The 56 Greatest Classical Composers ( by Musical Period and Country )

Part 1 – Melodic Rhythm

greatest classical composers - foto: southtyrolean

This is a selective list of 56 of the greatest classical composers ordered chronologically and by musical period. I use “classical” as a classifying word for all these composers which is actually wrong. Only composers that were part of the musical period between 1730 and 1820 are correctly called classical composers. Nonetheless, it is very common to entitle all following composers as classical composers. I want this article to be found and that’s why I named it “The 56 Greatest Classical Composers“. I hope you forgive me ūüėČ

In the Medieval era or more precisely in the ars antiqua most composers wrote for the church only. They wrote in the name of god and didn’t credit their works for themselves. The collection of monophonic works from this era are named after Pope Gregory I and therefore called Gregorian chant. The troubadours and the trouv√®res are also collections of works where composers are not personally credited. For the rest all entries in this list stand for one single person.

This list is fairly personal as I mainly selected composers that were familiar to me. Nevertheless, I think that this list contains the most famous and relevant composers to our present time.

Medieval

500 – 1400

Composer Time Country Remark
Gregorian Chant 600-900 Western Christianity Monophon
Léonin 1150-1201 France Notre Dame School
Pérotin around 1200 around 1200 Notre Dame School
Troubadours 1100-1350 Italy, Spain, Greece Poetry, Composition
Trouvères 1160-1300 France Poetry, Composition
Franco of Cologne Mid-13th Century Germany theoris
Guillaume de Machaut 1300-1350 France Isorithmic Motet
Francesco Landini 1335-1397 Italy

Renaissance

1400 – 1600

Composer Time Country Remark
John Dunstaple 1390-1454 England Franco-Flemish school
Guillaume Dufay 1397-1474 Netherland Burgundian school
Johannes Ockeghem 1425-1497 Netherland polyphonic vocal music
Antoine Brumel 1460-1512 France Franco-Flemish school
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina 1525-1526 Italy Roman school
William Byrd 1540-1623 England
Giovanni Gabrieli 1554-1612 Italy Venetian school

Baroque

1600-1750

Composer Time Country Remark
Claudio Monteverdi 1567-1643 Italy L’Orfeo 1607 (first opera)
Heinrich Sch√ľtz 1585-1672 Germany Dafne (opera)
Arcangelo Corelli 1653-1713 Italy
Alessandro Scarlatti 1660-1725 Italy Neapolitan school
Antonio Vivaldi 1678-1741 Italy The Four Seasons
Georg Philipp Telemann 1681-1767 Germany Recorder
Jean-Philippe Rameau 1683-1764 France Treatise on Harmony
Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750 Germany no remark needed
Georg Friedrich Händel 1685-1759 Germany Messiah (1742)
Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti 1685-1767 Italy son of Allessandro Scarlatti

Classical Period

 1750-1820

Composer Time Country Remark
Christoph Willibald Gluck 1714-1787 Germany opera composer
Joseph Haydn 1732-1809 Austria/Germany father of symphony and string quartet
Luigi Boccherini 1743-1805 Italy cellist
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791 Germany
Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827 Germany symphony 9 and 5

Romantic

 1800-1900

Composer Time Country Remark
Johann Nepomuk Hummel 1778-1837 Austria bridge between C. and R.
Franz Schubert 1797-1828 Austria/Germany Der Tod und das Mädchen
Hector Berlioz 1803-1888 France Symphonie Fantastique
Felix Mendelssohn 1809-1847 Germany Wedding March; Symphony No. 4
Frédéric Chopin 1810-1849 Polish virtuoso pianist
Robert Schumann 1810-1856 Germany pianist
Franz Liszt 1811-1886 Hungary hungarian rhapsodies
Giuseppe Verdi 1813-1901 Italy Aida
Richard Wagner 1813-1883 Germany Tristan und Isolde
Anton Bruckner 1824-1884 Austria
BedŇôich Smetana 1824-1884 Czech nationalist composer
Johannes Brahms 1833-1897 Germany Violin Concerto
Camille Saint-Sa√ęns 1835-1921 France The Carnival of the Animals
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 1840-1893 Russia The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty
Anton√≠n DvoŇô√°k 1841-1904 Czech New World Symphony
Edvard Grieg 1843-1907 Norway Nature
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 1844-1908 Russia Flight of the Bumblebee

20th Century

 1900-2000

Composer Time Country Remark
Composer Time Country Remark
Gustav Mahler 1860-1911 Austria bridge between R. and M., Expressionism
Claude Debussy 1862-1918 France Impressionism, Clair de Lune
Richard Strauss 1864-1949 Germany Also sprach Zarathustra
Jean Sibelius 1865-1957 Finnland
Sergei Rachmaninoff 1873-1943 Russia Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Arnold Schoenberg 1874-1951 Austria atonalism, serialism
Maurice Ravel 1875-1937 France Boléro (1928)
Sergei Prokofiev 1891-1953 Russia Peter and the Wolf
Oliver Messiaen 1908-1992 France

What are your favorite composers of all time? Do you agree with my choice of the greatest classical composers? Feel free to share your thoughts!

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