classical composers list

Classical Composers List

Classical Composers List A-Z By Classical Eras

ADDucation’s list of famous classical composers includes composers spanning music eras from the Baroque era (1590-1760), through the Classical era (1730-1820) and Romantic era (1815-1914) and Modernist era (1890-1950) into the 21st century around the world.

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Classical ComposersBornBirthplaceNationalityDiedWhere DiedClassical EraMini Biographies of Classical Composers
Bach, Johann Sebastian21 Mar 1685Eisenach, Germany.German.28 Jul 1750Leipzig, Germany.Baroque.Bach was the youngest child in a family of musicians, born in Eisenach, Germany, where he served as cantor in a nearby school in Leipzig. Bach’s Peasant cantata, Coffee cantata and Shepherd cantata, his musical cycle The Art of Fugue and his numerous oratorios were all very popular. The festive season wouldn’t be the same without Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio playing on the radio or in concert. The musical oeuvre of this master classical composer is monumental.
Beethoven, Ludwig van17 Dec 1770Bonn, Germany.German.26 Mar 1827Vienna, Austria.Classical.Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn but lived mainly in Vienna. Beethoven’s piano pieces; Für Elise and Rage over a Lost Penny, string quartets, nine symphonies and Fidelio, his only opera, established him as one of the most famous classical composers. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and his Ninth Symphony, which he composed after he became deaf, sounds like a hymn to joy and is today’s European anthem. Beethoven’s Third Symphony, later renamed Eroica, was originally dedicated to Napoleon after his invasion of Russia, was  also popular.
Bizet, Georges25 Oct 1838Paris, France.French.3 Jun 1875Bougival, Paris, France.Romantic.The Parisian Georges Bizet was probably one of the biggest provocateurs of his time. Bizet’s early works didn’t overly appeal to audiences at the time and Carmen, his last opera, was initially derided as disreputable and immoral but gained worldwide popularity shortly after his death. The plot of Carmen must have been shocking to audiences at that time: An erotically liberal woman with an unbridled lust for life who turned the heads of many a man, with smugglers, soldiers, gypsies, embodying the petty-bourgeois milieu, all staged in an anarchic and provocative fashion. Bizet died just a few months after its first performance aged 36.
Brahms, Johannes7 May 1833Hamburg, Germany.German.3 Apr 1897Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Johannes Brahms hails from Hamburg in North Germany and, like many musicians at the time, adopted Vienna as his new home. Brahms’ creations are extremely versatile including chamber music, songs (e.g. the famous lullaby Guten Abend, gute Nacht – Good evening, good night), choral pieces, and Hungarian dances. Brahms was especially renowned for his four symphonies, characterized by their freedom and complexity, to secure his place as one of the best classical composers in history.
Bruckner, Anton4 Sep 1824Ansfelden, Austria.Austrian.11 Oct 1896Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Josef Anton Bruckner began his musical career as a choirboy in the monastery of St. Florian in Austria. Bruckner became the cathedral organist in Linz because of his musical abilities. As a composer Bruckner was an admirer and emulator of Richard Wagner. Bruckner is known mostly for his symphonies in which the wind instruments play a major role. They are always characterized by festive, glorious, and especially devout motifs.
Chopin, Frederic22 Feb 1810Żelazowa Wola, Duchy of Warsaw, Poland.Polish.17 Oct 1849Paris, France.Romantic.Frédéric François Chopin’s grave is in Paris, but his monument in Warsaw is his home. It’s symbolic of this classical composer whose father came from France and his mother from Poland. Chopin’s lived and worked mainly in Paris. His strength lies less in large-scale compositions, but more in small solo pieces. Chopin’s instrument was the piano and he was known as the “poet of the piano”. Although many of Chopin’s works are technically difficult solo pieces he also wrote two piano concertos. Chopin had a long-term relationship with French author George Sand.
