Greatest Classical Composers

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

The Top Ten

1 Ludwig Van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, more.

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

Beethoven was the greatest composer of all time. Mozart was very good too, but he didn't feel his music as much as Beethoven did. Mozart was talented, Beethoven was less talented but he gave more effort to his work he composed because he felt so much pain that words could no longer describe it, so he turned to his music. He saw music as a friend, as someone who would always listen to him, understand him and never leave him. His music saved him. His music was part of him and he was part of music. He composed the 9th Symphony when he was deaf, he couldn't hear a single thing from what he wrote, he imagined it, he had the tune in his head and that's what he could hear. The whole romantic era was named after him, because he changed music from classical to romantic by making low tunes, of course not in his symphonies and all of his orchestral music, there everything is loud then he pauses for a while with calming and soothing tunes and then everything's loud again. The ninth Symphony is ...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. :-)

2 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era, born in Salzburg.

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. "

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.

Georges Bizet quoted: "As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note."

To achieve this purpose as quoted above, one has to keep many things in mind while composing And hence, The intensity of influence of a musical composition is directly proportional to the Scale in which it is written. Perfect the Scale, Perfect the composition. Mozart mastered the art of adopting the perfect scale for a composition. Being able to write accurate scores requiring no editions or transcriptions is not a piece of cake for any human except Mozart. Perfect balance of Dynamics, Articulations, Tempo, Scale, Algorithm of notes are highly reflected in Mozart's polyphonies. One can hear every instrument in his polyphony at any interval when orchestrated as per original score. It's not noisy like Wagner or Verdi, dizzy like Bach or strenuous like Beethoven, its -"just as ...more

Mozart was the greatest composer of his era. Even his tutor/friend Joseph Haydn himself admitted it. Without Mozart, we would not have a Beethoven or anyone else after him if it wasn't for his influential pieces he had wrote during his life.

3 Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor.

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

Chopin may be my favorite composer, but I can not in good sense vote him over Bach.

So much has already been said..."The father of modern music", "The eternal God of harmony"...Without using such poetic language I will just say: Bach knew what he was doing.

The furious, fast, technically complex parts intertwined with mellow, quiet parts...his amazing choral harmonization...It's all there, just like Brahms said.

Some people criticize composers that produce a large amount of compositions, and I can understand why. It can get repetitive, just like any other music. For all the stunning amount of different compositions Bach has written though, it's amazing how much variety there is between them. Bach was also competent at composing music for other instruments besides piano/organ...something that can't be said about many of the supposed "best composers" on this site...

In the end, personal taste and how the music affects you, and only you, will always differ, ...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

As Douglas Adams nicely put it, "Beethoven tells you what it's like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it's like to be human. Bach tells you what it's like to be the universe."

4 Piotr 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.

My favorite of the bunch. His songs evoke more emotion (whatever it may be).

Hands down my favorite composer of all time... For me, music is all about the emotion it brings, and Tchaikovsky's works are the epitome of human emotion being expressed through music. It's energetic, fun, romantic, heartbreaking, furious, triumphant and many other things all at the same time... When I listen to his music, it's almost as if I knew exactly what he was feeling as his composed it

5 Frederic Chopin Frédéric François Chopin (1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as a leading musician of his era, whose "poetic genius more.

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...

He should be at least number 3! Though not an all around composer, he put tons of work into his compositions!

6 Antonio 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.

I love baroque music especially Vivaldi's intricate and decorated masterpieces, his cantatas, endless rich concertos, sinfonia and chamber and opera music have brought me to love his musical style.

Most people who loves classical music knows "4 seasons". But Vivaldi have written hundreds of "concerti", and all of them are masterpieces. What a shame that most of his operas have been lost.

7 Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer. Schubert died before his 32nd birthday, but was extremely prolific during his lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works, seven complete symphonies, sacred music, operas, incidental music more.

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.

