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Music and Mortality: Composers Who Lived Past 80

Updated on February 1, 2015
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky


Recently I wrote about composers who died before 40. It's a surprising and impressive list. This hub, the companion piece, represents the other side of the coin–composers who lived past the age of 80. This second list is definitely not as prestigious; although these are all considered prominent composers, I would guess that, for non-musicians and non-classical music buffs, at least half of the names are unfamiliar. However, quite a few people will recognize Copland, Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Verdi, and Vaughan Williams.

Many of the composers on the list are from fairly recent history, reflecting advances in medicine. However, it is interesting to note those who made it past 80 whose lives did not extend into the 20th century; these include Cherubini (1760-1842), Hasse (1699-1783), Josquin (1440-1521), Telemann (1681-1767), and Schütz (1585-1672).

The source I drew the names from, Kupferberg's Book of Classical Music Lists, was published a while ago–in 1985. Can you think of any other prominent classical composers who could now be included in this list?

Giussepe Verdi, 1879 portrait in Vanity Fair
Giussepe Verdi, 1879 portrait in Vanity Fair
Camille Saint-Sans
Camille Saint-Sans

The List

Gustav Charpentier (1860-1956). Age at death: 95

Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842). Age at death: 81

Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Age at death: 90

Ernst von Dohnanyi (1877-1960). Age at death: 82

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783). Age at death: 84

Josquin des Préz (1440-1521). Age at death: 81

Frank Martin (1890-1974). Age at death: 84

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945). Age at death: 81

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). Age at death: 81

Walter Piston (1894-1976). Age at death: 82

Carl Ruggles (1876-1971). Age at death: 95

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). Age at death: 86

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). Age at death: 87

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Age at death: 91

Richard Strauss (1864-1949). Age at death: 85

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Age at death: 88

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). Age at death: 86

Edgar Varese (1883-1965). Age at death: 81

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Age at death: 88

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Age at death: 85


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    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great hub - Thanks for sharing. I didn't know des Prez lived that long. In his time, anyone still living over 40 was considered old....

      Take care


    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      This is an interesting exercize. Thank you for this thought-provoking Hub.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      Impressive list! It's encouraging to me to see many musician live past 80 too.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Very impressive composers, and glad they lived long lives. Thank you for the great hub. God Bless You.

    • kimballtrombone profile image

      kimballtrombone 7 years ago

      Thanks all, for your comments. rmr, you're absolutely right--Aaron Copland should be in there! I just added him. One of my favorite American composers.

      And thanks, allpurposeguru, for the link to the Stravinsky article. I enjoyed it!

    • rmr profile image

      rmr 7 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Some of my favorites here. I've always loved Saint-Saens and Sibelius, in particular. I'm surprised that Aaron Copland isn't on this list. I think he lived from 1900-1990.

    • equealla profile image

      equealla 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      I dove into my book of great musicians, to see if I might find another name. Alas, most of them died much younger than 80.

      Perhaps humanity must take better care of their talented people, in order to have a longer life span to share their talent. Music will allways be left for posteriotity.

      Thanks for a great and useful hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Most of them composed works prescribed by ABRSM and Trinity for music grade and diploma exams. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed Concerto for Tuba – quite a challenge for Gr 7 & 8. Thanks for the list!

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Somehow it had escaped my attention that Josquin lived so long. He's one of my favorites. Here's a piece I really enjoy from one of your more recent old men: Jeux de cartes by Igor Stravinsky

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      I have to admit that I know very few of the musicians you mentioned. I have no excuse just that I gave up music, the enjoyment of music, for a very long time.

      Because every artist reaches and expresses his soul and the body only an instrument of it, I am not surprised that a lot of them lived a very long time. Thank you.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      I once read a survey that suggested that musicians and artists tend to live longer. I wonder what their sample was, and how realistic a conclusion that is? Certainly your composers here seem to have clocked up a respectable number of years!

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      Ahhhh, well this restores my faith in music! After reading the previous hub about the short lives of famous composers, I can sigh with relief. I do muse over the intensity with which these younger composers underwent to compose their works. Or did they just not know how to manage their physical health along with genius inspiration?