "Fryderyk f****** Chopin"! (trivia: which movie is this line from? )

Chopin is the most underrated composer. He is #1 in my book. Almost 500 works of such originality, some of them hiding most gorgeous melodies or tonal innovations. Case in point: listen to the etude op. 25 #5; easy to dismiss the piece after a few bars of a simple folksy staccato; but then you get to the middle part; sublime! And only repeated once; moving on to the next etude. If Beethoven (or the uber tedious, so predictable, boring, and totally overrated Schubert) ever came up with these 500 ideas, he would would have turned it into 500 grand symphonies or concertos, repeating the theme 20 times in each.

Still, I wish that someone embellished Chopin properly. Some pieces could really use a multi-instrumental ...more

Fryderyk Chopin was definitely the best composer of Romantic Period. Wrote many famous melodies. A lot of his pieces is technically so difficult and varied. I think it's hard to make "of all time" list. So we must create 3 lists: Greatest Baroque Composers (for me the greatest master of this period was Johann Sebastian Bach), Greatest Classical Composers (Wofgang Amadeus Mozart) and Greatest Romantic Composers (Fryderyk Chopin). Of course but where's Beethoven? He was great composer but only "great" and too overrated for me. Finally I type 3 great masters: Bach, Mozart and Chopin.

He had so much dynamic and composed so many beautiful and breath-taking masterpieces for such a young age. Etude Op. 25 No. 1 is much better than Bach's Two-Part Inventions...

The No. 1 when it comes to solo piano. No doubt about it! Chopin didn't write that much for Orchestra etc. So Chopin fits great in the 4th Place!

However, my personal favorite of all time is Chopin

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5Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

For the sheer beauty and power of his music, he stands out to me as the best. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, wonderful as they are, do not measure up to him. Whether it was his concertos or ballets, Tchaikovsky could bring about the whole spectrum of emotion and thought through his compositions. Exploding with the brass, or weaving ever so gently as upon a cool, calm lake, with a simple harp, flute, or violin, his music still takes us on extraordinary journeys. Of particular note, for me, are Swan Lake and his concerto for violin and orchestra, particularly the first movement of the latter and the finale of he former.

His versatility was astonishing. Apart from his many famous works there are numerous lesser known masterpieces such as a Liturgy, that reflects a deeply spiritual side (check out Hymn of The Cherubim). Also extraordinarily original orchestration, such as the 3rd orchestral suite, where in the middle of the scherzo movement, he treats the heavy brass with the delicacy of pizzicato strings (accompanied by side drum). Incidentally, a full six years before Richard Strauss in Don Quixote (1898), he used fluttertonguing in Nutcracker (1892). Just a few examples of originality. But Tchaikovsky did for ballet what Beethoven did for symphony.

To my mind, Tchaikovsky should be higher than Vivaldi, as his compositions are more diverse and deeply moving. He wrote in all musical forms, which Vivaldi didn't do.

Heaven to my ears simply the best composer of all time

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6Joseph Haydn

Among the huge amount of music he created (from nothing since he didn't know Bach), almost every peace, from the early symphonies till the London one, from the wonderful piano sonatas to the breathtaking quartetts, from his trios till his oratorios, almost everything he has left us is an endless source of joy and amazement the greatest ignorred composer, as Sir Simon Rattle surnamed him. To listen again and again...

He is surely the best. He is one of the fathers of classical music and influenced beethoven, schubert. Why isn't he on the top 5?

Haydn for his originality, the ground he broke and his productivity should be in the top five...

More Baroque era, but still a very talented composer

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7Antonio Vivaldi

This composer is just amazing... His ability to play with the feelings of the listeners is just... I Especially like winter and summer, they are just amazing... Amazin!

I really think that some of his works, and namely the 'Four Seasons', are the best never written until now by all musicians in the world. The 'Four Seasons', in particular, are simply perfect. Other words are superfluous.

Vivaldi music is sweet and beautiful. his works also contain beautiful violin timbre. His works are very colorful. I can always listen. I think that it is difficult to compare among composers.
Some great composers express deep emotions but it is too heavy for me to fully listen.
It is more suitable to instruct but not for entertaining mind

His four season is almost the greatest work in classical music

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8Franz Schubert

He's #1, heads and shoulders above the rest. The most elegant, the master of both melody and silence - the grace in simplicty. In fact, the greatest artist who ever lived. Listen to the oboe line in the Andante of his 9th or to D946.2.

Schubert was born in 1797 in Vienna, Austria. He is known for his piano pieces and his symphonies. He died at the young age of 32 from Syphilis and Typhoid fever. My favorite piece of his is Ave Maria.

For his incomparable lieder, his stupendous last symphonies and quartets and his oh so moving piano sonatas - yes, Schubert should definitely be in the top ten

The perfect balance of structure and emotion.

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9George Frederick Handel

Handel is on the same level as Beethoven and Bach. Unfortunately he of all the major composers is known by the least number of works. If one takes the time to discover other oratorios and operas other then the handful known, a revelation will be at hand, I think Chopin being in the top list is stupid. He only wrote successfully for the piano and he was basically a miniaturist. Vivaldi being in top ten is ridicules. His choral works and operas pale when compared to Handel. For me and most of the professionals I know the top three not in order are Handel, Bach and Beethoven. I would never choose between them.

That Handel is not in the Top Ten is nothing short of a tragedy... Beethoven called him the greatest composer who ever lived: he was the yin to Bach's yang, the simplicity to balance the complexity, the emotion to match the technique, the ultimate musical master of simple means and devastating impact.

Handel was indeed a musical genius.Messiah for example is a piece that carries you along right from the cry of the first instrument, and I keep saying that knowing Handel is one of the sweetest things that have ever happened to me.

