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Best Classical Composers List P to Z

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Best Classical ComposersBornDiedWorks, Loves, Life: a short biography of all composers
Pfitzner, HansMay 5, 1869 in MoscowMay 22, 1949 in SalzburgPfitzner was born in Moscow, but his parents were German and he lived and worked for a long time in Berlin and Munich. His most famous oratorio is entitled “Of German Soul”. His emotional music comes from the deepest depths of the soul and it is no coincidence that his oratorio texts are based on the great romantic poet Eichendorff.
Prokofiev, SergeiApril 23, 1891 in Bachmut (UKR)March 5, 1953 in MoscowThe Ukrainian prodigy Prokofiev’s first compositions were at the age of 5. He grew up in an uncertain political era that forced him early on into a troubled emigrant’s existence. He fled into exile to Chicago during the October Revolution where his opera “The Love for Three Oranges” and his third piano concerto premiered. After a few years in Paris, he finally returned to his homeland in 1936 where he composed the musical tale “Peter and the Wolf” (initiated by Natalia Saz) and the opera “War and Peace”. Prokofiev was an extremely versatile composer who addressed almost all genres of neoclassical, modern and in parts lyrical music.
Puccini, GiacomoDecember 22, 1858 in Lucca (IT)November 29, 1924 in BrusselsHis enthusiasm for Verdi and his opera “Aida” fueled Puccini’s desire to become a composer. He naturally oriented it on Verdi’s music, but preferred texts with emotional plots and composed insinuating melodies that found favor throughout the world. Even today, his works are enthusiastically performed in concert halls everywhere, especially “La Bohème”, “Tosca”, “Madame Butterfly” and “Turandot”, which only premiered 2 years after his death. Puccini died after an ear operation in Brussels. His surgeon was so shocked by his sudden death that he ran over a woman on the way home. He is one of the best classical composers of all time.
Rachmaninoff, SergeiJanuary 4, 1873 in Staraya Russa (RUS)March 28, 1943 in Beverly Hills (USA)Rachmaninoff grew up in the country and moved to St. Petersburg with his family in 1882. There his mother recognized his talent for the piano and sent him to study in Moscow at the age of 12. While still a student he composed the opera “Aleko” and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor. Around 1900/1901 he wrote his most famous work, the Piano Concerto No. 2, Op 18 in C minor. He fled (with his compatriot Prokofiev) to America during the October Revolution into exile, but there lacked “Russian inspiration” for more great compositions. After spending time in Switzerland (1930-39), he died three days before his 70th birthday in Beverly Hills.
Ravel, MauriceJuly 3, 1875 in Ciboure (F)December 28, 1937 in ParisMaurice Ravel is one of the masters of chamber music. The Frenchman was influenced by his compatriot Debussy. His music is elegant, cultured, witty and sometimes even funny. Ravel is skilled in a subtle mood painting. Sometimes he draws on the old French masters, sometimes he takes motifs from the folk music of his homeland in the Pyrenees. But he transforms everything into modernity and its own style. Ravel is often wrongly reduced to merely the “Bolero”.
Reger, MaxMarch 19, 1873 near WeidenNovember 11, 1916 in LeipzigReger was one of the great innovators of classical music. He rejected music with emotional sentiments and returned to the strict and genuine style of Johann Sebastian Bach, attempting to make his musical elements a new “experience” for the the present. In addition to organ, choral and orchestral works, he wrote 231 songs. The best-known being those characterized by a folkie-simplicity and warmth such as “Mary’s Lullaby”.
Rossini, GioachinoFebruary 29, 1792 in Pesaro (IT)November 13, 1868 in Paris-PassyRossini is most famous for his operas. He composed his first when he was only fourteen though it was not staged until his 20th year. His best-known operas are the comedies “The Barber of Seville” and “La Cenerentola”. From 1824 until 1829 he lived in Paris where he created William Tell – his 38th opera. Subsequently returning to his father in Bologna, his output diminished considerably until his death in 1868. He was an enthusiastic chef and even today, some “alla Rossini” dishes are attributed to him.
Schoenberg, ArnoldSeptember 13, 1874 in ViennaAugust 14, 1951 in Los AngelesSchoenberg became famous for his invention of twelve-tone music. This is so-called “atonal music”, which isn’t confined by a key signature or scale. Any of the 12 tones can be used in any way which can sound chaotic to anyone not used to it but became a highly significant movement in the 20th century. Schoenberg moved to America in 1933 when the Nazis took over where he stayed until he died.
Schubert, FranzJanuary 31, in ViennaNovember 19, 1828 ViennaSymphonies, songs, masses, dances, operas – Franz Schubert composed them all despite dying far too early at the age of just 31. His chamber music is particularly significant exemplified by his very well-known piano “Trout Quintet”. Some of his chamber music is reminiscent of Beethoven, whose work Schubert highly respected. Beethoven returned the compliment and once said “verily, in Schubert dwells a divine spark!
Schumann, RobertJune 8, 1810 in ZwickauJuly 29, 1856 in Endenich/BonnSchumann created piano concertos, string quartets, oratorios, operas and symphonies, but of particular merit are his songs which he based on poems by Eichendorff, Rückert and Heinrich Heine and set to music. He was married to Clara Schumann (1819-1896) who was also an excellent musician and had a great influence on his life and work.
