Everybody has their own favourite composers. So everybody has a different idea about who is great. However I think almost every list of the great composers of classical music would include the following three names:
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).
- Ludvig van Beethoven (1770–1827).
After that the list becomes a bit more tricky. If I were asked to chose just one more name to add to the list it would be
- Richard Wagner (1813–1883),
but a lot of people would argue with me about this!!! (mainly because Wagner was quite often a nasty person).
What about a bigger list? Who else do I think was really good composer? Well here is my list. It is my list only. I hope you will come up with your own sometime.
- George Frideric Handel (1685–1759).
- Joseph Haydn (1810–1849).
- Frédéric Chopin (1732–1809).
- Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901).
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893).
- Gustav Mahler (1860–1911).
- Claude Debussy (1862–1918).
- Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) [although his music isn’t always very nice to listen to!].
- Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971).
- Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975).
- Benjamin Britten (1913–1976).
There! That should cause a few arguments amongst grown-ups who know something about classical music.
There are many other composers that I like very much, especially
- Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943),
but there is something different between ‘like’ and ‘great’, or even ‘very good’. Great is more about how clever and original the music is.
I should say that most musicians would include
- Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
on their lists of ‘really good’ composers (or even ‘great’). But for some reason I’m not a huge fan of Brahms.
Many musicians would also include some composers who lived a very long time ago, such as Thomas Tallis (c.1505–1585) or Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643). However I don’t listen to much of this very old music, so I won’t choose anyone.
Anyway, as I said, there’s little argument about who the three greatest composers are. Here is video of some of the greatest music from the three greatest composers. Enjoy!
No, don’t just enjoy. This is serious music. So think about it too.
- Bach: Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy) from the B minor Mass. (The grave you see in the middle of the church at the beginning of the video is Bach’s.)
- Mozart: Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy) from the C minor Mass, (the ‘Great’).
Kyrie eleison from the ‘Great’ C minor Mass by Mozart
- Beethoven: Part of the Ode to Joy from the Symphony No. 9.
Kyrie eleison from Bach’s Mass in B minor
Part of the ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
- Music by Bach in his own hand-writing. This is the first page of Bach’s Prelude in C, from Book 1 of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’. The image will be in the public domain because its copyright has expired. Click here for the source of this image.
- 02 Kyrie, eleison. “Kyrie, eleison,” from the 2000 performance of the Mass in B minor (BWV 232) for the conclusion of Bachfest 2000, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death.
From the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, Germany
Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller (the 16th since Bach)
The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soli Deo Gloria!
- Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor- Kyrie. John Eliot Gardiner conducts the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir in the Kyrie of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, K.427. There is more information about this one on the video’s YouTube page.
- Beethoven Symphony No.9 – Bernstein 1989 (part 2). “Ode to Freedom” Beethoven: Symphony No.9 in D minor Op.125, Leonard Bernstein, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Dresden, Kirov Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus Konig, Jan-Hendrik Rootering. Live recording in Schauspielhaus Berlin, 25-12-1989.