10 must know Classical Composers
What is so called 'Classical Music'.
This is a vernacular. Actually, with the exception of Beethoven, the father of the Romantic Period, none of the composers I'm about to discuss in this article are actually 'Classical Composers'. They're all Romantic Composers, --- even Mahler, who has wrongfully been called Modern at times. That said, many will argue that Mahler was late Romantic early Modern. This article will be both objective/subjective - objective, because I'll write general information about these composers - subjective, because they're personal favorite composers of mine, that some may not care much for. There is so much misinfomration concerning so called 'classical music', that is it any wonder some people abstain from it due to fear of ridicule. Some people may picture an opera house where the audience are all erudite and have complete knowledge of the History of Western Art and Music, etc. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is people who attend classical concerts nowadays are both knowledgeable about classical music, not so knowledgeable, - some may not even have a clue about this music, but merely enjoy hearing it performed. Furthermore, I'll mention compositions to listen to, but no youtube links. You'll need to search on your own. Most of the works I'll be mentioning are famous, so there should be no problem finding recordings of them - live performances or otherwise.
No. 1. Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the greatest composers in the history of Western Music, period (The greatest in my personal opinion). His cantankerous ways were one of the main reasons the 'Classical Period' - a period of rigid, discipline, form and structured came to a hault. Beethoven was a free spirit who did not adhere to discipline and constraint. That said, his symphonies are arguable the greatest contribution to Western Music. However, they all show a great deal of form and structure, just not text book like the works of some of his predecessors.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Piano Sonatas, Piano Concertos, Violin Concerto, Fur Elise
No. 2. Brahms
I mentioned objective/subjective concepts earlier in this article. Well, Johannes Brahms belongs to objective. His works represent the culmination of German Music. Again, some have called Brahms a brute with no musical imagination. That said, he represents form and structure like few before him or since. Brahms was a Romantic Composer, but he adhered to Baroque and Classical principles - his music is a fusion of different musical periods.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Piano Concertos, Violin Concerto, Double Concerto, Hungarian Dances.
No. 3. Chopin
Frederic Chopin was above all a musical poet. He doesn't adhere to form or structure like Brahms did. However, his greatness lies in imagination and poetic refinement. Chopin wrote mostly for the piano. In fact, many will say that Chopin's piano music is the greatest written for the instrument, period. One of the things that makes him great is his unconventional use of harmony and chords. In his Nocturnes, Chopin anticipated some of Wagner's radical techniques. He's one of my personal favorite of all times.
Must listen to: Piano Sonatas, Piano Concertos, Nocturnes, Etudes, Preludes.
No. 4. Mahler
Gustav Mahler is considered to be the bridge between Romantic and Modernism in music. Mahler's style is at times radical enough to be called modern, but his emotions are for the most part rooted in the Romantic Period. He wrote gargantuan Symphonies - some lasting more than 1 1/2 hours long and breaking the record for longest symphonies ever written. Mahler also uses mammoths size orchestras making it difficult in having his works performed. He is subjective, but his musical structure is objective for the most part - you get the best of all worlds with his music.
Must Listen to: Symphonies, Songs.
No. 5. Dvorak
Antonin Dvorak was so phenomenally gifted that he's one of the few composers that can be both perky, emotional, yet objective enough to listen to without crying. He is a personal favorite of mine. He wrote a great deal of music. - And, he's quite easy at first hearing, unlike some of the previously aforementioned.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Concertos, Slavonic Dances
No. 6. Tchaikovsky
Peter Tchaikovsky is probably the most famous Classical Composer of all times. Again, he was a Romantic Composer who lived towards the end of the Romantic Period. Tchaikovsky's music is passionate - overly passionate most will agree!... But he manages to be popular with most of the so called 'Classical Music' audience.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Concertos, Romeo and Juliet Overture, 1812 Overture, None but the Lonely Heart
No. 7. Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn's music is similar to Brahms in that he fuses styles from different periods making him unique. His music is rarely if ever booring, yet entertaining at the same time.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Concertos, Piano Solo music, Song without Words
No. 8. Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was one of France's greatest composers of the 19th Century. He's considered by many authorities to be the father of program music. He influenced Liszt and Wagner, and many others after him. His music is not as popular as other composers; however, you'll enjoy his music after a few hearings.
Must listen to: Symphonie Fantastique, Harold in Italy, Romeo and Juliette
No. 9. Weber
Carl Maria von Weber is a name you rarely hear mentioned today. His music has somewhat been forgotten. However, he is one of my favorite composers of all times. He's been labeled by some scholars, "The first Romantic Composer in history." As you may have already guessed. He was contemporary of Beethoven.
Must listen to: Konzertstuck for Piano and Orchestra, Der Frieschutz, Oberon, Invitation to the Dance
No. 10. Schumann
Robert Schumann (photo's sake) is one of the greatest German composers of all times. He started out as a writer, but then decided on a musical career. He wrote a great deal of piano music and is considered to be as great a composer for the piano as Chopin and Beethoven were. He also wrote orchestral music as well.
Must listen to: Symphonies, Piano music
More by this Author
Discussion of Chopin's piano music and, youtube videos showing a piece in most of the genres he composed for, including: Ballades, Scherzos, Sonatas, etc.
Mozart, Weber, and Copland's clarinet concertos are discussed; the clarinet's versatility is also discussed. What is transposition in music?
This article examines the five most famous opera composers of all times: Mozart, Rossini, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. Included, youtube recordings of some of the most famoust opera music ever written