Top 10 Classical Music Composers of All Time

Major composers like Guillaume Dufay, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Franz Joseph Haydn had a great influence on the musicians of their times and the next eras. They were the most famous composer of the Renaissance era, the Romantic era, and the Baroque era respectively.

Classical music was categorized according to the era they were produced in. It started in the 14th Century with the Medieval Era which was later followed by various other Eras like the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modernist eras. Now, we all are in the 21st Century classical music era.

Here is the list of top 10 classical composers of all time with their details.

10. Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685 – 1750 )

Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685 - 1750 )
Most Famous Song:Toccata and Fugue ( D minor )
Type of Music:Baroque

Johann Sebastian Bach( 1685 – 1750 ) was born into an established musical family of Germany. He started his music career getting inspired by his elder brother – Johann Ambrosius Bach.

Getting enrolled in a musical school, St.Michael’s, at the age of 15 helped him to get plenty of ideas about music as he got a chance to explore a broader range of music. Bach got knowledge about Italian, European, and German classical music during his school days.

Being a disciplined, well-trained, committed, and an exact musician, he gained popularity at an early age in the music career and was admired by all of his contemporaries.

Composing various famous songs like The Well-Tempered Clavier, Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1007 -1012, and Suites for Unaccompanied made him one of the greatest classical composers of his time. Still, the most celebrated composition of his was Toccata and Fugue which was composed in D minor.

Bach married Anna Magdalena and Maria Barbara Bach, and he had 20 children – 7 with his first wife – Anna, 13 with his second wife – Maria.

9. Ludwig Van Beethoven  ( 1770 – 1827 )

Ludwig Van Beethoven ( 1770 - 1827 )
Most Famous Song:Symphony No. 9
Type of Music:Romantic

Ludwig Van Beethoven ( 1770 – 1827), born to a rigorous father, got his first piano lessons when he was 5 years and since then he showed a keen interest in music and became a professional at the age of 11.

Despite his talent and interest in music, he could not make his path towards music easily due to his family issues. After the death of his mother and his father becoming an alcoholic, he had to be the head of the house and raise his younger brothers at an early age.

After a few years of struggle, he moved to Vienna and got a chance to study music from great masters and started composing all his significant songs including a set of keyboard variations (WoO 63) and Kurfurst.

From the age of 26, Beethoven started losing his hearing but kept it as a secret to avoid facing insults. Even after he was deaf, he continued composing and at the age of 54 (1824), he composed his most famous classic works of all time – Symphony No. 9. 

Besides this, he had numerous other significant compositions including Piano Sonata No.14, Symphony No.5, Fur Elise, and Violin Concerto.

8. Johannes Brahms ( 1833 – 1897)

Johannes Brahms ( 1833 - 1897)
Most Famous Song:The Two Sets of Hungarian Dances
Type of Music:Romantic

Johannes Brahms(1833- 1897), born in Germany, got his first musical training at the age of 10 from his father, Johann Jakob who was wind and a string player. 

Though he started composing at an early age, he did not keep all his compositions as he felt they were straightforward and embarrassing. Later, got introduced to gipsy and folk music which led to composing kinds of music which had Eastern-European influences.

During his time in Vienna due to his excellent knowledge of music, he was appointed as the conductor of the Singakademie. He also became the director of the concerts of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

After composing numerous significant compositions including four symphonies, piano concertos, violin concertos, the tragic overture, and his most famous work – The two sets of Hungarian dances, Brahms announced his retirement at the age of 57. Despite his public announcement, it is considered that he kept on composing until his death.

7. Claude Debussy ( 1862- 1918)

Claude Debussy ( 1862- 1918)
Most Famous Song:Clair De Lune
Type of Music:Contemporary Impression and Symbol

Claude Debussy ( 1862- 1918 ) was born in Paris but had to move to Cannes due to Franco – Prussian war, and since then he started his piano lessons and got very involved in music.

At the age of 18 – 20, Debussy played duets with Nadezhda von Meck and started composing. With enough practice and keen interest, he was able to become one of the most influential classical composers of the 19 – 20th Century. 

Starting new music of sensation, colours, and variety of moods, Debussy managed to develop a highly original system of harmony and musical structure. Even the impressionist and symbolist painters began to relate and share specific characteristics with his compositions.

With numerous significant works including La Mer, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Opera Pelleas et Melisande, and his most famous composition- Clair De lune, Claude Debussy became the most celebrated composers of all time.

Claude Debussy was married to Emma Bardac and Rosalie Texier and had one daughter, Claude-Emma Debussy.

6. John Sheppard ( 1515 – 1558 )

John Sheppard ( 1515 - 1558 )
Most Famous Song:Missa Cantate
Type of Music:Renaissance music

John Sheppard ( 1515 – 1558 ), an English composer is considered to be the most famous music writer and composer of his era. He started his career at an early age and appeared in front of the audiences at his late twenties.

With composing varieties of music from Angelican music during the reign of King Edward to a Mass, he proved himself to be an efficient musician with talents and composed various Motets, Sacred music, Anthems, Psalms, and Magnificat.

Sheppard joined the choir of the Chapel Royal and worked there till his death. He was a respected musician, who is being praised even after 40 years of him passing away. 

