10 Famous Classical Composers You Should Know

Did you know that September is Classical Music Month? So for the next couple of weeks, why not listen to some classical music instead of playing the Top Hits station on Pandora? Here are 10 composers throughout history whose works you should look at.

1. Johann Sebastian Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach is consistently ranked as the greatest classical composer of all time – which is an impressive feat considering the geniuses on that list. Bach mastered every style of music that existed during his day and created over 1100 compositions. He was especially masterful at writing fugues, which even Mozart hated writing. But Bach is perhaps best-known for the “Mass in B minor.” This piece of sacred music is thought by many musicologists to be the greatest work of music ever written. Just let that sink in for a moment.

2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Perhaps history’s best-known most famous child prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was already entertaining European courts at the age of 5 with his piano, violin and composition skills. Mozart would compose 600 pieces over his lifetime, many of which are still considered some of the greatest classical works ever written: his opera The Magic Flute, the Requiem, and “Serenade in G Major.” Mozart was also hugely influential on other great composers throughout history, including many of the people on this list.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a key figure in transitioning from Classical to Romantic music and is considered one of the inventors of the genre. He was also deaf for the last 25 years of his life – but he didn’t let this minor detail stop him from composing some of music’s most enduring masterpieces. Beethoven was almost completely deaf when he composed his famous 9th Symphony, and had to be turned around when he premiered it so he could see the audience applauding. Other famous works by Beethoven include the Moonlight Sonata and that staple of beginner piano recitals, Fur Elise.

4. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was such a big Mozart fan that he wrote a whole orchestral suite dedicated to him. But Russia’s most famous composer makes this list for the ballets he brought to the world: Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty…AKA the only ballets many non-dance fans know.

5. Giuseppe Verdi.

Giuseppe Verdi vowed never to compose again after his wife and children died and his second opera was a failure. Lucky for us, the impresario at La Scala, a Milan opera house, convinced him otherwise. Today, Verdi is regarded as Italy’s best operatic composers with works like La Traviata, Otello and Aida under his belt.

6. Antonio Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer who wrote several works for violin, most famously the violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. But that wasn’t all – in addition to his 500 concertos, Vivaldi also composed sacred choral works and over 40 operas.

7. Frédéric Chopin.

Unlike the other composers on this list, Frédéric Chopin didn’t like or excel at orchestration. The Polish composer instead made a name for himself with his solo piano pieces, innovating nocturnes, etudes and impromptus. Some of his best-known works include “Ballade No. 1 in G minor,” and “Nocturne in E-flat major.”

8. Claude Debussy.

In a musical world governed by strict composition rules, Claude Debussy ignored them all. Modern-day musicologists debate whether Debussy was Modernist or Impressionist – but his contemporary critics and teachers were merely unimpressed. Luckily, the audiences at Debussy’s opera Pelleas et Melisande disagreed. Debussy composed several innovative works throughout his career, including the well-loved “Clair de Lune.”

9. Franz Schubert.

Fran’s Schubert died at 31, surrounded by friends who loved his music – but he didn’t gain fame until years after his death, when his music was discovered by other composers like Johannes Brahms. But that didn’t stop Schubert from composing over 600 vocal works, 7 symphonies, operas and more. He’s especially well-known for his songs and composed the melody of “Ave Maria,” (although it was originally set to a different text).

10. Igor Stravinsky.

Think classical music composers died off in the 1800s? Think again! Widely considered one of the 20th century’s best composers, Igor Stravinsky shot to fame in 1900 with his ballet The Firebird. Stravinsky spent his life composing and influenced genres outside his own, including film, jazz and rock.

Liked this? Check out 9 Real-Life Superheroes Who Promote Literacy!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Did you know that September is Classical Music Month? So for the next couple of weeks, why not listen to some classical music instead of playing the Top Hits station on Pandora? Here are 10 composers throughout history whose works you should look at.

1. Johann Sebastian Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach is consistently ranked as the greatest classical composer of all time – which is an impressive feat considering the geniuses on that list. Bach mastered every style of music that existed during his day and created over 1100 compositions. He was especially masterful at writing fugues, which even Mozart hated writing. But Bach is perhaps best-known for the “Mass in B minor.” This piece of sacred music is thought by many musicologists to be the greatest work of music ever written. Just let that sink in for a moment.

2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Perhaps history’s best-known most famous child prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was already entertaining European courts at the age of 5 with his piano, violin and composition skills. Mozart would compose 600 pieces over his lifetime, many of which are still considered some of the greatest classical works ever written: his opera The Magic Flute, the Requiem, and “Serenade in G Major.” Mozart was also hugely influential on other great composers throughout history, including many of the people on this list.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a key figure in transitioning from Classical to Romantic music and is considered one of the inventors of the genre. He was also deaf for the last 25 years of his life – but he didn’t let this minor detail stop him from composing some of music’s most enduring masterpieces. Beethoven was almost completely deaf when he composed his famous 9th Symphony, and had to be turned around when he premiered it so he could see the audience applauding. Other famous works by Beethoven include the Moonlight Sonata and that staple of beginner piano recitals, Fur Elise.

4. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was such a big Mozart fan that he wrote a whole orchestral suite dedicated to him. But Russia’s most famous composer makes this list for the ballets he brought to the world: Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty…AKA the only ballets many non-dance fans know.

5. Giuseppe Verdi.

Giuseppe Verdi vowed never to compose again after his wife and children died and his second opera was a failure. Lucky for us, the impresario at La Scala, a Milan opera house, convinced him otherwise. Today, Verdi is regarded as Italy’s best operatic composers with works like La Traviata, Otello and Aida under his belt.

6. Antonio Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque composer who wrote several works for violin, most famously the violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. But that wasn’t all – in addition to his 500 concertos, Vivaldi also composed sacred choral works and over 40 operas.

7. Frédéric Chopin.

Unlike the other composers on this list, Frédéric Chopin didn’t like or excel at orchestration. The Polish composer instead made a name for himself with his solo piano pieces, innovating nocturnes, etudes and impromptus. Some of his best-known works include “Ballade No. 1 in G minor,” and “Nocturne in E-flat major.”

8. Claude Debussy.

In a musical world governed by strict composition rules, Claude Debussy ignored them all. Modern-day musicologists debate whether Debussy was Modernist or Impressionist – but his contemporary critics and teachers were merely unimpressed. Luckily, the audiences at Debussy’s opera Pelleas et Melisande disagreed. Debussy composed several innovative works throughout his career, including the well-loved “Clair de Lune.”

9. Franz Schubert.

Fran’s Schubert died at 31, surrounded by friends who loved his music – but he didn’t gain fame until years after his death, when his music was discovered by other composers like Johannes Brahms. But that didn’t stop Schubert from composing over 600 vocal works, 7 symphonies, operas and more. He’s especially well-known for his songs and composed the melody of “Ave Maria,” (although it was originally set to a different text).

10. Igor Stravinsky.

Think classical music composers died off in the 1800s? Think again! Widely considered one of the 20th century’s best composers, Igor Stravinsky shot to fame in 1900 with his ballet The Firebird. Stravinsky spent his life composing and influenced genres outside his own, including film, jazz and rock.

Liked this? Check out 9 Real-Life Superheroes Who Promote Literacy!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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