Handel's Water Music captures the essence of his musical genius.

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10Johannes Brahms

So complex in pattern, yet so wonderful in harmony and texture. Each of his 4 symphonies is distinct in style and mood, and his two piano concerto's are as monumental as symphonies. The chamber music, especially containing piano and clarinet are broke new grounds.

Brahms has got a great symphony (No.4) and great violin and piano concertos. This fact alone makes him one of the greatest composers of all time.

Brahms must be after Bach Mozart Beethoven!

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The Newcomers

?Charles Villiers Stanford

Before touching beethoven mozart sibelius brahms haydn,etc. Sir Charles Villiers Stanford s 3rd symphony Irish is the first symphony I have loved seriously. I always wonder how could people nowadays not discovering him! He is a great Irish figure. He is also the teacher of Ralph Williams and Gustav Holst. His symphonies were performed throughout Europe in the late 19th. Gustav Mahler had also conducted his famous symphony no.3. If you have already familiar with or even tired of the repeating performances nowdays, go try out his work! I would certainly recommend his all 7 symphonies, his 6 Irish raphsody, and his choral works! Love live Sir Stanford.

The Contenders

11Gustav Mahler

Mahler is second only to Beethoven in his skill at the symphony. His orchestration bears a rich and complex texture, and there are passages from his fifth, ninth, and tenth symphonies which are some of the most darkly intellectual music ever written. Many of his lieder are also beautifully written. - alexpijanowski

Bach of course should be number one. Mahler didn't respect the formal structure of the symphony, but his music has the breadth and transcendent sweep of greatness.

My favorite. Perhaps not as catchy or as accessible as others, but I love the heavy emotion and slow pace. He makes me cry.

One of THE GREATEST when it comes to symphonies! Powerful and resonant

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12Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel does not only deserve to be on the list, he is the greatest composer ever, TOP 1! I have never seen anybody with such technical perfection, just listen to his piano works, perfect, perfect, perfect!

How is Maurice ravel not on this list with his perfect musical mind he was a master with orchestral coloring and his master piece Daphnis et Chloe
Should be more than enough to prove this

13Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn was born in 1847 in Lepzig, Germany. He is known for his symphonies and organ works. He died at the age of 38 from a stroke. My favorite piece of his is The War March of the Priests.

He composed the most beautiful music I've ever heard. His Violin Concerto in E and the Italian Symphony are simply perfection.

Mendelssohn is one of the most underrated composers when it comes time to make these lists, which is a shame.

His Violin Concerto in E Minor alone makes him one of the very best -- the piece is musical perfection, if such ever existed.

14Franz Liszt

A complete musician in every respect. Composer, conductor, pianist, teacher. A true genius with a mission who brought forth original ideas for the 20th Century to follow. His music although problematic in many cases was truly original and far reaching including his religious music with outstanding form.

I don't know much about all the classical music stuff but I have my memories attached to this one. When I was a child, my favourite episode of looney tunes was the "rhapsody bunny" where buggs plays the masterpiece "hungarian rhapsody" from franz liszt. From that day to present franz became my favourite!

Liszt was one of the greatest composers of all time. Friend of Chopin and student of Beethoven's pupil, Czerny, Franz Liszt popularized Hungarian music through his impressive musical works. He also served as a great teacher to dozens of talented musicians of the next generation.

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15Igor Stravinsky

Composer of the greatest and most influential pieces of all time- The Rite of Spring

Stravinsky's music is unlike anything else.

He's the best of all time, here are my top ten
1. Igor Stravinsky
2. Antonio Vivaldi OHH who cares

16John Williams

Williams is incredibly popular with his film scores. However, how many of the great classical composers in the past wouldn't have given their souls to do film if they had lived in our modern times. One of Williams influences which is all over his more suttle scores is the American great, Aaron Copland, who did touch on film scores. A lot of musicians in todays modern orchestras will owe part of their career to Williams for keeping them employed. God Bless John Williams!

He draw my dreams

17Modest Mussorgsky
18Claude Debussy

He is a genius who is one of the most influential musician of the 20th century who influenced many jazz musician.

He was innovative genius who created some of the most beautiful music ever. I think he is even better than Beethoven or Mozart, because he's music has more feeling and emotion.

I do like tchaikovski, but thinking Debussy so far behind is flabbergasting...

All of the above are great but only Debussy really touch your souls most sensitive fibre.

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19Richard Wagner

Wagner never EVER influenced heavy metal music. If he had ever listened to some of that crap he would've died. The music he composed was used with real musical instruments and coordination. Not electric garbage.

Deserves the first place for the best total work of art to ever grace humanity - Parsifal. The immeasurable depth and solemnity of this work will always lead humanity into heroic...

Wagner was born in 1813 in Leipzig, Germany. He is known for his symphonies and operas. He died at the age of 69 from a heart attack. My favorite piece of his is The Ride of The Valkyries.

Give me a break - the most influential and original opera composer is 24th? Unbelievable. He and Haydn both should be in the top ten.

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20Dmitry Shostakovich

I'm learning a concerto he composed... It's so beautiful. Also, I think gustav holst should be on here for the planets!

The more I listen to his music, the more I fall in love with it. It is so deep and always from his heart. His quartets, symphonies, concertos... All amazing!

The stories of his struggles with the Soviet government is also a pain to read.

The most interesting composer of all time.

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List StatsUpdated 1 Dec 2015

3,000 votes
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2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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2. Ludwig Van Beethoven
3. Franz Schubert
1. Ludwig Van Beethoven
2. Maurice Ravel
3. Frederic Chopin

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