Debussy, Claude22 Aug 1862Saint-Germain, France.French.26 Mar 1918Paris, France.Modernist.(Achille) Claude Debussy was one of the most famous French classical composers. The second half of the 19th century saw the beginnings of the Impressionist movement and artists whose images were dissolved and bathed in sparkling, bright splashes of color. So it was, too with music. Impressionism had the effect of making the music airy, light and elegant. Debussy was a prominent representative of this trend and perfected this art movement in his piano concertos.
Dvořák, Antonin8 Sep 1841Nelahozeves, near Prague, Czech Republic.Czech.1 May 1904Prague, Czech Republic.Romantic.Antonín Leopold Dvořák had a special relationship to chamber music. Dvořák drew on the folk music of his country, but gave the works a classic form. Dvořák loved clarity and informality and always had new musical ideas. Initially Dvořák struggled to get his ideas across but after he was appointed professor, and later director, of the Prague Conservatory he enjoyed more success. Dvořák spent several years in New York during which time he composed his famous Symphony No. 9 in E minor, also known as the New World Symphony. Johannes Brahms was highly instrumental in disseminating his compositions.
Egk, Werner17 May 1901Auchsesheim, Donauwörth, Germany.German.10 Jul 1983Inning, Germany.Modernist.Werner Egk (Werner Joseph Mayer) is amongst the very best modern orchestra musicians. Egk’s music is often dramatically powerful but can also be exceedingly tender, lyrical and moving. Egk’s best known works are The magic violin, Peer Gynt and Joan of Zarissa. Egk also created the choral work Columbus and the ballet Abraxas. Egk, born in Donauwörth, was a Bavarian through and through and died, aged 82, in Inning on Lake Ammer.
Handel, George Frideric23 Feb 1685Halle, Germany.German / English14 Apr 1759London, England.Baroque.George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany. Handel composed and wrote operas, including Agrippina, which well received, especially in Italy and England, but Handel was best known for his oratorios, choral and orchestral works (Water Music) which glorified figures from the Old Testament. Handel’s most significant oratory is the Messiah, which was first performed in England, where Handel spent many years of his life. At the climax of the Hallelujah piece, the audience collectively stood up, a practice which is still happens at performances in England today.
Haydn, Joseph31 Mar 1732Rohrau, Austria.Austrian.31 May 1809Vienna, Austria.Classical.Franz Joseph Haydn is one of the greatest classical composers of all time. After Haydn had already made a name for himself with symphonies, piano sonatas and string quartets, he went on to create two oratorios which are now considered his greatest works. In Creation Haydn lauds the creator and his great work: The earth and mankind. In the Seasons he sings the praises of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Haydn’s music, despite its seriousness is also joyful.
Hindemith, Paul16 Nov 1895Hanau, Germany.German.28 Dec 1963Frankfurt, Germany.Neoclassical.Paul Hindemith, like Schoenberg, was a representative of modern atonal music. Hindemith’s music ties in with Johann Sebastian Bach and his counterpoint in quite a novel way, that is point to point, or note against note. Hindemith’s most famous works are; The Life of Mary and his opera Mathis der Maler (Mathis the Painter).
Lehar, Franz30 Apr 1870Komárom, Hungary.Hungarian.14 Oct 1948Bad Ischl, Austria.Romantic.Franz Lehar was originally a violinist and military bandmaster but his operetta The Merry Widow became such a worldwide success Lehar went on to become one of the most celebrated operetta classical composers. Especially popular today are; The Count of Luxembourg, Paganini, The Tsarevich, Friederike and The Land of Smiles. Lehar’s operettas belong to the so-called “silver age of operetta” and there’s always something exhilarating about them.
Leoncavallo, Ruggero8 Mar 1858Naples, Italy.Italian.9 Sep 1919Monte-Catini Terme.Romantic.Ruggero Leoncavallo wrote nine operas and struggled financially until his two-act opera Pagliacci, which was the epitome of “realism” and  “real life”, bought him fame and financial success. In Leoncavallo’s era, Italian poets attacked the harsh realities of life, so that’s what he did and set it appropriate music.
