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 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

Vivaldi is better

V 100 Comments
2 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 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.

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 the best. - kim1001

V 81 Comments
3 Johann Sebastian Bach Johann 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

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

Air on the g string..
Simply perfection

V 76 Comments
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.

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

His music transcends generations. No other composer is so interwoven in popular culture!

V 48 Comments
5 Frederic Chopin 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...

His music is as perfect as Mozart's.

V 32 Comments
6 Antonio Vivaldi 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.

He is just so brilliant!

V 49 Comments
7 Joseph Haydn

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?

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...

I agree. His influence over many musicians is not given the proper respect, in my opinion. I enjoy his piano sonatas immensely!

Haydn's music is a bit overrated in my opinion, but I must admit that he is a solid and inventive composer. - gyandri

V 9 Comments
8 Franz Schubert 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.

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.

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.

He died far too young; just short of his 32nd birthday. It was the 189th anniversary of his death yesterday. (19th November, 2017). - Britgirl

V 10 Comments
9 Johannes Brahms 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.

4th place

V 5 Comments
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.

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.

I think he is the best composer ever.

V 9 Comments

The Contenders

11 Felix Mendelssohn

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.

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.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Italian Symphony, Violin Concerto. wow. (Elijah and Octet too)

V 3 Comments
12 Gustav 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

Mahler's music is like cosmos there is a chaos in his music, he taking his music from world, world not has mathematical melodies or regular voices, there is only "noise" sometimes and world should be like this and this is exactly what mahler do, he is master of "world voices"

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.

Mahller is the best

V 7 Comments
13 Franz Liszt 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.

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!

Very good imagination complex compounent in his play he is my favorit,he is something like alekine in chess

V 10 Comments
14 Maurice Ravel 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.

Though clearly influenced by other contemporaries, he has managed to create a unique voice of exquisite impressionism and colour. His diverse repertoire shows a mastery of all the instruments of the orchestra, and his sense of balance is truly remarkable. Give his string quartet a listen. definitely one of the best.

V 6 Comments
15 John Williams John Williams John Williams (15 April 1903 – 5 May 1983) was an English stage, film and television actor. He is remembered for his role as chief inspector Hubbard in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, as the chauffeur in Sabrina, and as portraying the second "Mr. French" on TV's Family Affair.

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.

John Williams isn't the greatest composer all times, but he is a real chameleon and therefore for sure a top tenner! He used Holst in Star Wars, made olympic hymns based on the greatest classic artists and with sometimes simple tunes he makes total soundtracks of movies. Somehow he manages to make the music he writes his own recogmisable style and keeping the old ways alive. Surely the best alive.


V 4 Comments
16 Modest Mussorgsky

I love his music! Mostly Night on Bald Mountain

Powerful and rich


fat boiii

17 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

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

Igor Stravinsky is a legend! His compositions are so unique. I love him!

Stravinsky's music is unlike anything else.

V 1 Comment
18 Claude Debussy Claude 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...

He's an amazing musician. Mozart might be a good compopser, but he's a very crappy musician.

V 11 Comments
19 Danny Elfman
20 Johann Pachelbel

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

Pachelbel was born in 1653 in Nuremberg, Germany. He is known for writing his major piece Canon in D Major and his organ fugues. He died at the age of 52 from unknown causes. My favorite piece of his is Canon in D Major.

PSearch List

Recommended Lists

Related Lists

Greatest Romantic Classical Composers Top Ten Musicians We Wish We Could Trade to Get Classical Composers Back Top 10 Baroque Period Classical Composers Best Movie Score Composers Greatest Rock / Pop Composers

List Stats

6,000 votes
129 listings
9 years, 164 days old

Top Remixes (36)

1. Johann Sebastian Bach
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
3. Ludwig Van Beethoven
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
2. Ludwig Van Beethoven
3. Franz Schubert
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
2. Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
3. Johann Sebastian Bach

View All 36


Add Post

Error Reporting

See a factual error in these listings? Report it here.