Famous Composers

Music has been found in all discovered cultures to date. Composers are individuals who write this music professionally. For most people, music is an important part of their lives and their ability to express themselves and relate to one another. Below is a list of the top composers of all time. They have been selected for their unique styles, innovation in music, historic impact and popularity.

Famous Composers

Antonio Vivaldi Johann-Sebastian-Bach Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Nationality: Italian
Known For: Baroque instrumental concerto
Antonio Vivaldi was a very noteworthy composer who made hundreds of musical creations. Although originally ordained a priest, he dicided to go with his passion in music. His most popular works were concertos in that of the Baroque style.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Nationality: German
Known For: His innovations in musical style and how complex his music was
Bach came from a long line of gifted musical ancestors. Bach grew up playing a lot of organ and violin. He took various gigs at different churches throughout his career. His skills were highly regarded across Europe while he was alive. However, it was not until later in the 19th century that his talents were fully recognized.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Nationality: Austrian
Known For: Deep influence on classical music
Mozart was a child prodigy from the start. He began composing on the violin and keyboard when he was just five. In his lifetime he composed more than 600 pieces, many of which are considered to this day to be great works of musical genious.
Beethoven Franz-Schubert Felix-M
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Nationality: German
Known For: His Fifth and Ninth Symphonies.
Beethoven is famous for being one of the greatest composers of all time. He was very talented from a young age and gained a reputation as an incredibly gifted pianist. He achieved this success despite going nearly entirely deaf during some of his more creative years.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Nationality: Austrian
Known For: Connecting romantic and classical composition
Although he only lived for 32 years, Schubert was incredibly able to become an outstanding and well-known composer. Although he was not all that popular during his life, his work was later appreciated much more in the years after his death. To this day he is still one of the top performed composers.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Nationality: German
Known For: Great compositions, especially “Wedding March” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Felix Mendelssohn was a muic teacher, composer, pianist and conductor. He composed his works during the early Romantic period, thus his music emphasized emotions and imagination rather than traditional structures. However, he was decidedly more conservative in his stylings than that of his contemporaries.
Frederick-Chopin Robert-Schumann Franz-Liszt
Frederick Chopin (1810-1849)
Nationality: Polish
Known For: Influential piano composer
Chopin was a composer and gifted pianist. He was also considered to be a child prodigy. Many of his works are well-known such as the Minute Waltz and a portion of his Funeral March Sonata Number 2.
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Nationality: German
Known For: Intellectual and emotional compositions
Schumann was an influential and great composer of the Romantic era. After leaving law school to focus on his piano playing he later severely injured his hand and had to focus on composing music instead. Before the injury it was said that he could have become one of the greatest piano players in all of Europe.
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Nationality: Hungarian
Known For: Composing over 700 pieces
He was known for his originality which garnered him great influence during the Romantic movement in Europe. By the age of 9 he was already seen as a prodigy and was playing piano in concert halls.
Richard-Wagner Guiseppe-Verdi Johannes-Brahms
Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Nationality: German
Known For: Incredibly detailed operas
Richard Wagner was a great but controversial composer of his time. He was known for his musical talent in creating intricate operas. Yet, to many, this was overshadowed by his antisemitic writings which later made him well-liked by Adolf Hitler.
Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Nationality: Italian
Known For: Writing several famous operas
Verdi is considered to this day to be one of the best composers of operas in the 19th century alongside Richard Wagner. Some of his work has even been taken in by mainstream pop culture including the “Grand March” and “Libiamo ne’ lieti calci” (The Drinking Song).
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Nationality: German
Known For: Being one of the greatest composers of the 19th century
Brahms is often grouped together with Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach as being part of the “Three B’s.” He became famous during his lifetime and composed chamber ensembels, piano, voice, chorus and symphony orchestra.
Antonin-Dvorak Giacomo-Puccini Gustav-Mahler
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
Nationality: Czech
Known For: Using portions of folk music from his homeland of Bohemia as inspiration in his music
Dvorak was talented from a very young age. He wrote his first composition at the age of 20 and was a skilled violinist and pianist. His most popular compositions are “New World Symphony,” the “American” String Quartet, “Cello Concerto in B minor” and “Rusalka.”
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Nationality: Italian
Known For: His opera creations are some of the most often performed in the world
Puccini created operas that are some of the most often performed in the world. Many people regard Giacomo Puccini to be the greatest Italian composer after Verdi. He was a leading individual in the realistic verismo style as well.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Nationality: Austrian
Known For: A top conductor and leading composer of the late-Romantic period
Mahler is known for creating very emotionally charged symphonies. He created 10 total in his lifetime. He was also the director of the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Opera. Mahler’s works were considered to bridge the gap between the 19th century tradition and the modernistic style of the beginning of the 20th century.
Claude-Debussy Richard-Strauss Arnold-Schoenberg
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Nationality: French
Known For: Considered to be the person who created musical impressionism
Known for his key role in developing Impressionist music, Debussy’s style was said to be a reflection of the ups and downs of his own life. His music was often without tonality and had a sensory component.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Nationality: German
Known For: His operas and symphonic poems
Richard Strauss’ most famous works include “Salome” and “Der Rosenkavalier.” He was one of the top composers during the end of the Romantic era and the beginning of the modern era. While the Nazis were in power, Strauss was one of the few composers who was not banned because Adolf Hitler was a fan of his.
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
Nationality: Austrian
Known For: Development and harmonic approach that advanced musical thought
Arnold Schoenberg is known for his unique approach with development and harmony in his compositions. He truly influenced over three generations of other composers. His music was made him a name as an innovator in atonality. He also created the twelve-tone technique.
Maurice-Ravel Igor-Stravinsky Irving-Berlin
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Nationality: French
Known For: His effects and instrumental textures as well as his melodies
Ravel’s most popular classical compositions are “Bolero” and “Daphnis et Chloe.” He is the most well-known of all the French composers in history. He is famous for saying “The only love affair I have ever had was with music.”
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)
Nationality: Russian
Known For: Writing over 100 works
Often thought to be one of the top composers of the 20th century, Stravinsky became popular from his initial works on three different ballets. His works helped to change the way other composers considered their usage of rythmic structure.
Irving Berlin (1888-1989)
Nationality: American
Known For: Argued by many to be the greatest songwriter in American history
Irving Berlin composed “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1911. It became a huge international success that started a dance craze around the world. He also made the popular songs “White Christmas” and “Happy Holiday.” Composer George Gershwin said that he was “the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.”
George-Gershwin Aaron-Copland
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Nationality: American
Known For: George Gershwin
George Gershwin created songs, film scores and operas that have become very recognizable such as “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Porgy and Bess” and “An American in Paris.” He had a Lifetime Musical Achievement Award named after him and he is one of only four songwriters to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Nationality: American
Known For: Utilizing themes of American folk and jazz in his music
Known for his distinctive American themes and contemporary style, Aaron Copland created popular music for nearly 40 years. When he was just in high school his teacher had him compose an organ concerto which was so good that it was played by the New York Symphony and the Symphony for Organ and Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.
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