Liszt, Franz22 Oct 1811Raiding, Burgenland, Hungary.Hungarian.31 Jul 1886Bayreuth, Germany.Romantic.Franz Liszt’s career started in Hungary aged 12. He had been kissed on the forehead by Beethoven, who was delighted with his piano playing, at a farewell concert before departing for to perform in Paris and all across Europe. Liszt was greeted everywhere with enthusiastic applause, not just as a virtuoso pianist (Dance of Death and Piano Sonata in B Minor), but also as a composer. Liszt’s strength lies primarily in his piano pieces including Piano Sonata in B minor but he also wrote orchestral works, oratorios, masses, waltzes (Mephisto Waltz) and Rhapsodies (Hungarian Rhapsodies). Liszt was a prolific and versatile composer who wrote over 700 compositions, one of the world’s best classical composers. Liszt’s daughter Cosima was Richard Wagner’s second wife.
Mahler, Gustav7 Jul 1860Kalischt, Bohemia, Czech Republic.Czech.18 May 1911Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Gustav Mahler began composing and performing as a pianist in childhood. Mahler’s symphonies and opulent orchestral works were not only recognized as masterpieces, and loved around the world, many years after his death. Mahler’s most famous work was his 9th Symphony The Song of the Earth, an expression of a great love for Earth, life and the desire for peace. Gustav Mahler was also a famous conductor and opera director.
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix3 Feb 1809Hamburg, Germany.German.4 Nov 1847Leipzig, Germany.Romantic.Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was born in Hamburg and worked in Berlin, Scotland, England, Italy, Düsseldorf and Leipzig, where he died, aged 38. He learned a lot from the old masters, especially Johann Sebastian Bach. Thanks to him, the Matthew Passion – which had been completely forgotten in his time – was performed again. Even in his youth Mendelssohn was an important piano artist so it’s no surprise his piano compositions are among his best works. Mendelssohn wrote more than 750 compositions including the world famous Wedding March. Mendelssohn founded the first German Academy of Music in 1843 in Leipzig and the world’s first conductor in its current form.
Millöcker, Carl29 May 1842Vienna, Austria.Austrian.31 Dec 1899Baden near Vienna, Austria.Romantic.The Viennese have a special affection for buoyant music, so it’s no surprise Carl Millöcker comes from this vibrant city. Millöcker began his career as a flute virtuoso and played for a long time in Franz von Suppé’s orchestra. Millöcker later became conductor at the Theater an der Wien and wrote his own operettas, the best known being The Beggar Student, Poor Jonathan and Gasparone. Millöcker died just hours before the turn of the century in Baden near Vienna.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus27 Jan 1756Salzburg, Austria.Austrian.5 Dec 1791Vienna, Austria.Classical.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy who played and composed music then grew up to be one of the most famous classical composers who remains greatly admired around the world. Mozart was a master in every field of music. Among Mozart’s most popular compositions are the famous Serenade in G Major Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte and The Magic Flute. All of Mozart’s works are documented in the so-called Köchelverzeichnis (Köchel Catalogue) which includes over 70 church works, 19 operas, 41 symphonies, 30 piano concertos, and many other concerts, chamber music pieces, marches, serenades and songs. Mozart’s last composition was his famous Requiem which he couldn’t quite finish. Mozart died a few weeks after the premiere of The Magic Flute aged just 35. The official record states “severe miliary fever” but without a specific reason.
Orff, Carl10 Jul 1895Munich, Germany.German.29 Mar 1982Munich, Germany.Modern.Munich-based music teacher Carl Orff created, among other things, the Orff’sche Schulwerk (Orff Approach) and saw himself as a composer of a living world theater. Orff’s most opulent work, Carmina Burana in 1937, consists of a collection of 24 poems and songs that were written in the Middle Ages by Germans, French, Italians and Britons. It’s widely viewed as an international hymn to the lust for life and a choral paean to the pleasures of this world.
