25 of the Most Celebrated Composers In History

Posted by , Updated on December 8, 2016

If it weren’t for music we would undoubtedly have a very dull existence. The way it affects emotion, moods, and conveys ideas make it one of the most powerful and intimate artistic mediums in the world. We identify with the music we like and through it feel a connection with the people who wrote it. Although we all have our personal tastes there are some pieces and genres that are almost objectively above the rest. These are the men behind those pieces. These are 25 of the most celebrated composers in history.

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25

Ludwig van Beethoven

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Beethoven started going deaf at the turn of the century and it became sadly apparent that he could not always hear what he played. After 1819, all conversations with him had to be written down.

24

Antonio Vivaldi

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Like Mozart, Vivaldi died in poverty, in an unmarked grave. Both composers were similar in how they achieved greatness in their composition and popularity, yet failed to secure financial greatness.

23

Aaron Copland

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Instrumental in forging a distinctly American style of composition, he was widely known as “the dean of American composers”.

22

Franz Joseph Haydn

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Anyone who can write 108 symphonies makes this list.

21

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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Interesting fact: he hated writing The Nutcracker, undoubtedly his most famous work.


20

Carl Nielson

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Undoubtedly Denmark’s most famous composer he went against his roots and added foreign, romantic flavors to his music.

19

Gustav Mahler

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Sometimes called “the symphonist of death”, he only wrote 9 complete symphonies, all of which are centered around death and the afterlife.

18

Johannes Brahms

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One of the finest musical craftsmen of all time, he wrote 4 symphonies which are among the most recorded repertoire ever.

17

Franz Liszt

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Liszt was the greatest pianist of all time. He sightread Grieg’s Piano Concerto, playing it perfectly the first time.

16

Modest Mussorgsky

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Well known for his smash hit, Night on Bald Mountain, which is the #3 most recorded orchestral piece in history.

15

Frederic Chopin

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As a pianist, Chopin was ranked among the greatest artists of his epoch, such as Kalkbrenner, Liszt, Thalberg and Herz, but, in contrast to them, he disliked public performances and appeared rarely and rather unwillingly.

14

Leonard Bernstein

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His incredibly popular West Side Story combines Jazz, Classical, Puerto Rican and Romantic elements. How could he not make the list?

13

Franz Schubert

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Sometimes called the greatest songwriter of all time.

12

Dmitri Shostakovich

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Shostakovich himself got into trouble with the goverment for his opera ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’ (he was made an “Enemy of the People”). They said it was ‘coarse, primitive and vulgar’ and it was banned for almost 30 years!

11

Richard Wagner

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In spite of his supposedly less than amiable personality he managed to write the single most famous masterpiece in opera history: The Ring Cycle.

10

Gyorgy Ligeti

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A Hungarian-born composer who stands out from the rest of the post-war European avant-garde.

9

Johann Sebastian Bach

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He perfected every style of music which existed in his day.

8

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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The most gifted musical genius in history, the most famous genius in any field in history, and the perfecter of Classical music had to make the list.

7

John Williams

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Williams places above Mozart on this list simply because he is more recent – relatable to modern times – and he wrote the single highest grossing film score ever: Star Wars.

6

Alexander Scriabin

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This Russian was born with synesthesia, an extremely rare mental condition where a color is associated with music.

5

Steven Schwartz

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His musical Wicked grossed $56 million its first year on Broadway.

4

Igor Stravinsky

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If you have an hour to spare, listen to The Rite of Spring, then you’ll understand. At its premier in 1913, people were so upset by its dissonant harmonies, obtuse rhythms, and the fact that the story is of a young girl dancing herself to death, that the most infamous riot in France’s history was started.

3

Bela Bartok

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Some say he was the first great ethnomusicologist, and he also pioneered many new string playing techniques.

2

Ennio Morricone

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Although he did not ever have as big a hit as John Williams’ Star Wars, Morricone has been named the most successful movie soundtrack composer ever by several musicologists.

1

Andrew Lloyd Webber

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The most successful and popular composer in history. His career on Broadway culminated in the 1986 premier of The Phantom of the Opera, which has gone on to become the most popular piece of entertainment of any kind in history, still touring throughout the world to this day. Throughout its 27 year lifespan, The Phantom of the Opera has grossed more than $5.6 billion and been seen by more than 130 million people.

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