A complete master of harmony, rhythm, song and both a-symmetry and symmetry. He was the first composer to invent a whole harmonic texture since Bach and his dark yet childish soul should earn him a spot in the top five at least.

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

8 Joseph Haydn

One of the most under-rated of the great composers, Haydn should be in the top 3. He is the father of the symphony, string quartet, and piano trio, and one of the most important figures in the development of the sonata form. He is also one of the most original (he was not a copycat like Mozart) and creative composers, creating exquisite works from very simple motives. Haydn's work has had an enormous influence on great composers such Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

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?

I, too, believe that Haydn is truly underrated as one of the greats. His body of work is simply breathtaking in its scope and beauty. I also like that Haydn was not afraid to bring humor into his music. Haydn should, in my humble opinion, be in the top 5.

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...

9 Johannes Brahms

For me Brahms's music is the most comforting, warm but unsentimental of all. It has such a rich full bodied sound with beautiful melodies, great variation and satisfying rhythms. His music combines power and gentleness and makes me feel that mankind's propensity for much that is bad and destructive has another uplifting and glorious side in art such as his.

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.

If my enjoyment of classical music is to be the basis of my vote then Brahms would be at or among the top three of the list. His chamber music and that of Schubert are my favorites and I love Ein Dutches Requiem and his vocal music. While the symphonies are all top caliber #4 is hauntingly beautiful for me.

10 George 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.

His music is enjoyable... you have to be a musician to enjoy many others including Bach. I, as a musician likeBach and his fugues as I understand them, most listeners don't. Handel wrote pleasing music, many say fugues are more complexed than grounds, arias etc., so Bach is better, but Handel could write that as well, in fact Handel has written double fugues which take a lot of skill to do well. Beats Purcell due to skill as an organist. I don't like Mozart, as I find it irritating.

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 is without questions the greatest composer ever lived. He integrates Italian and German traditions and defines opera, oratorio becoming symphony and court music. He does not waste a single note written by himself or another and incorporates all arts in his music transcending all cultures and religions.

The Contenders

11 Felix Mendelssohn

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.

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

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.

Wedding March

12 Maurice 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 he not in this list!?

Ravel's pieces are unique in style and absolutely unheard of. At least top 5.

He was the third in my opinion

13 Franz Liszt Franz Liszt was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary.

Among all other piano works, Liszt's stand out in some way or another. (Mostly in difficulty)

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.

His Hungarian Rhapsodies stand out so much compared to any other composers works (apart from chopin and Mozart) especially no.2 which is one of the most famous and dramatic pieces of all time.

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!

14 John Williams

John Williams is great, but this is the wrong picture. This is the actor and not the composer. John Williams (composer) isn't dead either.

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 combines all musical traditions and patterns before him with mastery on melody and it is only thanks to his music that accompanied directors the fall of an other art, cinema, was moved from television age to video game age.

Williams has composed some of the greatest songs to date and even today they haven't swayed in quality one bit.

15 Modest Mussorgsky

If I had to choose only one classical piece of music that I could listen throughout my life, I’d choose Pictures of an Exhibition. These rough, unconventional harmonies, this devotion, dedication and passion strike me each time I listen to them. Of course Ravel orchestrated it in an exceptional manner as well.

I love his music! Mostly Night on Bald Mountain

Powerful and rich


16 Claude Debussy

The music of Claude Debussy is truly incredible and far superior to that of any other composer. Every piece of his provokes real feeling and emotion, which is a quality I have yet to find in any other composer. Debussy was an absolute genius. (I honestly do not understand why Beethoven is ranked first on this list. His music is a slipshod pile of careless ideas and concepts rather than anything real.)

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

Come on! Why is Claude Debussy rated below both Ravel AND Beethoven? You guys are all crazy.

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.

17 Danny Elfman

An amazingly talented composer whose endearing, often invigorating and sometimes even very moving compositions stay with you long after the movie has ended. You find yourself singing his pieces some time later from just hearing them once. His works are in modern day animated classics like Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride as well as countless other live action movies and animated features.