Smetana, BedřichMarch 2, 1824 Litomysl, BohemiaDecember 5, 1884 in PragueMost people associate Smetana with the opera “The Bartered Bride”, but this comic opera is not actually very typical of the Czech composer’s work. He was of a more serious nature and more dedicated to greater and sublime sounds. These can be found in his symphonic poems and cycles (e.g. “The Moldau” from “My Fatherland”), and his songs and choruses. In 1874 he suffered from tinnitus and subsequently went deaf but continued to compose for many years until he was admitted to a mental asylum in 1884 where he died later the same year. He expressed his suffering in his string quartet entitled “From My Life”.
Strauss II, JohannOctober 25, 1825 St. Ulrich, ViennaJune 3, 1899 in ViennaJohann Strauss II was the most famous son of a traditional Viennese musical family which included his father (also Johann) and his brothers (Josef and Eduard). He wrote so many waltzes (among others, the Danube Waltz, Emperor Waltz, Voices of Spring, Stories from the Vienna Woods) that he earned the nickname “The Waltz King”. His other great passion was composing operettas such as “The Bat”, “A Night in Venice”, “The Gypsy Baron” and “Wiener Blut” (Viennese Blood). Strauss’ operettas are – like his waltze – full of life and engaging.
Strauss, RichardJune 11, 1864 in MunichSeptember 8, 1949 in Garmisch-ParteRichard Strauss is one of the most important German opera composers. Among others, he is responsible for the operas “Salome”, “Elektra”, “Ariadne auf Naxos” and “The Woman without a Shadow”. Strauss’s music is timely and yet highly dramatic. It is often full of passion and pathos, but sometimes cheerful, like his opera “Der Rosenkavalier” (The Knight of the Rose), which is probably the reason he became so popular.
Strawinsky, IgorJune 17, 1882 in Oranienbaum near St. PetersburgApril 6, 1971 in New YorkStravinsky adopted much of the Russian folk song tradition in his music. His works were initially simple with primitive melodies and atonal. After he moved to Paris, he adapted more to the Western European style and his work became more polished, clear and rhythmic. He made chamber music, symphonies, oratorios, operas and ballets. His most famous work is the ballet “The Firebird”. He fled to the US in 1940 and died in 1971 in New York.
Tschaikowsky, Peter IlyichMay 7, 1840 in VotkinskNovember 6, 1893 in St. PetersburgSon of a Russian father and a French mother, Tchaikovsky composed seven symphonies, the best known being the sixth; “Pathétique”. He also wrote operas, ballets (“Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker”), chamber music and songs. He died unexpectedly at the age of 53 years in St. Petersburg. The cause of death is still unknown but thought to be cholera. He belongs to the best classical composers of all time.
Verdi, GiuseppeOctober 10 , 1813 in Le Roncole, ParmaJanuary 27, 1901 in MilanThe Italian opera composer Verdi had to cope with numerous failures and private blows at the beginning of his career. Persevering and energetic as he was, he still came out on top and eventually became a master that the whole world celebrates. Verdi’s operas are lively, dramatic and passionate. The best known being “Nabucco”, “Rigoletto”, “Aida”, “La Traviata” and “Falstaff”. He was politically active and contributed in no small way to the reunification of the Italian peninsula. Verdi died of a stroke at the ripe old age of 87. In his final years he founded a retirement home for musicians and artists in Milan where his body also rests today. Verdi belongs to the best classical composers ever.
Vivaldi, AntonioApril 3, 1678 in VeniceJuly 28, 1741 in ViennaVivaldi’s name is inevitably linked to his “Four Seasons”, the famous 4 violin concerts that originated around 1725 and contributed to his rediscovery in the 20th century. Vivaldi was also known as “the red priest” on account of his vocation and hair color. Among other things, he wrote more than 240 violin and 39 bassoon concertos and 49 operas during his lifetime. Many are now almost forgotten, but were very popular in their day. In many of his works, he preferred a lively musical sequence; quick, slow, quick.
Wagner, RichardMay 22, 1813 in LeipzigFebruary 13, 1883 in VeniceWagner’s operas are characterized by the fact that they are not only compositions, but also poems of note. He focused on German legends and medieval literature setting them to music that is powerful and dramatic, and which symbolically express the human struggle. His principal works are “Tannhäuser”, “Lohengrin“, “The Ring of the Nibelung”, “Tristan and Isolde” and “Parsifal”. Wagner was born in Leipzig and spent many years on the run from his creditors. To further his own career, he smeared the Jewish composer Mendelssohn’s work writing (originally anonymously) that “Jewish music is bereft of all expression”. One reason why Nazis took to him. He died in Venice but lives on in the epicenter of his legacy today at the Bayreuth Festival. Wagner belongs to the best classical composers ever.
Weber, Carl Maria vonDecember 18, 1786 in EutinJune 5, 1826 in LondonWeber is best known for his operas “Der Freischütz”, “Euryanthe” and “Oberon”. His music is folksy and romantic which was typical for his day. He died at the early age of 40 in London. 18 years after his death, his remains were moved to Dresden at Richard Wagner’s instigation.
Wolf, HugoMarch 13, 1860 in Windisch-GratzFebruary 22, 1903 in ViennaHugo Wolf was a sensitive composer. Among others, he set especially the poems of Goethe, Moerike, Eichendorff and Gottfried Keller to music along with some Spanish and traditional Italian poetry. In some ways, his works are reminiscent of Schumann’s music who, coincidentally, died like Wolf; mentally deranged.

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