Pfitzner, Hans5 May 1869Moscow, Russia.German.22 May 1949Salzburg, Austria.Romantic.Hans Erich Pfitzner 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, Sergei23 Apr 1891Sontsovka, Ukraine.Russian.5 Mar 1953Moscow, Russia.Modernist.Sergei Sergeyevich 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 classical composer who addressed almost all genres of neoclassical, modern and in parts lyrical music.
Puccini, Giacomo22 Dec 1858Lucca, Italy.Italian.29 Nov 1924Brussels, Belgium.Romantic.Giacomo Puccini’s desire to become one of the best classical composers was driven by his enthusiasm for Verdi’s Aida opera. Puccini preferred texts with emotional plots and composed insinuating melodies that found favor worldwide. Even today, Puccini’s works are enthusiastically performed in concert halls around the globe, especially La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Turandot, which only premiered two 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.
Rachmaninoff, Sergei4 Jan 1873Staraya Russa, Russia.Russian.28 Mar 1943Beverly Hills, USA.Romantic.Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff grew up in the country and moved to St. Petersburg with his family in 1882. Rachmaninoff’s mother recognized his talent for the piano and sent him to study in Moscow at the age of 12. While still a student Rachmaninoff 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. After fleeing to America during the October Revolution he lacked “Russian inspiration” to create new compositions. Rachmaninoff spent most of the 1930’s in Switzerland before returning to Beverly Hills where when died three days before his 70th birthday.
Ravel, Maurice3 Jul 1875Ciboure, France.French.28 Dec 1937Paris, France.Modernist.Maurice Ravel is one of the masters of chamber music. The Frenchman was influenced by his compatriot Debussy. Ravel’s music is elegant, cultured, witty and sometimes even funny. Ravel is skilled in a subtle mood painting. Sometimes Ravel draws on the old French masters, sometimes he takes motifs from the folk music of his homeland in the Pyrenees. But Ravel always transforms everything into modernity and its own style. Ravel is often wrongly reduced to merely the Bolero when he was undoubtedly one of the best classical composers of his generation.
Reger, Max19 Mar 1873Brand, Germany.German.11 Nov 1916Leipzig, Germany.Classical.Max Reger was one of the great innovators of classical music. Reger 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, Reger wrote 231 songs. Reger’s best-known works are characterized by a folkie-simplicity and warmth such as Mary’s Lullaby.
Rossini, Gioachino29 Feb 1792Pesaro, Italy.Italian.13 Nov 1868Passy, Paris, France.Romantic.Gioachino Rossini is most famous for his operas. Rossini composed his first opera when he was just fourteen years old but it wasn’t staged until he was 20. Rossini’s best-known operas are the comedies The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola. Between 1824 and 1829 he lived in Paris where he created William Tell – his 38th opera. He subsequently returned to his father in Bologna where his output diminished considerably until his death in 1868. Rossini was an enthusiastic chef and even today, some “alla Rossini” dishes are attributed to him.
Schoenberg, Arnold13 Sep 1874Austria, Vienna.Austrian.14 Aug 1951Los Angeles, USA.Modernist.Arnold Schoenberg became one of the most famous classical composers due to his invention of twelve-tone music. This so-called “atonal music” 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 the uninitiated, but became a highly significant movement in the 20th century. As the Nazis rose to power Schoenberg moved to America in 1933 where he lived for the rest of his life.
Schubert, Franz31 Jan 1797Austria, Vienna.Austrian.19 Nov 1828Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Franz Schubert composed symphonies, songs, masses, dances and operas. Despite dying, far too early, at the age of just 31 Schubert was one of the most talented classical composers ever. Schubert’s 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 once returned the compliment:

Truly, in Schubert there is a divine spark!

Schumann, Robert8 Jun 1810Zwickau, Germany.German.29 Jul 1856Endenich/Bonn, Germany.Romantic.Robert Schumann 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. Schumann was married to Clara Schumann (1819-1896) who was also an excellent musician and had a great influence on his life and work.
Smetana, Bedřich2 Mar 1824Litomysl, Bohemia, Czech Republic.Czech.05 Dec 1884Prague, Czech Republic.Romantic.Bedřich Smetana is most famous for his opera The Bartered Bride, however this comic opera is not typical of this famous Czech classical composers work. Smetana had a more serious nature dedicated to greater and sublime sounds found in his symphonic poems and cycles. For example The Moldau from My Fatherland and his songs and choruses. In 1874 Smetana suffered from tinnitus and went deaf but continued to compose for many years until he was admitted to a mental asylum in 1884 where he died later that same year. Smetana expressed his suffering in a string quartet titled From My Life.
Strauss II, Johann25 Oct 1825Ulrich,Vienna, Austria.Austrian.3 Jun 1899Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Johann Strauss II was the most famous son of a traditional Viennese musical family which included his father (Johann Strauss) and his brothers (Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss). Strauss wrote many waltzes including the Danube Waltz, Emperor Waltz, Voices of Spring and Stories from the Vienna Woods, which earned him the nickname “The Waltz King”. His other great passion was composing operettas including The Bat, A Night in Venice, The Gypsy Baron and Wiener Blut (Viennese Blood). Strauss’ operettas are, like his waltzes, engaging and full of life.
Strauss, Richard11 Jun 1864Munich, Germany.German.8 Sep 1949Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany.Modernist.Richard Strauss was one of the most important German classical composers. Strauss created the operas Salome, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos and The Woman without a Shadow and others. Strauss’s music is both timely and dramatic. It’s often full of passion and pathos, but sometimes cheerful – like his popular opera Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose).
Stravinsky, Igor17 Jun 1882Oranienbaum, St. Petersburg, Russia.Russian.6 Apr 1971New York, USA.Modernist.Igor Stravinsky 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. Stravinsky fled to the US in 1940 and died in 1971 in New York.
Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich7 May 1840Votkinsk, Vyatka Governorate, Russia.Russian.6 Nov 1893St. Petersburg, Russia.Romantic.Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the son of a Russian father and a French mother and he composed seven symphonies, the best known being the sixth symphony Pathétique. Tchaikovsky also wrote operas, chamber music, songs and ballets including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Despite dying unexpectedly, aged 53, in St. Petersburg he’s among the best classical composers of all time. The cause of death remains unknown but is thought to be cholera.
Verdi, Giuseppe10 Oct 1813Le Roncole, Parma, Italy.Italian.27 Jan 1901Milan, Italy.Romantic.Giuseppe Verdi, the Italian opera composer, initially suffered numerous setbacks and failures. Verdi persevered and today is celebrated as one of the best classical composers in history. Verdi’s operas are lively, dramatic and passionate. His best known works include; Nabucco, Rigoletto, Aida, La Traviata and Falstaff. Verdi was politically active and contributed to the reunification of the Italian peninsula. Verdi died of a stroke aged 87 and in his final years he founded a retirement home for musicians and artists in Milan where his body rests today.
Vivaldi, Antonio3 Apr 1678Venice, Italy.Italian.28 Jul 1741Vienna, Austria.Baroque.Antonio Vivaldi’s name is often linked to his famous “Four Seasons” violin concerts around 1725 which contributed to his rediscovery in the 20th century. Vivaldi was aka “The red priest” because he was also a priest and had red hair. Vivaldi wrote more than 240 violin and 39 bassoon concertos and 49 operas. These established him as one of the most prolific and popular classical composers during his lifetime. Although many of his works are largely forgotten today they were very popular in their day. In many of Vivaldi’s works, he preferred a lively musical sequence; quick, slow, quick.
Wagner, Richard22 May 1813Leipzig, Germany.German.13 Feb 1883Venice, Austria.Romantic.Richard Wagner’s operas are not just compositions, they’re poems too. Wagner focused on German legends and medieval literature set to powerful and dramatic music symbolizing the human struggle. His principal works are Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal. Wagner spent many years keeping one step ahead of his creditors and to further his own career Wagner smeared the Jewish composer Mendelssohn’s work writing (originally anonymously):

Jewish music is bereft of all expression

Undoubtedly one of the reasons the Nazis took to him. Although Wagner died in Venice the epicenter of his legacy lives on at the Bayreuth Festival (Bayreuther Festspiele) in Germany.

Weber, Carl Maria von18 Dec 1786Eutin, Bishopric of Lübeck, Germany.German.5 Jun 1826London, England.Romantic.Carl Maria von Weber is best known for his operas Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon. Weber’s music is folksy and romantic, which was typical for his day. Weber died, aged just 40, in London. 18 years after his death, Webers remains were moved to Dresden at Richard Wagner’s instigation.
Wolf, Hugo13 Mar 1860Windischgrätz, Duchy of Styria, Gradec, Slovenia.Austrian / Slovenian.22 Feb 1903Vienna, Austria.Romantic.Hugo Wolf (Hugo Philipp Jacob Wolf) was a sensitive composer. Among others, he set the poems of Goethe, Moerike, Eichendorff and Gottfried Keller to music, along with some Spanish and traditional Italian poetry. In some ways, Wolf’s works are reminiscent of Schumann’s music who, coincidentally, died like Wolf; mentally deranged.

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