Tim Burton's go-to guy for film composing.

18 Johann Pachelbel

It's a shame everybody only knows one piece by him. But I think that one will be known and played as long as there are humans.

His Canon in D minor just touches my soul its very soulful

Pachelbel's Canon in D is AMAZING!

I enjoy playing his canon in D

19 Scott Bradley

Not only a composer but also a master arranger. The fact he turned Manhattan Serenade into a trilling finale involving Jerry Mouse being chased out of New York shows his brilliance in the Tom and Jerry short Mouse in Manhattan.

Not the first composer many think of in this genre but his music for the old school Tom and Jerry cartoons is sure as hell distinctive.

This man did the music for the old MGM cartoons.

20 Sergei Prokofiev

Marvelous composer!. Listen to the fifth symphony only the second movement. That describes his style.

The score of Romeo and Juliet will make you cry.

He may not be the best... But he is my favourite!

Romeo and Juliet will make you want to cry.

21 Ennio Morricone Ennio Morricone, Grand Officer OMRI is an Italian composer, orchestrator, conductor, and former trumpet player.

If God exists, himself dwells in Morricone's Music

Watch Once Upon a Time in the West

22 Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky succeeded in making a name for himself by defying conventions of many of the composers before him. Granted, he lived in an era different from that of Mozart or Bach or Beethoven, where secular music as a whole was frowned upon. However, riots broke out when said composer debuted Rite of Spring. That's saying something. In a more subjective lens, I can say that I appreciate Stravinsky's conventions much more. I like the idea of dangerous orchestral music. When you listen to the likes of Tchaikovsky, it's more pleasant and safe-sounding. Stravinsky still proves that he can have those moments though. but with much more passion, power, and elegance. The Finale of the Firebird Suite exemplifies this. I can hear Stravinsky's influence in modern music. Aaron Copland cites him as his primary inspiration, for one. But I hear a similar intensity in more modern music as well. Stravinsky has seeped his way into the atmospheric winds sections in Sufjan Stevens songs, as well as into the ...more

Stravinsky is the best composer of all. He was the first in music to do what other composers were afraid to do or could not because of their lack of innovative talent. Stravinsky was precisely the creator. He was the most daring and insanely innovative composer. Today, other composers imitate Stravinsky. All the music of Hollywood movie thrillers is written based on Stravinsky's “Sacred Spring”.

The man who got me into the world of classical music, Stravinsky was an absolute madlad within his era. When's the last time that you heard of a piece that managed to cause an audience to almost spontaneously riot? This definitely never happened in the classical era, as any composer who broke from the norm was instantly labeled as a joke.

Stravinsky has also shown that ballet does not simply consist of simple dances done in 4/4 or 3/4 or any other simpler meter, but instead can be one of the upmost forms of expression available. His Big Three Ballets (The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, and Petrushka) are very rarely too closely reminiscent to the ballets of Tchaikovsky (like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker).

The diversity of Stravinsky's music is also something to behold, as his instrumentations are rich and full, just as compositions by Beethoven, Camille Saint-Saens (most notably Danse macabre), Modest Mussorgsky, and Paul Dukas (most notably The Sorcerer's Apprentice). ...more

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

23 Alexandre Desplat

I consider myself a classical fan but I haven't ever heard of 8 out of the top 50. Why is this? Because there are few votes on the list and everyone can push his favorite underground composer to the first page

24 Alexei Stanchinsky
25 Giuseppe Verdi

A true heir to Mozart genius when it comes to Opera. He probably reached the highest combination of classical elegance and deep emotional bursts. The greatest dramatic composer, he just has to be on the top ten list.

Giuseppe Verdi can't be 16 in the ranking. He deserves at least a top 8

How this Italian genius cannot be included in the top 10

Verdi is arguably the best opera composer. His Requiem is beautiful. He should be placed much higher.

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