Some of his significant works include – the most famous composition Missa Cantate, The Lord’s Prayer, Adesto Sancta Trinitas ( II ), Beati Omnes, Cantate Mass, and Christ our Paschal Lamb.

5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Most Famous Song:The Magic Flute
Type of Music:Romantic, Contemporary, and Baroque ( Versatile composer )

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( 1756 – 1791 ) was one of the greatest composers of the Baroque Era, who was considered as the most versatile musician of his time. He had a composition in almost all genre: romantic, contemporary, and Baroque.

Started playing and writing music from a very early age he established his career as a child prodigy. His father took him all around for almost three years, including the palace to let make him perform in front of the crowd and make him renowned.

With time, he moved to Vienna and started teaching himself to compose and create music even better and being a philosopher, produced an Enlightenment with a belief of healing the world through the power of music. He is considered to be a musical genius of his time.

Some of the significant work of Mozart include Symphony No. 40, Piano Concerto No. 21, The Magic Flute, and The Marriage of Figaro. Out of which, The Magic Flute was the most celebrated composition of him.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart married Constanze Mozart and had six children, of whom only 2 survived infancy. He died in 1791 at the age of 35.

4. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Most Famous Song:London Symphonies
Type of Music:Baroque

Franz Joseph Haydn ( 1732 – 1809 ), born in a simple family, had a musical talent from an early age. He has trained at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna as a choirboy.

Being a notorious child his deeds made him isolated which led to him getting no source of inspiration for making music, which is why he became an original and established the formats of classical music which lasted for over a century.

Due to his originality, he was given the title of Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. He also had a pivotal role on the concerto, piano trio, and piano sonata.

With the composition of some brilliant music including Symphony No. 92, London symphonies – his most celebrated composition, Emperor Quartet, and Cello Concerto No. 2, he was considered a prolific composer.

Franz Joseph Haydn was married to Joseph Haydn and had a son, Alois Anton Nikolaus Polzelli.

3. Guillaume Dufay ( 1397-1474)

Guillaume Dufay
Most Famous Song:Se la face ay pale
Type of Music:Renaissance

Guillaume Dufay ( 1397 – 1474 ) was one of the most celebrated composers of the 15th Century and was associated with creating a bridge between medieval and renaissance periods.

During his time of travelling around France and Italy, he met with the d’Este family who supported him financially and gave him an opportunity to learn and create varieties of music.

Composing fully refined and restrained music and executing them perfectly, he was able to take Italian music to a new and fresh genre. Skilled in creating music of every genre, he composed various music that became the most celebrated ones during his time.

Dufay composed numerous hymns, motets, chansons, ballades, and masses. Some of his greatest compositions include Vergene Bella, Se la face ay pale,  Maris Stella, Missa l’Homme Armé 1., and Flos Florum, of them all Se la face ay pale was the most famous work of Dufay.

2. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840 – 1893)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Most Famous Song:Sleeping Beauty
Type of Music:Romantic

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840 -1893 ) was born in Russia and performed for the first time at the age of 25.

Though he was a trained civil servant, he is considered the most popular Russian composer of the Romantic era with a wide range of music from ballet to orchestra. 

His first hit was the ballet on the Sleeping Beauty, which was able to earn numerous appreciation worldwide. Another hit was the Nutcracker but it was not complemented well by the critics.

Along with the ballets and overture, Pyotr also composed various Piano and Violin concertos which too were able to achieve huge fame and he was considered as the most diligent classical composers of his era and was awarded an honorary degree from Cambridge University ( 1893 ).

Some of his most significant works include Romeo – Juliet overture, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Eugene Onegin, Swan Lake, The Seasons, Violin Concerto, and Sleeping Beauty.

1. Franz Schubert ( 1797 – 1828)

Franz Schubert ( 1797 - 1828)
Most Famous Song:Erlkonig
Type of Music:Romantic

Franz Schubert ( 1797 – 1828 ) was born in Vienna and took music classes at his father’s school from an early age. 

Antonio Salieri, a renowned musical master, noticed Schubert and his talent as a vocalist and got him a scholarship at the Stag Convict School at the age of 11. Since then, Schubert started pursuing his music career seriously.

With various compositions written at an early age, he got a chance to lead a symphony at the school and got special treatment from Salieri due to his talent. At the age of 17, he started teaching at his father’s school but did not continue for long. 

Instead, he started composing tons of music and got introduced to the Viennese music scene by his friend, Vogel and started playing music at private parties. Later, he came up with music which had a combination of interiority and melody.

Various significant compositions, including Ave Maria, Erlkonig, Winterreise, Impromptus, Symphony No. 8, and Die Forelle had him express himself most precisely and with the expression of all human experiences. He was one of the most influential classical music composers of all time with his impactful compositions.

Conclusion:

All of the musicians and composers contributed and influenced the artists of their era and many more to come.

With the masterpieces from these masterminds, people of all ages get to enjoy the melodious -romantic- contemporary combinations throughout their lives. 

Some of the other significant composers besides the ones mentioned above include Clement Janequin, Cristóbal de Morales, Pierre de La Rue, Johann Jakob Froberger, and Arcangelo Corelli.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Top 10 Classical Music Composers of All Time," in HistoryTen, March 6, 2020, https://historyten.com/arts/classical-music-composers-of-all-time/.
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